Podcasts > School

Podcasts > School

I remember when I discovered podcasts as a medium. One summer day in 2009, I found that the iTunes store had a category called podcasts. It was content that I could download for free! I thought that was amazing.

I was very excited by the possibilities. Podcasts were a window to anything I wanted to learn. It was not limited by a place, time or a generic set of subjects. It was a medium that truly gave me the freedom to learn.

Notice that I made this discovery during the summer, when I had time to explore. 

First, I listened to podcasts about comedy and unsolved mysteries (ghosts, aliens, Big Foot, Mothman etc.). My favorite two podcasts were Comedy Death Ray (now called Comedy Bang! Bang!) and one called Universe of Mystery. Then I slowly moved towards more intellectual stuff like The Joe Rogan Experience, Stefan Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio and Dan Carlin’s Common Sense.

This was happening while I was juggling school. At the time I thought of school as a necessary burden, but now I realize how useless it was in terms of shaping my future for the better. I would echo George Bernard Shaw's experience when he said,

From a very early age, I've had to interrupt my education to go to school.

Flashforward 9 years since I found the magical world of podcasts. Now, almost everything I've learned that has made a tangible impact in my life has come from them.

To show you what I mean, here are just a few life-altering things that happened because of podcasts:

  • It was a conversation between Joe Rogan and Stefan Molyneux that made me realize the extent to which my childhood experiences have governed my behavior. This lead to a long road of understanding my past so that I could better control who I could become.
  • It was hearing countless of call-in-shows on Freedomain Radio that taught me how to think critically and how to acquire self knowledge. It is also why I’ve become a big proponent of peaceful parenting.
  • It was through a couple of Tom Wood’s interviews  that I first learned about online affiliate marketing. I immediately wanted to try it and so I taught myself how to build a website. With his many episodes, Tom Woods ignited the entrepreneurial spirit in me.
  • It was the great conversations between Isaac Morehouse and TK Coleman in Isaac's podcast that taught me the importance of having my own public blog, as well as the courage to actually write in it. And that's just one of the many ways they've impacted me.
  • When I first heard of it, I was very skeptical about the idea of unschooling. But after I listened to a few episodes of Exploring Unschooling with Pam Laricchia, it finally clicked in me that it just might be the best way to raise children. I've been learning about it through her podcast ever since. 
  • It was this conversation between Derek Magill and Isaac Morehouse that gave me the idea to make a website for my running club for free in order to gain experience and build my portfolio. It was a great success and now I’m using it to create more opportunities for myself.

These are clear learning moments I can point to that have broadened my horizons. I think it's safe to say that most of the meaningful knowledge I've acquired has come from the podcasts that I've listened to, not from school. When you compare the amount of time I've spent listening to podcasts to the 15,000+ hours which school had me for, plus a few years in college, this should bring some alarm. 

Maybe other people were different. Maybe they actually learned some meaningful things in school, but even then I think there remains a problem. And that problem is that schools are inherently inefficient at cultivating meaningful learning.

Perhaps I'll elaborate on this in a future post.

In Response to Jordan Peterson’s Parenting Advice (Rebuttal)

In Response to Jordan Peterson’s Parenting Advice (Rebuttal)

I have many concerns with Jordan B. Peterson's advice on parenting. Going into his book, I already knew that my views on the matter differed, but I didn't expect it to be by such a wide margin.

Full disclosure: I have little experience with children. However, studying how one can best raise children has been a focus of mine for more than 5 years. I partly pursue this because it's a great form of self-therapy and partly because I want to eventually use what I learn to be the best parent I can be (if I ever become one).

It's also worth noting that I was once a child and I've spent a lot of time trying to make sense of that time. Because of this, I think I can bring a special, though by no means complete, perspective on the subject. 

Introduction

In his book, particularly chapter 5, JBP promotes the use of behaviorism on children. To be clear, this is a parenting style that is already the norm. Everyone I know was raised with this method, including me. Most parents do use rewards and punishments to get children to behave and to "teach" them to stay out of danger. Under threat, they are made to say please and thank you, share with others, be quiet in public etc. Almost all schools use rewards and punishments too. 

With this method, the reason why children do the actions you wish to see does not matter. What matters is that they appear to emulate good behavior. 

What Peterson seems to be going for is a refinement of behaviorism, but I think that's a very low bar to aim for. Aim higher, Peterson! I think there is an even better method altogether, a method that exists outside the paradigm of manipulation. I'm talking about parenting with Nonviolent Communication (or NVC). In short, this is a method that views the parent/child relationship as a partnership rather than a perpetual fight for dominance. Kind of like any truly healthy relationship. With this method, it is understood that connection, rather than manipulation, is the best path to get our needs met in the long-term. 

Side note: I'd also refer to this approach as peaceful parenting, attachment parenting, or parenting with an unschooling philosophy.

JPB's Perspective Vs NVC

In chapter 5, JBP presents many false dichotomies of how you can treat children:

  • You can chastise them, or overlook unwanted behavior
  • You can discipline them, or neglect them
  • You can control them, or let them live a life of chaos
  • Be strict, or be permissive
  • Dominate them, or be dominated

I don't think he's aware that these are false dichotomies. It's likely that he, like most other people, just doesn't know that there are other possibilities. I think this is because he has been blinded by the language that our society uses. His religious beliefs probably also have something to do with it. After all, his convictions align well with the idea of original sin and "spare the rod, spoil the child."

JBP generally sees people through the lens of good and bad. He says everyone has the potential of being bad and extends that ability to children, saying that it is naive and dangerous to not see them this way. Well, call me naive if you want but I don't see anybody that way. Not because I think it's impossible for people to do evil things, but because I think it's counterproductive to see people through that lens. This is especially true for people with whom you want to be in a long-term relationship with. I'd say that such moralistic judgments can only impede the possibility of getting our needs met.

Marshall B. Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication wrote:

"It is my belief that all such analyses of other human beings are tragic expressions of our own needs. They are tragic because when we express our values and needs in this form, we increase defensiveness and resistance among the very people whose behaviors are of concern to us."

I would echo Rosenberg's statement because I've personally experienced it both as a child and as an adult. I think the logic of it is pretty much universal; just think of the last time you felt your whole character being judged. Think of when you were called bad, annoying, inconsiderate etc. Did it make you want to understand and accommodate the person more, or less?

Another thing is that, since children are both defenseless and reliant on you for information, they might start to believe in the negative, one-dimensional labels that you put on them, making it harder for them to grow out of the very habits you don't like. 

Instead of jumping the gun on moralistic judgments, what if you directly expressed what you felt and needed? Isn't that more likely to get results? Granted, using NVC will not always get you the result that you desire, but my point is that making moralistic judgments will never do you any better. 

Throughout this chapter and several other talks, Peterson uses many uncharitable labels on children. He has called them names like "little monsters," "rats," "devils," "brats," "blighters," and "varmint." To me, this is horrifying. He probably doesn't say those words to them directly, but there's no doubt that it shapes his attitude towards them. 

That is what Rosenberg would call "life-alienating language." It is a language which instills the idea that the other is less than human and therefore less deserving of empathy and compassion. It gives us the green light to implement behaviorism on kids as if they were no different than rats.

In the chapter, when JBP was trying to get a child to eat, he likened it to a war. When I read this, it reminded me of George Lakeloff and Mark Johnson's book, Metaphors We Live By. In it, they argued that the metaphors we use determine how we live our lives. There's a relevant passage where they talk about arguments, which I think could also apply to our interactions with children:

It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument—attack, defense, counter-attack, etc.—reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing.
Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently.

Imagine how much more fruitful every debate would be if we did that.

Just like the "argument is war" metaphor, I believe thinking of a child as an opponent whom you must dominate causes unnecessary friction and stagnates progress. It prevents us from discovering amazing possibilities in parenting.

Now, it is true that because of the immense power disparity of the relationship, parents can just ignore this mombo jumbo and force a child to do pretty much anything on command (unless they have a very strong-willed child, that is). Other than it being morally reprehensible to abuse such power, I want to warn people that it is likely to cause many long-term consequences. Consequences which JBP does not address. 

The Dangers of Behaviorism

Jordan Peterson was very good at showing the potential horrors of permissive parenting (something I'm not advocating for, it's just the only alternative that he offers) but he didn't present any potential horrors of behaviorism. So I think I'll do that.

Here are some of the negative consequences that can come out of behaviorism. For more detailed explanations, plus the evidence to back them up, I'd recommend Alfie Kohn's books, Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting.

It neglects intrinsic motivation. Behaviorism is like a trainer lifting your arm while you hold a dumbbell and calling it exercise. Since they are being made to do things under threat of punishment or promise of reward, children are denied the opportunity to have their actions be their own. What do you think will happen when the external motivation isn't there anymore? Do you think the child will still behave? I don't think so. With behaviorism, children never truly learn discipline or to be good. (Can a person who is forced to "be good" actually be good anyway?) They simply haven't utilized their internal motivation when they do those things.

I wrote something that exemplifies this in a post called The Problem With Making Kids Say “Thank You”

It makes them reliant on behaviorism. Sometimes when you coerce a child to behave a certain way it does end up sticking, but it comes at the cost of making them dependent on external pressure. You can see this in people who promise themselves a treat if they do something good or go down a path of self-loathing if they fail.  They are conditioned to need external motivation to be good or to have discipline. 

Coercing them may make them hate the very thing you want them to do. I think this is self-explanatory. 

Depression. One of the most important requirements for happiness is a sense of autonomy. With behaviorism, children grow up to act based on pressure rather than a real sense of choice. We need the ability to choose our own actions and goals. When your behavior is being controlled by your parents and school, you are being denied the opportunity to pursue your own goals let alone ever find out what they are. If children are raised on behaviorism, their joy comes from other people's approval. And even then, it's a short-lived kind of joy.

I know Peterson doesn't think happiness is a worthwhile goal, but it's also worth noting that depression impedes people from reaching even a goal that Peterson would approve of, so he shouldn't perpetuate it if he can help it. 

It forces them to prioritize appeasing authority over learning about and conquering reality. Under behaviorism, kids have no reason to care about the behavior you want them to do, but they have all the reason care about getting the reward and avoiding the punishment. When they are made to suffer for misbehaving, they don't learn that such behavior is wrong or dangerous, rather they learn that displeasing the parent is wrong or dangerous. Therefore, they learn to conduct themselves based on the ones who hold the hammer rather than reality. Sometimes it only makes them become more sneaky so as to not get caught.

It erodes the relationship. As you can see from the previous point, it encourages children to be dishonest with the parent. This is where I believe the "rebellious teenage years" come from. When the parent is a source of what's making them suffer, they become another entity that should be avoided. This means that the parents will have less of an influence on their children's lives. Especially when they grow older and the power of rewards and punishments doesn't hold the same effect anymore. 

It teaches them to repress their emotions. In chapter 2, Jordan wonders why people care more for others than they do for themselves. I think this is at least partially the answer. Thanks to behaviorism, they are taught that their own emotions and needs are not a priority over the people who hold power. They are taught that their own emotions and needs are to be repressed if they want to live harmoniously with a parent. 

I can easily see this leading to collectivism, which ironically is what Jordan is trying to steer people away from.


I know these things can happen because I've experienced them. I was actually one of those defiant children who refused any type of manipulation. Each attempt at controlling me resulted in resistance, which then caused more drastic methods to control me, which resulted in more resistance. I eventually became numb to any type of reward and punishment coming both from my parents and schools. In the process, my relationship with my parents deteriorated and they lost any real influence they had on me. William Glasser nailed my experience when he wrote:

The vast majority of unhappiness [in the parent-child relationship] is the result of well-intentioned parents trying to make children do what they don’t want to do….  Few of us [parents] are prepared to accept that it is our attempts to control that destroys the only thing we have with our children that gives us some [influence] over them, our relationship.

Today, I have a strong drive to be polite and well liked. I'm also on my way to becoming successful by my own standards. I can assure you this didn't come from other people trying to force me to be like this. In reality, I always had a strong need for my values to be intrinsic. I remember having that need back then, though I couldn't have articulated it.

The idea that a parent might interpret the way children express their needs as "malicious" is extremely unfortunate.

I'm barely starting to trust the fact that I have in me the need and ability to become a good human being; that I don't need external control to lead a life of meaning and discipline. This trust in myself could have been instilled in me way earlier if it wasn't for behaviorism.

I know what would have worked better. I know for a fact that my parents would have gotten more of what they wanted out of me if they started from a place of trust and respect rather than fear for my future. I know it's impossible to prove a counterfactual, but after learning about myself and recollecting what was going on inside my head back then, I can say that more compassion and empathy in place of "tough love" would have set me up for a better life, not to mention a better relationship with my parents. 

Some Resources

There is so much great content out there that can enlighten us on different ways to handle situations without behaviorism. Here are just some of them to get you started.

This is a great conference talk by Roslyn Ross, where she explains why behaviorism leads to collectivism and some solutions:

I'd also recommend Roslyn's blog

Unruffled by Janet Lansbury. This is a podcast where Landsbury answers questions about specific situations. In there, you can find a peaceful solution to every situation Jordan Peterson gave an example of: how to deal with children that don't want to sleep/eat or when they hit etc.

Here's a pertinent episode: Stop Making Mealtime A Challenge. I think you'd be interested in comparing it to Jordan Peterson's forceful approach. 

Lastly, I highly recommend Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. This book gives you a better way of getting what you want without using rewards and threats, which, in my opinion, is not very effective in the first place. 

Peaceful alternatives are out there. Using rewards and punishments necessarily limits our ability to find better solutions. Even Jordan Peterson would agree that restrictions lead to creativity, so let's follow this wisdom and restrict our ability to approach kids with behaviorism. If you do this I think you'd be surprised by the possibilities. 

P.S. If you want to hear other counterpoints to Jordan's parenting approach I 'd like to direct you to this episode of The Voluntary Life. Jake Desyllas has great points that I just can't fit in this post.

Why I’m So Interested In Unschooling Even Though I Don’t Have Kids

I love learning about unschooling. I love writing and reading about it. Just in case you didn't know, I'm a single 24-year-old male with currently no desire of having children. So why the heck would I be interested in that? Well, there's a few reasons.

(If you're not familiar, you can read my last post to learn what unschooling means to me)

1) For Self-Knowledge

I think learning about this parenting philosophy is a very effective form of self-therapy because it provides a rational lens through which I can analyze my childhood. 

When I'm reading a book related to peaceful parenting or unschooling, I'm basically reverse engineering myself. Think of it like fixing a poorly built IKEA table. The first thing you would do is look at the instructions to see the correct way of building it. Then you compare that to the way it was actually built. Once you find what was done incorrectly, you can disassemble it and rebuild it properly. 

That's exactly what I'm doing with myself. Peaceful parenting books are the instructions for how to build a mentally strong and happy me. With this information, I know what I need to undo so that I can rebuild myself properly. 

Going through this disassembling and rebuilding process has not been easy. In fact, it can be extremely painful. After all, it can be profoundly jarring to discover just how much I was damaged by my schools and the people who loved me the most.

But, as Nathaniel Branden wrote, "fear and pain should be treated as signals not to close our eyes but to open them wider."

This gets me to the next reason for why I do this.

2) It Allows Me To Properly Mourn

Looking back at my childhood through an analytical lens - thinking and writing about it while simultaneously reading about how I may have been mistreated - has brought about deep sorrow.

Reading books about peaceful parenting is like laying a magnifying glass to your past. It can help you see better but it also has the effect of burning you. For me, it has brought about strong feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. Sometimes it gets to the point where I have to take a break from it.

Ultimately, I think conjuring up these emotions is good, if not necessary. First of all, it's important to understand that those feelings were not created. Rather, they were already in me and I was just bringing them up to the surface. 

One of the many benefits of feeling these emotions is that it helps me restore empathy for myself and what I went through. It helps me understand that it was not me who was broken but rather the world around me. I think this mourning process is necessary in order to love myself once again, or any other person for that matter. 

Another great benefit is that I can use this anguish as fuel to improve myself or the lives of others. 

3) I Want To Inform Parents And Help Children 

As I learn more and more about how to fix myself, I feel the need to pass this information on so that parents could stop making the same mistakes over and over again. I want to prevent as many kids as possible from having to endure the 15,000-hour infliction of schooling. I really don't want for kids to grow up and have to go through the same disassembling and rebuilding process that I'm going through. Or worse, I don't want them to grow up not knowing how they were damaged and then inflict the same damage on their kids!

When it comes to how we treat children, I believe that we have so much to improve on. I believe that much of what we think is an unfortunate but natural part of the human experience could be significantly reduced (or even eradicated) if only schooling and non-peaceful parenting stopped perpetuating it. I don't think life has to be as harsh, boring, and depressing as most schools and parents make it out to be. 

As Alice Miller wrote:

We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people. 

4) It Could Come In Handy

I think this knowledge can be very important whenever I interact with children, even if they are not my own.

I really admire children and am deeply intrigued by them, but I'm not entirely sure I will ever have any. Why? For starters, I still have a long, long road to healing and I don't know if I'll ever be done with it. If I don't do that then I'll run the danger of inflicting the same trauma that was done to me. 

Then I'd have to find the right partner, someone who is strong enough to raise children with the principles of unschooling. 

One thing that I know for sure is that, whether I ever have kids or not, the seemingly never ending cycle of authoritarianism will stop with me.

Peaceful Parenting And Unschooling

Since I'm so interested in peaceful parenting and unschooling, I thought I should take the time to think about it and write down what those terms mean to me. Sometimes I interchange the two which may cause some confusion, but that's because I do take them to mean the same thing. I'll explain.

Peaceful Parenting

On the surface, peaceful parenting may seem like it's just about refraining to physically harm children, but it actually goes beyond that. Peaceful parenting is about respecting a child's dignity and sense of self. This means treating them without judging, shaming, bribing, intimidating or any other form of coercion.

Instead of looking at the parent/child relationship as a struggle for power, peaceful parenting allows us to look at it as two individuals who can work together to get their needs met. Now, usually when I say this I get the response that I advocate being a submissive parent. But that's not the case.

For an excellent explanation for how peaceful parenting works I recommend you watch the video below. I time-stamped the relevant part, but if you have the time I highly recommend watching the whole thing!

Unschooling

The central part about unschooling is to refrain from sending your children to school against their will. It is different from traditional homeschooling in that there is no enforced curriculum by the parent. Instead, it's the child who makes the decision on what he/she wants to learn. While unschooling, it is the job of the parent to pay close attention to the child's interests and to facilitate their learning experience with emotional support and resources. 

Unschooling recognizes that schools in general damage the child's natural creativity and love for learning about the world.

Why They're The Same

Just like peaceful parenting, unschooling comes with the recognition that children are their own individuals who deserve just as much respect as any other person. You can't have unschooling without peaceful parenting. 

The reason why I think of those two terms as the same thing is because unschooling is basically peaceful parenting taken to its logical conclusion. Afer all, I don't consider it peaceful to force a kid to go to school and learn things that he is not interested in.

I know there are conscious peaceful parents out there who still send their kids to school against their will, but I think they are being inconsistent with their philosophy. Maybe they fear that their child will not learn important things, or maybe they don't have the necessary time and resources required. If it's the former I'd encourage them to take a look at the thousands of now adults who were unschooled who managed to do just fine in the real world. If it's the latter, it's perfectly understandable. As long as they recognize the inconsistency and try to mitigate the negative effects of compulsory schooling. 

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Have you ever had trouble getting your family or friends to watch your favorite shows, read your favorite books, adopt a certain perspective? That's the story of my life. Sometimes I read, watch, or listen to something that I find so valuable that I can't help but share it in an effort to improve the lives around me.

I'd say my success rate is about 2%. I used to get upset when it didn't work, but now I don't because I have learned of it's inherent futility. Though I still do it just because the opportunity cost of mentioning something I liked is so low, plus that 2% can be meaningful. 

Why Is It So Futile?

You may notice that, when you tell someone "you should consume x" in an unwarranted manner, many times the person won't do it. They may show interest while you talk about it just to be polite but the interest usually stops there. Even if they do end up consuming it, they will most likely give you the lukewarm response of "I thought it was okay." In most successful introductions of mine, I can easily tell that the person didn't find it as important as me.

If you want to test this out, go to someone and show them a video which you thought was really funny. I guarantee you that they will not find it as funny as you did. I also guarantee that the person would have found the video funnier if they discovered it themselves. There's probably a study like this out there that I'm too lazy to look for.

Most times, the person is resistant to your recommendation not because they think they'll dislike it but rather because they simply don't like being told what to do and how to feel. If they consume something, they want it to come from an internal desire to do it. It gives them a sense of free will. There's nothing wrong with that - we all have the need to feel that way.

Successful recommendations where the person gleans the importance that you gleaned only work when they are already looking for it. The person has to have the same goal in mind that you had before diving in, and that goal has to be self-directed. 

I know certain books, podcasts, activities that can improve the lives of my family and friends but I know that if I try to introduce such things to them when they haven't asked for it they will get nothing of value out of it. Conversely, they have recommended things to me that I resisted for the same reason.

Despite the frustration that this brings, I wouldn't have it any other way. Discovering our own way through life is fun, it's what makes us different, it's how we derive our own purpose.

Knowing This, What Can We Do?

The best, if not the only thing we can do is to set an example. We could show the valuable effects we have obtained from trying such things.

If you want other people to see the value in exercising, all you can do is be happy and healthy and hope that people like those results enough to try it themselves. 

If you want people to read a book that you think is important, maybe write a review where you talk about the value you've extracted from it, post it on social media.

Make your thoughts and feelings known to the world and let people listen only if they please.  The important part is in doing this without being pushy.

And of course this wouldn't be an Erick Muller blog post if I didn't tie this topic back to children. If these things are true for adults, if we learn and discover the importance of things best when it is not pushed upon us, it is most certainly true for kids. This is why compulsory schools and authoritarian parenting is so backwards. Just like adults, children have an inherit need for freedom, so we should give it to them.

For more on this I'd recommend How Children Learn by John Holt. It's one of those books I wish everyone would read, so you must read it now! 

I'm joking - of course I don't expect that recommendation to work. In the spirit of following my own advise, you can expect a review from me soon. 

Thoughts On Lady Bird (Movie Review)

Thoughts On Lady Bird (Movie Review)

Yesterday I got the chance to see the movie Lady Bird. Like pretty much everyone else, I loved it. I don't usually watch a movie twice but in this case, I'm sure I'll make an exception. I feel the need to talk about this movie because I'm sure what I got out of it is very different than what most people got out of it.

From the reviews that I saw, most people say that this movie is mainly about a struggling relationship between a mother and a daughter. From my perspective, this movie is about a young girl filled with creativity and passion who's parents, school and society in general tries to undermine her full potential. Of course, like with any great movie, it is more complex than that, but this is what I view as the main point.

Here's the trailer:

It was almost physically painful to watch all of the mistakes that her mom and her school made. Evident by the fact that she gave herself her own weird name, Lady Bird was a radical individualist. Tragically, the world around her was trying to get her to conform. 

Just imagine if this girl was unschooled. If she could pursue her passions and fully experiment with her level of creativity from the beginning without being distracted by years of compulsory schooling and parental coercion, imagine where she'd be at 18!

Lady Bird wanted to blossom and do extraordinary things with her life but she was given a lot of restrictions. Of course, one of those restrictions was lack of money, which is part of reality, but there were many more unnecessary ones. For example, her mom had a habit of imposing limiting beliefs on her by telling her she isn't good enough. That's either because she didn't believe in her daughter or because she didn't want her daughter to move far away from her. I think it was a little bit of both.

One of the more heartbreaking scenes was when her mother said "I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you could be" and she replied, "what if this is the best version?" I know this may not have been what the writer intended, but this exchange of words perfectly shows one of the biggest mistakes that the mother made: she didn't accept her daughter for who she was. She didn't love her unconditionally, something that is crucial for children to flourish. Well maybe she did but she just didn't realize that her actions didn't show it. That makes it all the more tragic.

So yeah, those are some things that I got from the movie.

The Problem With Making Kids Say “Thank You”

The Problem With Making Kids Say “Thank You”

One big annoyance I experienced growing up was whenever my parents forced me to say "thank you" in front of other people. It was bad enough that they teased words out of me with no care for what I actually felt, but to make me say it in front of another person angered me to no end. I'd think "now that you told me to do it, they'll think I won't really mean it! Now there's no point in saying it!" But I had no choice, so, humiliated, I said the words through gritted teeth.

Back then, I understood my annoyance intuitively. Now that I have the words and awareness for it I can say that the reason I was so annoyed was that I wanted to be true to myself. Not only did my parents disrespect my need for being genuine, I was also being robbed of the experience of the feeling behind the words. That's because I was made to focus more on empty words rather than actual appreciation. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not against saying pleasantries like please and thank you. I actually do say them, but only when those words reflect my true feelings. What I am against is being coerced to say those words. I simply don't think the feeling of appreciation can be forced onto another person. In fact, this coercion often has the opposite effect. It may create people who will rarely feel appreciative, even if they do end up adopting the words that indicate it.

I think the best way to cultivate appreciative, kind and empathetic kids is to model the virtues yourself. We need to teach them that these feelings come from within and stop making them say "thank you" just because someone else told them to. In order to do that they need to be given the space to feel it.

Rekindling My Love For Reading

Rekindling My Love For Reading

I first found the joy of reading when I was about 15 years old. I know, it's a little late. Let me explain. The thing is, I didn't grow up in an environment that exemplified the fun of reading. In fact, I grew up in an environment that did the opposite. Case in point, I grew up with friends that would make fun of me if I were caught with a novel on hand. It also goes without saying that schools sucked at making reading appealing. Despite those obstacles, I ended up being gravitated towards books once. 

I remember the first time I discovered the magic of books. It was during one summer in the empty library of the small town of Rugby, North Dakota. I went in there just because I enjoyed being alone and, since it was always relatively empty, I considered it my perfect place to be just that. Since I was there I thought 'why don't I start reading?' So I did. Now that I think about it, it's hard to believe that the first book I decided to read was Stephen King's The Stand. At more than 1100 pages long, I chose this book simply because it was the biggest book I could find. I just liked the challenge of it. Since it was Summer I had all day to read. And so I did. I averaged about 100 pages a day and I thought I was so awesome for it. The book did not disappoint. Not coincidentally, this was also the beginning of my love for horror. 

After reading this book, I kept on reading. I picked up some more King books and then some James Patterson and then some Kenneth Oppel. I even got into the non-fiction world. I was loving it. But then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. And by "Fire Nation" I mean high school.  

Once high school started, I read less and less frequently due to exhaustion. With class, homework and extra curriculars, I just couldn't find the time. There were waves during the summer when I got back into it, but for some reason it stopped being as fun. I guess I shouldn't pin this all on school, since my (let's say) suboptimal home-life was also not helping. It was like the fire in me that loved books was getting smaller. When high school was over I did start some books but never finished any.

There was still a part of me that loved books though. My high school days did not completely kill my yearning for books, but they certainly tried.

Fast forward to a year ago. My main source of education and entertainment has now been in the form of podcasts. I just found them a lot easier to get into. I knew however, that I was missing a lot of valuable pieces of content that were only in the form of books, so I thought to get myself a Kindle and try this reading thing again. So far I've found it to be a success. I've read quite a few full books for the first time in a long time. I've also read countless online articles that I never would have otherwise. I'm realizing now that the inconvinience of physical books has been a small but significant barrier for me.

Maybe it's the fact that I got a Kindle or maybe it's the fact that I'm escaping my depression (or maybe both), I'm just glad that I'm picking up reading again. I hope to someday regain that feeling of joy I had that first Summer. I miss it a lot. 

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

In the professional world, we are appalled when employers abuse their power. For example, we feel it is extremely inappropriate for employers to make romantic advances on their employees. This is because the employee would be afraid to say no, since the possibility of getting fired would be in the back of his/her mind. 

As we can see, employers have to act with more respect due to the reality of this power disparity. They have to be extra careful so as to not abuse their power. The greater the power disparity, the more respectful and careful the person of power must be.

The way I see it, there is no greater power disparity than in the parent-child relationship. Children depend on their parents in every way possible. They are completely defenseless and, unlike employees, they do not have the capacity to leave. That's why I believe children deserve the most respect and compassion we could give them. Just like in the employer/employee situation, it is extremely important for parents to be careful that they don't abuse their power. Unfortunately most people do the opposite.

Most parents believe it is perfectly okay to mold their children into whatever they want them to be. They implement many tactics that often run against the child's own wishes and they disrespect the child's autonomy. This causes many problems for the child in the long-run.

Parental abuse of power is not always as clear as inflicting physical pain. It can include more subtle things such as enforcing your beliefs onto them. Even more than the employer who makes a romantic advance, it is not fair to do these things to kids because they have an immense pressure to conform to your wishes.

We need to understand that kids are afraid to say no to you because they depend on you. 

Kids need to be reassured that you wont take away their freedom for being their authentic selves. This is where the importance of unconditional love comes in. Most people say they love their children no matter what, but they have a rather flexible definition of love, which renders the word meaningless. 

Just look at how we treat our children when they do something we disapprove of: we invoke guilt and fear, we threaten them, we neglect them, we inflict physical and emotional pain, we lie to them by saying "Santa won't bring presents this year" etc. To truly love a person you must first respect them, and those type of actions clearly show a lack of respect.

By abusing your power, you are raising a person who will continue to be a submissive people-pleaser and therefore become an easy target for abusive people. Either that or you will create a person who will use their own power as an opportunity to be abusive. I can't even tell what's worse. 

Most people think disrespecting their child's autonomy is the only way to raise them right. Well, I'm here to say that it doesn't have to be that way. Not only do non-abusive methods exist, but implementing them will give you much better results.