How To Shape A Child

[I have gone back and forth on posting this. I didn’t write it out of anger, although is sounds that way. Forgive me for the visually disturbing imagery. They represent my raw emotions on the matter.]

There is a way to train your children. To mold them, shape them into the person they should be.

There is a way to make them fit the box you’ve chosen.

First, you take off an arm so they can’t take hold of anything you’d wish for them to avoid. This will also ensure they won’t touch something out of curiosity or reach much higher than you feel they should (for their own well-being, of course). Be sure to only take one so that the other can still grasp what you give it.

Next, remove your child’s legs. This determines how far they can wander and keeps them close to you and therefore safe at all times.

The tongue is a must. There must be no talking back or protesting during the process.

And you had better have a good long look at their passions and take what won’t fit. (You may not need to take it; dismantling or dissecting it often works, too.)

Their soul seems like a tricky piece to fit the space but it’s really rather simple. Crushing it will always do the trick.

After that you may want to remove an eye, so they can no longer see who they really are.

And most certainly, you should take the part of them that thinks for itself. This will ensure they’ll repeat the cycle.

Instructional Warning: The finished product will very likely fit the box you’ve intended for them. But please don’t be surprised when you can no longer recognize them through the disfigured, hurting, angry, incapable, fearful, diffident and broken people they’ve become.


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Tags: control, kids, sad,

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31 Comments. Leave new

Anita Kaiser
August 9, 2009 4:01 pm

Oh my – this is harsh although I completely get the ideas behind it. It’s a hard path letting them discover who they are and what they can do and what they want – but certainly well worth it.
On another note – this is my first tme visiting – just happened to see the link on twitter – read through the five year plan and am awed and inspired at the precise way you’ve mapped it out. I need to get more focussed on this. At the moment it’s all in my head and no where near as organized.

rachel whetzel
August 9, 2009 4:03 pm

LOVE it!!

It hurts just reading this, but I really agree with you. So many parents do so much harm without ever really thinking about or realizing it. It’s incredibly sad.

August 9, 2009 5:10 pm

Idzie, it hurt to write it. And unfortunately I know too many adults who’s parents are proud of “the job” they did and never see how broken or unsure their grown children are in the real world. Incredibly sad indeed.

I really appreciated this post, because I both agree with you and yet am guilty of trying to control my children in too many ways. My sister and I were just talking today about the fact that so many of what we see as ‘misguided’ parenting seems to come from our not wanting our kids to suffer… all….ever. But ultimately the finest people I know are the ones that have been allowed to experience the pain of making mistakes. Our failures, much more than our triumphs, make us better able to handle what life throws at us.

What happened to make you feel this way???

August 9, 2009 5:32 pm

Nothing in particular “happened”. Just my thoughts after viewing some hurting adults that had no idea who they were anymore and their relationships with their “proud parents” and their ideas that they did a good job creating “well-behaved” (i.e. obediant) people.

Just curious…how do you balance the needs of our society (as it functions really, not ideally) and safety with raising a “boxless” child? I too have witnessed the pain of adults in the opposite situation. For these people it is painful to discover that their individuality brokers far less value (social or otherwise) than their upbringing had led them to believe.
(My apologies if you address this obviously elsewhere in your blog. FYI, for “boxing purposes” I am an accidental attachment parent and quite sympathetic to the post, but conflicted about my own implementation of it.)

Wow, intense. What a great reminder that each child is their own person.

I love this post even though it is hard to read, and must have been hard to write. I was one of those adults you refer to, who didn’t know who she was anymore from being bashed and squashed into her mother’s boxes. It is unfortunate that in order to recover and grow from this I have had to cut off contact with my mother, except for the odd visit so she can see her grandson. There is nothing there anymore – she has lost me. I understand completely the need to write a post like this, and it just makes me more determined not to do that to my son! :)

Wham Blam!! To the point! Good on you for posting it. What pics?

Well said.

sounds like how i was raised…and what i’m desperately trying to avoid doing to my own children. thank you for posting.

Wow. That’s some powerful imagery there. Well said.

Powerful words and a good reminder. Thanks….


This deserves some exposure in a big arena. I wonder if there is a magazine or a parenting almanac that would publish this…

I really cringe when parents control their children according to what is ‘right’ to the point where the children are little zombies unable to even communicate or be authentic…so many around this neck of the woods, my children are a stark contrast.

“There is a bitter aftertaste when one swallows the truth, sometimes. It may be years before it becomes apparent, so long that you’ve forgotten that first taste, but it does come. It comes when, having thought you swallowed truth whole, what you got was only a morsel. Further, the spreading bitterness derives from understanding that what you thought was true was, actually, true, but not in the way you thought or wanted it to be.”
– Terrance Keenan

Thought this quote was apt for this issue….

I suppose I feel like most people just need to get over the fact that their parents aren’t perfect. Also, as a mother of a child who has a missing limb, and is legally blind, I can honestly say that children are far more capable of dealing with challenges than you give them credit for. Also, I understand that you didn’t mean for this to be offensive to families with children that have these challenges but I found this blog insensitive and ignorant of a persons ability to overcome adversity….even if that adversity is their parent.

August 11, 2009 8:53 am

I don’t think anyone is expecting perfection from their parents. I know I don’t. And I’m sorry that these analogies come off as insensitive but my purpose was to strike a cord with parents who may not see the emotionally or mentally debilitating outcome our actions as parents can have on our children.

And yes, you are right. Children have an amazing capability to overcome adversity. But adversity and inflicted abuse are two different things. And I’d wager many, many adults haven’t overcome the pain inflicted on them by their parents – just looking at the emotionally dysfunctional people out there should be proof of that. And just because they *can* be overcome, does that mean we shouldn’t still be the best parents we can be? Just because my kid is “tough” or will (eventually, hopefully) overcome my shortcomings as a parent, doesn’t mean my role as “mean mommy” is justified.

While I agree with you to a point I feel that this is way over the top. What is the alternative to boxing up our children, allowing them to be feral and discover their own paths away from us? That may sound silly but every interaction with our child boxes them up somehow. Even your belief that they shouldn’t be “disfigured, hurting, angry, incapable, fearful, diffident and broken people” and acting to avoid that is boxing them up. You’re raising your child to have certain values about others, abdout education, about himself and about nature. That is boxing him up…you did have a different box than most others.

August 11, 2009 11:16 am

Jennifer, Why must we think the only alternative to white is black? There is a middle ground. A way to interact with your children that supports who they are, that introduces them to your beliefs while allowing them to discover their own, that encourages them to grow free but not necessarily “feral” or away from us.

Zeb can and does make his own choices about school, living sustainably, his own values, etc. Anyone who knows him knows he fits no box but one of his own creation.

It’s not impossible. It doesn’t mean flying from one extreme to another. It means working peacefully and with mutual respect for all involved parties.

I do think that there is a middle ground, but what you have presented as a parent boxing there child in is nowhere near a middle ground. You write as though any guideance and steering by a parent causes the destruction of a child. I agree that it doean’t mean flying from one extreme to the next, but you are the one who is taking the idea of boxing up a child to the extreme.

August 11, 2009 12:08 pm

My imagery may be extreme but I think you’re reading something more personal into this I didn’t mean to imply. What I’m speaking of in this post are internal thoughts on things I’ve personally viewed with the use of raw and uncomfortable analogies to explain them. When I wrote those words I had things like ridicule, spanking, discouragement/belittlement of interests, and control in mind. I’m talking of the unrecognized (or unacknowledged) mental, emotional and physical abuse many parents afflict on their children in the name of what they think is appropriate.

It may seem extreme but my stance will always be child advocacy. I respect your right to disagree about the best way to go about that.

Your post is very visual, but to the point and I LOVE that it has people thinking, asking, wondering, contemplating & even arguing. NOW that is a good blog post!

I really do enjoy reading about your life, your thoughts & your ideas!

Keep it up!

I could feel every wound you describe here. My parents tried to fit me in a box. They tried to choose my friends, said I wasn’t a good runner when I wanted to run, didn’t let me take the dance classes I wanted, I wasn’t allowed to have disagreements with them, if I cried they thought I was being a baby so they didn’t comfort me–the list goes on. I spent my childhood trying to please a mother who was never pleased enough. She feels like we all turned out great, but both my parents have given me deep emotional scars and I am still trying to get past it all. It even affects the way I communicate with my husband and the way I treat my own child. Squishing a child into a box of the parents’ choosing is not the same as teaching them values and manners. It is more than possible to show a child how to socialize properly AND allow them to grow into their own unique potential. I think a few of your commenters did not quite get that.

Same illustration applies to God Almighty. Denominations pull apart who He is and try to fit Him into their boxes too. What remains? Not the God I know and love that’s for sure. :/

I am also reminded of the kid in “Dead Poets Society” who committed suicide because of the pressure his father put on him–it’s an extreme example, but exactly what we are talking about here. The father tried to put his son in a tight box and eventually the son couldn’t handle it anymore. That won’t happen to everyone, obviously, but not fully accepting our children can have very hazardous side-effects.

Sometimes I think you have to be extreme to communicate a point. This was well done! When I am frustrated I try to remember that my daughter is her own little person, and she has something wonderful to offer the world (even when I can’t see it). If she fit into my box, then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn something from her. I think our children have the capacity to teach us something beautiful about ourselves….if we just let it happen. Easier said than done.

Wauw. I found your blog through Steadymom, and I totally understand what you’re saying here. Never heard it like that before! Thanks.

As I read this last night Tara, I had tears running down my cheeks. This hit a cord with me and my husband and today we began incorporating peaceful parenting into our family lifestyle. I blogged about it here…

Thank you…for saying the things that can be hard to hear, but so important to be spoken….