Is Our Anti-Child Society Your Fault?

Choco-fingers

We live in an adult-centered, anti-child world where mistreatment of children is considered, not just appropriate, but preferred.

At best, kids are considered loud, messy and exhausting.

At worst, they are considered inherently “bad” and in need of training, which is usually doled out in the form of mental, emotional or physical abuse.

It’s true that children are the only group that is still boldly and legally discriminated against. They are the only people who are legally allowed to be hit, stolen from or held against their will. There is even a movement to ban the “brats” from public places based on nothing but their age.

Think about any of these sentiments said about a particular race and you’ll see my point. It is a very anti-child society we live within.

Of course, all of this instills in children a belief that they are less than, broken or bad. And unless they heal that belief, because children are the only oppressed group who will outgrow their oppression, it’s a belief they will continue to carry into their unoppressed adult life and inform every choice they make, including the treatment of the next generation.

So, we are essentially creating an entire culture of broken, hurting human beings for generations to come.

And I keep hearing so many parents complain about this and the so-called “brat bans”.

We are all appalled and offended when someone speaks condescendingly, assumes a child’s guilt or otherwise passes judgment on them based on their size.

But how many are doing anything about it?

Guess what?

If you want the anti-child treatment to change you’ve got to come out of your hiding places and start talking about.

Not just on Facebook.

Not just on your blog.

You need to start speaking up. At family reunions. At the grocery store. With your best friend. With strangers at the park.

You need to grow some cahones and start creating real awareness by speaking your Truth.

You need to live with Integrity.

Last week I got the opportunity to ask an older gentleman to drop some anti-semetic remarks he was making in front of us.

This was a strong, opinionated man who never backs down. He’s the kind of man that constantly makes racist, classist or sexist remarks and is used to winning arguments. The kind of man no one even bothers arguing with anymore.

I knew all of this going in. I’ve seen how people will sit uncomfortably and listen as he makes these remarks and not say a word, because they don’t feel it’ll help. They all looked pained as they shrug their shoulders and ask “What can I do?”

But I live by my own integrity.

And according to my integrity, all people should be treated with honor and respect and compassion. Even this man who was making anti-semetic remarks.

So with respect for him, I clearly stated that I was uncomfortable with his remarks, explained why and stated that I would appreciate them not happening in front of us.

Because I spoke with respect, not anger or fear, he did what no one had ever seen him do before.

He apologized and said he hadn’t looked at it that way.

We then went on to have a nice conversation for several more hours.

The One Rule To Speaking Your Truth

It doesn’t work when you speak from a place of anger or fear.

It doesn’t work when you fight or demand or criticize.

People shut down when they hear your anger, or feel attacked.

But people hear Truth.

Truth is not angry. It’s not fear-based. It’s not judgmental.

It’s just Truth.

And real Truth comes from a place of love. It comes with compassion and acceptance and gentleness. It doesn’t back down or hide.

And it speaks volumes louder than anger.

If we want to change these anti-child views…if we want to promote respect and love, compassion and kindness…we get to speak out while we set an example of what respect, love, compassion and kindness look like.

We get to live our Integrity out loud.

(And really, if you’re speaking with anger, are you really living your integrity?)

Change doesn’t happen by complaining about it.

Keep this in mind: the reason these anti-child (or racist or sexist or any-ist) sentiments make you uncomfortable is because you’re not living according to your own beliefs, your own integrity, when you don’t speak your Truth.

You’re sacrificing your beliefs to “keep the peace” (what peace?). And that’s uncomfortable!

To live with integrity means to take your authenticity and your Truth out of its box and into the world.

What do you know as Truth? What is holding you back from speaking your Truth with compassion and respect for everyone involved?

Because if you see the abuse and hate occurring towards children – or anyone else – and you do nothing about it…or you increase it with abuse and hatred of your own, whose really to blame here?

It’s Not You, It’s Me (Except When It’s Not Me)

Shadows

Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories. – Elie Wiesel

Have you written or said something and been surprised by how others reacted? Maybe they took offense or took defense, maybe they were hurt or angered.

Or maybe something you read or heard felt like a slap to the face. Maybe it was about you and maybe it wasn’t, but you responded quickly and strongly.

I think we’ve all seen this happen. Dealing with emotions and reactions is a fact of life. We all have opinions and beliefs and that’s usually a good thing. 🙂 But sometimes the shit hits the fan and those emotions begin flying all over the place. Feelings are hurt or arguments start because we can’t see two simple facts through all the drama.

  1. The fanned shit isn’t based on reality; it’s based on our stories, shadows of our perspectives. Stories are the things we’ve come to believe based on our experiences or the experiences of others. They aren’t 100% real because other people don’t always experience them, but they are real to us.
  2. It’s not always about you.

It’s Not You, It’s Me (Except When It’s Not Me and Is You)

I live a life based on my own beliefs. These beliefs have been shaped by my experiences and the stories I’ve developed. I speak from what I know, from my own understanding and from my own authenticity, moment to moment. I live, act and react in ways that make sense to me.

It’s about me.

Likewise, I know anything I feel about or however I react to someone else is also about me. It’s based on my own stories, my own beliefs, my own perspective. Even when I feel snappy or defensive or offended, I know it’s about me.

It’s not about you.

Moving from a place of authenticity about our own stories irons out most of the wrinkles in our messier interactions.

But even when we move from our own authenticity, we’re still bound to hurt someone’s feelings at some point, we’re likely to find ourselves within misunderstandings and despite our best intentions, and especially when we’re at our most authentic, we are going to offend others.

This doesn’t mean what you said was about them. It means how they responded isn’t about you.

Reactions are always about the reactor. Even when someone is intentionally trying to hurt or offend us, our feelings speak more about our stories than the facts of the situation. And this is true in regards to every single emotion: love, jealousy, anger, loneliness, excitement.

Beneath every reaction is a story.

Stories aren’t bad until they hold back, keep down or hurt you or others. As soon as someone feels hindered or hurt, it’s time to recognize the stories so that we can overcome them.

I’m constantly overcoming my stories. In fact the more you move toward living an organic life, the more inorganic stories you’ll be challenged to remove. (Seriously. I feel like I’m recognizing and overcoming my stories Every. Freaking. Day.)

Mine is a process with two parts:

1. Recognize Who Owns It

Every time the emotions start flying, the very first step I take is back. Before I can do anything I have to sort out my response from the other components. Walking away or holding onto my response gives me space to understand it.

Then I have to admit that my reaction is mine to own. I can’t blame or point fingers. I can’t play the victim role. I have to own it.

The same applies if someone responds to me with an exaggerated response: I have to recognize it’s not always about me, own my own reaction and allow the other person to have whatever experience they choose (by allowing them to own it or not).

Note to Self: You can’t make them own it. That’s their business. Meaning it’s not about you so butt out!

2. Dig Into It

When something virtually unrelated to me (or maybe totally related to me) rubs me the wrong way I know it’s time to question it and listen to the answers.

I know, even if I’m not ready to admit it, that it’s speaking to me (not about me) and with some truth I’m apparently resisting. Asking myself a few questions always opens me up to what is really going on:

  • Why does this bother me?
  • What other emotions is this triggering for me?
  • What is this reminding me of or what memories are associated with this?
  • What do I need to acknowledge in myself here?

Something similar can be done for others: Without judgment or assumptions we can try to understand their perspective and what shapes it. With compassion we can acknowledge where they are, have empathy for their experience and validate their reaction…all without owning it and without allowing it to own us.

Yes, owning our own stuff is uncomfortable. Digging into it can be downright excruciating. It can be a long, sometimes frustrating, process.

But knowing what makes us tick – knowing who we are and why – is crucial to liberating ourselves from the drama that surrounds us.

Keep this in mind the next time you get frustrated by your child’s words or hurt by your partner’s actions or when you read something you perceive as offensive or rude:

Only after we judge our emotions can we judge a situation.

Once you know who owns it, once you have some understanding or empathy for why it exists, only then can you move forward into finding the best way to handle it. (And that’s a process too.)

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The If/Then Syndrome and Unconditionality

One Of Us - Storypeople

There’s an epidemic that has infiltrated our culture. It creeps into families and relationships and make us all sick. Sick of each other, really.

It’s the If/Then Syndrome, sometimes referred to as the When/Then Syndrome. And it gets us all at some point. It’s that Tit-for-Tat behavior that we all loathe, and yet it’s just as much a part of us as we feel it is of anyone else. Some examples of its symptoms:

  • If she’s going to be rude to her kids, then I’m going to tell her off.
  • If he’s gonna yell at me, then I’m gonna yell back.
  • When you act nice to me, then I’ll act kind in return.
  • When you help me with the chores, then I’ll pay you.
  • But if you don’t help me, then I’ll be moody and passive-aggressive.
  • When he apologizes, then I’ll stop giving him the cold shoulder.
  • If she cheats on me, then I’ll cheat on her.

Truly, it’s all equal and it’s all pretty immature thinking. But the most mature among us fall victim to it.

We apply it to our parenting, our partners, and our friendships. Ourselves.

It’s not entirely our fault. It’s the culture we live in, one based on rewards and punishments. We feel that every action must be met with an equal (or greater) reaction. We give kids grades based on their performance, allowance based on their contributions, attention based on their behavior. We give our spouses snide comments or biting retorts. We give others parents pointed looks, or offer hurtful, harsh remarks.

And we say (and truly believe) that things won’t change unless we do these things.

We’re a culture of human reactors.

I’ve just realized I do it all the time. If Justin isn’t helping out, I am moody or unhelpful in return. If Zeb is cranky, I act cranky right back. It’s stupid, really because here’s the thing:

I need to be Who I Am, not because of anyone else, but because it’s who I want to be.

  • I want to be a kind, patient, compassionate mother – not to get a particular behavior from my son, but because I want to be that mother.
  • I want to be a generous, loving partner – not to get something from my husband, but because that’s the woman I want to be.
  • I want to listen, support, and honor others – not to be recognized, but because that’s the person I choose to be.

And what does it say about ourselves otherwise?

We expect kids and adults to “take responsibility” for their own actions and we don’t allow them to use others as a scapegoat for their own behavior. Then we yell, punish, criticize, humiliate, embarrass, lose our tempers or our patience and we say it’s because of something they did. We say it’s because we have to make a difference, because they need to change, because of some assumed outcome if we don’t.

Bullshit.

It’s not because of what they do; it’s because of something we do. We base our actions off our expectations, instead of our intent. We sacrificed who we want to be because they aren’t being who we think they should be. And when we didn’t get what we wanted (and how often does coercion really result in real cooperation anyway?) we responded with something akin to a temper tantrum.

How can we possibly expect our children (or anyone else) to do something we ourselves can’t master?

This is what unconditional love is about: That we continue to love a person in the same exact way regardless of whether they are being kind or mean, helpful or disruptive, quiet or loud, thoughtful or inconsiderate, joyful or short-tempered, patient or rude, generous or stingy.

Anything less is not unconditional love.

It’s fair-weather friendship, the parent who isn’t there when their child is hurting, the partner who leaves you feeling alone.

And if love is not unconditional, we’d better not call it love at all.

Over the past few weeks, with engine problems and stress pouring out of our ears, I’ve been told by nearly everyone that it all happens for a reason; it all works out for the greater good, that we are exactly where we need to be. It’s so easy to apply that principle to things like dead batteries or a long pause in your plans.

But why don’t we apply the same principle to our relationships?

If we truly believe we are exactly where we need to be in tough times, that there are no accidents, and that it all happens for a reason, how can we try to change someone at all?

Every mood, every attitude, every hurtful or kind word, every helpful or hindering action from our children, spouses, friends or loved ones is exactly where and what it needs to be.

It’s all good, even the messy, the hurtful, the disruptive. It’s all opportunity, experience, chances for understanding, an occasion for contrast, a space in which to learn. Not just for them, maybe not for them at all. Maybe it’s just there for us.

There is always a bigger picture to view. We get all caught up in the details of the moment, the stories we tell ourselves, without ever remembering one of the most important reasons for the moment, for life at all: Growth.

And only by meeting people, especially children, where they are and accepting them for who they are in that very moment while remaining who we want to be, do we give anyone the opportunity to grow. Only by being the person we want to be can we allow others to be who they are, as well. Only by accepting ourselves as imperfect first, can others accept their own imperfections.

Only through unconditional love and compassion can anything be okay.

You can thrive in unconditional love for yourself and others. You can learn to cut beneath the drama and craziness of the world, parent from a place of compassion, and live an unconventional, organic life. Click here to discover how.