Parents’ Liberation: We Are Good Parents (draft 10.7.21)

We parents have an amazing, wonderful job. It is demanding. It requires all of our thinking and creativity. We love our children. They love us.


We know that many groups in society are oppressed. Parents are one of those groups. We are not oppressed by non-parents. We are oppressed by how the economic system sucks resources and time away from families instead of putting resources into them.

Although parenting young people is usually not a paid job, it is one of the most important jobs in the world. But we parents aren’t allowed the time and resource to do it the way we want to. How can we, when we also have to earn money for food, housing, medicine, and other necessities? We work many hours a day and into the night. We are tired.

As our society falls apart, resources that used to be available to families are available no longer, making it tougher than ever to parent the way we want to. We don’t have enough time for our children, our partners, our extended families.

That limitation on resources is at the heart of parents’ oppression. The rules and laws in a capitalist society prioritize making profits for a few people; they do not prioritize caring for human beings. Because the day-to-day work of parenting produces no profit, it is not considered valuable. That devaluing of the work is part of parents’ oppression. But no work is more valuable than the caring for, and raising of, our children. In our society, the most valuable jobs often get paid the least.

Parents’ oppression is invisible, urecognized. It’s accepted as the “way things are.” What’s more, parents also have to deal with other oppressions, such as racism, classism, and sexism.

These conditions make us vulnerable to the lies of the oppressive society—that we are not good parents; that if only we were better we wouldn’t have problems; that something is wrong with us as individuals (rather than as a result of oppression); that  our children’s difficulties are our fault. We need to say no to these lies. We can be outraged at how we and our children are treated. We need to come together and figure out a different kind of society, based on human needs and the knowledge that we are good.

In RC, we believe that every human is a treasure. This is true of parents. Just as young people are miracles, each parent is also a miracle. We may not be perfect. That’s okay. In a session, a parent can take time for self-appreciation as a human and as a parent. We can talk about all the wonderful things we do as a parent. We can have our counselors appreciate us as a parent.

Here is a message to all parents: You are good parents and your children are good.


Society doesn’t prepare us to be parents. Our undischarged early hurts have left us with distresses and rigidities that affects our parenting in big ways, many of which are hard for us to see from inside them.

Luckily for us, our children give us many opportunities to look at our early hurts, and they point us in the direction of discharge. Their love, humanness, and hope in us offer us a contradiction to how we were hurt. As we look at their beautiful faces, we can see that they want nothing more than to connect with us. Taking time in session to notice how much we love them and how much they love us is a sure path to discharging longstanding, rigidified hurts.

Our children also often do the exact things they know will restimulate us, in hopes that we will move through our hardest distresses. All parents get upset or angry or scared when our children do certain things. We can consider those restimulations to be a gift. Regular discharge in those places will allow us to be closer to our children and will move our re-emergence forward.

When we see our children struggling, we need even more discharge, so that we can provide reassurance and attention rather than worry at them with our feelings. (Part of our parent job is to not use our children as counselor.) For us to have attention for them to look at their most unbearable feelings, we need to look at our most unbearable feelings.

At every age of our children’s lives, their experiences will subtly or overtly remind us of our lives at that age. For us to discharge on what our life was like then will speed our re-emergence and help us have more attention for our children.


Support from other parents contradicts the isolation that results from parents’ oppression. A few minutes of discharge on the phone with another parent, a session with a trusted Co-Counselor, or a few hours in a parents’ support group can greatly improve our outlook. It can remind us that we are good, that our children are good, that they love us, that we love them. It can help us remember that we are not the only parents with struggles and that oppression, not children, is what makes our lives hard. We can be angry at the oppression of young people and parents rather than angry at our children or ourselves.

Do we have counselors we can call on when our feelings might take over? Parents or allies we can call when we feel like hitting our child? People who are familiar with us and our struggles and who can remind us of our goodness? We can figure out how to set up regular support for ourselves as parents.

If our RC Area has a parents’ support group, we can join it. If not, we can talk to our Area Reference Person about how to set up support for parents. We can build close relationships to bolster us to stand up to irrationalities and confusions. We can spread a wide net of love and caring around us.

Allies (including non-parents) are important to parents and young people. It contradicts parents’ oppression to have another adult like our child and give our child attention. It’s a contradiction when allies appreciate what we do. We need allies who can listen to us and not judge our parenting. In order to be able to listen to parents without judging us, allies need to discharge on their childhoods and how parents and other adults treated them.

In sessions or support groups, we can get mad at parents’ oppression. We can tell our counselor what life is like for us as a parent. Let’s fight the oppression together.

Our children will notice when we have discharged. They will look at us and feel reassured. They might feel safe enough to show some of their feelings. That’s good.


Global-majority and Indigenous parents and children are good. Each child and parent of these constituencies is a precious human: as gorgeous, brilliant, fun, sweet, deserving, adorable, creative, and caring as any human who ever walked the earth. I encourage global-majority and Indigenous parents to fight to take this stand, no matter how much the society tries to misplace blame on these groups for the outrageous injustices and obstacles that society itself imposes on these constituencies every day.

White parents need to discharge any unaware assumptions that a white, middle-class model of parenting is “better.” White parents also need to discharge on what gets in the way of being loving, aware allies and taking a stand against racism and genocide, of being vocal when racist policies or campaign statements are made against parents of African, Native, Muslim, Arab, Latinx, or Asian heritage. White parents can take the direction that all children are our children and be prepared to act to protect them.


In our job as moms, we get to fight for our general liberation as females, even though we were told as young females that our main purpose in life was to have and raise children. We can be joyful, playful, brave, and adventurous. We can have big goals. We can think about, and discharge on, what it means to put ourselves first as females, even in our day-to-day lives, an approach that contradicts the message that women should take care of everybody else’s needs before our own. We can ask, What are our dreams? How do we take care of our bodies? How do we have fun? What makes sense to prioritize now and what should wait until our children are older?

The job of being a mother requires us to sometimes put the needs of a child before our own. At the same time we can still keep putting ourselves first as females in our minds, and the two don’t have to be in conflict.

Even though as a mom we often can’t put our desires and goals before the needs of a child, that’s okay. Being a mother can be re-emergent in itself, not least because the role of the woman in the house is to lead. We can discharge so we can trust our thinking and lead our family, in consultation with our partner if we co-parent.


Society’s oppression of men keeps men and boys separate. It makes males feel expendable. In RC, we remind all of us that dads and children get to be close. Dads can be in the center of our families, confident in the important place of dads as parents, loving and loved, playful and silly, cooperative and thoughtful, an ally to young people and to mothers.


Our liberation as parents includes the liberation of young people. We are partners with our young people. We can listen to them and understand their view of big and little things. They are super smart, and we get to support their minds.

Often, listening to them means playing with them—which is always good—and following their lead in play. Our children love to play with us. We can notice what makes them laugh and do that over and over. We can be silly with them. We can run when they chase us. We can have fun. We can do “special time” in which we set aside a certain amount of time, from five minutes to an hour, during which our children get to be in charge of exactly how they want to play and we enthusiastically follow. (See Listening Effectively to Children and Family Work for more on “special time” and “playlistening.”)

When our children cry, shake, sweat, or have tantrums, we can listen to them as they unload their feelings, just as we need to unload our feelings when we feel bad. We want them to know we are on their side, that they are okay, and that we like them just the way they are.

We can get closer when things get hard for them. We can set limits when their distresses take over. We can stop them from hurting a brother or sister, limit screen-time, teach them to repair something they broke, or just pull them close to us. We can get their thinking about what limits make sense and see if they have thoughts about setting limits for us. We can figure out what limits bring us closer to our child, what helps them discharge, and what lets them feel better about themselves and more powerful.

Sometimes our children get very angry at us. If it’s because we made a mistake, the best response is to say so and apologize. But many times we don’t know the reason. Often it’s because we are their safest, most trustworthy connection, the person to whom they can show their worst feelings. Our best response then is to listen and not take their anger personally. We can be reassured that they love us and that they assume we know that.


We are raising our children at an interesting time. The institutions that we have lived with are failing faster than we can build a new society, one organized to work for everyone. The irrationalities of our old oppressive structures result in harsh and scary events that are difficult to explain. How do we help children understand this world?

In large part, children learn by watching how we live. They learn as we love them and play with them and listen to them. They notice who we have relationships with and how we stand up for what is right. We can teach them basic RC theory by explaining what goes on through an RC lens. We can give our children, every day, our most accurate picture of reality. As they grow and ask more questions, we can add details.

We can share our picture of the world as benign: Hard things happen, but there are many more acts of love, caring, and courage. We can explain human goodness and distress patterns and how people heal from distresses. We can talk about liberation and oppression and how recordings operate and can be discharged.

We can reassure our child that many people are working to make sure no person, group of people, or country gets hurt. Each person and every culture is precious and lovely. Our societies are evolving over time, and we can guide this process with intelligence. Our children will use what we say along with their own experience to build their picture of reality. We can support them in that process.

With hard or big issues, we mostly listen. Sometimes we ask a few questions. Did you hear something about some people getting hurt? What have you heard about climate change? Have you noticed that people with dark skin sometimes get treated unfairly? Have you noticed that girls are treated differently than boys? Does anyone in your class get picked on? And we follow their lead.

One question might be enough for an afternoon. Conversations on big topics are usually short and don’t get wrapped up in a sitting. They happen in short pieces over days, weeks, or years. With conversations about climate change or racism or sex we need to follow their minds, not hurry them to a conclusion. When they ask, we can give short answers, then ask, “What do you think about that?” If they don’t want to talk, that’s okay. They will think about what we say and may bring it up another time.

Young people will often bring topics up when least expected—in the car, at bedtime, after playing a game.

When children hear about, or pick up on feelings of others about, tragic events in the world, we can do more special time with them, so that they can feel our caring and closeness. Active and wild play with lots of contact will help them laugh. Laughter lays the foundation for heavier feelings to surface for discharge. At such times, we shouldn’t be surprised if our children have big sessions over little things, like being upset about putting on their shoes. These sessions are a pretext for working on the tragic event. Our role in them is not to bring up anything about the tragic event. It is, rather, to listen, follow their minds, and be sympathetic about the pretext issue—such as the shoes.

I believe watching the news is not a good idea, especially for younger children. It’s scary and often gives distorted explanations, and a young person doesn’t have a context for understanding it. It does not present a picture of human goodness and seldom shows the hopeful side of things. Also important is for parents to have controls on the internet to protect children from those who prey on young people by exposing them to pornography and other addictive and scary images. Computers should be located where parents can supervise.

As our children grow, we can give them a picture of how oppression divides people and how we think all people fundamentally want to like each other and be close friends. We can say that many people are working to make a world in which people can show caring, stand up for each other, and understand that any differences among humans are insignificant. We can tell them that we are at an interesting time in the history of humans, in which some crummy things are falling apart, and that we can build a better world based on what’s good for all people, rather than for a few. Depending on their age, we can give them a picture of the system of capitalism and how we are looking for a better plan, one that focuses on all people’s having good lives and being connected, rather than on some people’s making a lot of money and having control over the people with less money.

Young people often ask why people do bad, hurtful things. We can explain that people hurt people because they have been hurt. People come into the world wanting to help and care about and love each other, but we get hurt as children. Without an opportunity to talk or cry about their hurts and heal from them, young people grow into adults who act out their hurts on other people.

We can get our children's thinking about what the family could do to make things better and what to do about racism. We can ask what they would like to do and follow their lead. For us to write a letter, go to a vigil, volunteer, or protest or petition with them will give them a hopeful perspective and will contradict feelings of discouragement and helplessness. It will make them feel powerful.

If our child hears about something they are not ready for (which could happen at any age) we can listen to them and reassure them that we will protect them and fight for all people.

Marya Axner
International Liberation Reference Person for Parents


Last modified: 2021-10-07 19:52:58+00