top of page

Passing on nonviolent values

As with my child, I'm not going to raise him like my ideas don't matter.


But you're apparently planning on raising him like his ideas don't matter.


What people are trying to explain is the difference between living our values and imposing them on a child.


When we adopt values for ourselves we're basically saying that we're willing to make our own lives a little more difficult to get something that we think is better.


It's more difficult to be a vegetarian than to be an omnivore. There are fewer choices at restaurants. Being a guest for dinner can call for some extra planning (calling them ahead of time to inform them, taking food with you, or whatever.)


People who choose vegetarianism -- as with any set of values -- will find the difficulties worth it. In time they may not even see them as difficulties any more. What they need to do to practice their values is just part of their life.


But to impose those values -- and difficulties -- on someone else isn't fair to them. They have their own values and difficulties they're exploring.


No one is suggesting that a parent should pretend that they don't have values. The suggestion is, though, to treat our children's explorations with respect. Our children are living in a home where our values are present. They see us putting our values in action, choosing a more difficult path to get something we think is better. We don't need to impose our values and make our children adopt them. But our children may need to do some exploring beyond our values to understand better why the values we've adopt for ourselves are so important.


And they will do so in a safe way. My daughter doesn't need to shoot someone to understand why I choose not to shoot someone who has annoyed me or to understand why the value is a good one to adopt without exploring the consequences for herself. But she might decide to play Grand Theft Auto at some point. Or she might decide to give up being a Unitarian Universalist and become Catholic. Or she might decide to become a vegetarian. Or join the military.


No one is suggesting handing a toy gun to a child who hasn't one or giving them refined sugar or setting them down in front of the TV for a full day of cartoons or taking them to a Buddhist temple if a parent is a devout Christian. But people are suggesting that it's respectful to allow children to explore what intrigues them. Children trust that we won't allow them to come to direct harm, but they want and need to explore to find out what are the right values for them.


We need to trust that our children are good people. We need to trust that our values are good values. We need to trust that living with a parent who lives those values that children will see the sense in the values we've chosen for ourselves. And they'll be able to do that without us having to make them see the sense. They may not, of course, adopt our values but they'll treat us and our values with respect if we treat them and their values with respect.



I make choices for myself and my family, and I feel strongly that I do not want toys in my home whose sole purpose is to enact wounding and killing.


Funny how parents say "it's my home" when they want to stop kids from doing things the parent don't want them to and "they live here too" when they want kids to do their "share" of the work. It's a contradiction!


Choosing for ourselves is good.


And we can't not choose for our families. We're all going to choose to provide for our children things we think are important.


But it's useful to examine our reasons when making choices for others. It's useful to examine whether our decisions are based on reality or fallacy or "better safe than sorry."


"Better safe than sorry" is not a bad policy for decisions that affect only ourselves. Sometimes we can't get access to better data to make a more informed choice. We might choose to give up something to avoid something that might or might not be true.


But it's not so good -- and should be examined thoroughly -- when used to make decisions for other people.


If my husband decided it was better to be safe than sorry to not eat refined sugar, he's welcome to give up a lot of foods to get something that he believes is better. But if he decided the whole family needed to give up refined sugar because he had come to the conclusion it was better to be safe than sorry, then that's control.


It makes sense that play acting violence, playing violent video games, role-playing violence will reinforce violent tendencies. It makes sense that by not allowing children to use toy weapons and by discussing play that looks violent and how real violence is bad, that they will be peaceful.


There is data that seems to support that theory: Not uncommonly people who have committed horribly violent acts have enjoyed watching violence or enjoyed playing violent games.


It seems reasonable to assume that violent play leads to violence in real life.


But is it true?


Here on this list we discuss and examine what really happens in real unschooling families. Real data that's applicable to unschooling families for people to ponder and turn over to make decisions for their families.


What happens in my home isn't necessarily what will happen in someone else's home. But the outcome of what I do in my unschooling, mindful parenting home is more likely to apply to someone whose values are similar than will the outcome of some criminal from who-knows-what home life.


You and Leo are theorizing that preventing violent play will yield peaceful children. You have two experiments going (your families) and so far your results support your theory. But you both have young children so the results are, scientifically speaking, not conclusive.


What you don't have is a large pool of families who are preventing violent play to see the range of outcomes. What you don't have are families where children are loved and treated with respect and have violent play (toy guns, boffers, video games, etc.)


One of the pieces of data being offered is that control is widely used. It's one of the more common parenting techniques so there are lots of examples of outcomes. Sometimes control works and children adopt their parents values. Sometimes control doesn't work and children choose differently. Sometimes control fails miserably and children choose what's been forbidden because it's been forbidden. Since control doesn't universally work, there is some other factor that caused the children to adopt their family's values.


(There are families here who use to control and now don't and they can tell you what the differences are that they've seen if you ask.)


People think control works because it appears to work for some families (sometimes it really does and sometimes the kids are very different people when out of their parents' sight) and it makes sense that control should work. But control often doesn't work. Unfortunately when it fails people don't usually conclude that control doesn't work. They often conclude that they just didn't control enough. Or there's something wrong with the child.


The other piece of data being offered is many real unschooling families have allowed their children to explore the pretend violence to the extent that intrigues them, and their children are peaceful.


What isn't happening, and what you theorize will happen, is that children would extend that violent play into real life.


What will happen in your home is unknowable. There are so many factors. But Trust and Respect are seeming to be very big factors in allowing children to become the decent loving children we hope for them.



But I have a problem including toys that are violent such as guns, swords, green army men. My thought is that if they want these toys they can fashion them from sticks, bats, green rocks, or whatever.


As with anything that gets limited or controlled, it often becomes more desirable.


I watched my sister in law go through this. She didn't want guns in her home. But her son was really really interested and turned anything into a gun. Eventually she relented and she would tell him to only point at imaginary bad guys.


He now has a BB gun and rifle and enjoys paint ball. And yet he's a very peaceful kid. He has no interest in hunting. When he and my daughter were watching an anime together with 5 guys controlling huge armored robots, he chose the pacifist as his favorite character, the one who didn't want to kill.


Play can be a way of exploring something kids will be doing for real in the future. But it can also be a way of safely playing out a desire for something they don't want to do in real life. Games can be a way of pretending the rules of society were different and seeing what happens. But playing out a "what if" doesn't change the rules of real society or remove the consequences. It might be fun to step on houses in Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters but how many children want to actually live in a world of smashed homes?


It is one way I have of sharing nonviolent values w/my kids.


And perhaps it would be useful to examine how you're going about sharing your nonviolent values: You are using your greater power over kids -- or planning to -- to stop them from exploring something that (perhaps) interests them. It's the same method that people with guns do. They want someone to do something that the other person doesn't want to do, so they use power over them to make them.



Joyfully Rejoycing
bottom of page