Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bribing Good Behaviour

The problem with positive 'reinFORCEments', rewards and praise is that you are still trying to control them - it's subtle, but they know it and so should you be aware. The kid will get fixated on doing things for the end results, killing the joy they can have from simply doing it because it's inherently interesting, fun or challenging.

I used to wonder how praise could be damaging, but think of those A students whose life falls apart when they get a B+ - they've become praise junkies and stop valuing themselves with just a minor blip. On the other hand, I would not try hard at anything because I was frightened of failing, I never felt I would be good enough to be rewarded.

Help your kids learn to seize the day and live in the moment, encourage them to 'do' no matter whether they succeed or fail, this will build their core resilience to what life throws their way - they will learn to pick themselves up and keep going. If life is a journey, we need to be able to enjoy the process of getting 'there'. Death is the inevitable goal and we have no idea whether what's after will be worth waiting for! So let them get on with life and love it for what it is, don't trick them into believing it will be better if they get given special treats! The best you can give them is love whatever happens.

Check out Alfie Kohn's book:

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Last Rite of Passage

Pregnant thoughts.....

The certainty of birth - I am here. The certainty of death - I won’t be here. Now I see this amazing loop the loop in the middle of our lives - giving birth. In being born and dying you usually have a small part to play and little conscious or physical participation. But in giving life, free will rises like a phoenix from the ashes. You have awareness and choices, while simultaneously you have to give yourself up to the unknown - to nature, to fate, or whatever deity takes your fancy.

Death is often seen as tragic, we live the selfishness of those left behind. Birth is rarely tragic - every creature stands as testament to the miracle it is. So why is giving birth feared as a tragedy waiting to happen? Another symptom of our industrialised separation: where the natural, mammalian, human nature of giving birth has been cut out of our culture and dissected? This rite of passage - which really is the ultimate journey of transition, seems to have been mostly lost to our society. Giving birth has been hijacked by science - crushing and controlling the mystery which it doesn’t yet have the answers for - the mystery of life.

In our culture sex is put on a pedestal, but the results retain their aura of taboo. Where sex is everywhere, but commonly experienced privately; birth is nowhere, but usually experienced in a public building, in an institution occupied and controlled by complete strangers. Where sex can be at anytime, anyplace, anyhow and for however long, birth must keep to the schedules and timings deemed functionally, statistically and financially appropriate.

I don't have a problem with hospitals, they have their place when we are unwell and cannot help ourselves. Doctors and nurses are people and they generally try to do the best their skills and knowledge allow them. However, I believe that in the vast majority of cases pregnancy and giving birth is not a pathological phenomenon (that there is something physically wrong with this process), although this is how it is projected through the lens of science and the media and beamed directly into our culture. In developing this thought I have tried comparing birth to similar physical processes that we all experience:

Could you imagine being told that when you have your next shit you have to go somewhere else (another part of a building or even city) mid-movement and do it in a position which allows for easy observation. Where professionals check to see if you are doing it ‘correctly’, in the right amount of time and to assess whether it is the right colour, form and consistency. Intervening immediately if it’s too big, too liquid, the wrong colour - how would you feel? Performance angst? Discomfort? Embarrassment? Insecurity? Vulnerability? Tension? Fear?

Or imagine that you should be briefed, watched and instructed by a group of strangers when you lose your virginity. With a ‘crash’ team of medical experts on call to supply viagra, fix hymens, to coach you on positions, movements and thrusts and then to separate, sterilise and perform tests on you the moment they deem it to have been concluded?

Some things in life can be taught, but the most natural ones are simply learnt along the way. Nothing and nobody can prepare you for the experience of living the moment as and when you feel it happening.

Although we can't choose the moment of birth, I think we should be able to do everything we can to prepare for it in a way that accommodates our feelings and beliefs. For many, doctors, nurses, medicines and technology offer the feeling of safety and security they need and I respect that. My peace of mind comes from knowing that if something should go wrong science is there to help me, however, it isn't watching, looking and waiting for an anomaly in order to spring into action!

I'd like to be given the chance to fulfill my own prophecy and not somebody else's!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

my home water birth - if you're curious about where I'm coming from!

For me, my dream and biggest hope is to give birth to Jiggly-Bean in the most comfortable place in the world, with people I either really love and/or deeply trust, with as little unnecessary intervention as possible. The following film nicely summarises everything that has gone into my thinking on how and why I'd like to give birth at home, with a bouncy ball, an inflatable hot tub, my man, one of my best friends and my midwife. Francoise sent it at the perfect moment... 38 weeks... sometime in the next month Antoine and I are going to have a Jiggly-Bean in our hands at last!

Francoise, together with a number of my closest friends, the couple of midwives I've met and even complete strangers have had an enormously positive effect on me. When I say I'm hoping for a home water birth their eyes and face instantly light up! They don't need to say anything more, because they're expression has said it all already! But their positive words of encouragement have also meant such a lot to me given the weight of the conventional pressure of society and the media which influences so many of the people I meet.

I have had quite strongly negative reactions from people who are obviously quite shocked about my personal birthing choices. Many equate what is 'normal' today with what is 'best' and rarely take the time to critically engage and question this for themselves. Their questioning of me has been hard at times and caused sleepless nights - but this has helped me also to critically evaluate my thoughts and beliefs. In the end this has been invigorating as it has helped me to understand myself better, to consolidate my ideas and affirm my self-belief - which is absolutely vital for the unique experience I'm about to go through.

I'm not going to say that I won't experience discomfort, pain, doubt and quite possibly fear - but I'm not going to move ahead believing this is the sum total of what I can expect from giving birth. I'm sure it's going to be a rollercoaster which has its highs and lows. Maybe like surfing a wave - when you get lifted and fly with the power of the water and then you get wiped out tumbling uncontrollably over and over with water, salt and sand going up your nose, down your throat and in your eyes! Funny thing is - you still go back for more!

The prospect of having an ecstatic or even orgasmic birth would be the absolute cherry on the cake... but I think that all depends on what happens in the moment! I can do my best to create the ambiance and choose the company for the journey - but what actually happens - well we'll have to wait and see and just go with the flow! As the last invitee, Jiggly Bean, might have its own ideas on how to make an entry into this crazy wonderful world! I'll just do my best to 'dar la luz' or 'give the light' in what I believe is the gentlest possible way...

Here you can view the whole documentary:
Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret/Parto Orgasmico (subtitulado)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Save the newts, frogs, salamanders and toads!!!

After visiting Lisbon's breathtaking and eye-opening Oceanarium, it got me thinking a bit more about the Amphibian crisis...

We've all been one at some early point in our lives... safe in the protective waters of our little womb-world and making that billenial journey from water to land...

These embryo-like creatures, and ultimately us as well, all share the same water-world of seas, rivers, lakes, clouds and ice... the water that gives us all life... the world is 70% water and as newborn babies we start off as 75%! But when water suffers from contamination, the most vulnerable are always the first to die...

The Greek origin of the word amphibian means "double life" and they play an important role in the mythology of many cultures. How on earth the idea that kissing a frog will change it into a prince came about, I've no idea! However, I'm aware that kissing a small Amazonian frog could kill you, or at least send you on the hallucinatory journey of your life!

If we can't act like Prince Charmings and save the little critters for their own sake, at least some might think of doing it on a more selfish basis - the biochemical contribution they can make to medicine is believed to be considerable thanks to the protection some have made for themselves against more obvious enemies.

On the other hand, they play an important role eating my favourite enemies - mosquitos and flies! And of course other creatures also get to have them for dinner (and I'm not just talking about the French or Spanish!). Unfortunately, I imagine there is no such thing as organic/bio frog's legs!

Here are some links (there is sadly not a lot out there) with more information for Princes and Princesses who want to be even more charming than they already are:

Friday, February 19, 2010


Your breathing is like the swell of the ocean
and we´re drifting away on the tilt of the night
our warmth in the comfort of the lighthouse light
it´s beam sweeping over the ebb of our dreams
the whispers of the wind, the creaking grain
we need to go so we can return again

the ocean´s dunes
shifting and changing
the same yet never again
the fathomless sky
of stars and moon
setting the scene
for eternity

by our transience we are defined
travellers over the deserts of time
pilgrims on the oceans of life
swelling from big to small
on the wave of existence
an impression of scale
or an expression of spirit?