Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: Daydreaming and Fantasy by Jerome Singer

*My book reviews are not like my other blog posts in that they are a brain-dump rather than a well-formulated essay. They are my notes [for me] from a recent book I finished. In this book review I use quotation marks to separate what the author says from my sarcastic response to his ideas. These are not actual quotes; they are summaries. Except that first one, that is an actual quote.*

The author tries to explore fantasy... but he still doesn't get the implications of what he is saying.

Singer says, "In almost all children between the ages of one and a half and three, a great deal of encouragement from adults... is apparently necessary to sustain a tendency toward sociodramatic play."

And there you have it--sociodramatic play is NOT natural, it is a learned behavior that children won't do [very much of] unless they see adults doing it.

The author believes it is therefore super important for adults to teach children how to play pretend because:

"The spontaneous make-believe play of normal children serves as a practice of what the children deem to be survival skills." You must read your children stories of knights and princesses so they can be properly prepared for life.

"More importantly, fantasy play is a great way for children to learn and practice the different roles and societal scripts they will have one day." Yay! Let us all rehearse our parts so we know them well! We don't need to be present or in touch with ourselves or authentic at all! Our children will be sooooo much happier and more confident if they can just step into these prewritten scripts and know what to do! (And to be clear, he literally says that, that children will be more confident if they know their roles/scripts.)

"It is also very important to teach children these fantasy skills because daydreaming helps people get through situations that would be boring or miserable otherwise, like school or business meetings." The solution is not to remove yourself from boring situations or have authentic communications about your needs. The solution is to "self-regulate through daydream"!

"Daydreaming is an especially important skill if you are a slave. Makes the slavery much more tolerable. Science has shown over and over again that the more controlled a person's life is, the more helpful it is to fantasize a lot." Fantasize about freedom and power. Not fight for your freedom, mind you. Note that high schoolers daydream a lot and then very little once they get to college. Fantasy is the best way for older children i.e. teenagers to tolerate their lengthened childhoods.

"Daydreaming is The Way to survive a concentration camp." This one I totally agree with BUT I don't think one needs to practice this ahead of time just in case one ends up in a concentration camp.

"Fantasy is the best way to shift your mood, again, self-regulation." Say someone says something that upsets you. Don't talk to them about it! And especially don't fight! Don't ask for empathy from a friend or even give yourself empathy. Instead, if you feel angry, retreat into your imagination for a while until you feel better. Better yet, numb out in someone else's imagination by watching TV!

"Vicariously living through famous people is a great way to tolerate your own life." Not to change your own life, of course, or get more of your needs met. But just to escape it for a while. Because actually liking your life is not realistic.

"Powerless people who spend a lot of time fantasizing about being powerful will more easily accept leaders with too much power--the leader becomes the embodiment of their fantasy."

"Fantasy is a great way to deal with loneliness!" Not making friends, of course, staying home and living in a fantasy.

And other interesting things from this book:

-65% of women are in a fantasy while they are having sex i.e. they are not present.

-When the author was a child television was not a part of his life, so in his fantasies he was a baseball player or a senator. Todays children fantasize about being batman and superman. The author isn't sure if this is as useful but he is glad they are role-playing!

-Daydreaming can be useful to rehearse future actions, make us realize we hate our lives, and help us find other solutions for certain situations.

-Many daydreams are just cognitive processing, our brains storing and organizing connections. It is a way children try to make sense of the world.

-Often people will feel depressed after fantasizing. Because their real lives suck.

-Fantasizing is one way we rewrite negative experiences. This is why we tell our friends about the crappy thing that happened to us. Because after we have gotten enough empathy or been heard the experience has been rewritten in our memory so it is not as painful. "If you don't have friends, fantasize!"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Angry Review of Waldorf Education

Just read Rudolf Steiner's The Kingdom of Childhood: Introductory Talks on Waldorf Education. That is the last book I will ever read about Waldorf. I am too shocked and angry to rewrite this in an emotionally healthy way. Here is my angry review:

This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. A personal thing. I really wanted to like Waldorf because one of my close friends is really into it. Instead, I think it is one of the greatest evils done to children in this day and age. Many Waldorf ideas have made it out into Standard American Parenting practices and are to blame for many of the problems in parenting today, not to mention the problem with kids, teens and adults who suffer from such major self-esteem problems.

But first, let's talk about what's good: I totally agree that how we relate to children (and with each other and with ourselves) should involve more awareness of our whole person and our emotional selves. Totally agree all people who work with children need to observe more. Totally agree children should learn things that apply to real life.Totally agree there should be shoemakers and papermakers at every school. Totally agree that only the most heroic people should work with children. Totally agree that one should put their relationship first, always first, with another person. Totally agree that teachers should be autonomous--well... there should be as great a variety in education opportunities as there are restaurants so some schools would have autonomous teachers and some would not. But there would be that option for parents to choose from.

And now what sucks a lot about Waldorf: Steiner gives lip service to authenticity but actually wants teachers to be inauthentic. He wants them to be actors. Actors who can manipulate children into feeling in certain "right" ways. Waldorf education uses song and dance to "get children to do, learn and be" but that is exactly what is wrong with every other form of education. Just because you are manipulating with song and dance does not make it any less a manipulation.

He gives lip service, like everyone else, to allowing children to be who they are, but then goes on to describe all the "lessons", all the things they will have to do with their day whether they want to or not. And if the child doesn't want to--the teacher isn't being enthusiastic/manipulative enough.

His ideas about age-appropraiteness of different learnings are laughable (if they weren't so depressing). "You must observe how, little by little, curiosity and longing for knowledge begin to show themselves....between 7 and 14. " ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Have you ever met a baby? I have never met even a newborn who wasn't working its ass off to understand the world. Not to mention the most curious people on the planet--toddlers.

And the worst of the worst, the reason I want to travel back in time and smack this man silly: "As yet the child has no reasoning powers and anyone who tries to appeal to the intellect of a child of seven is quite on the wrong lines. The child has fantasy, and this fantasy is what we must engage....It is important to speak of everything around the children--plants, animals and even stones--in a way that all these things talk to each other, that they act among themselves like human beings, that they tell each other things, that they love and hate each other..." LIE TO CHILDREN FOLKS! CONFUSE THEM ABOUT REALITY!! THAT'S HOW YOU WILL RAISE A CHILD WHO FEELS CONFIDENT IN HIS ABILITIES TO UNDERSTAND LIFE!!! THAT'S HOW YOU WILL RAISE A COMPETENT ADULT, SOMEONE WITH HIGH SELF-ESTEEM!! THAT'S HOW YOU HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD... LIE TO THEM!!!!!!

Sorry. Wow. I feel so angry at this man. And all the innocent people who have not studied this subject as much as I have and go around destroying their children with good intentions.

Well, now at least I understand why Disney movies are the way they are.

The problem is that Steiner, like most people, have never met or studied real children. They only meet and study the messes parents create. Children who are 7 are confused about reality because their parents destroy their ability to understand reality when they were first trying to understand it--back when they were 2. Yes, they often revert to fantasy because they assume they are too stupid to understand reality. The fantasy world was a world created for children by the Victorians who didn't want their kids to know about real life. In the history of the world, in cultures all around the world, children are extremely competent and rational beings. Read The Lifeways of Hunter Gatherers or The Case Against Adolescence or The Secret of Childhood or Dear Parents: Caring for Infants With Respect or The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

Children do not "demand" we turn everything into fantasy for them unless we first make them morons who think they are unfit to understand reality. Study history, Steiner. SMACK.

Read John Holt! We CREATE those children. Children don't want to be that. Children want to be competent at life.  And that is exactly why we have had so many generations of insecure, miserable automatons who don't have the self-esteem in their own ability to understand reality so they just become sheep and do what they are told. NEVER lie to children. That is how you destroy your relationship with them and their self-esteem.

His ideas about not teaching kids to read until they are much older are retarded. Because they think letters are demonic? Really?! My two-year-old is obsessed with reading and can sound out almost the entire alphabet and not because I have ever asked him to but because he sees me reading and asks me about it. Reading and writing are not suited to humans until they are 11 or 12? How about whenever the kid wants? How about there are no rules and when the kid is interested, he IS suited.

"It is bad indeed to take notice of something that is negative." REALLY??? Yes, let us again deny reality to children. Let us teach them to disown all non-positive feelings so they turn to escapism whenever they feel something they are not supposed to ever feel.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Conversation With My Two-Year-Old

*T is Anders's "Godfather"--though we do not use that word. P is his girlfriend. They have been good friends with Anders since he was born. Each year when Tom and I attend a particular work function, T babysits. Here is a transcript T shared with me of him (and P) putting Anders to bed last week at a hotel in Laguna Beach.

[Anders, T and P sit in a darkened room preparing for bed time. Earlier in the evening, Anders noticed some surfboards in a hallway shortly before bumping into his parents in the lobby. T is trying to get Anders to consider lying down. Anders is sitting in a chair against a wall. T and P are lying on the bed against the opposite wall.]

T: Anders, would you like to come and lie down?
A: I want to see Mama and Papa.
T: I understand you want to see Mama and Papa. Mama and Papa are still at their party and it is only for the adults. Mama and Papa are coming home after the party. Are you feeling tired?
A: Yes... I want to see the surfboards.
T: Okay, I would be willing to take you to the surfboards if you'd consider lying down and resting when we got back.
A: Okay

[T, P, and Anders go see the surfboards for the third time that night. Anders is interested in the surfboards but also spends time looking up and down the halls expectantly for Mama and Papa. The trio return to the darkened room.]

T: Okay Anders, P and I are lying down because we're tired. Are you tired? Would you like to lie down?
A: I want to see Mama and Papa.
T: I understand you want to see Mama and Papa. They're still at the party. The party is for the adults. I was thinking maybe we'd just try lying down and resting. It's been a long day and you can see Mama and Papa when you wake up because they'll be back from the party by then.
A: ...
T: Let's talk about what we saw today. Let's see... we went to the beach with Papa and P and we saw the waves and the cold, cold water.... what else?
A: I saw a big, big helicopter!
T: That's right! That big helicopter came and flew by us and turned around and left. What else? Oh, we saw surfers in the water, and you said hi to some babies, and you showed us the moon.
A: The moon...
T: What else? Oh, we went to the restaurant together, and I had a lobster salad and you had a pork enchilada with beans.
A: And mints.
T: Oh yes, you had a handful of mints, too. What else...
A: Surfers jumping! (Anders is referencing a video that was projected on the wall of the restaurant, depicting surfers carving up waves.)
T: Yes, we saw the surfers jumping on the waves on the video at the restaurant... what else... Oh, we cleaned up and put on jammies and watched some movies together... What did we watch?
A: Fish! (Anders is referencing a documentary)
T: Yes that's right, we saw some killer whales and seals and other fish, what else?
A: We saw the bees! (Anders is referencing another documentary on colony collapse with honey bees)
T: Oh yes, we watched that documentary about bees.

[Anders gets up from his chair, stands at foot of bed.]

A: Bees dying.
T: Yes, the bees were getting sick from parasites and many of them died.
A: Bees making honey.
T: Yes, the bees made honey in their colonies...
A: Bees flying! BZZZZZZ!!
T: Oh yes, we saw millions and millions of bees flying through the air didn't we? What else...?

[Anders climbs onto the bed and sits at T and P's feet.]

A: Pig taking a bath!
T: Oh yes, we saw a pig taking a bath in that little video about baby potbelly pigs...
A: ...What else...
T: We saw the funny animal couples-- a cheetah and a dog, a lion and a coyote...
A: Liiiion..... kyotee!!
T: ...What else...

[Anders lays down on his side and faces T, props up his head on one hand like T.]

A: What else... saw a pig taking a bath... (Anders seems especially fond of this image, repeating it)
T: Yes, the pigs were having water splashed on them and they jumped in and out of the bath tub, what else...
A: Cows! Mooooooo!
T: Yes, briefly, we saw some cows. What else?

[Anders lies down on his back.]

T: Oh, remember you farted?
A (laughing): And you make fart sound...
T: Yes, I made a fart sound, like this... 

[T makes a fart sound with his lips. Anders and T laugh.]

A: Again!!

[T makes fart sound again. T and Anders laugh hysterically.]


[T makes fart sound again. T and Anders laugh hysterically... this repeats 3 or 4 more times, each time they laugh harder.]

P: Oh geez....
T: Oh no, I think I am too tired to do another one now. That's exhausting making that noise and laughing so hard...
A: ...What else...
P: You saw the pigs taking a bath...
A: Yeah, pigs taking a bath... what else..

[Anders yawns.]

T: We saw the airplane in the sky, moving so fast...
A: Tiny... tiny airplane... what else?

[Anders yawns again.]

T: We saw the sunset... what else...
A: ...What else...

[Anders and P are fast asleep.]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Conversation With My Two-Year-Old

Conversation With My Two-Year-Old:

[Anders and Mama sit at the table eating lox on toast for lunch. Anders grabs an onion off the top of Mama's toast.]

Anders: What's that?
Mama: Spanish onion
Anders: Taste it?
Mama: If you want to.

[Anders takes a tiny bite of the onion and makes a disgusted face.]

Anders: I don't like it!
Mama: I see that!

[Anders puts the onion back on Mama's plate. A moment passes. Anders takes the onion again and puts the whole piece in his mouth.]

Anders: Mmmmm, that's gooooood. I like that. Yuuuummy.

[Mama, so as not to start laughing, takes a bite of her sandwich and smiles and nods. ]

Monday, February 3, 2014

Conversation With My Two-Year-Old

*Anders is 2 years and 3 months old

[Mama and Anders sit on their bed in their little room at the Gulch. Michael, 6, and Daniel, 2 1/2, play just outside. Mama and Anders cannot see the boys, but they can hear them. Suddenly, the boys start fighting over a toy.]

Anders: Michael sad. Michael frustrated. Daniel sad. Daniel Frustrated. Both want toy. I give kiss?

[Just then Michael starts to get violent and his mother restrains him.]

Anders: Michael safe. Keep Michael safe.
Mama: It sounds like you know what's going on outside.

Book Review - Super Parents Super Children

*My book reviews are not like my other blog posts in that they are a brain-dump rather than a well-formulated essay. They are my notes [for me] from a recent book I finished. *

What a breath of fresh air! Most parenting books written today are heavy with fear (like the evening news). This book was the opposite. I have never come across a book that had so much common sense or approached things in such a similar way to how I approach things (like looking to hunter-gatherers to see what "normal" human sexuality might be like).

I recommend this book for everyone just because it is so shocking in it's laissez-faire attitude about almost everything when it comes to kids. It is also the only parenting book that I have come across that is openly Libertarian and starts its parenting arguments with a political one--that the use of force is bad.

It should be noted that, similar to It's Ok Not to Share, Kendall seems unaware that attempts to control are attempts to control are attempts to control. All attempts to control yield the same unfortunate results, whether the attempt uses violence or hatred or ignoring or what-have-you. So--enjoy this book but completely ignore any advice she gives on the rewarding or punishing of children. Read Punished by Rewards or Choice Theory or Non-Violent Communication to understand relating to children (and all people) in a healthier way.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Book Review - It's OK NOT to Share

This book didn't really offer me much in the way of new information but I can agree with most of the information she shared.

*My book reviews are not like my other blog posts in that they are a brain-dump rather than a well-formulated essay. They are my notes [for me] from a recent book I finished. *

*I prefer her solution to sharing to the RIE solution, however, both solutions make more sense for a daycare where none of the toys belong to any of the actual children rather than moms-at-home with their babies having play dates. I think Super Parents Super Children might have the best solution for moms.*

What drove me insane about this book is that the author is a little inconsistent and doesn't think through her arguments. She lists Punished By Rewards as a recommended book at the end yet uses various punishments and rewards throughout in order to control the children. Don't help your child down from the tree?!!! That's an attempt to control them rather than a way to relate to them honestly. That IS a punishment. How would you like it if you bit off a little more than you could chew and your husband refused to help you because he thought that was "good" for you, he wanted to "teach you a lesson"?

The chapter "Give Kids Power" was the most annoying since it doesn't occur to her that children raised with respect don't need to "play power games." In fact, if you see your kid playing power games you should take that as a sign that you have not treated your child with enough respect or someone in his life isn't. And children won't need to fight off bad guys and pretend to kill their friends if they have never been exposed to that morally repugnant crap most children are exposed to. She argues that war-play is okay but never questions why children think this is an important thing to play anyway. Children won't ever want to play war unless you have exposed them to war and they think it is an important thing to practice. She acknowledges that children only practice life and what they think is important and then thinks its fine for kids to spend their early years practicing fighting battles. Can we take a minute to assess WHY kids think battles are what life is about?!!!!

Author needs to study NVC, or read Consciously Parenting. "It's not okay" is not what she should be advising parents to say to their children. It begets the question: for whom? to whom? There is no difference between saying "it is bad to do x" and "it is not okay." BOTH ARE JUDGEMENTS HOW DOES SHE NOT SEE THAT?!!!!!

"I don't like it when you" is more accurate and more honest and not judgmental like "it's not okay."

Enjoyed This Song

Book Review - Women, Food and God

*My book reviews are not like my other blog posts in that they are a brain-dump rather than a well-formulated essay. They are my notes [for me] from a recent book I finished. *

I read this book substituting the word "drug" for food because addiction is addiction. Some people use food to escape and others use video games, alcohol, sex, television, etc. Addiction fascinates me or rather the question: is it possible to raise children in such a way that they would not need any addictions or is the desire to escape a part of all human life? Is life tolerable without drugs? Is it really so black and white: "Either you want to wake up or go to sleep. You either want to live or you want to die."

So scary to read books like this and think the best thing for me to do with Anders when it comes to food is to have no opinion and let him love all of it. I keep reading these books and they all say the same thing yet part of me desperately wants Anders to feel great shame and fear when he sits down to eat junk (like me). At the same time it makes so much sense that if he is allowed to enjoy his junk food, he wont eat so much of it. It won't be used as a drug to escape but rather for enjoyment. That is the essential question I am trying to answer--how to deal with drugs when it comes to my children.

This book makes me believe that I don't need to worry about drugs, only about continuing to teach Anders to be present and that he is allowed to want what he wants and offering him a safe place to feel what he feels. "Awareness and compulsion cannot coexist." The struggle with addiction and desire to escape is not a struggle of will-power or lack of self-control, it's not about the drug, it's about self-love, wanting and having.

How to not need drugs: to know at a deep level that your life can finally be--and always was--for you, only you. To know that you are entitled to joy.

Hmmmm, that sounds a lot like Objectivism, Anarchy and Libertarianism....