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Reclaiming Our Intelligence
Marilyn Robb

November 11 & 12

Knowing our

December 2 & 3

“A Fantastic Parents’ Workshop”

In July 2018 in London (England), we had a fantastic parents’ workshop. It was led by Marya Axner, the International Liberation Reference Person for Parents.

I loved the opportunity to be with other parents and for a short time have space and permission to focus on this most significant project—parenting. There are not enough places to acknowledge just how much parenting and my children matter to me and to talk in detail about the joys, difficulties, frustrations, worries, successes, and love! I think other parents felt the same way. It’s so important just to get together.

We tried hard to keep the cost of the workshop low, to make it accessible to as many parents as we could. This meant that during the day we met in a community centre and at night we slept at Co-Counsellors’ houses. Some great allies made our food for us. It was more work and not as comfortable as being at a conference centre, but for many people it changed the tone: We were working together to do something. And teamwork and including everyone (rather than comfort and convenience) were the priority.


We thought about policy in relation to parenting. How do we hold out our best thinking, and sometimes limits, to our young people without being oppressive? How do we help them navigate a world full of distress?

Before we talked about particular policies, Marya asked us to work on our feelings about policies in general. What do they bring up for us? Do we obediently agree to every policy? Do we feel compelled to disagree, argue, resist? Do rules make us feel safe or do we hate rules? Any of these feelings will affect our ability to hold out policy to our children.

Much of what is traditionally presented to young people in terms of “limits” or “rules” is full of distress and oppression. Rules are almost never made in consultation with young people, often don’t make any sense, and may well be hurtful and oppressive.

Why must students be silent while walking in the school corridor? Why must they line up? Why shouldn’t a toddler get angry? The reasoning behind the rules is rarely explained, and their enforcement is often based on punishment, humiliation, and blame. A big feature of young people’s oppression is surviving within a nonsensical set of adult rules.

Given all this, it’s no surprise that we end up with a funny [strange] relationship to rules and policy.

In communicating “policies” to our children, we can share our thinking, be honest, be prepared to listen, and be open about how a policy sometimes means setting limits (“No more cookies! Not one more crumb!”). Sometimes we have to fight with our children; put out our thinking; listen, listen, listen; and maybe fight again!

Marya also said that it’s not enough to simply have policies. We also have to discharge on them. And we have to allow our children to discharge on them, too. We all have to make the policies our own. We have to think through each one for ourselves.

We live in a time when we are encouraged to “do what you feel like” and when “doing what you want” is presented as liberation. Of course it’s fine to want things and want to do things, but we always need to think at the same time, “Does this make sense?” “What is the impact of this?” Capitalism and oppression make it necessary to put out policies for our children. Our children depend on us to do that. They need to get angry about many things, and having a policy or limit lets them direct the anger at us.

At the workshop, Marya could allow and hear disagreement while still communicating what she wanted. She was so relaxed about it. I could see how much she had listened to teens and young adults express their opinions. Listening to young people disagree with us, then discharging, is great leadership training!


Marya also talked about love. When our parents and other caretakers couldn’t meet us with love, we were left with huge doubts about ourselves. Now, as parents and leaders, we need a home base in which we know people love us. We need to think about each other, know each other’s children, and be close and loved!

Marya reminded us that our children love us so much. That is their superpower! And it hurts them if we can’t accept it or are confused when they get angry. Even when they’re saying that they hate us, they still love us to bits [a huge amount]. We need to know that we are doing a great job and are great parents.


Marya said so many other useful things. Here are a few of them:

  • We’re given the impression that parenting should be smooth and everything should be easy. It shouldn’t be smooth! It’s okay that our children have struggles—it’s just restimulating for us!
  • We’re given the message that independence for our children, which usually means isolation, is the goal in parenting. It’s okay if our children continue to need us as they get older.
  • When setting limits with a child, a good guide is to ask ourselves if by setting the limit, the child will go away or come closer.
  • Talk about sex. Three minutes is usually enough!
  • We can limit “screen-time” [time spent watching television or looking at computers or other devices]. We can put limits on ourselves; put our phones away. We can do “screen time” as a family and then end it—and all cry about that!
  • We can be the person who makes the difference. We can do that! But not on our own [not alone]; we need a team with us.

The workshop was so full of good thinking and teamwork and appreciation of how great we parents are. I recommend getting to one of Marya’s workshops whenever you can.

Bess Herbert

London, England

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of parents


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00