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Kevin Geary

The Inauthenticity of Teaching Religion to Kids with Wes Bertrand

So, today’s show, as you can tell from the title, is very controversial. But I think it’s important to tackle controversial topics. We can’t be afraid to have important conversations—and this is a very important conversation.

Now I do want to set this up a little bit—this show is about the inauthenticity of religion at the core of religious teaching. It’s not an attack on any specific religion. We are not going to be nitpicking bible verses or challenging historical accuracy. We are approaching the topic primarily through the lens of authenticity and we’re honing in specifically on the consequences of teaching religion to children, one of the most important being the systematic sabotage of self-esteem.

Another key point that came up in this show is that the challenges we face in the world are unlikely to be solved if religion continues to be the primary mode of seeking morality, structure, and organization. Beliefs that cannot be validated (religion) will always result in conflict and unmet needs. Reason, on the other hand, gives everyone an opportunity to arrive at the same conclusion and have their needs met.

Regardless of what you think about religion, I want to encourage you to listen. I want to encourage you to be open to the arguments we’re making. I think you’ll see that we made it a point to be empathetic and reasoned and our primary concern is with the wellbeing of children.

My other goal for this show is to get a lot of feedback. We want to do a follow up show responding to the feedback we get. So if you have questions, comments, arguments, whatever—please participate by calling (678) 804-8036 and leaving a voicemail recording. We’ll use the recordings to create our follow up show. You can state your name and city if you want or you can be totally anonymous. Either way. Again, the number is (678) 804-8036. I’ll give the number at the end again as well. Again, I think it’s very important that we have these conversations so please participate.

Okay, so here’s a basic outline of the show. The first 30 minutes or so is going to be dedicated to Wes and I talking about our personal history with exposure to religion as well as some random opening arguments. Then we’re going to get into the meat of the show, which is a list of consequences that come with teaching religion to children. Finally, we’re going to wrap up with some takeaways and thinks to think about.

We hope you enjoy this conversation and get a lot out of it—and we also hope that you’ll jump in and participate with questions and feedback.

The Consequences We Cover

  • To believe that “to sin,” or to treat themselves or others unkindly, is a general tendency.
  • To doubt their own senses, and instead become obedient to imaginary concepts and “authorities.”
  • To believe that rejecting an invalid or unprovable concept such as “God” is sinful (i.e., “wrong” or “evil”).
  • Imposes shame and guilt, which are emotions that deny self-worth and facilitate domination of self and others.
  • To live in a constant state of fear of the purported punishments if they reject supernaturalism and other religious tenets. And the insistence that they need to be saved by some supernatural being.
  • To live up to other people’s expectations, based on dogmatic beliefs, rather than their own understanding of life. To seek someone else’s (or “God’s”) approval of one’s worth and behavior, rather than to make independent value-judgments based on what is in service to their own lives and well-being
  • To think in terms of moral rightness and wrongness (based on flawed conception of self-worth), instead of thinking in terms of met and unmet needs in self and others.
  • To accept and promote a primitive and inaccurate understanding of human psychology—the nature of cognition, rational evaluation, and human motivation.
  • To use their emotional faculty to support faulty assumptions and illogical premises rather than to think more clearly and be attuned to their feelings and needs. To become self-estranged, as a result of intense pain and fear and denying one’s reasoning capability.
  • To blindly follow the “authority” of adults and scripture, which supposedly know better about what is real and true.
  • To not think skeptically about–and not try to falsify–their own beliefs, so that they can achieve objectivity. To consider their own minds impotent to correctly judge the facts of reality, thus directly undermining their self-esteem and in turn fostering pseudo-self-esteem based on adherence to religious tenets…
  • Erodes trust in parents and leaders.
  • To be guided by things external to themselves, by a “moral” code that’s external to their own judgment and locus of control, thus making them more susceptible to superstitions and “authority”
  • To act contrary to their nature as inquisitive and sentient beings who naturally seek pleasurable experiences
  • To not stand up for themselves and their beliefs and assert themselves in a way that rids their world of falsehoods and destructive personalities.
  • To extol faith as just as (or more) important than reason in human affairs.
  • To defend false beliefs because they “feel them in their hearts,” rather than think critically about them and explore their emotions in a way that’s connected to their own needs as conceptual and social animals.
  • To practice social conformity in order to maintain connections with others (a costly and unnecessary way to meet their needs). To cultivate fake connections with self and others, in which everyone avoids being real about the nature of themselves and the nature of reality.
  • To attempt to convert and convince others to do any of the above, thus keeping humanity locked in mind-crippling mass superstition and cultish behaviors.

Have a Question You Want Answered on the Show?

Kevin would love to answer your questions on the show. You can call in to (678) 804-8036 and leave your question on our voicemail. Include your name and city before asking your question.

Support the Show

Revolutionary Parent Radio is a crowd-funded show. That means it is driven by listener contributions. If you find value in this show and have the means to contribute financially, we ask that you pledge a small per-episode contribution. These contributions pay for hosting, equipment, software, editing, and production time. You can pledge as little as $1 per episode—every contribution helps.

Kids Don’t Need or Want Your Praise (Kevin on SSP)

I was recently a guest on the School Sucks Podcast with Brett Veinotte to discuss two articles I published recently: Kids Don’t Need or Want Your Praise and Kids Don’t Need Positive Reinforcement.

The show takes a lot of twists and turns and we end up talking a lot about my history working with kids from ages 3 to 17 in both a private setting and a charter school setting. The juxtaposition between these two settings is very telling, so I’m glad the conversation centered a lot on this. If you like golden nuggets of insight, this is the show for you.

Disclaimer: This show has colorful language. It is not safe for work and it is not safe for children. Listen in the privacy of your own earbuds. I’ve marked it as explicit on iTunes.

Have a Question You Want Answered on the Show?

Kevin would love to answer your questions on the show. You can call in to (678) 804-8036 and leave your question on our voicemail. Include your name and city before asking your question.

Support the Show

Revolutionary Parent Radio is a crowd-funded show. That means it is driven by listener contributions. If you find value in this show and have the means to contribute financially, we ask that you pledge a small per-episode contribution. These contributions pay for hosting, equipment, software, editing, and production time. You can pledge as little as $1 per episode—every contribution helps.

Your Child’s Bad Behavior Won’t Stop Until You Make This One Change

Too many parents believe that children, at the core, are not interested in doing what’s “right.” That children who don’t want to share are “selfish brats.” That children who say what they think without a filter are “rude” or “impolite.”

When a child is upset, throwing tantrums, or pushing buttons, the child is “giving me a hard time.” When commands aren’t met with immediate obedience it’s because the child is “misbehaving” and “disrespectful.” When a child tries to negotiate or find another means to get what they want, they’re “manipulative” and “deceitful.”

It’s all “bad” behavior. And it must be “fixed” by authoritarianism. Time-outs, “naughty chairs,” groundings, “taking charge,” spanking, “showing them who’s boss,” “being in control,” and so on.

There are two big hurdles with this approach. First, if a child is bad, can these tactics “fix” them? Second, what if the child is not bad? What will these approaches do to their soul and their psyche?

If a child is disrespectful, can you smack respect into them? If your co-worker is being disrespectful, would smacking them be a productive tactic?

If a child is manipulative and dishonest, will a “naughty chair” instill virtue in them? Or will it just lead to them working harder to not get caught?

Authoritarian strategies don’t work. They seem to, in the short-term, but fail miserably in the long term. That’s because authoritarianism is antithetical to virtue and authenticity. Punishments *do* teach—they teach human beings to avoid punishment. But that’s all.

What I’m more interested in is the second question: “What if a child is not bad? What will these tactics do to their soul and their psyche?”

This is the million dollar question because the fundamental truth is this: There are no bad kids. Kids do the best they can with the physical and psychological tools at their disposal.

When a child is upset, throwing tantrums, or pushing buttons, the child is having a hard time. When commands aren’t met with immediate obedience it’s because human beings instinctually avoid oppression. When a child tries to negotiate or find another means to get what they want, they’re thinking critically and problem solving.

It’s all very rational behavior relative to their physical and psychological development. When they’re throwing a tantrum, it’s because they don’t have the capacity to logically communicate with you. When they’re “disobedient” it’s because they desperately want independence and autonomy. Or it’s because you’re interrupting them. Or it’s because you’re asking them to do something that’s not age appropriate.

If you see kids’ behavior as “bad,” you’ll always approach them with the belief that they need to be coerced and “corrected.” If you see kids’ behavior for what it is—the best they can do at the time—then you’ll approach situations with empathy, understanding, and actual leadership.

Of course my child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of aisle seven after I told her we aren’t going to buy the family size bag of M&Ms. She’s tired, she’s hungry, and she’s THREE. She’s not a “brat.” She’s not “bad.” She’s not manipulating me (she doesn’t even know what an M&M is). A tantrum is the best she can do at the time with the immense frustration and emotion inside of her. Knowing this, I can provide what she actually needs: Empathy. Validation. Connection.

As a parent, you have three options during rough times. You can act like a three year old yourself (yelling, hitting, punishing, etc.). You can ignore. Or, you can lead authentically.

I’m not saying authoritarianism is akin to acting like a three year old to get a rise out of you. And I’m not suggesting anyone is perfect. I believe we need to be honest with ourselves. If I yell at my 3 year old or spank my 3 year old or otherwise punish my 3 year old, I’ve employed tools that are no better than theirs. If I ignore them, all I’m doing is ignoring their needs. And if I tell myself that any of those tactics are “real leadership,” I’m lying to myself. And I’m modeling her own behavior back to her, which reinforces that behavior.

And because human beings are biologically programmed to oppose oppression, these control-based responses are going to evoke an ongoing war. The ever common “power struggle.” Oppression begets rebellion. And the stronger the will of the child, the bigger and longer and more costly the war. For many, the result is a total loss of connection that manifests most publicly during the teenage years.

Those “bad” teenagers were “bad” kids. And they’re not “acting up” because nobody “disciplined” them, they’re “acting up” because they’ve always “acted up” because their parents saw their behavior as “acting up” rather than what it actually was—behavior. Not good, not bad. Just behavior. The behavior of a young human being who didn’t have the capacity to behave any differently.

Assuming a child is “acting” anything implies that they’re in total control of their behavior. That everything they’re doing is a choice. It’s another extension of the “my bad kid is doing all this on purpose” mindset. But there are no bad kids. Kids do the best they can with the physical and psychological tools at their disposal. 

All the authoritarianism in the world can’t correct bad behavior because coercion doesn’t have the capacity to correct it. If authoritarianism “works” it’s because you broke your child’s spirit. If a child is obedient, it means their will is no longer their own. No matter how much you think you’re winning, you’re losing. And you’re losing what’s most important to you, your child’s authenticity and your connection with them.

The sooner you can see your child’s behavior for what it is, the sooner you will truly be there for your child as a leader. This affords you the opportunity to give them real skills for better handling hard situations. Not just through teaching, but through modeling. And you’re able to give them these tools in a way that empowers their spirit and strengthens your bond.

This small but revolutionary shift in mindset instantly transforms all bad kids back into their natural state—kids. Just kids.


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How to Change Parenting Paradigms with an 11 Year Old?

Hey friends. We’re back with another Q&A show. This time we’re tackling the specifics about changing paradigms with a pre-teen—making dramatic changes after your children have experienced years of your old parenting style.

Some specific topics we cover:

  • Should I just make the changes or should we have a discussion about it?
  • How can we transition away from praise and rewards without him thinking we don’t “approve” of him?
  • How to set limits on bed time, screen time, dinner time, school time etc. because he struggles with self-regulation issues?
  • He won’t clean his room if we leave it up to him. How can we make sure his room is clean and there aren’t health concerns?
  • How do you feel about paying a child an allowance? (with a short rant on economics and unschooling).

Have a Question You Want Answered on the Show?

Kevin would love to answer your questions on the show. You can call in to (678) 804-8036 and leave your question on our voicemail. Include your name and city before asking your question.

Support the Show

The Powerful Parenting Podcast is a crowd-funded show. That means it is driven by listener contributions. If you find value in this show and have the means to contribute financially, we ask that you pledge a small per-episode contribution. These contributions pay for hosting, equipment, software, editing, and production time. You can pledge as little as $1 per episode—every contribution helps.

Your Children Don’t Need “Positive Reinforcement”

Is “positive reinforcement” the most popular parenting and schooling phrase? I don’t have any hard statistics, but if I were to bet money I’d split my bet between “obedience” and “positive reinforcement.”

The question typically starts out like this: “How can I get my child to ‘X?'” Then comes the famous answer, “Do ‘Y,’ he needs positive reinforcement.”

It’s a parenting and schooling sacred cow. And oh do I love slaughtering those.

I’m writing this, by the way, as an extension of my article on praise, because praise is a popular form of positive reinforcement. If you haven’t read that article yet, you may want to start there as it lays the groundwork for this article.

“Positive reinforcement” is not a nice sounding term coined by well-meaning parents. It was a term coined by a scientist. A “behaviorist” named B.F. Skinner who is often referred to as the father of Operant Conditioning, which is a learning process based on seeking or avoiding the consequences of specific behaviors.

Punishment and Reinforcement are both forms of Operant Conditioning. But there are two forms of both. You can have positive punishment or negative punishment and positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Positive and negative are scientific terms in this regard, not moralizations of the type of reinforcement.

B.F. Skinner developed his Operant Conditioning theories by putting lab animals in an “Operant Conditioning Chamber,” later called “The Skinner Box.” Trapped in this box, the animals were subject to different types of punishments and reinforcements and their behavior was recorded.

This isn’t rocket surgery. Anyone who has a dog knows what operant conditioning looks like. You teach a dog to sit by coaxing them into the position and then rewarding them with a treat. They associate the reward with the treat and thus learn to obey the “sit” command. This is what Skinner would call “positive reinforcement.”

On the flip side, a shock collar is used as “positive punishment” to get a dog to stop doing an undesirable behavior. The use of the shock after the behavior teaches the animal to avoid that behavior.

“Reinforcements” get an animal to do something. “Punishments” get an animal to stop doing something. There’s no problem, scientifically, with any of this. As I said, it’s very basic stuff. The problem is that society believes operant conditioning is a great way to raise children.

Mainstream parents employ operant conditioning every day….

Positive Reinforcement = Stickers, rewards, treats, praise. (You get children to repeat a behavior by rewarding them for it).

Negative Reinforcement = Nagging (You get a child to repeat a behavior by introducing a negative stimuli until they perform the behavior to escape it. The child learns to do that behavior or be subject to incessant nagging, for example).

Positive Punishment = Spanking. Threats. Rage. (You get a child to stop doing something undesirable by doing something undesirable to them).

Negative Punishment = Time out. Confiscating property. “Grounding.” (You get a child to stop doing something undesirable by removing something they enjoy).

Looking at that list, most mainstream parents are probably scratching their heads wondering, “Yeah? So?” This is especially true when it comes to positive reinforcement because it sounds so kind and gentle. And that’s precisely why positive reinforcement is so popular.

But what’s rarely talked about is the two types of operant conditioning. There is Natural Operant Conditioning and Manufactured Operant Conditioning (no need to look up these terms, I just made them up. Again, it’s not rocket surgery). In other words, animals and humans can become conditioned through natural stimuli or through “training.” 

Your children cannot escape operant conditioning because all behaviors have natural consequences. What your child can escape, with your help, is training—the manufactured use of operant conditioning.

Human beings are not dogs or lab rats. Humans have more complex emotions. They have a much greater capacity for critical thinking. In short, they’re not stupid lab animals.

While it’s necessary to condition and train animals because they don’t reason well, it’s not necessary to condition and train human beings. When you use manufactured operant conditioning on a child, you’re treating them the same way you’d treat your dog. Many parents even use the phrase “good boy” or “good girl” on their child. That’s proof that I’m not embellishing.

Not only is it unnecessary to train human beings the way you train animals, it’s disrespectful. It’s also highly ineffective for achieving the bigger, long term goals you have for your children.

“How is it disrespectful?” When operant conditioning is used as training it degrades trust and your connection with other human beings. If you make a mistake at work and your boss reprimands you in front of the entire office, it doesn’t make you want to get better so you can help the company, it makes you want to be better so you can avoid his wrath. And you hate him for that.

Or what if you made that mistake, which really had no major consequences to the company, and he docked your pay by $100 just to teach you a lesson? Would that bring you closer to him and the company you work for? No, you’d be pissed. Welcome to how kids feel every day under the thumb of parents who employ operant conditioning strategies.

“How is it ineffective for long term goals?” Training humans makes their behavior inauthentic. If kids are conditioned to repeat or avoid certain behaviors for rewards or the avoidance of punishment, their behavior is coerced. Coerced behavior is not virtuous. It’s not values-based. It’s not voluntary.

They’re not saying “Thank you” because they’re truly thankful, they’re saying it because they were trained to say it. They’re not keeping their room clean because you’ve managed to get them to buy into the value of having a clean and tidy space, they’re doing it to avoid your wrath. And when they live on their own, they’re not likely to follow through. Or worse, they’ll be messy out of spite. See, you haven’t given them tools, you’ve given them treats and fear.

This also brings us back to the difference between the reasoning ability of humans vs animals. Humans are smart. Unlike dogs, they know that when people aren’t watching there won’t be rewards or punishments. When their own self-interest overrides their training, they’ll stray from their programmed thinking. Instead of having real values and principles, conditioned humans are constantly doing a cost-benefit analysis to decide if undesirable behavior is worth carrying out at any given moment. B.F. Skinner himself explicitly stated this.

A person who has been punished is not less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.

~ B. F. Skinner

If you want blindly obedient children who have a weak emotional connection with you, operant conditioning is the way to go. If you want virtuous, honest, empathetic, authentic children who think for themselves and respect you as a true leader, you must abandon your operant conditioning approach in favor of reason. In favor of the five pillars of revolutionary parenting: empathy, integrity, self-awareness, patience, and negotiation.


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Kids Don’t Need or Want Your Praise

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of not praising children. Alfie Kohn, an author on education, human behavior, and parenting has argued that, “Rewards and punishment are two sides of the same coin.” He’s talking about the coin of coercion and manipulation. Carrots and sticks. And praise falls squarely into the reward category.

Kohn uses the phrase “good job” as an example, calling it a “verbal doggie cookie.” Most parents, teachers, and coaches use the phrase so much it no longer has any real meaning other than “I approve.” It’s also contextually inaccurate. Kids are not doing jobs, they’re trying to explore and enjoy life. So praise, whether you intend it to be or not, is often seen by children as a reward.

Rewards and punishments (including praise) can also communicate to children that they are loved, accepted, and approved-of conditionally. This is not the intention of most parents, but intention doesn’t matter. All that matters is what the child experiences and how they interpret those experiences. When you praise and light up when kids do well and withdraw or criticize when they don’t, they quickly get the message that they must meet certain conditions in order to get their emotional needs met.

Praise is also the adult’s judgement of an outcome. And whenever an adult is judging an outcome, the child will override their own judgement and adopt the adult’s. Or fail to judge the outcome at all. This runs counter to healthy, authentic self-esteem. To be fulfilled, kids must be able to judge situations and outcomes for themselves.

But is praise really a reward? Does it really create the same negative outcome as a sticker book for good behavior or a new toy for doing some good deed? Don’t kids need it? These are the questions even the most authentic parents struggle with. I heard a very principled parenting leader recently say, “I think praise can be overdone, but I don’t think we should go to the extreme of not praising children at all.”

It’s easy for revolutionary parents to see the destructiveness of punishments and rewards, but it’s very difficult to let go of praise. It leads people to feel negligent. And confused. What do I say and do instead?

If you’re not quite sold on the “praise is counter-productive” argument, or if you still think praise is a good idea in some capacity, let me help you see this from another angle…

Praise is not naturally sought by children. They don’t need it and they don’t want it. It is counter to their psychological development.

Parents think children need praise for optimal development, but it only clouds their development. The previous three arguments—and the research that Alfie Kohn often cites regarding rewards—shows this.

Parents think children want praise, but it’s not truly what they want. Only children who have previously been praised, seek praise. What children want and need is your attention and your interest. That’s all. No more, no less. That’s what children naturally seek. Children don’t say, “Dad, come praise me.” They say, “Dad, come watch me.” Or, “Mom, come participate with me.”

When children accomplish something, they don’t look to see if you’ll praise them, they look to see if you were watching them. Your attention and your interest in them is what fulfills them in that moment.

Refraining from telling them how good they did or how proud of them you are is not negligence, it’s great leadership. It affords them the space needed to judge their own work and bathe in their own intrinsic pride. And because they have your attention and interest, they get to celebrate that with you. That’s pure fulfillment.

When children fail at something, they don’t naturally hope you’ll criticize them. What children want and need in times of failure is, again, your attention and your interest. If they’re confused, they’ll want your guidance. If they’re hurt, they’ll want your validation. They want your safety. They want your connection.

Parents who are stuck in the praise/criticize paradigm have children who embellish victories and hide or lie about failures. Kids’ biological need for unconditional love and acceptance *requires* them to be inauthentic in that paradigm. And of course, when parents catch children doing this they criticize even further. They don’t understand the loop they’ve created. They especially don’t understand that the loop isn’t safe.

Since kids don’t want or need praise, and because it’s counter-productive, there’s no reason to use it. Even sparingly. If you’re having trouble overcoming your desire to praise, it’s almost certainly because praising your children makes *you* feel good. It has nothing to do with your kids.

And that’s okay. It’s a challenge I’d encourage you to overcome, but it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Just acknowledge that your use of praise is about you and not them. Being an authentic parent is as much about being honest with yourself as it is with your kids. That authenticity will take you to where you want to go as a revolutionary parent.

No Drama Discipline with Dr. Dan Siegel

We’ve rebranded! The podcast will now be called “Revolutionary Parent Radio” to go along with our brand new website at RevolutionaryParent.com. Our Facebook Group for parents, teachers, and caregivers has also been changed to “Revolutionary Parenting.”

Today’s show is an interview with the one and only Dr. Dan Siegel. I recorded this episode way way back when the podcast was called the “Reboot Your Kids Podcast.” I didn’t want it to get forgotten though, so I’m republishing it.

Dan’s work is fascinating because he dives into the science behind the brain biology of children and uses that science and understanding to help us empathize with our child’s state of mind and psychosocial capabilities. I highly recommend two books from Dr. Siegel: The Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline.

Enjoy today’s episode and let me know what you think about the new branding and redesign!

Support the Show

The Powerful Parenting Podcast is a crowd-funded show. That means it is driven by listener contributions. If you find value in this show and have the means to contribute financially, we ask that you pledge a small per-episode contribution. These contributions pay for hosting, equipment, software, editing, and production time. You can pledge as little as $1 per episode—every contribution helps.

Have You Taught Your Children “The Four Agreements?”

To be a revolutionary parent, you must understand that your children are a blank slate. They have an equal capacity to be good and bad. Moral and immoral. Productive and destructive. It’s the inputs they receive from you and others that will determine which path they travel.

Ruiz says that all children are born perfectly loving, playful, and genuine. However, parents teach their children what Carl Rogers called conditions of worth–standards of behavior the children must follow to receive love and avoid criticism. Eventually these standards become internalized into what Eric Berne called a life script–an unconscious set of instructions for living life. According to Ruiz, most of these unconscious beliefs are perfectly arbitrary or downright false. Many of them are irrational and unnecessarily limiting.

An unfortunate fact of being a child is that you fail to question things. Children fail to question because they rely on trust. They take things at face value. Your words and assertions are heard and felt and then internalized. Everything you say and do is a form of indoctrination. CULTure is indoctrination. And this indoctrination becomes a script. A computer program. And it runs on a loop until awareness is brought to it.

In “The Four Agreements”, don Miguel Ruiz calls these indoctrination loops, “agreements.” It’s your child agreeing with the indoctrination because their only choice is to do so. Their very survival depends on it.

Ruiz says that children do not know any better than to agree with the adult realities into which they are indoctrinated. Children do not argue with the meanings of words or grammar as they are learning language. If my parents tell me I am smart and handsome, I believe them. If they tell me I am stupid and ugly, I believe them. Children have no choice but to agree. They are like Plato’s prisoners in the cave, shackled and forced into believing that shadows of artificial objects are real.

And worse, these scripts are much less like computer “programs” and more like computer “viruses.”

We are so well trained that we are our own domesticator. We are an autodomesticated animal. We can now domesticate ourselves according to the same belief system we were given, and using the same system of punishment and reward. We punish ourselves when we don’t follow the rules according to our belief system; we reward ourselves when we are the “good boy” or “good girl.”

“Self-Awareness” is one of the five pillars of revolutionary parenting because it’s critical, as a parent, that you identify the scripts running in your own life. If those scripts aren’t identified and canceled, they will be passed on to your children. Self-awareness is the realization that you are the author and control the script. This allows you to discard parts of the script that are not serving you and author in new scripts.

This, by the way, is antithetical to what CULTure wants from you. Religion, statism, schooling, media, and big business all want you and your children to succumb to their indoctrination loops. To question nothing. In fact, “school” was designed to afford more control over the specifics of the indoctrination narrative.

So the best thing that we can do for our children is to equip them with the capacity to identify indoctrination loops, question them, and overcome them. This will pave the way for living an authentic life. Of course, children learn best through modeling so it’s very helpful if they witness you doing the same in your own life.

Ruiz lays out a process for replacing destructive agreements with four distinct “healthy” agreements that, when implemented, allow for maximum freedom, happiness, and authenticity. And these are agreements that I believe all revolutionary parents should strongly consider adopting for themselves. And eventually inviting their children to adopt.

Agreement #1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

To be impeccable with your word means to speak truthfully about yourself and others. Where most people may take this at first glance to mean, “be honest with others,” it’s much more powerful than that. Being impeccable with your word is also a full-blown dismissal of your “inner-critic,” which we explained in Revolutionary Parenting Radio Ep21: How You Talk to Your Child Becomes Your Inner Voice, is just a programmed script.

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love. You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.

Agreement #2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

The first agreement suggests that we should avoid treating others and ourselves hurtfully. The second agreement provides us with a way of dealing with potentially hurtful treatment from others. It’s an understanding that each person is being manipulated by their own history of trauma and indoctrination loops and that their treatment of you is not a reflection on your own worth or credibility. In fact, if you care what other people say about you, that’s an example of you making another faulty agreement.

Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up. You eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.

Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Assuming that you know what other people are thinking or feeling about you is a limiting thought pattern. Often, you will be wrong and will choose words and behaviors that lead to destructive consequences. Assuming is a common pitfall of troubled relationships.

In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don’t have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don’t do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, “How could you do that? You should know.” Again, we make the assumption that the other person knows what we want. A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.

Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best

If you do your best in all you do and are honest with yourself, then there is no capacity for shame or guilt. And how great would the lives of children be (and adults) if our best was accepted, even when we fall short of some arbitrary mark?

Just do your best — in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. You can only be you when you do your best. When you don’t do your best you are denying yourself the right to be you. That’s a seed that you should really nurture in your mind. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.

While The Four Agreements are not the be-all, end-all of personal development, recovery, and freedom, they’re certainly a gigantic leap in the right direction. “If you are impeccable with your word, if you don’t take anything personally, if you don’t make assumptions, if you always do your best, then you are going to have a beautiful life. You are going to control your life one hundred percent.”

Pick up the book from Amazon and start incorporating it into your life. If you have older children, invite them to read it with you.

3 Important Lessons From The Assault at Spring Valley High

This is an impromptu podcast episode due to the recent events that occurred at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. Please take a listen, especially to the solutions laid out at the end that every man and women on this planet can take action on immediately.

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A Call for Less Perfection-Seeking in Peaceful Parenting

A conversation in our Reboot Your Kids Facebook Group inspired me to write this article. A scenario was brought up regarding a toddler screaming in a parent’s face and how to handle the situation.

My stated philosophy is to use the simplest tactics at your disposal first and then escalate your response and behavior if necessary. In my response to this parent, I mentioned the simpler approaches but offered an example of an escalated approach as well:

“When you scream in my face I feel like I need a lot of space from you.” And then you can go in another room and lock the door if needed. If they cry, it’s a good sign they got the message, to which you can open the door and say “I can come back out if you agree you won’t scream in my face.”

I could have explained this tactic in many ways. “If you can’t stop screaming in my face, I’m going to go into the other room.” And honestly, I could have explained it better with a lot more context. But it was early in the morning and I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

The objection was that this tactic amounts to abandonment or conditional love. In other words, it’s “not perfect” and there are better, “optimal” alternatives.

Of course, this is where context must come in. I explained the following:

  • That I’ve never had to do this with my own child because she’s sensitive and responds very well to simple requests.
  • That the simplest tactics should always be used first and that this is an example of an escalated tactic.
  • That children have different personalities and not all will respond to the simple tactics.
  • That this may not even require locking the door. By simply going into the other room the child will likely follow you and be concerned, prompting you to ask them if they agree not to scream at you. They agree and all is well.
  • That children of different ages require different approaches and that even though I’m responding to a question about a toddler, I’m offering suggestions that may very well apply to older children better because there are parents of older children reading my answers. The biggest complaint I get is, “you never offer suggestions for X age.”
  • That this tactic is no different from the “If you hit me, I need to go in the other room to keep myself safe” tactic. It’s an emotionally healthy tactic that teaches children that hitting drives people away.
  • That if “love withdrawal” is a concern, you can easily alleviate this concern in the child by clearly explaining to them, “When I go in the other room, I still love you. But I will not let you scream at me/hit me.”
  • That the healthy/unhealthy-ness of the situation is dependent on the parent’s attitude, delivery, and intentions. You can easily make the tactic unhealthy by displaying anger and coldness. Or you can make it healthy by displaying calm-assertiveness, attentiveness to the child’s reaction, empathy, validation, and so on.

Still, there were objections. And that prompted me to write this article because I feel we can easily go to an unhealthy place in parenting groups where there is an insistence on always using the “optimal” technique in every situation. In this paradigm, parents easily start to get the idea that if they fail to choose the optimal technique, they’ve done something wrong. They begin to feel that perfection is necessary to win. They become frustrated. Or they walk on egg shells. Or they give up altogether.

So let’s take a step back and consider these additional points:

  • *Even if* a parent angrily went in another room and slammed the door and locked it and stayed in there for 10 minutes, they could rescue the situation by coming out and apologizing and explaining themselves and reconnecting. That one incident will not have any lasting impact on the child.
  • Parents have different personalities too. And different triggers. Not all parents will have the level of patience needed in certain situations to choose the “best” or “optimal” response. Choosing ANY response that’s in alignment with authenticity and a principled approach is all we should ask of them.
  • There are parents who have never met strong-willed or highly-limit-pushing children who believe and often vocalize that certain responses are “over the top” or “unnecessary.” It’s not fair to communicate this to parents if the tactic is authentic and principled. It’s the parent’s job to respond in a way that is in alignment with their child’s needs and personality.

And this brings me to an important concept I like to call “Never-Evers.” I’ve laid out the principles of authentic parenting and have proposed “optimal” tactics and strategies for dozens of situations. But just as important as those, which I haven’t talked about before, are very simple “Never-Ever” rules for your behavior as a parent.

A Never-Ever is something that you have committed to never, ever do:

  • Under NO circumstances will I hit my child.
  • Under NO circumstances will I scream at my child.
  • Under NO circumstances will I ever outright abandon my child.
  • Under NO circumstances will I ever call my child names, threaten my child’s safety, etc.

As I just stated, parents have different personalities and triggers. Right? You’re going to run into a situation where you have a choice between exploding on your child and breaching your Never-Evers or choosing a “non-optimal” authentic approach.

In these situations where you are triggered and/or highly stressed and feeling like you’re approaching the edge of the cliff, all the talk about “optimal” responses goes out the window. All that’s important now is making sure you don’t breach your Never-Evers.

So maybe you run into a room, shut the door, and scream into a pillow at the top of your lungs while your child sits hopelessly in the hallway crying. Is that the “optimal” approach? Of course not. Is it an acceptable approach? Hell yes. You didn’t breach your Never-Evers in a society where parents breach your Never-Evers pretty much every day. Your choice to isolate yourself and vent in the way that you did *protected* your child from you. In short, you ma’am—or sir—are a fucking winner.

In order to be a successfully authentic parent, you need to know that these options are on the table. There are options that are NEVER on the table (as I just described) but if you think all non-optimal responses make you a failure as a parent or if you believe that non-optimal responses will harm your child, then your parenting career is hopeless. And at the same time, you’re going to drive yourself insane.

Parents start to look at other peaceful parents and think, “I bet she never gets angry. I bet she never feels like slapping the shit out of her child. I bet he never raises his voice. I bet he never gets frustrated…” Parents think this precisely because we’re always talking about the “optimal” responses as if we’re always capable of employing them. And these thoughts cause peaceful parents who are normal and winning to think less of themselves. And this impacts their parenting quality.

I think it’s time to take a step back from that paradigm, start letting people off the hook more often (including letting ourselves off the hook), and recognize that “winning” has a lot of different looks.

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