The Most Dangerous Environmental Toxin Most Kids Are Exposed to Daily

I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking other health and nutrition blogs aimed at raising physically healthier kids, because I’m not.

They’re doing a great job. But I started RYK because I felt like a lot of people were missing the point — that when it comes to children, it can’t just be about physical health.

We’ll talk about making kids physically healthier here, of course, but psychological health is far more important. And psychological trauma WILL create poor physical health, so that’s where our main focus will be.

So, here’s the M.O. of these other blogs: from time to time they point out the “toxins” that your children come into contact with. And they advise you to remove these toxins from your child’s life.

You know, check that shampoo bottle! It might have Sodium Lauryl Sulfate!

Look, if you want to play Miss Marple with your daughter’s toiletries, that’s perfectly fine. But I’d urge you to do that AFTER you’ve put energy into worrying about and tackling the much more dangerous toxins your children are routinely exposed to.

I’ll assume, for now, that you’re already on board with authentic parenting. That likely removes you from the list of suspects.  Hint hint.

Are you starting to see what I’m getting at when I talk about the most dangerous environmental toxin most kids are exposed to daily? If you’re still wondering, it’s this: toxic personalities.

There’s four distinct places your kids will come into contact with this dangerous toxin: relatives, other parents, teachers, and other children.

I recommend placing your focus here first, because these toxins stand to do far more damage — physically and psychologically — than any other.

Relatives

The people closest to you are the most difficult to deal with. They’re also the group that should probably be scrutinized most because they tend to feel entitled to a relationship with your kids.

First things first, “blood is thicker than water” is complete nonsense. There isn’t a single person on this planet that is entitled to a relationship with your children.

In our family, having a relationship with my daughter is an earned process. If you’re psychologically toxic, you’re done until you show otherwise. I don’t care if you’re a friend, an uncle, or a grandmother.

This may be an unpopular point of view, but it doesn’t change the truthfulness of it. Normalizing kids to toxic people — even if they’re relatives — is unacceptable. And that’s exactly what happens when toxic people are allowed to have a relationship with your children.

As a parent, it’s also your responsibility to make sure your child’s boundaries are protected at all times. Family members have a knack for being boundaryless. So, just because you’re “family” doesn’t mean you have a right to kiss, hug, hold, move, sit with, etc.

To protect your children’s boundaries, teach people how to treat them respectfully. Grandma can’t swoop in with, “Give grandma a kiss!” It needs to be permission-based. She needs to ask, “Do you want a kiss from me?”

Rather than the uncle running over and picking up your son, he should ask, “Can I pick you up?”

It’s basic respect. Basic boundaries. This is how kids learn to respect themselves and others. This is how kids learn they have a sovereign body.

Very few people respect kids in this manner. As parents, it’s your job to teach the people who interact with your kids. And it’s your job to follow the same logic. You don’t own your child’s body. You don’t get to kiss them and hug them and hold them unless they want those things. Earn your relationship just the same — you’re not entitled either.

Other Parents

Here’s the typical list of qualifications for developing relationships with other families:

  • Does the other family have a child? Check.
  • Is the child my child’s age? Check.
  • [optional 3rd qualification] Do they share our religion? Check. Check.
  • Okay, let’s do it.

That’s not a good screening process.

If your child is going to go to this other family’s house without you, have sleepovers, and be exposed to the general environment, why on Earth would you assume that because they have a pulse and a child that they’re safe? Or that they’re not toxic? And no, sharing a religion doesn’t mean anything either.

I don’t want my daughter to have anything to do with another mom or dad who screams or rages, who spanks, who manipulates, who rewards and punishes, who forces sharing, or who has a bunch of arbitrary authoritarian-based rules.

Obviously, some of those things are more important to me than others, and people don’t have to be perfect, but these are the things you should be thinking about.

As my daughter gets older and is able to independently analyze situations and stand up for her own boundaries and needs, then she’ll be able to navigate relationships on her own. For now, that’s my job.

When building relationships with other parents, have discussions about their parenting style, their beliefs, their principles, etc. Feel free to challenge them (people who get defensive are almost always parenting out of emotion rather than principle — bad sign).

Is this awkward? Is it a hassle? Of course it is. But you signed up for it. This is about building the safest and most nurturing environment possible for your children, not maintaining your own friendships or avoiding having uncomfortable conversations with other people.

Teachers

I think it’s clear where I stand on public education. If at all possible (even if inconvenient), you should be your child’s teacher. There are other options, of course, but I still think that’s the best route.

If you are in a situation where your child is going to have teachers, or if you’re contemplating sports or other activities with teachers/instructors, then it’s important to screen the people who will be influencing and leading your children.

For example, while some parents will take their daughter to a gymnastics coach who yells, uses punishments, and talks to girls about their weight, that would never fly in my universe.

I’m not interested in sending my child to any place that relies on punishments, rewards, and authoritarianism to achieve blind obedience.

I’m not interested in any teacher or instructor who doesn’t respect children and who doesn’t work to earn the respect of their students (versus expecting it).

Other Children

The final chunk of scrutiny must fall on the other children your kids will end up coming into contact with and possibly building relationships with.

A secondary reason why I don’t support the public or private school system is because it’s basically a burg of broken people. When you’re actually trying to raise a child and not just keep one alive, it’s rather unproductive to toss them into a colony of traumatized children.

In any school system, your child is locked away with children who are actively being physically abused, sexually abused, raged at, bullied, manipulated, and being afforded very little respect.

It’s statistics. 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. How many girls will your daughter come into contact with in public school? And possibly befriend?

90% of parents report spanking their kids. So, your child is locked away with a group of kids who are routinely physically assaulted.

This school system is set up in a way where your child cannot escape. Cannot speak out. Has very little control over their personal wellbeing. And whose attendance is forced.

All the empty rhetoric about “education” aside, the environment is a dumpster fire. The best education in the world wouldn’t be worth surviving the environment itself.

Outside of school, it’s important to screen other children the same way we discussed screening other adults. I don’t let my daughter spend any significant amount of time with kids who are hit or raged at. I don’t want the side effects of that abuse being redirected toward my daughter in any way.

Avoiding Toxicity and Creating Powerful Inner-Circles

As children get older, it’s important to teach them how to screen the people around them. Why is it important to find/attract/keep virtuous people? Why is it important to reject toxic people? How do you decipher one from the other? Why is toxicity bad? Why is virtue good?

This is how you teach children to build powerful and safe inner-circles. You start by modeling the screening process and then you pass the baton on to them. This is a much healthier paradigm than most adults live in, where toxic people tend to be kept around for far too long. And where adults routinely throw children into toxic situations (and leave them there).

Creating powerful inner-circles is a much more difficult and confusing task when you’ve been normalized to abuse and toxicity. That’s what public-style schooling does. That’s what unscreened childhood relationships do. That’s what disrespecting your own child does.

When abuse, neglect, and trauma are abnormal to children, they’re empowered to immediately sniff it out, process it, and avoid it. Toxic people and environments are inherently uncomfortable. On the contrary, people who are normalized to trauma and toxicity seek out those environments, because they’re familiar and seemingly more predictable.

If your children hang out with kids who speak Chinese all day long, your child’s going to end up speaking Chinese. Encouraging your children to build relationships with broken people or placing them in environments with inescapable brokenness is going to sabotage the goals you have for your children. That brokenness will be absorbed at the same pace the Chinese language would be.

As I said in the beginning, you can screen your shampoos and soaps and food for toxic ingredients all you want. But that’s trivial toxicity in comparison to toxic personalities. Start with the big stuff first.

5 comments
  • Ben

    Your children will never learn or experience what a toxic person is, how to identify them, and how to speak or deal with a toxic person, as you have been sheltering them from the public, or dumpsters as you, call them. Whether it is friends, bosses, colleagues, sisters, grandchildren, or police officers, your child will be taken for a painful ride of confusion every time she has to deal with a so called toxic person when she becomes an adult.

    And there are not just two different types of people, it’s 100 different scales. We all have various degrees of characteristics which contribute in various ways to make a person more or less toxic. Toxicity is not a on off switch. Dare i say, we are all a little toxic about something, at some point, to some people somewhere. And some people take you years to figure out they were toxic.

    At first you tell me that kids have to choose everything, from getting hugs and homework to who to see and what to eat, and now you’re saying that you won’t let your kids choose the people they meet. Might as well move to Amish country, huh?

    I went to school everyday for 12 years with Chinese kids, and still can’t speak a word of Chinese, or Arabic, or Spanish. Accidental racism, much??

    Why not just teach them these as skills of how to best identify and deal with or cut off toxic people… Rather than close their eyes to it, and making them socially immature and culturally backwards.

    Education is the solution, not isolation. You’re just on the path to brainwashing.

    • Kevin Geary

      I don’t think you’re right Ben. I’m not sheltering my child from one-off experiences, I’m protecting her from systematic and thoughtless exposure to toxicity.

      Calling me racist in your school example is laughable. I’m talking about going to school with Chinese kids in China — not a few Chinese kids here and there in an English speaking school. I thought that was obvious…

      You are right that toxicity is a scale. But you’re wrong that there aren’t just two types of toxic people. There are conscious people and unconscious people. In other words, those who are unaware of their toxicity or potential toxicity and those who are aware and actively pursuing healing.

      I don’t want my child to have anything to do with the former. And I said multiple times that as she gets older, she’ll make her own decisions about people. But it’s my job to model it right now.

      “Education is the solution, not isolation. You’re just on the path to brainwashing.” — It has nothing to do with isolation. As I said, it has to do with waking up to the fact that MOST kids are exposed to toxic personalities SYSTEMATICALLY AND WITHOUT THOUGHT.

      Now, I’d like to point out that you’ve done nothing with your comment but set up straw men. Perhaps you could try to refute something I’ve said in the article (without an ad hominem attack this time)?

  • DC

    “When abuse, neglect, and trauma are abnormal to children, they’re empowered to immediately sniff it out, process it, and avoid it.”

    Without even going into what you actually mean by the three strong words in there (abuse, neglect and trauma), as they seem to have a VERY wide meaning, I am curious of only one thing: on what (possibly evidence) is the above statement based?

      • Jorie

        I think “DC” is looking for some sort of proof that kids do “…immediately sniff it out, process it, and avoid it.”
        Or to know on what facts or evidence you have based your statement.

        For me, the evidence is personal experience and witnessing, (I imagine that human psychology backs this up as well). As you stated, when kids are regularly exposed to these toxins they get normalized to it. The opposite is true when they are not regularly exposed, they are sensitized to it and unwilling to be subjected to it as it is unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unacceptable. It’s really just that simple.

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The Most Dangerous Environmental Toxin Most Kids Are Exposed…

by Kevin Geary time to read: 7 min
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