Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] TCS (was New to Sudbury-Cottage Grove, OR

From: Steven Cox <>
Date: Tue Jun 3 10:29:00 2003

(I sent this post last night and I don't think it made it to the list)

Hi Richard,

I just saw your post. I have been away from the computer and am just
catching up. I'm not sure if this is on-topic. At Sudbury Valley Schools
coercion is inevitable: children and staff will have grievances and the JC
is in place to address these conflicts, right?

Common preferences are impossible in large groups: win/win solutions are not
impossible, but are much more difficult to come up with--there is often
self-sacrafice for the good of the group, me-thinks?

In general, TCS happens in families and even within small families finding
common preferences is often unfamiliar territory. Its difficult. Both
parents and children must figure out what each wants. It helps immensely if
family members can state their wants and be open to brainstorming.

> I'm so glad to see that someone experienced with TCS
> was able to respond.

Well, I guess you could say I'm experienced with TCS....but I've only been
exploring it for 2.5 years. I am still learning (ok sometimes I should call
is struggling :-)) everyday.

Perhaps this is one of the central questions for me: Is it indeed immoral
for parents to coerce their own children? Afterall, parents and other adults
do it everyday and its always been done in some shape or form. And even if
the parents are mistaken, they are most often trying to act for the child's
own good. If the parents are decent and loving enough (and unfortunately
sometimes even when they are horribly abusive) the children will most likely
love them and respect them despite the coercion. And perhaps when the kids
grow up, they may thank their parents for "setting limits" or whatever.....

I wonder how many not yet to be parents think that if they simply reason
with their not yet here children, these hypothetical children will listen to
them and there will be little need for coercion. And when the child arrives
and perhaps does not sleep through the night at 12 months, or at 3 throws a
tantrum over wanting a balloon that belongs to another child, the parent
wants to know how to respond to these conflicts. The parent wants to feel in
control and the child, most likely, will want to sense that the parent is
sure of herself.

When, for example, a toddler is in a toy shop having a
great time playing with trucks and the parent says "It's time to go to the
grocery store." And when the child protests the parent acknowledges the
childs feelings "You've really liked it here, now its time to go," and then
picks up the screaming child and leaves presumably for the grocery store. To
many people this is the normal setting of limits with a 2 yo. Since
everything is finite, the parent must decide about nearly everything: how
much, when and where--especially in respect to little children. So if this
particular parent truly feels confident that what she is doing is right, and
the child senses this, the child is angry but maybe he feels "safe". The
child's autonomy is not respected, but she is being cared for and loved. I
think this is probably why most people "turn out fine" even if they are hurt
by coercion.

I don't think that carrying a kicking and screaming 2 yo out of a toy store
is a very good solution, and many people seem to regard this as an
unfortunate but sometimes necessary part of caring for a toddler. I've
noticed people tend to look away or smile uncomfortably when kids are being
carted away kicking and screaming--its like we all know its a failure of
creativity but what else can one expect? What if the parents had done this:
perhaps mother could have stayed in the toy store with the child while
father went to get groceries (the stores abutted); bring the child to the
toy store when there is a sizeable chunk of time to devote (children do
eventually get tired of toy stores); don't bring the child to the mega toy
store if they get overwhelmed and overstimulated-- instead bring her to a
smaller one; when going to the toy store have something planned afterward
that the child likes even more (i.e. ice cream, a visit from grandma); ask
the child if she wants a piggy back out of the store; have a treat waiting
for child in the car; play act something while leaving the store; go when
its nearly closing time (children sometimes respond favorably to the sales
clerk telling them its time to leave); buy the truck; or something else that
made sense to them. But mostly I think if the parent is present with the
child, connecting and playing with the child, the parent will likely see the
possible solutions and offer them to the child. If a young child is fussy,
s/he may be tired or hungry or catching a cold, but often the trigger for a
tantrum is some underlying pressure (coercion) or lack of connection with
the parent, caretaker, or sibling.

Is planning in this way is "giving into the whim of the child"? Going to the
grocery store "now" seems also to be the whim of the parent. Yes, a family
needs to get food--but thinking of "now" as the only time to get groceries
is really boxed in thinking. A parent who can slow down and be present with
her child and feel in control will likely be doing a great service to
herself and her child. And also, everyone will be having a lot more fun.

I think that being out in the world trying to TCS, its hard not to feel
dragged down when I witness so many parents engaged in the grim task of
parenting. Not everywhere, not all the time, but too much of the time,
parents seem stressed and unhappy vis a vis their children. So while I don't
really know if systematically coercing one's children is immoral--I still
think there must be a better way, and TCS is the best philosophy I've
encountered yet. Sorry, if I've digressed too much.

I'll answer the other part of your post off-list. I know you mistakenly sent
it to the list. BTW, I think its a bad idea to talk about the details of
children's lives on the internet lists. I cringe when I read things like
"Sam has ADHD and has enuerisis at night, blah blah blah." Children deserve
privacy and parents should not tell details of their lives without their
children's informed consent.

Received on Tue Jun 03 2003 - 10:28:28 EDT

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