Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Blog Has Moved to!

My blog has moved to my website! To see all of my latest posts and keep up to date with future posts, please visit my blog, Laurie A. Couture on Attachment Parenting, Unschooling, Social Justice and The Planet, at:

Some of my latest entries include:

-Children are Born to Learn Everything They Need on their Own
-Physical Nurturance Positively Affects Genes
-Spanking Traumatizes Children
-Public Schools Pathologize Childhood; Cause Severe Distress to Healthy Children
-Public Schools that Cut Recess and Play Need a Lesson in Child Development
-Obama on Education Reform: More of the Same Insanity

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Epic Fail: Good Morning America Gets "F" for Biased Radical Unschooling Report

When Juju Chang asked the teenage siblings featured in Good Morning America's report on Radical Unschooling if they "ever miss or regret" not being in school, I couldn't help but wonder if she would ask a survivor of a hostage situation if they "ever miss or regret" not being in bondage. Clearly, from the sitcom-like, satirical nature of GMA's segment, Juju and George Stehanopolos spinned a patronizing, smug and biased attitude towards the idea of youth living in freedom- The way children, including Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Margret Mead, had done it for millennia. This montage of painfully obvious bad edits and carefully selected quotes was patched together to make the Yablonski-Biegler family appear irresponsible, negligent and ignorant. What ironic fuel for the firestorm of oppressive legislators around the country who are already working to infringe upon the inalienable rights of homeschooling families!

The idea of free, authentic, truly joyful children is frightening to too many people, people who never were allowed to taste freedom themselves. The idea of brilliant, free-thinking minds, creative, inventive, internally grounded youth who question poisonous conventions and follow their passions and curiosities, is a dangerous blow to the institution of public schooling. The idea of children having the free time to develop on their own, research and study what they want, when and how they want to study it, and the freedom to reject the parched, mind-numbing curriculum of the government, is infuriating to those who believe the purpose of children is to be subordinated and molded. Through compulsory public schooling, governments are successfully training docile, subservient, homogeneous cogs to turn the well-oiled wheels of Capitalism, Globalization and apathy towards social justice and true democracy. The very existence of forced public schooling is antithetical to democracy- For 13 years you learn that you have no useful rights, no voice, no control over your body, mind, time or childhood and that any resistance is futile. This environment breeds an apathetic ignorance, a denial of the self, a toxic peer culture of oppressing those peers weaker than oneself, an indifference to the suffering of others and a belief that its ok for children to feel miserable in the name of "education". The opening of the 1980's TV show, You Can't Do That On Television had it correct when it depicted, similarly to Pink Floyd's The Wall, children walking robotically into a meat grinder for processing.

After 13 years of believing that this is the only way it can be, that this is the way it has to be, a phenomenon similar to The Stockholm Syndrome develops: When people are held in near total domination, held hostage  with their needs and feelings exploited, people learn to adapt to the situation by aligning with their captors and justifying or embracing the oppression they endure. We see this phenomenon generation after generation when children who despised school and were beaten down by it later turn around and send their own precious children right into the same cute-sey clutches of the same system that wrecked indelible intellectual, emotional and possibly even physical harm on them. (The regimentation of children's basic bodily functions no doubt has strong correlation to the obesity epidemic, eating disorders, migraines, urinary incontinence, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome unique to Western civilization and the booming pharmaceutical and medical industries capitalizing on this long term body damage.)

So, what is unschooling? Every unschooling family's approach to unschooling is as unique as the individuals in that family. The Yablonski-Biegler family were more "radical" unschoolers; apparently imposing no rules on their children. Many unschooling parents have some basic expectations and principles for their children. As an unschooling mother of a 16 year old son, I do have expectations and principles securely built into our daily family life. For example, we do not watch TV and we eat a diet free of refined-sugar and other foods that have been coorelated to cancer and Type II diabetes. Parents need to decide what works best for their family.

Generally, unschooling is a return to the natural state of how all other mammals learn and how young humans learned for the millennia prior to 1850 when forced public schooling was instituted. Unschooling means learning by developing naturally, by interacting with the authentic environment of one's community, the world around us and nature, by living now, not waiting until one turns 18 to live. Unschooling is being guided by one's unique passions, talents, curiosities, interests, inklings, ideas, dreams and strengths and following the chaotic yet symphonic path where they lead. Unschooling is meeting a diversity of people of all ages, and building solid friendships based on mutual interests and goals. Unschooling means the world is one's classroom, with no limit to the books, resources, media, people, mentors, places and ideas that can guide a child on his or her very personal journey through living an authentic life. Everyone can be a teacher, including other children. Most importantly, unschooling is about love, and deep, secure parent-child relationships. It means being with people who truly have their children's soul best interests at heart, people who are deeply and passionatly invested in their children's joy, happiness and fulfillment.

Unschooling is endless possibilities, everything from running one's own business, traveling the world, taking college courses, writing a book, running a club, playing in a band, orchestrating social justice work, inventing a gadget, making up a game, climbing trees, marveling at nature, cooking, running down the length of the ocean, learning another language, playing, dreaming, painting, building, walking, singing and doing whatever will advance one's innate dreams and goals. Often, unschoolers find their way naturally through the same "subjects" as forced in public school, but unschoolers often discover them in a joyful, colorful, meaningful manner that is relevent to their lives. Some children choose textbooks because it fits their style of learning. Other children learn the same subject with their hands and bodies flailing around outdoors.

When infants are born, they are equipped to learn everything they need to learn on their own. Children, including the youngest ones, are capable of a frightening amount of innovation and wisdom; I use the word "frightening", because it is frightening to me how much they are capable of doing and how little of that we see manifest thanks to the public school's production-based definition of "learning". We are all beautifully endowed with a brain and a mind that simply needs space, time, resources, an enriching environment and loving support to express all that it is capable of doing and expressing. Each human being has a unique chord to add to the symphony of life. Public school cuts this unique chord to pieces in each child, boxes it up and replaces it with a safe, controlled, predictable replacement, one that leads to depression, apathy and a sense of personal failure. Unschooling allows this chord to blossom into a vivid, wild, vibrant, beautifully attuned masterpiece, one that leads to happiness, joy, fulfillment and self-actualization.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Health Care Reform Rant: It's the Same Old Sickness

So the "historical" health care "overhaul" was passed in the House in recent weeks:

This is more of the same old propaganda: Co-pays, ridiculous prices, high deductibles, medical bills and of course, mediocre treat-the-body-as-machine primary care docs. A real overhaul would be free care for all, plus a medical system that treated the causes rather than the symptoms; a medical system that stopped sleeping with the big financial goldmine giants (Big Pharma, Medical supply cos, etc.). How about looking at how our American diet of refined sugar and wheat kills people? How our Western lifestyle of children and adults sedentary all day in schools, work places and then in front of screens all night leads to depression, apathy, Type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease? How the way we deny the body its basic needs all day in schools and at work ruins the organs and causes disorders? How child trauma and poor parent-child attachments lead to high levels of Cortisol chronically pumping through the body, leading to an erosion of the immune system and the body systems? How about how the drug companies kill thousands every year because its cheaper to pay off lawsuits than to lose money on allowing people to heal naturally both emotionally and physically? How about how the Government is fighting to have all vitamins and natural supplements labeled as "drugs" so that they will be considered "controlled substances" so no one can cure themselves? How about (besides vital emergency care), the medical field is all about symptom suppression rather than healing and curing? (Who the hell wants to "manage" their asthma as a recent medical insurance pamphlet sent to me suggests! "Manage"? I want a goddamned cure!)

How about when you finally find a wonderful specialist that treats you as a member of your own treatment team, your PCP or insurance company doesn't want to continue to renew the referral (or you find out that the specialist is now "out of network")? How about that medical insurance won't pay for natural cures such as classical homeopathy? And how about that there are cures for just about every illness, plus actual cures for cancer, but the FDA refuses to allow these to be released because Big Pharma and Big Medical (who lobby the FDA mercilessly with impaneled reps) would lose untold billions every year? The walks for cancer, walks for heart disease, etc., etc., all are futile wastes of people's money. There are already cures, but the people aren't allowed to benefit from them (in fact, there is some controversy that people who have actually come up with cures have been sued or have mysteriously died). Should I go on?

Because I personally put my attention on natural cures and naturopathic ways to support my healing as much as possible, I have been paying a yawning minimal attention to the health care reform issue. I have done research, listened to talks on NPR, read commentary, sure, but because I am aware that regardless of the so-called reforms, nothing will change, I don't invest too much energy. We will still have to pay co-pays, deductibles and struggle to afford specialty care. Of course there is no medical coverage at all for homeopathy and most other energy-based healing practices that actually cure illness at the source (and not just supress symptoms).

Regarding a different aspect of the Health Care Reform issue, I am further irritated by people on the far right referring to this minimally changing health care reform bill as "Socialism". I don't understand how changing a few rules qualifies as "Socialism". Are people saying that, for example, Canada's idea of free health care for all is a BAD thing?

A family member of mine, his wife and son recently visited the US from another country and his son became ill during the visit. They went to the emergency room here in the US and now are stuck with a huge bill. If the same situation occurred in Canada, they would have been seen for free.Years ago, a close friend of mine visited Canada and suffered an asthma attack during the trip. He was young and without health insurance or much money. To his surprise and delight, in the Canadian emergency room, his asthma attack was the priority, and he never was bothered to fill out forms while he was struggling to breathe. He wasn't burdened with a bill he couldn't pay and he could instead focus on his recuperation. 

Just two months ago, I found myself in an American ER. I similarly had an asthma attack and was struggling to breathe, yet the"triage" nurse deemed me physically adequate to sit and play "20 Questions" with the billing intake desk as my chest was tightening and I struggled to exhale. They ignored my frustrated demands to be treated first with a simple nebulizer treatment. It was upsetting for my son to witness, especially when they insisted my "oxygen level was 95%", therefore I was deemed to be "fine" to answer questions and wait for "the respiratory team" to arrive. I stated, "I don't care what my oxygen level reads, I can't breathe!" My 16 year old son, Brycen, found a solution: While I waited for nearly a half hour for "the respiratory team"  to arrive to initiate a nebulizer treatment (which consists of putting a few drops of Xopenex in a mouth tube connected to an aeration source), my son and I discovered that by him "karate chopping" his hands vigorously up and down my back, my symptoms were relieved significantly.

So let me get this straight-- to want one's medical emergency treated immediatly, compassionatly and without regard to money is called "Socialism" (whatever they mean by "Socialism")? I consider it to be a basic human right that every human being in distress and in need should receive help from their fellow humans without a cost. "Socialism"? I just call that compassion!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Attachment-Based Supports and Services that Adoptive Children and Families Need

The suffering of too many adoptive children runs deep. It runs deep through the spirit and into the neurology of children traumatized by abuse, neglect, abandonment and loss of primary attachment figures. I am the endlessly proud mother of a beautiful, loving, brilliant adolescent adoptive son who I love so eternally that I often forget that I didn't give birth to him. However, in the face of uncanny cycles and life's triggers, I am reminded that as happy and well attached as my son is, no matter how fulfilling and joyful his life is now, the pain of his early history looms near. It is the quality of our support system that determines how well we can weather the storms when they arrive.

In my work with children and families, I am regularly stunned by the glaring deficit in our social service and mental health system's awareness of the special needs of adoptive children. Family after family wearily recounts to me the nightmare of going through multiple therapists, programs and services only to watch their adoptive children sink deeper into detachment, depression and rage. Frivolous use of psychiatric drugs, superficial diagnoses of "ADHD" and Bipolar Disorder, individual talk therapy, "anger management" and "self esteem" groups, behavioral charts and other misguided "treatments" serve to do little more than stall healing, exhaust the family, deplete hope and increase parent-child disconnection. In some cases, the result is a disrupted or rescinded adoption, a tragedy for the child who has already suffered excruciating abandonment and trauma. 

Adoptive children are some of our world's most resilient human beings. They may have been adopted at birth, but many of them have waited, sometimes for one year, five years, a decade, or until they almost "age out" of the system. (Some children do "age out" and never find "forever families"). They come from our own country and from other countries. They are children who may have lived in foster care, residential facilities, orphanages, or in the streets. They are children who may have been shuffled from foster home to foster home, never staying anywhere long enough to understand what love and family means. They are children who may have been abandoned or orphaned. They are children who may have been birthed by parents who were unable to care for them for a number of reasons. They may be children that have suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect at the hands of birthfamily, or the systems that were supposed to "care" for them. Too many have been exposed to horrors that many adults couldn't endure. They all have a unique and individualized story. 

However, one thing adoptees share in common is an extreme break in the human attachment cycle. The human parent-child attachment cycle is the critical developmental blueprint of a person's lifelong emotional, social and spiritual health and happiness. The attachment cycle begins in utero and its quality is critical in the first three years of life. However, the attachment cycle must be maintained all throughout childhood. It is the quality of how well and completely parents respond to and satiate the physical and emotional needs of their children, leading to feelings of relief, trust, calm, joy, self-worth and homeostasis. These feelings create attachment. Parents that respond quickly, lovingly and in a nurturing, natural manner to the majority of children's physical, emotional and developmental needs enjoy a secure parent child-attachment, regardless of the child's age. 

In our culture, the more common scenario is that parents react to children's needs based on Western cultural norms. They meet some of their children's needs, partially meet others and offer culturally-sanctioned substitutes (bottles, cribs, jumpers, carriers, stuffed animals, pacifiers, punishment, playgroups, day care, traditional school, organized sports, TV, media, material objects, etc.) to children's most critical needs. These parents note mild to moderate behavioral, learning and emotional problems manifesting in their children as early as the toddler years or beginning in the adolescent years-- problems that our culture believes are "normal" aspects of growing up ("The Terrible Twos", "Typical Teenage Behavior"). This form of attachment is called insecure- The attachment cycle has been disrupted many times, but it is not broken. Problems often resolve in young adulthood or there may be lifelong emotional challenges for children to face.

In families who are outrightly abusive, neglectful or if the child was temporarily removed from the birthparents but returned, the attachment cycle is often severely disrupted. Severe behavioral, emotional and learning problems at any age are the natural results of this level of attachment disruption. However, when a child is  removed from the birthparents, either at birth or at any later age, placed in foster care, an institution or an orphanage and never reunified with the birthparents, there is a severe break in the parent-child attachment cycle. If there is trauma
involved, which is often the case, the break will be more damaging to the child. The behavioral, emotional and learning problems at any age can be severe, extreme or even catastrophic. The collection of symptoms typical of severe attachment breaks are known as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

Parents who adopt children into their lives are generally unaware of the parent-child attachment cycle, let alone of the break in it, or of the consequences it will have in their children's lives unless the correct treatment is found. They are often unaware that the break in this "primal" attachment cycle has neurological, psychological, physical, social and spiritual effects on their children. When they turn to providers to help them with the resulting alarming behaviors, they are often offered "treatments" that exacerbate the problem.

The attachment cycle is mammalian, and is critical to healthy development in all mammals, especially humans, yet it is overlooked and ignored in the fields of human services. Many social workers, mental health professionals, counselors, psychologists and especially psychiatrists do not even know what "attachment" is or the critical nature of the human attachment cycle. I can't count how often I have heard mental health professionals incorrectly use the words "too attached" to describe clingyness or a child who has separation anxiety with a parent. Ironically, these behaviors indicate a disrupted attachment, or not enough attachment! I even hear many well-meaning mental health professionals misguidedly use the word "attached" to describe a good therapeutic rapport with a client ("Oh, s/he is very attached to me"). Breaks in the human attachment cycle are often the origins of most forms of human psychological distress, including behavioral, emotional and learning problems-- Mental health and social work professionals are truly missing the holy grail of assisting the healing process in people!

So what do adoptive families need?

Adoptive families need attachment parenting education, a solid support network, respite services and a multi-modal treatment approach by professionals who specialize in attachment disruption or brain-based trauma treatments. Following is a list of the types of supports that re-energize families, services that help preserve families and treatments that heal trauma, attachment breaks and emotional disturbance in children. No single service will be sufficient; a multi-modal approach is necessary. 

Adoptive families need:

*Comprehensive post-adoption services from the adoption agency, including post-adoptive stipends, health insurance for the child and funding for respite services and other treatments not covered by insurance (especially for single parents or lower income parents),

*A network of experienced respite providers who can provide overnight care or care for a few days when the child's behaviors are exhausting the parents,

*A strong support system of extended family and friends who are willing to learn about the unique needs and struggles of adoptive children,

*A trauma specialist who uses the brain-based trauma treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)- This is a MUST!

*An attachment specialist who understands how to facilitate attachment in adoptive families, works respectfully and ethically with children and views the parents as part of the treatment team (Some examples are Theraplay practitioners or therapists trained in the Dan Hughes Dyadic Developmental treatment model). It is preferable if the attachment specialist can also do the EMDR.

*Education about attachment parenting and how to facilitate the parent-child attachment cycle with adoptive children (of all ages). Parents must learn how they can meet some of their child's early developmental needs for intense physical affection, connection and nurturing that were unmet or incompletely met in the first three years of life. This is also a MUST!

*Books, websites and resources that support the natural attachment parenting cycle (please see my website for a list of such resources), not the dangerous, power-and-control tactics of a small group of RAD charlatans that are popular online,

*A set of very basic Family Principles that outline the values of the home, a strong set of emotional stability tools for children to use to help them cope with mood swings and emotions, and clear cause-and-effect consequences for behavior that harms the parent-child relationship,

*Information and a support network assisting parents in homeschooling their child or enrolling their child in a child-centered school-- This is very important! 

*If homeschooling, a homeschool community-- This will provide children with wholesome, accepting friendships, social skill practice and offer less opportunity for children to become influenced by the toxic peer groups in public schools,

*24 hour crisis intervention services in the community (including mobile crisis response) that will respond immediatly to families in crisis and understand Reactive Attachment Disorder and PTSD,

*A formal or informal support agency or network of other adoptive families who can share emotional support, respite and resources,

*Funding for adjunct Neurofeedback treatment, a fun brain-based brain training treatment that is an alternative to psychiatric drugs,

*Adjunct treatment with a practitioner who teaches the powerful Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT),

*Funding for homeopathy and other naturopathic and body-centered treatments that are alternatives to psychiatric drugs,

*Testing to rule out food sensitivities in children,

*Information on how dairy, gluten (wheat), soy, refined sugar and non-organic foods can cause mood swings, behavioral and learning problems in children and how to switch to an organic, healthier diet,

*Resources for connecting children to community activities that they enjoy,

*If a child is unable to live at home due to severe behaviors, children need parents to continue their commitment to them through love, support, visits and a lifetime forever family,

*Family court and law enforcement responses that are sensitive to the unique needs of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder who are in crisis,

*Lawmakers who consult with adoptive families and who do not cut funding for vital services such as respite funding and post-adoption funding.
      Adopting a child requires a great deal of supports and resources. I have found many of the supports on the above list of supports, services and treatments to be essential for my own family and for many of the adoptive families I have worked with over the years. Some state adoption agencies, such as the state of Maine, lead the way in supporting adoptive children and families and provide a model that the entire country should emulate. It is crucial that social workers and mental health professionals receive the ongoing training and education that allows them to prioritize the parent-child attachment cycle and understand the unique needs of adoptive families.

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      "Avatar" Blues Can Be Cured with Real Life Activism and Radical Lifestyle Change

      This CNN article, "Audiences Experience Avatar Blues" about moviegoers becoming depressed and suicidal after watching Avatar is troubling yet strangely hopeful. It is curious as well as shocking that people have been so asleep for so many centuries that only now that they have seen a computer generated movie have they become depressed by, shocked, outraged and aware of the severity of the loss of human life, of the loss of the natural, luscious beauty of our planet and of the loss of the joyous, symbiotic cultures that once inhabited the continent of North America. 

      I think it is testimony to how dull, arduous and downright painfully boring public school has presented history-- in attempts by our government to deter people from deeper inquiry and research into the truth behind the atrocities and genocide that our government has committed against the indigenous peoples of the world. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn is the real-life "Avatar" that every American should be reading.

      I suggest and hope that the mass numbers of depressed and suicidal viewers use their angst to rally together to save our very real life planet and the remaining peaceful indigenous cultures from further destruction and seriously rethink our society, our culture, our Government, our Capitalism and our worship of money and material objects. 

      Life does not have to be hurried, routine, difficult, painful, impersonal, mechanical, apathetic, media-obsessed, money obsessed and a struggle just to exist- We allow it to be that way by being part of a machine-like system that feeds off of money, compliance, ignorance, consumerism and apathy. This machine-like society that we have allowed to keep regenerating is the antithesis of everything  we need in order to be truly happy, joyful and free. Read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael  and Jean Liedloff's The Continuum Concept after you finish A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. 

      If you have seen Avatar and are depressed by it, try to refrain from wasting your time doing Google searches to drown yourself in fictional musings about the movie- Instead take real action to research the violence our society has been built on, the violence that it continues to do, how we have become the way we've become and how we as individuals can make an accumulative difference by doing something different- Returning to more natural, connected, authentic communities and ways of living.

      We can start to create a new way of life by removing our children from the clutches of the public school system and allowing them to grow up joyfully and free through unschooling or in schools like The Sudbury Valley Free School. We can join or create intentional communities, eat organic, unprocessed foods and "kill" (or atleast subdue) our television sets, our Blackberries and our endless, insatiable greed for material objects. We can put our children's needs as our first priority, cease punishing them and parent them for connection and attachment, whether they are infants or older adolescents. We can participate in real life activism for the planet, for trees, animals, for children, for the remaining indigenous cultures, for our communities and neighbors, our families and for the rest of humanity.

      We can't retreat in blissful escapism to "Pandora", but, as Ghandi challenged, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" --This world. Earth. Our world.

      Friday, January 1, 2010

      Child Advocacy and Children's Rights Resolutions for the New Decade

      With every decade that passes, new legal and civil rights have been fought for and won for every group of adults in Westernized cultures. The fight continues around the globe in order to share those legal protections with oppressed populations in other cultures. With each passing decade, there have been landmark victories won that validate the journey for adults to assert their basic human rights- In the 00's, gay marriage was the fight that finally found victory in the United States.

      However, children seem to exist in a surreal incubator; a sterile laboratory in which they are viewed and treated as if they are human beings-in-the-making, like objects waiting to be assembled, or feelingless, spiritless bodies waiting for someone to bestow humanity onto them. Decade after decade passes, and yet an industrialized child's world always looks the same, with little more than trite hope of obtaining any real victories beyond the superficial "right" to be intoxicated consumers and technology automatons.

      In 1989, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations and later ratified by all of the UN countries except for Somalia and...Guess who? The Land of the Free, USA. However, as with most well-meaning agencies, organizations, programs, task forces, experts and documents relating to "helping" children, the UN Convention is written by adults who assume they know what is best for children. While they are accurate on many accounts, they defer to stereotype and tradition in other areas, such as their gender-biased focus on only female victims and their freedom-violating article stating that education shall be forced ("compulsory").

      In most cases in history, oppressed groups themselves decide what it is they need, what is best for them and what rights would allow them to live with liberty, happiness and freedom. However, ironically, in the case of children, their oppressors are the ones who write up the documents, form the agencies, determine the "protections", divvy out the rights and choose the laws! Children are often offered only petty, insulting protections by "experts", agencies and spokespeople who can only see through adult-colored glasses; the "rights" children are given by adults often double as the "right" to be oppressed, abused or exploited by adults (For example, in all 50 USA states there are child abuse protection statutes in the books. However, in all 50 states parents are allowed by law to hit, smack, belt and physically hurt children as long as no physical injury results. In half of all public schools, school staff can legally assault children with wooden boards and actually leave injuries, with criminal immunity).

      Children form a large cohort of human beings- Children are people of all nationalities, colors, cultures, abilities, economic classes and of both sexes from the ages of birth to age 18. And some of us child advocates would argue that the fetus constitutes a child in need of consideration as well. Children constitute such an enormous group of people, yet this significant segment of the population lives every day in virtual slavery to adults and adult agendas, with no political power and virtually no voice for their needs, wishes, preferences and dreams beyond consumerism.

      It is easy to conclude that youth are too immature, uninformed, uneducated, self-centered, confused, lazy and consumeristic to be able to articulate their needs. This is not only ignorant and stereotypical, it is disrespectful and bigoted. If we listen to children, observe children, empathize with children, show compassion to children, play with children and decode the clues and messages underneath their stereotyped behavior, children will let true advocates know their needs. If we watch the span of children's years from birth to young adulthood and we allow ourselves to see how children react in the moment and over time to the seemingly "normal" everyday ways adults treat them, we will learn about children's true needs. We must stop assuming that when children cry, protest, resist, oppose, withdraw, conform, fear or form symptoms of "mental illness" or "disabilities" that they need more of what made them cry, protest, resist, oppose, withdraw, conform, fear or form symptoms.

      When we think of all of the major human rights movements in history, protest, resistance and outrage were some of the most common elements. Children are natural protesters and know better than anyone what they do and don't like and what they do need and don't need. Children, from newborns to teens, cry out, protest and attempt to fight for their basic human rights everyday, yet their protests fall on deaf, clueless ears. Parents, guardians, school teachers, school administrators, programs, professionals, psychologists, counselors, social workers, "experts", pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, lawmakers and governments (many well-meaning) exert crushing forces of effort to quiet, oppress, ignore, muffle and stomp out the cries and protests of unhappy children every single day in our society. This is accomplished through ignorance, apathy, laws, tradition, rules, control, coercion, punishment, threat, bribe, confinement, diagnosing, medicating, "servicing", "therapeutic" manipulation, thought and behavioral control, fear, intimidation, humiliation, shame, emotional and physical neglect, physical assault (Yes, that includes "spanking") and in extreme cases, severe physical abuse, sexual exploitation, physical and psychological torture or even murder.

      So What Should Child Advocates Do?
      The most basic and critical need of all mammal children, including human children, is for a secure, deep, permanent attachment to at least one parent, either by birth or adoption. Secure attachment is the result of a parent immediatly responding to and meeting the needs of their child, in a manner that is warm, loving and compassionate. The result of secure attachment is a parent-child relationship which is loving, warm, cooperative, respectful, healthy, and which grows stronger and more reciprocal as the child grows older. The youth who is angry, depressed, anxious, acting-out, disrespectful, withdrawn, materialistic or is showing symptoms of "mental illness" is not securely attached. The youth who is more interested in buying objects than spending time with parents is not securely attached. The youth who pushes away his or her parents and usually puts peers before family is not securely attached. The youth who bullies or lacks empathy for others is not securely attached. Parents who are cold, rigid, critical, authoritarian, permissive, disrespectful, indifferent, emotionally neglectful, punitive, abusive or who in any way fail to comprehend and respond to their children's needs cannot produce securely attached children.

      The human attachment cycle is the basic mammalian blueprint for a world-wide children's rights movement. The agenda of children's rights advocacy should be based upon the basic physical, emotional and developmental needs of children viewed from an organic, nature-based perspective, untainted by industrialized, religious, political or financial interpretation. Any other agenda is superficial and superfluous at best. At worst any other agenda is a front to protect adult power and control over children and financial and political agendas.

      Natural study of peaceful nonviolent tribal cultures as well as study of nonhuman mammals indicates clearly what our children need. This natural study may not show us what we as industrialized, busy, working, materialistic, politically motivated people wish to hear, but it will show us what true child advocacy is needed and why our children have been showing such distress for centuries. When infants cry, when children resist and when adolescents act out, they are telling their parents that they have a need that nature intended that the parents meet. In most cases, when children cry, resist and act out at all ages, they are crying out for physical and emotional connection to their parents, in whatever form is developmentally appropriate. They are letting us know they need something, that their bodies or emotions are uncomfortable. They are crying out for parents to understand that what we are doing to them or allowing someone to do to them is hurtful, painful or running against the grain of who they are (Yes, keeping children in oppressive school environments is hurting them).

      The multitude of blind traditions and expectations our culture has imposed upon children have caused our children intense distress. Their behavior and actions both as children and later as adults show us the severity of this distress. These blind traditions and expectations include, but aren't limited to: Infant-mother separation, bottle feeding, circumcision, crib sleeping, separation from a parent or extended family, punishment, coercion, control, physical punishment, "time-out", day care, school, sitting at desks, being forced to do busywork, lack of physical activity and play time, homework, toxic peer groups, segregated age groups, TV and media addiction, junk food, materialism, diagnoses, psychiatric drugs, programs/therapies to manipulate behavior and low levels of parental affection and connection.

      Infants need to be held day and night on the skin, breastfed for at least 2 and 1/2 years and allowed to share the family bed. Children of all ages need to be caressed, held, rocked, hugged, kissed and treated with empathy, warmth and tenderness. They need to be taken seriously, heard, cherished, understood and played with. They need your undivided time. They need to learn naturally from mistakes. They need strong, morally rich, compassionate modeling. They need to be protected from harmful people, harmful media and harmful influences. They need physical, intellectual and creative freedom. They need unschooling and community learning. They need free time to run, jump, play, explore, dream and invent. They need to learn in freedom, based on their own interests, dreams, passions. They need to learn in their own way, at their own pace, with their own learning style and using the resources, classes and mentors of their choosing. Children need to spend most of their time in play and increasingly as they grow older, in the community doing meaningful service. They need a diverse group of friends of multiple ages, young, old, child and adult. Above all, they need security, connection, love and compassion from their parents, families and mentors.

      Children also need adult advocates who empower children to stand up for their rights. They need adult advocates who will step in to protect abused, neglected or exploited children and their best interests fiercely when children are limited by the law or by adult control to do so for themselves. Children need adult advocates who do not taint their advocacy with adult agendas and motivations; who will not twist the words "best interests" to mean what the adult wants it to mean.

      We as a society need true child advocates and politicians to push for laws that truly protect children and their interests, heal the damage already done to children, and mentor and guide young adults to prevent them from passing on toxic patterns to their children. The child's needs are society's needs. When the child's needs are met, when the child's rights are established, fought for, respected and upheld, society begins to heal and becomes mentally, emotionally and socially healthy. When societies are healthy, the environment, the world and the planet begin to heal and become healthy and sustainable.

      The new year, 2010, is the gateway to a critical decade. What new rights will adult groups fight for and win? Will we leave children behind for another decade, in cribs, in daycare, in joyless 1800's-influenced school environments, with sedentary, tedious busywork? Will we leave children behind in front of TV and computer screens, engorged with sugar and fast food, overwhelmed and dulled down with fashions, gadgets and brand-names? Will we leave children behind segregated into cliques, riddled with diagnoses, drugged up with psychiatric chemicals? Will we leave children angry, sullen, depressed and disconnected from family and community? Will we continue to ignore and push aside children as if they have subhuman status while we rant and rave about our superficial political ideologies? Will we push our financial, political and ageist agendas for children under the guise of "child advocacy"? Or will we radically change the way we view and treat children, their rights and their needs?

      Tuesday, December 8, 2009

      Abuse/Neglect of Children is the Root of All of the World's Problems; Punishment Won't Heal, Only Attachment and Need-Meeting

      The story of the Plaistow NH father who bruised, bit and broke the bones of his three newborn triplets while the mother stood by passively praying, not calling the police, is just horrifying beyond all belief- The torture these baby boys and baby girl have endured is shocking to the conscience; I imagine for the adults to behave in this manner the same or similar must have been done to them- I have worked with children severely tortured this way as infants and when they are older youth, people expect them to behave normally. When they display severely disturbed behavior, "professionals" label them and do not seem to make the obvious connection between the torment in infancy and their current behavior. People who can't see the connection between childhood abuse (including spanking), neglect as well as poor parent-child attachment and later adult pathology are bound to be blind to the fact that the world's problems are a result of generations of this cycle of abuse and neglect of childen's basic needs. They are equally blind to the fact that healing the world won't be accomplished by punishment and hatred, but by a return to human attachment, bonding and need-meeting.