Friday, February 29, 2008

"Adults are what's wrong with our children" says Marian Wright Edelman

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?
My readers know I rarely cut and paste whole sections of anything here but prefer to link you to a variety of sources instead.

Today I'm making an exception because I believe the following words by Marian Wright Edelman in the foreward to the Children's Defense Fund: America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline - 2007 need to be read...and read...and reread...and for that reason they need to be quickly available in as many places as possible. And when you have time, I hope you will read the entire foreward and the report for both are important efforts on behalf of changing the world for children.

"I am often asked “What’s wrong with our children?” Children having children. Children killing children. Children killing others. Children killing themselves. Children roaming streets alone or in gangs all day and night. Children floating through life like driftwood on a beach. Children addicted to tobacco and alcohol and heroin and cocaine and pot, drinking and drugging themselves to death to escape reality. Children running away from home and being thrown away or abused and neglected by parents. Children being locked up in jails with adult criminal mentors or all alone. Children bubbling with rage and crushed by depression.

Well adults are what’s wrong with our children. Parents letting children raise themselves or be raised by television or the Internet. Children being shaped by peers and gangs and foul mouth rappers instead of parents, grandparents and kin. Children roaming the streets because there’s nobody at home or paying enough attention.Children going to drug houses that are always open instead of to school houses and church houses, mosques and temples that are too often closed. Children seeing adults take and sell drugs and be violent to each other and to them. Adults telling children one thing and doing another. Adults making promises we don’t keep and preaching what we don’t practice. Adults telling children to control themselves while slapping and spanking. Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating in our homes, offices and public life. Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing and glorifying violence and tolerating gun saturated war zones in communities all across our land. Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and addicting them to smoke and drink and careless sex."

Above passage from: Marian Wright Edelman's foreward to:
Children's Defense Fund: America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline - 2007 Report

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Positive Discipline? Positively!

Positive discipline is based on the idea
That children are born without knowing
What we expect of them.
Joan E. Durant

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?

Although I never doubt that most of us do wrong by our children on a regular basis, generally unintentionally, and would do otherwise if we knew we were harming them and how to parent more effectively, I seldom feel positive about suggesting alternatives.

Most I've discovered tend toward the dogmatic, inundate the parent with too much extraneous information, or fail to provide sufficient information necessary for understanding and application. Consider a fishing manual that dictates one formulae for success, another that tells you everything you have no need to know about raising troical fish, and another that gives great instructions but fails to provide a list of the necessary equipment.

However, today I found a manual on discipline that I feel comfortable in recommending and supporting without reservation. I find the basic philosophy is based on the rights of the child as a human being combined with respect for the diversity of parenting values. The content is thorough. The order of presentation is logical. The materials are easy to read and understand.

And, as agrees with my training about how we learn, the concepts are repeated, and repeated and repeated in different formats, so the learner has the opportunity to accomodate and assimilate using various "hooks" on which to hang the knowledge for quicker and easier access when needed...which will often be during emotional times when we won't be inclined to go looking for a manual, or take the time to search among the scrambling brain cells for answers to the immediate problem.

The only immediate negatives I note about this manual are the difficulty in locating it, and the length...over 300 pages!...but don't be dissuaded from checking it out on that account as it is a work-book manual, so lots of fill-in-the blank pages.

I also want to forewarn you that this site is easy to get lost in... there is so much interesting information available on Corporal Punishment from every perspective, and not separate URL's to make access to individual articles easy.
Positive Discipline: What it is and how to do it.
(At Site Map, scroll down; click on "New Resource on Positive Discipline" link on the right side of page; scroll down and click on "Positive Discipline Manual" link)
Positive Discipline: Web Resources for Parents and Teachers on Discipline without Corporal Punishment
(At Site Map, click on RESOURCES on the left for an incredibly thorough selection of resources!)

Answers for Parents

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Cutting Her Out

Since the mother is the first,
the basic caretaker,
losing her -in a physical or emotional way-
starts a nightmare of deprivation
for a child.
In a way, it never ends.
Missing Mother Syndrome

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?

Some subjects are so broad they defy tackling in a blog post. Child Abuse is certainly on that list. So is child abandonment.
The purpose of most of my posts is simply to raise awareness, trigger interest in learning more, and provide some sources to begin a process.
Nothing more...the rest is up to you.
This is a picture of me and my Mom.
As a child in pain, I cut her out of it.
Still in pain, I taped us back together.
The story that follows was told so many times that occasionally I think I remember bits of it. Mostly I doubt that... unless perhaps on some deep level where emotions linger like silent watch dogs who never make a sound before attacking. In any case, the story goes like this.

Dad was enlisted in the Army Air Corp, stationed in Mississippi, training and waiting to go to war. His young wife, far from her home and family in New Jersey, waited with him. They lived in a rented, furnished room with bath down the hall. They survived on Corn Flakes and Beer.

I was born during that time. They brought me home to that room to spend my first few months in a dresser drawer used as a bassinet. Before I learned to walk, Mom was pregnant again. By the time I was walking, running, learning to climb, she couldn't stand the stress of waiting for Dad to be deployed, being pregnant in the heat and humidity of Mississippi, dealing with an active toddler confined in one room.

Mom wasn't willing to be separated from Dad, so for the good of all, they said, they brought me to New Jersey by train and left me there with family.

His family!

Total strangers!

Abandoned me in an unknown world!

Or so it might have felt to me. The story goes I was inconsolable. I cried so much that Dad claims the extended family felt sorry for me. He always said they did everything possible to turn me into a spoiled brat forever.

Mom and Dad returned to New Jersey a couple months later…just a few weeks before my brother was born. They moved into a room in the big house I'd learned to call home. By then I'd bonded deeply with Dad's Mom, my Grandmother, and with my Aunt and Uncle who lived there. When I wouldn't come to Mom and Dad, Mom said Dad's family had turned me against them.

I was seventeen months when my brother was born. That was the day World War II "ended." Our family war had only just begun.
Related Information:

What is Abandonment?
(at Imaginif...)

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Friday, February 22, 2008

Payback for Child Abuse

“No one can tell what goes on
between the person you were
and the person you become.

No one charts that
blue and lonely section of hell.

There are no maps of the change.
You just come out the other side
… or you don’t.”
Stephen King, The Stand

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?

People said my parents really cared about kids.

Mom and Dad didn't hesitate to take in kids who needed a home for a while.

Didn't matter if they were kin or not.
And those kids were treated exactly as their own kids...not one bit of difference.

Kids remember experiences like that.

They especially remember if that treatment was different from what they were used to receiving. Makes them see everything in a different way.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that one boy left our house determined to pay back. Just living with us for a while turned his entire life around. He never was quite the same kid again. He'd never become whatever he might have been.
In fact he told us later his only goal in life after he lived with us was to grow into the biggest strongest toughest meanest s.o.b. possible (actually he used a lot of other words, too, but you get the idea?) so he could come back and beat the hell out of Dad. He did it, too. The part about becoming the biggest strongest toughest meanest s.o.b. possible, anyway. When he came back he was a lean, mean, proud Marine. His presence filled the room, his voice boomed when he asked,

Where is he?

In bed.

You tell him to get out here.

He's sick.

Tough. I've been waiting a long time for this day. I'm not leaving until I repay that bastard for every beating he gave me when I was too small to fight back. I couldn't even walk after the worst one. Remember? And I didn't even do anything wrong. One of you guys hid my shoes...

Dad came from his room, dressed only in the tee shirt and boxer shorts he wore when he wasn't ripping off his clothes for some bizarre reason during those final days. At those times that frail, scrawny, naked, white-haired man, who looked old but was only 57, would rage and slam walls and, there alone, taking care of him, I'd hold my breath in terror and stare at the cords on his unnaturally white feet, until he'd come to his senses and exhausted, meekly return to his bed.

I wondered how he'd be, what would happen. Weeks before he died of cancer, Dad's voice was still the strongest part of him.

You looking for me? Haven't changed much have you…always were looking for trouble, weren't you, kid? C'mon. Let's go outside and finish this once and for all.


You bastard. You lousy bastard. I don't fight people who can't fight back.

Ever watch a Marine walk away from a fight? Hear him choke on a sob? See bitter tears of disappointment fill his eyes? Feel his pain, share his frustration, understand the depth of his loss when he realizes the one thing that gave him direction and kept him going for years will never happen?

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You Don't Abuse children? Sez Who?

"Every time I say something
they find hard to hear,
they chalk it up to my anger,
and never to their own fear."

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?

It's easy enough for anyone so inclined to dismiss anything I say about child abuse to my anger. However, being easy doesn't make it an accurate assessment. Some of what I say is no doubt rooted in anger. Most of what I say is rooted in formal education and informal, ongoing research across disciplines. All of what I say is rooted in determination to invest my time, energy, talents in seeking some relief for those who suffer from abuse today, and who will suffer even more tomorrow.
Yes, I am angry.
Yes, I am angry about child abuse.
Yes, I am angry about all abuse.
Make no mistake about any of that!
I am angry about the abuse inflicted on me, about the abuse I inflicted on others, and about the continuing abuse inflicted every day by millions of us on millions of children and adults worldwide.
I am angry about abuse by caretakers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, peers, neighbors, strangers, school personnel, teachers, priests, ministers, hair-dressers, tailors, religious leaders, scout and youth leaders, doctors, dentists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, politicians, scientists, police officers, bus drivers, clerks, jerks and those who work at Municipal Water Works. Even if not listed here, there are no exceptions to the list of those who abuse children. That list includes everyone.
Yes, that includes me.
Yes, that includes you.
Yes, I said you and me.
Make no mistake about that either!
From the worst of the raping/murdering pedophiles to the near-perfect among us, from the God-denying to the God-fearing, from the under-educated to the over-educated, from those who devote themselves to protecting children to those who don't give a damn and don't mind saying so, from those who contribute nothing of personal resources, to those who contribute all, from the poorest to the richest among us, there are no exceptions to my contention. We all abuse children to one degree or another.
Whether by omission or commission, whether at the lowest end of a continuum of abuse or the highest, whether aware or not aware, whether intentionally or not, whether willing or able to acknowledge your participation, you are no exception.
Easy to dismiss everything I say, easy to blame it on my anger, easy to attribute it to anything you like? Easy to attack me personally? Yes! But challenge me before you dismiss this charge that we all abuse others, to one degree or another, that we abuse even the least and most vulnerable among us, the children of the world.
First provide your definition of abuse. Without that we have no basis for discussion.
Then tell me who you are, what you do, why you are an exception to my claim that you inflict some kind of abuse on children. Tell me where you live and I'll show you facts and figures, research, and stories you won't want to know. Tell me when there was a time when children experienced less abuse than children do now, and I'll show you facts and figures, research and stories that you will find hard to accept. Show and tell me anything from any discipline, any field of research, any source, even uninformed, ill-founded and unsupported opinion, that you think proves me wrong.
Prove me wrong! I'll admit it!
Prove me wrong! I'll celebrate!
Prove me wrong! I'll learn from you and do everything possible to teach others how to live without abusing others, or at least how to inflict less abuse tomorrow than they do today...

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Child abuse is the root of all evil…
the love of money and power come later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Visible Pain Relief: Self-mutilation and Child Abuse

There is nothing "bad" about a child
who chews his or her nails.

Nail-Biting: Parenting Strategies

Does She? Or Doesn't She?

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about?

A little neighborhood friend, younger than the child pictured here, bites her nails.

She chews her fingers.

She bites herself on the inner wrist.

I hurt so much for her, knowing the inner pain that makes her need to hurt herself for relief.

One would think with the abuse and neglect in her life, she'd have no need to hurt herself, too.

It doesn't work that way. I know.

I've been a nail-biter since earliest childhood. I'm certainly not bragging about that…but I no longer feel ashamed about it either. Oh, I hated biting my nails, hated myself for not being able to stop, hated the way my hands looked and most of all I hated the expressions of disgust and pity from others.

For what it's worth, I'd bet there never has been a nail-biter who wanted to be one.

I certainly didn't want to be one for many reasons.

I guess you could say I've been self-injuring since I was a baby. My mother loved to tell the story of finding me covered with blood one day. I'd found a package of razor blades, opened them and was happily chewing on them. (No comment on the lack of supervision or whatever…)

When I was a child my father often slapped me across the face for biting my nails… as well as for other maddening behaviors such as my hair hanging in my face, the look on my face, the way I was standing or just about anything it seemed to me. Other people ridiculed, mocked and humiliated me as their ways of getting me to stop. Still others bought that nasty tasting stuff or offered manicure kits, or other rewards as incentives to stop the nail-biting. The school nurse even gave a written permission slip for me to suck life-savors in class.

As you can guess, I didn't just nibble the nails. No. I ripped them off until my fingers bled and the pain was excruciating. Eventually I took to hiding pins in many places for easy access. I used them to dig under the bed of the nail in order to make a place "to get a grip" and rip off a piece of nail.

Eventually I found just digging my flesh with a pin was a good-nuf substitute sometimes. At 15 I played with the razor blades again. By then I was seriously intent on killing myself. I failed but that's another story.

Now I know more about nail-biting and other forms of self-injury. In brief, self-injury, self-harm, self-mutilation, and so forth, include "carving, scratching, branding, marking, picking and pulling skin and hair, burning/abrasions, cutting, biting, head banging, bruising, hitting, excessive body piercing and tattooing."

Self-injurers "tend to have been abused as children." In one way or another, abused children "discover that a serious jolt to the body, like that produced by self-injury, can make intolerable feelings go away temporarily."

The resulting behaviors, including chronic nail-biting, seen as "common symptoms of stress" are variously described as coping mechanisms, "tensional outlets," and a "quick and easy way of defusing great physical or psychological tension."

The reasons for the behaviors include "trauma reenactment, bargaining and magical thinking (if I hurt myself, then the bad thing I am fearing will be prevented), protecting other people, and self-control."

Finally, in severe cases, self injury may be viewed as a "gift of survival," possibly the "most integrative and self-preserving choice from a very limited field of options." Self-injury may be the one thing standing between the person and committing suicide to escape from physical or psychological pain too great for him or her to live with.

For More Information:

Nail Biting: Causes and Consequences
Self-Injury of the Nails and Hands
Nail-Biting: Parenting Strategies
Wikipedia – Nail-biting
How to Protect Your Children From Self-Injury
Self Injury
Self Injury in Adolescents

Self-inflicted Violence
People Who Self Mutilate
Self Mutilation & Suicide
Trauma Reenactment Syndrome

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee
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Clemens, McNamee and the Pinocchio Effect

Kids lie early, often,
and for all sorts of reasons—
to avoid punishment,
to bond with friends,
to gain a sense of control.

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?

I'm wondering about American idols… no, not those American idols. I'm wondering about baseball players…the ones children around the world idolize. This morning that includes Roger Clemens.

After watching hours of testimony of a Congressional Hearing yesterday I'm no more able than anyone else probably is to declare Clemens or McNamee the liar about the alleged illegal steroid and Human Growth Hormone use.

I can say if there is anything to what I call the Pinocchio Effect, then Clemens could prove to be the champion of lies for the day. The name Pinocchio Effect is probably not original with me, but it did pop into my head one day and has stuck with me ever since. Seems research suggests the only consistent body language of people when lying is touching the nose.

Now, this makes sense to me because whether we want to admit it or not, the roots of what we are and do are shown frequently to lie in our childhoods. (No pun intended…maybe.) And who among us didn't identify with poor Pinocchio whose nose grew longer with every lie he told?

Anyone who watches hearings or trials must notice the tightly clasped hands of the participants. I used to thing they were praying…you know…asking for help to tell the truth…as in so help me, God. But that was before I learned about the research on lies and nose touching. Now I think they know about the Pinocchio Affect, by whatever name anyone calls it.

So what about the child abuse in all this? I'm not going where everyone else is this morning about the higher moral calling of athletes because children are watching...and imitating. These days it is difficult to point in any direction without finding the opposite is true. Higher moral calling seems a lost art in all fields so there is little reason to expect any difference in baseball. The fact is children learn by imitation and they imitate most those they idolize.

So, no, this post isn't about the hearing. This post is about lying. And the child abuse as I see it concerning lying isn't in the lying to or about children, although that is certainly included as abuse. No. This is about adults teaching children to lie. And then, even more abusive in my opinion… after the children learn to lie… as they all do…they are condemned and punished for lying. Finally to make matters worse, we inflict the greatest abuse of all… the hypocritical, holier-than-thou, finger wagging denial of our own lying. Remember Bonds, to name just one?

One thing is certain about the hearing I watched on CSpan yesterday... people lied. McName admitted to his lies. Clemens insisted to the end he didn't lie. Personally I appreciate McName's truth telling. It was refreshing. He confessed, owned, apologized and claimed to feel shame about his lies. I think that sets a better example for children to learn from and follow than that provided by those who piously spout about the importance of our precious children. They point fingers, swear they never lie, lecture others on the importance of setting good examples, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… itchy noses not withstanding.

Those behaviors are imitated and learned by children, too. Just watch older children with younger children suspected of lying. In one recent study with teenagers, 98% admitted to lying to their parents. That's a whole lotta lying! The kids in that same study also admitted they "saw for the first time how much they were lying and how many of the family’s rules they had broken…" Apparently the denial is learned early, but isn't impenetrable. I wonder if other research involved parents how many would admit to lying to, about, and in the presence of their children?

You might find these articles interesting reading:

Are Kids Copying Their Parents When They Lie?

Say Thank You: Learning How to Lie

Phone Fibbing is The Most Common Method for Untruths

Umass Researcher Finds Most People Lie in Everyday Conversation

Touch Your Nose

Are They Lying to You?

Lie Detection

8 of the Most Common Lying Gestures

How to Tell If Someone Lies To You

How to Tell if Someone's Lying Just from Looking at Their Hands

Natural Born Liars

And this one is really fun!

Robots Evolve and Learn to Lie

Oops! During this research I've found several others do refer to the Pinocchio Effect... the hundred monkeys strike again!

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Reflections on Child Abuse, John McCain and Watermelon

Shame is the apprehension of a vision
Reflected from the surface of opinion--
The opinion of the public.
The Frogs


Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about?

This morning I'm wondering about Senator John McCain and his five years as a prisoner of war.

Five years of physical, emotional, psychological, environmental deprivation, abuse and neglect… even torture... are significant experiences for any person.

Changes that result from such experiences may not be obvious to others. However, small things may be big clues to deeper gaps in what might be considered pressumed knowledge, shared perceptions, assumed connections, expected reactions, and so forth.

For example, when John McCain is caught not knowing something considered common knowledge, such as long gas lines and alternate days, he laughs. He reminds us that he was living a different reality then, as a POW, not sharing in ours in the USA. Without too much effort on our part we understand what he doesn't say. We see the bigger picture even without all the details. We accept the differences that have to be.

Abused and neglected children frequently lack common knowledge for much the same reasons. They, too, live in a different reality. They, too, lack opportunities, exposures, materials, tools and products necessary for learning about the world in which they live. Recently a few experiences raised my awareness of how extensive that lack may be. I wondered just how such missing bits of knowledge, otherwise considered "common," to the majority might skew developmental and other kinds of tests given to abused and neglected children.

Consider a watermelon, a sweet potato, and a pair of scissors. Common enough things by most standards. While discussing children's adjustment to recently moving in with her, the foster mom mentioned how amazing it had been to watch the 4 children (ages 5-10) when she brought home a watermelon.

"What's that? We never had it," they told her. She thought they were kidding.

The children's emotional responses ranged from laughing disbelief…"Are we really going to eat that?"…to faces contorted with disgust…"Yuk, that looks like blood and guts"…to determined grimaces… "No way I'm going to eat that"…to grinning amazement…"Wow, this is really good"… to finally, a bright-eyed eureka moment…"Hey! I've had this stuff! I didn't know it was watermelon!"

The foster mom, convinced it was a new experience after all, asked me how that could be.

I thought about a single Mom, with the kids in tow, walking to the store . She has no car. Public transportation isn't available. Small town grocery stores aren't likely to use space for cut up watermelon. Food stamps limit what to buy. Buying a watermelon and lugging it over a mile just wasn't a likely scenario.

Mom, peppered by too many questions as she shopped for too much with too little, ignored most of them. The home environment lacked books and magazines where children might have seen a picture. The television they watched included MTV and other age-inappropriate shows and movies that probably don't include a lot of watermelon preparation. The children didn't go to extended family gatherings where watermelon might have been served as a summer treat. Neighbors lived the same environmentally deprived lifestyle. Very possibly the children never experienced cutting up a watermelon or connected that big hard green thing to the pieces of red stuff they might have had in school.

Which brings me to the 13 year old friend who crinkled her nose at baked fresh sweet potatoes. "What's that? We don't eat them at my house!"

"You kidding? You mean that's the same stuff we get in cans from the food pantry? Doesn't look the same. We don't eat that either."

"Okay, I'll try it. But just one little bite!"

She ate the two baked sweet potatoes…

hers and mine…

then asked for more.

Three 11 year olds worked on a craft project with me. They couldn't cut with scissors any more efficiently than average five and six year olds. At first I thought they were kidding me. I watched them struggle, then quit, then begin clowning around. Once children fear ridicule, shame sets in and acting out begins. Clowning around hides a lot more than a lack of basic skills resulting from environmental deprivation. No kidding.

A Mom visits, notices the scissors on the table. She scoops them up, then snaps at me. "I don't let my kids use scissors! We don't even have them in the house."

"Why not?"

"Because the kids don't know how to use them. They might cut themselves."

"How," I ask, "will they ever learn to use them if they can't use them?"

She shrugs. "I can't cut with scissors Hasn't been a problem for me." No kidding.

People joke about kids who fail everything in school…even art!…they laugh and ask, "who could possibly fail art?" John McCain lost much during his five years of abuse and neglect. Fortunately for him, he had already learned the basics.

And this picture?

Oh, that's just a photo of sunshine on a shadowed rock wall, reflected in crystal clear water.

No kidding.
Deprivation and Education
A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee