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The Bliss Mistress Guide: Children Learn What They Live

by Edie Weinstein

I don’t watch television much. I do listen to NPR and enjoy a good conversation about social conscience and values. Much of my cultural savvy these days comes from memes. One that jumped out at me this morning, came from comedian Louie C.K. whose routines are fueled by his multi-cultural sensibilities (Mexican, Hungarian and Irish, as he uses initials which took the place of his oft mispronounced last name of Szekely) and his role as a single parent. He has much to say about parenting and he holds nothing back in his delivery. I will make his quote reader friendly for the purpose of this article.

“Here's the crazy part about it. Kids are the only people in the world that you're allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They're the most vulnerable, and they're the most destroyed by being hit. But it's totally okay to hit them. And they're the only ones! If you hit a dog they f-ing will put you in jail for that sh-t.”

No one should hit anyone...kids, adults, animals. As a therapist, I have sat with abuse survivors and they minimized what happened to them, saying that the adults in their lives called it 'discipline' or that somehow they deserved it. One of the saddest things, is that on some level, they believed it and continue to flagellate themselves and sometimes live out the statement that ‘hurt people hurt people.’

Some would say that spanking is acceptable, since 'they turned out ok.' Why would someone hit another to get them to stop hitting someone else or doing something else dangerous? Paradoxical reasoning.How does hitting teach respect or 'proper behavior'? It instills fear, not respect. Use your words, folks. Isn't that what we want children to do? Oh, and those words......not the kind that can be weapons. Not the kind that are verbal assault. The kind that are kind. So much multi-generational pain can be healed that way.

I would ask my clients if what was done to them, was done to an adult, could the perpetrator be charged with assault or if what was done to them was done to someone else's child, could they be charged with child abuse. If the answer was 'yes,' then I would label it abuse in their case too. I would then recommend strongly that they break the cycle of abuse, to model self-control, to get back at the perpetrator(s) by having a good life and not to do to others what was done to them and not to perpetrate against themselves. A tall order at times, but I was gratified to learn and observe that some were able to refrain.

My parents never raised a hand to me and I‘turned out ok’ too. I wasn’t a spoiled brat. I respected my elders, partly because it was mutual. Even though I grew up in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ generation, I was never chastised for speaking and yet I knew not to interrupt. I was encouraged to share my thoughts, although there were times when my mother cautioned me not to be ‘fresh’.  I imagine that my precociousness did try my parents’ patience at times, especially when I would respond with “Would you rather that I be stale?”

I am inspired by this poem that I first read as a teen and used it as a model for raising my son who is now 27 and is a surrogate father for a 4 year old little boy. He is marvelously patient and loving with this child and I am delighted to witness the relationship between them.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright© 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Edie Weinstein, LSW is a colorfully creative journalist, inspiring speaker, interviewer, interfaith minister, licensed social worker, radio host and the author of The BlissMistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary. She refers to herself as an Opti-Mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility.  www.liveinjoy.org

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