The Norm Report Archive

Month 110
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When I appeared to jump ship last April, what happened was I was struck down by emphysema. For a couple months there I struggled.....Click here to read more.

The Norm Report - Month 109
April 2011 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:

Over 32,648 visits

I went to the woods because I wished
to live deliberately.

– Henry David Thoreau in "Walden"

In times of national recession, children pay a disproportionate price. The strain and stress their parents are under often breaks out in conflict and violence. In the melee the children’s emotions are overlooked. Too often their suffering is never addressed, and we learn of it only when we read of it in accounts of the Great Depression written by Studs Terkel and others. The price being paid by children is intolerable; it is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to mitigate that terrible wrong. Since we don’t work in Washington, what can we do about the economy? To begin, we can keep in mind that only happy parents have happy children.

The current national economic unpleasantness puts me in mind of the Seventies, when Sherrie and I set out to the woods to live the life of self-reliance. Inspired by Thoreau’s "Walden" and the Nearings’ "Living the Good Life", I had bolted from a college teaching career in search of authenticity, or as John Holt put it, a "life worth living". (Later, Helen and Scott Nearing became our mentors, then personal friends.) We recognized that life satisfaction was not to be found in playing the economic game, one that we did not choose. Earlier we had suited up and played it, unaware that we were the losers before we left the locker room for the playing field. Then we listened to Helen and Scott, and to Henry David Thoreau, who, more than a century earlier, had refused to pay the church tax, saying, "I am not a member of anything I have not joined." We realized that the prevailing economic game had been thrust upon us.

Today the sickness of the System is clear to all now that the social fabric we grew up with is disintegrating before our eyes. That need not be bad news, however. If we do not allow ourselves to panic, if we can summon some perspective and wisdom, we can recognize these times as presenting a menu full of wonderful opportunities. We may be offered a chance to live the kind of life we have long dreamed of living, but lacked the courage to walk out on a "steady" but undependable paycheck. One has to run certain risks if we are to live a life of freedom. In the "simple life" of independent living, we can find deep satisfaction in producing for family and ourselves our basic needs. A bonus is in upgrading our values in the process. We can, amid the hostility and chaos around us, bring quiet peace and sanity to our nuclear family.

It was November 1976 when Sherrie and I hauled a tiny old camping trailer thru a record-breaking snowfall to a small, "unimproved" acreage on the NY State - Pennsylvania border. We no employment, no friends, no family support, no money, and no credit cards. But we had fierce determination to achieve independence and freedom. Most importantly, we did not fear failure; we had the courage - (some said foolhardiness) - to persist in the face of immense odds. We found it exhilarating. We knew that taking command of our life was a giant step toward sanity. Facing every day with joy, working with challenges as they arose, doing what we could with the facts of existence, and accepting with joy and gratitude the results of our labor is a thrilling way to live. Carry water from the creek. Cut wood for the stove. Grow vegetables and fruit, keep hens for eggs. Our friend John Holt later put words to it: "This is work worth doing", he said. "It’s life worth living."

Living the "simple life" was not new to me. I had raised organic vegetables since childhood, and had learned to build with wood and stone. After seven years in military service I became a master teacher of high school pupils, then a college professor of Philosophy & Sociology, then morphed to be a published - but threadbare – writer, one who marched to a different drum. Sherrie was a recent graduate with a degree in art history and the fine skills of the art of calligraphy, later of medieval illuminated manuscripts as well. In ten years’ time we had built two cabins and a two-story home, developed a four-season food garden, and founded and published a national magazine. Together we built a "community of homesteaders" and hosted an annual conference of self-reliant wannabes who came by the hundreds to our 21 acres in NY State Finger Lakes Region to choose from our 40 workshops - 10 of them for the children.

We learned first hand how to live "on the edge of the System". We were too poor to pay income tax, but too steeped in abundance to fret about money. When we needed some to print our magazine, we sold firewood by the cord. Or I wrote another article for The Mother Earth News or East-West Journal or Rodale’s Organic Gardening Magazine. Sherrie calligrafied menus for restaurants, award certificates for Corning Glass, and special tributes commissioned for such as Bob Denver. Each of us taught courses at the local community college: calligraphy by Sherrie, organic food gardening by me. We were later to tour the U.S.A offering a menu of 10 seminars. We knew no one who was as happy and "wealthy" as we.

Best of all was the awesome company we were privileged to keep. People seeking self-sufficiency are not given to drinking themselves silly. While learning life-sustaining skills is serious business, it need not be grim. The wonderful homesteading hopefuls attending our annual Good Life Get-together brought fiddles, banjos & guitars along with their kids, dogs, tents & sleeping bags. We opened with a square dance, and enjoyed pickin’ & singin’ around evening campfires. We were privileged to count as friends celebrities like Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and John Holt (who brought his cello). From the beginning we were honored to have the support of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of "Living the Good Life", the back-to the-land "bible" that inspired so many to go "back to the land" during the Sixties. The famous couple helped us launch our first Festival. At our final Get-together, (after Scott died at age 100), Helen, approaching age 90, led a stonewall-building workshop for awe-struck novices.

One needs a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. Such a radical lifestyle change cannot be driven by impulse. Nor can one enthusiastic partner drag along a reluctant spouse. It is a family adventure that requires consensus. Note that this is, without question, one of the most valuable experiences the children can have. The values and skills learned will benefit them all their lives. Doing for oneself is a step toward sanity, leagues away from the mind-conditioning and dead-end jobs that deliver years of mind-numbing work, slavish obedience, and a gold watch.

Modern homesteading is not farming. Hordes of well-meaning hippies in the Sixties thought so, and bought too many acres, and a cow and tractor to put on it. They planted crops, neglected the animals and the machinery, and were back in the cities’ cubicles by winter, enslaved by treadmill jobs and a mortgage. It was not arbitrarily that Thoreau’s first chapter of "Walden" was titled "Economy". Scott Nearing said it succinctly: Rule one is Pay As You Go. Eliminate credit cards, pay no interest, visit yards sales & thrift stores, and barter whenever possible. Create a home business. In Vermont the Nearings tapped their maples and sold syrup; when they moved to Maine they picked and sold their blueberries. They called it the "bread labor" needed to bring in the few drachmas to satisfy Ceasar. If you have to file income tax, you’re making too much money.

At the outset the "helpless infant" mentality and the fear that supports it must be shed. We are not as helpless as media and institutions try to convince us. We are growing, changing, and learning beings capable of avoiding ego pitfalls and remembering that we have things to learn from those who have "been there". Fear of failure prevents our using – and discovering – our skills and realizing our potential as mature beings. No need to be conditioned in fear and dread to work on a "treadmill to oblivion", as Fred Allen called the unhappy life of futility. Bob Dylan sang, "Those not busy being born are busy dying." We are, or can become, capable of providing for ourselves almost all of what we pay others for. All that’s needed is the openness to learn, and the courage to try. We can produce our own goods and supply our own services, and discover that we do have the power to live without creeping and crawling in servile labor for someone else. The current economic crisis offers that valuable, that priceless, opportunity to live the Good Life of self-reliance, and in so doing, we discover ourselves.

Once we start examining the way we live our lives, the frittering away of time, money & energy in chasing illusions that promise happiness (at the price of freedom & integrity), we find that our homes and our minds are choked with clutter. Only the foolish march into the woods with nothing but a pocketknife, planning to live in a hollow tree and "be happy". With sensible mental preparation, a certain few skills, and the courage to face down threats of failure, one can build a warm and dry shelter, raise food in a small garden, homeschool the children, do home health care and homebirths, and fashion a solar or wind electric power system. You can start this spring. Indeed, the life of self-reliance can begin tomorrow morning with a backyard raised-bed organic garden. With a few skills and a few hours of care, it can provide you with a surprising number of near-free nutritious meals. The rich can’t buy more tasty and nutritious produce than that.

To achieve peace in the world, to affect non-violence among neighbors, to accomplish fair distribution of wealth, to change the world one must change oneself. In taking charge of your life you are making a social, moral, and political statement. We change the System by changing ourselves. Your taking charge of your lifestyle is a powerful social, moral, and political statement. And again, to have happy children, provide them with happy parents. — Norm

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2011 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name, e-mail address, and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to . If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 108

By Norm Lee
April 15, 2012 on assignment for The Journal of Psychohistory

March, 2011 e-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:

Over 32,240 visits.

The earth willingly teaches WISDOM
to all those who can learn;
the better she is served,
the more GOOD THINGS she gives in return.

- Xenophon, in Oeconomicus, c.400 B.C.

Copyright August, 2000 by Norm Lee
[May be copied for private use, but not sold.]


Why garden?

Tho many benefits will appear later, reducing food bills and enjoying family are as good as any to begin with. As the gardener tends his plot and season progresses, he/she finds the flavors homegrown are far superior to the supermarket's. With the extra vitamins and regular mild exercise comes a gradual improvement in general health and vigor. News of a trucker's strike brings no stress. The confidence and security derived from a step-up in self reliant living cannot be estimated in dollar value.

As produce ripens so grows the pleasure in sharing lore with other gardeners, as gardeners have practiced since man evolved from hunter/gatherer to gardener/home builder. Now the garden begins to be recognized as a quiet and patient teacher waiting for the gardener to open to its subtle and profound lessons. One may begin to experience spiritual joys as the garden, once a mere work place for "digging in the dirt", evolves into a refuge, a retreat for mindful meditation.

A backyard garden should be an all-family activity, with planting/growing/harvesting as teacher of skills and wisdom. The obvious parallels to childrearing: The space needs to be carefully prepared with safety in mind: protection from the elements (deep cold and burning sun), and predators (animals large and small, & harmful insects). No harsh chemicals or poisons, no artificial food.

Just as children are not neglected, the garden is closely monitored as to its ever-changing needs as it grows to maturity. A healthy plant will ward off attacks of disease or weather, but it is so authentic it will, if abused or neglected, die before your face. The gardener, like the parent, has to change from thinking me-me-me to thinking of others’ needs. Let your garden be your guru.

Why organic? The home gardener chooses to grow organically so his plants can feed on nutrient-rich, natural soil instead of artificial fertilizers, and he declines to play the fool by spraying poison on his food.

Site: The plants require a reasonably level site with minimum six hours' sunshine, access to water, and soil conditions that allow for deep-dug compost beds. Choose a spot that is protected from strong winds, away from trees and large sun- and water-hogging bushes. Southeast of the house is best, due south next best, east is third best; forget west and north. In southern and southwest areas of the U.S. be sure to provide 50% or so shade protection during the hottest months.

Soil: With gardening, like good parenting, you think first always in terms of meeting the needs of the garden. Any gardener worth his trowel makes his own soil. You take care of the soil, the soil provides for the plants, the plants produce food for you. No boxes of "plant food", no machinery. The three most important things in gardening are: 1. soil; 2. soil, and 3. soil. To us it’s compost, compost, compost.

In most areas there are three types of soil: clay, sand and humus. It is good to have a mixture favoring humus, but in any case your soil will improve with compost. Be an extremist here: composting cannot be overdone. No need for home gardeners to test for pH. As a general rule, whatever the problem or deficiency of your soil, lots of compost will fix it. In my deep-compost raised-bed garden, I do the layering, then plant on top of it, letting the roots do the mixing.

Compost: The organic gardener is not troubled with poor soil, because wherever he is, he makes his own. I've raised gardens in northern Vermont, three sites in New York state, three sites in the deserts of Arizona, and now in California. In a Mexican fishing village I developed a deep-compost food garden on the salty, sandy shore of the Sea of Cortez. All successfully grew abundant food. There is no soil that cannot be improved by composting. Walt Whitman said it best: "Behold this compost! Behold it well ...! It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions!" Summer and winter, every day I take my raw kitchen garbage out to bury in the raised-bed garden.

There are many compost "recipes", made to look complicated. Don’t buy it. Providing your garden with sufficient compost is neither mysterious, complicated, nor work-intensive. Layer a few inches of each: topsoil (humus), greens (grass clippings, raw vegetable kitchen scraps, leaves), manure (horse, cow, chicken, never dog or cat). No meat – it attracts rats. Keep the pile moist but not wet, and aerate it by mixing (turning) it every few days. After a few weeks (composting is not an exact science) it will be ready to spade into your garden soil, or fill up garden beds, and/or use as mulch.

Mulch: Mulch is compost-type material used to cover the soil's surface after the plants have started. Other than compost, mulch is by far the best friend and work saver a gardener ever had, far better than any $2000 tiller. Apply two or so inches of grass clippings, peat moss, leaves, chipped Xmas trees, bark, pine needles, the list is nearly endless. People even use newspapers, old carpets and flagstone, but these do not feed nutrients to the soil as do the above.


Why not combine the best gardening methods known today? You want practices that (1) produce the most abundant crops in the least space; [2] provide the most vitamins, flavor and economy; (3) require the least work, water and tools, (4) most effectively deter harmful insects, plant diseases, and weeds.

Organic methods deliver healthiest produce, most economically. The composted soil produces largest crops, and makes for the strongest plants - which insects like to avoid.

Raised beds, once built, are work-savers in a great many ways: more efficient use of compost and mulch, smaller garden to fence and shade, and more production per plant (because the soil is not compacted by treading between rows).

Intensive planting combined with deep mulch raised beds multiply food production per square foot many times over. The "shade mulch" keeps down weeds, keeps soil moist, saves water.

Companion planting has been proven to discourage predatory insects; basil among the tomatoes, for example. In fact, scattered plantings of French Marigolds, onions, radishes and any mint herb will do much to discourage the bad bugs, but keep good ones like Lady Bugs and mantis.

Successive plantings can easily double your food production by extending the growing season. Begining with starting seed flats of tomato and cabbage family in late winter, you can raise a spring garden, a summer garden, and a fall garden.

Year 'Round Gardening. In the late '70s, early '80s Sherrie and I pioneered a method of producing vegetables all winter long in the outside garden in northern climes, eliminating the need for greenhouse, root cellar, freezing, drying or canning. After five years of learning, our New Years Day vegetarian meal consisted of 20 vegetables bursting with flavor, fresh-picked from raised beds under a blanket of dry hay, sheet plastic, and a foot of snow. [See my regular gardening column in back issues of Homesteaders News, and my article on winter gardening in Feb '85 East West Journal. For my planting instructions for all four seasons, see the color centerfold in The Mother Earth News #85. Check out also TMEN's book, A TO Z HOME GARDENER'S HANDBOOK #7.]


First, The Paper Garden

Stage (1) of gardening is doing your reading. There is a plethora of material on raising food in your backyard garden. (But be suspicious if they want to sell you something.) Look around and you’ll find it – and ask your neighbor. Stage (2) is creating the plan. This can be as enjoyable as the stages following: (3) digging in the dirt, and (4) plucking the harvest.

[This information below - indeed, for this entire article - is selected and condensed from NORM LEE'S BOOK OF GARDEN LISTS]

The most common mistakes:

  • DON'T plan a large garden
  • DON'T use chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • DON'T plant rows instead of beds
  • DON'T fail to use abundant compost
  • DON'T plant too much seed too thickly
  • DON'T buy "work-saving" tools
  • DON'T plant seed too deep
  • DON'T fail to apply mulch

How To Avoid Work
The wise (and lazy) gardener plans a small garden, loads raised beds with deep compost, and plants intensively. This reduces losses from pests, diseases, and drought. The raised bed intensive planting uses the compost, water and mulch most efficiently, reduces the stooping and bending, and virtually eliminates weeds. There is no plowing, tilling, hoeing, cultivating, weeding, spraying, dusting, etc.

You can quickly spend $5,000 on tools, sold to you on the claim that they "save work". When you calculate the hours of work required to earn the money to pay for them, those expensive tillers and weeders and sprayers are not so cheap. You need only four tools: shovel, rake, trowel, and a four-tine fork. In hotter climes, add a hose for irrigation.

Tools that make work and expense: roto-tiller, hoe, cultivator, plow, harrow, seeder, chemical sprayer, sprinkler ... on and on. That’s too much work for me.

What to plant

1. Easiest to grow: radish; leaf lettuce; spinach; tomatoes; onion sets; sweet corn; summer squash; beet greens; bush beans; turnips; peas

2. Quickest to harvest: within six weeks: radish; turnip; leaf lettuce; spinach; beans; beet greens; summer squash, green onions from sets

3. Most popular vegetable in home gardens: tomato, leaf lettuce, onion, cucumber, beans, radish, green pepper, carrot, peas, beet, spinach, corn, summer squash, cabbage

4. Most nutritious vegetables: (in order of food value, fresh & raw); broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, peas, asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot

5. Short season crops: bush bean, beet green, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, lettuce, radish, pea, early corn, Chinese cabbage

6. Flats to set out (and cover) a month before average last frost in spring: cabbage; broccoli; cauliflower; onion; lettuce; Swiss chard

7. Flats to set out two weeks after average last frost date: tomato; summer squash; green pepper; cucumber; eggplant, cantaloupe

When to plant seeds:

1. On Average Last Frost Date: beans, corn, cucumber, pepper, cantaloupe, pumpkin, summer squash, winter squash, watermelon

2. Plant at mid-summer: Chinese cabbage, parsnip, pea, turnip

Space to allow
Min space requirements per plant:
2 inches: peas, carrot, green onion, beet green
4 inches: bean, globe onion, parsnip, spinach, turnip
6 inches: leaf lettuce, celery, cucumber
9 inches: Swiss chard, spinach
12 in: Chinese cabbage, head lettuce, potato, sum squash, tomato

How Much To Plant Per Person
Figures given for row cropping. For intensive planting, space allowed must come from experience and personal tastes. Suggestion is to begin modestly:

1. Plant per person: 20 radish, carrot, beet, onion, turnip
Plants per person: 3 cantaloupe, summer squash, winter squash
Plants per person: 5 broccoli, Brussels sprout, cauliflower, pepper, tomato, white cabbage, Chinese cabbage
Plants per person: 10 bush bean, potato, spinach
Plants per person: 20 pea, sweet corn

2. Normally potatoes, sweet corn, squashes and melons are grown in patches, not raised beds.

The Children’s Garden

What do the children like to eat? What do they like on their pizza? They can have their own 2 ft. X 4 ft. raised bed garden and plant one each Early Girl and Better Boy tomato plant. Buying the young plants is easiest, but bigger kids could start seeds in peat pods. Onions raised from onion sets is another easy one. Bell peppers are not difficult, nor are zuccini, the most copious of all. What do they like in their salad? Radishes, lettuce, carrots are all favorites, altho carrots can be a challenge. But with radish, lettuce, green onion zuccini and tomatoes, kids can raise their own salads.

Watching the children react in the garden can be immensely rewarding. They often find they savor the vegetables they had previous scorned. Surprises occur, as when my son discovered that the ketchup he loved was made from the tomatoes he thought he hated. Today his peas are at the table long before mine. Kids will want to raise food for their own plate when they see grownups having fun at it. As with plants, do not force. - norm

The Norm Report - Month 107
February, 2011

e-mail: Norm Lee’s website:

Over 31,800 visits.

I went to the woods because
I wished to live deliberately, and
not to come to the end of life to find
I had not lived.

    – Henry David Thoreau

In an Upstate NY cafe I was sitting with a friend when a truck driver waiting at the corner light went into a rage just short of ballistic. The VW driver ahead of him happened to be blowing his nose at the moment the light clicked to green and the trucker, evidently under much stress, erupted in an abusive tirade. Turning to my friend I said, "The crumbling of society as begun."

That was in 1968, the year that a leading psychological organization estimated that over 90% of the millions of NYC residents needed psychological therapy, and 25% of those needed emergency psychiatric first aid – today. The 43 years that have passed since then have shown everyone that the mental illness we all now acknowledge, the rapidly rising fear and anxiety, can destroy us as individuals as well as all that we cherish. Indeed, it can poison and kill society itself. At the same time, however, the instinctive wisdom that is inherent in each of us moves us to take intelligent and appropriate action to counter that insanity.

Among the many stress-relieving methods currently used are jogging, massage, bubble baths, and dreamy music. The easiest, most convenient, least expensive way to relax is by using the body’s built-in stress reliever, the breath. "Take a deep breath," has always been suggested when we’re gripped by feelings of fear and anger. In recent times many people making a daily practice of it have found that this free stress-reducer does more than relieve stress, and that its benefits are cumulative. Everybody has breath. We carry it around with us, we can practice unobtrusively while waiting at bus stops, on airplane flights, and during church sermons. Most have chosen the routine practice during the morning quiet of home, before children and bosses begin to challenge patience.

Last October I sat with 3,000 others to hear Buddhist nun Pema Chodron talk on the wisdom in "Smile At Fear", and to practice mindfulness of breathing. In what was once a Ford Motor Co. assembly plant we were sitting in silence in a huge room overlooking San Francisco Bay, and we were practicing a time-tested method of creating peace of mind in the only way possible for us. It helped us to shed the tensions caused by the resentments, negative memories, and hates that invade our daily and nightly thoughts by the thousands. Over the weekend, never was heard a discouraging word. Three thousand people, packed together in one room for three days, and not one angry or impatient incident all weekend. How was that possible? In my forty years as a Buddhist, I had never seen that. But then, I had never seen Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun who is director of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice mindfulness of breath. Indeed, among those attending there were Christian ministers, Catholic priests, nuns in habit, turbaned Indians, and more. This is not a religious practice; it speaks to anyone who seeks peace of mind and peace in the world. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of "Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life", trains physicians and businesspeople in secular "meditation". His business is designed to help reduce the stress of individuals and groups, resulting in lowered stress levels in society as a whole.

At a Birminham, Alabama, prison 40 inmates sit practicing breathing mindfulness. They are using a technique taught by Buddha to his disciples 2,500 years ago, and practiced by countless Asians across the centuries. The purpose? To acquire peace of mind, badly needed inside prison walls. They practice to reduce the overwhelming fear, worry and stress of everyday living. Simply stated, it was training to live in the present moment, the place where there is no fear, leaving behind both the past and the future, where the poisons of fear, tension, and aggression lurk. Warden Gary Hetzel says he has no idea how "just breathing" changes the violent felonious convicts – murder, rape, grand theft auto, etc., – into peaceful, relaxed inmates. "It works," says the warden. "We see a difference in the men. They’re calmer." Because it is not "just breathing", it is breathing with full attention focussed on the rising and falling of the breath.

"Parenting As Practice" is the title of a short chapter in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, "Wherever You Go, There You Are". He writes that parents need incoming energy that "nurtures and revitalizes" them now and then, otherwise stress can cause breakdown of the family and subsequent lifetime suffering of its members. All of us are aware that children suffer more than others when their family goes dysfunctional, but how is the breakdown prevented? Says Kabat-Zinn, the two possible sources of that incoming energy are: "outside" support from family, friends, and relatives; and "inner" supports that are discovered in practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing.

The practice of mindfulness of breath has grown so widespread in the past several years that free one-on-one instruction is now available in almost every community in the USA. Media coverage is now rife, in newspapers, magazines, TV, the Internet. In December, 2010, Most recently, Public Broadcasting System ran a feature that gave instruction on stress-reducing mindfulness breathing, both National Geographic and Time Magazine published a story about it, as did Bottom Line Personal. Awareness of the breath is fast becoming the most widely-accepted antidote to the fear and anxiety that is the sickness of our age.

The golden key to reducing the tension and worry that plagues us is awareness of the rising and falling of the breath. There are other ways to practice mindfulness of body, like mindfully walking and mindfully washing dishes, but breathing is always with us. Nevertheless, applying attention to whatever we’re doing is helpful in keeping us grounded in reality, the very definition of sanity. The point is to be wholly present, not multi-tasking and multi-thinking.

This self-training has been known and used for over two thousand years. The wise men of ancient India taught a practice of being aware of what the body and mind are doing. Persistence in the practice, it was found, brought about more benefits than expected, including improved health, deeper insight, and, of course, a state of relaxation theretofore unknown. Today that same practice is taught all over the U.S. and most countries as well. Traditionally, no fee is charged for instruction. What is asked in return is commitment to practice, and persistence in the discipline. There is a teacher near you, but anyone can start reducing stress now by following the directions given below.

Even the medical scientists have shown interest: Dr. Herbert Benson, the Harvard researcher who authored "The Relaxation Response", delivered extensive scientific research showing that brief practice of mindfulness breathing can lower the body’s response to stress, and even change the cells of the body. The remedy, he says, is right under your nose. Judi Bar of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine teaches yoga classes for patients to help them deal with pain and disease. "[Breathing mindfulness] will both energize and relax us,"she reports. In the same clinic Maden Golubic, MD, tells us that mindfulness breathing can have a profound impact on our health and physical being. "You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,"says Dr. Golubic. "There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions – they benefit."

A beginning can be as simple as taking a deep breath while focussing the attention on its rising and falling, returning the mind to the breathing when the mind drifts away. Then repeating, keeping the mind on the rising, falling. Do that for five minutes, or 10, and see how it feels.

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2011 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name, e-mail address, and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to . If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 106
December, 2010 e-mail:

Norm Lee’s website: /
Over 31,200 visits.

I saw and heard, and knew at last
The Why and How of all things, past
And present, and forevermore.
The universe, cleft to the core...

——— Edna St. Vincent Millay

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
The teenage poet stood on Mount Megunticook on the northern coast of Maine, viewing the splendor of Penobscot Bay below. The scene inspired her to write one of the most celebrated poems in American literature.
I turned and looked another way
And saw three islands in a bay.
Born on George Washington’s birthday in 1892, the quiet and pretty 19-year-old girl wrote "Renascence", after having written poems since early childhood. The poem alerted the literary world that an important young poet was now among them. Musically gifted as well, "Vincent", as she was known, won singing contests along with her poetry awards.

"Renascence" tells the story of a deeply felt spiritual experience, told as she lay on a grassy mound, and imagined she’d try to reach the sky.

And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky...
Intuitively she experienced a depth of insight not reached before, seeing "immensity made manifold...the ticking of eternity". Profound understanding of reality followed, together with great compassion for the ubiquitous suffering of humankind.
All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine...Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate...
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.
It was too much to bear, and she "craved relief" for each suffering individual, but found it impossible as she died with each one.
A man was starving in Capri
He moved his eyes and looked at me
And she suffered hunger with him, as she did with the thousand drownings in disaster at sea. The weight of the awesome burden caused her to sink slowly into the earth, where the heaviness of human hate and aggression soon rolled off. Immense peace came now, a much-needed quietude to rest her mind and soul. Suddenly:
All at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall...
And she loved the sound of it, appreciating it as she never had before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who’s six feet underground.
Now she wants to rise to earth again to relish the beauty of nature, of rain-drenched apple trees.
How can I bear it, here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
Then a crying out for divine help:
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
There followed "a sense of glad awakening":
And all at once the heavy weight
Fell from my eyes and I could see
A drenched and dripping apple tree!
Drunk with the bliss of beholding earth’s natural beauty again, the very joys of living, she sprang up to hug trees and even the very ground "as one gone mad".
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky...
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on thy heart!
In the end we see that our power for good comes not so much from the head as from the heart, that
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide
The soul must find openness if goodness, lovingkindness, is to have a chance to prevail, else
...East and West will pinch the heart
That cannot keep them pushed apart,
And he whose soul is flat – the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2010 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name, e-mail address, and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to . If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 105
November, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:

Over 30,800 visits

Misbehavior is temporary;
punishment is forever.

- NL

There ought to be a law

Corporal punishment is a continuum from a light spanking to bone-breaking blows. Studies show that the latter almost always begins with the former. Once begun, physical punishment is sure to escalate. There is no case that I have heard of where the possible tragic consequences served as a deterent to CP – except the threat of legal action.

It is scarcely believable that in this day and age our justice systems – local, state and national – fail to adequately protect the most vulnerable and defenseless among us from assault, from neglect, and from emotional trauma. Indeed, in a sane and decent world, maltreatment of children would be prosecuted as a serious violation of law: a misdemeanor if not a felony.

All punishment of children is founded on ignorance. People inflict pain on kids and tell them that it is for their own good, that someday they’ll thank the violator for their "tough love". The reality is that it is not for their own good; that is a rationalization for the real motive: to feel virtuous, to please God or relatives or neighbors or those who will look on approvingly. Or all of the above. And the child grows up with a warped idea of what "love" is.

The future depends on violators finding the psychological help they need to become fully human. They need to understand that children are not naturally disobedient, requiring imposition of strict parental authority. Their true inherent nature, clearly evident during their earliest days and weeks and months, is lovingkindness. This puts to lie the church’s insistence that babies are born "in sin". Can parents learn to trust their own experience, trusting the natural, joyful affection of a small child? That’s the Basic Goodness I’ve been talking about. We all have it, if we can connect with it.

Enlightened childraising

When the basics of enlightened childraising are learned, children are no longer punished for the normal child behavior that parents find so annoying. Reacting to the "disobedience" perceived by the punisher, pain is inflicted, provoking unpleasant behavior. In short, parents are the cause of the "misbehavior" they punish for.

A child never "needs" to be punished, or should be. Punishment is NOT discipline; discipline is not punishment. The only way discipline can be learned is by watching what role models do. Clearly it is the parents and teachers that need the training in discipline, i.e., self-discipline. Children are eager to be like the grown-ups they admire, and so they keenly observe their reactions to challenges. Kindness and patience are learned from models of lovingkindness in their lives, while bullying and brutality are learned from bullying adults. Why is that a mystery? Violence on whatever level is totally harmful, and needs to be criminalized, nationally.

What a brain researcher tells us

Dr. Bruce Perry, noted brain researcher, came to Phoenix, AZ, a few years ago and announced his latest findings: spankings and other physical punishment can change the chemistry, and even the structure, of a child’s brain. It can actually lower the I.Q. Listen: striking a child makes them stupid. This we now know: Striking children makes them less able to learn what they need to learn to live in this world. The punishment inflicted today is by the hand of those who were earlier made less bright by spankings, whippings, and other torture. The future of those childhood victims – and of society itself - depends on the perpetrators being given the help they need to overcome that emotionally crippling treatment. It is required for them to evolve to a fully human state.

CP is the knee-jerk reaction to solve a problem. But CP is not the solution. Indeed, it causes even more misbehavior. Punishment, ALL of it, is a betrayal of the child’s trust in their protectors and nurturers, their parents and teachers. The odds are that the abused kids (and all CP is abuse,) grow up to be the abusers of the next generation. But some few grow up to stop them. Punishment, they somehow found out, is a stone parachute, and therein lies our hope.

Physically punishing a child is an attack on U.S. society, since that is where the violent consequences will be made manifest. The heavy price will fall on us, the taxpayers, to pay for police and prisons, divorce courts and mental health clinics, unemployment and welfare, etc. But we don’t suffer the most. Who does? The children, as always.

If only parents and teachers were as concerned about smacking children around as they are about erectile dysfunction.

– Norm

The Norm Report - Month 104
October, 2010 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 30,540 visits

"You don’t have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step."

- Martin Luther King


      Something very fundamental: the humanization of childrearing is taking place, and we’re deeply involved in it.

      Spanking has run its course. Like cigarette smoking, it is gradually being given up. Why? Because the word is out on the research showing the deadly harm punishment does to children, and to society as a whole. The corporal punishment theory, the public is finally realizing, is grossly flawed. It has taken more than two generations to gain the attention of the majority of parents and teachers. It will take many more than that to eliminate only the worst of it, the physical: the grabbing, slapping, spanking, pinching, hair-pulling, caning, belting, whipping ...

      But we’re on our way. We can see the goal from here. Faith in the power of punishment is withering; the "woodshed disciplinarian" is becoming recognized as the bullying Sasquatch he’s always been. The cowards are on the run, my friends, and we can take modest credit (at least) for this historic breakthru.

      During the 30s & 40s I witnessed first hand the nascent decline of the Modern Age of Domination and Brutalization of Children. The underpinnings began being eaten away early in the 40s, when thinkers like John Dewey, later Benjamin Spock and others of intellectual standing, broke into print and stood at podiums speaking bravely and writing persuasively for a more humane approach to childrearing and schooling.

      Yet there are vestiges even today of the Simian thinking of the Dirty Thirties. In Arizona only three years ago a male teacher, even after I had explained the deep harm inflicted by corporal punishment, described to me in detail how he struck down a mouthy student in his schoolyard. This lout of a man told with such relish and spittle of his smackdown of a child in his teens, that he salivated as he related the shocking story, so eager was he to be admired for it.

      In the Thirties little was known about the harmful effects of CP, or vast extent of its practice. After research began in the 1940s, when Murray Straus published surveys showing that 98% of parents spanked their two-year-olds, (some even during the interviews,) the intelligent reading public took notice. Today, some 60 years later, hundreds of studies have produced overwhelming evidence that spanking – with its endless variations – result in a long list of injurious consequences in children, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. These results show up in school failure records, crime reports, divorce statistics, mental illness stats, and patterns of second-generation child abuse.

      More than a half-century of studies now number in the hundreds that show the harm inflicted, while the credible studies that show advantages of corporally punishing children total exactly zero.

      SHOUT-OUT: Isn’t it time that we, as a culture, recognized the urgent need to renounce and abolish the punishment of children? At least the hitting, bashing, slapping attacks? The assaults that, if done to a grownup, would lead to litigation and possible jail time? And to a child, lead to depression, learning difficulties, spouse abuse, underemployment, and marriage failure?


      Known #1. One thing we know is that almost all of the violations are inflicted by "mom" – the yelling, the humiliations, the violence, the cruel handling, the neglect. Likely it would be "Daddy" if he were the stay-at-home primary caregiver. Unquestionably young children can sap dry the energy and nerves of even the healthiest and most stable women (or men) when confined day after day in small rooms with small children. It is clear that finding rest breaks are essential. So are training and practices that relieve stress and discipline the mind. Newspapers endlessly tell of the tragic failures where there is no relief for long-term stress on the battlefield or in the home.

      Known #2. The chief saving factor is that things change, and children change faster than anyone. Nothing remains the same, one day to the next. Recognition and mindfulness of this fact can mean the preservation of balance, even sanity, of caregivers of toddlers and pre-schoolers especially. We can all see that the world is moving and changing at a rate heretofore unprecedented. The world speeds by at accelerating rates – the driving, the speaking, the working, the texting, the twitting. In children this phenomenon is hugely rapid - and noticeable. Whatever behavior is being displayed at a given time is sure to change soon.

      Yet so many parents believe that certain behaviors must be "nipped in the bud", else the child will never change. The belief is that the child – unless "corrected" - will exhibit the unapproved behavior in adulthood, and as a consequence go directly to prison. Ergo, it is their job, they suppose, to "teach them a lesson" now to prevent the unthinkable. But if they wait and observe, they will see the behavior changing as the child learns from daily experience. The offensive behavior does not stay the same – unless it is punished. Said a wise parent long ago, "The behavior that never changes is that which was most punished for."

      Known #3. And we know this: In a contest of wills with a child of any age, you cannot win. Repeat: You cannot win. Fight that foolish battle, and you are sure to lose. The traditional recourse then is to trot out the Brutal You, and fall back on default position: Physical Power. With superior size and strength we can strike out with corporal punishment, and call it victory. Physical domination – i.e., bullying - is but a temporary measure, as legions of parents have learned too late. Children keep growing until they’re bigger and stronger than we are. The spank-hit-shake brute-force option is a fool’s game. And only fools use it.

      It is wise to question every "right" we think we have over another human being of any size or strength. And it is prudent to examine closely for any truthfulness in such notions as we hear from defenders of punishment: "It’s not ‘hitting’ if Mom does it."

      SHOUTOUT: Isn’t it time we recognized – and declared loudly – that ALL punishment of children is debilitating, harmful, destructive, and UNNECESSARY for their upbringing?

      Known #4. Child abuse begins with the first spank. A child will believe anything you tell him – or teach him – about himself. He/she builds identify from it. The people around him teach him who he "is" by how they treat him. Altho my own early years are nothing to celebrate, I’ve often pondered on what it must feel like for a four-year-old black child to be told, especially by a parent, "You’re nothing but a no-good nigger." It need not be articulated, only shown by treatment.

      It can be endured on the street, so long as it is not inflicted in the home. If home is not a refuge, there are ready alternatives: gangs, crime, drugs, murder, suicide... And what is offered in its stead? Maybe boys and girls clubs, boy scouts, but most often, "Run to the (imaginary) arms of Jesus" at a storefront church; find heavenly happiness in the "security" of death.

      At least the al Quida promise 72 virgins.

      Known #5. Living in contact with reality is one definition of sanity. Read this morning’s paper or simply observe the people around you, and you’ll see that sanity is in short supply. Most people are in a trance state, or lethargy, one step away from sleep. Or are on the edge of panic and explosion.


      When people have children in an attempt (secret or unconscious) to meet their own emotional needs, it can result only in victimizing the children. The resulting conflict carried to adulthood in the unconscious accounts for violent, outrageous, disturbing and bizarre behavior often beyond toleration by society, i.e., legally actionable.

      The ignorant flatter themselves imagining their superiority over the learned. Hence, the compulsively placed quote marks around "expert". An expert is someone who has made a study of some depth in the subject matter; the wisest are also aware that no one is infallible.

      Misbehavior and rebelliousness are symptoms, not the cause of the basic problem of unhappy children. Punishment is like treating the rash, the pimples, and ignoring the disease. Investigation of the origins of childhood misbehavior shows that a major cause is punishment itself. It follows hunger, fatigue, and boredom.

      The first mistake is viewing newborns as containers to fill, or plastic to mold, or a blank slate to scribble upon. The 2nd mistake is setting up an adversary relationship with the child. The 3rd mistake is "teaching lessons" to "prepare them for life".

      To remedy the 1st mistake is to see the child as the unique individual it was born to be, authentic, with Basic Goodness, i.e., without "sin". It is a being who has no faults – until "corrected". Secondly, the child is not the enemy, not a slave to be given orders, not a dog from which to demand obedience.

NEXT: Great Discoveries in Our Time

The Norm Report - Month 103
September, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 30,300 visits

Everyone loves the truth,
but not everyone tells it.

- Yiddish proverb            

How it began long ago

      If there is a "grand design" we can agree on, it is that the male and female who conceive a child are meant to provide it with nurture, love and protection. As humans, we’ve had over 4,000 years to work on this, and are still falling way short of worldwide decent treatment of children. Slow learners? The U.S., to our shame, is far from leading the world in kindly care for our vulnerable young.

      The treatment of children in ancient times is fraught with horrors. For the terrifying details, read Lloyd deMause’s "History of Child Abuse" (fair warning) on It is not for the squeemish. Read also, same site, "The Evolution of Childrearing". Dr. deMause, who founded the study of Psychohistory, sets out six stages in the progress of humanization of parental care. They range from bashing infants’ heads on cave walls and toasting the brains over fires, to today’s best Helping Mode, child centered and non-punitive. Need we say, it is practiced all too rarely.

      The highly advanced Romans lent out their young sons to friends for their sexual pleasure; for further entertainment, young girls were raped on stage as audiences cheered. During the Middle Ages fewer girl babies were smothered or drowned as their siblings looked on, while the older, stronger boys were set to work as chattel.

      Progress is slow: there are vestiges of each of the six stages in most cultures in the world today, some in our own neighborhoods.

      Even in my painful memory of the Dirty 30s in rural Vermont, the common Christian wisdom held that it was God’s will that children should have the Devil beaten out of them – "for their own good". One would expect that being "born in sin" is an indictment fit for a Kafka short story, not a basis for battering children. This betrayal of the faith and trust of a child was a conviction unanimously held by every Christian adult of my acquaintance. That must be, I thought, why religions were invented. Without parents’ protection, we need to create a "loving" father in the sky.

      Likely we all know what terror is because each one of us has experienced the trauma of being yelled at, or rejected, or abandoned, or beaten by our designated natural protectors. Those doubting this have likely stuffed the memory deeply into the unconscious, to be later acted out in criminal acts, divorces, child abuse, and war.

A New Awareness, a New View: the Forties

      Humanists like Rousseau and others led the way for American philosopher John Dewey early in the 20th Century. He had seen the massive exploitation of children in the sweatshops of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, followed by the rise of forced attendance at grammar school. His examination of public schooling practices called for improved methods of teaching, together with better treatment of children. Such radical ideas angered many, who believed teaching Latin by the "hickory stick" was the tried-and-true "traditional" way. Everyone "knew" that gentle treatment of children would mean the end of discipline. The educated were shocked to see so much bad-mouthing of Dewey for his Progressivism, and Benjamin Spock for daring to suggest more kindly treatment of children. Is not 4,000 years sufficient to learn that maltreatment creates more problems?

      I was privileged to be a friend of Dr. Scott Nearing who, before World War I, had campaigned against the crippling child labor practice in the dark factories of Pennsylvania. Highly respected as a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Economics, his textbooks were used in colleges everywhere. Scott told me how the university president called him in and notified him that the captains of industry were heavy contributers to the University, therefore lecturing them about mistreating children must stop. Scott thanked him, and went right on railing against the factories’ forcing ten-year-olds to work 12- and 14-hour shifts in unhealthy conditions.

      Dr. Nearing was fired, and blacklisted in academia. His textbooks were deleted from reading lists, his publishers stripped his textbooks from their shelves. A storm of protest arose from academia. Learned men here and abroad registered their objection to suppression of academic freedom. The highly celebrated John Dewey and others spoke at public forums and philosopher Bertrand Russell came from Britain to do the same. Scott kept writing, self-publishing his works, as he and Helen Knothe built by hand a stone home in Vermont. They tapped maple trees and sold maple syrup. Then their 1959 best-seller "Living the Good Life" triggered the back-to-the-land rush of the Sixties. I met them when they agreed to appear at the first "homesteaders festival" that Sherrie and I produced in 1978. To throngs of admirers, Scott and Helen spoke to our workshops in food gardening and cabin building. On the final evening before the mass gathering, he delivered a strong speech on economics that made headlines.

      Scott was 90 years old then. He was 95 when we worked together building their stone home on the coast of Maine. Tho he was 40 years my senior, he worked me to exhaustion. A lifelong vegetarian, he hadn’t seen a doctor in 50 years. A giant among men, a pacifist, author, lecturer and authority on self-reliance, he was known around the world. On his one hundredth birthday having decided he had lived long enuf, he announced he would simply stop eating and take his leave. And he did. Scott was my mentor in self-discipline.

      But I digress. Schooling had come into fashion early in the 1900s, and compulsory education laws gradually replaced child labor practices. This brought vigorous objection from farmers and others who depended on their children’s help at home. The compromise was the long break from school during summer to allow for crop planting and harvesting.

      This is not the end. Watch this space. – Norm

The Norm Report - Month 102
August, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 30,000 visits

ALICE MILLER   1923 – 2010

After speaking out against CP for 30 years without a single ally or agreement, I discovered Psychohistory. Thru participating in discussions on its listserve I made the acquaintance of Jordan Riak, Mady Gomez, and Mitch Hall, beginning a friendship more than a decade ago. During the years since then we have worked together toward our common goals: raising awareness of the critical need for compassion and sanity in the raising of children. At PH I learned that the organization was, in part, early inspired by the work of a German-speaking therapist, Alice Miller, who was doing research in the early causes of violence.

In April Psychohistory founder Lloyd deMause wrote: "Alice passed away at 87 on April 14th, but her conviction that all wars and personal violence was the result of "our imposing our most agonizing suffering upon our children," which is then re-inflicted upon others as they grow up. "What we need," Alice wrote, "is a total revision of the methods of child rearing and our traditional view about it."

Of her first address to the Psychohistory audience, Lloyd wrote, "Her message was simple but powerful: We need to profoundly revise our entire theories and practices of childrearing." She herself was victimized by the German generation’s brutal child-treatment that gave the world Adolf Hitler, his followers, and the 50 million deaths of World War II. Hence, central to the work of PH scholars has been the humanizing of the methods of raising children. [See]

The power of her words in For Your Own Good (1980) so moved me that I count it as a pivotal experience in my education. She had seen my postings in the PH listserve, and we soon got acquainted via email. She asked me to help her start a listserve of her own to connect with her readers. I leaped at the honor; displeasing her was, of course, unthinkable.

Alice was exacting, and demanded unquestioned agreement with her words. With other writers in the field her long public feuds were notorious. I had seen her anger flare up unexpectedly, and knew there was no easy way to quiet her. In retrospect I see my working closely with her made conflict inevitable, since we shared similar childhoods of brutality and neglect. At one instance she deleted praise for my work from her book in progress, and refused to write the promised intro to the very book she had urged me to write. Deeply hurt by her rejection, I protested vigorously.

Tho the friendship was broken, I knew her work was far too important to allow my personal feelings to interfere with her teachings. Indeed, I feel immensely privileged to have worked even briefly with this giant whose prolific and pioneering work has resulted in the abolition of CP in every country in Europe plus many others in Africa, South America, Australia and Asia. Without a break I continued to urge readers to buy her books, indeed, I often bought multiple copies to pass to friends. Eventually she invited me, thru her publishers, to review her books, and review copies arrived in the mail. I was proud to do so. Here is one I wrote five years ago:

Review of Alice Miller's THE BODY NEVER LIES (April 28, 2005)
by Norm Lee

In his 1941 book Generation of Vipers, Philip Wylie highlighted how slavishly our U.S. culture worships mothers and motherhood. He scorned how soldiers spelled out "MOM" on parade grounds, and added the term "momism" to our language. The book enraged many, but shook awake far too few. Today, Alice Miller would show us, in detail, how those soldiers – and most of the rest of us – were, and still are, craving the approval, affection and love that was denied us by our parents during childhood. We are still caught in the illusion that we can somehow win and/or earn the love that was so long withheld. Too many gave punishment and called it love.

We have to break free of our (internalized) parents' grip on us, that of the biblical injunction, "Honor (obey, worship,) thy father and thy mother." Until we do, we will continue to feel, think and behave in ways similar to the little children we once were. Who has grown up, really? As children were we accepted and loved for who we were, or did our parents repeatedly punish us in attempts to force us into the imaginary mold they had prepared for us? The wanted us to be what they thought a child "should be".

Dr. Miller's message is that our bodies bear a detailed record of every childhood hurt and humiliation inflicted, every spank and slap, insult and indignity. And until – or if – those internal, psychic wounds remain unhealed, we can expect to continue to pay the terrible price in physical illnesses. Powerless to do otherwise as children, we suppressed and sacrificed our true and good authentic selves so we could win the attention and affection upon which our emotional survival depended.

Dr. Miller writes with astonishing and penetrating truth about the connections between childhood suffering at the hands of parents, and the physical consequences of obedience to the Fourth Commandment. The Biblical law, "Honor thy father and thy mother" is here challenged as the source of widespread – even universal – life-long suffering. As children we attempted to free ourselves from our feelings of fear, insecurity and confusion thru repression and dissociation/self-alienation. Whatever the cost (abandonment of our true selves), we persisted in loving and trusting our parents (we hardly had a choice) and strived to earn their approval, (and thus) to please the Greater Parent in the Sky.

Today, what stands between our bodies and the healing of those injuries is the hold the Fourth Commandment has on our minds. As we live and breathe, the fear of parental rejection/punishment lurks within. Before healing can take place, that fear has to be brought to conscious awareness and examined.

We walk carrying a sack full of personal history, the burden of wounds inflicted by all the punishment and indignities that have ever happened to us. Until we heal those internal wounds, we daily pay a terrible price in suffering, much of it physical illness, and we make others pay as well. Those others are far too often our own children. The claim so often heard, "I got spanked and I turned out OK," cannot be upheld when it is understood how the denial of physical and emotional injuries are connected to present illnesses.

There are three sections to this book: first: illustrations from the lives of famous literary people; second, efforts made at overcoming traditional morality, i.e., effects of 4th Commandment; and third, an in-depth case study of truth suppression as manifested in anorexia.

Alice Miller has expounded at length in earlier books (For Your Own Good) about dictatorial megalomaniacs like Hitler and Stalin who directed their hate and violence toward others. In this book she shows how we direct ours toward ourselves. Examples are taken from the biographies of well-known people: Franz Kafka, Dostoevsky, Checkhov, Schiller, Rimbaud, Proust, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce, et. al. Shown are the efforts of their respective parents to make them over into the child they wanted, and the consequences in the victims' lifelong illnesses and early deaths.

Dr. Miller repeatedly emphasizes the tragic effects, in the form of physical ailments, of the body's life-long yearning for parental love and affection. She touches on the way this suppression is expressed in religion: the command to love God, on pain of unspeakable punishment when we fail to do so; the absurdity of inventing a parent-like creator, perfect and omnipotent, who craves our love. It is an odd god, an immensely dependent god, a Superdaddy who, if given the love demanded, will reward us with an eternity in blissful heaven. (And the teenage suicide bombers of the Middle East are promised the bonus of 72 virgins to sweeten the deal.) Inasmuch as the Great Father is not loved, even worshipped, the alternative is agonizing punishment from now to the "end of eternity".

We have to liberate ourselves from the propaganda imposed on us - and enforced on us on pain of punishment – by conventional morality. This book calls for a higher morality, as it applies to parenthood. We cannot truly love our parents, she asserts, until we are liberated from the infantile attachment, the idolatry that trapped us in our childhood.

Dr. Miller wants the reader to understand and accept that parents who abused us, however well-intentioned, do not deserve our love and honor, regardless of a Moses-imposed commandment to do so. As we all must know, love is one thing that cannot be enforced. Like Sgt. Joe Friday, the body, in its wisdom, accepts only the facts. Higher morality is inherent not in the mind, but in our bodies. Alice takes to task all those friends and relatives and preachers and therapists who say, "Forgive your mother, forgive your father; they did the best they knew how. She changed your diapers, he sacrificed for you, and above all they loved you." Miller will not hear it: forgiveness is a crock and a trap, laid to continue the dependency, and preserve the hope – the illusion &ndash that somehow, sometime, we will finally bask in the love that was so long ago denied us.

Reading Alice Miller is like hearing someone whisper, "I know the secret you are hiding in your past, the feelings of hurt and fright and shame and humiliation at the treatment you suffered at the hands of your parents. And I'm asking you - urging you, challenging you - to come out of that closet and face up to it."

In the valley where I live, the #1 fear, at whatever age, is parental punishment. And among adults, its primary defense is Denial. Behind that denial of childhood mistreatment lies the fear of punishment for denying it. Acknowledgement or recognition of it in adulthood can approach terror. But the price for denial is paid in physical as well as mental illness. When aware of it we can see it everywhere: the suffering in the bodies and faces and behavior of strangers and of those dear to us. But we must begin with ourselves, by bravely confronting the punishing parent within.


The Norm Report - Month 101
July, 2010 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 29,700 visits

For those who’ve been training to relax,
death is liberating.

                                                      — Shantedeva

FIFTY YEARS AGO this month, untold numbers of Americans stopped taking showers. The cause was not a shortage of soap or water but widespread public panic after watching a movie: Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho."

In the infamous shower scene Anthony Perkins’ character repeatedly stabs the hapless and helpless Marion Crane thru the shower curtain as a violin screams. In this black-and-white film, the blood was chocolate syrup. The "murderer" was not Tony Perkins, but an extra that Hitchcock had chosen to play that scene.

So while thousands, behind lock and key, fearfully took sponge baths, or quick tub baths, or none at all, in reality there had been no blood, no stabbing, and no murder. The victim was not nude, the corpse was not dead; the terrifying 45-second event had been pieced together in the editing room from 78 cuts of film. Thousands suffered in mental anguish over images projected on a silver screen.

A couple of decades earlier millions of usually quite stable citizens ran screaming into the streets on hearing Orson Welles’ fictional radio show dramatizing an invasion of aliens from Mars. And in the Twenties a "prophet" named Miller predicted the end of the world, and had groups by the hundreds gathering on hilltops, arms raised in prayer, believing that on the cusp of world destruction the arrival of Jesus from the sky would snatch them to heavenly safety. Such is the power that fear can have over "normal" people not trained in mental discipline.


That power is well known on the worst fringes of politics, religion, and corporate advertising. History shows that manipulating the masses with fearful messages brings power to the charleton, the unprincipled and the sociopath. For the past nine years, in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 attack on the twin skyscrapers in NYC, the mass of Americans have lived with low-level post-trauma anxiety sending both legal and illegal drug sales sky-rocketing. Like characters in a Kafka story, we feel guilty and vulnerable, but in confusion about what, exactly, we’ve done wrong. When people are being held hostage by terror, civil liberties are the first to be sacrificed.

As long as a people are enslaved by fear, there can be no peace. And there can be no freedom. Personally, there is no peace of mind. The hatred and violence all around us seems beyond our ability to deter or influence for good. The only thing that we can change is ourselves. There we can create peace of mind - but only if we know how to do it.

When hatred and fear has gripped us, we see enemies everywhere. If we wish not to live a fear-based life, we need to develop a clear, stable mind. Anxiety and fear gradually calm out when we tame the internal chaos. We can train in taking charge of the thought process, and follow up with persistent practice. With the internal dialogue disciplined, the dark emotions can be dissolved. By examination we discover that the nature of thought is not substantial. Since thoughts are not real, we can stop supporting them, dwelling on them, reacting to them compulsively and automatically.

In fearful situations, first there are the fight-or-flight thoughts. There is an instant at the very outset when they have not yet gained momentum. At that moment there is an opportunity to diffuse the emotional intensity that our thoughts support. Without our support, those emotions cannot continue. We can find the training needed to break the habit of clinging to those feelings, those thoughts.

Few of us have escaped the abuse which, on some level, was inflicted by parents and teachers, if not by siblings or classmates. Bullies of all ages abound, terrifying everyone, dispensing misery and discord. Blind to how their anger destroys trust and respect, they proudly justify and defend it. They are unaware they are "out of control" and lack the skills to be masters of their minds and their own lives. "Those torn by the pain of anger will never know tranquility of mind. They can never rest," wrote Shantideva many years ago. Until we start working with our minds, we are ruled by our emotions. Thus we play out our individual dramas of hope and fear.

The national fear level rose dramatically on Sept 11, 2001, and nine years later it has not yet receded to earlier levels. The government in power, seeing their power increase with each rise in popular fear, periodically announced fear alerts of red, orange, etc. Suspension of "guaranteed" liberties was readily accepted in exchange for the illusion of security. In time, the alerts stopped, but the suspension and the fears remain.


There were always cats in the house when I was a child. Once – only once - a lady visited us who feared cats as she did the Devil. When our cat "Spanky" sauntered into the room that lady let out a yelp, leaped up on the sofa, gathered her voluminous skirts around her legs, and screamed in terror. The cat wisely fled, but we kids, delighting in adult absurdity, giggled breathlessly. Reflecting in later years, I felt compassion for the poor woman in her suffering. But Spanky did not cause her fear. It was her own thoughts that made her panic. She was not in charge of her thought processes.

Most any dictionary or encyclopedia lists dozens of "popular" phobias: snakes, bees, earthworms, birds, you name it, it has a name. Fear of the boogieman, fear of Jabberwocky, fear of Hefalump, fear of communists under the bed. Fear of the dark, fear of the alphabet, fear of number 13. I lived in a town on Route 666 in Arizona where God-fearing citizens marched on the state capitol demanding the road number be changed. The number 666 signified the Devil, they believed. The number was changed and the fearful citizens relaxed - but not by much. Evil lurked everywhere.

What do we fear, basically? We fear punishment from phantom parents who rise from the unconscious to plague us thruout life. We fear the inexorable march toward death, and busily suppress the thought of it. But ultimately we fear the dismantling of the illusion of Selfhood, or its chief supports. We don’t want to lose the house, the car, and our "nice things", the clutter. More than that, we feel fierce attachment to our body, which has been, alas, disintegrating with time. Then there are our trophies, our victories, our merit badges and mililtary decoration, our gold watch, our youthful wife, all of which represents our worth. Our identity. Our ego.

The morning paper shows us a world caught up in madness: enemies could blow us up at any moment, and we rattle incessantly between hope and fear. When we deeply examine hope, we see fear there. We may also see that all people everywhere have the same fears, the same sufferings; that in reality there is no disconnect with other beings. And we see that we all share the same desire for happiness. Thus the basic goodness and kindness in our hearts is liberated. At the end of the day we find that it is our thoughts and actions that determine our happiness or misery, that our hate and greed increases our fears of poverty as our dread multiplies our terror.

Reality check: Nothing is as it appears. We are like dream people getting annoyed at dream objects. With insight, seeing the insubstantial nature of everything, we can see the absurdity of working ourselves into a frenzy. "America," said Bill Maher, "is a nation of ten-year-old girls."

All over the world people are succeeding and failing, hoping for success but fearing failure. When I left my three-year tour of Japan and Korea in 1954 it was to quit the service and attend Syracuse University. As I left I told my friend Ed that I had a great many fears about failing, but there was one fear that could not stop me: I had power over the fear of failure. That is why I succeeded, despite many failures.

We fear we will get hurt, so we put up walls of hostility and prejudice. We cling to rock-hard opinions, arrogance and pride. But there are always cracks in those walls, and thru them emerge the things we really care about. We can learn to expand those cracks by training, and bring down those walls that keep us separated from those we love.

The greatest harm comes from our own aggressive minds. As Pogo, the sage of Okeefenokee swamp, famously said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." We can train to live without certainty, to accept confusion, and relax without the "security" of insurance. We cannot know what will happen to us next week, or tomorrow, or even moments from now. The only real safety is to be found in the Now. None of our control strategies can dodge the unpredictabilities of life, and keep us safe. That fact makes us uneasy, nervous, and afraid. The wise response to that is to grow up. To take responsibility for our lives. We can call on the wisdom and courage not yet discovered inside ourselves.

Today more and more of the fearful are carrying guns. Those who can affort it are withdrawing into gated communities – where they fear their gardeners, housemaids, plumbers, meter readers, and the guards themselves. Franz Kafka wrote of worlds where there was endless fear, but the objects of fear could never be determined.


In "Journey to Ixtlan", Carlos Castenada takes instruction from Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. "Death is your ally," he tells Carlos, "It sits on your shoulder and whispers advice. It is your wisdom friend and constant companion. Listen to it." That is unsettling to Carlos, who has membership in a culture that is afraid of death so avoids talking or thinking about it in personal terms - but finds it fascinating on TV. Don Juan trains him in connecting with Reality by touching the earth, abandoning conceptual reality, and learning to live with uncertainty and insecurity.

If we haven’t relaxed with groundlessness, the emptyness of phenomenon, death will likely be a terrifying experience. We don’t eliminate all fear, but if we’ve got past conceptual thinking, we won’t run for safety into self-absorption. Our fears will connect us with all others who are similarly facing dying and feel alone and afraid. Lacking training in dealing with discomforts and fears, death could be frightening in the extreme.

At bottom, the thing we fear most is obliteration of ego, which is illusion. We cling to the small and fearful cocoon of ego, but we could fly with the freedom and joy of a butterfly. Once out of the cocoon we can see what we previously could not: the cocoon was our prison, the source of our anxiety and fright, the terror pieced together from 78 clippings of movie film.


Norm Report - Month 100
June, 2010 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:

Over 29,500 visits

Our dread of dying is caused by our own
misperceptions and misunderstandings.

                – Thich Nhat Hanh

My grandfather, Fred Lee, died at his home in Fitch Bay, Quebec. Three physicians watched, in confusion and wonder, while the youthful father of two boys died in agony. Later it was determined that his appendix had burst. That was in 1906. My father was three years old.

As a teenager my father migrated to Vermont and worked for 20 years cutting granite gravestones. For the following 40 years he operated his own memorial business; during the first six years I worked beside him, cutting death dates into headstones and setting the monuments in cemeteries. So early on I became comfortably familiar with the death industry. While to many people graveyards are spooky places, when I needed break from the hassle and clamor, I took a peaceful stroll among the gravestones. To me, a cemetery was my refuge.

The end of life would be much less frightening if it were not called death any more.
The fear of death is the source of all religions...

                – Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian dramatist 1862-1949

We shield ourselves – ignore – the disquieting realities of approaching impermanence, death.

                – Shantideva*

I remember the months when Monica was wasting away. I had the feeling of wanting to do something; wanting to express something; not wanting to be a nuisance, to burden her with any emotion or reaction or concern that she didn't want to deal with. One time she was doing Sunday class: she used to save up her strength to be there for class. As I was walking by I overheard her tell somebody something that she said many times: that hope and fear are the same thing. I stopped and said to her "So when your doctor says 'It's hopeless', you just have to be fearless." She said "That's right."

        – Email from a friend

Are we a body having a spiritual experience, or a spiritual being having a physical experience?

Death is the separation of the body from the mind. We get our body from our parents – thru genes, dna, etc. – and happenstance. When my sister was losing her fight against cancer and approaching her last days, I said to her, "The body is a bicycle – we take care of it, protect it, and don’t leave it lay out in the rain. At times you have to see that it’s repaired. You use it, enjoy it, and maintain it as best you are able. As time passes, eventually it wears out, deteriorates from use or disuse. You knew it would, so you’re not surprised.

"Comes the day when it no longer functions and is beyond repair; on that day you need to relax your grip and let it go no matter how much you treasure it. Let Wisdom tell you that the bicycle is not You. The bicycle is gone to the junkyard or recycle center, but your consciousness – not personality but spirit - lives on."

Regard the body as a short-term rental: maintain but not ownership.
Just eat wisely and exercise.

               – Shantideva*

I was assistant to an 85 yr-old man doing masonry work when my father asked him how he felt about his approaching "end time". He said that howevermuch he wished to witness the flight to the moon and space travel, yet, "I anticipate the rest." And he smiled.

At the time of death, only the goodness gained in life will help me can take nothing with you but your state of mind.

               – Shantideva *

It was my privilege to enjoy the friendship of the distinguished Scott Nearing and his wife, Helen. For his speeches against child labor in 1915, Dr. Nearing was fired from his position as professor of economics in Univ. of Pennsylvavia. Publishers stripped his widely-used textbooks from the shelves and stopped printing them. Intellectuals the world over were outraged. He continued protesting the factories’ exploitation of children, and lived an all-but-homeless life. Later he worked the Chatauqua circuit, debating such as Bertrand Russell, Clarence Darrow, and William Jennings Bryan, on topics like capital punishment, ethics vs. war, and the exploitation of animals as well as children.

After they published their best seller, "Living the Good Life", I worked with the renouned authors and vegetarians – Scott was then in his nineties, Helen near eighty – building a stone wall around their vegetable garden in Maine. When approaching his 100th birthday he quietly told Helen, "I think I won’t eat any more." Known around the world for demonstrating how to live "the good life", he would now teach us how to die "a good death." The couple had, years before, arranged for cremation; Scott took his hammer and saw and build a pine box for himself. In a few days he breathed his last, apologizing to Helen for inconveniencing her by failing to crawl into his homemade casket. In a later interview for our "Homesteaders News" magazine, she told me, "He died sweetly, telling me all was fine." I said, ‘Sweetly, Helen? Is that the word to use?’ She insisted it was, exactly. "He was kind to the last." Scott did not believe in God, or heaven/hell, or the bible, but he believed that the spirit continued on. Altho he was not a Buddhist, and he had never read Shantideva, he was nevertheless blessed with Basic Wisdom. And with the compassion of a bodhisattva.

We can relax at death time by reviewing our lives and "bring everything to light"; we can let go by looking honestly at past and present, and die with a clear conscience.

                – Shantideva*

Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity; but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our "biography," our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards...So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are? ...we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn’t that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?

                – Sogyal Rinpoche, "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying"

Dustin Hoffman was once asked if he had chosen an epitaph. "Yes, I want carved on my gravestone: ‘I knew this was going to happen.’"

– Norm

The Norm Report - Month 99
May, 2010 E-mail:

Norm Lee’s website:
Over 29,150 visits

The call for discipline in our society
has always been applied to someone else,
not to oneself.

                                              - C. Trungpa

Buckminster Fuller was in despair. He had failed repeatedly in work and his relationships, and now in midlife with wife and baby, he felt he had failed totally in life itself. Others seem to have thrived by book and system, and he had tried, too. But now he was forced to accept that he was not as others were; he was, not "normal". Worse, he blamed himself for being different.

One evening in Chicago, as he walked on the shore of Lake Michigan, he chose a huge rock to sit on and look into himself. He saw that, tho thinking he had "tried everything", the only thing he hadn’t tried was being who he truly was, and accepting that. But what, who, was the authentic Bucky? Resolving to find out, he examined his values, his thoughts, the constant internal chatter in his uncommonly active mind.

As dawn approached he acknowledged that he had failed in life, yes, but failed only at playing the roles assigned to him. "Faking it", he concluded, was not working for him. Mustering his courage, he resolved to be honest and accept his differences, even his ideosyncrasies, with confidence, whatever the consequences. That increased the tapping of his remarkable creativity, marking the beginning of the "Bucky" the world knows today: the genius inventor who created the geodesic dome and a host of other dazzling creations.

We all need to examination of our own minds as well. People everywhere are in confusion about who they are. As we did not choose to be born, neither did we choose who we’ve become. Did anyone ever have the ambition to become an inflicter of humiliation and pain on a child? We have all seen parents who imagine they are masters of children, barking orders and whipping, spanking, and slapping them when they don’t comply, treating them like galley slaves. Many parents imagine that striking out against annoying child behavior will relieve their own pain. Altho this method has been used – and failed – thruout history, few have noticed that it only perpetuated their misery. There are better, happier ways to deal with children.

With mind training we learn to re-direct the mind from anger to viewing from others’ perspectives, helping others, and generating feelings of compassion and altruism. What was contention and adversity turns into cooperation, openness, and a wonderful feeling of gratefulness. Some call it love. With training the mind we find we can direct it for the benefit all – others, yes, but most surprisingly – ourselves. It is discovering, or finding again, our own Basic Goodness. And rejoicing in the fact. Some call it happiness.

In this culture of chaos and confusion, how can we focus a scattered mind? In Asia, many billions learned how to do just that, and recently so have millions in the U.S. The mind can be trained to take control of the countless distractions that pull the mind from the moment. We know we already have powers of concentration. A strange noise in the night commands our total attention. In practicing mindfulness of breathing, a discipline now being taught in hundreds of centers in the U.S., we can pry our mind away from the constant chatter of internal dialog & trips of fantasy. At first it may not be easy, but is is always doable with persisent effort. What we find is not only the peace we all seek, but also the compassion and altruism we admire but fall short of attaining. That is to say, what we rediscover is our own authentic nature. If we are to know what we are doing when "disciplining" a child, we need to be acquainted with who we authentically are. With training in the discipline of mindfulness, we take into account the "unexpected" consequences of our actions.

Over the past 30 years we have witnessed a truly amazing experiment in our country. The cooperation of government, mass media, academia and other institutions, one of the strongest addictions extant have been broken on a massive scale, as millions of Americans have quit smoking. The consequences of corporal punishment of children are far worse, far more serious and tragic, than smoking cigarettes. Then why hasn’t child-hitting been disapproved and renounced in our culture to the extent that tobacco has? Because...

  1. altho victims of it suffer all their lives, spankers don’t get cancer from hitting kids;
  2. spanking and scapegoating children is also addictive, perversely satisfying;
  3. most parents are loathe to accept a view that puts them and their own parents in the wrong;
  4. hitting children is presented as a parental virtue from pulpits shore to shore, simply by employing the euphemism "discipline" instead of "hitting" or "assault."
Abolition of CP must someday become top priority if we humans are to survive on this planet, or any other living thing. for that matter. I sincerely believe this is so. Because in this age of atomic weapons, this fact must be internalized: there is no end to war without first putting an end to spanking, and all corporal punishment.
A nation of clear thinkers would now be staging teach-ins on campuses across the country demanding prohibition of CP in public, home, and school. And parades & rallies & buttons & fund-raising rockstars & actors publicizing the need to treat children with gentleness & respect. Why cannot we demand from the nation’s leaders to proclaim this decade to be the NO SPANK DECADE? Like Earth Day.

To parent decently, we need to focus our scattered mind. That requires training the mind. With instruction and disciplined practice in mindfulness of breath, combined with examination of long-suppressed thoughts, fears, and feelings, comes a new understanding of who we really are: born not in sin but with Basic Goodness. Insights free us from the myths and lies and painful punishments of childhood, to rejoice in the incredible fortune of being alive. Call it happiness. I do.

Mindfulness of breathing is like going to a quiet room to be alone when the house is full of people. The inner dialog has a blinding effect on perceiving reality, warping it to accommodate ego’s urging toward harmful indulgence. To kick the habit, break free of the addiction, takes work. It is our fortune that there are teachers in every community. Just inquire.

In examining the goings-on in their minds, parents may discover that acting on illusions is counterproductive. For example, imagining that striking out against annoying childhood behavior will relieve their own pain. Tho this method (and worse) has been used thruout history, it has never worked to the parents’ advantage. Indeed, it has compounded the problem by perpetuating their own misery. There is another way to deal with the (inevitable) difficulties of daily life. Instead of acting out aggression, we can, by simply taking a time out, learn to direct the mind from anger to helping others, to viewing from others’ perspectives, and generating feelings of altruism and compassion. What had looked like contention now turn into wonderful feelings of gratefulness.

With training the mind we find we can control it and direct it for the benefit of not only ourselves and our children, but for all beings known and unknown. It’s discovering that we can actually be in charge of our lives – i.e., our own minds. We can create our environment and choose peace and happiness in our family, in our community, and, ultimately in our nation and world. Choosing to be master of ourselves (rather than others) is no paltry matter. Mindfulness of breathing is a way to peace of mind, and peace in the world.

- norm

The Norm Report - Month 98
April, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 28,800 visits

The world is too much with us, late and soon,
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers;
Little there is in nature
that is ours...

—— Wm. Wordsworth

Part Two

I. Intro by E.G. Alter

On March 2nd, 2010, Norm celebrated his 81st birthday. On that date in 1929, Calvin Coolidge was President. Three days later Herbert Hoover was sworn in. Average lifespan was 45 years, Henry Ford’s Model A had succeeded his wildly popular Model T, two years earlier Charles Lindberg had flown the Atlantic alone. Norm here responds to a few of the questions received that couldn’t fit into any of the past 97 Reports.

Q: You’ve spoken of being sent to the Baptist church as a child. Why did you reject Christianity for Buddhism?

I didn’t reject the teachings of Jesus. It was my understanding that Jesus was the antidote to show people the way out of the horrible sufferings in those times now described by historians. Even at a very young age I could not believe the Old Testament stories. When I was age three a Sperm Whale was brought to town on a railroad car. I looked into the whale’s throat, saw that it could choke on an orange, and knew the Jonah story was a fairy tale. I was horrified that Abraham would hold a knife to his son’s throat at the command of voices in his head. And why was Isaac not consulted?

I concluded that I, myself, was a better being than Abraham’s god was. By teenhood I knew Solomon was a horrible, violent man who had 300 concubines. What decent parent would follow his advice in using the "rod" on children? Then the stoning to death of strong-willed teenagers in Deuteronomy ended my Old Testament reading for good.

Q: But not New Testament?

My education, especially studying philosophy and literature at Syracuse Univ. (three degrees) helped me to see the sham of churchianity, and that is what I turned away from. But the teachings of Jesus I’ve always retained as my moral guide. Tom Jefferson, read all the books of the bible, reacted as I did, and wrote his friend that Revelations was "the ravings of a maniac". He threw the Old Testament in the fire, and pasted in his notebook all the quotes of Jesus. It was published as The Jefferson Bible, and I have a copy of it on my bookshelf.

Q: What led you to Buddhism?

After many years as an agnostic, I began attending yoga classes. The teacher intrigued me; I saw that he had wisdom, that he knew many things, and I wanted to know what they were. As I helped him in building a stone monastery, he gradually became my spiritual teacher. That teaching introducing me to the Path of the Bodhisattva; I’ve walked that path of the Spiritual Warrior for the past 40 years.

Q: What are the root teachings of Buddhism?

Any brief summary is inevitably inadequate, but here goes: It was some 2500 years ago that the Buddha attained enlightenment, a high – a sublime - level of consciousness, and saw that the human predicament was universal suffering. In his penetrating wisdom and compassion he gifted his followers with the Four Noble Truths, which describes the problem of suffering, its causes, its solution, and the Eightfold Path, i.e., eight ways to work toward the attainment of Realization and the ending of suffering.

Since there is no faith, no worship, no church and pope system, no seeking to recruit or convert members, Buddhism is not a "religion" as much as it is a mental discipline to practice, a moral/ethical philosophy that requires training to live by. His Holiness the Dalai Lama urges his audiences to stay with their current faith and practice it well, yet they can reap much benefit from his teachings. One can – and many do – become a Buddhist and grow to be a better Christian as a result. There is, however, an important difference in the view of human nature: Buddhists speak of our Basic Goodness, Christians see people as "sinners" at birth. That has enormous implications in how children are treated, for example. Parents who could never imagine Jesus spanking a child persist in spanking to "beat the devil out of them".

Several recent books have pointed out the remarkable parallels of the teachings of Buddha and Jesus. Indeed, several scholars have published the growing evidence that Jesus, in his "missing years"of teens and twenties, was studying Buddhism in India, Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir.

Central in the teachings is emphasis on being responsible for one’s thoughts, speech and actions, and learning how to overcome the trappings of ego: hate, greed and delusion. My particular root guru, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, who founded Shambhala Foundation and Naropa Institute, taught much about becoming spiritual "warriors" – not in the aggressive sense but in developing the courage to confront the inner forces of ego.

Q: Buddhists see suffering everywhere, yet they seem to be an especially happy lot, as if they know the "secret to happiness".

I can only speak about my experience, I am happier now than at any time in my life, yet I am deeply saddened seeing the fear and horror, the needless suffering both worldwide and next door. The practice of sitting meditation every morning, and persistent effort in practicing Mindfulness of mind and body helps to develop insight and compassion.

I should point out that I am no expert, and nobody’s guru. In working on my self I already have more than I can handle in this lifetime. But whenever I’m asked a question, whether on childrearing, or my spiritual practice, or whatever, the effort for me is to be as honest and straightforward as possible in responding. But also keeping mindful that I drag ego along with me like everybody else.

When asked my suggestion is to do some reading – starting anywhere, say, with Pema Chodron, Lama Surya Das, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, or his son, Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche. For recreation read the Dalai Lama’s "The Art of Happiness", which he wrote together with psychiatrist Dr. Howard Cutler. For yoga and mindfulness meditation a teacher is needed, the Internet is no substitute. There are so many Buddhists around now, if you step outside your door and throw a snowball, you’ll probably knock the hat off one. They come in many shapes and sizes, from wise beings to charletans. Finding a suitable teacher can make all the difference.

The Norm Report - Month 97
March, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:

Over 28,500 visits

You are not just a performer in life’s drama,
you are also the one who writes the script.


I probably know Norm Lee as well as anybody, except for Gus, who was Norm’s Yoga/Dharma teacher in the early 1970s. This device allows him to respond to some of the questions asked that don’t fit in the past 96 Reports.

March 2nd, 2010, is Norm’s 81st birthday.

- E. Alter Dopleganger, Gho.

Q: On your website, ("About Norm"), you began your autobiography but did not continue it. When – or where – can I read the rest of it?

It was written for my sons, Henry & Russell, to give them some understanding of family history, on a MacIntosh powered by a solar array on the roof of my small motor home. In the winters of the 1990s I liked to drive down from Phoenix and park in a fishing village on the shore of Sea of Cortez. Every trip meant smuggling food, clothes, tools, and other goodies past customs for my impoverished Yaqui Indian friends there. It could never happen now. During days I wrote, in evenings I attended fiestas or showed, endlessly, the video "The Little Mermaid" for the kids. The 200-page book, sent only to family members, was never intended for general distribution.

Q: What was it like, growing up & living life without a mother?

So ashamed I was that I hid from other kids and protested going to kinder-garten. But it was free childcare, and I was, by my own choice, isolated at age five. My mother’s abandoning the family the year before had left me feeling naked and unqualified for community membership. Feeling traces remain today.

Q: She never contacted you for 40 years?

She had attempted communication many times, even thru Red Cross, but blocked by my father, who feared disclosure of his early abuses. In U.S. Air Force in 1949 I was a technician assigned to teach secret material to pilots and crew members. Clearance for Secret required Military Intelligence to thoroughly investigate my history. Suspicious, they grilled me about the whereabouts of my mother until I yelled, "I don’t know! Ask my father!" Routine interviews of my relatives, neighbors, and friends took them to my home town - and father’s doorstep. Amazingly, my father succeeded in stopping their inquiries about my mother. I never learned how he did it.

Q: How did you find her?

I wrote something about this on my website. It was the surprise of my life when my uncle, sitting in Beebe, Quebec, told me I could find my mother in Chicago. And there I found her, a tiny old lady in an apartment overrun with cats. Outraged on learning about my five years of suffering as an indentured worker in Hardwick, VT, she spilled the beans on him. It was a week of talk, cold cans of Budweiser, and tasty cheese omelets.

Q: People often ask how you overcame five years of brutal treatment, achieved so much, becoming an author, college professor, and campaigner for peace.

I wouldn’t say I overcame it all. I’m still working on it, as I have every day since 1941. Then, at age twelve, I was grossly underweight, a skinny, trembling bundle of nervous twitching and tics, jumping at every little sound. My father was eager to use me in his new gravestone business, but I was too weak to work the granite. He took me to the first doctor I’d seen in seven years. One look and he hit the ceiling. "WHAT has happened to this child?!" he roared. If not given immediate help, he said, I would die within six months. There was no money for hospitalization; the choice he gave my father was to provide massive doses of vitamins, food and rest, and to report to him every Friday - or go to jail. So, instead of stonecutting, I was assigned to dig a vegetable garden.

Hoeing and planting, I began giving serious thought to my future: My body was emaciated, my emotions unstable, my nervous system disintegrated. Because I had not been allowed to play with other kids, I was not socialized. Having been treated like shit and called a shit, I believed it was true. So with no self esteem and no confidence, I was about to enter 7th Grade as the new kid in school.

After much thought I resolved to start over and build a person: I would make me a life worth living or die in the effort. With a blank slate I would overcome, step by step, the damage done me in my first dozen years. First I built strength with sidewalk roller-skating. Then I joined the Boy Scouts, where I was amazed to be accepted, even liked. Friends, even. Later I learned to read music in the church choir. I taught myself boogie and blues piano, and won attention in school by winning spelling bees and jitterbugging contests. With one step following another over the years, self-improvement became a way of life, daily work toward overcoming the terror-filled, crippling days and nights of child bondage in the Dirty Thirties in Hardwick, Vermont. None of it needed to happen had those hateful and greedy "care-givers" opened their minds and hearts just a crack. So it is that for 70 years Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been my companion.

Q: Was there some sort of program, or therapy, on this re-building quest?

Different very painful experiences arose that I had to go thru – which I now call my negative karma. But meanwhile informal therapies seemed to fall my way, i.e., good karma. My few friends – most were artists – introduced me to the joys of classical music. Soon I was drawing, painting pictures, making collages, trying sculpture. A philosophy professor taught me how to use herbs in cooking.

Later there was therapy that brought me back from a dangerous edge more than once. Over subsequent years I had the help of three different psychiatrists and a couple psychologists. They mentored me thru two marriages and two teaching careers, finishing with several years when I was professor of philosophy and sociology of education. It seems like three major life programs: academic learning, emotional/psychological learning, and lastly, spiritual learning.

Q: How is it that you did not relay your maltreatment on to the next generation, "like syphilis" as you like to say? Where did you get the patience?

It was in 1963 that my first son, Henry David, was about to be born. Given that I had no role models I would willingly adopt, what kind of daddy would I be? Aware that I was full of resentment and aggression, I paced the floor fearing that I lacked the patience, the character, to avoid spanking and abusing. (I later learned that it didn’t require patience – but that’s jumping ahead.) I scoured several libraries to see if there was justification for punishing children. Amazingly, there was none, only normal behavior that annoyed humorless control-obsessed adults. I didn’t run across Adler’s books at that time, but it was just then that fate placed a copy of A. S. Neil’s "Summerhill – A Radical Approach to Childrearing" in my path. I read it all night, too excited to sleep. Soon I met John Holt who was beginning a magazine just as I was. We became close friends, comparing notes, and working together on home schooling and humane childrearing.

Q: Surely, given the abuse, you must have been full of resentment if not aggression, hatred if not violence. Yet you claim you never spanked your children, Henry and Russell. That must have taken unusual patience.

One of the surprises of my life was in discovering that it took no patience at all. It took only an understanding of the true nature of all children, their basic goodness, and delighting in that. Seeing them reveling joyfully in normal behavior, and seeing the inhumanity and absurdity in punishing them for it. Remember, I had the advantage of having no parents to provide role models to follow. My mother I never knew, and I surely did not want to be like my father. Altho I had taken many courses in childhood education at Syracuse University, the birth of the boys left me dumbfounded at the magic. Academics didn’t apply to these wonders of nature; the mind learns, but the heart must also. Realizing I knew nothing, I opened my mind and heart, and silently made them my mentors. Thus they became the in-house childrearing experts.

– Norm

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm’s website, PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective - or not. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2010 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to . If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 96

February, 2010
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 28,200 visits

Who is that stranger inside my skin?
You’re not who you say you are, and
I’m not who you think I am.

WHO ARE WE? [Part Two]

In the beginning there was thought. From this seed we grew our minds, inventing who we are. We can train to see how our mind works; when we do we begin to take charge of our lives. And when we do that, our lives change, too.

We start where we are. None of us are doomed to live constantly under a dark cloud. The same things - the conflicts and the suffering – don’t have to keep happening to us. In this very lifetime we can change the movie we are incessantly creating. We can learn to take control of the thought-stream in our minds; in doing so, we change the flow of our lives. It is not new. Over the span of hundreds of years, some billions of people have so trained. In the past few years this kind of change has been quietly taking place in the U.S. There are people all around us, in every state and country, who are becoming increasingly authentic, compassionate and insightful, as word of the power of the Practice spreads.

Our thoughts are who we are, therefore it is a mark of wisdom to attend to what is going on upstairs. For most of us, it is a chaotic mess of confused thoughts, emotions and fantasies. Scary, indeed, to reflect that "As a man thinketh, so is he." But we are not without hard-won guidelines. Those before us have cleared the path. "The unexamined life is not worth living," a sage tells us. And the profound Socrates summed up his teachings with these two words: "Know thyself."

We begin by noticing our thoughts rise and fall. Weak minds allow thoughts and emotions to run wild, jerking us around like perch on a line. Where do they get that power? We, ourselves, give it to them. We give thoughts permission to kick us around, like the press treated Nixon. His folly – and ours - is in believing they are real. Without belief in the illusions, they lose their power. But with work, we can strengthen our minds by mastering our mental processes.

Similarly, our belief in the reality of thoughts has created the concept "me". With the right training we discover that the true "me" is much deeper, more authentic, more loving than mere daydreams, fantasies, emotions, resentments, and the constant chitchat. It is that unrelenting chatter inside that keeps the false identity alive – the fake "me" that we present to the world.

It is not inevitable. By the hundreds of thousands people like us, right here in the USA, sit down every morning to train their minds in acknowledging the internal dialogue and letting the thoughts go, gradually taking control of their mental processes. Every day people like you and I routinely engage in practices handed down for generations, spiritual practices that have elevated consciousness and brought new and profound insights into the reality of the self and the nature of the mind – all minds.

It is these practices that bring about the clarity of mind that connects us to the real world. Seeing thoughts as insubstantial, i.e., not solid, not real, is what frees us from illusions – so they don’t have us to "kick around anymore". We know who we are and we know what we’re doing because we live in this moment, only. Confident in our Basic Goodness, we let go of the lie of basic sinfulness. No longer do loud critical noises fired about our shortcomings throw us off balance.

We are at ease because we’ve practiced centering. We are on the path of fearlessness. It is also the way to Basic Sanity, since sanity is measured with the yardstick of reality. If you live in the dream world, you can’t function in the real world. With a healthy sense of self we begin to develop insight into our authentic being, and what our purpose is here in this world, in this lifetime. The more we examine our own minds, the more we understand others, and compassion increases and relationships improve.

The discipline of examining requires the right training as well as persistent work. When we see how the mind works, we see how our life works. We’re not stuck with chaos and confusion, living with hope and fear, addicted to indulgence in comfort, temporary highs, and surface satisfaction. When we take responsibility for our actions – and the thoughts that support them – we see the importance of attending to the state of our mind. Awareness is the ability to see what is going on in our mind at present. We can train to see thoughts as they arise, acknowledge them, then release them. "Let it be," sang the Beatles. Relax in peaceful rest, contentment and quietude. The root of our discontent is self-absorption and our fear of being present, of being open, being receptive. In mindfulness of breath we come back to Reality - the Now - which is so precious, so fleeting. Living in the Moment takes discipline. It takes work.

Dr. Wayne Dyer says that by changing your thoughts you change your life. The past is dead, the future is illusion, the Now is a gift. That is why it is called the Present.

– Norm

The Norm Report - Month 95

January, 2010 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 28,000 visits

Every aspect of our lives is,
in a sense,
a vote for the kind of world
we want to live in.

- Frances Moore Lappe


We think of ourselves as "realists". When asked, we say we are practical thinkers with open minds, we are reasonable and fair, and we abide by the Family Values taught to us in kindergarten and on mother’s knee. We are against violence, hate and war - but overlook that the very language we use is peppered with aggressive terms and phrases.

We war against drugs, we battle cancer, we fight global warming, we combat teen pregnancy and abortion, we defend, crusade, march, stamp, beat, attack, kill, and Fight! Fight! Fight! Yes, we even fight for non-violence and for Peace. We fight for Love and the Golden Rule. We take up arms for the cause of the Prince of Peace. And we attack our children to protect them from "sin". We need to have our thoughts examined.

If the terms we use are any indication - aggression, conflict, and hate - we are a nation of people addicted to our power to destroy. It appears that our faith in violence as a solution to problems is far stronger than our faith in the god we worship – and in our Basic Goodness as human beings. Children are whacked in the belief that it will make them happier, more socially adjusted.

Faith, by definition, is belief in something despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just yesterday a man, to whom I offered "Kids’ Safe Zone – No Spanking" stickers for his children, shoved them forcefully into my chest while quoting King Solomon’s advice on using the "rod". That’s God’s instruction on childrearing," he growled. "He is still king, you know!" Such insanity abounds.

Every country in the world has signed the UN’s Rights of the Child except two. Yes, the only two countries that have refused to ratify are the U.S. and Somalia. Why are we not outraged? Is it because we feel a child has no rights worth defending? That is how it appears to the world. We have to ask ourselves, What Really Matters? What is really important to me?

In 1941 I was a pre-teen reading Dale Carnegie’s "How To Win Friends and Influence People", the book that triggered the world-wide self-help movement. The one image of Carnegie’s that has always stayed with me is this: We are in love with ourselves, so enamored that we give more attention to a pimple on our nose than we give to 20,000 human beings drowning in an Asian tsunami. I was stunned then, by the truth of it. And today I still ponder on that truth: the egoistic worship of Self far transcends compassion for our fellow beings. Have we not evolved as humans even one step during the past seven violence-drenched decades?

Thirty years after reading Carnegie, I learned - in a Buddhist monastery - that the Self is but an illusion – and a dangerous one at that. The flat fact is that the Self we defend with fists and fantasy is has no basis in reality. It is but a bubble, an idea we harbor and protect in our minds. Having created this self idea in our minds long ago, we maintain it with constant mental chatter, keeping the fiction going with story line after story line. It is this persona – this mental videotape that we unquestioningly take to be real - that we readily defend by force and violence if necessary.

So then we see that we must determine what Reality is, really. If what we’re defending is not really us, who, then, are we? What is genuine? What is Authenticaly me? And how can we acquire the courage to walk out there naked, with no pretentions, no secrets, utterly, completely, open – with nothing to hide, nothing to fear?


Are we now beginning another decade of anxiety, dread and terror? We’ve lived thru a period of deep fright, hounded by Islamic fundamentalist crazies threatening death to America, and Christian fundamentalist psychos eager for apocalypic earthly destruction. Add the Rovian manipulations of public fear by government-gone-wrong to the mix, and it may be time to take FDR’s 1932 dictum seriously: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Eventually we’ll have to gird our loins and confront our fears honestly, courageously, and directly. Others, some very wise, have done this before us. None have said it was easy.

They found that the root of our discontent and our depression and our constant apprehension is self-absorption, the self-centeredness that is cited as the culprit in every major religion. With attachment to the illusion of Self comes the fear of being in the present moment. Because being open and receptive to the Now, to Reality, the Truth, is threatening to the Self. But with skilful instruction and persistent practice we can develop the courage to accept the vulnerability and fear of exposure. The craven clinging in terror to self gradually falls away as the imagined protective cocoon of Ego dissipates.

To avoid the Now of reality people everywhere grab at distractions; when not indulging in those not imposed on us by government, church, school, job, and family, we demand more: there is newspaper, sports, Internet, and always the Television god. "Escape!" read the ads, and for a price we can run from the Self we cannot face. When we "Get Away!" from the Now we pay a hefty price, since it generates more stress, anxiety, and relief in negative emotion. We look here and there for things pleasurable, then seek solace by numbing out, and at last in aggression. We can zone out, or grasp, or obsess and rage – or indulge in self-hatred. We can go with the "me first" attitude, and "survival of the fittest", and look out for Number One and concern ourselves with others only if and when it is convenient. We care for others, but only after we have looked out for and satisfied ourselves. The craven clinging to a false Self – the belief that this illusion is worth worshipping, creates what the Buddhists mean by suffering.


The Norm Report - Month 94 (Reprinted from May, ‘09)
December, 2009
Norm Lee’s

Over 27,700 visits

Reprinted from May, ‘09
This time, like all times, is a very good one,
if we but know what to do with it.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

– Henry David Thoreau

In times of national recession, children pay a disproportionate price. The strain and stress their parents are under often breaks out in conflict and violence. In the melee the children’s emotions are overlooked. Too often their suffering is ignored, never addressed, and we learn of it only when we read of it in accounts of the Great Depression written by Studs Terkel and others. The price being paid by children is intolerable; it is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to mitigate that terrible wrong. Since we don’t work in Washington, what can we do about the economy? To begin, we can keep in mind that only happy parents have happy children.

The current national economic unpleasantness puts me in mind of the Seventies, when Sherrie and I set out to the woods to live the life of self-reliance. Inspired by Thoreau’s "Walden" and the Nearings’ "Living the Good Life", I had bolted from a college teaching career in search of authenticity, or as John Holt put it, a "life worth living". (Later, Helen and Scott Nearing became our mentors, then our close friends.) We recognized that life satisfaction was not to be found in playing the economic game, one that we did not choose. Earlier we had suited up and played it, unaware that we were the losers before we left the locker room for the playing field. Then we listened to Helen and Scott, and to Henry David Thoreau, who, more than a century before, had refused to pay the church tax, saying, "I am not a member of anything I have not joined." We realized that the prevailing economic game had been thrust upon us.

Today the sickness of the System is clear to all now that the social fabric we grew up with is disintegrating before our eyes. That need not be bad news, however. If we do not allow ourselves to panic, if we can summon some perspective and wisdom, we can recognize these times as presenting a menu full of wonderful opportunities. Maybe we are being offered a chance to live the kind of life we have long dreamed of living, but lacked the courage to walk out on a "steady" but undependable paycheck. We have to run certain risks if we are to live a life of freedom. In the "simple life" of independent living, we can find deep satisfaction in producing for family and ourselves our basic needs. One bonus is that our values are upgraded in the process. We can, amid the hostility and chaos around us, bring quiet peace and sanity to our nuclear family.

It was November 1976 when Sherrie and I hauled a tiny old camping trailer thru a record-breaking snowstorm to a small, "unimproved" seven acres on the NY State - Pennsylvania border. We had no employment, no friends, no family support, no money, no investments and no credit cards. But we had fierce determination to achieve independence and freedom. Most importantly, we did not fear failure; we had the courage - (some said foolhardiness) - to persist in the face of immense odds. We found it exhilarating.

We knew that taking command of our life was a giant step toward sanity. Facing every day with joy, working with challenges as they arose, doing what we could with the facts of existence, and accepting with joy and gratitude the results of our labor is a thrilling way to live. Carry water from the creek. Cut wood for the stove. Grow vegetables and fruit, keep hens for eggs. Our friend John Holt later put words to it: "This is work worth doing"; This is "a life worth living."

Living the "simple" life was not new to me. I had raised organic vegetables since childhood, and had learned to build with wood and stone. I had become a master teacher, and a published - but threadbare – writer, one who marched to a different drum. Sherrie was a recent graduate with a degree in art history and the fine skills of the art of calligraphy. In ten years’ time we had built two cabins and a two-story home, developed a four-season food garden, and founded and published a national magazine. Together we built a "community of homesteaders" and hosted an annual conference of self-reliant wannabes who came by the hundreds to our 21 acres in New York State’s Fingerlakes Region to choose from our 40 workshops - 10 of them for the children.

We learned first hand how to live "on the edge of the System". We were too poor to pay income tax, but too steeped in abundance to fret about money. When we needed some to print our magazine, we sold firewood by the cord. Or I wrote another article for The Mother Earth News or East-West Journal or Rodale’s Organic Gardening Magazine. Sherrie calligrafied menus for restaurants, award certificates for Corning Glass, and special tributes commissioned for such as Bob Denver. We each taught courses at the local community college: calligraphy by Sherrie, organic food gardening by me. We were later to tour the U.S.A offering a menu of 10 seminars. We knew no people who were as happy as we, nor as wealthy in the real sense of the word.

Equally awesome was the company we were privileged to keep; people who seek self-sufficiency are not there to drink themselves silly. But while learning life-sustaining skills is serious business, it need not be grim. The wonderful homesteading hopefuls attending our annual Good Life Get-togethers brought fiddles, banjos & guitars along with their kids, tents & sleeping bags. We opened with a square dance, and enjoyed pickin’ & singin’ around evening campfires. We were privileged to count as friends celebrities like Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and John Holt (who brought his cello). From the beginning we were honored to have the support of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of "Living the Good Life", the back-to the-land "bible" that inspired so many to go "homesteading" during the Sixties. The famous couple came to address our first Festival. After Scott died at age 100, Helen at close to age 90, came to our final Get-together gave inspiring talks, then led a stonewall-building workshop for awe-struck novices.

One needs a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. Such a radical lifestyle change cannot be driven by impulse. Nor can one enthusiastic partner drag along a reluctant spouse. It is a family adventure that requires consensus. Note that this is, without question, one of the most valuable experiences children can have. The values and skills learned will benefit them all their lives. Doing for oneself is a step toward sanity, leagues away from the mind-conditioning and dead-end jobs that deliver years of mind-numbing work, slavish obedience, and a gold watch.

Modern homesteading is not farming. Hordes of well-meaning hippies in the Sixties thought so, and bought too many acres, and a cow and tractor to put on it. They planted crops, neglected the animals and the machinery, and were back in the cities’ cubicles by winter, enslaved by treadmill jobs and a mortgage. It was not arbitrarily that Thoreau’s first chapter of "Walden" was titled "Economy". Scott Nearing said it succinctly: Rule one is Pay As You Go. Eliminate credit cards, pay no interest, visit yards sales & thrift stores, and barter whenever possible. Create a home business. In Vermont the Nearings tapped their maples and sold syrup; when they moved to Maine they picked and sold their blueberries. They called it the "bread labor" needed to bring in the few drachmas to satisfy Ceasar. If you have to file income tax, you’re making too much money.

At the outset the "helpless infant" mentality and the fear that supports it must be shed. We are not as helpless as media and institutions try to convince us. We are growing, changing, and learning beings capable of avoiding ego pitfalls and remembering that we have things to learn from those who have "been there". Fear of failure prevents people using – and discovering – their skills and realizing their potential as mature beings. But there is no need to be conditioned in fear and dread, and walk a "treadmill to oblivion", as Fred Allen called the unhappy life of futility. We are emerging, growing beings, and Bob Dylan sang, "Those not busy being born are busy dying." We are, or can become, capable of providing for ourselves almost all of the things we pay others for. All that’s needed is the openness to learn and the courage to try. We can produce our own goods and supply our own services, and discover that we do have the power to live without creeping and crawling in servile labor for someone else. The current economic crisis offers that valuable, that priceless, opportunity to live the Good Life of self-reliance, and in so doing, we discover who we are.

Once we start examining the way we fritter away time, money & energy in chasing illusions that promise happiness (at the price of freedom & integrity), we find that our homes and our minds are choked with clutter. Only the foolish march into the woods with nothing but a pocketknife, planning to live in a hollow tree and "be happy". With sensible mental preparation, a certain few skills, and the courage to face down threats of failure, one can build a warm and dry shelter, raise food in a small garden, homeschool the children, do home health care and homebirths, and fashion a solar or wind electric power system. You can start this spring. Indeed, the life of self-reliance can begin tomorrow morning with planting a backyard raised-bed organic garden. With a few skills and a few hours of care, it can provide you with a surprising number of near-free nutritious meals. The rich can’t buy more tasty and nutritious produce than that.

To achieve peace in the world, to affect non-violence among neighbors, to accomplish fair distribution of wealth, to change the world one must change oneself. In taking charge of your life you are making a social, moral, and political statement. We can change the System by changing ourselves. Your taking charge of your lifestyle is a powerful social, moral, and political statement. And again, to have happy children, provide them with happy parents.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 93
October ’09 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 27,200 visits

There are two kinds of ignorance in this world.
One is the ignorance of not knowing. That kind of ignorance can
always be remedied by simply getting the facts.
The other kind of ignorance, however, is the ignorance of
not knowing that you do not know.

- Bishop John Shelby Spong

Reflections On the Past

"Because That Is Where My Work Is."

The ten weeks since the move to California has allowed me time to reflect on what my purpose was in Gila Valley, AZ, and what the experience taught me. About 4 years ago Dr Lloyd deMause, president of Psychohistory, invited me to speak at the International Convention of Psychohistory in New York University. Before an audience thickly peopled with psychiatrists, I recounted my current challenges in raising awareness of the serious harm that corporal punishment does to children, and suggesting smarter and kinder approaches to child upbringing. The public reaction to my pleas, I told my PH listeners, was virtually unanymous: denial and defensive. A variety of approaches over a 12 year period brought only negative reaction: resentment, then hostility, then public ridicule amounting to abuse. During my talk, one doctor asked, "Why don’t you leave?" My response was immediate and short: "Because that is where my work is."

Tho efforts to oust me from the community grew from tacky and petty to ugly and contemptible, the option of leaving hadn’t occurred to me. Why was this so? Because personal acceptance was not my aim. I was not running for office, nor was I selling anything. Holding no membership in a church or civic group, there was no fear of disapproval or dismissal from those groups. My retirement status protected me from being fired, and the VA provided my medical care. I had no spouse to fret about social standing; I had no school-age children to be picked on by "conservative" teachers and classmates. Who could touch me? I was the designated Untouchable. Worst of all, I refused to be silenced. And that confused everybody.

Meantime, horrific accounts of violence against children continued to appear in the news: Mothers drowned their toddlers, boyfriends shook crying babies until their necks snapped; mass shootings of children took place in schools – and even churches - across the land. In Phoenix a toddler was doused with gas by her father, set afire, and left to die in the road. In area "boot camps" teenagers, at a regular rate, died from the "discipline treatment" dispensed by hired, untrained goons. In a neighboring town an 8-year-old boy kept a record of his father’s spankings. When the total reached one thousand, he shot his father to death. Locally, a dead infant was found in a box in self-storage. In Safford USD a 13-year-old girl, accused by a classmate of carrying ibuprofen, was strip-searched. To her parents’ credit they sued the school, and won the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The school board, having learned nothing, continued to allow its superintendent to keep a wooden paddle near at hand "in case it’s necessary" to maintain discipline.

Not All News Was Gloomy

Yet, some positive things were happening in Arizona and elsewhere. Three or four years ago brain specialist Dr. Bruce Perry came to Phoenix and disclosed his research findings: Corporal punishment causes chemical and physical changes in the brain of a child. The Arizona legislature began mulling legislation banning corporal punishment in all public schools in the state, a move I had vigorously urged before the Arizona State Board of Education over thirteen years ago. (Several legislators – boasting of their own childhood maltreatment – had screamed at me of the absolute need for "woodshed discipline" - to "deter gang violence".) Since then the Nation has slowly began to awaken. Vigorous work on the part of EPOCH-USA and PTAVE helped raise the number of U. S. states banning CP in public schools to 30 – up from 7 a few years ago. On the world stage, the U.N. made a historic survey of the worldwide maltreatment of children and established humane standards for all authorities to work toward. Alice Miller published yet another book explaining causes of child abuse, and French author Olivier Maurel’s book "Corporal Punishment"is being translated to English as we write. Perhaps the biggest recent news is the announcement of the results of Dr. Murray Straus’ milestone worldwide research showing the correlation between CP and lower I.Q: the harder and more frequent the blows, the lower the I.Q. test scores.

Reform the Reformers - Instead

In a community intent on punishing children "to teach them right from wrong," I was saying "children can do no wrong; they are simply being normal children". Besides, nearly all "misbehavior" is caused by the punitive actions inflicted by authorities in home and school. Punishment, spanking, isolation, time out, all have unintended consequences, Dr. Phil notwithstanding. It is all punishment; making a child feel bad about him or her self, it is all mistreatment, all harmful and unnecessary. The effort to reform is better directed to the spanker, not the spankee. Changes need to take place in those who inflict violence and humiliation on children if there is to be a reduction in violent conflicts in the home and in the streets – and need we say – in the world. The kids are fine, just being kids. We "grown-ups" are the defective ones, conditioned by a system that has stripped us of our birthright of Liberty and made bullying cowards of us. Forcing our children to join us in accepting the harness is a betrayal of their birthright. Rather than enforcing obedience, we are better employed learning and practicing self-discipline.

That message did not find a welcoming audience. Most of the people I was dealing with had never read a book straight thru. TV and video games had shortened attention span to 30-second segments or less. Here was a population of True Believers that, having been spooked by the devil’s symbol of 666, marched on State authorities, forcing a change in the number of the state route that runs thru the small city. Few, if any, had ever experienced liberty in home, school, or workplace. They had grown up in a cocoon where reality was myth, and myth was reality. People having never been challenged, in church, school, or family, to draw a free breath or think an original thought, could not imagine living a life of independence, responsibility, and spontaneity. Should such a one - an "outsider" to be sure – arrive, he would appear as a visitor from Mars or as an escapee from a mental hospital. To be feared, in either case, and driven away.

What Was My Motivation? My Payoff?

It must be asked, What did I get out of it? What was my satisfaction? The motives were multiple, the results gratifying:

  1. My primary focus was to bring about a change in the way children of the Valley were treated. Children everywhere are neglected, maltreated, and abused; differences are only in degree. In this, my adopted community at least, I was determined to find ways to stop it any way I could. Ergo, I needed to try all the methods I could think of, and observe what was most effective.

  2. I wanted to understand what was the center, the marrow of fundamentalist thinking/feeling as regards CP. What drove them to want to hurt children? And why deny it, calling it "good"? "Discipline" was not sufficient cover. It masked deeper, more desperate motives. My studies of Greven, Miller, Straus, deMause, Erickson & Fromm helped me to see the depth of denial, the craven fears they were dragging on from the terror endured in their childhood.

  3. Behind it all was the mind training which I had been practicing daily for years. As with the nature of practice, spiritual or secular, the mistakes made are there to be corrected. For example, anger is allowed, but never hatred. This was not easy for me, having been criminally abused in childhood; I’ve been burdened with a lifelong tendency to engage in a scrap. At times when a parent acknowledges the harmful effects of physical punishment on their child – and yet persists in justifying it, too often my reaction was outrage. Their argument of teaching a child Right from Wrong was too much for me to handle quietly. Again and again I was offered opportunities to practice Patience, thus the spankers became my teachers. If cheerfulness dimmed, I dwelled on thankfulness for my blessings. (One summer I practiced Gratefulness every morning by filling a page listing the benefits, the gifts, surrounding me. Ex.: the trees, sage, cacti, grapevines, and apricot tree in my backyard, then on to the positive qualities of the fundamentalists of my acquaintance. By summer’s end the notebook was full.)
By viewing the cantankerous as my "mirror gurus", I could see the need for tolerance. In the same way the greedy inspired me to generosity, and the negative example of the envious made me more grateful and satisfied with what I already enjoyed. Above all, in 12 years of seeing at deeper and deeper levels the suffering my neighbors’ lives were steeped in, very gradually my feelings of loving-kindness and compassion began to take root and grow. Some forty years ago I had been taught about learning from "street gurus", and here in Graham County, AZ, there was one behind every cactus. Alas, I learn so slowly! It is a cause of regret that I failed to benefit from much that was offered.


TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm’s website, PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective - or not. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2009 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 92
Sept ’09
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 26,600 visits

The man who writes

stands up to be shot at.

Thomas Hardy

Leaving Arizona – Part III

When I sent my New Year’s Resolution vowing to intervene in child spanking, no grenade or mortar would have caused more panic in the local paper’s editorial offices. They had prepared a special

section for the many readers’ resolutions expected, but, given their hardline pro-spanking policy, they

would not/could not publish mine. Meetings were held, attorneys consulted. If others were printed but mine omitted, would Lee sue? More meetings. In the end, the paper printed the special "Resolutions" section – without any resolutions. It was a major public embarassment for them, and I was blamed as the cause of it. My words were banned from the paper, and still are now, seven years later.

During the following year more articles appeared defending spanking, i.e., "Spanking Is Good Discipline". More than one editorial railed against "permissiveness" in general and me in particular. They simply could not see that I was teaching discipline – without inflicting punishment. Comic relief came - tho without their intention - the day the editor threatening to spank me if I prevented their "disciplining" their little daughter.

Public Debate

My letters to the editor were challenged by the church-appointed principal of a "Christian" school who had no teacher training whatever, and ‘disciplined" the children by rod and ridicule. His chief selling point for the school was his "Bible-authorized" infliction of corporal punishment by paddle-beating small children in the name of Jesus. Parents who could not afford it herded their flocks to his "care". Letters-to-editor were printed in his support and condemning me, but not one appeared on my behalf. (In fact, during my entire 12 years there, only 3 or 4 people whispered in my ear that they liked what I wrote, but not one individual stood up for me in public.) It became clear that the faux educator’s purpose in debating was not about children’s needs, or even about improving discipine, but "winning," and publicizing his obedience school.

After many months the debate ended abruptly - in mid-winter - when the schoolmaster’s 3-yr-old son was left alone in his back yard (as was family practise), to be babysat by the dogs. This time steers wandered by, the dogs followed the steers, and the baby followed the dogs. Barefoot and naked but for his diapers, the child spent all night in the cold desert among coyotes, scorpions, javalinas, and rattlesnakes. The massive all-night search by neighboring county rescue crews and statewide TV helicopters made national network news. When he was found unhurt next afternoon, the parents declared it a "miracle from Heaven": God had singled them out for his blessing. The debate had ended with the abusive parents enjoying instant celebrity status. They promptly resumed with vigor and self-righteousness their neglect and abuse in home and school.

Alice Miller

Soon after I got online I connected with the emminent Swiss therapist Alice Miller ("For Your Own Good",) and we were soon working together on launching her website and listserve. My monthly PWP newsletters were interrupted with the 9/11 attacks; I re-titled it The Norm Report and focussed on the counseling of traumatized children. Locally, hate fuled by fear put nearly everyone in a war mood. Devout members of Latter Day Saints jumped in excitement to watch the bombing of Baghdad. "I hope they bomb the whole country into a glass parking lot!" one said to me. And how is that reconciled with the teachings of Jesus? I asked. "Sadaam’s city is Sodom, isn’t it? And God destroyed it." I later learned LDS had invented a whole new "Jesus" to suit the ideas of their "prophet".

Barred from committees

Many interesting happenings occurred during the months following the "Resolution" statement. Tho it was not printed, everyone in the Valley heard about it and appeared to have formed an opinion from what they heard. The result was I became the valley pariah. Time after time my efforts to participate as volunteer to a community-supporting group met with rejection.

* Parents Anonymous of Tucson had advertised for help in starting a group locally. I volunteered, and they enthusiastically invited me to dinner. Two days after their arrival – even before we met – a wall went up and I was barred from their meetings without explanation.

* The newly built children’s jail (euphemistically, the "detention center",) called for volunteers to help promote interest in reading. Authorship of "Paperbacks for High School" (Syracuse University Press, 1961,) qualified me, I thought. I could tutor, I said, or design a reading program. Out of the question, I was told. No way that was going to happen. Even to visit.

* At he initial meeting of a home schooling group I offered my experience working with John Holt, author and international authority on home education. That all others present were LDS disqualified me. They accepted the abundantly helpful materials given to them, but never notified me of their second meeting, nor were repeated emails and phone calls returned.

A Moment of Despair

The years-long battle with the local paper raged on. Their editorial position defending corporal punishment presented a solid wall: Defense of spanking and parent-applied CP continued to headline articles and editorials. Rarely was I depressed, indeed the daily challenge was exhilarating. Nevertheless, In in June 2006, my journal reads, "…Six years I have worked to raise local awareness regarding child maltreatment in this backwater, ultra-conservative valley, and I am heartsick. The local newspaper has gagged me, having printed personal attacks in Letters while refusing to print my responses. The community, with complete faith in punishment, has ostracized me for my outspokenness. The city and county leaders have barred my access to more than a dozen community groups for which I have volunteered, including the library committee and a new prison for teenage children, their junior jail."

An appeal to PTAVE and Norm Report readers brought a heartening response. Wonderful letters of support from people opposing CP went zinging in to the weekly Courier editor’s inbox. (Since then, dozens of editors and school boards have felt the sting of the Anti-spank Movement's messages.) Soon after, the editor left to work for a smaller Texas weekly; and was replaced by a spankin' new editor (Pentacostal from Texas) who is even more close-minded than her predecessor. Her first editorial tore into me, leaving little doubt as to why she was hired.

Safeway Calls the Cops – the Sticker Caper

A leader of Children’s Protection Service ended a speech as follows, "Parents are doing the very best they can, we have the very best schools, and no one knows the cause of violence." I could not believe it. I stood and said, "I think (1) parents can do much better, beginning with treating children without violence. (2) Every school in this valley uses corporal punishment as a learning tool, most keeping a paddle at the ready for assaulting kids. (3) For the causes of violence, look no further than this room. Our children suffer violence and abuse in ways we don’t see – and they are trained in violence nearly every day, in the home, in the school, and in the schoolyard." There was silence.

Safeway kicked me out and called the police for giving stickers to two kids (with parents’ permission, as always). I was charged with "leafletting". In the two remaining supermarkets I was tolerated. Each time a Plain Talk booklet posted on a bulletin board disappeared, I posted another. Tho surely some – or many – were trashed, and some defaced, I know some were studied. Parenting and "domestic violence" conferences were held, but always with the focus on wife beating, never on treatment of children. Tho I was no longer invited to speak, audiences came to expect me to stand up and talk about the violence children suffer and the harm it does. (Few knew that I was also speaking to audiences in California, Chicago, and New York.)

County Health Office

Jordan sent NO SPANKING ZONE posters. Of over a dozen stores and offices, only one, (my regular gas station,) let me post it in the window. It was gone the next day. All others places were either hostile or raised solid walls of refusal. From most there was a quick and curt "invitation to leave", the worst being the County Public Health & Safety Officer. Failing to see a connection between the health and keeping children safe from assault, he angrily hurried me to the street while his out-of-control receptionist furiously paced the floor behind us.

CP in the Schools

The paddle-defending (LDS) supervising principle in Thatcher, where I paid my taxes, got her doctorate from a Florida mail-order house, and the supervising principal of Safford Unified School District got his from Brigham Young University. I also knew he kept under his desk a wooden paddle for swatting too-exuberant Middle School younsters. At my calling attention to it before the entire board of education and audience of voters, his face reddened with rage. He leaped from his chair and lunged at me yelling, "I use it only rarely!" Not a valid defense in a question of morals such as beating small children, I said. The board members – LDS to a man – remained adamantly pro-CP, pro-paddle. So much for the myth of Mormon childrearing expertise.

Still fuming about the "outrage" of interfering with the "disciplining" of children, the paper’s hostilities persisted in giving editorial space to the defense of "parents' right" to spank. They were generous in printing personal attacks on me – some legally actionable - but refused to print any of my responding letters. I was standing alone against repeated attacks from religious right-wing zealots, both the "normal" neurotics and the deeply disturbed.

Public Humiliation

In one letter to the paper I used material from Tom Johnson’s booklet (from PTAVE) about spanking and sexual dysfunction, suggesting that, to see the connection between spanking and sexual deviency, simply do an Internet search on "spanking". They will find many references to pornographic sites, I cautioned, pointing out yet another danger of spanking. Enraged letters filled the paper’s Letters section condemning me as a "porn addict." At the time I had underestimated the depth of fear in the valley, the suspecting the worst of others, but bullied by their church and their unconscious lives. In a community already imagining a predator under every bed and gangs leaping barricades to rape their daughters, I was pouring gasoline on a fire.

Late one night I videotaped a PBS documentary about the syphilis epidemic among teenagers in Conyers, Georgia. The somewhat graphic but excellent report covered a widespread outbreak of venereal diseases among dozens of sexually active adolescents, and the deep denial of their parents. Thinking it would be useful to the young (LDS) woman in charge of all adolescent programs – and assuming she was a professional who had read literature in her field, I gave it to her the tape. That was a serious mistake. I had forgotten this was a theocracy, not a meritocracy; she was appointed to her position not because she was qualified, but because she was LDS. I was soon to learn that (1) her Mormon mind could only register shock at the graphic sexual activity, and (2) that she wielded political power quite beyond leading youth programs. In her limited understanding, she was in possession of a pornographic ("sex-gone-wild") videotape, and Norm the porn addict had given it to her.

Soon after, in front of the annual convention of the helping professions in the Valley, (which she was also in charge of,) she stood behind me whispering my name. And close up, her mouth to my ear, her assistant shouted, "Norm!" The packed house roared in laughter at my deafness - which was originally caused by childhood beatings. Two weeks later, believe it or not, the head of the local mental and behavioral health agency duplicated the humiliating stunt by similarly ridiculing my disability before his cackling audience. "They should be ashamed of themselves," emailed my friend Mady Gomez.

Outside the Box

Flashback: Before acquiring a PC, I had carried around a hard copy of my Resolution asking people to "STEP UP to stop the spanking." In three weeks all refused, but at last one person signed on: the butcher at the supermarket. It was then that I began seeking ways to reach beyond the borders of Graham County. With email capability, members of PTAVE immediately joined "Step Up", and soon others as well. Up to then I was feeling walled into the Valley as well as walled out its functions. Then came another huge turning point: Jordan Riak offered to build me a website. That news felt like the Cavalry answering a distress call. For several weeks he worked intensely and tirelessly assembling the site, step by step, teaching himself each task as he worked. Amazingly, he managed to bear the heavy daily work of PTAVE thruout. By January 2002, was "on the air", making available the monthly newsletters and a bit of bio info, plus the entire book "ParentingWithout Punishing".

Meantime the debate with the paper’s editor was again heating to a boil. As his defense of spanking showed profound unresolved conflicts, his stridency increasing, I backed off. But my letter to the paper citing the research on spanking’s cause of sexual dysfunction and perversion had inflamed condemnation. Following rumors of the "porn" videotape, the public viewed me as a source of sin and smut. Clearly libelous letters to the editor were printed. At a town meeting the Thatcher town board voted to ban adult bookstores, pointedly singling me out, to ask my objections. Sharing these exchanges via email with others earned its own audience, and at a certain point email letters from PTAVE and STEP UP people came pouring into the editor’s – and publisher’s Inbox. Apparently the publisher felt he had let matters get out of hand and the editor soon found another paper to work for – in a little town in Texas.

Heart Failure

After 3 months of severe chest pains, VA medics, in March 2003, diagnosed heart failure. I had collapsed on my front steps, crawled on hands and knees to my bed, and stayed there all day and all night. Carrying nitroglycerin pills and wearing a nitro patch became my adopted lifestyle. Imagine my appreciation on receiving dozens of caring and supporting messages from friends and relatives. This is only the beginning of the "end game", not the end, I wrote. There’s much more yet to do here. But with medications, regular naps, and no heavy lifting. Three years later would come cancer of the bladder, and two trips on the V.A. surgery gurney in Tucson.

The Shunning

The approach of "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" was too fearsome in this closed down community, and I was to learn about the long-held Mormon tradition of "shunning": they set their conditioned minds to driving me from the Valley. Suddenly LDS acquaintances shut down communication; promised emails never arrived; emails to them were not answered. Messages on answering machines were not returned. The half-dozen civic groups in which I held active membership had long since stopped notifying me of times and locations of meetings. No one was actually uncivil to my face – honesty was not their way – but I was clearly a person not to be seen with or associated with. I was "untouchable", as tho a leper. Yet when I sat in the Democrat car in the 4th of July parade playing a kazoo (there was no band), the children called, "Look! There’s the sticker man!" As years passed, the influence of many letters-to-editor, meeting interruptions, countless "spankus interruptus" and many hundreds of stickers and Plain Talk booklets was evidenced by the suble, gradual, but unmistakable change in the treatment of children. I was not driven out, age and deteriorating health required a "Yes!" answer to son Russell when he said, "Get out of that desert and let’s get a house for you in this neighborhood – where we can keep an eye on you." An offer I couldn’t refuse.

Even among the local paper’s staff, it turned out, I was not unanimously condemned. My tenure in Gila Valley ended on this sweet note from the classified ads lady:

9.14.09 Good morning Norm,

…I have very much enjoyed our conversations, you are an interesting person. I wish you well! Living closer to family is a plus, because we always have family. Drop us an e-mail when you can. Have a safe and pleasurable trip to California. - Pat Catlett Eastern Arizona Courier

— Norm

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm’s website, PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective - or not. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2009 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 91
Aug ’09
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 26,680 visits

The trouble with the world
is not that people know too little,
but that they know so many things
that ain’t so.

Mark Twain

Leaving Arizona Part 2

Soon after I moved into my home in Gila Valley, Arizona, my next door neighbor suggested I join the Odd Fellows, the I.O.O.F., an organization long known for helping the down-trodden. The application emphasized that no one will be denied acceptance on basis of religion. When the group commander questioned me, I said I am a Buddhist. "I mean, do you believe in God?" I said, "I believe in a higher power, a moral force." Application rejected. Why so? "You don’t even believe in Gawd!" So I joined Neighborhood Watch, and served all twelve years. But tho meetings were held, I was not notified of them despite my repeated requests.

My first letter to the editor of the local weekly paper protested cock fighting, a blood sport with long history in the area. When letters defending this ugly practice claimed that it helped build their children’s character, I had to speak. Since no one else locally was objecting, I allied with protesters from Tucson. Within a few months the AZ State legislature banned cock-fighting.

A notice in the paper caught my eye: "The social workers are meeting every Wednesday a.m. All who are interested in children are invited to attend." That would be me. To my surprise, they were unable to perceive that maltreatment of children was a matter for their professional concern. Then the dawn. The unspoken fact that trumped all other considerations: In this Mormon-dominated group, I lacked the proper religious credentials. That I had taught graduate courses in Syracuse University and graduate sociology courses for State University of New York was not enuf; my degrees were not from Northern AZ Univ. or Brigham Young University, as theirs were.

Deadly Violence in Valley History

Five years before my arrival two high school boys with handguns faced each other on Main Street. One shot the other dead. In this "peace-loving", God-fearing valley, the unthinkable had happened. It was immediately clear to all that the solution lay in more strict parental control. City fathers formed a committee, met for several years, and surfaced with an acronym: S.A.V.E. – Stop All Violence Everywhere. A meeting was announced, ostensibly for public input. I arrived early. The publicized question, How should we prevent youthful violence? had now changed to How can we strengthen our control over teenagers?

The large gathering formed several subgroups for discussion. I voiced my position several times: "The tragic event teaches us that the traditional threats-and-punishment approach is ineffective in these changing times. We have an opportunity here to examine the alternatives to treatment of youth that research shows have proven workable." The subgroup leader’s report to the assembly omitted my views, pretending that the tough-love solution was the group’s consensus. I immediately stood and gave my "minority report". I questioned the wisdom of "cracking down" on teenagers, since it hadn’t prevented the shooting. And as for suggestions of physically punishing rule-breakers, wasn’t that the very violence we are claiming to condemn? The group sat in stunned silence. I could as well have walked in buck-naked. Later I was to understand: Outcomes of "public" meetings are decided beforehand by those in power, i.e., LDS. Meetings serve only to place an appearance of public approval for decisions already made. The original question now morphed into "In declaring war on teenagers, how shall obedience be enforced?" It was tacitly assumed that spanking, whacking, and paddling children was "Godly discipline" by definition – and inflicted with parental "love" (for their own good). From that day forward, every S.A.V.E. meeting and venue changed, with all members notified except the misfit. That would be me.

Parenting Without Punishing

Meantime, at the weekly breakfast meetings, the social workers refused to let me speak. So I began a newsletter, which later formed the chapters of my book, "Parenting Without Punishing". (To access PWP, visit my website.) Hampered by an austerity budget with a meager social security check, I asked for printing costs. Two people - both visiting from out of town – subscribed. Thenceforth I bore the expense, handing copies to all every Wednesday morning.

Word of research on spanking came via a syndicated radio show. A Dr. Murray Straus of New Hampshire Univ. had done extensive studies on spanking practices in U.S.A. My request for free reports brought a quick and generous response. Soon after that I learned of PTAVE’s existence, and, after 40 years protesting CP alone, I was delighted to learn that others thought as I did. A letter to Jordan Riak got a prompt and encouraging answer.

My son Russell, having read my snailmailed newsletters, called and said, "Dad, this should be on the Internet!" I had been working on a MacIntosh, without Internet capability. "Come visit at Xmas," he said. In December 1999 he took me to a computer store and bought me a new PC and printer. Soon I was posting on the Psychohistory Discussion List, which brought responses from Jordan, Mitch Hall, and Dr. Mady Gomez. Thus began a bond both professional and friendship that continues today, over ten years later. Also I was quickly in contact with Alice Miller, who had encouraged my work. Together we began a discussion list similar to Psychohistory’s. Jordan began building a website for me, and now I was reaching beyond the backwater valley’s borders.

Brute Force To ‘Stop All Violence’

The S.A.V.E. group staged a public event to unveil how they would "stop all violence everywhere". County, city, business and church leaders – most wearing the hats of another or two of the above – applauded for speeches calling for the return of the "traditional discipline" of their strict fathers. Meantime, rumors had circulated that gang members from big-city Phoenix were recruiting local teens. A police lieutenant invited from the PHX area described his success there at suppressing youthful exuberance. Then, with heightening drama, he signaled the eight hidden but very large cops to come filing onto the stage. Resplendent in their blue uniforms, each one displayed his lethal automatic weapon, all bore grim facial expressions, all were there to show adult and child alike that forcible means stood ready to put down any youth suspected of breaking a rule. Message: Kids, be afraid. Very afraid.

I challenged the lieutenant from the floor, talked of peaceful means of dealing with children, and pointed out that designating teenagers as the enemy paints a target on every cop’s back. Al other audience members sat in silence. The following week my letters to the paper protesting this misguided program brought a challenge from the "principal" of the local "Christian School", which was run by a local "non-denominational" fundamentalist church. The school advertises that the children attending are guaranteed to learn "traditional discipline". The leader had neither training in educating children, nor prior experience. But he believed in God and Discipline – i.e., spanking and paddling. He and I debated in the pages of the local weekly paper over many months. Then one afternoon, as was their custom, they left their three-year-old in the back yard to be babysat by the family dogs. Some steers wandered in from the adjoining desert, the dogs followed the steers, and the little boy, clad only in diapers, followed the dogs. Darkness fell. Local search and rescue teams began tracking, then PHX TV helicopters covered the surrounding desert - where lurked scorpions, coyotes, rattlers, and javalinas - the night thru. The story made the major TV networks. The child was found late next morning, none the worse for the night in the desert. Neglect is also abuse. The lesson learned by the parents was not what I had hoped: "Miracle! Praise God! Our prayers are answered! Miracle! Thank you, Jesus!" Congratulations poured in to these triumphant parents.

PTAVE’s Plain Talk and Stickers

Jordan began sending me the just-printed Plain Talk About Spanking, which I kept posted on the two main supermarket bulletin boards. For several days during Spank Out Week I sat at an info table with literature. For two hours a nice woman from CPS sat with me. (The only positive recognition I got in those 12 years was a certificate of appreciation from CPS.) I handed out PTAS booklets, on the street, but my main work was in the two supermarkets. At first I’d listen for a child’s cry, and hurry to stop or prevent hitting. Anything to distract and release tension, I offered popcorn or peanuts, tooted a kazoo, acted the clown. Intervention took so much out of me that I looked for an easier way. I learned to "read’ parent/child situations, (hurried/harried parent, and/or fussy/overtired child) and moved to prevent outbreaks by clowning, whistling, anything to distract and relax with laughs. But what really turned things around was the advent of the PTAVE stickers: KIDS' SAFE ZONE: No Spanking. When I used up one roll of 500, Jordan sent me another one. Only twice did parents give me a sour response, while many hundreds thanked me and smiled.

The Sep 11, ’01 attack on NYC skyscrapers further traumatized this community that was already in deep fear. Local editorials screamed for massive military response, and I watched in shock as Mormon acquaintances rejoiced at the bombing of Baghdad. "It’s the Sodom in the scriptures," they said. "I hope all Iraq is nuked down to a glass parking lot!" And how is that reconciled with the teachings of the Prince of Peace? "Jesus (God) destroyed Sodom didn’t he?"

In December 2001 the paper asked all readers to send in their New Year’s resolutions. Mine sent panic into the editorial offices of the paper, which had long defended its spanking "policy". The simple emailing of my Resolution marked me as a bigger threat than Osama:

"I RESOLVE to continue to work to free children from the tyranny of physical punishment, however, wherever, or for whatever "justification" it is inflicted, and by whoever's hands, whether parents, school officials, or other bullies. I do this because I believe it is the most important contribution I can make toward reducing and preventing violence, hatred, and crime in my community, and thus to increase the happiness of all.

"Accordingly and by extension, I resolve, wherever (in public) I see a child being spanked, slapped, shaken or subject to any other physical or emotional violence, I will interrupt and interfere - on the spot - without regard for the consequences to myself. My conviction is that no one deserves to be hit, that no one has a right to strike a child, and that children are not the property of parents, schoolmasters, or the State, but are younger citizens of this community. I consider it my civic and moral duty to prevent their being harmed."

Norm Lee, Next: Breakthru

The Norm Report - Month 90
July 1, 2009
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 26,300 visits

We are visitors on this planet…
during this period we must try to
do something good, something useful
with our lives.

H. H. Dalai Lama

Leaving Arizona

After nearly 24 years in this overheated state, I’m moving on, leaving this hostile "desert floor" for the lush San Joaquin Valley of California. Destination: East of San Franciso & the Bay Area, near Yosemite National Park, where there is abundant fresh water, vineyards by the dozen, friendly, awake people, and my son, Russell. He has found a house near his, on which he is currently applying his multiple skills to doing what needs to be done there before I arrive.

The Plan: Russ flies here in a fortnight, we load a UHaul truck, then joyfully release the surly bonds of this desert land of scorpions, rattlesnakes, black widows, tarantulas, javalina, coyotes, and gila monsters, all of which I’ve confronted in my back yard. To be fair, there are also bunny rabbits, squirrels, my brilliant resident Cardinal and his wife, hilarious roadrunners, hundreds of bird types, and, every morning, 40 quail who come for their breakfast, all with the backdrop of magnificent Mount Graham. In many ways, I’ve learned to love this place.

Russell, Sherrie and I came to AZ in 1986 from the Finger Lakes of NY State, my bronchitis forcing the move. We hauled Spook (pony) & Jenny (burrow) in a horse trailer behind us. Greed and hatred are everywhere, we know, but here it was rampant. We saw this sign: "Welcome to Arizona. Now go home." Countless Arizona enterpreneurs greeted us with sneering comments about our NY license plates - unless we bought something. Clearly these xenophobic "Zonies" hated and feared (read: resented and envied) New Yorkers, and supposed we and the entire state population lived in Manhattan. (Yet they’re addicted to NYC TV programs.) They felt inferior, and we agreed. Sherrie and I are experienced gardeners who’d survived raising our food and we knew those horticulturally deprived cowboys were buying their produce in supermarkets. They couldn’t grow a carrot to save their saddle.

We three bought a manufactured home in Glendale (akin to Phoenix), where Russ framed home in the a.m. and worked his way to a degree at AZ State Univ. in the p.m. Sherrie and I sought to get established in the magnificent and artsy Sedona & Oak Creek Canyon. She taught calligraphy courses in Northern Arizona University, and freelanced in the art community while I wrote feature articles for the art section of the Sedona Times. It was part-time but steady writer-photographer work as I was teaching a creative writing course at Yavapai College.

In rapid succession, the semester ended, the newspaper ceased publication, the college severed relations and Sherrie and I parted after eleven years of remarkable achievements together. Starting from a rented plot of land, we had bought 22 acres of prime Finger Lakes land, built two cabins and a two-storey home, founded and published a national magazine, created a "community of homesteaders", fielded annual self-reliant festivals for hundreds of our readers, and traveled the speaker’s circuit offering ten seminars from NY to California. I was - and am - fiercely proud of Sherrie’s work and our work as a team. We remain close even today, after nearly 20 years in love (and counting).

Back in Glendale, confident I would find my group, I joined the Phoenix peace organization in protesting the Gulf War. It was astonishing and puzzling to be treated uncivily by people ostensibly devoted to Peace. When questioned, I had foolishly admitted to 30 years experience in street protest and civil disobedience. That proved to be unacceptable, even offensive, since no one there was better qualified. So I was cast not as an ally, but a threat. Following a public talk I had given, a reporter from a large Phx paper called asking to interview me. After 5 minutes of questions the reporter huffed, "So! You’re one of those Eastern liberal professors!" and hung up the phone. It never saw print. I quickly learned that what we knew as the extreme right-wing John Birch Society line is here called "conservative".

Russ met Audrey; found computer work in a company that recognized his disciplined work ethic, soon promoted him to salaried and sent them U-Hauling it to Lodi, CA. Alone again and all but friendless, I taught short-term writing courses in five colleges, and extended gardening courses in Glendale and Tucson. I had been talking with state legislators urging laws prohibiting CP in schoools (and encountered lawmakers raging at my audacity in challenging sacred "woodshed discipline") when Diane Bishop, president of the State Board of Education, called a hearing on the matter of school corporal punishment. I testified. At voting time my testimony was cited as critical: with only one dissenting, the vote was abolishment. Jubilant, I left for Mexico, joyful that CP was outlawed in Arizona. On my return I found that the AZ attorney general had ruled that only the legislature could stop schools from battering kids with paddles. Winter months I lived in a Mexican fishing village on the Sea of Cortez, where I found real friends. There I helped build a schoolhouse, raised an organic garden, smuggled tools & clothes to them, played "The Little Mermaid" video for the delighted kids. With the solar panels I had installed on my motor home roof powering my MacIntosh, there I wrote several books.

Back in Glendale the nice lady manager of the mobile home park had retired, replaced by an ill-humored German couple whose principle approach was to issue orders and dominate the residents under their "command". Worse, they allied with the Swastika-waving Nazi who lived a few doors from me, forming an axis to enforce the New Order. For years this was a peaceful park, but under the new regime the Nazi grew bold and took hissing "swine" at me and shrieking "Seig heil!" when I passed until I wearied of it and stood up to him. In brief: After my futile attempts at organizing resistence among park residents, Adolf (I’m not making this up) called in his skinhead harrassing team. They buzzed me for days circling on their Harleys, then the managers served legal notice for me to leave the park.

When I sought a restraining order to keep the Nazis out of my face, (the cops would do nothing), the Justice of Peace scheduled a "trial". At the outset the judge, also German, issuing decisions in a heavy gutteral accent, disallowed my speaking altogether, and cast me as the defendant. I was not allowed to answer Adolf’s accusations, or even to question his lying witnesses; thus I was characterised as the harasser of Adolf and the Skinheads. I had found myself in a festering nest of Holocaust deniers still loyal to the Third Reich. I said goodbye to my only friend, the Glendale librarian, and sought more peaceful climes. I would go where I could garden all year round.

On a map of temperature zones, there was, in remote Graham County, a small, secluded valley between two mountain ranges. I checked it out. It is my custom, when I see a beautiful child or baby, to clap my hands in glee and exclaim, "How beautiful!" There in Gila Valley the people smiled appreciatively and proudly said, "Thank you!" Whenever I did that in Glendale or Phoenix, they called the police. So I moved to Graham County and bought a home. The following week my neighbor said, "You can’t buy a tube of toothpaste here without supporting the LDS church." I had landed in a Mormon-ruled community. Thus began my 12+ years in the fundamentalist Gila Valley, Arizona, with its 36 denominational and "non-denominational" churches, and 37 Latter Day Saints churches or "stakes". Plus several catholic churches for the Mexicans, both documented and not. Sin is a thriving business here, with its five several lockups, including federal and state prisons, the county prison, the children’s jail ("Juvenile Detention Center"), and several other slammers. Most of my neighbors are prison guards, nearly every school, business and political & law enforcement institution is headed & controled by LDS.

I came here without an agenda. What, I asked myself, is the best thing I can contribute to my new community? I could teach writing, or how to make A’s in college, or speed reading, or yoga, or Buddhism, or self-reliant living, or food gardening, or home schooling… One morning, breakfasting in a diner, I saw a woman drag her 10-year-old boy into the ladies room and wallop the daylights out of him as he screamed for help. I could get no one, employee or patron, to go in there and put a stop to the abuse. In that instant I knew what I had to give to this community in Gila Valley, Arizona. What lay ahead was my biggest and toughest challenge in Arizona. - Norm

[Next month: Children’s Advocate.]

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm’s website, PARENTING WITHOUT You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective - or not. There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2009 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 89
June, 2009 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:
Over 25,900 visits

There are only two elements here,
Beauty and truth:
Beauty in the hearts of lovers,
And truth in the arms of the
Tillers of the soil.

                                        - Kahlil Gibran: "The Prophet"

A Family Project Where All Can Participate

Fantasizing about the self-reliance lifestyle if fine – unless daydreaming is the destination. Here is a first vital step nearly anyone can take in the direction of independent living. We may have been growing vitamin-rich alphalfa sprouts, making granola and yogurt, and now we begin digging a vegetable garden. Few projects deliver more benefits for the family. Even a small salad garden can involve each of its members. The joys begin with planning the garden layout and ordering the right varieties of seeds, and then continue daily until the harvest fills your salad bowl and dinner plate. Here are basic guidelines, for boosting production and avoiding pitfalls of building and tending a back yard food garden. If a few square feet are not available outside your kitchen door, see if there is a community garden in your neighborhood.

[My credentials: For five years in the late thirties I raised produce and sold it door-to-door, years before the terms ‘chemical fertilizers", "pesticides", "herbicides" and "organic" were invented. 1941 – 1947: Raised a WWII family "victory garden". 1970s, ‘80s, & ‘90s: published articles on food gardening in dozens of national magazines. I also wrote several gardening books, taught courses, and led workshops and seminars from New York to California.]

ANYONE CAN DO IT - In a small planting area, with massive use of compost and mulch and planting intensively, you can raise an abundance of food in deep-dug raised beds with only four hand tools. Bonus: A virtually workless, bug-free, weed-free bountiful garden if you know what you’re doing and stay away from USDA "Master Gardener" types: They would have you till the earth to death and toss chemicals into your compost. Forget their soil-testing, tractor-riding, poisonous miniature farming methods. Remember that USDA has persistently tried to kill natural growing since the 1930s and even today will sneer at organic gardeners. Raising a kitchen garden does not mean playing farmer-in-the-dell. CAUTION: the second most common mistake (first is chemical use,) is planting too large an area, and buying expensive tools like tillers. This is a set-up for failure.

HOW TO BEGIN - Keeping in mind that YOU are not growing anything; you are creating the right conditions for plants to thrive. You are a humble servant of the soil: take care of the soil and the good earth will feed you abundantly. In a word, "compost"- noun and verb. Compost is mulch material mixed with topsoil; mulch is what you use to cover and protect the earth that gives your food plants nutrients and strength.

NATURAL (organic): COMPOST - Any gardener worth the name makes his own garden soil, using the free materials at hand: decaying hay, green leafy cuttings, raw kitchen scraps, leaves, manure (horse or steer), and, if soil is too acidic, wood ashes. Compost is the key to a healthy productive garden. It supports plants so strong they send bugs away to find weak & diseased plants elsewhere. It is compost that produces healthy, vitamin-loaded vegetables for your family’s plates and palates. Use copious amounts of compost and you’ll have no need of soil testing, chemicals, or bug-killing poisons.

MULCH – This is the major work-saver that defeats weeds, the bane of home gardeners everywhere (else). The work of weeding has discouraged millions of hopefuls who failed to make use of the free mulching materials surrounding them: grass clippings, leaves, hay, chipped bark, pine needles, even newspapers. The mulch keeps weeds from sprouting, keeping the soil moist and soft while slowly feeding nutrients to the roots. I’ve never made compost by piling up the materials, mixing and turning the stuff over to "cook" them down. Too much work. My goal: a workless garden, one which is weedless, bugless, and disease-less, and at minimum expense. Use that energy to dig deeper beds. The roots will thank you.

DEEP-DUG RAISED BEDS: Here is another work-saver - once the digging is done. Stake out a seeding bed two feet by 12 feet. Take 15 minutes a day and dig out the soil at least a foot deep, two feet is twice as good. This is what I did in preparing the cement-like soil of the Arizona desert floor. [Key: Do Not Hurry.]

A study done in the twenties showed that the roots of beets will grow to 10-foot depths – IF unhampered by rocks or hardpan. Even lettuce will reach 7+ feet; tomatoes, cabbage, & beans, 5 ft. TV "gardeners" will say you can grow food on six inches of soil on your garage roof. That’s nonsense talk. It’s possible only by soaking it with chemicals, (and reaping diseased produce). I dig down two feet (min.), and pile up a third foot above ground. Don’t ask a crippled plant for food.

After removing rocks, fill the excavation with compost or layered compost materials – (called "trench composting"). The intensively- spaced plants will need copious amounts of compost for their roots to thrive. When topped with rich topsoil, you’ll have a seeding bed for your workless garden. For the remainder of the season it will need only 22 minutes a day to keep producing better, fresher, tastier gourmet vegetables than can be found in the market at any price.

WHAT TO PLANT – Outline on paper a 2-ft by 12-ft planting bed in 12x12-inch squares. Pencil in your choice of vegetables. My suggestions:

  • In 4 squares, set out 1 tomato plant in center of each;
  • In 4 squares, 2 lettuce each (in diagonal corners): Red Leaf or Butterleaf;
  • In 4 squares, 4 bush beans each (1 in each corner);
  • In 4 squares, 1 broccoli in center of each;
  • In 4 squares, 1 green pepper in center of each;
  • In 4 squares at end of bed, set out 2 yellow summer squash or zucchini.
At your garden supply store, buy the tomato, broccoli, green pepper and zucchini plants, plus a bag of onion sets for green onions. In future, you can start them yourself in flats.

WHAT TO INTERPLANT - Here is a method that can double your yield per square while discouraging bugs. Under the large, slow-growing plants you can raise earlier or smaller goodies. In the same square as tomatoes, set out onions; with lettuce, sew carrots or radishes; with broccoli, spinach; with zucchini, radishes; with bush beans, beet greens. As a general rule, place onion sets everywhere there is a bug threat. Also plant any herb that stinks, like basil in the tomato patch. Aromatic to you, but repulsive to bugs. Cabbage/broccoli worms and slugs you have to pick them by hand in the early morn, the lovliest time of day.

WILL WORK FOR FOOD – It’s a family garden - involve all those who eat. Children can change attitudes about food and nature as they care for growing plants. I remember my little son who would not eat a tomato, but buried his dinner in ketchup. How astonished he was when he realized that ketchup is all spices and pureed tomatoes! Appreciation for our food and how it is created is, at any age, an important lesson about life and existence. LAST WORD: Collect vegie kitchen scraps – raw, green, organic – and bury those compost materials in your garden.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 88
May, 2009 E-mail:
Norm Lee’s website:

"This time, like all times, is a very good one,
if we but know what to do with it."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Note: Events of the past two months have prevented my issuing regular Norm Reports, a cause of regret for one habituated to meeting editorial deadlines. The merriment of my birthday party (March 2,) was a joyous occasion of good food, good wine, and loving friends gathered to celebrate my survival of 80 years, but that was not what kept me from my screed. I blame my computer, given as it is to bouts of jealous resentment, grousing at neglect for my gallavanting to the Coast. It continues to pout & snarl, causing me four times the work & time previously needed to get out a page. I may yet join a Luddite technophobic group in Saskatchewan.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

– Henry David Thoreau

In times of national recession, children pay a disproportionate price. The strain and stress their parents are under often breaks out in conflict and violence. In the melee the children’s emotions are overlooked. Too often their suffering is never addressed, and we learn of it only when we read of it in accounts of the Great Depression written by Studs Terkel and others. The price being paid by children is intolerable; it is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to mitigate that terrible wrong. Since we don’t work in Washington, what can we do about the economy? To begin, we can keep in mind that only happy parents have happy children.

The current national economic unpleasantness puts me in mind of the Seventies, when Sherrie and I set out to the woods to live the life of self-reliance. Inspired by Thoreau’s "Walden" and the Nearings’ "Living the Good Life", I had bolted from a college teaching career in search of authenticity, or as John Holt put it, a "life worth living". (Later, Helen and Scott Nearing became our mentors, then personal friends.) We recognized that life satisfaction was not to be found in playing the economic game, one that we did not choose. Earlier we had suited up and played it, unaware that we were the losers before we left the locker room for the playing field. Then we listened to Helen and Scott, and to Henry David Thoreau, who, more than a century earlier, had refused to pay the church tax, saying, "I am not a member of anything I have not joined." We realized that the prevailing economic game had been thrust upon us.

Today the sickness of the System is clear to all now that the social fabric we grew up with is disintegrating before our eyes. That need not be bad news, however. If we do not allow ourselves to panic, if we can summon some perspective and wisdom, we can recognize these times as presenting a menu full of wonderful opportunities. We may be offered a chance to live the kind of life we have long dreamed of living, but lacked the courage to walk out on a "steady" but undependable paycheck. One has to run certain risks if we are to live a life of freedom. In the "simple life" of independent living, we can find deep satisfaction in producing for family and ourselves our basic needs. A bonus is in upgrading our values in the process. We can, amid the hostility and chaos around us, bring quiet peace and sanity to our nuclear family.

It was November 1976 when Sherrie and I hauled a tiny old camping trailer thru a record-breaking snowfall to a small, "unimproved" acreage on the NY State - Pennsylvania border. We had no employment, no friends, no family support, no money, and no credit cards. But we had fierce determination to achieve independence and freedom. Most importantly, we did not fear failure; we had the courage - (some said foolhardiness) - to persist in the face of immense odds. We found it exhilarating. We knew that taking command of our life was a giant step toward sanity. Facing every day with joy, working with challenges as they arose, doing what we could with the facts of existence, and accepting with joy and gratitude the results of our labor is a thrilling way to live. Carry water from the creek. Cut wood for the stove. Grow vegetables and fruit, keep hens for eggs. Our friend John Holt later put words to it: "This is work worth doing", he said. "It’s life worth living."

Living the "simple life" was not new to me. I had raised organic vegetables since childhood, and had learned to build with wood and stone. I became a master teacher and a published - but threadbare – writer, one who marched to a different drum. Sherrie was a recent graduate with a degree in art history and the fine skills of the art of calligraphy. In ten years’ time we had built two cabins and a two-story home, developed a four-season food garden, and founded and published a national magazine. Together we built a "community of homesteaders" and hosted an annual conference of self-reliant wannabes who came by the hundreds to our 21 acres to choose from our 40 workshops - 10 of them for the children.

We learned first hand how to live "on the edge of the System". We were too poor to pay income tax, but too steeped in abundance to fret about money. When we needed some to print our magazine, we sold firewood by the cord. Or I wrote another article for The Mother Earth News or East-West Journal or Rodale’s Organic Gardening Magazine. Sherrie calligrafied menus for restaurants, award certificates for Corning Glass, and special tributes commissioned for such as Bob Denver. Each of us taught courses at the local community college: calligraphy by Sherrie, organic food gardening by me. We were later to tour the U.S.A offering a menu of 10 seminars. We knew no one who were as happy and "wealthy" as we.

Best of all was the awesome company we were privileged to keep. People who seek self-sufficiency are not there to drink themselves silly. While learning life-sustaining skills is serious business, it need not be grim. The wonderful homesteading hopefuls attending our annual Good Life Get-together brought fiddles, banjos & guitars along with their kids, tents & sleeping bags. We opened with a square dance, and enjoyed pickin’ & singin’ around evening campfires. We were privileged to count as friends celebrities like Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and John Holt (who brought his cello). >From the beginning we were honored to have the support of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of "Living the Good Life". That is the book that became the back-to the-land "bible" that inspired so many to go "back to the land" during the Sixties. The famous couple helped us launch our first Festival. At our final Get-together, (after Scott died at age 100), Helen, approaching age 90, led a stonewall-building workshop for awe-struck novices.

One needs a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. Such a radical lifestyle change cannot be driven by impulse. Nor can one enthusiastic partner drag along a reluctant spouse. It is a family adventure that requires consensus. Note that this is, without question, one of the most valuable experiences the children can have. The values and skills learned will benefit them all their lives. Doing for oneself is a step toward sanity, leagues away from the mind-conditioning and dead-end jobs that deliver years of mind-numbing work, slavish obedience, and a gold watch.

Modern homesteading is not farming. Hordes of well-meaning hippies in the Sixties thought so, and bought too many acres, and a cow and tractor to put on it. They planted crops, neglected the animals and the machinery, and were back in the cities’ cubicles by winter, enslaved by treadmill jobs and a mortgage. It was not arbitrarily that Thoreau’s first chapter of "Walden" was titled "Economy". Scott Nearing said it succinctly: Rule one is Pay As You Go. Eliminate credit cards, pay no interest, visit yards sales & thrift stores, and barter whenever possible. Create a home business. In Vermont the Nearings tapped their maples and sold syrup; when they moved to Maine they picked and sold their blueberries. They called it the "bread labor" needed to bring in the few drachmas to satisfy Ceasar. If you have to file income tax, you’re making too much money.

At the outset the "helpless infant" mentality and the fear that supports it must be shed. We are not as helpless as media and institutions try to convince us. We are growing, changing, and learning beings capable of avoiding ego pitfalls and remembering that we have things to learn from those who have "been there". Fear of failure prevents our using – and discovering – our skills and realizing our potential as mature beings. No need to be conditioned in fear and dread to work on a "treadmill to oblivion", as Fred Allen called the unhappy life of futility. Bob Dylan sang, "Those not busy being born are busy dying." We are, or can become, capable of providing for ourselves almost all of what we pay others for. All that’s needed is the openness to learn, and the courage to try. We can produce our own goods and supply our own services, and discover that we do have the power to live without creeping and crawling in servile labor for someone else. The current economic crisis offers that valuable, that priceless, opportunity to live the Good Life of self-reliance, and in so doing, we discover ourselves.

Once we start examining the way we live our lives, the frittering away of time, money & energy in chasing illusions that promise happiness (at the price of freedom & integrity), we find that our homes and our minds are choked with clutter. Only the foolish march into the woods with nothing but a pocketknife, planning to live in a hollow tree and "be happy". With sensible mental preparation, a certain few skills, and the courage to face down threats of failure, one can build a warm and dry shelter, raise food in a small garden, homeschool the children, do home health care and homebirths, and fashion a solar or wind electric power system. You can start this spring. Indeed, the life of self-reliance can begin tomorrow morning with a backyard raised-bed organic garden. With a few skills and a few hours of care, it can provide you with a surprising number of near-free nutritious meals. The rich can’t buy more tasty and nutritious produce than that.

To achieve peace in the world, to affect non-violence among neighbors, to accomplish fair distribution of wealth, to change the world one must change oneself. In taking charge of your life you are making a social, moral, and political statement. We change the System by changing ourselves. Your taking charge of your lifestyle is a powerful social, moral, and political statement. And again, to have happy children, provide them with happy parents.

- Norm

The Norm Report -Month 87
March, 2009 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website: - Over 24,800 visits

" I think my advocacy of children's rights stemmed from
that year when I was abused and traumatized."

-Mitch Hall

Norm Lee: What were the political influences in your youth? What are the roots of this social conscience?
Mitch Hall: My family from my mom's side, the ones who raised me, were all Jews who had come originally as refugees to escape the pogroms and poverty of Eastern Europe. They tended to be politically liberal, and they abhorred war. My maternal grandmother's oldest brother was killed in Europe as a soldier in WWI before the family had emigrated from Europe. They were from Latvia and had moved to London. In high school my mom had written an essay on the causes of war, which she found to be greed, and she won a city- wide essay contest for which she was honored. My mom's brother Ray was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, and his homecoming was a moment when I, as a very young child, saw my grandparents the most joyous I'd ever seen them. I felt strongly against war as a kid, prayed for the end of the Korean War, and kept for many years the newspaper announcing the truce had been reached.

NL: At what point did you became a pacifist, and commit your life to resisting war?
MH: As a young boy I saw a documentary about Gandhi and nonviolent resistance.

There was a small Indian man in a loincloth leading many people in a march to the sea for salt, and to sit on railroad tracks to block trains. Wow, I realized that I, too, could sit down, cross my legs, and refuse whatever did not serve my needs. My first Gandhi- inspired act, one of many in my life, of nonviolent refusal to cooperate with something, came about when I decided I did not want to go through with the bar mitzvah for which I had been preparing in Hebrew school. When the time came for me to leave for "schul.", I sat cross-legged on my grandparents' living room floor (age 11 or 12). No amount of arguing, cajoling, punishment, or manifest disappointment on the part of adults could dissuade me from my decision. I felt I belonged to all of humanity and did not want to be confirmed as a member of only one ethnic, religious group.

The fact that my dad, whom I did not yet know personally, was Christian, and that my own group identity was mixed and ambiguous in those years was undoubtedly a part of it. This was another influence. I questioned people's collective identities. I had a mixed heritage. Some Jews were prejudiced against me because of my non-Jewish name and, in their eyes, appearance. Yet in Hebrew school I had been learning about the one God who had created all. People did not act that way. I looked inside myself, metaphorically speaking, to find the admixture of two different ingredients, like chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but all I found was one person. When I looked in others' eyes, I saw that each was just one person as well, despite superficial differences. So, I wanted to be part of all humanity, not of one separate group.

NL: And in this search for who you were, you encountered many answers.
MH: As for identity, I spent a year in Detroit, coinciding with second-grade. My mom had married an abusive, violent, racist, orthodox Jewish man who traumatized me.

despite his supposed piety. In the basement of the same building, owned by the stepfather's equally abusive mother who lived upstairs, was a warm, nurturing, working- class. African-American woman named Lilly. She took in clothes to launder for a living. The stepfather had forbidden me to associate with Lilly, but my mom let me hang out with Lilly provided her husband was away and did not know about it.

Lilly befriended me, loved me, laughed at my humor, and gave me a sense of safety when I was with her. She influenced the rest of my life. When I joined the civil rights movement while in high school and college, opposing racism and prejudice, the lessons learned in Detroit, positive ones from Lilly and negative ones from the stepfather, were strong influences on me. I think my advocacy of children's rights also stemmed from that year when I was abused and traumatized. Fortunately, there were enough positive influences in my life for me to learn that not all adults treated children that way.

NL: When was it that you worked in Europe for the FOR?
MH: I worked in Europe for a year (1970) as an organizer for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. I had found an ad in a publication on the floor after a workshop at Columbia. The call was for someone who spoke at least one other European language and understood the importance of the looming environmental crisis. I applied. The night before the interview I had a vivid dream in which I saw a room with a fireplace. On the mantle were a picture of Gandhi and an ivy plant whose stems and leaves grew over and around the picture. When I reached the FOR headquarters in Nyack, NY, (and this was the first time I'd ever been there), I was asked to wait for my interview in a room that was exactly what I had seen in my dream. I had a sense I'd get this job, and I did.

I had offices first in Brussels and then in Paris and traveled in eight different nations in connection with my work for peace and ecological sustainability. Organizing an ecology conference in Menton. France, I invited ecologists to participate and arranged for the hotel and conference hall in Menton. The conference produced a document, the Menton Message, which, translated and printed, was circulated in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Other people circulated the document in other parts of the world. It was published in the NY Times and UNESCO Courier, presented to U Thant in a ceremony at the UN, and became a working paper at the first UN Conference on the Environment in Stockholm in 1972. The documents from that work are archived in the library at Swarthmore College as historically important to the peace movement.

While in Europe, I also was a liaison for the FOR with many peace movement and social justice leaders in nine nations. I met with Danilo Dolci, called the Italian Gandhi, in Sicily and with the exiled Brazilian educator Paolo Freire at his office and home in Geneva. I also worked with people from the Overseas Vietnamese Buddhist Association in Paris, including Thich Nhat Hanh and Vo Van Ai. The latter is a significant human rights activist to this day. A split had occurred among the Vietnamese Buddhist peace activists, with many becoming disillusioned with TNH, who later became even more famous and popular.

While at Norwich University I taught undergraduate courses on the sociology of racial and ethnic relations. For ten years at this institution I was director of an undergraduate program dedicated to preparing students for service leadership in intercultural contexts, such as in the Peace Corps. I collaboratively developed the curriculum with the adjunct professors' whom I hired and supervised. Students in the program conducted focus groups around the university to assess student attitudes about diversity issues. On the basis of the information gathered, the students and teachers made recommendations to the university leadership about how the school's culture could be shifted in ways that would make it more congenial for people from diverse backgrounds. And for a government-sponsored refugee resettlement program in Vermont, I served as interpreter for French-speaking refugees from Congo and Rwanda in Africa.

NL: You had then already returned from serving in the Peace Corps?
MH: I joined the Peace Corps in 1964, during my senior year at Columbia. I had married an African-American/French-Canadian woman who was a junior there. We wanted to go to Africa together to learn fIrst-hand about the lives of people in the third world who had gained independence from European colonial rule. We had a two-summer training to learn French, African studies, pedagogy, and more. In the school year between the two summers, all the other trainees completed college, and I taught in NYC.

I served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in the West African nation of Togo. There, I taught many high school students from small, economically disadvantaged, rural villages who were aspiring to improve their life circumstances through education. I taught ESL, history, and geography in two high schools in the northern Togolese town of Lama-Kara. French was the language of instruction. Classes had up to 70 students at a time. The experience was a profound one. I learned about, childrearing, for example, and the normalcy of sustained breast-feeding. I learned about how some illiterate peasant people who had never been to school carried complex cultural traditions, at times with wisdom. I learned to love African music and dance. I became even more disillusioned with materialism, imperialism, cultural hegemony of colonial 'and neocolonial powers. I learned how the US government had propagandistic purposes with the Peace Corps and how, nonetheless, most volunteers became more radicalized from their direct experiences. I learned the devastating effects of colonial occupation on the self-esteem of local people and about the corruption and ruthlessness of the military dictatorship, allies of the US that turned a blind eye to human rights abuses, of the country where I was serving.

One of my students was a paraplegic who crawled on his hands and knees a couple of miles across the countryside twice a day, for the morning and afternoon classes, between the school and his home. Through a charitable organization in the United States, I ordered a wheelchair, and when it arrived I presented it to the student. It was the fIrst wheelchair that had ever been seen in that town. The student then proudly came to school upright, often pushed by some of his friends. It made a big difference to hi~ sense of human dignity that he could be upright just like his friends.

NL: What is it like, your everyday work today as a clinical therapist? Is this what you had hoped for as the culmination of years of struggle?
MH: I work as a therapist with Community Health for Asian-Americans, a non-profit, mental health agency in Richmond, California, which is one of the most violent cities in America as measured by per-capita homicide rate. Most of my clients are children and youth from 7 to 17 years old. Each day I meet with clients, mostly kids, who have had a wide range of traumas and developmental disadvantages. I engage them in expressive arts activities, games, puzzles, dialogue about their lives, provide psycho-education, validate their feelings, empathize with their struggles, recognize their strengths, treat them with respect, warmth, and care. 1 do my best to give them an implicit experience of a decent human relationship and help them to deal with their challenges.

It seems as if destiny has led me to this work in my so-called retirement years. It allows me to use my interpersonal skills and understandings of psychology and therapy in the service of underprivileged children. I enjoy the direct service a lot. For years I have been writing and speaking about children's rights and needs, and here I can work with real children whose needs are among the most urgent. I can also be a role model and witness for nonviolence, creativity, and compassion.

I also want to give witness to the resourcefulness, courage, creativity, and decency I find in so many of the clients. It's amazing how they have adapted to and coped with trying and traumatizing circumstances in their lives.

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm's website, PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective -or not.

There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2009 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to If you have received this by mistake, and/or it is unwelcome, simply click Reply and type "Please remove" in the Subject box.

The Norm Report - Month 86
February 2009
Norm Lee's website:
Over 24,000 visits

"I wanted to be part of all humanity,
not of one separate group."

- Mitch Hall

Mitch Hall is committed to peace building, social healing, children's rights, nonviolence and spiritual cultivation through education, advocacy, counseling, mentoring, mediating, and meditative practice. His recent writings include Mindfulness and Peace (2007), The Social Healer (with Marc Pilisuk, 2006), The Power of Peace (with Madeleine Y. Gómez, 2004), Peace Quest: Cultivating Peace in a Violent Culture (2003), and The Plague of Violence: A Preventable Epidemic (2002). In his writing and public speaking, he draws on recent research in attachment theory, interpersonal neurobiology, social psychology, and other disciplines.

Mitch's mission for peace building and spiritual cultivation is rooted in early childhood experience. He has an undergraduate degree in religion from Columbia University, a graduate degree in sociology from the University of Chicago, and did doctoral-level studies in psychology at Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center.

Over the years, in a humanistic spirit of dialogue, he has read in the literature of diverse spiritual paths and has practiced for extended periods with teachers from Yogic, Jain, Taoist, and Buddhist traditions. He continues to practice taichi, qigong, yoga, and meditation (primarily vipassana). Life experience and significant interpersonal relationships have been his main teachers.

Mitch is a member of the Board of Directors of Parents and Teachers against Violence in Education ( In recent years, he has been invited twice as a speaker to the professional summit conferences, "National Leaders in Nonviolence and the Child." He also spoke for the past three years in peace psychology symposia at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association and made a presentation on "A Framework for Peace and Nonviolence" at the 12th International Conference on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma. He has served with such organizations as the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Peace Corps, which gave him intercultural experience in Europe and Africa respectively. He currently works as a clinical therapist with a non-profit agency in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Norm Lee: I understand you were midwife for the home-births of your six children?

Mitch Hall: One son, three daughters, two more sons. I was filled with wonder and awe at the beauty, vulnerability, utter dependence, and need for love of children who emerge so wet and soft and open. When my daughter Amela looked directly into my eyes, moments after her birth, she was clearly a conscious being, seeking loving contact and support. Not only did I see her, she saw me in a soulful way. My first son was born in 1972, and the last was born in 1990.

NL: And what did the babies teach you?

MH: I learned of the importance for parents to understand human development throughout the stages of the life cycle. I learned also of the importance for a couple that might have children to discuss ahead of time their vision for how to raise children. Differences of approach to discipline, for example, can be devastating to the kids. I learned how, under stress, it was all-too-easy to revert to doing unto the children as had been done unto the parent, for better or worse. I learned, or rather had my predilections reinforced, that punishment is never necessary, that spanking, shaming, and inducing fear and isolation are inevitably harmful, and that setting a good example, reasoning, establishing limits clearly and holding to them are important, as are good nutrition and other healthy habits.

NL: What is most important for parents to understand?

MH: Parents need to face themselves, to learn their own stories, to heal and grow and be as emotionally mature and balanced as possible. I learned that raising children is one of the most demanding yet important activities a human can ever have the privilege to do, and parents need family and community support to do it.

Disharmony between the parents can be devastating to the children, and divorce is turbulent and heartbreaking, especially if children are involved, but that staying together in an unviable, incompatible marriage can be even worse.

What I learned with my kids was to play again in a childlike way, and to revel in stories, children’s books, puppetry, and more. I made some mistakes along the way as a parent, but I tried to learn from them and do what I could to counteract them.

NL: In 1964-65 you taught in a private school, then in '68-'69 in public school. What happened while teaching kids in NYC schools? What challenges, satisfactions?

MH: My first job out of college was as a 5th and 6th grade history teacher at Grace Church School, near Greenwich Village. After two years of Peace Corps teaching in Togo, West Africa, and a year getting my master’s degree in sociology at the University of Chicago, I taught in an inner city junior high school on the upper west side of Manhattan.

NL: That was when the war in Vietnam was close to its height.

MH: The war was raging, and the army decided to call on graduate students to serve. In inner city schools there was a critical shortage of teachers, so that was a legitimately deferrable activity - which fit with my own sense of mission in life.

The main challenge in teaching was to help traumatized kids connect with the value of learning and literacy. A second challenge was in coping with the animosity of conservative, establishment-oriented teachers. Many students were poorly prepared academically and had, for example, third-grade reading levels while in 8th grade. Most of the students lived in dangerous housing projects and neighborhoods. They were ethnically and linguistically mixed, many of families that came from Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The majority were African-American, a few were white children of Columbia University professors with their reading already beyond the high-school level.

NL: In inner city schools, only the exceptional teacher can even control the classroom, much less teach anything.

MH: The school was chaotic. Additionally, the entire NYC teachers’ union called a strike that year, and I was one of a small number of teachers who opened our school and held classes during the strike. The reason: We were in solidarity with the local school board in Ocean-Hill Brownsville, Brooklyn, who had fired a few teachers, after due investigations, on the grounds that they were racist. The teachers' union, under Albert Shanker, refused to honor the legitimacy of the school board. I and other young idealists felt our solidarity was with the local people of color, not with the relatively privileged union membership. Teaching during the strike with a handful of other young teachers was an adventure. I also spoke at hearings in support of the local parents’ right to have a say on what went on in the schools. This garnered the animosity of long-term career teachers who continued to resent the young idealists when the old guard returned to school at the end of the strike.

NL: Heady times, indeed, requiring courage. You are not the kind of teacher who clings fearfully to the assigned textbook. How satisfying has teaching been for you? Do you think of yourself as primarily a classroom teacher?

MH: I enjoyed classroom teaching a lot and had many varying roles, experiences, and contexts as a teacher. I have been concerned first and foremost not with subject matter, but for the well being, self-understanding, and development of the students. I practiced teaching as, in a sense, a healing profession, an opportunity to help students whose spirits may have been broken to discover their own potentials for curiosity, discovery, expression, connection with their own core and others, and service. Over the years, many students have said I made a crucial difference in their lives.

One of the satisfying things I did was to experiment with the curriculum. For example, I found the American history textbook to be somewhat racist and superficial, so I locked it up in a closet and used other materials. When students asked about it, I took it out and used it for exercises in critical thinking. I told them they needed to look for evidence and logic and use their own intelligence to discern truth from falsehood.

When faced with the difficulty of getting these kids to connect to writing, I looked for books that related to their everyday lives on the streets and in the projects, like "Down These Mean Streets", by Piri Thomas. I did a dramatic reading, and the previously unruly classes became engrossed and silent. They loved the story and wanted more. I cut a deal. If I would buy a box of 100 books at a big discount, would they each buy one at my cost? They all agreed. The books quickly sold out, and even kids outside my classes came to buy the remaining copies. We got lots of lessons from the book, including a lesson on getting the girls to analyze the portrayal of females in the book. When I invited them to write their own stories, they produced some stunning, authentic, autobiographical narratives.

NL: A teacher's job is, unfortunately, not only classroom lessons; it is dealing with the school's political pressures as well.

MH: During that time I was not far from national politics, not even in the classroom. The son of Roy Inness, the national leader of CORE, was in one of my classes. A girl whose father was Juan Correa, a Vietnam veteran who was heading up the mercenary forces fighting with General Ojukwu for Biafran independence from Nigeria, was in another class. The girl, Juanita, went to Biafra over the Christmas vacation and brought back horrific war pictures and told of how her father got up from the dinner table to go out back and execute someone. She was certainly traumatized by her experiences and got into some fights during that period.

NEXT: The search for identity, work in Europe, Peace Corps in Africa, and current work as therapist with traumatized children.

The Norm Report - Month 85
January 1, 2009 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:
Over 24,000 visits

Randy Pausch expanding on his "Last Lecture" before he died,
shared how he learned each of the lessons he had outlined in his talk:
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life.
If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself.
The dreams will come to you.”

A time comes in your life when you finally get it.
When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH!
Enough of fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder
once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the World through new eyes.

This is your awakening.
You realize that it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon.
You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming and you are not Cinderella and that in the real world there aren't always fairy tale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are... and that's OK.
They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself, and in the process, a sense of new-found confidence is born of self-approval.
You stop bitching and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn't do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is
…the unexpected.

You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that
…it's not always about you.
So you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.
You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and in the process
…a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You realize that much of the way you view yourself and the world around you is as a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained
…into your psyche.
And you begin to sift through all the crap you've been fed, about how you should behave, how you should look and how much you should weigh and what you should wear and where you should shop and what you should drive, how and where you should live and what you should do for a living, who you should sleep with and who you should marry and what you should expect of marriage, the importance of having and raising children or what you owe your parents.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view.

And you begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you've outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with, and in the process you learn to go with your instincts. You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive, and that there is power and glory in creating and contributing, and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation
…upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing.
You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.
You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love.
How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn not to project your needs or your feelings onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or more important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name.

You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that just as people grow and change so it is with love....
And you learn that you don't have the right to demand love on your terms just to make you happy.

And you learn that "alone" does not mean lonely.

You look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 4 or a perfect 10 and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head and agonizing over how you "stack up." You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK. That it is your right to want things and to ask for the things that you want, that sometimes
…it is necessary to make demands.
You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less.

And, you allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes you to glorify you with his touch...and in the process you internalize the meaning of self-respect.
And you learn that your body really is your temple. And you begin to care for it and treat it with respect.
You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and taking more time to exercise.

You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear. So you take more time to rest.
And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that for the most part, in life you get what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is
…a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it happen.
More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance.

You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it's OK to risk asking for help.
You learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time: fear itself.
You learn to step right into and through your fear because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is
…to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

And you learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of doom. You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people.
On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn't punishing you or failing to answer your prayers. It's just life happening.
And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state - the EGO.
You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you
…and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to admit when you are wrong and start building bridges instead of walls.
You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people on earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself, and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself

and to never ever settle for less than your heart's desire. You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind. You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and
…to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart and with God by your side you take a stand. You take a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live -
…as best as you can.

[Source unknown]

The Norm Report - Month 84
December 1, 2008 E-mail:

We are driving the hitters into the closet now,
whereas in the early years those who oppose us
were readily available.

- Bob Fathman

Robert Fathman, Ph.D, 63, a clinical psychologist, recently retired his private practice. His wife, Gina, has also just retired, after 30 years of teaching high school math. They live in Dublin, Ohio a suburb of Columbus. Dr. Fathman has been my friend and colleague for several years as we've worked to abolish corporal punishment in schools and homes. He has three daughters and a son, all grown.

Bob, how are you adjusting to life as a retired grandparent?
Michelle, her husband and their kids, ages 3 and 1, are with us here for many activities and occasional overnights. Another daughter, about a 2 ½ hours away, have two more of our grandkids, ages 5 and almost 3. Our son lives nearby in Columbus, and our youngest, Molly, lives at Lake Tahoe, CA. We are a close family, getting together for major holidays, plus the occasional shared vacation.

I know you're a committed Democrat. What other interests do you pursue?
I like biking, swimming, community involvement, and travel. My wife and I have been as far east as Turkey; we plan to go west next summer to China and Thailand. I also like genealogy, but have set that aside the past several years after tracking some ancestral lines in Germany back to the 1500’s. I’m on the Board of our homeowner’s association in this subdivision of 2,400 homes. Twice I narrowly missed being elected to the City Council, which was considered a feat for a Democrat in this very Republican community. Two of our daughters and I worked hard on the Obama campaign, making calls, placing yard signs, hosting a house party and finally serving as a “line manager” on election day.

Did you grow up in Columbus? What were your parents like? Your schooling?
I was born in Toledo, Ohio, but grew up in Detroit after my dad was transferred there. My parents had a loving relationship and were very patient with my three sisters and me, not using any corporal punishment – really no punishment at all, just occasional scoldings, not even “grounding.” The same held true for my wife. I had the good fortune of growing up in Catholic schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, none of which used corporal punishment. I guess we both had a very gentle order of nuns. >From there I went to the [Jesuit] University of Detroit, majoring in Psychology-Economics-Management through the Honors Program, and received a full ride, then to the University of Texas - in Austin - for my Ph.D. studies.

How did you first get involved in opposing CP?
Our eldest daughter had been in a Catholic kindergarten with no CP, so Gina and I were shocked when we moved to Columbus and she started first grade in public school. On the very first day she came home in tears, saying she was not going back there. A first grade dropout! During the kids' tour of the school, the principal had shown them his paddle, and told these five- and six-year-old children the circumstances in which he would use it on them. He named his paddle “The Green Hornet”, "because it was green and would sting".

A call of protest to this principal began my advocacy. The following day a call to a teacher who slapped a boy’s hand for accidentally breaking one of his own crayons. We were stunned not only by the actions of these two educators, but also by the lack of reaction of our neighbors and friends when we told them about it. They had grown up in this system and accepted it unquestioningly.

What adventures has the struggle gotten you into?
A year later we moved to small town Marysville, Ohio, to be closer to my job in a community mental health center. We now had two children, and were careful each year to talk to every teacher and explain that we didn’t hit our children and we expected the same of their teachers. If there was ever a problem, we offered to be in their classroom the very same day they called. We told them we would back them up if there were [discipline] problems, but we asked that they please never hit our children.

When our second child, Nicole, entered first grade, she was ability-grouped into the highest achieving classroom, (the smart kids,) where she was doing third grade level reading. But on one paper dealing with synonyms, the instructions were, “Which word means the same as the underlined word in the sentence? Circle it.” She took the paper, correctly identified all the synonyms for the underlined words, but had a failing grade for the paper. The teacher then hit her three times with a board that was 2 ½ feet long and an inch thick. Why? Because she was supposed to circle the correct answers, not underline them. It seems too strange, too Kafka-esque, to be believed.

Complaints to the teacher that night in a call to her home, and the next day to the principal and the superintendent, got us nowhere. No apology ever, no promise that this would not recur. I made a call to the state department of education and was told the law allowed this. So we got on the agenda for the upcoming school board meeting and asked that this policy be changed. Nothing happened. The teacher in question also attended that Board meeting, and defended her paddling: While acknowledging that Nicole had always been polite and was bright, the teacher said she had to teach these 6-year-olds to stop making silly mistakes. “Discipline and education go hand in hand!” A crowd of 100 fellow teachers and parents who attended gave her a five-minute standing ovation.

This sounds so much like the fundamentalist-driven valley where I live in Arizona. But I found the identical schoolmaster mentality in New York State. That would have discouraged many parents. How did you then proceed?
The next day we sent a letter to the school, (renewed each year), saying that hitting our children violated our religious and personal beliefs (religion scares school personnel, even though we were bluffing) and that we would sue if anyone hit our children. From that day on our four children carried notes in their backpacks saying they had our permission to refuse to submit to a paddling or hitting of any kind, and in fact were under orders from us to leave the school if necessary and call us from a neighbor home or business. The letters gave them a sense of security, but were never needed. We formerly mild mannered parents had intimidated the school. That was 1981.

Next I opened a file in my desk drawer labeled, “corporal punishment,” where I collected newspaper and magazine articles. Not much was being done then; only two states had bans: NJ in the 1860’s, and Massachusetts in 1971. Soon I connected with Adah Maurer, Ph.D. in California, an early advocate and organizer against school paddling. She was my inspiration. I was on the Board of the Ohio Mental Health Association in 1983 when the Ohio Academy of Pediatrics adopted a resolution calling on the state legislature to ban school CP, and I was off and running. I got that Board to adopt the same position - and they even asked me to network with like-minded associations to form a coalition for change.

In doing this, I found at the Ohio School Psychologists Association the incredible Nadine Block, a member who was also a lobbyist for her profession. Together - with a small nucleus from other medical and educational groups - we first founded an Ohio coalition to seek a ban on school CP. A year later we invited advocates from other states to assemble in Columbus so that we could each share what we had learned. At that meeting was founded the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, and I was asked to lead it.

That history is fascinating to me, knowing the work NCACPS has done since then. Will you describe what progress you have seen in the past 25 years?
We have CP bans now in 29 states, and I believe Ohio will join those ranks next year thanks to changes in the legislature occurring this month. In the remaining 21 states, thousands of individual districts have banned. In Wyoming, for example, it is legal to hit kids in school, but no one does – they have had zero cases for years.

I have seen you on TV, always holding a big paddle to emphasize CP's brutality.
When I am asked to be on a television news program, I am often asked to help the producers find a pro-paddling educator. We are driving the hitters into the closet now, whereas in the early years those who oppose us were readily available. In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the topic: TV news and talk shows, magazine articles, websites full of information, blogs, discussion groups on the net. In many states, even those with paddling allowed, most parents believe CP is outlawed, a thing of the past, because they don’t encounter it. We are raising a generation of future school board members, parents, and legislators and who will be appalled at the stories of today’s legalized beatings of children.

When did you first begin abuse-watching internationally?
I was invited to an international conference in Spain in 1991 with 39 other participants. We each spoke and presented a paper. This gave me a broader awareness of cultural and international differences, just about the time the internet began, which has made awareness and communication with the rest of the world so much more available.

Of what are you most proud?
I am most proud to think of the children all of us have saved from being hit, from experiencing night terrors or anxiety or bedwetting as a result. I’m proud that those kids will now be less inclined to hit their own kids, that we will be raising healthier, more well- adjusted kids, in part as a result of the efforts we all are making to protect them. I’m also proud to have reached large audiences through appearances on the Today Show, Sally Jessy Raphael, CNN Headline News, the CBS Evening News and so forth. I’ve probably done 100 radio talk shows, (and I was even on Jerry Springer!) I’ve testified in Congress, and to legislative committees in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Ohio. Our website,, reaches tens of thousands annually. I consider the media my best friend in the advocacy effort. Every paddler who sees the topic on TV, reads about it in a magazine, hears the discussion on the radio or reads a letter to the editor becomes aware that hitting kids in school is at best controversial, and hopefully over time they will feel guilt and shame for doing so and will stop.

Where do we go from here?
We have to focus on those 21 states that allow kids to be hit in school, and also on Congress, seeking federal legislation to ban. The Bush administration was pro-hitting. Early in his first campaign, George W. Bush had a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act that would have given educators who injure children immunity from civil or criminal action. We, and the Trial Lawyers, collaborated so that area of his bill was altered in our favor. While legislation to ban cp has never been a Democrat v. Republican issue, it has enjoyed support from both sides of the political aisle, we do now have a friendlier look to the White House and Congress that I hope will allow the U.S. to join the over 100 other countries in the world that educate without hitting.

President-elect Obama has said he would, among the forces of change, expand the Peace Corps and utilize "volunteer groups" to raise our quality of life. Is this our moment? Is this our opportunity to surge in eradicating CP in schools and homes as a child-rearing option? If so, what action must we take?
Interesting question. We are certainly looking to see where we might find a sponsor in Congress to, say, amend another education bill and slip in a prohibition on school CP, or just introduce a bill that focuses on that one topic. I think we all have to watch for every opportunity to work our issue. ##

Thank you, Bob

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 83
November 1, 2008

Strict Father model and Nurturant Parent model -
just about everybody in American culture has both models,
either actively or passively
. - George Lakoff

We have previously introduced George Lakoff's principles of framing issues, and how Neo-conservatives have used these methods successfully in dominating Progressives over the past 35 years. My purpose here is to explore how we, as "nospank warriors" can apply Dr. Lakoff's ideas to bring about positive, peaceful change in the treatment of children. How can we use framing in our work to eliminate corporal punishment? That is to say, How can we re-frame the corporal punishment issue in our dialogues with authoritarian parents and schoolmasters?

[1] WE PROGRESSIVES subscribe to the Nurturant Parent model, as distinguished from the Right Wing's Strict Father model. Each side represents its corresponding moral ideals. Dr. Lakoff tells us that negating a frame activates that frame, therefore we need to use the terms "spank", "hit", "paddle", etc. as sparingly as possible in our discourse, since such concepts evoke the very images that we mean to obliterate. We are urged to work with our own, positive frames.

[2] WHO ARE WE? As Progressive parents and teachers, what matters most to us? We're about values: trust, family cooperation, unity and strength. As parents, we are the child's first role models. Important: which values and behaviors shall we represent? I.e., What do we want our children to learn from our example? That is, after all, the only way children learn values. And they learn them without fail; no amount of preaching will erase it. The demand, "Do as I say, not as I do" has never worked.

We want our children to learn: Honesty, authenticity, consideration for others' feelings, cooperation, courtesy, trust, fairness, dependability, justice, peace, sharing … and more: Open communication, responsibility, along with the freedom of opportunity to explore and learn.

[3] JUST LIKE US. Dr. Lakoff would have us look at the values we have in common with the spankers and shakers: discipline; family security; meaningful livelihood; happiness; respect; allegiance to nation; adequate income; opportunity to succeed, etc. We all seek comfort and satisfaction, and to avoid pain, suffering, and disappointment. These values and more, we have in common with all fellow beings. This is our common ground. We all have the same desire for happiness, the same fear of pain and suffering. We are not different from each other, and we are not different, in those respects, from our children.

To our fortune we find that our agreements vastly outnumber our disagreements. By including the corporal punishment faction in our group tent, we can work together toward our common goals. We first acknowledge that we differ only in the means we need to employ in pursuing our agreed-upon ends.

So this is anti-terrorism work we do. In it we also model patience, persistence, understanding, compassion, and courage - all positive moral values - just as all of us aspire to do.

Clearly, as Progressives, we are opposed to the spankers and paddlers. We see the woodshed disciplinarians as immersed in "tradition", in old time religion's original sin, authoritarianism, military rigidity, and an abiding faith in the power of righteous and painful punishment. (See James Dobson's "Dare To Discipline".) Yet we share, as mentioned, a vast common ground.

[4] THE VALUES WELL IS A DEEP ONE. Even as we talk with Right Wing spankers, with their Old Testament 6,OOO year old childrearing methods, (Solomon was 4,000 B.C.), we find our common ground in our sameness: the wish for happiness and peace, both in our respective families, and among nations. We both are committed to spouse and children, neighborhood groups, and national identity. We value and respect hard work; therefore we need to emphasize our common commitment to self-discipline, individual responsibility, and maturity, as well as to our readiness to help others in their need. And we share a love of nature and its beauty, along with the need to preserve part of it for our - and coming generations - enjoyment. These are some of our "Nurturant values", or "caring values" that we share with the "opposition" - (which, on examination, e find, are really us).

Both Progressives and spanking Fundamentalists value honesty, discipline, willing cooperation, peace in the family, obedience to rules, trust (our word is our bond). We are not just "good guys" who go along to get along, yet we value cooperation to achieve mutual goals and directions. We both teach our children fairness and generosity in sharing toys and treats. Also no hitting at home or away, the following the Golden Rule in life as well as the sandbox. Which raises the question: How best can we connect and work together, with Strict Father families, using this common ground so far? And: How best can families (and schools) practice these common values?

[5] THE FRAME: "We are not here to talk about abusing children. The issue we address is about happiness and family harmony, which we all wish for ourselves and for those we care for." That agreement, that consensus, raises the question (the frame): "How can we work together toward the goals of happiness and harmony in our homes and schools? Success will be measured in terms of that which we all value most: a happy, stress-free home life and a peaceful learning atmosphere at school."

We are, together now, opposing a massive culture of violence. As we want to change a culture of harming children, Lakoff suggests we frame it as a MORAL ISSUE. Decency and morality is on our side; spankers are not evil, tho we see them as medieval in their thinking and shallow in their values. And Cons see us as lax on discipline ("permissive"), and morally relaxed if not deficient. We can ask:

(a) "Parents and teachers, what is your moral position on harming children, inflicting physical pain on them?"

(b) "We agree there must be classroom order and civility in the home. We agree that discipline should be taught - but is CP the way? The only way?"

(c) "It is known that children learn (perhaps exclusively) by imitating their role models, like parents and teachers. What does that show us as parents and teachers?"

(d) ANS: Does it not show that the changes need to take place in us, the role models? The children will then surely follow our example, as they always have.

Shall we tell stories of Nurturant success, (Ex.: Jesus, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Barach Obama ran on his life story in the primaries, revealing his values and his skills. He connected via his authenticity, building trust with open communication and sincerity. Can we tell our own stories? There are scores of life stories of successful and famous people who were beaten as children, but there are dozens more stories of those who thrived under Nurturant treatment. Perhaps we need to find both kinds and share them. Personal histories are powerful persuaders.

TASK: Can we see if spankers will identify with us Nurturers by our telling our stories about growing up in abusive as well as Nurturant families? When we depend on the 18C. trust in reason and facts, we find the approach is no longer as relevant as it once was. Neocon spankers go blank when given what we regard as near-unassailable scientific truth, i.e., research results. Such truth resonates chiefly with the choir; its value is in confirming and persuading the not-so-sure, since they abide in spanking, Strict-Father-thinking communities.

Shall we go with the Common Sense argument instead? "We are all reasonable, peace-loving, God-fearing people who wish to do the Right Thing. Let us be mindful of the teachings of Jesus, who taught by example, never by punishing."

Should we connect emotionally - link identities - with hardworking Joe Six-pack and the harried, overworked mothers, with their basic American values of caring for families - and by extension, caring for relatives, friends, neighbors, communities, and nation? "We are defenders of the hearth, the traditional family values. The Fourth Amendment's home-is-our-castle and refuge. We can work together to quiet the current social chaos and bring about peace in the streets as well as in our homes and schools."

Ought we to use cultural narratives, stereotypes, metaphors, and frames? "Our values are your values - American, Judeo-Christian, traditional family values. Not radical extremist methods of violence against children, but the Golden Rule. The Boy Scout Code. The Four Noble Truths. We need a new look at what we are doing to the next generation."

[6] IN THE END, spankers, and others with the Strict Father mindset, will join with those they identify with, Lakoff assures us, just as they vote for whom they identify. Our awesome challenge is to reverse the public mindset that centuries of CP have built with the help of Strict Fathers and Mothers and their churches. We have 2,000 years of New Testament teachings on our side, plus 2,500 years of Buddhist wisdom and tradition. The weight of that traditional, compassionate wisdom makes the current trash-parenting look as puny as it is.

Perhaps the view that we are very much different from spankers and corporal punishers is an illusion, a fantasy. Are we not the same, except that we see the harm that CP does to children, and understand how it contributes to social chaos? Strict Fathers and Mothers spank because they suffer. Do we have it within us to open our hearts to them, accept their pain as our own, and in that way usher them into our NoSpank tent? Can we be that compassionate?

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 82
October 1, 2008

Goodbye, Paul Newman, and thank you.

Merely stating facts does not work.
People think in terms of cultural narratives,
frames and metaphores. They vote their identity.

- George Lakoff

Reading George Lakoff's Don't Think Of An Elephant is like awakening from a dream where you've been scored on for 35 years in a game you've never played before and haven't a clue as to the nature of the opposition. Dr. Lakoff teaches the science of linguistics at Berkeley. Altho he wrote Elephant to clarify the Neo-conservatives' tactics of dominating U.S. politics since the defeat of Goldwater, he offers valuable insight in the makeup of those we are up against in our work to end corporal punishment of children.

The essential neo-conservative/right wing mindset is as follows: The world is a tough, dangerous dog-eat-dog world requiring aggression, "fight", preparation and discipline. That we were all born in sin is a given, children are assumed bad by nature and, so must be severely trained, and "disciplined", meaning punished. Central is the Strict Father model of morality, in an ideology/theology with a vertical chain of command: God, father, mother, children. Obedience to authority is enforced in family, church and society. Such is God's intention. This ethic also extends to man's right, even duty, to dominate and exploit nature, as God's chosen creature.

Classic Strict Father Morality is nowhere better exemplified than by right-winger James Dobson, grown wealthy by exploiting parents' lust for inflicting physical punishment on their children, including 18 month-old babies. His books, radio programs and TV messages are 19th C. Germanic: This world is full of evil. To fight it we must be tough, clever, and competitive. Either/or thinking prevails: right or wrong, saint or sinner, heaven or hell, success or failure, winner or loser, for us or against us, etc. No gray area. Reward "good" (obedient) children, punish "bad" children. Every family needs a strong, disciplinarian father to teach kids right from wrong, and to enforce his rules. Punish with pain, i.e., spanking, hitting with sticks, belts or paddles, shaking, and hot sauce for "naughty talk". Schooling, which is teacher dominated, is principally for obedience training.

Corporal punishment teaches respect for moral authority, which results in obedient (moral) behavior. CP also trains to work hard to achieve (moneyed) success, self-reliance, and non-reliance on government social programs. Fill prisons by punishing those "losers" who are "failures" in life, (due to lack of discipline); reward with high salaries and tax cuts those who are disciplined (cagey) enuf to rise to the "top". Neo-conservatives are against nurturance and care programs, welfare, and childcare. Force the pregnant teen daughter to bear the child, as punishment for the consequences of bad behavior. It is the Strict Father Morality that gave us Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43, and the resurgence of Evangelistic, Mormon, and other fundamental faiths and cults.

In contrast, the Liberal or Progressive Morality images the Nurturant Parent model, which is gender neutral, both parents being equally responsible for child raising and providing models of acceptable behavior and values. Children are assumed to have been born good, are learners by nature, and both they and the world can, with work, be made better. The nurturant model is one of empathy and responsibility, sensitivity to the needs of others, protecting family and nation from harm (crime, disease, drugs, accidents). Happiness for children is part of liberal morality. Happy kids require happy parents, (because unhappy people do not wish happiness for others). So it is also our moral responsibility to seek happiness - tho not indulgence - for ourselves. Values include: Freedom, the means to pursue fulfillment, opportunity for achievement, openness, two-way open and honest communication, community service, cooperation, and trust. Spiritual/religious practice involves service to others, together with an antiauthoritarian need to challenge illegitimate authorities and exploiters such as environment-trashing corporations and anti-democratic or fascist-leaning governments.

The subtitle of Don't Think Of An Elephant is "Know Your Values and Frame the Debate - The Essential Guide for Progressives." This New York Times bestseller describes the art and science of framing, i.e., the strategies Conservative Republican marketers have known, practiced and heavily invested in for over three decades. Lakoff's purpose here is to suggest what Progressive Democrats can do about it. First, it needs to be understood that in political debate the enlightenment theory of reason, the mere telling of facts, persuades very few people, since it does not take into account how people actually work. Instead they think primarily in terms of cultural narratives, stereotypes, frames and metaphors. Below is an altogether too brief summary of the principles of framing set forth in this slim, 120-page book. Search or your library. It is well worth acquiring and studying for our work in protecting children from corporal punishment.

Principles of Framing Issues:

[1] The first principle of framing: Negating a frame activates that frame. When you activate the opponent's frame, you are supporting it, as Nixon found out. When he said, "I am not a crook", it made people think of Nixon as a crook. He resigned in ignominy. The Obama team's ad "No Maverick" actually helped McCain by activating and reinforcing the "maverick" image with "McCain". A serious framing mistake. Needed is a Democrat frame. Ex.: imaging McCain as a shadow of Bush 90% of the time.

[2] Voters do not vote for candidates primarily on the issues, but on "character", namely, values; authenticity; communication and connection; trust; and identity. In recent presidential campaigns, Mondale and Carter ran on issues, and lost to Reagan, whose handlers understood framing and had him run on the above character factors. Similarly, George W. Bush won surprise victories over Kerry, then Gore, who thought the contest was about issues. More people identified with Bush. In this year's primary contest Hillary ran on issues, while Obama ran on values, authenticity, and communication. After nomination the Obama camp mistakenly thought that by staying with the issues and just telling people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion. Very wrong. Elections are not about reason. The McCain Neo-conservatives, recognizing that they could not win on the issues (given the Bush 8-year disaster), they re-framed it as a Culture War by appointing Sarah Palin. Now the talk is more about Palin than about the issues. Result: Democrats are supporting the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

[3] Identity: Does the candidate share your values? Is he/she saying what they believe? If they connect to you, if you identify with them, you trust them. It has more to do than just personality. The Rovian right wing team is vigorously marketing McCain and Palin as American icons, the war hero and the ideal mom. This is powerful stuff to compete against, no matter how transparent the charade.

[4] It's the frame, stupid: Hillary played the issues card and lost. Barack ran on his life story, which revealed his values. He demonstrated his willingness to say what he believed (authenticity); showed his ability to connect and communicate and build trust through his sincerity. He used his personal background and got voters to identify with him. In a masterful campaign he ran on the above five character factors. After the Palin appointment the Obama-Biden campaign reverted to the losing tactic of the 18th century trust in the power of reason: If you just tell people the facts, they will follow their self-interest and reason to the right conclusion. Reality dictates that the Democratic campaign needs to return to exercising Obama's strengths in leading and communicating. That is, the inspiring speaker he was a year ago with his emotional connection with the unfortunate, and the basic American need to care for our families, neighbors, and communities. He can win the debates and the election if he relates to how people actually think: in cultural narratives, stereotypes, frames and metaphors. He can win if he delivers prompt, direct and inspiring answers connected to his basic values, i.e., show that his values are America's values. This will show the contrast with McCain's right wing extremism, that he represents more Dubya Bush.

[5] Conservative populism on a national scale was invented in the late 1960s when the Right Wing recognized that many liberal working people, progressive in outlook, were distinguished by their love of nature and their commitment to communities where people care about each other and vote the democratic ticket. William F. Buckley Jr. and others saw that this group also harbored several conservative values: patriotism, family solidarity, etc., that is, they were genuinely conservative in their mode of thought about patriotism and certain family issues, though they are progressive in their understanding and love of nature, and their commitment to their communities and the people in them. So for 35 years conservatives have talked to them steadily in terms of "patriotism" and "family values", thus activating their conservative mindset. At the same time, conservatives invented the idea that liberals look down upon working people ("liberal elitism") and are not like them. Palin is a natural icon for the conservative populists. This is Rove at his most brilliant.

Conservative populism is a cultural, not an economic, phenomenon. These are people who readily vote against their own economic self-interest, and instead vote on their identity as conservatives and on their contempt for the "elitist" liberals. They vote for people they identify with. "Look, he goes duck hunting and then has a beer!" Sowing mere factual realities on this barren ground will produce no political fruit.

Obama's challenge is how to reverse the public mindset the Conservatives have built over the years, and point out that the conservatives are really the elitists. They are federal government insiders who have fed them massive propaganda and taken advantage of them for big gains. The conservative populists, on the basis of values and character, really belong in the Obama-Biden camp.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 81
September 1, 2008

The policies which still allow this disgraceful,
painful and humiliating practice (corporal punishment)
give the sadist a ready-made excuse to
carry out floggings on defenseless kids.
But the kids grow up, and when they are big enough
they fight back.

                            - Jordan Riak


The PTAVE-RIAK story began in 1974 when Jordan Riak, a photographer from New Jersey, moved his family to New South Wales, Australia. He was there to teach photography in the Sydney College of the Arts. After he enrolled his children in the local public schools, his 8-year-old son came home horrified having seen classmates being "canned", the Aussie equivalent of paddling. "I was amazed that this was going on," Jordan recalls. "I was raised in New Jersey, a state that banned school corporal punishment when Abraham Lincoln was president. Even my mother thought it no longer existed in civilized nations."

When Jordan visited the school the very next day he was shocked: "… the most upsetting thing was a class of disabled students, blind and deaf, being caned. It was the most senseless kind of abuse against innocent children." He confronted the principal and asked to see the "cane" that was used for "discipline". Taking the instrument in his hands, Jordan stated, "This is a weapon. It has no business in schools, and no business being used on children." As the administrator blinked, unused to his authority challenged, Jordan added: "You have no place striking a child with this weapon, and I'm not giving it back to you." With that he left the building.

At home he immediately called every newspaper in Sydney and told his story. Confessing his "crime", he added, "Tomorrow at 4 p.m. I'm turning myself in for theft of government property." Jordan knew something of publicity; the press was all there with notepads and cameras. For eager news people later he dug a hole in his back yard and buried the headmaster's "cane" while cameras clicked. "Then I'd dig it up again and rebury it when another photographer came by," he recalls. "I did it several times and probably still have it around here somewhere." The attention gained eventually led to a ban on corporal punishment in Sydney schools.

Four years later, (1978), he worked with colleague Brian Stephenson to found Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education. PTAVE then spearheaded a vigorous campaign to ban pupil beatings in all New South Wales schools. After years as a policy there, the ban eventually became law in 1995.

When Jordan returned to the U.S. in the early 1980s, (to Alamo, California,) he brought PTAVE with him, incorporating it in California in 1983. He first drafted legislation to ban pain as punishment in schools with California Assembly Bill 1617. Then he met California Assemblyman Sam Farr in 1985. The lawmaker invited Jordan to draft legislation to outlaw school corporal punishment. Farr introduce the bill, AB 1617, the same year; it became law two years later, making California the 9th state to protect its 1.5 million schoolchildren. Official records during the previous school year show that approximately 7,000 legal incidents of corporal punishment had been inflicted on California school children. The debate over spanking spread from California, across the country, into national newspapers, talk radio, and to popular TV news channels. Even Saturday Night Live - in its Weekend Update segment - highlighted the spanking issue.

Today Jordan Riak is California's best-known opponent of corporal punishment of children, and is among its half-dozen national spokespersons. His 16-page booklet, "Plain Talk About Spanking," has generated national attention from parents, teachers and acclaimed psychologists. The booklet is also shipped by request to schools and legislators in Europe and Africa. He and PTAVE have helped pass anti-CP legislation for schools in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Most recently he and PTAVE activists Peggy Dean, Tom Johnson and Paula Flowe, have confronted spanking school administrators in North Carolina, holding officials' feet to the fire as this is written. Riak is angry about the violence inflicted on children. 'There are laws against hitting your wife, hitting a guy on the street, and even against hitting your dog," he says, "but it's perfectly legal in most of our country for a teacher to hit children.'"

Asked what - in a nutshell - he believes, Riak readily answers: "Responsible management of children, whether by parents at home or teachers at school, is like any other complex and demanding task; acting on impulse or out of habit isn't good enough. One must become informed. One must think critically about what one is doing. And central to critical thinking is one’s readiness to step outside the easy protection of old rationalizations and time-honored traditions, and to honestly examine the consequences to others of one's behaviors." In the scores if not hundreds of speeches, radio/TV interviews, letters to newspapers and articles over the past 34 years, he stresses this theme: "Violence in all human interaction, especially in the exercise of control by the powerful over the powerless, is the worst of all bad habits. It represents a fundamental failure in our humanity. The by-product of violence in early childhood almost inevitably is more violence downstream."

That's not to say Riak is against direct action - we need only remember his "theft" of the schoolmaster's cane in Australia, and witness the current action in North Carolina. He is careful to use nonshaming and nonblaming methods in what he does. As a gentle and cultured man, not given to street brawls, he says, "But I can't stand injustice. I can't stand to see someone defenseless getting hurt and no one doing anything about it." Others look on disapprovingly, but Jordan steps up.

An admitted workaholic, Riak says PTAVE work keeps him busy seven days a week, often awakening in the hours of the night to check his e-mail Inbox. There he responds to queries from the 2,000+ people on his website's mailing list. Requests for "Plain Talk About Spanking" and his "Kid Safe Zone" stickers with its anti-spanking logo have him mailing out each of these by the tens of thousands - always without charge. His printing bills and shipping charges are staggering. Financially he has worked "without a net" for so many years it's become a way of life for him. Whenever the cookie jar is empty and there's a printer's bill for 10,000 copies of the booklet, somehow a donation appears in the mail. He is what Buddhists call a Bodhisattva, one who devotes his life to the benefit of others to relieve them of their suffering -and to do no harm in the process.

What kind of daddy was Jordan, someone asked Riak's son Oren, now age 42. He said his father set an example that he now follows with his own children, ages 1 and 4. "There are rewards for good behavior and a lack of rewards for behavior that isn't good. I could never imagine hitting our kids. If I raise my voice to my daughter, it's shocking to her. I'd never raise my hand — that's crazy. A grown man raising an open hand to a 40-pound girl is just nuts."

Jordan Riak calls spanking a lazy method of parenting. He suggests, "If [children] are not listening, find a more skilled way to get their attention. If parents are looking for a one-sentence solution, they're going to be disappointed. Parenting is a major commitment, and there should be lessons, like a driver's education course before you can get behind the wheel. It should be just as essential."

That sort of talk strikes a nerve with a lot of people, said California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who last year introduced legislation to set a clear definition of what type of punishment is acceptable - and unacceptable - in the home. "We found ourselves in the middle of a giant culture war," said Lieber. "When the topic came up, we were probably getting about 95 to 100 percent negative feedback on the idea. It later mellowed to 85 to 90 percent negative." Lieber said she hopes to revisit the issue "down the road".

As noted above, Riak and PTAVE board members are pushing an initiative to ban corporal punishment in North Carolina schools. He is also warming up for a rematch in Oakland, where in 1999 he called for a declaration condemning the use of such punishment in the home. Like Lieber's statewide legislation, Riak's attempt in Oakland attracted scorn and ridicule. Yet such laws have been enacted in 24 nations, with seven passing legislation just last year. That his e-mail box is full of angry and threatening messages is no surprise to him. Riak knows that people resent being told how they should raise their kids, and he expects to get his fair share of hate mail. "I've gotten a lot of hostile mail," says Riak. An excerpt from a recent e-mail reads: "Without properly and thoughtfully applied stern discipline, (not useless timeout peter pan fantasy crap), a child will grow to be a disrespectful and anger filled person. ... Don't even think you'll come into my home and tell me that I'll not spank my child, you may just find yourself getting a season of applied leather education for yourself."

Most experts in academia and pediatrics agree that corporal punishment is detrimental to healthy childhood development; indeed, hundreds of studies over the past half-century have shown this to be true. Yet there have been a few studies that show it can be "safe" - that is, the harm is not immediately apparent - if not used excessively. That's something Riak says makes no sense. "You can't defend [CP] in any logical manner," he said. "Is it OK to give children an occasional cigarette because just one won't kill them? That's foolish. Sure, one smack won't turn a child into a serial killer, but who knows where it will lead? If your neighbor's lawn sprinkler accidentally leaves spots on your new car, you can't go next door and smack his rear to get his attention. If you forget to turn off the lights when you leave the office for the evening, your boss can't give you a smack the following morning to help you remember. That's assault. Children are the last class of people who are still considered hittable."

Some kids get "rulered," while others are "whupped" or "popped." Sometimes they get "cuffed," "drubbed," "blipped" or "boxed." In Mr. Riak's view, the semantics don't matter: It's all a spanking, and according to the longtime corporal punishment abolitionist, it is unacceptable by any name, anywhere. "The public is in denial," he said, so much so that "you have to invent funny words to keep it from being serious. It's cartoon language: 'Oh, I'm not violent, I just gave him a butt-warming.'"

Riak, at 73, is a retired teacher who has dedicated over three decades of his life trying to convince people that you don't spoil a child by sparing the rod. And using the cane or rod or paddle or switch can cause mental scars for the life of that child. Physical punishment has for generations been outlawed against prisoners, the military, and the incarcerated mentally ill. (Ironically, the only place a child is safe from being hit is in the juvenile detention facilities.) Abolishing physical punishment of children is a movement that is fast gaining ground, particularly when it comes to corporal punishment in schools. So far the practice has been outlawed in 39 states, with the legislatures of several more states currently considering school no-CP laws. Nadine Block of Ohio-based nonprofit End Physical Punishment of Children said Riak's efforts have been instrumental in getting legislation passed across this country.

"It has to start in schools," Riak says. "If (teachers) do it, it represents authority, it represents the government condoning it. Parents say, 'What's wrong with it if the government can do it?' And schools use the excuse, 'What's wrong with it if they do it at home?' One hand washes the other."

Sitting in a small, cluttered backyard office the size of a woodshed, Riak talked about how he got involved in an effort he considers a natural extension of the civil rights and women's liberation movements. "(Spanking children) is the same as husbands hitting their wives 75 years ago," he said. "They're supposed to honor and obey, and if she serves the coffee cold, well, then she gets a slap to remind her."

These days, the 73-year-old founder of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education is persistently working to get corporal punishment out of the schools and homes in America. Eleven U.S. states still allow paddling in schools, and the discussion over spanking children at home is currently in nearly every newspaper in the country. For the no-spank movement, nothing on this scale has occurred in the past 50 years.

Jordan says he has only one goal now: To eliminate corporal punishment in every state, in every school, in every home in the USA.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month #80
August 1, 2008 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:
Over 22,465 visits and counting

The greatest danger of all
is to allow new walls to divide us from one another…
The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least
cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes;
natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand.
These now are the walls we must tear down.

- Barack Obama

When I was attending Syracuse University in the Fifties and the tumult of campus life became too much to bear, I loaded up tent and sleeping bag, and Rex and I withdrew for the weekend to Letchworth State Park. It's a little-advertised park south of Rochester, on past Seneca Falls and Canandaigua. There the dog and I enjoyed a respite from campus clamor and tensions of classroom discussions and the incessant threat of exams and papers due.

We did nothing there but reconnect with the stunning natural beauty of that place, and absorb the quietude, the relaxing atmosphere of peace. No serious camping, no cooking fires or taking hikes or identifying from field manuals. We did not make work of it, or "a merit-badge learning experience". Some Cheddar cheese & crackers, a jug of water, and a can of KenL Ration, and we were content to just take in the pleasure and privilege of being a resident of this awesome planet. Returning to course assignments on Sunday evening, we were renewed and clear-headed, fresh again.

We sometimes forget we have gradually become trapped in the "rat race", accelerating on a "treadmill to oblivion", as radio comic Fred Allen expressed it so many years ago. People I talk with on the phone seem to be only partially there, and then I discover that they are doing the dishes or frying fish or driving the freeway or riding their bicycle. Multi-tasking makes human connection difficult if not impossible. One can't "be here now" when multi-tasking. That would be as foolish as practicing mindfulness breathing meditation while watching "As the World Turns".

The short essay below is one that I wrote in 1982 for "Homesteaders' News", the self-reliance magazine Sherrie and I founded and published. It expresses, to some extent, the spirit of our friends who sought to withdraw from the hurley-burley and pace of modern living, drop out of the competitive lifestyle, acquire an acre or five, built a cabin, raise their food, and live the Good Life.

© 1982 Norm Lee

There are always several remarkable days at mid-summer when everything in nature seems to come to a stop. It happens midway between Mayday and Halloween. Or count off equal days from the last frost in spring and back from first frost date in fall. There you'll find a few days - rarely a week - when nature stands perfectly still and quiet. The early garden has sated our hunger for greens and peas. The tomatoes are small and green and the corn is just going into silk. The plants seem to stay the same height for too long, yet you know they are growing. If you listen you can hear them stirring, ever so subtly, during the pauses while weeding.

It is neither the beginning nor the end. During the soft gray misting of dawn the lush wet jungle testifies to the richness of the earth. The brooding foliage manifests the silence of space. Daylight, having crept to its longest length for half the year, stalls at the prospect of shifting to reverse, seems reluctant to begin the trek toward winter.

It is the bottom of summer. The birds, delirious now with joy, talk of nothing but this hinge in time. This is, after all, the season earned in the struggle during the rest of the year. Half-grown rabbits hop by the hundreds in the brush by the back roads. Deer happily nibble tender leaves from apple trees, their tails switching furiously, signaling their intent to stare at us again to see if we have moved. Soon banks of wildflowers, having leaped through the fence into the garden, will blossom progressively into yellows, reds, whites, purples and blues, then bow out in shades of brown, with their stage-struck march toward fall. And the fireflies, now not nearly so numerous, continue still to blink their beacon way into the blackness.

All of nature seems to know that this is but a pause preceding the beginnings of the preparations for fall. An intermission, if you will, before the curtain rises on a drama that will climax with the outrageous colors of October, and finish with the falling of the December snows. But for now we can draw in long deep breaths and relearn how to see. How to smell, how to feel and to taste. In relaxing, we begin to feel human again, in touch with other humans. It is a time when being in a hurry feels like a crime against nature. Because nature itself is taking a few days off, and will not be disturbed. It is as Ogden Nash said about the ocean. Tiring of the demands of civilization, periodically it withdraws for while and hides. "And that, my friends, accounts for the tides."

In a silent walk among the spruce and oak in the warmth of a crimson evening, we become aware of the knowing among flora and fauna that we all ride this earth-boat together. During those moments when we aren't pushing and shoving each other for our "right" to tear up the plank that has our name on it, we might glimpse on a fast-forgotten fact: If we check the compulsion to fill all the time and all the space with divisions, diversions and distractions, there remains the perennial truth that, in reality, there is no separation. We might then wish to tape to the mirror the reminder:

As we do unto others,
we need to be mindful that
we are the others

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 79
July 1, 2008
Norm Lee's website:

In 5 years: over 22,200 visits & counting.

Though legal reform does not always touch the heart,
it often precedes it. So, the worldwide trend in outlawing CP
is leaving a mark and a standard that will be normal
for those kids who are currently growing up.

- Mady Gomez

I met Mady several years ago on the Psychohistory discussion lists, where she had seen my postings on child abuse and emailed me. From that moment we have been the best of friends and colleagues. Dominican born and raised in Canada then the U.S., her formal name is Madeleine Yvonne Rose Gomez, Ph.D. de Alvarez Sanchez. Her husband, Javier Alvarez Sanchez, is from Spain, and is a celebrated chef and restaurateur. Mady's two daughters, Michelle and Bianca, are young adults. Mady, Javier, and school-age Eric and Marcos divide their time between their home in Chicago, and the home of Mady's parents in South Florida.

Dr. Gomez is President of PsycHealth, Ltd, a minority, women's-run mental health services corporation which manages the mental health benefit for several groups and connects people with services. Her Home Intervention Program has recently won a national Gold Award from URAC. She also serves on the Board of Directors of both PTAVE and EPOCH, working with a number of colleagues (whom she much respects and admires) on the rights of children to be free of maltreatment.

As for recreation: "I love physical activities (swimming, horseback riding, skiing, water skiing, biking, nature, tennis, most sports (soccer, baseball, etc), foosball, and TKD) as well as knots, cooking and growing things."

Norm: What first awakened you to the problem of corporal punishment of children?

Dr. Mady Gomez: From a young age until the age of 16, I never lost touch with the feeling that being hit was not right (unlike some who develop an identification with the aggressor). I remember saying to myself that I was not going to follow in the footsteps of CP. I was always extremely sensitive and continue to be concerned about feelings and how we impact upon one another.

N: Countless people have become aware of the maltreatment of children and passed it by for other priorities, but you chose to stay with it and become active. What made the difference?

MG: I probably would have become part of the silent ones but my Supervisor in graduate school (Dr. Alba Muhlenberg - deceased) basically forced me to go into therapy. Though an unwritten requirement, I had put it off. Through therapy I was able to see with great clarity that violence is violence and no one deserves violence. In the course of my training I began to notice what many of my supervisors had not yet connected: that sending kids back home to a violent environment would yield no gains. In my professional career, that was my "aha" moment. After that I always stressed the importance of a violence-free home for my patients. I have never had a patient who did not see the sense in that.

N: What action, how & where, did you take at the outset?

MG: Apart from my clinical work, I started with community presentations in English - and in Spanish, for which there was a great need. I had a little poster from Michelle's "International Barbie" that had on it the UN's Declaration on the Rights of the Child. That was the underpinnings for my presentation. Eventually, ironically and serendipitously, that little fold up glossy was stolen or accidentally picked up at the end of a presentation when I would give away free supportive materials. As a result, I asked my friend, artist Kate Guerra to make the art for a poster for me. I find that the rights of the child is a simple and innocuous approach to the area of not hitting children. Though, when I first started doing the presentations I often drove home crying because the reception had been so hostile. But I can probably tackle now any argument for hitting kids that a person could think of, because I've heard them all.

N: Is the situation today better or worse than you expected? hoped for?

MG: The stats seems to support that things are better. Early in my work I lost friends over this. Now I don't think I have a single friend who thinks it's ok to hit a child. I've had the joy of having patients I saw as kids get in contact with me and let me know that they are breaking the mold and are raising their kids without CP. Also, I never thought that so many countries would, in my lifetime, take a stand against CP. Yet, there remains so much more work to do, especially in our USA. We are at a fascinating place in time as people in certain countries are accepting the idea that children are people and should be entitled to the same protection from violence as the rest of us.

N: What can you tell us about the causes of CP?

MG: You could probably write a dissertation on that question. I believe the causes are psychohistorical as well as rooted in the family and family dynamics. Violence has long been used as a method to control others and as a means to attack problems. This has had heavy costs on society, the individual, the family and the world. We have not learned from our history and as such have repeated it.

N: A few years ago I began my Step Up Resolution List ("spankus interruptus") to physically intervene when a child is being abused in public. That had a good run, over 270 signing on with me, to my surprise and delight. Do you think this sort of approach is worthwhile, or ought we to turn our attention and efforts to more confrontational methods at institutions, such as those PTAVE is currently pursuing in North Carolina?

MG: Personally, I think there is room for every approach - individual with the people we meet, our friends, our patients; petitions such as yours; legal reform; educational as in booklets, pamphlets; media; and the various approaches taken by the advocacy groups, etc. There is no one method that is going to reach all people - so I think that various approaches complement one another and allow for the best dissemination and positive change. In the final analysis though, exposure to the idea of no CP may be all we can do for those hell bent on justifying the practice.

N: What is the most important direction or focus for us all now?

MG: I believe that our true focus should remain and always be the kids. I think reaching out to the kids and teaching them alternatives, positive expression of anger, the importance of non-violence, etc. is what will spearhead us into the future. So, I'd love to see more prevention programs directed at kids prior to the ages when they start to develop identification with the aggressor. Education of new parents would be a plus also.

N: Turning to your own family, your two girls were early children, your two boys were later children.

MG: Actually, I had a child in each decade of my child bearing years - (LOL). I tend to treat kids equally and believe in exposing them to the wonders of the world and as many things as possible, especially in the areas that I have some experience.

N: Your childrearing approach must have changed during those years, depending on what you learned from study and from the children themselves. In what ways did your parenting practice evolve over time?

MG: I think that I've hopefully just gotten better with years. I've always tried to be there for my kids and try to have the doors of communication open always. I think I've learned that sometimes no matter how hard you try, there are going to be other influences and you have to still be there when your kids make mistakes.

I think I structure more time for my boys than I did for the girls. All had music lessons - Bianca is a musician/composer, Eric plays drums, Marcos, guitar, and Michelle can play some piano, guitar and drums. I've had all the kids express themselves through dancing, both formally and informally. And I believe that common courtesy and manners are the mark of a good education - an education that is available to anyone regardless of how many years of schooling they've had. Sometimes, I think much of the world could be improved just through simple caring and courtesy. Random acts of kindness, our spiritual nature and volunteering, as well as being a good friend, are areas that I'd like to think I've promoted to my kids. As each child is unique, parenting is really on the job training - hopefully guided by love.

N: Did you treat the boys just as you did the girls?

MG: The boys have been lucky to have two older sisters as I find the two brothers just LOVE to COMPETE. I am usually the peacekeeper and try to be supportive and fair. Older sisters don't feel as competitive and let the younger ones win (for example). Luckily the two brothers have so much fun together. However, it can be tough to be younger one always competing with the older one - so I try to model empathy for what it might be like for the other person. When I see my sons with other little children - I see their compassion and ability to play. That makes me happy and proud. At any age, raising kids takes energy. And, (it may sound cliché,) but girls and boys are different. Not that they need different treatment but they do express themselves differently.

N: Did you have a policy against CP from the outset, or did that come later? When and why?

MG: No CP, thanks to arguing with my shrink for a couple of years about it. He helped me come to clear point that it wasn't necessary, it had negative effects and no one deserves violence. It was a strange position to come to in a world that was full of CP as the norm at that time. I am so grateful.

N: Which parent was the principle discipline influence?

MG: I have been the one who structures the family life. The girls did not have benefit of a father who was involved. Javier (the boys' father) is supportive and loves to play with them. So far the balance works and when kids are playing, studying, learning, and enjoying life - really it is consideration that bonds the family. I guess I encourage and expect cooperation from them, much as I cooperate with each family member.

N: What were/are the most important forces at work in U.S. society (or worldwide), i.e., the prime influences for change in children's treatment?

MG: First of all the number of groups dedicated to this area has grown significantly. Then, I think the ability to connect through the Internet and offer support to one another has promoted growth and shared a lot of information as well as education. Through it I have been happy to find fellow non-violence advocates. I thank each and every one of our fellow advocates for the work, care and time invested in this area. I especially thank you, Norm, for your tireless efforts as well as those times when you have supported me through the inevitable rough patches we encounter with people who are staunchly pro-CP under a multitude of faulty rationale. Lastly, while I think that though legal reform does not always touch the heart, it often precedes it. So, the worldwide trend in outlawing CP is leaving a mark and a standard that will be normal for those kids who are currently growing up. I can only imagine positive progress as a result.

N: What do you do for recreation, your time to relax from the stresses of the demanding work that you do?

MG: I love physical activities (swimming, horseback riding, skiing, water skiing, biking, nature, tennis, most sports (soccer, baseball, etc), foosball, and TKD) as well as knots, cooking and growing things. I've been a swimming instructor and a recording artist; I am a flamenco dancer/singer, and have been working for the past five years on a book of love poems. That would be my second book of poetry, as well as completing a cookbook with Javier on his Spanish Tapas Recipes. But, mostly, I've been enjoying my kids!

Thank you, Mady. - Norm

The Norm Report - Month 78
June 1, 2008 E-mail:
Visits: 21,800 and counting...

The result of our reliance on punishment to solve problems
is a society that now teeters on
the brink of chaos.

- Norm Lee

Condensed from Chapter Five: Parenting Without Punishing

What Is Meant by "Discipline"?
Any local or national poll about childrearing or schools will show that what people want is "more discipline." What is meant is more coercion, more restrictions, more policing, more punishment, and more fear. Above all, more fear. Such mean-spirited sentiment is behind the popular notion of discipline. But it is anti-freedom, anti-children, and anti-education. For fostering self-discipline is not possible in a climate of fear.

What most people mean by "discipline" is this: "Do what you're told by authority, do it without hesitation or question, regardless of what you think or how you feel; do what is expected of you, do it cheerfully because a child's duty is to please grown-ups; take your medicine, accept your punishment without complaint, because it is good for your soul and good for your character. If you fail to do what you're told, when you're told, and how you're told, there is something wrong with you. The remedy for your wrongness is to humiliate you with punishment. This will make you righteous. Now be grateful; the pain I give you shows I care about you--it's for your own good, you know.

"If you think differently, have a different vision or entertain creative ideas, if you persist in exploring your own interests and in learning in your own manner, or even (gasp) in taking charge of your own life, you will be shamed and punished until your spirit is broken, and you conform to our notion of who you should be--dependent on bosses."

Every child who is not thoroughly brainwashed and/or reduced to abject cowardice recognizes that message as the Big Lie, perpetrated on children by those who exert control over them. The pity is that such barbaric treatment is fully supported by the community. It is said to be "discipline." when in fact it is not discipline at all; it is undisciplined, unrestrained bullying, plain and simple. It is enforced submission to the arbitrary interests of those wielding the power to do so. It is "traditional discipline"--conditioning identical to that used in Roman times and by today's American Kennel Club.

Punishment kills discipline--it cannot grow and mature under threat of force. Those who think it can are too dangerous to be allowed around children; they are suited more to swatting terriers and pit bulls into blind, knee-jerk obedience, tho dog training is no longer done with whips and folded newspapers.

Discipline Is Natural, Inborn
Authoritarian types sincerely believe that discipline cannot be acquired except under compulsion, the more unpleasant the better and by brute force if necessary. Yet all around them are highly disciplined skateboarders, trick bicyclists, garage musicians, shade tree mechanics, expert chess players, and sidewalk lemonade entrepreneurs. There are pool sharks and merit-badge-earning Boy Scouts and NBA-bound basketball players, none having been punched or conned or battered into their chosen disciplines. Children are born with the drive to acquire discipline in their own way, as with all learning, and would do so even if raised by wolves. Especially so. Self-discipline is a survival skill, instinctual. Only persistent punishing can discourage its maturation.

A baby begins acquiring discipline at the moment of birth, perhaps before. It is how they learn how the world works. Babies and toddlers will naturally follow the very steps scientists use to discover new truths. They examine an object, do something to it, observe what happens, reap unsatisfactory results, then try something else until they hit on the answer that produces the results they are looking for. In time there arises an eagerness to make a positive difference in their world. In the process they deepen their understanding of the world and how it wags. This is exactly the approach used by Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

Discipline is learning. It is maturing, growing up, which every child is bent on doing, as fast as he or she can do it. Discipline is developing the skills required to accomplish goals. It is working to get what they want, and to go where they want to go. Children respond easily to discipline of the team type. Even in a pick-up ball game there is a discipline structure; where rules of play are lacking, they are made up and agreed to on the spot. Aversion to discipline is not inborn, nor is sin, or badness. Resistance to force and being robbed of the right to freedom--that is inborn. A child's natural direction is to acquire the discipline necessary to be free and happy.

Adults like to see orderly progress. That way they can measure it, evaluate it, exert control over it. But self-discipline does not work that way. It begins internally, progresses in fits and starts, in leaps and plateaus, in zigzag or spiral fashion. Before indoor pools and ice rinks, there was a popular saying: "We learn to swim in the winter and skate in the summer." After a summer of trying to swim and failing, come the following spring the child jumps in and does the Australian crawl across the pond. All winter something was happening inside--call it "discipline"--that was "teaching" him or her to swim. But adults delude themselves into thinking that nothing can be learned unless it is taught, and tested at every step. They think they are "teaching" by "reinforcement"--the A's, gold stars, and praise; and by punishment--the scowls, the shaming, the ridicule, and the swats. Add to this the blind belief that a credentialed authority must teach the "content", otherwise it won't be properly learned. This is destructive, idiotic nonsense. These are the shock troops in the War Against Children.

Children incarcerated in schools need desperately to escape the compulsory life. Kids by the millions are involved after school and on weekends in disciplines the school tells them they can't master for lack of official lessons and for lack of discipline. Witness the dozens, the hundreds of games and skills that millions of kids are engaged in, from roller-blade acrobatics, rock bands and rock climbing and rock collecting, the list is endless. (The clamor is now on efforts to take control of these informal after-school activities too, on the theory that limiting freedom will reduce crime. Boys and Girls Clubs) are now enforcing homework time before allowing games.)

No one who has seen the X-Games can doubt the existence of natural discipline. No one who has seen, as I have, a 10-year-old quickly master a computer that has baffled for months one of my generation. They are drawn to them because computers give them immediate and honest answers without praise or punishment, they demand neither obedience nor worship, and they are impartial absolutely. Self-discipline grows by pleasing oneself, pursuing ones' own happiness. Authoritarian parents and schoolmasters kill discipline and destroy the spirit of freedom, then complain that there is something wrong with the child. "She's unmotivated." "He 'suffers from' a behavior problem." And the current favorite, "He's has Attention Deficit Disorder." But somehow the ADD disappears the moment school lets out.

The Key to the World
Inner discipline is self-chosen, and develops by self-direction. Within this, a child of 6, 7, or 8 chooses the rigors of ballet discipline, because she loves the beauty of it, or loves the ballet teacher, or loves her dancing mother. A boy or girl can choose the discipline of karate for their own reasons. It is a question of who does the choosing. Little success can be expected if it is imposed "for their own good." What is needed from the adult world is trust. Faith in the fundamental goodness of the child. Unless he is punished, shamed, or disrespected, he will not disappoint you. Given a passable role model, he or she will grow to be a genuine, authentic person. To demand anything other is an affront to their integrity.

For discipline to develop, there must be fearlessness. And that can grow only in freedom. Discipline takes us to levels of excellence realized nowhere else. Discipline is the door to the joyful experience of living. When we see that, we take delight in our practice: Our direction is right and we are on our way, the way we ourselves have chosen. We can learn from mistakes; we cannot learn from hounding and flogging. Inner wisdom tells the child that discipline is the key to the world.

Many Disciplines, Many Kinds of Discipline
While there are many disciplines, author John Holt talks about these three kinds. At first there is the discipline of nature, of reality. Waving of arms, kicking of legs grasping at objects calls for adjusting to the laws of nature--without their being taught. When beginning to walk, the disciplines of body motion and gravity come into play. Babies must--on their own--develop the discipline needed to function in the world. It is said that if babies were taught how to walk, most of us would still be crawling around on our hands and knees. The most important things we've learned, we have taught ourselves. Play is children's serious work, that of learning and practicing self-chosen disciplines. Hold the cone upright, or the ice cream drops. Hit the nail squarely, or you can't build the doghouse. Keep the bicycle rolling, or you fall over.

Next there is the discipline of culture, of society. This is the collection of customs, habits, rules, expectations and agreements that glue society--its people--into a community. Children are eager to become participants, so they watch very carefully to understand adult interaction so they can imitate it. They want dearly to do things right. And whatever is modeled for them defines what is "right." Much of this stays with them all their lives. We know now that children will do things "right" until authority punishes them, saying, "Do as I say, not as I do!" From then on, "right and "wrong" are simply rules arbitrary enforced by hypocrites. The difference between "right" and "wrong" then, depends on who's bigger, or who gets caught.

Thus enters the discipline of superior force, the brutish power of the animal realm. It is the bully, the dictator, the control freak. It is the sergeant to the private, the cop to the criminal, the school principal wielding the paddle over the cringing child. It is the mother with the strap. They all say the same thing: "Submit to my will or I'll make you suffer until you do." Under such control, the natural discipline of the child, natural morality, can be suppressed or caused to wither away in despair, along with courage, independent spirit, and all hope for a satisfying life. Just as it retards the maturation process, punishment prevents learning.

All punishment is harmful. Even the apparently innocuous "time-out" has serious effects on a small child's sense of identity, emotions, feelings of security and acceptance. It happens to millions of children, day after day. It has happened to the great majority of Americans, disgruntled and stressed-out, who are now leading lives of not-so-quiet desperation while busily destroying the dignity and spirit of their sons and daughters and classroom students. This ugliness and suffering--of adults and children alike--need not be carried over to the next generation.

Self-Discipline for Parents
Beethoven's father tried to beat him into being a concert pianist, like Mozart. But Ludwig adamantly resisted superior force. Knowing he could not create without freedom, he resolutely marched to the beat of his own drum. He learned piano because he liked piano discipline. He sought out the exquisite discipline of composition teachers like Haydn and Salieri.

Hitler's father beat Adolf mercilessly to "discipline" him. The boy sought the discipline that art offered, but he was rejected by the art school. His brief time as a soldier did not provide the kind of discipline he needed. The result was that he never acquired discipline, only indulgence in his hatreds. He knew only victimization, and having had his fill of that he set out to victimize the world. (No disciplined leader would have invaded Russia with winter approaching.) The rest is history: he started the war that killed over 50 million people. Fifty million people.

Parents and teachers and life-hating types try to mold their children into inhibited, fearful, obedient inferiors who will devote their lives to duty and "don't give authoriies no trouble." Strict discipline is self-hate, projected by self-defined failures trying to win success vicariously. To them, children are property, without lives of their own. Those pathetic parents, said A. S. Neill, "were never allowed to live and love, were made to submit to humiliating punishment, and are frightened by freedom." They heartily support paddle-swinging official bullies to beat their children, schoolmasters "hired to do parents' dirty work."

The "disciplinarian" robs the child of the responsibility of developing self-discipline. He or she takes over the discipline job and forces the child to dance to authority's tune. It leaves the child with an unpleasant experience and a negative view of "discipline." It is tragic for any child to be denied the opportunity to develop self-discipline. Millions suffer needlessly because brutal and stupid parents and teachers want to be known as "strict disciplinarians". The result of our society's reliance on the punishment of superior force is a society that now teeters on the brink of chaos. -


The Norm Report - Month 77
May 1, 2008

A human being is a part of the whole
called by us 'the universe'... He experiences himself,
his thoughts and feelings,
as something separate from the rest -
a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion
is a kind of prison for us…
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening
our circle of understanding and compassion…

- Albert Einstein


He had reached a life crisis. At age 32, after failing at everything he attempted, R. Buckminster Fuller decided he would take his own life.

One midnight in 1927 he sat on the huge cold rocks on the shore of Lake Michigan, staring into the deep dark water, and dwelt on his failures. In stature he measured only 5'2", furthermore he was neither aggressive not competitive by nature. He had been expelled from Harvard in his freshman year. He had failed repeatedly in a series of business attempts. The year before, he had done all he could, but it was not enuf to prevent his precious child from dying in her cradle. Tho a new daughter was recently born, he was still grieving and suffering deep depression.

The world was later to know "Bucky" Fuller as the internationally celebrated genius who invented of the geodesic dome plus dozens of other architectural and engineering marvels. But that night he had reached the nadir in his life: He was forced to accept that he was not destined to be even a mediocre player in the grand game of getting and spending - the role that was expected of him and all men. Broke, with no job and plagued by despair, he said to himself, "What's the point? Everything I touch turns to shit".

The year was 1927 when he sat on the hard rocks with the cold wind to his back, pondering his lousy luck and finding not a single reason to go on living. He was not even a good husband and father, he thought, and feared that his infant daughter might die, as did the first, with him helpless to prevent it. It was too much to bear, his inadequacies. He looked into the black water and thought about the burden he must be to his small family. He was a major impediment to their happiness. They were young, he reasoned. He loved them. They deserved a chance for a new start in life. His death would liberate them.

So there on the shore, with the angry waves crashing at his feet, the moment of decision had come. But before jumping, the young reader of philosophy felt he had to review and examine his most fundamental values. Each individual, including himself, he reflected, was an integral part in the unity and order of the universe. He was but a tiny fragment, but not an insignificant one. The poet John Donne had written years before that the clod of clay washed from the shore makes the continent less. As he pondered, it gradually came to him why his efforts had been in vain: He had been struggling to please his surrogate parents - who had appeared in the form of employers and institutions. How could I please a fantasy? Have I been living for an illusion? he asked. Why not start living for himself instead? If my problem stems from seeking the love and approval of fantasy parents, he decided, I must be insane.

Live for himself? Better yet, he could live for mankind. He could give up the quest for worldly success; he could stop running the treadmill race. "You must choose between making money and making sense," he said to himself. "The two are mutually exclusive." What is this obsession about reaching goals?

By first light that morning he had decided that he would go on living - but not as before: He would live as though he had died that night; he would begin a new life. Being now dead, his new life could be an experiment. No more trying to please middle management "parents". From then on, eschewing profit and gain, he would examine the question, as Ben Franklin did, "What is it on this planet that needs doing …that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it?"

As dawn broke he had resolved to live henceforth as an employee of the Universe. All his work would be for the good of humankind. He devoted his mind and time and energy to contributing to the community where he lived by simply Being - and doing what was there to be done. Because it was no longer personal, he no longer took criticism personally. And criticism was inevitable since he was certainly an oddity, thinking like no one else on "spaceship earth", as he called it. "Why don't I simply do what needs doing here, go ahead and do it, and not sweat the results?" he asked himself. The question really became: What do I really care about? and, What is the best and simplest contribution I can give to it?

Fuller, inspired with a new and selfless purpose in life, withdrew into seclusion. When he emerged two years later, having looked deeply into himself, he had resolved to begin "the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them... finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more" Henceforth he devoted his mind and creative energy to contributing to the world community by simply Being, by trusting his Humanity, his Basic Goodness. His Inherent Wisdom. In so doing, he was touching his Basic Sanity, his Authentic Being, as old and as universal as the Teachings of Buddhism.

He was 85 when we talked, one-on-one, in 1980. He had already been presented with forty-four honorary degrees and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, yet his modesty and his compassion was profoundly impressive. In Corning, NY, that day he had dazzled us by filling the blackboard wall-to-wall with the math and equations he used to work out his geodesic and dymaxion theories, and then he told us, with disarming conviction, that each one of us could do as well. Such was his faith that, buried beneath our years of conditioning there is Basic Intelligence. We had only to peal away the layers of misinformation, illusions, and lies. Then we, too, can tap it.

In private we talked about our prospects for surviving as a world, a planet, a species. Eight years before there had been a hair-raising confrontation with U.S.S.R. over nuclear weapons in Cuba. Our beloved earth-home is in peril, he said. With unbridled nationalism and Pentagon pugnacity, what chance did we have? And with rampant capitalism exploiting and poisoning the planet, what would be left of "spaceship earth"? We ended our sober discussion with his emphasizing the urgent need for the coming generation - the People - to find ways to control and curb "the aggression of governments and the greed of corporations". Nothing less could stop it.

"Bucky" was to live only three more years.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 76
April 1, 2008

The most positive social changes
have followed mass improvements in the way
children are treated.

Robin Grille


Nadine Block is Director of The Center for Effective Discipline, a nonprofit organization which she herself founded, and which is headquarters for EPOCH-USA and the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools. (More info on

Nadine has been an elementary school teacher, a school psychologist, and Regional Director and Legislative Chair of the National Association of School Psychologists. She served as the Governmental Relations Manager of the Ohio School Psychologists Association for 13 years. She has written for many national magazines and professional journals about the mistreatment of children, and presented at numerous child abuse conferences. Since 1988 she has received nine major awards for her work, almost all of which has been without remuneration.

She has been debated, interviewed, and badgered in over fifty media venues: magazines, newspapers, radio, TV - including all the major TV networks' morning shows - and from Larry King Live to Hannity & Comb, from Family Circle Magazine to Philadelphia Inquirer, from NY Times to LA Times. Nadine co-chairs EPOCH-USA with Dr. Robert Fathman, a clinical psychologist in Columbus, Ohio. She founded and chairs SpankOut Day, USA - “Raising Good Kids Without Hitting”, an annual event now recognized internationally on April 30th. Her husband, she says, is "an elder law attorney who is an Ohio conservative and calls me his 'Wisconsin Communist ' for her crusading efforts to improve the plight of victimized children. She is grandmother of 10 children under age 13, and does aerobics, yoga, and weight training.

NORM LEE: You were instrumental in 1985 in getting a bill passed to allow Ohio school districts to ban CP, and in 1989 a law to make schools collect data on the corporal punishment inflicted. What have you done lately?

NADINE BLOCK: I'm very proud of helping. ATLA (trial lawyers) get civil immunity for paddling injuries out of George Bush’s first Leave No Child Behind legislation (see NY Times May 11, 2001). I am currently leading a coalition of 48 organizations seeking a complete ban on school corporal punishment in Ohio public schools (HB 406)

NL: How did you first get interested in cp of children?

NB: I was told to be a witness to a paddling by a principal. I was the building school psychologist. He told me to sit down and then proceeded to hit a 9 or 10 year-old boy. I didn’t do anything. I just sat there. I think I was shocked. I guess that was my first questioning of it as an institutional practice. I grew up in Wisconsin - I never saw paddling.

NL: So you were moved to take action?

NB: I didn’t really get incensed about it until I started attending meetings with a little group of folks about 1983/84--they had just started meeting about banning corporal punishment in Ohio. I was representing the Ohio School Psychologists Association as their lobbyist (I worked for them part time and in the schools part time). Bob Fathman’s daughter had been hit and he was one of the folks there so that’s how Bob and I met and started working together. Also attending were a couple of folks from Children’s Hospital in Columbus who were incensed over the number of kids coming into ER with paddling injuries. A hospital social worker took color photos of the injuries and wrote little stories about why the children were paddled. It was horrifying.

Russ Miller, executive director of the League Against Child Abuse (it was then the NCPCA state office), became a leader in the group. He got some funding in 1986 through the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund to open an office to educate the public and go after a ban and he asked me if I would be the executive director of this group – and that began the Center for Effective Discipline. I thought it would be fun to do, and I already had lobbying experience. In the early years I was paid, but later, when I had to look for money to pay myself, I decided that I enjoyed working so much I didn’t need the money

NL: So the ban on CP in Ohio schools - how long did that take? Did you face hostility?

NB: I worked for nine years to get the ban bill passed in OH – all the major education organizations fought it so we had to settle for a limited ban in 1993. I got mentally toughened by experiences like being called a liar in committee by opponents and by nasty political tricks. I was thrown out of a representative’s office for carrying a weapon. I had taken a paddle with me as I usually did when visiting legislators. The Rep called it a "weapon" and threw me out. But he failed to see it as a weapon against children: A couple weeks later he voted to keep such weapons in the classroom. It's sad to hear so many inane excuses by lawmakers and education folks for hitting kids…I’ve learned to pick my battles with those folks and I have been comforted and calmed by knowing we will always win.

NL: I know what battling ignorance is like. In eleven years here I still get anonymous calls accusing me of voodoo (teaching yoga) and viewing Internet porn (I suggested a search of "spanking" to see the sexual connection). And angry editorials threatening to spank me. Do you get that?

NB: I sometimes get telephone calls with a belligerent introduction “ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?” But I usually end up with a fairly comfortable relationship with those folks because my response is “I guess you are concerned about discipline. So am I”.

NL: Do you remember when you first developed compassion for those suffering?

NB: I was taught and saw modeled in my parents that you need to do something about the plight of the less fortunate, not just talk. It’s probably in my genes and in a cultural inheritance of growing up in a Wisconsin German Catholic community in the 1950s. I remember adults as being stern with children but I don’t think there was much hitting of children. As a school psychologist, I was always interested in helping children who didn’t fit the mold – children with disabilities and gifted children. The children who don’t fit in are the ones who are hit most often. I don’t believe hitting children is fair morally or under the law and I see them as a poorly protected class of citizens.

NL: How were you treated as a child? Were you spanked?

NB: I only remember one spanking by my father for supposedly lying – I guess I remember it because I was spanked for something I shouldn’t have been reprimanded for. That cut into my Wisconsin “fairness” gene. My parents had better ways of punishing us – weeding the garden (at least an acre or so it seemed) and lots of work on the dairy farm if we argued with one another or were disobedient. We (five children) would weed the garden grumbling about our parents’ punishment and talk about how we were going to pack sandwiches and run away to the woods. My parents are still living – in their 93rd year, married 73 years and living on their own fairly comfortably.

NL: What challenges do you find in making advances against CP?

NB: I think the biggest challenge is having to live with the snail’s pace of social change. Adah Maurer mentored many of us and educated the public on the effects of school corporal punishment through her publication "The Last Resort". She was an optimist. She forecasted that all school corporal punishment would end by the year 2,000. With 29 states banning it, we aren’t close to that even now. Since her death in 1998 only two states have banned it. I can see Adah scowling and wondering why we aren’t getting the job done! It’s tougher getting it banned today. Most of the states that still allow it have a strong history of support for beating children, and their state legislatures are loathe to take this issue on. We’ve had a very conservative political environment not favorable to this issue.

NL: What have you found to be the most effective approach to defeating CP?

NB: Change has taken place more rapidly in banning corporal punishment through regulations for child care, foster care, and institutional settings. Almost all states have banned it in those settings. Government employees in regulatory agencies have been more likely to read and react to research on this issue than state legislatures. So why all of the grousing about bureaucrats? I say “Hooray for bureaucrats!!” Check out laws in different setting on our website:

Patience and stubborn persistence are effective. We have strengths of research and moral support for a ban on our side. I’ve seen a great deal of change in my own state of Ohio where 68,000 kids were struck in the mid-1980s. No districts banned corporal punishment. In 2006-07 only 270 children were struck 473 times. Only 17 districts (out of 611 public school districts and about 250 charter schools) reported paddling that school year. That’s nice, but that’s 270 children too many. Attitudes are changing. Some Ohio legislators who fought corporal punishment bans twenty years ago are now “reformed”. I get fewer inane arguments from proponents of corporal punishment. The paddling aficionados are aware that the old arguments won’t hold and they stick to the “community values” argument. It's the same as the “local control” argument; a cynical response when you have no other arguments to offer.

It's important to write letters to newspaper editors challenging articles supporting corporal punishment. It's important to keep getting bills to ban its use introduced in statehouses of paddling states. It's important to encourage citizens to get corporal punishment banned in their local districts. When a majority of local districts ban corporal punishment, it is easier to get a state legislature to ban it. States banning corporal punishment of children in public settings are now beginning to see legislation restricting or banning its use in homes. That's the human rights challenge for children in the 21st century. We will win! Times they are a-changing … but slowly.

NR: SpankOut Day will soon be here (April 30th). When and why did you begin this movement?

NB: I initiated SpankOut Day USA April 30th in 1998 for EPOCH-USA in order to bring widespread attention to the need to end physical punishment of children and to provide information about non-violent discipline alternatives. I created and oversee a mini-grant program that gives non-profits, churches and schools support for informational programs that teach effects of physical punishment and alternatives. See:

NR: I know you've traveled much of the world, including China. What did you learn there about school CP?

NB: My first husband and I started a family textile import business in China in 1982-83, as the wave of importing began. Since there were no private businesses in China, we negotiated with the Chinese government for textile contracts. As a school psychologist, I was interested in Chinese education and providing for individual differences of children. I visited a Chinese school in Beijing and talked with teachers through an interpreter about their work. I asked them if they had children with behavior problems. They did not. If their children misbehaved, they said, parents lost their travel permits and sent back to the countryside. The incentive, while hardly to be condoned, seemed to work.

NR: And you've traveled to many other countries as well.

NB: I’ve been on every continent except Australia and Antarctica - for both work and pleasure. One of the most interesting pleasure trips we took involved a visit to tribes in the Sepik River Basin in New Guinea. These are still hunter-gatherer communities. They were believed to have been cannibals until the 1960s. One of the Rockefellers disappeared in that area during that time. Their coming of age rite of passage still involves scarification and sometimes death and one-half of the children do not live to age 10. I prefer “soft adventure” travel – although some of it hasn’t been quite as “soft” as I expected. We were in Nairobi the day of the embassy bombing in 1998. I have seen the Moai on Easter Island, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Timbuktu in Mali, Marrakech in Morocco, Petra in Jordan, the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania, the Taj Mahal in India, burning orange lava streams flowing down Mt Etna at 4 am, Tunisia during Ramadan, and the ruins of Machi Picchu. Last summer we played golf at the legendary St. Andrews Course in Scotland.

Thank you, Nadine.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 75
March 2, 2008 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:
In 5 years: 20,500 visits & counting.

No one has a right to
sit down and feel hopeless.
There is too much work to do.

- Dorothy Day


(For Part One, go to website, click on "Archives" & select Norm Report 74 - Feb 08.)

Idea 1.: Following conception and birth our genetic make-up keeps changing - by gradually shifting from reptilian brain to cognitive brain - until at least age eleven, maybe twelve. Then the brain does a "fine tuning", rejecting any extra neural ties in either the reptilian brain or the intellectual brain, depending on how the child is treated. Progress must proceed from neural connections in the survival brain to the connections to the growing intellectual brain. An abused child, needing to protect himself, cannot grow intellectually as a safe child can. I.E., their life intelligence is determined by whether they feel loved/secure or rejected/abandoned.

Idea 2.: If the child has not had that love, that heart/brain nurturing, then to "undo" the damage he/she MUST, one way or another, be provided with sufficient love and acceptance. This means massive affection and love nurturing that includes verbal communication with eye contact, physical play/games, and a feeling of belonging. Only then will they have a chance of growing to be whole persons. "We must understand here that the emotional and physical are essentially the same. So many American teenagers today have been deprived of touch and love from the very beginning of their lives," Pearce said.

Idea 3.: The child whose emotional/physical-touch nurturing needs have not been met - and there are millions - looks for some alternative way to meet those needs - and find false replacements for the missing nurturing that failed them. The remedy is not so terribly difficult; it just takes "heart". In Upstate New York Ann Morrison has been working for 15 years with the worst teenage convicts in maximum-security prisons. She has found success with therapeutic activities like play-acting, music, art, etc. To her surprise, illiterate teenagers began writing their own stories, writing poetry, began educating themselves. How did that happen? Pearce says, "With great love, she went in and began quietly telling her stories, even though they had the TVs going and the usual [chaos] that teenagers do. And she was able to reach them because she was offering something that they had never had -- a mother figure, a compassionate woman friend." she gave them a love they could trust."

Idea 4.: Studies in Sweden indicate that the violence of children is simply not present in children that have sufficient imagination. The power to create images in their respective minds provides them with alternatives to violence. Ann Morrison is helping those kids to make the connection between heart and emotional brain that they had been deprived of in childhood. In a way they have done an internal makeover by reconnecting the heart-emotional brain they were deprived of as children.

Idea 5.: Unfortunately, most American children are raised on a heavy diet of television - which pretty much results in the death of imagination. Too much of it curtails the ability to create mental images of things, persons, events that are not in their experience. Over 40 years ago it was discovered that children's minds go catatonic while watching TV. The light from TV and computer screens hypnotizes, in a way, causing the brain to eventually close down. When they got wise to this, TV producers began using "startle effects" or any dramatic changes in the programs targeting children, alerting the kids to pay closer attention. "As a result," says Pearce, " what we have are periodic bursts of violent imagery in children's cartoons…" Now there are some 16 instances of violence every 30 minutes for children to feed on.

As Pearce explains it, "While the higher brain, or neocortex, knows that the images on TV aren't real, the lower, or the 'reptilian' brain does not. This means that when a child views violence on television, the reptilian brain sends a series of alarm messages up to the emotional brain, which in turn immediately contacts the heart. The moment the heart receives any indication of negativity or danger, it drops out of its usual harmonic mode into an incoherent one, triggering the release of the single most potent hormone in the human body, known as cortisol. Cortisol instantly wakes up the brain and causes it to produce trillions of neural links in order to ready the individual to face the emergency.

"Then, as soon as the heart gets the message that the coast is clear, another hormone is released to dissolve all of the new neural pathways that weren't used to make a quick, adaptive reaction to the perceived threat. The trouble with current-day children's television programming is that there's never any let-down, and the brain of the average American child, who has watched 5000 to 6000 hours by the age of five of six, is suffering a great deal of confusion as a result. The massive over-stimulus from TV is causing the brain to maladapt in ways previously thought impossible. It is literally breaking down on all levels of neural development."

Researchers in Germany found that…"When they placed the young test-subject in a natural environment that had no high-density stimuli, such as come from television, they grew very anxiety-ridden, bored and tended toward violence. The final disturbing finding of the German study is that there has been, over the same twenty-year period, a 20% reduction in the children's awareness of their natural environment."

Remember Jerry Mander's book in 1978? In "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" he presented similar warnings about the dangers to children of excessive TV watching. The research in the 30 years since then shows the TV prevents neural growth in children's undeveloped brains: their brains cannot effectively create images, that is, it tends to kill the imagination. And it's not just the program content; the very technological design deeply affects the child's - and grown-ups - physiology. Because while in nature the brain responds to reflected light, the light from TV and computers is radiant light. In brief, "the brain tends to close down in response to radiant light." That's what hypnotizes children with hours of TV watching.

Idea 6.: Problem: Since the young generation needs to be trained in the use of computers, just how can that be done without using computers? Answer: The children must first acquire the ability to use their creative minds, in a word, learn how to think. Given that, the danger is over. Piaget taught that the architecture of knowledge must be built in the first twelve years for abstract thinking to develop.

Idea 7.: Dr. Pearce teaches that adolescents, feeling inadequate and adrift in a strange world, in general can be characterized thus:

  1. a feeling of great expectations of important life happenings;
  2. a vague feeling of being endowed with potential greatness;
  3. an insatiable hunger, a glass eternally only half full.
This is mid-teen years, when they turn from parents to role models or mentors, an image to provide life direction. In the U.S., too often that spiritual vacuum is filled by rock stars, fashion models, and TV actors. (And the economy depends on it.) Throughout human history this is the stage where certain ceremonies introduced children into the adult world. This lack is a serious disservice to today's youth; this is necessary to establish meaning in their lives, but it is prevented in a materialistic world. The man who invented MTV, when asked if he understood the power he had over teenagers, he said, "…we don't influence 14-year-olds, we own them."

Then what hope is there? Pearce: "I don't think you can change this reality on any large-scale basis. You can only try to work around the edges and hope to reach one individual at a time. No one's going to change the overall system. All we can do is appeal to parents who have ears to hear and who are willing to take the risk of getting their children out of this madness and protect them against it.

Idea 8.: Most teenagers, prevented from developing their own interests and values, need guidance in examining who they are and what they want in life, rather that letting youth culture/entertainment culture decide for them. "Instead of spending millions of dollars trying to fix what's wrong with teens we should invest in educating people to be good parents, to love and nurture their babies and young children so they don't have huge problems later on.

"The first four years of life are the most important. In Sweden, new mothers are given three years of maternity leave. It used to be one, and now they've upped it to three so that mothers can stay home with their children. And they're giving fathers a one-year leave of absence with full pay so that both mother and father can be with their child for the first critical year… [So what can we do?] I say we can begin by preventing the damage right from the very beginning.

"There are some extraordinary things happening right now, in little pockets all over the world, examples of true coherency in a massively incoherent system. And when this global economy nightmare we've unleashed finally self-destructs -- as I think it has to -- these small pockets of coherent intelligence will then manifest themselves and provide the impetus and the wisdom for the changes necessary to create a world in which children can reach their full potential. I am very optimistic about this."#

The Norm Report - Month 74
February 1, 2008 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:
In 5 years: 20,500 visits.

There are many terrible things in the world,
but the worst is when a child is afraid
of his father, mother or teacher.

- Janusz Korczak

Wisdom From the Heart

Joseph Chilton Pearce is widely known for his best-selling "Magical Child." Here are excerpts from "Expressing Life's Wisdom: Nurturing Heart-Brain Development Starting With Infants," taken as "fair use" from a Chris Mercogliano & Kim Debus interview in "Journal of Family Life," Vol. 5, No.1, 1999.

More than fifty years ago Pearce began his study of how the mind works. Focusing on how and what children learn, he found that the needs of children were and are grossly neglected in American culture: Parents and institutions fail not only emotional and intellectual needs of youngsters, but spiritual as well. He has continued his deep probing in the years since. I first met Dr. Pearce several years ago at a conference in Santa Barbara. Tho he is the most pleasant and generous of people, his original and challenging ideas - drawn from his research - not surprisingly startle his colleagues. An original thinker, his genius, it appears to me, ranks right up there with Buckminster Fuller. From the book:

Idea 1.: We can think with our hearts, indeed, the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings. From 60% to 65% of the cells of the heart are actually neural cells, not muscle cells as was previously believed. They are identical to the neural cells in the brain… there is a "brain" in the heart, whose ganglia are linked to every major organ in the body, to the entire muscle spindle system that uniquely enables humans to express their emotions.

Idea 2.: About half of the heart's neural cells are involved in translating information sent to it from all over the body so that it can keep the body working as one harmonious whole. And the other half make up a very large, unmediated neural connection with the emotional brain in our head and carry on a twenty-four-hour-a-day dialogue between the heart and the brain that we are not even aware of.

Idea 3.: The heart responds to messages sent to it from the emotional brain, which has been busy monitoring the interior environment of dynamic states such as the emotions and the auto-immune system, guiding behavior, and contributing to our sense of personal identity. The emotional brain makes a qualitative evaluation of our experience of this world and sends that information instant-by-instant down to the heart. In return, the heart exhorts the brain to make the appropriate response. Of course all of this is on the non-verbal level. In other words, the responses that the heart makes affect the entire human system.

Idea 4.: The heart is also a very powerful electromagnetic generator. It creates an electromagnetic field that encompasses the body and extends out anywhere from eight to twelve feet away from it. It is so powerful that you can take an electrocardiogram reading from as far as three feet away from the body. The field the heart produces is holographic, meaning that you can read it from any point on the body and from any point within the field.

Idea 5.: We now know that the radio spectrum of the heart is profoundly affected by our emotional response to our world. Our emotional response changes the heart's electromagnetic spectrum, which is what the brain feeds on. Ultimately, everything in our lives hinges on our emotional response to specific events.

Idea 6.: Children's emotional experience, how they feel about themselves and the world around them, has a tremendous impact on their growth and development. It's the foundation on which all learning, memory, health and well-being are based. When that emotional structure is not stable and positive for a child, no other developmental process within them will function fully. Further development will only be compensatory to any deficiencies. So, the first and foremost thing that must occur, if you want intelligent, successful and healthy children, is that they must have a positive emotional experience.

Idea 7.: It all begins with children feeling unconditionally wanted, accepted and loved. This is the key to the entire operation. You can have everything else: a high standard of living, the most expensive school system, the finest teachers in the world; but if the children are lacking that initial experience of being unconditionally loved by at least one person, and if they do not feel safe and secure in their learning environment, then nothing is going to happen very positively.

Idea 8.: There are only two types of learning; one is true learning and the other is conditioning. Conditioning is a fear-filled response by the older, or what we call the "hind," or "reptilian" brain. This is the reflexive, survival, maintenance brain that responds as if threatened. A form of learning does take place here, but it's conditioned learning and is intimately associated with the emotional states of hostility, anger and anxiety.

If you want true learning, learning that involves the higher frontal lobes -- the intellectual, creative brain -- then again, the emotional environment must be positive and supportive. This is because at the first sign of anxiety the brain shifts its functions from the high, prefrontal lobes to the old defenses of the reptilian brain.

TOGETHER, WE CAN STOP THE MALTREATMENT OF CHILDREN. You are invited to join the many others in pledging to interrupt the violence against children. TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST of those vowing to STOP THE HITTING, visit Norm's website, PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what was effective - or not.

There is nothing sold here, nothing to buy. This information is Copyright 2008 by Norm Lee, and offered here free of charge. Commercial use of this material, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Permission is here given to forward a complete document, and/or to print complete copies for friends WITHOUT CHARGE to them. All quoting must provide source, author, and website List addresses are never sold, exchanged or shared. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for this NORM REPORT e-letter, send name and general location (state, city, or country), with "Please subscribe" in the subject box, to

The Norm Report - Month 73
January 3, 2008 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:
In 5 years: 20,000 visits.

It is easier to work for
the improvement of the world
than to work for the improvement of oneself,
although the world would profit immensely
if the inverse order were followed.

- Ruth Nanda Ashen

A Hooda Thunk

Twenty thousand visits to my modest website in only five years! Never did I imagine such. It was during Nov & Dec, 2002 that Jordan built my website for me and to get my story and "Parenting Without Punishing" "on the air". That was one "angel". The other was my son Russell, who had bought me a computer on which I could get my writings outside this valley. Jordan has been my webmaster (and dear friend and fellow insurgent) ever since. Very soon I was in contact with Alice Miller and helping her start her email discussion list-serve and participating in the Psychohistory list-serve, where I met Mady & Mitch and many others. This was, indeed, a Movement to reckon with.

My interest in childrearing reaches back to the mid-1950s, so 2008 marks well over a half century of involvement in what was then not yet a "movement". Impossible to catalog all the steps here, but it was eleven years ago I came to this valley asking myself, "What is the most valuable thing I can contribute here, in my new community? Answer: Raising consciousness in the humane treatment of children. I was not prepared for the community's reaction: the denials, the evasions, the defensiveness, the hostility, and physical aggression, even. I hardly expected to be vilified, held up to public ridicule, kicked out of the County Health Office and a number of stores, even driven from yard sales, for merely distributing Kids' Safe Zone stickers and Plain Talk About Spanking, and offering No Spanking Zone posters. My "No Spanking" t-shirts and badges brought angry attacks; it is not safe, I found, to wear the button that bears the title of my book: Parenting Without Punishing. Enraged by my STEP UP RESOLUTION, the editor of the weekly paper editorialized that if I "stepped up" to interfere with their spanking ("disciplining") their child, I would get a spanking myself.

On reporting this media resistance to the members of PTAVE and others in what had now grown to a Movement, ten or a dozen "warriors" wrote letters to the editor - explaining what has been learned about the harmful results of CP on children. None of the letters were printed, my letters were still banned (as they still are today, after five years,) but the spanking-addicted editor was dismissed - and replaced by an even more fundamentalist, closed-down religious-defensive editor of the worst order. The insight was a long time coming: that behind that wall was terror - the deep-rooted fear of parental disapproval and withholding of love. Because it was to them an attack on their own parents, who had "lovingly" battered them, and are now haunting them from their unconscious.

For several years it appeared that there was no progress at all in this valley, no changes, and none likely. Meantime several European countries banned spanking, with Sweden leading today's list of 24 countries prohibiting by law the corporal punishment of children.* (Hooda thunkit?) With the raising of public awareness via TV programs and frequent articles in magazines and large-city newspapers on the harm done to children by CP, our hard and relentless efforts on consciousness-raising is, after a half-century, at last bearing fruit.

The Way Forward

We in PTAVE have advanced rapidly, with the pace accelerating at a rate never before imagined possible. At the helm, our immensely skilled and indefatigable leader Jordan Riak repeatedly surprises us all with his courageous and wise advances in the cause of protecting children from the onslaughts of the ignorant and disturbed. I, for one, as I reflect on the past and foresee the future, am much encouraged. Among our strengths are generosity with our time and talents, gratefulness for the meager results from huge, expensive, and thankless efforts, irrepressible loving-kindness not only for children but also for each other, and knowing that we are each tapping into our respective and collective Basic Goodness.

With the two months of the treasures and trash of getting and spending behind us now, what can we give, during 2008, to the children? What have we to offer them all year that has real value? We can give them our trust in their true nature: goodness, not sinful". Our respectful regard that they are worthy of such, not cloying "love". We can give them our best example, a model worth emulating, one shaped by self-discipline - which we can also give them. And we can model for them our Stability, as well as cheerful, fearless Openness. We can give by demonstration that while conflict may be inevitable, there are skills to resolve them without hate and violence. And we can give the children our outlook of lightness and humor, (kids love absurdity,) and the wisdom that whatever is happening, whether pain or pleasure, will surely pass.

Have a Happy New Year 2008, beloved friends and fellow suspects.

- Norm

* Countries that protect children from hitting/spanking/physical punishment, and the dates of reform: Sweden - 1979, Finland - 1983, Norway - 1987, Austria - 1989, Cyprus - 1994, Italy -1996, Denmark - 1997, Latvia - 1998, Croatia - 1999, Bulgaria - 2000, Germany - 2000, Israel - 2000, Iceland - 2003, Ukraine - 2004, Romania - 2004, Hungary - 2005, Greece - 2006, Netherlands - 2007, New Zealand - 2007, Portugal - 2007 and Uruguay - 2007.

The Norm Report - Month 72
December 1, 2007
Norm Lee's website:

The best gift you can give yourself
is to lighten up.

- Pema Chodron: "Start Where You Are"

This column, issued five years ago, is here updated and revised:


One of the traditions of the "holy" season is yanking children around shopping centers and smacking them when they complain about it. The birthday of Jesus is a good time to examine this whole business of denial concerning the tragedies and suffering of children. We are so much surrounded by it that it looks normal, tho 21 countries* elsewhere have passed laws prohibiting the hitting/spanking/physical punishment of children. What makes so many of us U.S. citizens look away from the tormenting of children that occurs before our eyes?

I once stumbled by mistake into a convention of funeral directors and found the theme of the event was, "Do not turn away." When the bereaved want to speak of their grief, be there for them. It is of immense importance to funeral directors, if they wish to stay in business, to not ignore suffering.

I think part of it is the fear of involvement. There is a story, reported as true, about a man who, during a Christmas church service, suddenly started screaming obscenities, shocking everyone in the pews, not to mention the choir and the preacher. Immediately one of the elders sprang to the window to adjust the shades - until the disturbance was quelled and the man ushered out.

We cannot know exactly an artist's meaning, in literal terms. Indeed, they themselves often say they don't know. We each bring our meaning to the work being viewed. The great Flemish painter Pieter Breughel, in his "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus", shows a host of people intent on ignoring a small boy who is, incredulously, falling from the sky into the Aegean Sea.

We know from Greek mythology that the boy's father, Daedelus, had made for him wax wings to escape from Crete, and had cautioned the boy to not fly too high lest the hot sun melt the wax. The advice was ignored, and so Icarus was drowned.

What is remarkable in the painting of a this bucolic, peaceful scene is the incongruence of a small white figure plunging from the sky. That no one notices the fact gives the painting its power: it give the viewer a jolt, a shock, even. (Equally remarkable is that this picture was made about the year 1560!) People walk leisurely along the shore, oblivious of the tragedy, strollers munch their lunches, a farmer continues to plow the furrow, and vacationers on the pleasure cruise think of themselves only. Is this really what we are like? we ask ourselves. No one cares about anybody other than themselves?

In his poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts" (the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels), W. H. Auden observes:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
......In Brueghel's "Icarus", for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shown
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Auden's poem brought to my mind the times when I, busy with my shopping, have walked by and ignored the "disciplining" of a child by a frustrated Xmas shopper. But I no longer deny the "human position", the "important failure". If I am to be the person I choose to be, I cannot fail that child, I cannot pass by that opportunity to make a difference in that child, that parent, in my community. I must be the one who offers a calming voice, or raises objection, regardless of the risk, to break up that violent energy. Can I expect another "enlightened witness" to step up? My responsibility cannot be avoided, I must respond.

I once thought it was a problem of education, that we are too dumb to understand our duty to the coming generation. Then I saw it as lack of vision: we are too blind to see the obvious harm being done. Now it appears to me that it is a failure of courage: we are too cowardly to acknowledge the reality that Icarus is FALLING INTO THE SEA! We are concerned with our own security, and so we meekly follow what our parents taught us: "Mind your own business!" "Don't get involved!" "Don't go looking for trouble!"

But all children are our business. They are not the property of parents, they are young members of the community, with their rights being violated with impunity before our very eyes - and no one there to defend them. Parents who "love Jesus" will justify a slapping around and brazenly cite the Old Testament's authority to do it. Yet they cannot, without effort, imagine the gentle, loving Jesus spanking a child.

Interfering is not "making trouble"; the trouble was made when the child was attacked. There are several ways to intervene, depending on the circumstance, and each way will affect a stop to the assault. If nothing else, the child will remember forever that someone cared to STEP UP when needed.

It is time we recognized that EVERY child is a Christ Child, who wants to be a Joy To The World. MAY WE MAKE PEACE IN OUR COMMUNITY THIS SEASON.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 71
November 1, 2007 E-mail:
Norm Lee's website:

As long as we are enslaved by our kleshas,
there will be no peace of mind,
or peace in the world.

- Pema Chodron

Letting Go of Punishment

It's about Freedom. Long after I went to war in Korea to defend political freedom, my small sons taught me about the freedom that comes inborn with the childhood package, the naturally free, untrammeled spirit. Now, for the past 40 years I have taught parents and college students how to provide for children a disciplined home life, free of punishment and other enthusiasm-killing oppression. (Click on "Parenting Without Punishing" on my website My lifelong quest for Freedom didn't stop there; I still carried internal conflicts that bound me. At last I entered a Buddhist retreat center, and there, practicing yoga, meditating, and studying the Dharma, I found levels of freedom I hadn't known were possible.

But before that, I had learned how to bring up children without resorting to punishment. Many people have asked, "How did you have the patience to refrain from spanking your young sons?" They raised their hands in disbelief when I said they were not punished at all. Never. Horrified, they predicted futures in "correctional facilities" for the boys, and eternal hellfire for me. They were wrong, (at least regarding the boys). I realized they viewed children and their parents as natural adversaries. How sad. Hardly a wonder their homes were battlegrounds.

The psych books say that, given my violent childhood, I was more or less destined to become a child abuser (like my father), and a wife abuser (like my father). Since I was neither, I was credited by some with having the patience of a saint, and dismissed by others as a flagrant liar. Some became indignant when I told them I'm the least patient person I know; it is obvious to me that refraining from hitting children requires no patience: Only basic decency, and attention to the violence impulse is required. Anyone can do it.

Well, how does that work? Here's how I did - and anyone can - check and eliminate spanking, indeed, all punishment, from the family hearth:

  1. I examined values and decided on the kind of person - and parent - I wanted to be: non-violent and non-threatening. I wanted to show love and care, not verbalize it.

  2. I adopted a new view of child and childhood: They are born not in "sin", but with innocent Basic Goodness.

  3. Being a student of childhood, I viewed the two boys as my teachers, my "experts" on childhood.

  4. I acquired human potential training in sensitivity, and T-Group Theory in honest relationships.

  5. I acquired several years' training in yoga, meditation, and the study of Buddhist dharma.

So, since I did not see the boys as little beings guilty of inherited sin, I did not view my duty - (as "God") - to "fix" them, improve them, prepare them for life - and death. The Basic Goodness, the innocence, the joy, enthusiasm and love I saw in them, brought for me a happiness I had never previously known. These teachers of mine - these toddlers as gurus - how I longed to be like them! The joys, the honesty of emotions, the directness, the immediacy of the moment, the eagerness to learn and experience the world, - there was no one I preferred to be with.

In the rare instances when the temptation, or rather, the idea of punishing arose in my mind, (and that was only early on,) I recognized it as a "danger flag", and stopped, quickly thinking of alternatives. Quite literally took just a moment to silently ask myself, "How creative can I get in dealing with this situation? Since punishment is verboten, what else is possible?" What first was an internal game for me, soon developed into a practice, a principle never to violate. And I'm proud to say I never did.

For me, as a philosopher, it came to an examination of values. What do we, as adults, really treasure? What do we want? We want a peaceful world. We want an end to the horror of violence, an end to the suffering of animals and fellow humans. We want a happy home life. We want to be free of neurotic habits and mental anguish. We want freedom to be who we are, and we want love, acceptance. We also want to be involved in making the world a better, saner place. To do that, it is clear, we need to get saner ourselves. We can, in fact, create the causes & conditions of all of the above. There are known and proven methods to accomplish all of them.

Years ago I read of a Chinese sage advising that we can indeed change the world. But we can't start with the world. We must first change the nation of which we are a citizen. Before that, however, we must change the state or province we live in. Wait - that's too difficult: we must start with changing our local county. Better yet, work to make changes in this city. No, we have to begin by changing our neighborhood. Where shall we start? With our family, of course. But how? By making desirable and effective changes in myself, in my own personal, thinking mind, in the moment-to-moment details of my own mental processes. That's how.

This is, of course, the most difficult of all, which explains why it is so rarely attempted. But there is no changing the world without beginning there. There is no time to waste.

In antiquity it was discovered that all anxiety, fear and suffering disappears when we tame the wildness of our mind. We need to discipline ourselves to training our mind. This can be taught. Increasingly for the past fifty years or so, instruction has grown within reach of each of us. We can learn, by practice, to center our awareness in the Here and Now. With persistent practice, we come to discover what Buddhists call our Basic Goodness. With insight we see that we must never harm others, no matter the provocation. We see that the greatest good we can do is to care for other suffering beings with compassion, being concerned for others' welfare before our own.

We see that security is illusion, and that we have to accept living without it. Insight tells us that the antidote to our misery is to stay present, in the Now, the only Reality. We have learned that the only way to make real change in the world is to free our minds of the early orientation we were subjected to, and to grow up and take charge of our mental processes. In doing that, we see that hate, aggression, hostility and violence don't work, and that the harm we do inevitably comes back to us. Instead of solving our problems, such negativity adds more of the same misery to our lives.

What applies in the world and in the street also applies in the home, in raising children. If we are at the mercy of the wildness in our minds, we are jerked around by our emotions, our impulses. We are not free. Buddhist talk about "kleshas", the term for that impulse to anger. If we can spot that, if we can see it when it arises in the mind, even someone as full of rage as I can control it. And that is the best, the easiest, time to curb it - at the very outset. To master that is never to spank or punish again. Or abuse anyone.

Even before practicing yoga or studying Buddhist dharma I trained myself to recognize the red flag of the klesha. I had good reason to do so: I was determined that my children were not to pay the emotional price for my internal rage. That would be the same as turning those precious little beings over to the mercy of the tyrants who brutalized me years before. Unthinkable. It was A. S. Neill who first encouraged me, in his book, "Summerhill". That remarkable man - no sentimentalist, he - had total trust in the Basic Goodness in each child, no matter how crazy and wild they acted out. It was a decade later that I took training in Buddhism. But note that one needn't become a Buddhist monk to eschew punishment of children thru training the mind to spot the kleshas. Anyone can do it; try it for a few days, or a few months. But my early self-training did help prepare me for treading the Heart Path of the bodhisattva.

Until we start taming the mind, we are jerked around by our emotions. There is no freedom in being at the mercy of impulses. We can't deal with them when they are out of control. But with the right motivation, plus determination, we can stop the initial rush to lash out, long enuf to see the folly and harm in it. And the time to stop it is at the outset. The later it is, the harder it is, and later, out of reach altogether. Because negative emotions enslave us as we indulge in them, robbing us of our precious freedom. We're dragged along under the spell of rage.

With awareness we can curb that urge when it's still manageable. We pause before the trap, and take a deep breath. We're back in charge, and no child gets hurt. Pema Chodron, giving us the message of Shantedeva, the great sage of the 7th Century, said, "Treat your crippling emotions like drug pushers. Our negative emotions weaken us, cause us harm. These addictions ruin our life." If we don't "catch" the klesha tension, it could result in full-blown aggression and violence, bringing misery for ourselves and others. No child deserves that.

"As long as we are enslaved by our kleshas, there will be no peace of mind, or peace in the world," Pema said. "War, violence, child abuse will continue everywhere. But we can create the cause of peace, here - and there."

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 70
October 1, 2007

Norm Lee's website:

[When] cowering under his blows as a child,
I knew that one day he would not be able to hurt me anymore.

- Monty Roberts at his father's coffin

"My father seemed only five feet tall, and the flesh had almost disappeared from his bones. I had waited for this moment most of my life. When I was ten, I knew that one day there would be a funeral, and then I could touch him. Only then could I finally shake his hand."

This emotional casket-side scene Monty Roberts describes at the end of his book, "The Man Who Listens To Horses". We have learned much about Marty Roberts' brutality with horses, and more about how he viciously and frequently beat his son. The father & son had been estranged for almost all of Monty's life. Now Marty Roberts was dead.

He remembered the time, when he was a young boy, he watched with horror as his father, then the village cop, beat and kicked to death a man robbing a bar. He recalled the time his father punished a horse by tying its leg up, leaving him to suffer for hours tethered tightly to a post. Monty could not bear to see the suffering, and released the horse, planning to re-tie him before his father returned to the ranch. But he returned early, and in a wrathful frenzy, beat the boy until he feared for his life. He had never known a moment of acceptance or affection, much less love, from his father.

"For most of my life I had longed for the moment when I would stand over my dead father. This was precisely the picture I had had: he in a wooden box, me looking down on him. Through his punishments and beatings, that image had sustained me. Cowering under his blows as a child, I knew that one day he would not be able to hurt me anymore. It was a cathartic moment, and though I have shed many tears in my life, I did not shed one as I gazed into that coffin. The anger lived on, as if he had thrashed me yesterday, though that was more than forty years earlier."

Monty was not like other men and moms, who simply passed their rage on to the succeeding generation. With remarkable insight into himself he tells us how he prevented his internal violence from transferring to his own loved ones: "I knew the triggers that led to violence. I, too, have felt that anger rise in me, felt the urge to strike out at someone in my family. But I put my grip on that anger. I swore that this man in the box would be the last link in the chain of violence and anger aimed as much at humans as at horses."

Here is one of the qualities that distinguishes Monty from other survivors of abuse: Awareness of the rage within him, and the determination that the violence stops here. Tho he is famous worldwide for his genius with horses, his contribution to the literature of childrearing may prove to be, in the end, Monty Roberts' most important and enduring legacy.

Monty's approach in a nutshell

"We all want a well-behaved, happy, and willing horse at the conclusion...he should not be traumatized ... Remember, let your animal be free. Do not restrict. Make it pleasant for him to be near you ... No pain. ...The point of my method is to create a relationship based on trust and confidence...The first rule of starting a horse is no pain. You, the trainer, will not hit, kick, jerk, pull, tie, or restrain ...Suggest to the horse that you would rather he did, but not that he must...Above all, stay calm." [Emphasis are Monty's]

"Hold in your mind the idea that the horse can do no wrong; that any action taken by the horse was most likely influenced by you. We can do little to teach the horse; we can only create an environment in which he can learn. Likewise with people: the student who has knowledge pushed into his brain learns little, but he can absorb a great deal when he chooses to learn... If we refuse to believe that the horse can communicate, pain can be used to train him... But pain is needless and terribly limiting..."

Monty's audiences are spellbound when he talks about communicating in the same way with wild deer in the forest. It began with rescuing and tending a doe that had been wounded by wolves. To his surprise, she responded to his "horse language" in much the same way as wild horses - and burrows, mules, and all "flight animals." In the passage of time, wild deer came to his ranch and frolicked with him on his lawn, at times walking into his kitchen, following him like a dog.

Lawrence Scanlon writes in the Afterword that Monty likes to call himself a "horse psychologist". At Cal Poly he studied human psychology, then used in the coral what he learned in class. "He had experience working with outcasts," writes Scanlon, "from wounded deer, and horses bound to the slaughter house, [then with] violent, druggy, physically abused street kids. After he and his wife Pat had three children, they began taking in the children nobody wanted, and raising them as their own."

Over the years the Roberts took in a total of 47 children, most of them age 12 to 14. Some stayed for years living like brothers and sisters to Pat and Monty's three kids. "Some had tangled with school authorities, or the law, some had been dismissed as backward, some were hooked on hard drugs or suffered from eating disorders. Most came from dysfunctional families."

Of the 47, 40 of them by Monty's count, stood on their feet after leaving and made a life for themselves. "The rest landed in jail or returned to the streets and died there." But given the afflictions they arrived with, the changes in the kids vindicated the relationship Pat and Monty built, which was not dissimilar to the approach with horses: basic kindness, gentleness, patience, trust. And this is the approach that Monty wants us, and the world, to consider.

Monty teaches horse starting

"For centuries humans have said to the horses, 'You do what I tell you or I'll hurt you'. Humans still say that to each other, still threaten and force and intimidate. I am convinced that my discoveries with horses also have value in the workplace, in the educational and penal systems, and in the raising of children. At heart I am saying that no one has a right to say you must to an animal - or to another human." Just as trust has to be won with a horse, so must it be won between people and their employers, between parents and their children.

Since 1990, thousands of educators, physicians, corporate officers, and others - more than 240 firms and organizations from around the world - have come to Monty Roberts to hear what a man, known for his horse skills, has to teach about people skills. "It used to be OK to beat a child or for a husband to beat his wife...It's wrong, and not effective either," Monty tells them.

Both his corporate and childrearing philosophy is rooted in respect, and ends in expectations clearly defined: "People must be allowed to fail," he says, "but do not protect the lazy or incompetent; above all, people must be allowed to succeed and be rewarded if they meet or exceed the terms of the contract." Thus Monty's discipline is defined. He (also) hopes that in future our understanding of human-to-human interactions will take great leaps forward.

Some 790 years ago, when Genghis Khan occupied Iran, Afghanistan, & Turkestan, his horses "spoke" the language. "But no one saw it," notes Monty. "No one tried to see it...Like many who profess to love the horse - and do love the horse - the Mongols broke their young horses in the cruel, conventional way....Horses had no answer to the Khan's cruelty, they had no voice. But they did have a language...And that language has probably existed for 45 million years, virtually unchanged...The absence of communication between human and horse has led to a disastrous history of cruelty and abuse...Our loss has been considerable..."

On Monty's character, lifework & teachings

Monty's genius lies in somehow mastering himself, triumphing over his internal rage at his father, just as he mastered the art of animal communication. His saving advantage was that he had a caring mother, from whom he acquired the softer, gentler side of life. Ever hoping for reconciliation between her husband and her son, she tried, in her final years, one last time. She persuaded the old man to sit in the bleachers and watch while their son performed with a wild horse, just as he had done 20,000 times before applauding crowds, and before an admiring Queen of England. Monty carefully explained to his father every move, every communication, in this one last effort to reach him with what he'd learned. A half hour later, when the horse was saddled and being ridden around the arena, his father stomped off, muttering and snorting in disgust.

For us, Monty's application to children of what horses taught him is most significant and important. We can easily suppose that without learning to listen to horses, Monty's internal violence - passed on from his father thru him to his own three children - would have been devastating. They would have suffered beatings, plus his wife attacked and abused in his fits of rage. But Monty looked inside himself, acknowledged the violence there, and trained himself to stop it short. He learned to mindfully check the violence impulse, refusing to make his family pay the emotional price for his father's brutal treatment. I think that, among his extraordinary accomplishments, deserves most tribute.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 69
September 1, 2007

Norm Lee's website:

Be firm but never harsh.
Never lose your temper with a horse.
Reward him with kindness when he does what you wish.

- Xenophon, Greek cavalry officer, 300 BC

Readers of John Steinbeck know that the California town he called home was Salinas. It was there that he wrote the books set in Monterey County, about Cannery Row and the lovable but ne'er-do-well bums he knew so well. It was about the time the Upright Citizens of Salinas drove John out of town for writing that "immoral" book, "The Grapes of Wrath" (which won the Pulitzer), that Monty Roberts was born.

For a young boy in Salinas in the Thirties, it was exciting times. Even as a small child Monty always attended the local rodeo, with its calf roping and "bronco bustin". He was the son of Marvin Roberts, reputably the best horseman as well as the toughest man in Salinas. Best of all, his father was owner and manager of the annual event, and of a riding school as well.

Before he could walk the boy was spending full days on the horse's neck ahead of his mother as she gave riding instructions to local students. At four years old he was competing in horse shows - and was quickly spotted by a Warner Brothers representative. Soon he was doubling for Roddy McDowall in films, later for luminaries like James Dean in "East of Eden" and a hundred or so other films. Monty's father handled the business, took the money the boy earned, and kept it. ("Who buys your food? Your clothes? You owe me years of room and board!")

In his book, "The Man Who Listens to Horses", Monty describes the method his father used on horses - tough-love without the love; that is, he "broke" wild horses using total dominance, brutality, and terror. "You hurt them first, or they'll hurt you," he instructed his son. Monty later said, "My father's way of breaking horses was what I would describe as conventional - but that is to say, cruel."

The boy knew how it felt to be physically manhandled by his father, and had plenty of bruises to show for it. "He showed great tenderness to members of the family," Monty recalls, "but I never saw that side of him... I never got hugged by him. He would pass me on the street and not say hello. From the outset he turned a cold and critical eye on me. Generous with others, he demanded perfection of me. He was unforgiving and scrutinized everything I did, more often than not holding it up to ridicule. As a boy I was serious and polite, and when I look back on these times I see that I never was a child." While he respected and feared his father, he was determined he would not grow to be that kind of man.

Monty loved horses, and knew them to be gentle, lovable creatures, so breaking the spirit of those beautiful animals seemed unnecessary. As he watched his father brutalize a young stallion, born in the wild and imprisoned in a coral, the boy's stomach churned, not the least because Monty, himself, was routinely so brutalized. He was once actually chain-whipped by his raging father, and a heavy chain it was. Today, at 72, he talks in a trembling voice about his "lifetime of rejection" - starting early on by his father, who "taught discipline" thru frequent beatings.

By the time he was seven Monty was spending much time alone in the high desert of Nevada, watching thru binoculars the behavior of the herds of wild horses there, how they related to each other. He would watch for eight hours of daylight, then strained to see them by moonlight, observing how they subtly communicated by positioning their bodies. Thus, Monty very gradually learned the language of horses. He decided he would learn to relate with horses in the same way. It was from what he saw in the wild, and what he learned from practice in the breaking ring, that he developed the now-celebrated Monty Roberts "horse starting" method - the new horse-training paradigm he is now famous for.

"To destroy the willingness in a horse is a crazy, unforgivable act," he announces to the groups of horsemen and women who come to watch him do his "magic". "Inherent generosity is among the dominant characteristics of the horse, and if nurtured can grow into the most rewarding aspect of their working lives...I have marveled most at their willingness to try for me, over and over again." A method of gentleness, patience, and quiet encouragement brings cooperation, even devotion. What a novel idea!

Gone is the "breaking" of horses to saddle and rider, gone is the violence, the terror, of his father's brutal, traditional method. "My ambition was immense: to change the way humans relate to horses." He set out to form a natural bond with a wild horse. And where his father took three or more weeks of daily abuse to break a horse's spirit, Monty - in twenty minutes - has a saddle and rider on a formerly wild, now calm and cooperating horse. Because he learned the language of horses, he is open to their communications.

"Hold in your mind the idea that the horse can do no wrong, that any action taken by the horse - especially the young unstarted horse - was most likely influenced by you. Tho he hungered for his father's approval, Monty quickly saw his hostility to any suggestion that his old ways could be improved upon. On pain of violence he had to keep from his father the valuable skills he had acquired. The rageaholic would not be proven "wrong" by his son, and never accepted the revolutionary method despite the honors and fame his son earned.

Monty endured the all-but-unanimous scorn of the horsemen who grimly stuck to the traditional "breaking" of horses. Few would accept that you can communicate with a brute beast, win their trust, and teach them without whips and spurs. Horse owner John Franks wonders why Monty's way is not universally accepted and practiced. "I'm a geologist and when something new comes along in geology, we all jump on it." But in the horse world? "Everyone goes his own way, and it's hard to change a trainer who has done it his way all his life." In 1989 he was invited to Windsor Castle by Queen Elizabeth of England, herself very knowledgeable about horses. She asked Monty to show her just how he did his magic with horses. After seeing it, she suggested he write a book. So he did.

Monty's priceless gift to the world is a way of showing the horse that a saddle and rider are not to be feared, indeed, they can be enjoyed. The task is to bring the horse to its first rider without instilling anxiety and stress. "The horse is a flight animal who feels vulnerable 24 hours a day ... the same vulnerability a woman may feel when she is alone in an elevator and a burly man gets on." Monty learned on his own what Mary O'Hara wrote in "My Friend Flicka" in the voice of a rancher to his son: "A horse can tell you a lot of things, if you watch, and expect it to be sensible and intelligent. Pay attention to the little signs - the way it moves its body, the ears, the eyes, the little whinnies - that's her way of talking to you ... and it's for you to understand her. You'll learn her language, and she'll learn yours - never forget that they can understand everything you say to them."

Monty lectures widely, demonstrating his technique. "What I can do with horses is the result of long hours watching them in the wild. It's essentially a simple thing based on common sense ... It is an undiscovered language - primitive, precise, and easy to read. The silent language uses the movements of the body - 'signs' - that can be read. ... I believe this a universal 'tongue', understood not just by all wild and domestic horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys, but also by other 'flight' animals such as deer. Once learned, the language allows a new understanding between human and horse."

In "My Friend Flicka", author O'Hara has a character say, "Under the eye of a human being, an unbroken horse is in terror." As for the traditional way of "breaking" a horse: "It ruins the horse! He loses something, and never gets it back. Something goes out of him. He's not a whole horse anymore ... he is marked with fear and distrust, his disposition damaged - he'll never have confidence in a man again." From the Preface of Monty's book: "The old way: putting a horse in a corral, lassoing him, tying him to a post and then getting on him with a pair of spurs - [is] unbelievable. Now we use round pens, we teach the horse that we're not going to hurt him, that we're his friend."

Monty has "started" (he never uses the term "broken") some ten thousand horses, at his ranch and all over the world, and his gentle communication with a horse has never failed. Alone in a circular pen, Monty - without ever touching the mustang - has him trotting round and round it. Key signs come in succession: the horse cocks an ear, sticks out his tongue, and lowers his head to the ground. "I want to talk," says the horse. He is away from his herd and alone; as a flight animal his instinct tells him he's now vulnerable to predators. And Monty is offering him another herd. "When to face the horse and make eye contact, when not to, where to touch the horse first, whether to move slowly or quickly, all this Monty knows, for he has learned his equine manners and grammar", wrote Lawrence Scanlon.

Monty: "I don't do it for the people. I do it for the horse." It's not about people with horse problems, he explains, "it's about horses with people problems". It's about the horse as teacher. And it makes humans more humane. "The horse has much to teach humans about listening."

And he says, furthermore, that what he's learned has much to teach parents and teachers about dealing with children. "We can do little to teach the horse; we can only create an environment in which he can learn. Likewise with people: the student who has knowledge pushed into his brain learns little, but he can absorb a great deal when he chooses to learn."

"The point of my method is to create a relationship based on trust and confidence...For centuries humans have said to horses [and children] you do what I tell you or I'll hurt you. [But] inflicting pain does not work ...I am convinced that my discoveries with horses also have value in the workplace, in penal and school systems, and in the raising of children...."

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 68
August 1, 2007


Visit Norm Lee's website:

“It does not require a majority to prevail,
but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to
set brushfires in people’s minds.”

- Samuel Adams

Why I Like the Strong-Willed Child

When I taught High School English, the best pupils I had were the school-hating malcontents. Each was what James Dobson identified as the "strong-willed" child, tho I found them the brightest, most creative, most disruptive, with the poorest grades. They were "school failures" who lacked status and had nothing to lose - except their self-respect, and that they would not give up. They were the "difficult" pupils that disturbed classes and interrupted "teaching". They deserved my respect and got it. To other teachers they were threatening. Fearing their power and lacking the skills to deal with them, teachers punished repeatedly, and wishing they would disappear, shipped them off to the principal's office. Yet, I found the rebellious kids not difficult. They were the most interesting, far more so than most "superior" pupils. The troublesome ones were, in my view, the "best" kids in terms of character, intelligence, and sanity. I found them a fascinating challenge. And I liked them.

The most "successfully bad" ones were eventually, among teachers, compared to Hitler, the very top-on-the-badness chart. But Hitler was not "strong-willed"; he was insane, a prisoner controlled by his several obsessions. What the German people needed in the Thirties were more strong-willed citizens, those who had the courage to resist authoritarianism. People like those most "rebellious" in my classes. People who had not "sold out" their integrity and souls and bought into the System.

Why has Shakespeare's "Hamlet" been at the top of the literature charts for 400 years? One reason is it asks us to consider what is perhaps life's most important question: Am I going to be - or am I not going to be - authentic? Do I choose to stand by my convictions, or to abandon my moral compass and "play along to get along"? Shall I march along in lock step, or step to the beat of my own drum? During those exciting years I liked best the "trouble-makers", the "discipline problems". Never in all my teaching years did I ever send a pupil to the principal's office to be "disciplined". Indeed, I never once punished a pupil in any way.

I think it was because I invariably saw myself in the "screw-ups". Clearly they had been mistreated, and had a level of intelligence that could not abide boredom. I could not blame them for the "misbehavior" that was plainly caused by the school's failure to meet their needs. I wanted the school to be a refuge for those unhappy, surly kids. I did not want the school to be another fascist regime pushing them around, bossing them, forcing them to comply with decisions made by their "betters" in an office somewhere.

I found I could not, unfortunately, make the school over - (tho by God I tried). But I could, and did, make my classroom a place where they were not bullied, not punished, not ridiculed, not made to feel lousy about themselves. The so-called troublemakers wanted some degree of control over their lives. In time I saw that they wanted to make some decisions, even if wrong ones, and a safe place to make them. What is a school FOR? Those who arrived battle-scarred learned - some quickly, some later - that I would not add to their grief, that I was not The Enemy. As I trusted them, they trusted me.

My feeling was that when a child is blessed with a "strong will" he should appreciate it, as a rare gift to be treasured and cultivated. That strength is a valuable asset that, applied in a positive direction, can make much needed changes in this trouble-wracked world. Historically, that quality, tho rare, is common to all who have been contributing to advancing and improving the material and spiritual conditions of humankind since history began. It is cruel and stupid to destroy it. While the hordes of Dobsons and paddle-swingers were - and are - determined to crush that spirit, to cripple that uncommon strength, I wanted to encourage and redirect it.

We were alone in the room when Chuck, the 16-year-old I would sometimes spring from jail on Monday morning, declared, "This school sucks!"

"Right!" I answered. "But it isn't smart to say it out loud." I explained: "You caught on years before I did. You already know this is an obedience school, and the Trainers are scared. This is not the time to take them on. Until we position ourselves to make a positive difference, we are wise to keep it quiet. It's cool to know what's really going on, but cooler still to avoid putting a target on our backs by mouthing off. They are now positioned to make life miserable. You have only two more years of time here: Use it to work on yourself. You have to educate yourself - no class can do it for you. Observe how the System works, and above all study and emulate those you admire. Meanwhile, as wise old Henry Fonda once said, 'When you're up to your nose in shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut.' And when you go to jail, be sure it is for a worthwhile purpose." And I gave him Henry David Thoreau's "Essay on Civil Disobedience" to read. And Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail".

Nelson, too, played on the edges of the law. He had a calmness I coveted, and integrity I admired even more. He lived with his dad in a shack built of Coca-Cola signs at the town landfill. No one's status was lower, nor their spelling more atrocious. When he handed in an essay that was so beautiful, and so sensitive - tho full of spelling errors - that I beamed at him and graded it "A". The principal, who the paper had somehow reached, told me he was changing the grade to an "F". I handed him a piece of chalk and said, "Do that and you're the new English teacher - because I'm out of here." He backed down. The following year when he thought he could get away with insulting me, I quit on the spot.

Each one of the "problem pupils" was rebellious in his own way, while the top-of-the-class "A" pupils seemed to be all cut of the same cloth: Boring. At times I would tell them, "Hey - you all got "A"s. Now get out of here - go to the library and read something." Wayne's handicap was being the son of the shop teacher. Without perceptible warning one day he decided to "ride" me, test me like no other had ever done. And he was good, like a chess player. He trusted me to not mention it to his father; he was most relentless, my most daunting challenge. I didn't know how to deal with him. I just knew that I would not join in a power struggle. All others in class sat silently, watching the drama.

Wayne hated reading and writing, that is to say, English was his most hated subject. I learned his one overriding interest in life was electronics. He did not know that in the U.S.A.F. I had taught pilots and crewmembers the electronic and radio systems of the B-26 aircraft. After a week of insolence I felt that Wayne's abusive remarks had to be answered or I would soon "lose it" - and that I could not let happen. One morning I covered the blackboard with an elaborate radio schematic, with its tangle of circuits, detectors, resisters, capacitors and wires everywhere - all from memory. Wayne sat bug-eyed. Pointing to one circuit, I asked, "Who knows what this is?" Wayne: "I do! It's the Colpits oscillator!"

Correct. And what is this feature here? I asked. "That provides the feedback," said Wayne happily. And I knew I had him. Then I explained about the value of feedback in talking with people, and how the listener's input can influence the outcome of a discussion. Wayne, now in his element, couldn't have been happier: English now made sense! To my last day, there was never another problem with him. His "enemy" could walk on water.

Why was I so carefully avoiding putting down the pupils assigned to me? Reason: I had decided at the outset that if I could not maintain a disciplined classroom without punishing the kids, I would seek some other line of work. In Korea, if a pilot or crew gave me a hard time, which very rarely happened, I'd simply dismiss them from class and send them back to fly a few more missions over North Korea. (A.F. regulations gave me one rank higher than everyone in class. Would you believe - for a time I held the technical rank of Major General?)

But in my English class these weren't adults. The pupils needed the space to be kids. And the more resistant and rebellious they were to authority, the more I saw myself in them. We were comrades, not adversaries. And if they did not "know" that, they felt it. They knew I liked them, could see that, even while maintaining classroom order, I enjoyed them. They knew I worked half the night preparing for them. They taught me so much about teaching and about children.

They were "undisciplined" only in the view of Authority: they refused to submit to humiliation. They had their own internal discipline, in unknowing agreement with Erwin N. Griswold, dean of Harvard Law School: "The right to be let alone is the underlying principle of the Constitution's Bill of Rights." I respected their rights as children and Americans, as they embodied that motto treasured by the early patriots of New Hampshire: "Don't tread on me."

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 67
July 1, 2007

Visit Norm Lee's website:

Can you imagine
what this man would have been if
someone [had] loved him?

- Henry Kissinger on Richard Nixon

Most of you know I settled in this narrow Arizona valley in 1997 and began efforts to raise to public awareness the harm inflicted on children by corporal punishment, and to suggest non-punitive ways of childrearing. While the response was, for years, under whelming to say the least, there are now, after a decade of unremitting work, signs of limited success. A principle industry here is incarceration: five prisons are in this valley bulging with several thousand inmates. Many of my neighbors work there.

With George W. Bush elected twice during the past ten years, the cumulative effect of the nation's aggression and propaganda has had a visible effect. As hate levels rose in the face of designated "enemies" of the government, fear levels mounted. Orange and red threat levels alerted families of unseen danger, and xenophobic levels, already high, mounted higher.

It is tempting to adopt the curbside psychologist mode and speak in terms of "schizophrenia" and "paranoia," but it is an irrefutable fact that what passes for "normal" here is clinically a certain level of mental illness. Tho it has been identified as a national sickness, or "the sickness of the age," I have not seen it at this level in the places I've traveled in Florida, West Coast, New York, and Midwest. And certainly not in Europe. Few will deny that the levels of anxiety and fear have raised since 9/11, but nowhere else have I seen this degree of negativism, fear, pessimism, and disconnection with what is real as opposed to what is fantasy, or illusion. It appears that nearly everyone in this valley is seeking escape from the Reality of Life.

Many months ago two local children committed suicide. The local paper chose to not publish that news. Now, long after, the tragedy is vaguely mentioned in print - but only briefly and reluctantly. Secrecy is maintained on identities and circumstances. Result: Children and their parents were served only by rumor and hearsay. In the end, general explanations thru schools and churches were passed on "informally." The impression left was that the kids themselves were culpable, somehow disobeyed, and escaped punishment.

This avoidance is not an atypical response to stark reality here: Avoid and deny it as long as possible. Both were boys, one age 15 took his life, we don't know how; the other, a child of eight, hanged himself soon after. If anyone knows why the boys took their lives, they are not sharing the information. But we know that the kids were likely caught in severe depression, had come to hate life itself, and adequate concern and counsel did not reach them. Thus, the community failed the boys, and the newspaper failed the community.

There are several stories here, not least of which is the shockingly dysfunctional newspaper non-coverage, whose publisher says he feared "copycat" reaction. Others, later, called for openness, and some even urged forums on the problem of depression, its causes and antidotes. In the end, the public pushed the uncomfortable issue aside to await the next family tragedy. The event was lost in comments of "Ain't it awful." That's the state of mind in this small community in Arizona.

No less than 15 million Americans a year are afflicted by depression. Here is a disease that costs the nation $83 billion each year in treatment costs, absenteeism, and lost productivity. About 189 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written last year, and the antidepressants are not working well, according to David Rubinow, a professor and the chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A recent $35 million government study examined a very large number of patients who were experiencing symptoms of major depression such as sadness, low energy and hopelessness. They were given the usual antidepressants, and found that only half were cured. A mere medical prescription is not adequate to cure profound unhappiness in the human spirit. Professionals say depression is the cause of almost all of the 30,000 suicides annually in the U. S.

Nationally, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24. But in Arizona it is the number one leading cause of death in that age range. Is it my imagination, or was there a time when everyone felt they were part of a community, and that communal bond insured that no member would ever feel so estranged that they'd want to kill themselves, much less assassinate others in a dramatic exit from life. The recent massacre at Virginia Tech, where Cho Seung Hui did just that, is a case in point. Cho was profoundly unhappy and lonely, had never had friends - neither in his native Korea nor in U.S. He desperately wanted a girl friend but was rejected invariably. When he could stand the depression no longer, he killed 32 people and himself.

In seeing Cho's horror story I could not help thinking of Kim Choon He, my houseboy in Korea some 56 years ago. Things were bad in Korea in 1951 and '52. From the garbage cans outside our mess tent starving Koreans scooped slime with bare hands and licked it off hungrily. It's where I learned to hate war, and committed to work toward ending it. But Kim was ever cheerful, as he was well fed as he kept my boots shined and bed made and tent clean, for which I paid him a few won from my tiny monthly pay. I helped him learn English, and after I returned to the States we corresponded. When his letters stopped I assume he was drafted into the army and sent north to fight the Chinese, but his was not a killer temperament. He had friends who truly cared for him. Cho was not so lucky, or at least was not aware he was so lucky. Counseling could have helped him recognize his incredible fortune in having fine clothes, food and shelter, wonderful teachers in a fine university and very rare life opportunity.

Jerry Kroth, of the Graduate Division of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University (CA), tells us that when Mother Teresa first came to this country, she observed that the United States was the "loneliest" country she had ever visited. This is what Dr. Kroth says of Cho's rampage: "Perhaps instead of focusing on gun control, media violence, or beefing up campus security, we should look more closely at the alienation and lack of intimacy in American life." He cites a recent Pew poll indicating that the number of Americans who have "no one to talk to about a personal issue" has more than doubled in just the last decade. "We need to direct our attention to the lonely, depressed, alienated, and emotionally discarded segments of our society. There needs to be a sincere national dialogue about psychotherapy, mental health, and the absence of love in our society which gives rise to the evil that we all are trying to come to terms with today." - Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 66
June 1, 2007

...parents repeatedly punished us in attempts to force us
into the imaginary mold they had prepared for us, i.e.,
what a child should be.

- Alice Miller

In a May 19, 07 email from London, "Harold" asked me for parenting guidance. For privacy, I have substituted fictional names. Our conversation follows.

Harold: Hi Norm. Thank you for your website - it has filled me with hope and joy just to read a small part of it. I have two daughters, Shelly and Tammy, aged 27 months and 11 months. Their mother and I have raised them without violence but have resorted to gentler forms of punishment with Shelly, putting her on the bottom step of the staircase or in her cot.

Yet I have felt unhappy and ill at ease about doing this and instinctively averse to any form of punishment.

I am sorry not to have stuck to my original feelings in this regard and to have succumbed to the societal dogma that some form of punishment is a prerequisite to the raising of children. And I am delighted and grateful to have my natural inclinations so eloquently vindicated on your website that I can wake up to what I already knew and begin to parent more appropriately.

Norm: From my view, your instincts are correct: there is NO necessity for punishing a child, ever. Shelly, at age 2yrs., is now in the midst of "breaking out" of the infancy years - the very center of attention, and practicing toddlerhood, beginnings of childhood, with its new freedoms of movement and expression. Eleven months ago, at age one and a half, the "competition" arrived - to hog the attention and affection that had been, all her life, exclusively hers. Who wouldn't be upset? Angry? Even enraged? Her tiny world - her only security - was collapsing around her. It's been a distressing, perhaps tragic, year for her. And, with her God and Goddess battling, it's getting worse.

H: Unfortunately I fear that some harm has already been done and that Shelly has also picked up on her mother's and my sometimes angry behaviour toward one another, something which we are working hard on.

N: So it is clear to you that the work to be done is on the conflicting relationship between you and your wife. Can you see that the changes must take place there, not on the child? Shelly needs to be smothered in affection & attention. Forget the carrot-and-stick approach, she is not the family collie. Love her when she's "good", love her when she's "bad" (two terms I never used with my sons, by the way.) It is most important that the conflicts not be "worked out" in the presence or the hearing of the two children. I can't be emphatic enuf here. If you can't resolve issues yourself and soon, I urge you to seek counseling. The children have already suffered too much.

H: She quite frequently physically attacks and hurts her little sister and, to date, it is for this that she is most commonly punished by being placed in her cot and left alone in her room. I hasten to add that, for the most part, Shelly is an absolute delight - happy, kind and loving toward her sister. But she still attacks her with worrying frequency.

N: The child, then, is being punished for learning and applying what her parents taught her about human relationships, how fighting is "normal". Shelly is a delight, is bright, and happy and kind - because she was born GOOD, kind and loving. But - again - Shelly learned from parents' example to attack someone vulnerable when unhappy or stressed. She is too small to attack you. So what's left? Shelly also might benefit from counseling. In London there are surely many family counselors, with sliding scale fees. Try some out and persist until you find what is comfortable and effective for your situation.

H: Clearly the long-term solution to this problem is to engender a greater sense of love, respect, toleration and calm in the home as whole. But please could you advise me on what you would consider to be the best course to take immediately following such an incident.

N: Exactly. The problem is not in changing the child, it is in changing her parents. Ask: How can we engender love, respect, toleration and calm in this home? You can treat the symptoms (pimples), but the disease (measles) is still there, doing its dirty work. If, when Shelly is in attacking mode, the baby is kept beyond her reach, there should be no more attacks. Words won't work, toddlers are not academically inclined. Change the game from a contest of wills and adversary relationship to helping mom while tending to baby's needs.

H: I feel torn by my desire not to punish and the need to defend Tammy from any further harm.

N: By all means, keep Tammy out of reach of her sister. Simply making rules, issuing orders, and enforcing them does not work. Shelly has learned to punish; the baby must be protected; further punishing Shelly will heighten her aggression. She already feels rejected, neglected. Add punishment to that, and it's traumatic.

H: Apart from anything, whilst I can guarantee to try, I cannot guarantee to be perfect in my own future behaviour. I am in early recovery from alcoholism through AA and am making great strides but struggling nonetheless.

N: None of us is perfect; we're all struggling with challenges, weaknesses, guilt feelings and failures. But we can prevent harm to our children nonetheless. I hear you making excuses for failure already, and in this you must not fail your children. No excuses. It's not that you can't, it's just that you haven't seen the problem in its true light. If the view is still dim, write to me again.

H: Shelly communication skills are limited and it just seems to me that trying to explain to her that hurting her sister is upsetting for all of us, whilst empathizing with the feelings that motivated her to do so, may not be enough to prevent recurrences if she continues to witness her mother and I in heated exchanges, as is realistically likely to happen.

N: Correct; explaining and persuading will not stop Shelly from hurting Tammy, because rationality is not the game. A two-year-old can't grasp explanations and pleas for compassion. She is driven by painful emotions. Shelly is hurting badly, and needs to find ways to relieve that hurt. She needs to cry her grief and be held and loved - by her God and Goddess. There is no other world.

H: Any advice you might be able to offer would be really helpful. With great love and enormous gratitude, Harold

The Norm Report - Month 65
May 1, 2007

The key to ending suffering and finding [domestic] peace
lies in transforming our own mind:
removing our negativity, enhancing our positive qualities,
and revealing our true nature.

- Chagdud Tulku            

Every one of us is trained in parenting skills - by our own parents. Our work is to retrain ourselves - and others raised by spanking parents - to disabuse ourselves and others from the earlier conditioning. Nearly everyone needs help getting past the pervasive childhood training in violence. Those of us who have done the reading need to teach others the findings of modern research in peaceful parenting. The harmful effects of maltreatment and mis-parenting are easy to underestimate; the tight grip the subconscious has on our behavior can take months and years to expose and relax. There are many ways to affect changes. Perhaps we can learn from the Buddhists, whose teachings on the relief of suffering and attainment of happiness have proved effective for many millions of practitioners for the past 2,500 years, might be of some value to Norm Report readers.


Since the problem of suffering and increasing the happiness of sentient beings has always been the central concern of Buddhists, it seems there may be understandings here that can apply to raising the quality of family life. When we observe the conflicts and misery of those around us - in the home, locally and globally - it may seem surprising that for over two millennia the remedy for suffering and the cause of happiness has been widely known in Asia. While complete coverage of the teachings of the several schools of Buddhism is far beyond my knowledge and the scope of this Norm Report, here selected are some basic guidelines deemed useful for family life.

1. The day the child is born, there is a guru in the family. The new baby is the resident expert on children and childhood. Given that we are wise enuf to shift our thinking patterns along new lines, we can learn much from the infant "rinpoche". The first thing a child teaches us is that we must think of others before ourselves. This idea is as old as the cavalry officer's code: Take care of your horse first, yourself last. It means growing up and accepting responsibility. Here the baby's needs must be met. It is easy enuf to tell when something's wrong: the solution is to answer the baby's cries until the needs are met. Perhaps all of us have seen a "mom" ignoring a baby's screams, patronizingly explaining to us that "it's good for their lungs". Or worse, "I'm teaching her that I won't come running whenever she calls me." When a baby says he needs his mother, he's serious. And must be taken seriously.

2. Most parents suffer from delusions, myths, and old wives tales passed down from their parents. The worst delusion is that a child is "born in sin", that is, is guilty already, tho neither by commission nor omission. That is arguably the most harmful notion taught by the church. Buddhism's Good News is that a child is born with Basic Goodness, called the "Buddha nature" of the child. This change of view makes an enormous difference - perhaps a crucial one - in the potential happiness of the child. From the hateful view that the child is "bad" follows the hideous "justification" of beatings with a "rod", and an endless variation of punishments and abuse, some life threatening. In recognizing the Basic Goodness in the child, our patience increases, loving-kindness begins to characterize our outlook, and conflicts evaporate. The conflicting and violent adversarial relationship that is most often established early on in most homes is avoided by this simple change of mind.

3. Self-identity: how we view ourselves makes all the difference in whether we are happy or miserable. Most people, being victims of mal-parenting, are dissatisfied with themselves. Yet they make little - or no - effort to change themselves, or even to find out how to go about it. Instead they persist in trying to make the change in others that are more comfortable. And children are the most vulnerable, being helpless to defend themselves. Children learn nothing of value except by example of those they admire. There is no other way. With a church on every corner, preaching doesn't improve people. With a little reflection, we can see that parents CAUSE the very misbehavior they condemn and punish. Where, then, must the changes take place? Our best efforts need to be applied to changing ourselves.


1. Gratefulness and thinking of others before oneself are the first changes of mind for the neophyte Buddhist. As mentioned above, we put the child's welfare before our own: food, clothing, shelter, health, and safety. Because we have grown up, our own convenience and comfort does not matter so much any more. Consider: How aware are parents of the child's suffering? Who would imagine that it is painless for a child to have flesh sliced off his penis or her vagina? Yet, these hideous and unnecessary violent acts take place daily by the millions. Arguments defending circumcision have been obsolete and absurd since the invention of the shower. And the horrifying, excruciating torture of clitorectomy is performed by the very women who suffered it a generation earlier. "I had to endure the suffering, why shouldn't my daughter?" The serious emotional damage, the lifetime trauma caused by such victimization of boys and girls has been known for 50 years. It is time it was learned.

That corporal punishment is a counterproductive and trauma-inducing method of teaching good behavior has been known for decades. This universal problem has even been addressed by the United Nations' UNICEF, and the results of its worldwide research presented recently in General Assembly. Awareness is growing, and thus far 17 nations have passed laws prohibiting spanking and other corporal punishment, even in the home. Meantime, it is still legal to assault even small children in the public schools of 21 of these United States. Slap the face of your neighbor and it's assault; slap the face of your daughter and it's "discipline". Go figure.

2. We must act to mitigate the suffering we see around us, yes, and refrain from inflicting suffering on others. But what do we do about our own existential suffering? Or about our loss of job, or spouse, or a child's accidental crippling? Our failing health, our friends' betrayal. There is suffering in everyone's life; for two and a half millennia now Buddhists have been teaching and practicing methods to alleviate that suffering, and attain a state of happiness, if not enlightenment. This is good news: For every person reading this, happiness in this lifetime is attainable. It requires a certain understanding, and persistent practice in training the mind. Part of this Understanding, as stated, involves following the recognition of the child's Basic Goodness with consistent Loving-kindness. The child, as our Teacher, may test the patience and skill of the parent, and gradually lessons may be learned. The Teacher must never, never, be punished; that would be a notion most absurd, as well as an act most harmful - to parent as well as to child. At the end of the day, all we have to offer a child is integrity, honor, and trust. Fail that, and we fail as a parent.

3. THE LESSON OF KARMA: A harmful act, committed against child or adult, is sure to bring suffering to the perpetrator. It is axiomatic that doing harm to another is the cause of our suffering. Indeed, any harmful act or thought inevitably brings us pain in some form. The Law of the Universe sees to it that the pain and suffering we inflict on another will surely result in our own pain and suffering. There is the happy corollary: Acts of love and kindness bring the same to us. The RULE, well known but much ignored: What goes around, comes around. The bottom line: Each time we yell at a child, or spank, we pay a price for it in suffering. Better that we learn to be generous in providing comfort, and assurance for those fearful for their safety.

4. COMPASSION: We see from the above that, from a Buddhist standpoint, the motivation to stop corporal punishment includes compassion for the punisher, who will accumulate bad karma as a result of inflicting pain on the child. The child is being hurt, the adult is administering the punishment. Writes Chagdud Rinpoche in his "Change of Heart", "One is suffering now, the other will suffer in the future." Wisdom requires that we inflict no suffering at all, no punishment, and both child and parent are spared the bad karma. It is also true that good karma results in acts of love and compassion. Nowhere is that clearer than when dealing with children. They are born loving and affectionate and beautiful, easy to love and care for since they are so delightful to be around. Our task is to work on the angry and impatient subconscious demons that lurk in the dungeons of our consciousness, trapping us in delusions that make us see and treat children as enemies. We all have these dark thoughts, let's be honest. Clearly we have much to do in the way of examining our thoughts as they surface to torment us and/or delude us.


1. AXIOM: The child learns by parents' example. There is no other way a child learns behavior and values. It follows that the changes we want to see in the children must first be made in ourselves. Children don't need to be taught to say "please" and "thank you". Instruction in courteous behavior is superfluous when the child is treated with courtesy. Consideration of others is not learned by "teaching" or preaching. The work of improving has to be done on oneself. Then there is no way a child can be prevented from imitating it.

Misbehavior, lying, stealing, fighting.... a child learns all of the above by observing the parents. Too often the parents lay the blame of violence on TV, games, rap music, whatever. But the principle model of values is the parents, the most effective influence that kids will emulate most.

LESSON: Violence is learned on mommy's knee, and in daddy's woodshed. Street violence and wars will not cease until parents stop training their kids in violence. A child brutalized can spend his life making others pay the price. Ask anyone on death row.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 64
April 1, 2007

As irrigators lead water where they want,
as archers make their arrows straight, as carpenters carve wood,
the wise shape their minds.

Siddhartha Gautama

From Stressing to Resting

Anyone who has observed a cat has seen - and perhaps envied - its ability to relax completely. Notice how a cat, when awakening from a "cat-nap", stretches each leg in exquisite fashion. A cat likes to play and loll around lazily, but let a bird fly into the room or a mouse appear, and the cat explodes in focused energy. You don't find many stress-ridden cats.

And what causes stress? Fear. Frustration. Greed. Deprivation of needs. Anxiety and worry and dreading what might occur. What will I do if I lose my job? If my wife leaves me? Or my children are harmed? The IRS could audit us. The FBI can tap my phone. The hoodlum next door could steal my TV. The preacher tells us we're under threat of spending an eternity burning in hell unless we repent for the guilt imposed on us at birth. Fear and worry are the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us. We'd do well to remember George Burns' quip: "My life has been a series of disasters, most of which never happened."

People are afraid, afraid of other people, and afraid of the future, even afraid of their own inner feelings. We are tugged around by unconscious anxieties stemming from the traumas of childhood. Anxiety is a kind of craziness that deters and undermines clear thinking and effective action. We need to learn and to practice how to master it, to gain control over fears. If we do not, we'll surely be controlled by them.

We all saw the boost in fear level following Sept 11, 2001 when the entire nation got the chronic jitters. The federal government used - and still uses - fear tactics to keep the public willing to follow a "strong leader" by deviously manipulating yellow & red alerts, designating evil-plotting "enemies" both foreign and at home, and curtailing our civil rights in the name of "security". The effect has been dehumanizing on a massive scale, contributing to the trance state, alienation, the sickness of the age. Accumulated effect of fear changes people profoundly: Over 43% of Americans now believe torturing prisoners can be justified while demands mount for capital punishment. More than a million American citizens are in prison. That's what unrelenting fear has done to us.

We experience stress when we don't get what we want - and when we get what we don't want. Frantic for an uninterrupted stream of "entertainment" we approach a state of panic when encountering any space lacking something to "occupy our minds." Unceasing rock music, cell phones to the ears, 40 TV channels, multi-tasking addiction. It's if we panic when faced with a few minutes' peace, with silence and nothing to do. Unable to accept a lull in conversation, we fail to listen, being too busy preparing what to say in response. When visiting other countries we are distinguished as the people who indulge in "entertainment" but cannot relax. We cannot rest because we lack depth; we are not grounded. We have become disconnected from Reality. From Truth.

The "stressing of America" has been a long time building. I began to catch on in the mid-Sixties, while in a restaurant reading a New York Times report that fully 25% of NYC residents needed "emergency psychiatric first aid", and another 50% needed on-going therapy. I stepped outside to see a motorist screaming in rage at the driver ahead of him who was a nano-second late in proceeding on green. Later on I was shocked when the publisher of "Life" dropped the celebrated picture magazine to replace it with a new one called "Money". When CBS announced it was combining their News and Entertainment departments, and I realized we, the people, are being distanced from reality by one institution after the other: family, school, church, government, medicine, and now media. Enuf to give a person the willies. Or the creeping anxieties.

We can't deal with a vague feeling of anxiety and dissatisfaction, a "dis-ease". Like Joseph K. in Kafka's "The Trial", we feel accused of something - we know not what - but we feel guilty about it. Worse, we feel helpless to remedy it. We can't get answers. The feeling affects all those around us. When things get stressful at home, who feels the brunt of the rage? Those most vulnerable do, those least able to defend themselves, i.e., the children. Dr. E. Barkley recommends that parents take a parental behavioral training course that teaches new ways to handle troublesome children. He explains that parents react to the oppositional nature of a difficult child, causing a great deal of parental stress and distress, and that learning better approaches immediately eases the situation. But what about our drive for status? Money? Power? Significance? Fear, worry, and dread lay eggs of disturbance under our skin. Then there's the unconscious kicking us around; the restaging of childhood traumas that find us speaking & acting in ways that, on a conscious level, "don't make sense" - until a therapist helps us to see what is going on inside.

We cause our stress by clinging tightly to a concept, an idea, a preconception. With minds in chaos and fear-driven ambitions, we become further removed from reality and get swept up in succeeding waves of fantasy. We search for peace, for "escape", for ways to release tension. We seek a "soft place to fall". We want a life with meaning, with purpose. We need directions in how to step off the treadmill and start living a life worth living. With persistent search we learn that this is not at all a new problem for humanity. Sages of the East have, for at least three millennia, provided remedies to billions of people suffering from the same malady. Relief comes in the form of certain relaxation practices, developed and passed down thru the centuries, that have resulted in peaceful quietude for many a distressed mind and spirit. In recent years that same wisdom has been imported to - and enthusiastically adopted by - the West. It has rapidly attracted and inspired hundreds of thousands to find relaxation in practicing yoga and meditation.

Relaxation for Sanity

Relaxation practice is a means to regaining sanity. We need not continue suffering with strain and stress tearing at us. Relaxation techniques developed by the ancients are now in the reach of anyone who can read these words. Instruction is currently so accessible that you need only consult a phone book or do a web search to find classes near you. The Internet offers a gold mine of information in these fields.

The mind likes to dwell on the pleasantries and resentments of the past. Equally preoccupying are the apprehensions and anticipations of the future. But relaxation and rest can be found in neither the past nor the future. Relief from stress, worry and their causes can only be remedied in the Now. The Samurai warriors were trained in dwelling in the moment, which explains their legendary bravery. The Now is the only place in which Reality abides. There is no room for fear in the Now.

But we are not in warrior training, altho teachings for mastering the mind and emotions are readily available to anyone. What most of us seek are some simple practices that will help us quiet the mind and relax the body. When faced with a problem, we in the West are schooled (programmed) to "figuring out" a solution to it. We judge that something's "wrong", and we are "anxious" to "fix" it. We are, in varying degrees, nutty, being as we are preoccupied with tomorrow's problems while dwelling on - and resenting - yesterday's botched "solutions".

Fortunately there are ways we can train ourselves in relaxation, and learn how to be at rest. Here are suggestions:



1. Since it is easier to discipline the body than the mind, we first need to awaken awareness of the body. Indeed, the body IS the mind. We speak of the "mind-body". First, find a bar or limb or doorframe from which to stretch. Then shake out hands, feet. Be aware of the ground beneath your feet, supporting you. Take several deep breaths, each time exhaling your body's anger, frustration, and stress. This body awareness makes the succeeding exercises easier.

2. Lie down supine on a mat or quilt - (never a bed because it invites sleep, and here we're seeking the kind of profound rest that mere sleep cannot give us). Place feet 12" or so apart. Arms outstretched, palms up. Visualize left foot, wiggle the toes, and relax them. Visualize the right foot, wiggle toes, etc... Proceed up the body, alternatively concentrating on each body part and letting go the tension there: foot, ankle, calf, thigh, buttocks, lower back, stomach, chest, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, face, brow.

3. Focusing on a spot on the ceiling, direct the mind to the breath: rising, falling, rising, falling...

1. Stretch, as above.

2. Jog around the block or take a brisk walk thru the park.

3. Take warm, soapy, leisurely bath. Take your time. The whole point is to disconnect from the treadmill, off the fast track.

4. Sit in the sunshine and direct the mind to the most peaceful scene you ever experienced: seashore, birch forest, whatever.

1. Stretch.

2. If there is no masseur or partner to provide massage, you can do your own deep-tissue body work. For most parts of body you can work the muscles yourself. Working gently with thumbs & fingertips, work on the bumps & pains in the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, lower back, legs, feet.

3. Knead the "thought bumps" on your head, neck & face, working very gently into the pain spots, then return to them in a day or two to work some more.

4. Direct the mind to positives: Gratefulness, loving-kindness, reminding yourself of the Basic Goodness in yourself & others.

5. Sit in a straight-back chair. Mindful breathing: rising, falling ...

6. Mark out a 50' path to a post or tree, center the mind on the feet, walk mindfully: up, forward, down; up, etc. for 1/2 hour.

7. Laugh. Readily & a lot. See the absurdities around us. Come alive - and rejoice.

- Norm

The Norm Report - Month 63
March 1, 2007
Visit Norm Lee's website:

There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind,
and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.

- Gotama Buddha


As a teenager, my passion was jazz; I "hated" classical music and the "longhairs" who played it - until the day I learned my hero, Benny Goodman - who dazzled me with his Sextet - was privately playing Mozart's Clarinet Quintet with friends from NY Philharmonic. That opened up for me the awesome world of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Shostakovich, etc. The Classics have given me music therapy for the past 60 years. I didn't know I was close-minded. I thought myself "open minded", like every other close-minded inhabitant of this flat earth.

Closing down, for me, occurred early. I balked at entering kindergarten until my father persuaded me with his razor strap, the tool of choice for beating children in the Dirty Thirties. I fought going because of the shame of it: I didn't have a mother, like other kids. She had abandoned the family the year before, to escape her abusive husband.

There followed five years of "shock & awe" beatings and humiliation by a criminal abortionist and child-hating tyrant, under whom I served the sentence of involuntary servitude my father had arranged to provide my food and shelter. But I had taught myself to read - absorbing "Robinson Crusoe" as the others were reading "Dick & Jane" - and that was to be my escape as well as my eventual liberation.

At age 12, severely damaged physically and emotionally and socially retarded, I faced the challenge of learning how to become equal to my ("superior") peers. Conditioned to defensiveness, if not paranoid, I was internally crouching behind a wall of fears, hates and prejudices. The remedy, I decided, was to try everything, no matter how threatening. I remember thinking to myself, "I refuse to be cheated out of a life." It was "openness" at its crudest.

Having never had playmates, I joined the Boy Scouts. Finding church sermons unbearable but forced to attend, I taught myself to read music and joined the choir. I taught myself jazz piano and learned to jitterbug and slow-dance. In pursuit of self-improvement, I read only non-fiction, closing off from the writers who merely "told stories".

Years later, starved for reading matter in my tent in Pusan, Korea, I found wisdom in a paperback book a soldier, ordered North, had left behind. It was Somerset Maugham's "The Narrow Corner". I can quote lines from it even today, 56 years later. Revelation: Some novelists are saying things I need to hear!

Another Culture, Other Views

Later, in Occupied Japan, I slouched around like the other G.I.s, blinded by an attitude of assumed superiority over those Oriental "inferiors" we had "conquored". Three months passed before, walking alone in the streets of Tachikawa, I opened quite suddenly to the incredible beauty of this country. When the cherry trees bloom, commerce comes to a standstill. Stores and banks close, mail goes undelivered, and all of Japan takes the day off to view the cherry blossoms! Indeed, everything is made beautiful, even the delicate paper sheaf for chopsticks. What am I missing here!

As a child I had vomited when forced to eat rice. My best friend Ed Wallace, from Oakland, would not have it. In a Japanese restaurant he refused to let me leave until I ate a bowl of Japanese fried rice. Delicious! Today I use my rice cooker frequently. P.S.: Soon after, both Ed and I moved off base into the village, donned kimono, and learned to speak fluent Japanese. I owe so much to Ed, to Mr. Goodman, to Daniel Defoe, to Somerset Maugham. The list is long - hundreds - of those people I have to thank for helping me see, for opening my eyes - and my heart - to Life.

In his classic "Walden" Henry David Thoreau wrote from his rustic cabin, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," he wrote. As an adolescent I read these famous lines and decided to work consciously and deliberately on opening my mind and my heart to life's experience. I vowed to get the most out of my life, and I had only 25,000 days to do it. I did the math: I had already blown 5,000 days, and the clock was ticking. That pivotal decision has shaped my purpose and style of living for the past 65 years.

It is not easy; one has to want to be open. Yet not until age 50 could I bring myself to tell even close friends about the debilitating and tortuous treatment I had suffered as a child. Exposing the "shame" of it was more than I could bear. Ten more years before finally risking ridicule by disclosing the sexual abuse.

Acquiring/achieving Openness

In university, I was flunking Geology at mid-term. The professor, I judged, was a nincompoop who has fallen off a passing truck just when a Geology prof was needed. Facing ego's Doomsday, I conceived of a plan - (I write about this in my book, "Blithering Idiot's Guide to All A's in College"). That I would flunk the course was a given, but I would make this prof feel guilty for giving an "F" to this clearly superior student.

I moved to the front row and pretended to be in rapt attention. So I could ask intelligent questions I did outside reading. I did hardness tests on rocks & reported the results. I was key man in class discussions. Soon he was directing his lectures at me. Without realizing it, and despite my little game, I had opened up to the wonderful science of geology. (P.S.: Even with an "F" at midterm, I finished with a "B".)

I hated "hillbilly music" until I discovered Bluegrass. I scorned "jocks" until I saw Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan in action. I looked down my nose at rock music until my son exposed me to Leonard Skynard's "The Wall", the Eagles, and the Dead. In turn, Russ has opened to Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi & Bach. I was ignorant of medieval art until my partner, now a world class calligrapher, opened me to the lettering and fantastic illuminated manuscripts of the Lindisfarne Gospels thru the Renaissance.

I was never open to the world of antiques until my sister Claire appeared on TV's Antiques Show. Years ago she had bought an old table for $25 at a yard sale, one that I told her to use in her garage as a workbench. But Claire, being more open than I, did research on Early American furniture and learned that her old table had a history. On TV the celebrated antiques experts, the Keno brothers, waxing excited, estimating its value at some $400,000.

Flabbergasted, Claire took it to Sotheby's in NYC, and sold it for a half million dollars. More: Oprah's people connected and flew Claire to the show. "How did you acquire the know-how to judge antiques?" Oprah asked her. Claire stopped the show with, "I have better taste in furniture than I have in husbands." Oprah, as only she can, mugged the camera.

Oprah would not be who she is or where she is had she not deliberately pursued openness. Even in the midst of her deepest travails, she steadfastly remained open to understanding. Recently she said, "At the center of crises, where it cannot get worse, I always ask myself, "What is this here to teach me? What am I to learn from this?" That's courage. That's openness. That's wisdom.

How Can I Get To Carnegie Hall?

Opening the mind and opening the heart takes training, and the initiative and responsibility lies in each of us. Just as musicians train their fingers on instruments, so can we practice openness with our minds and hearts. There are resources, guides and mentors, but to see more comprehensively and feel more compassionately, we have to commit to disciplined practice.

Openness is acceptance of what IS. Which does not mean resignation. Rather, it is the willingness to drop the ego defenses and accept living with the feeling of vulnerability. Monks in Buddhist training are subjected to insults and verbal attacks; the "meditation" is "looking at" the rising emotions and defensive thoughts, and contemplating the illusive nature of the ego, the fiction of our own creation.

One of the quickest and surest ways to openness can be found in yoga discipline. There are practices that open the mind and heart in ways not previously imagined, exercises that provide relaxation in the process. Student: "I tried yoga, but it didn't work." My teacher: "Correction: Say, 'I tried yoga, but I didn't work.'" When I have yoga students I suggest they practice the exercises for 39 days, suspending judgment, neither liking nor disliking. Decide only on the 40th day, after examining your thoughts and feelings, whether or not to continue.

Many Paths to Openness

Ways to openness: Wide reading, wide travel experience, learn a foreign language, suspend judgment of others and circumstance, explore other faith systems, take training in sensitivity & encounter groups, try a sport you have resisted enjoying, experience new foods & restaurants, write plays or stories with dialogue - (writers need to view the world/situations/others from the perspective of each of the characters). To open is to create the internal space for acceptance, love, and joy. Essentially it is becoming open to change. Nothing is permanent. The way to the closed mind and heart is expecting and demanding that everything stays the same: health, relationships, income... Outcomes of closed thinking & feeling are confusion emotional meltdown, and insanity.

People ask how I came to discover a way to bring up children without punishing them. The key was in opening to what my little boys were teaching me about themselves, how they learn, and about children in general. I could not do that until I opened to this truth: Despite three university degrees, I knew nothing about children. The babies humbled me. I dropped all previous conceptions of children & parents, and their respective roles. "Teach me!" I seemed to say. I had to accept that, having been effectively orphaned, I had lacked a normal childhood. I simply didn't know what it was to be a child. Or what a daddy was.

There could be no openness before dropping the ego-driven arrogance that I "knew it all". The surest sign of the closed-minded is the denials and defenses. He/she is appalled that their open-mindedness should even be questioned, like Archie Bunker. ("Of course I'm innocent, Edith. But of what?")

The open mind suspends judgments. The open mind drops pretenses, presumptions, expectations and preconceptions. My brother Brian, who very successfully meets and befriends countless people in his work, knows how to listen. He says, "It's hard to be open if you've got an agenda. Drop the agenda and give the person your rapt attention." That's openness.

It's also the open heart. Compassion grows out of thinking of others first, seeing thru others' eyes. To suspend ego activity and make oneself willingly and voluntarily vulnerable requires courage. But it is done when becoming aware of the huge benefits: sensitivity, compassion, wisdom, and expansion of the human spirit. It is meeting one's potential as a human being. With an open mind and an open heart, we can all liberate ourselves and contribute to happiness for all and to peace in the world.

- Norm

62 Feb '07

Nearly all human suffering is caused by the inability to think straight.

- Prof. Ursula Little


Fifty years ago I had the fortune to have Professor Little for English 101. Expecting to learn to write, I was astonished to find that I was first to learn to think straight. As a war veteran & entering freshman at Syracuse University, I certainly needed it.

Tho intellectually brilliant, Prof. Little was not blessed with physical attraction. Being an overweight advanced diabetic, her swelled ankles overflowed her disintegrating shoes. Her fingers were deformed since birth, and her thatch of hair hung over her brow like straw in a mule shed. She had been a student of Alfred Korzybski in Univ. of Chicago, and made us read his "Science and Sanity", as well as S. I. Hayakawa's "Language In Thought and Action".

Whenever she emphasized a point, she banged her crippled fingers on her desk and said, "Write this down! In your notebooks! In letters a foot high!" My classmates hated her. I loved her. Worst of all was the fact that she was dying before our eyes.

Prof. Little dealt with Realty. The Facts. So she taught us how to face death with equanimity. With a smile she said "One of these mornings the department head will walk in here and tell you I've 'gone to my reward'". With that, she shocked us with a huge guffaw. We were to learn that death is to be viewed dispassionately, not in a negative way; life - and death - is Process. "Fingernails and hair continue to grow, then decaying sets in, and the carcass gradually becomes a worm farm. If you insist on taking it personally, if you think the body is YOU, you need a thinking adjustment." To shake up our thinking, she'd shuffle in and declare, "The Bible is a collection of fairy tales. Take it literally at your peril."

Complete communication from one mind to another is not possible, she averred. Everyone speaks his/her own individual language. We can only guess at what meaning their words have, and ask for clarification. Suspend & question, don't conclude. She told us about how the baby Berlitz, who later founded the famous school of foreign languages, was spoken to in a different language by every member of his extended family: Mother, English; father, French; uncle, German; aunt, Spanish; grandmother, Japanese, and so on. From the beginning he understood that each person had his/her own views of the world and definition of terms, based on their individual life experiences.

And sure enuf, one fine morning the head of the English Dept walked in and announced that our teacher had died during the night. Three rainy days later, I helped carry her casket from the chapel and lower it into the ground. All in process of change. Awareness that life is changing inexorably, moment by moment, has been with me ever since. Ignoring and denying the impermanent nature of all things is living foolishly and dangerously. PROCESS & IMPERMANENCE is Trap # One of the thinking snares Prof. Little trained us to avoid on our way to critical thinking. Here are some others:

Trap #2. ABSTRACTIONS - Love; Republican; God; terrorism; Donald Trump; Christian. Be assured that whenever you hear any of these abstractions, you have little clue as to what meaning is intended. Child; rice pudding; cow; golf; nice guy; home; hospital; car; Korean; public school. Some of these terms come loaded with emotion. In military basic training we quickly learned to never talk about Religion, Politics, or Mother, since violating these speech taboos could invite a busted nose. Too emotive, too abstract. Indeed, all words, as symbols, are abstractions. Further, meanings keep changing. "No word has exactly the same meaning twice," wrote Dr. Hayakawa. Yet, we have to use abstractions, we must generalize, else discussion is impossible. So what we need to do is be mindful when both speaking and listening, allowing for the likelihood of misunderstanding. Suspend judgment, ask for clarification, gather facts, weigh and consider, and don't jump to conclusions. Such was Dr. Little's mantra.

Abstractions are pitfalls because they leave out the facts, i.e., Reality. Defining of terms, qualifying, is needed to bring the communication closer to the concrete reality. Korzybski taught that cow (1) is not cow (2), since the speaker has had his/her experience with cows, and the listener has most surely had a different experience with "cows". Similarly, with motorcycles; women; skiing; Beethoven ("love that dog!"; Erie, PA; Mormons; beef steak; nice girl; etc., we need to mentally couch them in quotation marks and add "etc.". Not think we know. To questions, best answer: "I don't know, but I can find out."

"Freedom", is an abstract term that communicates only emotion until defined. "No one would maintain that parents should have unlimited freedom to ill-treat their children. So long as some men [and women] wish to do violence to others, there cannot be complete liberty," wrote Bertrand Russell in 1917.

Trap #3. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS. "Baseball is not the national sport," the professor intoned. "It is jumping. Jumping to conclusions. Write this down!" Closely connected to Trap #1, this one also is marked by the failure to assemble the facts (reality) needed to more concrete understanding of a statement. The remedy is to suspend judgment pending the gathering, weighing, and considering of sufficient facts bearing on the issue. "The purpose of language is to accomplish agreement," we were to learn. That is, to connect on a concrete human level. Making judgments stops thinking cold, closing the mind.

Trap #4. LABELING. Here we stick an abstract label on a concept or idea and cubbyhole it, as if that's all the consideration needed. Closing down the mind can be as simple as attaching a categorizing label to: the homeless; football players; grand opera; Oprah; Volkswagen; Afro-American; hippie; teenager; bum, German; politician; pedophile.... Labeling excludes relevant facts. Labeling is characteristic of prejudiced minds.

Trap #5. FALLACY OF THE ABSOLUTE. I always...; you never...; all Boy Scouts...; none but the virtuous...; I totally deny... forever... always. Absolute faith leads to Jonestown, holy wars, and Kool-Aid madness. Such thinking underlies extremist behavior and horrors such as the Holocaust. Praise the lord and pass the Armageddon.

Trap #6. TVO: TWO VALUED ORIENTATION. Either-Or thinking leaves out all but the extremes, violating the Law of the Excluded Middle. Bad; good; sinner; godly; TVO is much used in the political & religious arenas. But reality lies in the bell-shaped curve. "You're either with us or against us" leaves out intelligent consideration of facts. "Either victory or defeat, no in-between." Either Heaven or Hell. These traps are all related, each is an example of infantile thinking, and as such, are dangerous. The primitive mind did not entertain subtleties. But, endowed with cortexes, we must.

Trap #7. PRECONCEIVING. I once had a neighbor who consistently expected the worse. A look at the sunny sky brought, "Well, it didn't turn out to be so bad after all." A great expectation of reliving a remembered concept is a symptom of mental illness. Years ago a group of us invited a "regular guy" to join us on a picnic. He imagined it would be "just like when I was 5". The rain came in buckets, and our group had a helluva good time. But John felt betrayed, as in bait-and-switch. So disturbed was he that he refused to get in the car, and walked home all 15 miles in the rain. Never spoke to us again. John had put all his eggs in one omelet: repeating the exact picnic he had had as a child. Because John's balance depended on forcing reality to match his concepts, he was a deeply disturbed - and dangerous - individual.

Trap #8. THE SYMBOL IS NOT THE THING. The map is not the terrain. The flag is not the country. The cross is not the religion. A green light does not mean safety. I trusted a green light and a truck hit my Saab in the side, putting my wife in the hospital. Safety, relatively speaking, means watching for dolts running red lights at 50 mph.

Trap #9. TUNNEL VISION. Clinging to one fact, even if true to reality, is infantile thinking. The only time I hit an animal on the highway: In the darkness, the dog hid in the ditch for the car ahead of me to pass, then darted out - to be hit by my car. He had clung to the single thought that he would be safe once the car passed. Being blind to peripherals, totally into one fact, neglecting other factors, the one-fact Spaniel was dead.

There are more, such as dealing with symptoms instead of causes, but space does not here allow. - Norm Lee

The Norm Report - Month 61
January 1, 2007
Visit Norm Lee's website:

The first person to promulgate the Golden Rule,
which was the bedrock of this empathic spirituality,
was Confucius 500 years before Christ. His disciples asked him,
"What is the single thread that runs through all your teaching and pulls it
all together?" And Confucius said, "Look into your own heart. Discover what it is
that gives you pain. And then refuse to inflict that pain on anybody else." His
disciples also asked, "Master, which one of your teachings can we put into practice every day?"
And Confucius said, "Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you."
And Buddha has his own version of the Golden Rule, stated in positive terms,
and Jesus taught it a half century later.

- Deepak Chopra [paraphrased]


For ten years now I've been giving a friendly wave to the cars passing my home here on Frye Creek Road in Arizona. The end of the street - a half dozen houses away - opens to the raw desert; overlooking it are the three or four homes of dirt-bike ruffians who speed wildly by in their pickup trucks & motorcycles. During past years several batches of erring youth have grown up, in a manner of speaking, and left for the Army, or the jailhouse, or found a girl and got religion and a job. But new blood is always appearing, to whiz by crazily. As a designated Neighborhood Watch, I can report but have no authority. Police are frequent visitors there, and burglaries are not uncommon. I'm advised as to what goes on: drug use & sales, felonious mischief, and occasional violence. But all this decade they have never done me wrong. That, however, has not been my reason for making nice. I greet them in passing to give them a gift: the reminder of their basic goodness. It is unlikely that they receive that anywhere else. I wave, and every time, as they drive on, I know they feel better about themselves. Though not once has anyone stopped to talk, they feel uplifted having been thought worthy of friendship. Just a wave and a smile for my neighbors. Cost me nothing, yet has benefited me in unexpected ways.

After the first few months, when they began waving back, I noticed a change in my view of these full-of-vinegar young guys. And I felt a difference, a rise in my self-esteem, having seen I was influencing a subtle change in them. Never having met them, yet I like them, respect them. While other neighbors feared them, I rather admired their anti-establishmentarian spirit. And they liked me back, since I was touching their heart.

At the supermarket, while waiting in line at checkout, I observe the clerk, and always feel compassion for them, being stuck in such a boring and thankless job. I watch their facial expression as customers complain relentlessly about everything imaginable: prices are up, can't find the right mustard, the line is too slow. To many customers, the choice of paper or plastic is of enormous importance. If the employee shows any indications of life at all, they are boredom, fatigue, fear of supervisor, and or fear of offending. By the time I reach the register, compassion compels me to bring a smile to his or her face. I speak their name, or ask how to pronounce it (we have Mexican names, Apaches names, Muslim names, and biblical names from the Book of Mormon). Then a compliment on their hair, their famous or musical name, or ask if they go to school, or have kids and what size. I give them my website card and invite an Email. Then I say something funny to make them laugh. Then a comment that tells them I sympathize with their having to stand there for eight hours a day. I'm determined to leave them smiling, and almost always succeed. And I walk away happier. I know some go home to tell of being complimented on their "do". It is merely a gesture, a small gift to a stranger, but one that makes a difference - to me.

This Christmas Day we experienced the joy of Giving, just as on the recent Thanksgiving Day we found joy in Gratefulness. Isn't it fitting that two of our three or four major national holidays are thus designated? I think it so because, while Door Number One to Happiness is Gratefulness, Door Number Two is Giving. Sharing generously, in altruistic spirit sets in motion good things all around. Basically, it entails the magic and power of the Moral Law of the Universe: Putting Others Before One's Self tells us that we cannot lift the spirits or the vision of others without feeling blessed ourselves. Not only that, material blessings appear unexpectedly. If you want much, give much. Pay forward, and you shall receive - but only if you are not attached to the "receive" part. The slightest manipulation or greed motive cancels out the goodness. Purity of intention is all.

We have written here that GRATEFULNESS is the key to the door to happiness. The second door to satisfaction and peace of mind we can call altruism, or GENEROSITY. Thinking of others first can mean acceptance of others, and openness to consideration of their ideas and values. Manifestations of generosity are the willingness to listen with patience to one's troubles, viewing a situation or event thru the eyes of another, thus avoiding passing negative judgment on them. Volunteers in hospice have found that their most valuable gift is often sitting quietly and holding the hand of the dying person.

Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun who wrote "When Things Fall Apart", writes of three kinds of generosity. The giving of essential material things, like food & shelter; Second is the gift of fearlessness, being there for those who are afraid. The third kind of generosity, thru teaching, example, and inspiration, "drives away the darkness of ignorance," with the gift of wisdom and compassion.

The fundamental task in life is to discover how to achieve happiness, yet it is sought after in all the wrong places. While most of our efforts are directed to finding "illusive" happiness, most people, it seems, do not understand what happiness is. It is unachievable so long as we are looking "out there". Angelina Jolie was swimming in lucre, consuming willy-nilly, but living a life of suffering: "I have everything to be happy - but I'm not happy," she said. She was rich, famous, beautiful, and admired by millions. What did she lack? She was missing connection with her authentic self, and a sense of purpose. She didn't know the stranger inside her skin, and had only herself to think about. Then she discovered a Purpose in the orphans of Africa; they gifted her with what John Holt called Work Worth Doing. Caring for parentless children gave her directions toward happiness, just as it did Audrey Hepburn, when she went to Africa after a brilliant acting career. She found happiness and satisfaction in serving others in need. That's no secret; it's in plain sight. - Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 60
December 1, 2006

"We are confident that some day soon civilized humanity will
look back with astonishment and pity at the time when people
believed hitting children was good for them." - Jordan Riak,

From Plain Talk About Spanking

Day of Gratefulness

I am writing this on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday designated for reflection on the good things in our lives: our fortune, our benefits, our advantages, our good luck. [In Macy's NYC parade, Snoopy has just entered Herald Square, his outsize nose dwarfing the delighted kids and their moms.] "Giving thanks", in the abstract, is an empty idea, meaningless. We need to focus on the specific instances - persons, things, events - for which we harbor feelings of gratefulness.

Years ago, times when I was subject to frequent and lengthy periods of depression, (the kind Winston Churchill called "the black dog",) I happened on an exercise that could break thru it. Every morning for an entire summer I took my coffee outside and, in the warm sunshine, I listed the 15 things I was most grateful for. They began, of course, with the tasty hot coffee and the warm sunshine. Then what?

While making a new and different list every morning seemed daunting at first, it quickly and easily grew to 50 items, and beyond. I filled the notebook that summer, tossed it away and began another. I gradually began to see the world - and my life - in a new light. I awoke in the morning in a good mood, anticipating greeting my many benefits. Because I felt cheerful all day, I grew more generous. I grew more quick to help and encourage others, and smiled and laughed a lot more. And as this altruism was mirrored back to me, (as it inevitably will, I later learned,) my positive outlook raised even higher. Slowly it dawned on me that I had discovered "the" Secret of Happiness. In time, I discovered other "secrets in plain sight".

Since that time I've learned and practiced, as an extension of my morning mindfulness meditation, to select a focus on which to be mindful thruout the day. I began with Gratefulness (Monday). All day I practiced noticing the things that keep me alive, that support me emotionally, that protect me, give me pleasure, so forth. Then I added a different focus for each of the other days of the week. When I remembered to be thankful for the many benefits derived from Ben Franklin's genius, from the free library to the efficient fireplace stove, I realized I had adopted and adapted my practice from his personal self-help program of Thirteen Virtues.

Over the years there have been surprises. For one who hates to do the dishes, I discovered the pleasures of warm, soapy water. I recalled the reactions of housewives when the first dishwashers were introduced, how they were loathe to give up their daily hand-soak in the kitchen sink, their comfort treat break during a morning spiked with cares. In my mind, the very existence of my water heater brought wells of appreciation, and indoor plumbing too; I had, for years in my life, lived without these conveniences. And there was money available to pay the gas bill to heat the water, cash to buy the soap and the dishcloth, and on and on. Thus it was on Mondays that I made this stupendous discovery: GRATEFULNESS IS THE KEY TO THE DOOR OF HAPPINESS.

When I worked as a journalist for the Sedona Times in Arizona, I saw a wise man on the spiritual path dramatize that Truth for me [thank you, Jeru!]. Talking to a class of seekers he asked us all to take a deep breath. "Now take another. Wow! This air in front of my face keeps me alive! Holy moley!" he exclaimed. Then he took a few steps away. "Hey everybody!" he called to us. "There's air over here too! Come and see!" Soon he had us, too, leaping about the room like crazed monkeys, at each spot exclaiming how incredible it was that there, too, was air - the very stuff that kept us alive, and without which we would DIE. Everyone in the room began feeling so fortunate, so grateful, to have the life-sustaining air so handy to breathe. We began breathing more deeply, mindful of breathing, breathing easier. After that, whenever I feel downcast, or at all negative, I take a breath. And another...

What does this have to do with children? I recently read research showing that children laugh, on average, between 300 and 400 times each day. Adults? About 40. What does that tell us? Many things, among which is that it is the nature of children to be happy - correction: it is the nature of people to be happy. But under the control of dour, negative, punishing parents and teachers and preachers, the happiness is sapped (and slapped) out of them. Hence, happiness is robbed from the toddlers and preschoolers and kindergarteners along with their native intelligence and creativity. So unsmiling adults nod their heads and tell each other that this is the "maturing process". They are "outgrowing their childish ways," they tell each other. We know that few adults ever reclaim that "childish" genius. Those who do have recognizable names like Mozart, Einstein, Picasso, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama ...

The fundamental task in life is to discover how to achieve happiness, the pursuit of which was even written into our Declaration of Independence. Yet, in a recent survey by an international network of social scientists, published in "New Scientist" journal, the happiest people are in Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. Where were Americans, the wealthiest, the most powerful, the richest, the most drenched in pleasures and "escapes"? A sad sixteenth on the worldwide happiness scale. There are millions living a dirt-floor existence who are dancing in celebration of the joys of life. Here in the U.S. we have tried the acquisition/consumption method to joy and contentment, and it has failed profoundly. [The leggy Rockettes' performance in Herald Square have delighted the TV cameramen as they dollied down the long row of girls reaching to the sky with their toes.]

We're told there is a "secret" to achieving happiness. But it is a secret in plain sight. The "secret" has been out since Siddhartha Gautama got up from the grass under the Bodhi tree 2,500 years ago. What we all want and need is the elimination of pain and stress and discomfort, and to reach a state of satisfaction and inner peace. The Buddha taught not "answers", but practices that, if persistently pursued, would bring mastery of mind, and therefore peace of mind. He anticipated by two and a half millennia Henry David Thoreau's apothegm: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Happy people do not start wars; happy parents do not punish children; happy parents do not divorce each other. Likewise happy children do not avenge the wrongdoing of their parents.

While most of our efforts are directed to finding "illusive" happiness, most people, it seems, do not understand what happiness is, much less how to achieve it. It is unachievable so long as we are looking "out there". I made the comment once to a group that since happiness for children requires happy parents, our task must be in learning how to be happy. One "Mom" spoke up saying she would henceforth neglect her household duties, stop doing laundry, shopping and child care, and start going to nice restaurants, drink more booze, and spend her weekends gambling in Las Vegas. Most people, it seems, suppose happiness means more indulgence, more entertainment, more escape. Hardly a wonder so few find it. It isn't there. Happiness is not to be found in the lottery, or Hollywood, or the six-figure "position", or TV soaps, or the trophy wife, or Mr. Right. Mom would do better by giving up the teacher/preparation-for-life/disciplinarian role, and appointing the children as their teachers of morals, authenticity, happiness and joy. We can learn happiness if we give up the role of teacher-disciplinarian-authority and kneel to the expertise of children. There, and in mastering our own minds, is where the wisdom is. - Norm

MOVIE ALERT: Check out the DVD "The Secret". It's producers have discussed it on Larry King Live, and even on the Ellen Degeneres Show. I'm not much of a movie-goer, but this is important.

The Step Up Report - Month 59
November 1, 2006
Visit Norm Lee's website:

At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear that
men have of one another as the fear they have of everything.
It is not merely that they do not trust one another;
they do not even trust themselves.

Thomas Merton

This is from an email exchange with a dear friend in Mexico. (Gabriella voluntarily translated my "Parenting without Punishing" so that "Ser Padres Sin Castigar" is now read widely in Mexico. Both English & Spanish versions are on the website:

Dear Gabriela:

Again you're so perspicacious as well as perspicuous. I marvel at your skills in expressing thoughts & feelings in a language not native to you. What you wrote to ___ is so very insightful and compassionate. You wrote: "So now I realize that the only way of being able to be there for [my children] is by being there for me and feeling my feelings, which is what Norm wrote and I totally share Norm's views here and I feel that the reason why he could manage to make such an incredible shift in the way he approached his children and his fatherhood." Exactly right, Gabriela. What kind a father could I be if I didn't have my shift together?

Gabriela: If I got it correctly Norm, it was because you were already aware about what the incredible and horrendous abuse you had gone through had done to you and so it was not a surprise for you as you had already felt many of your feelings about it. You were already acquainted with your inner volcano, with your inner rage.

Norm: I worked on myself for 25 years, between the time I got released from my personal holocaust in Vermont [age 12] to the time my boys were ready to walk & talk, all the time seeking out books in libraries and people with whom to interact meaningfully, deliberately involving myself in learning experiences with a view to understanding myself and those bully emotions that were pushing me around.

G: You knew it was there and you had already taken a conscious decision never to let it out on your children, as you already knew how destructive and dangerous it could be.

N: True. I learned in seven years travel in military service that I couldn't trust the rage and stay out of jail. When involved in fights I would defend myself, but never be the aggressor. I was never one to say "He started it, but I'll finish it." When he realized his punches weren't defeating me and stopped throwing them, I'd simply walk away. I feared my own rage, couldn't trust releasing it. I had to settle for simply defending myself. I guess that's when I became a "situational pacifist" - a term I made up for myself. For a long time I put myself down as a coward. But at last realized I had a certain courage that most others lacked. But I digress.

G: So it was not a matter of being patient (as you wrote), but of being aware of your feelings and let them come up in places where it was safe for you to do it and for your children, instead of acting them out on them. You knew you had a tremendous amount of rage within yourself and that you did not want to pour it on your children... and I feel this is the clue to your having been able to do it in what seems such an easy way.

N: The curious thing is that very early on I didn't even THINK of attacking the children. Never occurred to me that it was an option. Just as I never considered striking their mother. I had long before developed the determination to simply not be that kind of man. So the mindset wasn't there. That's why it was in fact, in many respect, as easy as it seems. I was living in a different paradigm. My teaching colleagues, neighbors, friends, could not understand it. I appeared to be an odd one, "not normal". But their own homes were often battlegrounds. P.S.: Not ONE of them ever asked me how it was so, altho the fun and joy in our family were obvious wherever we went together.

G: Thanks to you Norm for your sharings about this. I admire tremendously the incredible awareness you had before your children were born and how you changed your life and healed your very deep wounds so much by allowing them to just BE.

N: The "secret" was that the boys were providing for me the childhood I had been cheated out of, the delightful discoveries and hilarious absurdities the world provided for us to react to with joy and laughter. They ushered me into the world of childhood, and let me participate! My god! what a gift! I owe them so much, so much. My teachers. They gave me what I had missed out on 30 and 35 years before. How could anyone punish THAT?

- Norm

In 1964, an incident occurred that prompted a flood of research into what came to be known as “the bystander effect.” Thirty-eight people in a respectable New York neighborhood witnessed portions of the violence as the young Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered by a man who repeatedly stabbed her with a knife. No one intervened. By the time someone finally called the police, Kitty was dead. The research indicated that people felt unsure about how to react. Everyone was waiting for someone else to make a move. If you got involved, they thought, maybe you’d meet with the same fate. The safest thing to do was wait and see how everyone else responded. And apparently, the more people involved, the smaller the chance that someone would step in. Evidence of this came with an experiment in which people sitting in a waiting room with acquaintances clearly heard a woman on the other side of a door fall, hurt herself and cry for help. Seventy percent of those in the room went to help. But when people were waiting with strangers, only 7 percent came to the woman’s aid.

According to Thomas Hurley, also of the Altruistic Spirit Program, altruists unerringly know when they have reached their goal and it’s time to let go. Hurley attributes this to their spiritual practices: “They have something to fall back on.” For altruists, service is a way of life. If they were to become dependent on the results of their services, they would lose their spiritual foundation and thus their integrity. They would no longer be altruistic servants because they would want something from those they were serving. Real service involves letting go of the outcome.

- Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 58
October 1, 2006

The wit and passion and good-heartedness of these kids,
which they try to conceal under their exquisite cool,
are the hope of this country. You have
to advocate for young people, or else
what are we here for? - Garrison Keillor

Dear Mr. Lee,

Late last night I came across your book, Parenting Without Punishment, on the Internet. I was up for hours reading the beginning chapters, and printed the entire book to study from now on. Words can not express how grateful I feel for coming across your book, and for what I pray will be my guide in helping my family become more positive. We have two very active and bright little boys, ages 6 and 8.

Would you kindly add my e-mail address to your PWP newsletter list [Step Up Report]?

Thank you for putting this incredible book of yours out for free. I look forward to receiving your newsletters.

With Best Regards,

Cindy and Family

Dear Cindy - Thank you for your kind words and I'm delighted to include you on the mailing list for the Step Up Report. You are invited, even urged, to ask for clarification on any point or issue in PWP via email, and to explore further on the website. I look forward to news of your progress. - Norm

I have long been an admirer of Gloria Steinem, for both her superb writing skills, and her incredible courage in exposing what, in those days, was called "male chauvinism". It was Gloria's doing that I discovered I was - as an advocate of freedom - a Feminist. I have been saving this recent piece of hers to share with you:

"It takes a lot of work, actually, to break the bond of empathy that I think, probably, is natural. I mean, I think it's probably part of our evolutionary equipment to feel an instantaneous "I'm going to help!" to a member of our own species, and maybe to all living things, I have no idea. But it takes a lot of work to break it, and our child-rearing methods, and child abuse, and humiliation and shame, and all those common occurrences, break that leap of empathy.

"There was this, some kind of study, that I've never been able to really find except in references, you know, I've never seen the whole study. But it was of the "Good Samaritans." These were people during World War II who were not themselves Jewish but who saved Jews, at risk to themselves, great risk. People were always studying them 'cause they wanted to replicate them, you know. And the question was: "what did they share?" because, they actually sounded quite alike. Even though they were very disparate, they would say: "I'm not a hero. I don't know why I did this, I just did it. I just didn't think of not doing it." So the question was, "was there something shared about family structure, education, religion, moral teaching...?" But no one could come up with anything... except one thing: which was that they hadn't been abused as children.

"So, to me that argues that if empathy isn't cut off by abuse and humiliation and deeply convincing you that there are only two choices, to be the victor or the victim, that there is this leap of empathy to other people."

- Gloria Steinem in The F-Word

-- Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 57
September 1, 2006


What a distressing contrast there is between
the radiant intelligence of the child and
the feeble mentality of the average adult!

                  - Sigmund Freud

On a Riverboat from Vienna to Amsterdam

It was a 16-day riverboat cruise - Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Netherlands. My son Russell and I had planned on it all spring. Why not? "Trip of a lifetime", we said. At age 77 and recovering from recent surgery for cancer, I saw an opportunity not to be refused. I had told Russell his company so valued him he could have virtually anything he asks. "Sure," they responded. "Whenever you want." Maybe now he believes it.

From Vienna upstream on the Danube, thru the locks on the Main, and down the Rhine to Amsterdam. A 310-ft fancy riverboat (no clunky African Queen, this,) with a crew of 35, and 140 "fellow travelers". (Those of you who remember that phrase, stand up - if you can.) How I wish all you readers could have been there to enjoy it with us.

Without discussing it, Russ and I made it a practice to dine with different acquaintances - usually two couples with us at table - at every meal. Two couples x three meals x two weeks - you do the math. Every day I sported my button: "Peace on earth - Begins at Home [NO] SPANK", a gift from Sue Lawrence. It proved to be a sure conversation-starter, together with the uniqueness of a father and grown son touring as a "couple". Russ and I found represented in our fellow passengers the entire range of opinions regarding corporal punishment of children. I kept with me a fistful of my website cards, and a pocketful of "Kids' Safe Zone" stickers which I handed out by the score, ("a gift for your grandchild") both on board and ashore. We found it encouraging that the vast majority of my geezer generation agreed with the no-spank message. The few discomfited were far outnumbered by those cheered upon learning there was a vigorous Cadre of Children's Advocates at large in the land. "We zero in on the institutional practitioners of the Big Bang Theory of education and child care," I assured them. More often than not, fellow diners thanked me for stimulating an interesting dinner discussion.

Among dozens of new acquaintances and budding friendships, certain people stand out. Over the fortnight Russ and I were fortunate to develop friendships with classical musicians Mary and Jim Martin, and their daughters ages 15 & 18, the only family taking the tour. We were often at table together or sharing walking forays ashore, or chatting in the ship's library where the Jim and Russ chess game became a nightly feature. Jim is an orchestra conductor and professor of music near L. A., while wife Mary is clarinetist in an opera orchestra there. The pleasure of their company, together with their bright and beautiful daughters, provided a delightful topping on the excursion cake for us.

Included among the passengers there were, inevitably, a few grim and grousing spanker holdouts, with their faith-based conviction that kids are innately "bad" and "need" spanking. At table at various meals were (all retired) bankers, school administrators, Christian preachers, born-again fundamentalists, and worse. Russ and I tried our best to keep it light. Most entertaining were the two heavyweight couples staunchly defending the moral necessity for spanking "for their own good". They denied that the findings of brain surgeons on the damaging effects of C.P. were valid. They denied that spanking was hitting. They even denied that spanking inflicts pain, (it only "gets their attention." And they denied that generations of spanking haven't worked. ("Have you read the papers?" I asked, incredulously.) Without such "discipline" they could never grow up as decent people, we were told. So I simply referred them to Russell: "My son, here, has never been spanked. Tell us about your depravity, Russ." But the biggest laugh came after I'd tried to make a point about the sub-conscious. The heaviest one boomed that she was quite aware of all the thoughts in her sub-conscious, and no one could tell her otherwise. Aghast, I queried, "Why do you think it's called SUB-conscious?!"

Happily, the evolved people far outnumbered the cretins. On shore, where I handed out dozens of stickers, every parent (with children) I approached agreed with the no-spank message, and was pleased with the sticker. There isn't a country in Europe that allows striking of children - in public or private - a fact that invariably evoked astonishment in the riverboat lounge and dining room. We spent (a tour-arranged) afternoon visiting a Bavarian family in their home, a lovely, intelligent couple with an organic garden, a splendidly-equipped woodshop, and three beautiful children ages 9 to 16. Over luscious homemade cakes and Bavarian beer they assured us that while "smacking" in public was unheard of, there was still some rare, residual "private" spanking in neighbors' back rooms. Nevertheless, we were given to understand that C. P. is generally considered brutal, and is fast diminishing in Bavaria.

The guided tours in a dozen riverside cities: Passau, Regensburg, Wurzburg, Koblenz . and more let us sample the richness of Europe's history. The cathedral in Cologne was special, with its famous spires and stained glass windows, in a setting marred only by a replica of Michelangelo's David. The resplendent lad in full frontal nudity I'd seen in Florence had, alas, been painted a sickly pink, transforming biblical teenage hero into a blonde and blue-eyed Aryan giant right down to his golden pubic hair. The sight of that magnificent work's uglification provoked in me feelings of revulsion; more so, for the finest cathedral in Europe was its backdrop, a construction built over centuries for the glorification of God.

Three museum experiences that, for me, stand out even above the fortresses and castles:

NUREMBERG: The NAZI DOCUMENTATION CENTER: where the history of the roots, growth, rise and fall of Hitler's regime is expertly and starkly shown in horrifying detail, in a manner never to be forgotten - or repeated. Later we stood in the giant stadium - now hosting kids on skateboards - where Der Fuehrer delivered his bellicose rants to the masses of spellbound, seig heil!-shouting admirers. Vestigial vibes remained yet unsettled in the sprinkling rain.

MAINZ: GUTENBERG MUSEUM: We viewed a replica of Johanna's printing shop and press, and watched as a page was printed on it. Nearby was the first Heidelberg press, a modern one for which I'd longed when publishing my magazine years ago. The highlight: it was here that I thrilled at seeing even more illuminated manuscripts than I'd seen in Florence two years ago.

AMSTERDAM: for 50 years I'd dreamed of visiting the "secret annex" where teenager Anne, with her family, hid from the Nazis during WWII. "If I ever get to Amsterdam, I'll head straight for Anne Frank's house," I told everyone. So many felt as I did that it was made into the Anne Frank Museum. I slipped behind the legendary bookcase and up the steep, narrow stairs described by Anne, to the Franks' living quarters, then on up another flight to the "apartment" of the Van Pels. The rickety stairs to Anne's special hideaway, the attic, was blocked off, probably for safety reasons. But a huge mirror was positioned so we could see the room under the eves where Anne stood by the tiny window and jotted her reflections on the nature of the human animal and mankind.

It was outside in the ticket line that a woman from the Midwest, USA, one who had been looking at me quizzically for a fortnight, at last spoke: Staring at my [NO]SPANK button, she said, "I believe that every word of the Bible is the Word of God ... And it was God who said, 'Spare the rod, and you spoil the child.'" She went on: "I obeyed, and my children are now well behaved and God-fearing children. Now TAKE THAT OFF!" - and she suddenly grabbed my no-spank button, intent on tearing it off my shirt when I stopped her hand.

Wow. Hide the Kool-Aid, I thought. "Wasn't that Solomon who spoke of sparing the rod?" I asked. Well, she didn't know who Solomon was exactly, but it was God's word anyway. "It was Solomon," I told her. "In the Book of Proverbs." He was a known tyrant and slaveholder who had 300 wives plus 300 concubines, I explained. It is a matter of biblical history that he built a tower in honor of Moloch. "Do you know who Moloch was?" She said she did. "Moloch was the biblical monster who delighted in flinging screaming children into a flaming cauldron to their agonizing deaths," I said. "And that is who you've chosen to teach you how to raise your children?"

Silence from the listeners around us, as we filed into Anne Frank's revered hideout from the crazies who were bent on killing non-Christians. Anne Frank, the child who became the powerful symbol of peace and decency against the hatred and insanity of Adolph Hitler, the Moloch of the century. Could this museum do what the Nuremberg visit failed to do? Could it soften the heart of the woman from Indiana?

- Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 56
August 1, 2006

Visit Norm Lee's website:

To attempt to stamp out [bad traits] with ill will and corporal punishment is like dousing a fire with oil. Instead, we must hold our temper and show the child an even greater amount of boundless love and mercy than we had previously.

- Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

Kami Payne's Story
As she told it to Jordan Riak

(Reprinted here with Kami's & Jordan's permission)

Dear Mr. Riak,

I’ve thought often of writing about the things that happened to me on the off chance that my story may somehow help others. I have always been afraid that some may think I’m lying or that I’ve only done this for attention. I didn’t, and don’t, want sympathy and hopefully by the end of this letter, you’ll understand why. Also, I’m not an eloquent wordsmith so my experiences of being raised in an abusive family may be of little use to you and your readers. I will try to keep this simple and to the point but please forgive me if I stray.

My dad was an alcoholic who could wake at 4:00 a.m. and start drinking whiskey, wine or whatever he could get a hold of. He could stay drunk for several days at a time and while drinking caused him to be abusive to the point of being borderline sadistic, he was just as bad on the 1 or 2 days a week he was sober. In other words, with or without alcohol, he was a mean, hateful person.

My mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade my dad decided he should be paid to stay at home and “care” for his kids and his mentally disturbed wife. He managed to convince social services that my mother could be a danger to her children and he became a paid abuser.

He “cared” for his wife by punching, hitting, kicking, yanking fistfuls of her hair out and he even tried to drown her…in the toilet. These things happened day in and day out. The neighbors turned away when they saw the things that happened to us and the police actually quit responding to calls for help. They even warned my dad to keep his family under control. I was a full fledged functioning alcoholic at the age of 13 and dabbling in drugs to boot. I went to school most days drunk. I was a very hateful, angry person and I trusted no one. I fully believed that if someone was nice to me then they wanted something from me and whatever it was it would NOT be anything good. I pretty much kept to myself and had only 1 or 2 friends who I trusted but not enough to tell them what was going on.

I have two sisters and a brother. All have been tormented and abused by belts, fists, feet, baseball bats and with words. The blood is eventually cleaned up and the scars have mostly faded and the bones have healed and the hair has grown back but for me, the things that were said were much more hurtful than anything I could have been hit with.

It made me feel so worthless knowing that I wasn’t good enough to talk to. I was so bad that my dad hated me. That my dad would pitch a ball back and forth a couple of times with a neighborhood kid who happened to wander by and stop to talk but would backhand me if I tossed the ball to him. My dad liked to spank and hit me but he never thought of me as a person. That still makes me cry. I cry when I close my eyes and see the terrified little girl who wasn’t allowed to be a little girl at all. I cry because I know how that little girl felt knowing what her dad thought of her. I can’t help myself and I simply feel sorry for that little girl.

Everyone speaks of forgiveness. You must forgive to move on with your life. I disagree.

My dad is getting very old (69 and a heavy smoker with emphysema ) and he knows he has little time left. He has been trying to be my friend or make amends. It’s really strange to see the desperation in his eyes. I wonder if my eyes looked like that. Regardless, I am not his friend nor will I help him clear his conscience. I do not forgive him and I have made amends with myself. My spirit was not broken by him and I am living my life. I’ve been blessed beyond the imagination with my husband and daughter. And now, as a woman, I still cry. I cry tears of joy knowing that my daughter will never, ever feel like that other lost little girl who seemed to almost not exist at all.

After reading my story over and over again I realize that this was a kind of therapy for me. Thank you for giving me a chance to share a tiny piece of my life with you.

- Kami Payne

Thank you for your powerful story of courage and persistence against towering odds. You are an inspiration. - Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 55
July 1, 2006


Visit Norm Lee's website:

Today's problems cannot be solved
if we still think the way we thought
when we created them.

- Albert Einstein

At Psychohistory Conference: "Cadre of Children's Advocates"

Of my two presentations at the recent (very gratifying) Int'l Conference of Psychohistorians in NY University, one of them described our "Cadre of Children's Advocates". That is the name I made up for our group of activists bent on eliminating corporal punishment, beginning with the schools' systemic child abuse. I opened by listing some of the pioneers in anti-CP who educate(d) and inspire(d) us, and followed with those in the Movement with whom I am most acquainted (below). The talk got a rousing round of cheers and applause.

Our work in raising awareness about the harm inflicted on children by CP has a history of distinguished and brilliant figures. Adah Maurer and Irwin Hyman were early activist against child abuse, and historian Phillip Greven gave us his landmark book on how religions have historically supported of child abuse ("Spare the Child"). He and Alex Haueser and others formed National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools and EPOCH-USA (End Physical Punishment Of CHildren). Murray Straus is the near-legendary researcher in the data-driven field of CP. He and therapist Alice Miller and unparalleled researcher Lloyd deMause enjoy highly honored positions for their priceless work and research during the past several decades in advancing the cause of children's rights. Some of the supporters working today in the Movement to abolish corporal punishment are:

ROBERT FATHMAN, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Columbus, Ohio. In 1980, his daughter, 6, was brutally paddled in first grade. Radicalized, he helped form a coalition of Ohio organizations to ban CP in schools. He & Nadine Block helped form the Nat'l Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools. Bob has testified in Congress & several state legislatures, appeared on the Today Show & CNN, and has debated spankers on Sally Jessy Raphael & Jerry Springer Shows. And once held forth for three hours on a Christian Radio station, fielding live call-ins from rabid spankers. He is an indefatigable activist in letter writing to legislators, school boards and editors. Savvy about the need for publicity, he created "Worst Hitter Awards" for the worst CP schools in Ohio, and made surprise appearances at their school board meetings, with paddle in hand and the news media in tow. Dr. Fathman, with Nadine Block, hosted several national conferences, and works with Nadine in EPOCH-USA.

NADINE BLOCK leads EPOCH-USA - End Physical Punishment of Children. A far-reaching and tireless worker, she works for changes mostly thru legal approaches. The org's website is a storehouse of up-to-date facts on laws in all states and many foreign countries. About six years ago she founded Spank Out Day, which has since spread to several countries. Her recent note to me: . ... "Catholic Schools in the US have banned CP or don't use it, so Sister Compassionata is no longer swinging the ruler. The United Methodist Church might not be out campaigning, but their position statement is invaluable to the campaign. [Now] I'm working on the Quakers - the yearly meeting at Wilmington College of the Midwest (KY, TN, OH, etc) will be acting on a ban on all CP position in June. If passed, it will go to other yearly meetings."

JORDAN RIAK, Executive Director of PTAVE: Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, in Alamo, California. Years ago I scrawled to him a snail-mail call for help, and he's been my mentor ever since. Jordan built & manages the PTAVE web site, Project NoSpank at, which is unquestionably the most extensive, comprehensive Internet resource on CP. Jordan is a frequent guest on television and radio, and lectures widely. He has for years voluntarily taught non-violent parenting to inmates in the Pre-Release Programs at California State Prison - Folsom and California State Prison - Solano. He actively campaigns against boot camp abuses, and distributes thousands of pieces of literature.

MADY (MADELEINE) GOMEZ, PhD is the president of PsycHealth, Ltd., in Evanston, Illinois. She is also Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, and Adjunct Visiting Professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She has been working as a grass-roots mover for decades, doing presentations at conferences and appearances on radio, television, and press interviews. Mady distributes many publications and free materials, and hosts regular conferences for promoting the Rights of the Child and positive discipline. Her special focus is the Spanish-speaking population, hence publications are in English AND Spanish. A vigorous PTAVE and EPOCH fundraiser.

MITCH HALL, Dean of the School of Humanities, New College of California in San Francisco is the author of several publications including "Peace Quest - Cultivating Peace in a Violent Culture". He served in the Peace Corps in Togo, W. Africa, and taught in schools in New York and in colleges in New England. He serves as Accreditation Liaison Officer to WASC, and is often asked to speak to peace groups. (I met both Mitch and Mady years ago on Psychohistory discussion list, and we remain the closest of friends.) LAURIE A. COUTURE, a licensed mental health counselor in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, focuses on school's restriction of bathroom privileges as child abuse. She is a writer on children’s rights issues, a parenting educator, and a mentor of youth. Background: Former social worker, and educator of young children. She is now the happy mother of her 12-year-old son, adopted from the State of Maine foster care system.

SUSAN LAWRENCE: Inspired by Alice Miller, encouraged by Norm Lee, Susan chose to center her attention on those who manufacture and promote instruments specifically designed for physical abuse of small children. As a Christian she was horrified and repulsed by the widespread use of the bible in defense of CP. The indefatigable Sue opened two websites to combat "The Rod", and learned how to do online petitions & run email campaigns. Politically, she is currently behind two pieces of legislation: on the national level to make illegal the production of devices to beat children, and defining corporal punishment as abuse in her home state of Massachusetts. And she is working to get her hometown to pass a resolution against CP. Sue has devel-oped an activist list of over 300 from Maine to San Diego who work with her against sales of "the Rod". Sue & husband raise their daughter consistent with the principles of the New Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm (NN-PPP).

PEGGY DEAN is a school nurse in No. Carolina. She & Tom Johnson confronted the school board in Robeson County, NC. News item: "Peggy Dean flew in from North Carolina to urge the board to abolish the [CP] practice. She says studies have shown kids who are paddled perform worse in school and become more violent. ...Dean says, 'It is barbaric. It is archaic. It has its roots in slavery. It has no place in the schools.' " Her points included the academic edge that non-paddling schools have on average; and the absence of training teachers get "Do these teachers know where the sciatic nerve is?"

TOM JOHNSON, a practicing musician based in Ohio & Tenn. publishes articles on spanking as sexual abuse. In an email to me: "At Robeson Co. School Board Meeting we noticed with some amusement that the name of our organization [PTAVE] was incorrectly listed as "Parents and Teachers Against Fighting." [Not "Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education"]. No, they discovered, Tom Peggy came to confront the violence THE SCHOOLS were committing against the kids.

ISABELLE NEAL is a busy mom from Philadelphia, and a vigorous supporter as well as thought provoking speaker serving on the PTAVE "bench".

REV. THOMAS SAGENDORF, a well-known minister from Indiana, effectively challenges the biblical arguments that support CP. He is an energetic supporter of Sue Lawrence's campaign to abolish "The Rod" and debunk biblical Solomon.

JIMMIE DUNNE: Founded "POPS - People Opposing Paddling in Schools" in Austin, Texas, and has campaigned for years to ban CP in the abusive Texan school system. A prolific letter writer, he dogs legislators with reminders of the harm inflicted by CP.

BARBARA VICKERS (LA, Calif) Focus: "to intervene in any child abuse or neglect that I see or know about." Recent email to Norm:" ... after reading [and signing] your Step Up Resolution I came upon a very large woman shaking a toddler by the coat collar and I intervened. Since that incident, with your encouragement and further suggestions I am empowered to intervene in any situation where a child is crying and being ignored by the adults with her/him, or a parent figure is verbally abusing a child. I also state my views about "Stepping Up" and PWP whenever the subject comes up in conversations. I think it is a duty for all people who are "enlightened" about child rearing to intervene."

AL CROWELL is former Catholic priest, now a therapist based in San Francisco. He is writing, with plans to publish, a pamphlet directed at the christian mothers & fathers for nonviolent and non-shaming childrearing.

RITA SWAN is director of CHILD, Inc., a national membership org dedicated to stopping the child abuse and neglect related to religions & cultural traditions. Editor of newsletter "Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty".

THERE ARE MORE. There're Dr. Teresa Whitehurst of Harvard, and my Canadian friend Brian Vanderlip who recently returned from Thailand, Gabriela Montesario from Mexico, and ... oh - correspondent TIP CHOW from Hong Kong. The list grows steadily longer and stronger.

NORM LEE raised his two sons, now age 41 & 42, without recourse to any form of punishment, using his "Democratic Discipline". For over 40 years he's taught teachers and parents that we can now eliminate totally all punishmentof children when given adequate teacher & parent preparation. His career includes training teachers for ghetto schools in three major universities. A writer for a half century, he's authored 12 books, including "Parenting Without Punishing", which appears on his website: His STEP UP RESO-LUTION is there as well, now listing over 265 signatures vowing to intervene in instances of CP. He created and pioneered in NN-PPP (the New Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm) and Democratic Discipline. He speaks wherever and whenever he is asked, and often when he is not. - Norm

The Step Up Report - Month 54
June 1, 2006

Nonviolence is not merely the absence of violence. It involves a sense of compassion and caring. … I strongly believe that we must promote such a concept of nonviolence at the level of the family as well as at the national and international levels. - H.H. Dalai Lama

This, from a friend I have known for several years:


you certainly are persistent in pursuit of your goals!

I had never encountered abuse of a child until some years back my wife and I came to the aid of a young girl in our neighborhood whose father thought "disciplining" her with his belt was appropriate.

The family still lives in a hovel that no self-respecting community government would allow to be on the rental market. Her wages at MacDonald's becomes part of the family pool, a major expense against which is the beer and cigarette supply required by the two whose unholy union created the poor waif, who is paying a daily price for being born into miserable circumstances.

I'll never forget the observation of our former police chief, who, when I reported the abuse of the girl, said something to the effect that "unfortunately, now every time her father feels the need to discipline her, she will come running to you for support."

She has visited us often, but only to show some measure of appreciation of our willingness to take up her cause. I am constantly amazed that she seems to be able to rise above her trials, and we are hopeful that once she is of age, she will find the measure of happiness we think she deserves.

Name withheld

Dear ----,

Good to hear from you again. You should be aware that you were providing for the child what the renowned Alice Miller called an "enlightened witness", the essential ingredient for a child to survive the violence and sordid circumstances of childhood. The child must know, sometime, that the abuse they are enduring is wrong, and other people know it is wrong. Otherwise the child begins to doubt his/her own worth, and even sanity, because the world has not given them a clue otherwise. It is more important that you perhaps are aware that you are providing her with that.

I happen to know the police chief you mentioned. He and his wife, deeply Mormon, are heavily into the belief that, with enuf punishment applied in the right places, children will "learn right from wrong", and the world will be a happier place for cops and church members.

Now he is retired and the children have moved away. In their living room, as a reminder of "the good times", they keep a life-size rag doll that stands facing the corner of the room, perpetually being punished for some imagined misbehavior. This replaces the couple's own children, who you can be sure were brought up under the strictest carrot/stick "discipline".

An interesting tag on your story is that the couples' son, a cop in a neighboring city, was some months ago arrested for trading drugs for sex, and, last I heard, was doing hard time. I'm sure the chief is thinking, "If only I had punished him more!"

- Norm


The Step Up Report - Month 53
May 1, 2006

If you see in any given situation
only what everybody else can see,
you can be said to be so much a
representative of your culture
that you are a victim of it.

- S. I. Hayakawa, author of Language in Thought and Action

At the recent Chicago "Summit Conference II: National Leaders in the Child and Non-Violence" the topic of my talk was my New Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm. Hoping to free-up compulsive note-takers (like myself) so they could listen, I had prepared and printed these "talking points", here to share with Step Up "warriors". Sources for reading are indicated. THE NEW NON-PUNITIVE PARENTING PARADIGM
- Talking Points (c) 2006 Norm Lee

  1. Punishment of children is a moral issue; it is a cowardly act, always and all of it harmful, from flagrant abuse to "time out". Eliminating corporal punishment is not enuf. We need to begin work on the next evolutionary step in childrearing: the ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF PUNISHMENT of children. NO punishment is necessary, research support of it equals Zero. ALL is betrayal of the child's trust in their parents, the very people upon whom they depend to protect them from just such humiliation. []

  2. The New Non-Punitive Paradigm requires an examination of values and life purpose, and calls for a radical, even tectonic, shift in how we see children, and in how we see our parent role. It is thinking/seeing in new ways. It is taking the quest for freedom, responsibility, and human dignity to a new level. [Parenting Without Punishing]

  3. In introducing this sixth mode of childrearing - the "helping mode" (see - we need to empower children. They are the experts on children & childrearing; they are our teachers. Childhood is NOT "preparation for life", it IS life. The parent role needs revolutionary change: to provide and protect, home must be a true haven, a safe house, a refuge from verbal as well as physical attack. [L. deMause: The Evolution of Childrearing.]

  4. The family political form needs to change from autocratic/dictatorship to democratic, where children participate in family decision-making, including behavioral guidelines - for parents as well as children. Backing off from top-down family manage-ment can begin with Family Council & Democratic Discipline. [Summerhill - A Radical Approach to Childrearing - A. S. Neill]

  5. A parent is NOT a teacher, but a helper and supporter of child's self-directed investigation of his/her interests. Children are born with a natural drive for self-directed learning. Parent role: Teach nothing - except by example, the only way values are learned. Parents must focus on making changes in themselves, NOT in the children. [How Children Learn, 2nd Ed.- John Holt]

  6. The greatest need is parental training in self-discipline and acceptance of responsibility. Punishment is a parents' dodge: it places the responsibilities on the child, so the child can be blamed. NN-PPP says, Throw out the praise with the punishment; the carrot with the stick. Children's role is not to please parents, but learn and grow. [How Children Learn, 2nd Ed. - John Holt]

  7. The Big Lie of 'original sin' is the cruelest gift from Christendom, saddling children with guilt & self-loathing from the moment of birth, a lifetime sentence of guilt and unhappiness. That low self-assessment is paid for in emotional currency by everyone associated with him or her in life. [Alice Miller: The Truth Shall Make You Free]

  8. Punishment never works because it CAUSES misbehavior; parents create their own problems by setting up adversarial relationships with their children - a contest parents cannot win. With skill, it can be avoided. [Lee: Parenting Without Punishing]

  9. The very pervasiveness of punishment shows us it is an article of faith. It is a drug worse than meth, destroying generations as it is passed on like syphilis. We trust in punishment's effectiveness despite centuries of evidence of its failure. See the papers.

  10. We were all born with Basic Goodness, naturally joyous and happy, born brimming with creative, integrity, intelligence, and compassion. That exuberance, with guidance and effort, we can discover again within ourselves. It is worth the work it takes. [The Art of Happiness - Howard Cutler, M.D. and H.H. Dalai Lama]

  11. The most precious gift for a child is a set of happy parents. A. S. Neill said, "No happy parent ever punished a child." Hence, our task is to find - and to do the work necessary for gaining - happiness for ourselves. Methods for the attainment of earthly happiness have been known for a very long time, and available free to anyone willing to invest the time & effort. Trap: confusing happiness with material acquisition and feel-good indulgence. [Turning the Mind Into an Ally - Sakyong Mipham]

  12. As Alice Miller teaches, we carry our punitive history around with us in our bodies, hence, "body-mind". Working on the body is the place to begin the steps to natural peace and an open mind and heart. [The Body Never Lies - Alice Miller] OR learn and practice yoga and mindfulness breathing.

The Step Up Report - Month 52
April 1, 2006

Nonviolence is not merely the absence of violence.
It involves a sense of compassion and caring.
I strongly believe that we must promote such a concept of nonviolence
at the level of the family as well as
at the national and international levels.

H. H. Dalai Lama

Marilyn's Story, from Phoenix, AZ

I am teaching recovering addicts, alcoholics and parolees in a men's halfway house system. I have developed a series of roughly 8 classes, each lasting a month, and have been doing this for four and a half years. One of them is Parenting in Recovery, from which 10 men graduated on Saturday. As you can probably imagine, this is a population that either believes in Solomon's "spare the rod" advice, or has suffered from that rod and been deeply wounded. They find it hard to conceive of other means, so it is hard work convincing them to try nonviolent parenting ideas.

After working for years in a children's unit of a local hospital, while going to grad school, I learned what I wish I had known when I was parenting. Not that we had a violent home when my sons were growing up, but there are definitely things I needed to know earlier. I guess actually the major change in my parenting style was learned earlier than that, when my oldest was 14, and my husband had just left. (Hope you will bear with me here, I tend to be a storyteller. I'll try to be brief.)

I was in a bad place, since this separation was the end of what I thought was my life in those days. Came home from work and school to find my oldest had propped open the frost-free fridge door to scrape frost off to make snow cones. Fearing fridge damage, I had a screaming fit, and retired to my bedroom to call my therapist. She suggested we come in together after office hours to learn some communication skills. We did that; we committed to taping this note on the fridge (pre Post-it days):

  1. State the behavior
  2. Say how it makes you feel
  3. Say what you'd like to see change
  4. Consequences (rarely necessary)
A couple weeks later I came home to find the front door wide open in the 114 deg. heat. I went to his bedroom, lifted the headphones, and said "Come to the refrigerator." Standing there, I told him that when I found the AC running and the door open, (1) I felt fear, (2) wondering how I would pay these bills now that his dad was gone, and (3) I'd like him to take charge of the front door, since he was the one who most liked to be in the house. In the 2 years we continued to live there, it was never open again.

Two weeks later I came home bitter, depressed, anxious and with dinner to make - to find the garbage (his job to manage) was overflowing onto the floor. I said, "Empty the garbage!" He said, "Mom, come to the refrigerator." (Boy, did my stomach give a lurch!) We stood there, reading the rules, and he said, "When you (1) order me around like a slave, (2) I feel pissed off, and (3) what I'd like you to do is say please, as you would to a friend." (My students love this moment of reversal!) What a life-changing moment! I suddenly saw so clearly that my son and others deserved to be treated with the respect I'd been unable to recognize was their due, in my depressed state, and that this technique really works! (You recognize it as basic assertiveness, no doubt.) Although the marriage ended in divorce, and other unpleasant things came to pass, we were able to talk without as much blaming and shaming.

I work as a traveling speaker for an organization here in Phoenix that gives trainings for teachers (all over the world), in order that they may recognize and help troubled students with support groups. I've been doing this since 1985, I think, and that is another long story I won't digress into at the moment. I have written 3 training manuals for this organization, the last one, written while recovering from illness last year, on Parenting. One of my resource materials was "Spare the Child," [Philip Greven] as you know, a horrifying, saddening book. You are the only other person I know who has read it. I'm sure we could converse long hours on it's relationship to the Christian right and the authoritarian personality, and the scariness of all that.

Norm Lee

The Step Up Report - Month 51
March 1, 2006

Not only is example the best way to teach,
it is the only way.

Albert Schweitzer, M.D.

Punishment, Obedience, Discipline and Respect

For decades I have read and studied and researched and pondered the questions, Why do people punish? What makes people want to deliberately inflict pain and shame on others, especially children? How can punishment as a treatment be so popular when it doesn’t “work”, in that it fails to bring about the desired changes? Why punishment?

B.F. Skinner, the behavioral control advocate, said all animals use punishment to control one another. But, he added, that in humans there are unintended consequences to punishment. He came up with substituting positive reinforcement for punishment, because it “works”. “Much punishment is really an instance of thinking distortions in adults”, he said, arguing that it is merely varying attempts of out-of-control adults to justify their counter-aggression. Hence, their talk of “discipline” is only fantasy and rhetoric. And following that is their “moral justification” for hurting and humiliating the child: “It’s for your own good”; “I got whipped and I deserved it,” and “God says, Spare the rod and you spoil the child.”

In short, it is the adult’s lack of discipline and the urge to hurt that causes unintended consequences of misbehavior, crime, and addictive behaviors. Another common delusion is that, if the punishment doesn’t work, more punishment is needed. Light punishment “fails to get their attention”. This explains the popularity of life-threatening child abuse. (Unfortunately he went on to propose his “operant conditioning” which, in my opinion, is anti-human. See the debates between Skinner and humanist psychologist Carl Rogers.)

The famous Dr. Karl Menninger popularized psychiatry with his book The Human Mind in 1945. He pointed out that our Western notions of responsibility and justice are rooted in our faith in the idea of retaliation. We cling to the conviction that, “Whatever offends must be punished, period.” Dr. Menninger, concluded:

It would seem, then, that the present modes of punishment actually accomplish none of the things they are supposed to do, or at any rate, do not accomplish them as well as some other system might. The reasons given to justify punishment do not explain why it exists. They serve only to conceal the truth, that the scheme of punishment is a barbarous system of revenge, by which society tries to get even…

- Karl Menninger, 1945

Years of observing parents with their children, and teaching teachers in training, have taught me that there is a deep and abiding faith in the power of punishment, a faith akin even to faith in religion. Most would sooner change churches than abandon the knee-jerk power to punish. Despite hordes of evidence to the contrary, people still believe punishment teachers good behavior. Because it can stop undesired behavior briefly, the illusion is produced that it “works”. But punishment never works to advance the stated intention of teaching kids to treat others decently. On the contrary, it builds resentment, together with the determination to pass the punishment on to the next vulnerable victim, the smaller child or the weaker adult. In a word, punishment produces bullies. At bottom, punishing is superstitious behavior; it is persisting in repeating behavior that has proven ineffective in achieving the desired results. Unless the desired result is a child utterly submissive, defeated in spirit, and unable to think for her- or himself.

John Holt (“How Children Learn”) said that nothing is so vicious or cruel as a guilty person punishing a moral offense. There would be much less punishing if people simply felt better about themselves, he felt. Of course there are those who are so sadistically inclined that they really enjoy inflicting pain on helpless victims. When I offered anti-spank “Kids’ Safe Zone” stickers to a young and very pleasant-faced “soccer mom” in a grocery store, she blurted, “You’re taking all the fun out of bringing up kids!” I chucked, thinking of course she was joking. “I mean it! she loudly insisted. “All that work and crap of brats when I could be enjoying life? I’ve got to get SOME pleasure out of it! I just feel better when I spank them and send them outdoors to scream.”

So much hate. So much aggression. So much unhappiness while impersonating the happy parent with the sunny disposition. I could only suggest that she find more constructive ways to achieve happiness: counseling, perhaps? And I quoted A. S. Neil in “Summerhill”: “No happy parent every punished a child.”

The Journals of the International Child and Youth Care Network report that in Lakota language children are called sacred beings. Discipline is taught by example, not by punishment. Parents and elders talk with children quietly and seriously about the grown-up behavior expected of them. Principle discipline: Adults must always respect children. In no other way can respect for elders be earned.

Feb. '06

What we are as adults is
the product of the world we experienced as children.
The way a society functions is a reflection
of the childrearing practices of that society.

- Bruce Perry, MD, neurosurgeon

Stickers, Badges & Booklets

Interventions as a Step Up "change agent" takes an emotional toll on a person, regardless of his/her state of stability. It was a certain tension involved in the constant vigilance for mistreatment of children, plus the obligation to intervene, that led me to ponder alternatives. The change in tactics – (I've written before about this but bear with me) - resulted in immediate and positive results. In a word, PREVENTION. Perhaps the wisdom, perhaps the fatigue of advancing age made me seek to intercept the potential conflicts before they broke out in violence. Then I happily reported: This works! Instead of simply waiting for a child's screams before responding, we can train ourselves to recognize parent-child conflicts-in-the-making. An overworked mother, a whining child, an impatient dad, small children grabbing stuff off store shelves – are, to me, conditions that make for spankings and shakings. So the way to avoid stressful encounters is to intervene early on in such a way that the violence doesn't happen.

How is this done? At first I used distractions, lots of them. I'd offer popcorn or peanuts to the fussy kids. Or admire the baby's eyes and smile, and ask how old? only child? And a sympathetic comment: "I admire your patience. Bringing up a child can be demanding, can't it?" And offer to help in shopping. This brings remarkable changes in their tone and tenor; what was a bothersome chore of food shopping has turned into a pleasant exchange with an admirer and sympathizer. Considering the near-universal negativity one finds in public, a simple encounter like this has magnified influence.

Methods changed when my friend Jordan Riak, director of PTAVE (Parents And Teachers Against Violence in Education) sent me a stack of stickers: "KIDS' SAFE ZONE", with a circle/slash over "spanking". The colorful 3x4-inch stickers were an instant hit with the kids, who promptly stuck them on their chests. (One 6-year old girl stuck hers on her behind.) Parents, too, thanked me, appreciating that I had asked first (always) their permission. Out of hundreds of such approaches, there were only two refusals. Why so successful? The stickers are not threatening to the parents' authority. They are not accusatory. With no attempt to sell or missionary, there was no cause for resistance. The symbol rejecting spanking said it all. Occasionally we have a very brief exchange about corporal punishment. But long before I'd had to accept that reasoned argument does not change the mind of a child abuser. What I'm sure does happen is that their mind almost surely dwells on the bold message: Children are not safe when they are subject to spanking. Every parent wants to feel they are a "good" parent. Now I keep a few stickers on the bulletin boards of supermarkets, together with Jordan's "Plain Talk About Spanking" booklets. You can get booklets and stickers free from Jordan by emailing him:

Then one day my friend Sue Lawrence sent me a badge, the 2 and ¼ inch metal button kind that pins onto your shirt or coat. It shows a big yellow star on a blue background, with "CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE" where one would expect "SHERRIF". I took to pinning it on every time I left the house; there was an immediate positive difference in the way I was received by parents. Merely seeing an obviously fake sheriff's badge brought a certain respect, even trust. Was it my imagination? I wondered. No. People were reacting differently. Since then I've felt that I have an ally in the toy badge, as if I had a back-up partner in my quest to stop America's violence to children. Sue, by the way, is doing much important work in eliminating the worst of the child spanking and whipping, as well as closing down the several manufacturers of "the Rod", a draconian device designed specifically for Biblical abusers. Find her at or

Now I have my own badge-making machine; with Sue's example and encouragement, I can announce that I will send a CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE badge - free of charge - to any active STEP UP "agent" who has signed onto the Step Up Resolution To Stop the Hitting. Just send me an email asking to become a "deputy", and your mailing address.

The Step Up Report - Month 49
January 5, 2006
A hundred years from now
it will not matter what your bank account was,
the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove.
But the world may be different because you were important
in the life of a child.

- Anonymous

LAST SUMMER I spent 10 days with my East Coast son, Henry. Now I've just returned from a 10-day visit with my West coast son, Russell. Each of the visits was an absolute delightful for me. These breaks from work provided time for reminiscing about our happy days together during their childhood in the Sixties. Fondness and poignancy did abound.

A new year brings reflection on successes and travails during the one ending, and invites new beginnings in the year ahead. Inevitable question: In our efforts to eliminate corporal punishment in USA and abroad, how are we doing? My friend and indefatigable colleague Jordan Riak of PTAVE reports, "I believe that the campaign to promote violence-free treatment of children at home and school is gaining ground.... the emerging trend is infecting good people everywhere. They are searching their consciences and concluding that hitting, hurting, frightening and humiliating children “for their own good” is, and always was, a bad theory." Visit his website here: .

The changes I've seen in recent years and months are, to me, remarkable. The many years of struggling thankless and alone are at last over; awareness of the harm done by corporal punishment has become a mainstream concern. Our cadre of anti-spank activists has brought about the banning of CP in public schools in 28 states. Organizations such as EPOCH-USA and PTAVE have spearheaded campaigns in the 100 largest school districts in the country. Now paddling and other physical punishments of children are prohibited in 98 of them. Visit Nadine Block's and Dr. Fathman's

Individuals on their own - and at first alone - have initiated campaigns on specific issues. John Breeding of Austin, TX has long been protesting the ADHD fraud, challenging the Big Psych and Big Pharm powers' preying on school children. Reach him at . Susan Lawrence of Boston battles the industry that promotes the whipping of babies, with its selling of "rods" and the books encouraging this hideous practice. Check out her . Tom Johnson and Nurse Peggy Dean took on a paddle-practicing school board in North Carolina and there are a great many others working locally, raising awareness of the harm done to children in the name of "discipline".

TO MY FELLOW CHILDREN'S ADVOCATES: What lies ahead? Certainly redoubled efforts in the direction we now traverse. But we must do more than merely "stay the course". It seems that everywhere the parental thinking is the Goldilocks mode: punish not too severely, not too lightly, but just right. That, in my opinion, will not do. I think we need to question and challenge the very foundation on which all punishment of children is based. Is it the principle job of parents to praise and punish children in preparation for adulthood? What are the assumptions underlying punishment of children? What are the real reasons people want to hurt youngsters? I think we are treating pimples when we should be dealing with the disease. We cannot succeed unless we get to the basic causes of this suffering.

If self-hate and self-pity are the cause of the impulse to punish, let us address that. A. S. Neil said, "No happy parent ever spanked a child." If that is so, we need to discover and promote the known methods of overcoming self-loathing. We need to do no less than to show the way to human happiness. While everyone yearns for it and seeks it, few find it. Yet there is no mystery about it. Fortunately, the way to happiness is teachable. I think that is what we should be doing.


The Step Up Report - Month 48
December 1, 2005
(Over 10 thousand hits in less than 3 years!)

“All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

- Arthur Schopenhaur

Norm Steps Up in Arizona Valley

Loathe as I am to wax negative in this Season of Joy, something has occurred here that must not pass without comment: There was recently held in our community a three-day conference on the theme of "domestic violence", yet not a word did the presenters utter about the physical punishment of children. Billed as "Causes and Effects of Domestic Violence", its central theme was wife beating, and secondarily, the grossest child abuse. Well before the event I volunteered to speak on my specialty, "The Root Causes of Violence Against Children". To all of my several calls, I received zero response. "Just a minute...Oh, she's gone for the day." Most troubling was the premise that there were no children in this valley. To speak of.

While there were the clinically objective presentations on brain trauma, and cursory references to "violence prevention", it was as if it was all happening elsewhere, as in, say, Phoenix, or Afghanistan. Certainly not here in this Valley of the Innocent. THE TALK WAS ALL ABOUT SOMEBODY ELSE, IN SOME OTHER PLACE. So, exempt from responsibility, there was nothing to do but take notes and get credits. That is, until I began mouthing off - with the intention of comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable. I glanced to see the conference director, an ambitious vice-mayor, with his face in his hands. A decent fellow who's worst fears were playing out.

I have witnessed this massive denial repeatedly for nine years. Conferences such as this are ceremonial; not real but ritual, like church; you sit for a while and condemn the sin committed by others, then go home feeling virtuous again. In similar public cleansings of past years, I have stood up and quoted Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and IT IS US!" I could as well have been talking to fence posts.

Five years ago Arizona Governor Napolitano, to her credit, mandated these annual "rural summits on domestic violence". Locally they are staged by "SAVE (Stand Against Violence Everywhere)" the ad hoc civic group already in operation for three years. It was created from elements political, medical, religious, and "mental health" after a killing on Main Street where one teenager shot another to death. The shock was felt all over the State; such an occurrence was not possible in this Mormon-dominated community, where group fantasy held that Mormons were beyond reproach for their wholesome childrearing modes. Where the goose-stepping children of "Sound of Music" and the dancing children of Disney Land are role models. Surely the tragedy was caused by "outside influence", and the answer was in escalating the control and "discipline" of the youth population, while keeping out - or driving out - the "outsiders" who dared do their own thinking.

I was in attendance at the first meeting of "SAVE", inputting at my subgroup as the lone voice for alternatives to the call for increased suppression of youth. When our spokesperson totally omitted from our committee report my contribution, I stood up and gave a "minority report"; that more restrictions and punishment would be counterproductive. The 50 or so in the room sat stunned. I could have walked in naked. Independent opinions were simply inappropriate here. The solution was perfectly obvious; the avowed, unanimous purpose of "SAVE" was to "crack down on teenagers" with more "control", more "discipline", harsher penalties.

More amazingly, no one debated me. The group simply answered with the traditional "treatment" given to "outsiders": meetings and times were changed, with everyone notified except Norm. Never to be included in another meeting, it was assumed I'd been silenced. What they didn't know is this: when I returned with a chest full of decorations from three years fighting Communists in Korea and landed in San Francisco, I said, "I'm home!" Wheresoever I choose to walk and sit in the U. S., I'm home. NOBODY can tell me I'm an "outsider". And as a Jeffersonian Democrat, I was determined that the freedom of expression would not die of atrophy. So when I later met a SAVE member I related Pres. Johnson's reaction when told of a severe critic: "Hire him! I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in."

Armed with the fantasy of self-righteous and biblical "discipline", they were to "save" local youth from the much-feared invasion of big-city gangs that were imagined to be poised at the Valley outskirts to deflower our virtue-loving daughters and draft our brave sons into the armed ranks of the Devil. (Where is the legendary moral strength now? I wondered.)

"SAVE" staged its public event, with a theme of "discipline" for youth. I kept my silence as politicians and state-paid "mental health" psych majors in "behavioral modification" spoke their views. Next came a big city detective - a gang expert - to deliver The Answer to raising obedient children. Then came the drama: six or eight very large and resplendently-uniformed bull cops filed in, each prominently displaying his service revolver, confronting the audience. I could keep my silence no longer.

I rose and took on the detective, countering his arguments point by point. He had never heard of Alice Miller, or Murray Straus, or Philip Greven, or Lloyd deMause. Or PTAVE, or EPOCH. He was ignorant of the research showing the serious harm done by corporal punishment. He admitted he spanked his daughter, but denied that CP was widespread. He was unaware there had been 40+ years of science showing he was skipping down the wrong road in his authoritarian approach to childrearing. His answer to "misbehavior" was to treat normal kids like criminals. I said it seemed his purpose was to create them. I followed with a series of letters and articles in the local paper.

At every session of the recent conference I had spoken about corporal punishment of children, without having provoked a question, discussion, or challenge. The final speaker, a pediatrician from A.S.U., gave a fine presentation, with excellent graphics, on brain trauma. I was preparing to applaud, until he related his parting antidote: being pursued by his mother swinging a leather slipper. The audience roared in cheerful hilarity; but I was steamed. "Do you know," I began, "that it took us YEARS of effort to get the American Academy of Pediatrics to oppose corporal punishment? Do you know," I continued, "that when you slap the face of a child, it's called 'discipline', but when you SLAP THE FACE OF A PEDIATRICIAN...suddenly it becomes 'assault'! Call the police! Bring in the lawyers! Handcuffs! But pediatricians, I assume, can defend themselves. But who will step up for the defenseless child, who must look to others to stop the violence? I'll tell you who, doctor. I WILL! And I'm asking you and everyone else here to do the same."

Step Up 47, Nov. 1, '05

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It is easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” – Fred Rogers


Peggy is a school nurse in NC, Tom is a practicing musician in Ohio. Both are anti-corporal punishment activists. They confronted the public school board in Robeson County, NC.

To Peggy & Tom:

Jordan told me about you brave people facing the taunts and hostility of the schooling types, making the most of your so generously-given five minutes. We know you needed at least five years. I am so much in admiration of your defending your right to speak, esp. after having traveled hundreds of miles ... - Norm

Dear Norm,

Thanks for the encouraging words, Norm. ...

As far as recounting the trip, Peggy would probably have more key details since she was there when the news team visited with Tina, whose son was bruised, and also spoke with various people afterward. For my part, I met up with Peggy at the Lumberton Office Depot Monday afternoon where we made some copies and added some items I brought with me to the folders she was preparing for the board members. From there we went to Waffle House, where a man in the parking lot recognized Peggy, thinking she was a reporter because he'd been working at a construction site near where she and Tina were interviewed on camera, and asked when the news report would air. Seemed like she was already causing a bit of a local stir!

At Waffle House we sorted the articles into the folders, talked and compared notes. When Tina arrived, we ate some dinner, changed into our nicer clothes in the restrooms, and headed a few blocks away to the meeting. After we took a seat and got a copy of the agenda, we noticed with some amusement that the name of our organization was incorrectly listed as "Parents and Teachers Against Fighting." [not "Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education" - PTAVE]

The business before our talk was interesting in the context of our particular topic. First, a few school kids talked to the Board about their experience in an exchange program they just got back from in Canada. They shared observations about the differences and similarities between their host school and their own. In retrospect, I wonder if the Canadian kids realized their guests came from schools where kids are [legally] beaten, unlike most of Canada. Most likely these NC youngsters got to witness firsthand a functional school that managed to do without paddling. I wish I had thought of pointing that out.

Next thing I recall was a power point presentation with video of various principals talking up goals of excellence in education--which Peggy would later dovetail with her appeals for adoption of statistically favorable discipline techniques.

Finally our turn came. Peggy went first, explaining what had brought us there and showing an enlarged photo of the bruises (many such photos of other victims appeared on the cover page of the folders she handed out as well) and announcing the petition. Her points included the aforementioned academic edge that non-paddling schools have on average; the slipshod regulation of the practice and absence of training teachers get ("Do these teachers know where the sciatic nerve is?" she asked); the fact that Robeson schools don't have a published list of paddling offenses as required by state law; the civil liability schools assume by doing this to kids; the regressiveness of paddling while most of the civilized world has moved away from it.

As she thanked the board for listening and announced she was turning the floor over to me, the chairman tried to cut things off there, saying she had pretty much used her time and they didn't need to hear any more. Peggy told them I'd driven all the way from Nashville. A gentleman in the audience at that point was heard to say "Let him speak"--for which I was certainly grateful.

So the chairman conceded me five minutes or so. I got up to the lectern, introduced my self, thanked the board for the chance to talk insofar as I was receiving "special dispensation," and went into my speech. It was mostly the same as the one I gave in Tennessee (, though I made a point of mentioning the infamous 1981 paddling in Dunn, NC--which happens to be just an hour's drive or so from Lumberton. I'm not the best public speaker to begin with, and a lingering cold made my delivery even weaker, but I feel like it was a well-constructed argument. I am definitely glad Peggy was there as co-speaker, as she had a less stiff and more engaging presence. Not to mention her credibility as a North Carolina registered nurse ...

After I finished, the board members had a chance for questions and comments. The first member to speak basically took exception to our stance and made the standard remark that he was corporally punished at home growing up and turned out well. Before I could respond, another member complained about the content of our presentation on the grounds that it was improperly scheduled as "Information" when it should have been relegated to the public comment time after regular business. The chairman added his doubts about the appropriateness of Peggy's folders and the pictures. I began by suggesting to the first guy that the reason he turned out so well (at which point he cautioned me to watch what I say) was not due to corporal punishment but rather his overall upbringing, and that many successful people grew up without it. When I started to invoke statistics, he said flatly that he didn't want to hear any statistics.

Thankfully, another member spoke up to say that despite misgivings about our presentation, the bruised photo reflected a real problem and that "we can't ignore this." Then another guy made some skeptical remark I don't really remember, though I do recall it was qualified by his disavowal of "excessive" corporal punishment. I countered that even if we accept the premise that we sometimes need to inflict pain on students, is this really the best method (holding up the paddle again)? To which his retort was, "Well, I'd say it's better than dunking them in the river." I quickly pressed for a serious answer, but a din of voices rose through the room. When it settled, yet another member said he served as a principal for 25 years and that the paddle I was displaying, he would never allow to be used at his school, that no child ever had the kind of bruises we were showcasing. I asked respectfully how he would know, since he presumably didn't see the after-effects. At this point Peggy spoke up to show the picture she had of the actual paddle that was used on Tina's son. It didn't really look much different than mine, maybe a little smaller.

Finally Tina spoke out, recounting the awful incident [her son's paddling] from her point of view and lamenting the unresponsiveness of the board. I think the drama kind of piqued with her testimony. After that things got quieter, and they moved on to other topics ...

After the meeting adjourned, Peggy got a few signatories on the spot for the petition. She and Tina talked to reporters and some sympathizers, a few of which promised to look into getting her some good legal help. Finally we all said goodnight, and I headed on back to Nashville feeling pretty good overall about how things went, though mindful of the uphill battles that remain there. - Tom

The Step Up Report - Month 46
October 1, 2005

Hatred begins within the family
and is shared in the neighborhood,
then justified in literature (or in virtual space)
and culture.

- Jerrold Atlas (Psychohistory)

Signing on in Warrington, United Kingdom

Dear Norm,

I would like you to add my name to the "Step Up To Stop [the] Hitting" resolution. I was regularly slapped, spanked and beaten by my parents during childhood. Contrary to the beliefs of the pro-spankers, such punishment did nothing to improve my behaviour. Eventually, my parents realised that I was getting too old to recieve this form of 'discipline', so they stopped using it. This led to me becoming a nasty, disrespectful piece of shit (sorry about the language, but I don't know how else to put it) with no concern for anybody but myself. By basic attitude was 'I am not going to get spanked any more, so why should I behave?'

The standard of my schoolwork plummeted, leading to me getting low grades in my GCSEs (the GCSE -General Certificate of Secondary Education - is the examination that British pupils take at the age of 16). Spanking also had the unfortunate consequence of leading to me developing appalling sexual problems, which I would rather not reveal to a complete stranger. In short, spanking did me no good whatsoever, and a great deal of harm.

I am now determined to play whatever limited part I can in wiping out what I see as no more than legalised violence against defenceless children. The violence that goes under the pleasant euphemism of 'spanking' (or 'smacking' as we prefer to call it in the UK) is totally unnecessary and does far more harm than good. I look forward to the day when those who hit children are treated with the same contempt as those who hit their wives (or their husbands).

Yours sincerely, Matthew McGee


Welcome, Matthew. You came to exactly the same decision I did after years of abuse: to dedicate myself to the elimination of corporal punishment of children. Knowing the terrible suffering that hitting, hair- and ear-pulling, and other abuse causes in the emotions of children, we find a life purpose in stopping it however we can. That is why I began the STEP UP List. I think it is remarkable when an adult with a childhood history of abuse decides to campaign against it. It is more often the case that the abused grow up to inflict the same punishment on others.

In my experience I could not have made the necessary personal/internal changes without psychiatric therapy, plus much self-help thru reading such as Alice Miller, Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause, and many others. I trust that you, too, have discovered and pursue this necessary internal work.

We talk much about bullies and bullying here, and you have the brains and compassion to have consciously decided to take the high road. You and those like you occupy a special place in my mental "Hall of Honors", because you strive to make this earth a place where a child does not have to live in virtual captivity, in fear of being assaulted or otherwise abused. Thank you so much for sharing, and, again, Welcome. - Norm

Step Up Month 45
September 1, 2005

We can't solve problems by
using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them.

- Albert Einstein

Two letters from From Kelly Crosthwaite-McMillan, Toronto, Ontario Canada
Who Stepped Up in England

Dear Norm,

While living in the northeast of England a man outside a pub had a toddler in a stroller which he was yelling at and shaking her stroller in a horribly beligerent way. Apparently she had been causing him trouble while in the pub. I was just walking by and intervened by saying hello to the man and then talking to the small child. The bully then started making excuses about his behavior and explaining how he wasn't able to eat his pub lunch because of his daughter's acting out. By this time the child had stopped crying, and I just said, "Oh everybody has bad days." Then I offered to sit with his child while he went in the pub. Of course he declined, but by this time he had got himself in check and was talking in a much more reasonable way. We chatted a bit and then I went on my way. Diffuse the situation by causing a distraction without accusing the aggressor in anyway.

Kelly Crosthwaite-McMillan

Hi Norm,

I just realized I signed [the Resolution (#136)] when I was living in San Diego. I told the pub story because it worked. I also had a bad experience in a small produce store (in England as well) where I just looked at a woman directly in the eye as she was roughly jerking her 5 year old daughter around. So, she turned around and started threatening me! I guess that worked too in a way, because at least she stopped molesting the little girl. It was quite a scene though, she was yelling out to the whole shop at me. She was a large woman and actually said she would hit me, which I thought might be just as well, as then she would be documented by the police. I let her vent and didn't say much of anything (you can't reason with unreasonable people) except quitely saying, "You shouldn't hit anyone, I hope you have a nice day."


Norm's reply

Hello Kelly,

Thank you for the anecdotes. It's so true that very often all that's needed is a distraction to get their minds off their grievance. Follow that with a friendly offer of help in a friendly tone, and 90% of the problems disappear. You illustrate that technique beautifully. As for the bully, you also did right. Because you didn't give her the fight she wanted, you didn't get hurt. And you won the day by stopping the child abuse.

The important thing is that, in both instances, the child was spared further harm - and felt a surge of selfworth long after.

- Norm

Step Up Month 44
August 5, 2005
The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved,
and rejection is the hell he fears ...
And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime
in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime, guilt -
and there is the story of mankind."

- John Steinbeck in "East of Eden"

From Leslie Downie, who is Stepping Up in Scotland:

Last week I was traveling from Scotland to Wales for a course on working with children and babies. Behind me in the railway carriage sat an old lady and her two grandchildren, a boy of about 12 and a little girl of 6 or 7. The grandmother was constantly snapping at and picking on the little girl, and giving preferential treatment, (food and kind words), to the boy. The little girl was not causing any disturbance on the train but the granny certainly was.

Hearing this torrent of verbal abuse, my insides were churning. I began to feel quite ill. I could not ignore such awful bullying. My own inner child was shaking with distress. I knew I had to do something. First I did some writing to get my feelings out on paper, and I kept turning round letting the granny know I was hearing her. I wrote about what was happening and what I might say to the granny and to the little girl. I kept thinking ... all children deserve kindness and love ... no child deserves abuse. The granny seemed so angry with no apparent cause. She grabbed the child by the wrist and said, "If there's a party, you are not going" Then suddenly I heard her say, "Why can't you behave, I am fed up with hearing your voice, I'll put you off the train."

I turned round and words came out of my mouth. I said to the granny, "And I am fed up with hearing YOUR voice. The little girl does not deserve such abuse." And I said to the child, "I think you are behaving very well on the train. I want you to hear that: I think you are behaving very well on the train."

The grandmother said nothing back. But after that she sounded gentler when she spoke to her granddaughter.

I took rescue remedy and did some more writing to calm my own inner child. And as I kept holding the thought - all children deserve kindness and love, I knew that when this granny was a little girl, that was not what she experienced. I could see she was passing on her own abuse. And I thought, "If I have another opportunity I will say to her, "All children deserve love and kindness. When you were a little girl, you deserved love and kindness too."

Perhaps having the thought was enough.

Later, I considered my own strong bodily reaction, and I realized this whole incident was touching a cellular memory in my body. A generational family pattern, particularly from my mother who, as a child, was rejected and emotionally abused by her father - because she was a girl.

- Leslie

Thank you for the poignant story, Leslie. I like your way of journal writing and note-taking, to aid in centering and self control, useful for the rest of us when there is such an opportunity.

- Norm

Step Up Month 43
July 1, 2005
The sense of paralysis proceeds
not so much out of the mammoth size of the problem
but out of the puniness of the purpose.

- Norman Cousins

Haah Noon in Arizona Valley

I learned my Family Values as a boy listening to the 15-minute radio serials during the Dirty Thirties. Afternoons after school there were exciting cliff-hanging episodes in the imaginary lives of my heroes; Gene Autry, Tom Mix, and the Lone Ranger much as you watched the TV shows of Hoss and Little Joe on Bonanza a generation later. They were courageous, honest to a fault, took prompt action to right an injustice, and above all, they were protective of those who could not protect themselves.

I liked most when my lone hero stepped up to defend a woman or a child. For a brief time I was that sheep-herding young boy who gratefully thanked the strong cowboy at show's end, for ending the bully's harassment and making life peaceful again. During my abusive childhood, it was the existence of cowboys in this world that gave me hope. They also gave me the Cowboy Code:

1. The Cowboy is scrupulously honest; his word is his bond. He speaks the truth regardless of consequences. He never betrays a friend or a confidence.

2. Never backs down in a fight; never strikes the first blow or fires the first shot. Fights only reluctantly, but when a fight is unavoidable, he makes sure he comes out on top. (Many of the law enforcement ethical traditions were inherited from the Cowboy Code.)

3. Always respects and defends the weak and defenseless, women, and the professionally peaceful teachers and preachers. Never fails to "step up" to reassure and protect youth and the little ones. He is the model of patience and self-discipline.

4. He is sensitive to the pains and suffering of animals, and contemptuous of those involved in cockfighting, dog fighting, and the animal cruelty so hideously common in rodeos, where animal abuse is institutionalized and celebrated. (Our President, as a boy, enjoyed putting firecrackers inside living frogs and tossing them into the air to enjoy the explosion.) The Cowboy Code requires treating animals with gentle discipline, and prompt intervention to stop an animal abuser. (Many's the cowboy who knocked down the cruel bully who beat his horse.)

Early in my boyhood the Cowboy Code became my own, as it was dramatized in radio shows (and later, movies,) by my hero, Gene Autry and soon adopted by Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and all the others. I was to learn later that it was nearly identical to the Code of the Medieval knight, as well as the Samurai warrior. In our culture of the West it first appeared in a 1902 novel by Owen Wister, "The Virginian". The Code still survives today as a living ethic in American culture, in both the East as well as the West.

I have met authentic, modern-day working cowboys astride their respective horses as they rode to my back yard gate to search out the stray steers that had broken thru my fence and torn up my garden. Decent folks they are, quietly friendly, respectful, and impeccably honest. I always feel good after their visits. Now in this corner of the Arizona desert there is also a breed of varmint that fancy themselves "cowboys" who seem never to have heard of the Code. They emanate the feeling that their manhood lies in their oversized six-guns, and no day is complete until they kill something. The ones I take issue with are those who brag about teaching their small son to swim by throwing him overboard and making him literally swim for his life. (Haw haw!) And they invariably take the "boy named Sue" approach to fatherhood, believing it is fit preparation for the rugged life ahead. To a man, they believe in "tough love", just as they believe in roughing up "their" women and smacking the kids around. They spank. They whip. They shake hard to snap their head around. They bully children and call it "discipline".

And such coarsening and cruelty takes the institutionalized form of inflicting pain and suffering as a sport. At our local rodeos, grim men leap from their horses onto the necks of a panicked, fleeing calves to wring their necks until their bodies flop to the dirt. Small children, decked out in big hats and chaps are given bucking-bull training by riding frightened sheep - while their parents cheer to see obliterated the child's natural sensitivity to animals' feelings. This is not at all the chivalric behavior of the medieval knight, nor of the disciplined, Zen-practicing samurai warrior. And it is not the way of the traditional American Cowboy, however much the pretext of "preserving traditional ways".

The fake wranglers I've seen come riding into town astride their oversize SUVs call their mobile homes "ranches" but have few cows. They sport $800 hats and $300 boots, but they're "all hat and no horse", or as Molly Ivins would say, "all buckle and no balls." They boast about the "woodshed discipline" they inflict on their children, denying that they are breaking the spirit of defenseless kids. When measured against the traditional American cowboy codes, these right wing child bashers, spankers and abusers come up short in the saddle. They seem unaware that bullies, by definition, are cowards. In calling themselves "cowboys" they insult our memories of the most ennobling legendary moral models of my boyhood. The faux buckaroos have squandered the moral high ground, and left serious gaps in their chaps. It's time to bring back the Code of the Cowboy and reestablish honor and integrity - something the kids can look up to.

- Norm

June 1, 2005
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that
something else is more important than fear.
-- Ambrose Redmoon

The Way Forward to Constructive Child Discipline

Edited by Stuart N. Hart; authored by Joan Durrant, Peter Newell, and F. Clark Power

Published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO Internet: )

A review by Norm Lee

Anyone who has read Lloyd deMause's several books on the history of child abuse (see knows of the ghastly treatment traditionally afforded the young. As recently as Roman times young boys were lent out to men friends for their sexual entertainment, and little girls, those who earlier escaped infanticide and survived routine beatings, were raped on stage to the hoots and guffaws of cheering audiences. In two millennia most humans have advanced a step or two in the treatment of children, but we all know parents who strike and shake their kids, and defend the violence as "discipline". To suggest the truth to the spankers and slappers - that their homes are the training ground for the crime and wars they claim to disparage - may well provoke biblical "justifications" and vitriolic defense.

Here now we have a book from UNESCO that explains the urgent necessity of abolishing completely the practice of hitting children, and reveals the evidence that corporal punishment results in seriously damaging consequences. Most importantly, it also points the way to replacing the pervasive violent treatment with humane and effective childrearing practices. This milestone book will be read worldwide, and is sure to have a positive impact on how children are viewed by parents and by legislative bodies. Its importance cannot be overstated.

That corporal punishment violates the rights of children is made emphatically clear. Working in the framework of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - specifically Article 19 - this book is the result of an extensive in-depth international study of corporal punishment practices; the findings are to be presented to the General Assembly. More than ten years ago the Committee on the Rights of the child stated that the provision, "all forms of corporal punishment of children, including within the family, are prohibited," has to be taken seriously by all member nations. Today, 192 nations have signed that U.N. Convention On the Rights of the Child. To our shame, the United States remains one of the two nations that have refused to ratify it. The other is Somalia.

The structure this book provides is simple: Each of the three main sections the book addresses as aspect of the physical punishment problem. The first section addresses the urgent importance and necessity of renouncing all aggression - physical and psychological - inflicted upon children. Reports from no less than 130 nations were considered in this section. The clear aim is to protect children from "all forms of physical or mental violence", including in the family, school, and care centers. Section Two lays out the facts on the prevalence of CP and its consequential impact on children and society. "CP is counterproductive, relatively ineffective, dangerous and harmful according to research findings." There have been found to be clear connections to poor mental health, aggression, anti-social behavior, and later domestic and criminal violence.

The Third Section provides insight and approaches for constructive child discipline. Emphasis here is the involvement of the children in family decisions that affect them. Suggested are family meetings, and the importance of adults modeling the behaviors and attitudes they wish to see in the children. The fundamental message is to have respect for the child's dignity as a valid and worthy human being. For those currently aware of the dangers of C P, the importance of this publication lies in its recommendations for non-violent, positive discipline.

This profoundly helpful book will, I believe, prove to be a landmark in the evolution of non-violent parenting. Moreover, it will be seen as a giant step in the advance toward world peace. It shows that violence is taught to children beginning in their cribs, and is in turn inflicted on the world by the victimized during their respective lifetimes. It may not be easy to accept that home and school are the training grounds for both crime and national aggression, but it must be said - altho this UNESCO book, probably wisely, stops short of stating its case in as blunt terms as I do here.

In the violence-ridden and deeply suffering world we are heir to, there is a desperate need to see the way out: that eliminating corporal punishment is the key to a better, happier world, and this first step deserves priority attention in every political and educational agenda on earth. Furthermore, it is an idea whose time has come. We are at a time when over 40 years of research has accumulated showing the tragic consequences of corporal punishment on many millions of children and on society in general. Its brutal practice fills our prisons, our mental health hospitals, our court systems, and our welfare rolls. Its annual cost to U.S. taxpayers alone is in the tens of billions of dollars annually.

This is an important book, a document that I expect will become a landmark in our decades-long struggle to ban the hitting of children worldwide. Published by UNESCO, it has worldwide distribution. Extensive and careful research supports every word and phrase. It will wake up those not yet understanding the profound impact CP has on a child. This compact and vital information shows just how to adopt non-violent, democratic and effective means of instilling self-discipline for the children for whom they are responsible. For the millions who are already awakened to the need for change in childrearing and seeking the latest and most authoritative guide to enlightened parental discipline, these pages are a pleasure and a thrill to read. - Norm Lee

THE STEP UP REPORT - Month 41, April 2005

For I would prefer to have these attacks and please you,
rather than displease you and not have them.

- Marcel Proust, in a letter to his mother

THE BODY NEVER LIES: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting

Norm's review of Alice Miller's forthcoming book

In his 1941 book "Generation of Vipers", Philip Wylie highlighted how slavishly this culture worships motherhood, scorned how soldiers spelled out "MOM" on parade grounds, and coined the term "momism". The book enraged many, but shook too few awake. Today, Alice Miller would show us, in detail, how those soldiers - and most of the rest of us - were, and are still craving the approval, affection and love denied us by our parents in our childhood. We are still caught in the illusion that we can somehow win and/or earn the love from the source that was so long withheld from us.

We have to break free of our (internalized) parents' grip on us, that of the biblical injunction, "Honor (obey, worship,) thy father and thy mother." Until then we, in a sense, feel and behave and think like the little children we once were; we cannot grow up. Worse, because as children we weren't accepted and loved for who we were, parents repeatedly punished us in attempts to force us into the imaginary mold they had prepared for us, i.e., what a child should be. Dr. Miller's message is that our bodies bear a detailed record of every childhood hurt and humiliation inflicted, every spank and slap, insult and indignity. And until or if those internal, psychic wounds remain unhealed, we can expect to continue to pay the terrible price in physical illnesses. Powerless to do otherwise, we suppressed our true and good authentic selves to win the love our emotional survival depended on.

Dr Miller writes with astonishing and penetrating truth about the connections between childhood suffering at the hands of parents, and the physical consequences of obedience to the Fourth Commandment. The Biblical law, "Honor thy father and thy mother" is here challenged as the source of widespread - even universal - life-long suffering. As children we attempted to free ourselves from our feelings of fear, insecurity and confusion thru repression and dissociation/self-alienation. Whatever the cost (abandonment of our true selves), we persisted in loving and trusting our parents (we hardly had a choice) and strived to earn their approval, (and (thus) to please the Greater Parent in the Sky.)

Today, what stands between our bodies and the healing of those injuries is the hold the Fourth Commandment has on our minds. As we lie and breathe, the fear of parental rejection/punishment lurks within that fear. It has to be brought to consciousness and examined before healing can take place. We walk carrying a sack full of personal history, the burden of wounds inflicted by all the punishment and indignities that have ever happened to us. Until we heal those internal wounds, we daily pay a terrible price in suffering, much of it physical illness, and make others pay as well. Those others are most often our own children. The claim so often heard, "I got spanked and I turned out OK," cannot be upheld when it is understood how the denial of physical and emotional injuries are connected to present illnesses.

There are three sections to this book: first: illustrations from the lives of famous literary people; second, efforts made at overcoming traditional morality, i.e., effects of 4th Commandment; and third, an in-depth case study of truth suppression as manifested in anorexia. Alice Miller has expounded at length in earlier books about dictatorial megalomaniacs like Hitler and Stalin who directed their hate and violence toward others. In this book she shows how we direct ours toward ourselves. Examples are taken from the biographies of well-known people: Franz Kafka, Dostoevsky, Checkhov, Schiller, Rimbaud, Proust, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce, et. al. Shown are the efforts of their respective parents to make them over into the child they wanted, and the consequences in the victims' lifelong illnesses and early deaths.

Dr. Miller repeatedly emphasizes the tragic effects, in the form of physical ailments, of the body's life-long yearning for parental love and affection. She touches on the way this suppression is expressed in religion: the command to love God, on pain of punishment when we fail to do so; the absurdity of inventing a parent-like creator, perfect and omnipotent, who craves our love. It is an odd god, an immensely dependent god, a Big Daddy who, if given the love demanded, will reward with an eternity in blissful heaven. (And the teenage suicide bombers of the Middle East are promised the bonus of 72 virgins to sweeten the deal.) Inasmuch as the Great Father is not loved, even worshipped, the alternative is agonizing punishment from now to the "end" of eternity.

We have to liberate ourselves from the propaganda imposed on us - and enforced on us on pain of punishment - by conventional morality. This book calls for a higher morality, as it applies to parenthood. We cannot truly love our parents, she asserts, until we are liberated from the infantile attachment, the idolatry, that trapped us in childhood.

Dr Miller wants the reader to understand and accept that parents who abused us do not deserve our love and honor, regardless of a Moses-imposed commandment to do so. As we all must know, love is one thing that cannot be enforced. Like Sgt. Joe Friday, the body, in its wisdom, rejects illusions. It accepts only the facts, as higher morality is inherent not in the mind, but in our bodies. She takes to task all those friends and relatives and preachers and therapists who say, "Forgive your mother, forgive your father; they did the best they knew how. She changed your diapers, he sacrificed for you, and above all they loved you." Miller will not hear it: forgiveness is a crock and a trap, laid to continue the dependency, and preserve the hope, that somehow, sometime, we will finally bask in the love that was so long ago denied us. Reading Alice is like hearing someone whisper, "I know the secret you are hiding in your past, the feelings of hurt and fright and shame and humiliation at the abusive treatment you suffered at the hands of your parents. And I'm asking you - urging you, challenging you - to come out of that dark closet and face up to it."

In the valley where I live, the #1 fear at whatever age is parental punishment. And among adults, it's primary defense is Denial. Behind the denial of childhood mistreatment lies the fear of punishment, therefore acknowledgement or recognition of it in adulthood can approach terror. But the price for denial is paid in physical as well as mental illness. When aware of it we see it everywhere: the suffering in the bodies and minds of strangers and of those dear to us. But we must begin with ourselves, confronting the punishing parent within.

Norm Lee


NEW ADDRESS: [also address is still valid]

Visit Norm Lee's website:

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"Discipline must come through liberty...
We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic...
He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined."

- Maria Montessori


The Movement Continues to Grow

"JOIN us in raising our voices on behalf of non-violence against children!" challenges Nadine Block, Co-chair of EPOCH-USA and SpankOut Day USA chairperson [] "Children, like the rest of us, have a right not to be hit or humiliated!" She and fellow EPOCH-USA co-chair Dr. Robert Fathman began the annual SpankOut Day years ago, and it has now grow to be an international event on April 30th every year. Now it is endorsed by such luminaries as Dr. Murray Straus, Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, Dr. Alvin Pouissant, Dr. Philip Greven, Dr. Madeleine Gomez, and Rev. Dr. Thomas Sagendorf.

Physical punishment puts children at risk for physical and psychological harm, tolerance of violence, anti-social behavior, and poorer adjustment in adulthood. Non-violent discipline helps children become caring, responsible, and self-disciplined adults. Through educational events and campaigns, newsletters, and discussions on April 30th of each year, parents and caregivers will learn about the effects of corporal punishment and non-violent alternatives so they will see that children can be raised successfully without physical punishment.

The purpose of this annual observance is to bring attention to the need to end physical punishment of children and to promote non-violent discipline. Last year, organizations in nine nations participated in this observance through articles in newsletters and on websites, through media releases and through educational events.

Here it has been called SpankOut Day in other countries it may be called No hitting Day, or No Smacking Day in U.K. While calling attention to the need to end physical punishment of children, many organizations use the observance to promote their educational programs for parents and other caregivers. This is the day to thank parents who raise children without violence, and to ask parents and caretakers who spank to refrain from doing so for this day. We encourage them to seek information about positive discipline from community agencies, and through reading and discussion. More and more organizations sponsor local informational events on non-violent discipline.

If you plan to participate in this observance, please e-mail Nadine Block: so your event can be listed along with more than 50 others already preparing for this annual effort to raise awareness about corporal punishment.

You can find the SpankOut Day toolkit at together with sample news releases and other helpful information. - Norm Lee


March 1, 2005

NOTE: Demands of writing regular newspaper columns requires that I combine the STEP UP and The Norm Report e-letters into a once-a-month "The Step Up Report". Please continue e-mailing me your adventures in parenting and intervening. - Norm

Visit Norm Lee's website:

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See complete list of those vowing to Step Up. "Step Up to Prevent Hitting" is linked below.

It's a sad and stupid thing
to have to proclaim yourself a
just to be a decent man.

                        David Harris

But what choice is there?

I see myself in the eyes of children, deeply hurt having been betrayed by their parents, their relatives, their community, their school, their church. What I see is terror at being abandoned and alone in this huge and dangerous world.

When I see a spanker assaulting a child I see a crazed terrorist victimizing a defenseless child. What else is there to do but Step Up and stop it? The measure of a man or a woman's character is what makes them angry enuf to take action. And I intend to stop every terrorist action against children I can, as long as I have the strength to do it.

I see children as captives, subject to abuse and indignities behind those closed doors, and too frightened to speak about it. Only a tiny percentage of it reaches print in the papers. I watch the faces and body language of children in public and can tell which of the adults with them is a closet spanker. I'm wishing they will be outed, so the problem can be openly discussed. So I can say, "Spanking terrorizes kids! It's a terrorist act!" Where is the homeland security preventing that? We're a nation suffering from violence at every level, precisely because it places its collective trust in the power of violence. And we are searched at airports to prevent our carrying on board a pair of tweezers. (Pluck the eyebrows of the pilot, maybe?)

To be a child means there is no level playing field. The game is fixed, size and power is all. We are warring against misery and terror, which is what little children feel when threatened and hurt by the giants they love and on whom their lives depend.

We can't merely talk the talk; periodically listen to feel-good sermons and go home feeling virtuous. In the many years since the settling of my valley, there hasn't been a single sermon delivered about the violence inflicted on children. Nor have I heard of any other in the two dozen or so countries that read this e-letter. That is why some 240 of us have vowed to STEP UP when we see it. And believe me, it is making a difference. The Behaviorists will talk carrot-and-stick "solutions", the school people will assign a menu of punishments, the church will label kids "full of the Devil" and "born in sin" and such ancient tribal fantasies. The schools and "mental health" types team up in viewing kids as basic putty to be shaped and formed to fit society, like the mythological Procrustes, as if this disintegrating dysfunctional society is an ideal to admire and aspire to.

Any 15 year-old "behavior problem" will describe the reality accurately with two words: "It sucks." Which gets him labeled as "ADHD" and prescription of Ritalin to get him into this drug culture, and therefore, "normal". When what is needed is more abnormal kids protesting the insanity.

There are three books I read long ago that gave me a view of the real world and are needed now more than ever: Snell & Gail Putney's "The Adjusted American" and Erich Fromm's "The Sane Society", show how entire societies get mentally ill, and ours has, in fact. There are pervasive "normal neuroses" in the more "advanced" world, and brilliant people like Lloyd deMause in "Psychohistory" (search it) offer answers on what to do about it. The third book is Thomas Szasz's "The Myth of Mental Illness", which argues against shrinks, "mental health" types and school people sticking labels on people they can neither help nor treat because they simply don't know how to do their jobs. So they cubbyhole and send such individuals out of the building where they won't be their "problem". Those books I would suggest as the reading to begin with when lamenting that the world has gone nuts. Of course it has. Any 8-year-old girl can see it.

Isn't it time we changed that world for the 8-year-olds with the terror in their eyes? I want them to have a chance at sanity, at wholeness, at happiness. - Norm Lee

February 1, 2005

NOTE: Demands of writing regular newspaper columns requires that I combine the STEP UP and The Norm Report e-letters into a once-a-month "The Step Up Report". Please continue e-mailing me your adventures in parenting and intervening. - Norm

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams."
Kahlil Gibran

From Derek: (works in kids' program)

Hello Norm. i was reading your thoughts about children i think this is the way god intended this world to be . to trust children but in this depraved society not to many people give this second notice. i help out at a kids program and the kids are treated like they do not have a brain in their heads i believe god gave everyone a brain and i find it frustrating to watch adults control children.

What can i do can you reply with a comment i want to show these other people at the kids program that children have inner discipline and they need to decide what they need from the program not what the adult thinks he needs. god bless you. Sincerely, Derek

Hi Derek -
Thanks for the kind words about my work.

The purpose of programs designed by adults to inflict on children is to program the children. That basic fact will be endlessly denied by the programmers. So will the fact that it does endless harm to children.

Too often those who have chosen a career in controlling children have done so because they lack the courage and wisdom to control their own lives. It takes maturity and insight to control our urge to "mold" and "shape" children in ways we think are best, and instead to TRUST the child's own inherent wisdom to seek out and learn what he/she needs to know.

Children are born with a need to learn about the world, a drive as strong as the need for food. They naturally employ scientific methods, a discipline if there ever was one, to learn on their own. Learning stops only when adults interfere and tell them

what to do, what to learn, what to think, and what to feel. The children therefore learn to distrust themselves - and put their trust in Big Brother, in authorities, whether from school, corporations, media, and/or church.

That is why most people never grow up, remaining dependent all their lives, and go thru life in a creepy crawly way full of fear of making a mistake. It takes years to take charge of one's own life and assume responsibility for it. I think the problem lies in not respecting the wisdom in children. In my book, "Parenting Without Punishing" [complete and free on my website: ] I tell how I learned to shut up and opened my eyes to the teachings they were offering me. With change of view - seeing my little boys as my teachers - my education about children began. I saw that they developed their natural-born discipline, partly because their parents trusted them enuf to learn without "lessons", not boss them around. Our job was then to simply (1) provide a safe environment for them to explore; and (2) work on ourselves in modeling the understanding and disciplined examples for them to emulate.

The first five chapters of PWP are essential. We have to stop DOING and start BEING. - Norm Lee

TO ADD YOUR SIGNATURE to the STEP UP RESOLUTION, send your name and general location to



NOTE: You are also invited to send us a brief anecdote describing a time you intervened on behalf of a child, and what you found was effective - or not. - Norm Lee --------------

January 1, 2005

"Your work is to discover your work,
and then with all your heart to give yourself to it."

Buddha 568-488 BC

A Backward Glance, and Good News Ahead

Reviews of where we've been help keep us on the path to where we're going. The rollover to a new year seem to herald signal events in my personal life, the latest being my appointment as a newspaper columnist in this valley. (See below.)

Just eight years ago this week (Dec 1996) I came to this corner of the Arizona desert, bought a small home from which I could view Mt. Graham, and pondered what best thing I could contribute to my adopted community. The most valuable and helpful, I concluded, was to show parents how they can live happier lives by treating their children decently. This was to be my mission in my retirement; the chosen "endgame" to my life.

Dec '98: In two years, having begun with letters to the editor of the only local paper, a weekly, I was standing alone against repeated attacks from religious right-wing zealots and assorted rednecks "normal" and disturbed. (There has yet to be even one letter printed in support of my efforts.)

Dec. '99: So I began writing and distributing a free newsletter, "Parenting Without Punishing", in an attempt to persuade local child care and psych professionals to advise their clients of the harm done by corporal punishment. To my astonishment and dismay, I discovered that the local social workers, mental health types and family experts were not interested in non-violent parenting. Worse, they were themselves in deep denial that smacking kids around did any harm, insisting it was indeed necessary "for their own good." I was talking to a wall. Yet I persisted, and was called a fool for doing so.

Dec '99: Since there was no support here, my thinking was to reach for a wider, more receptive readership beyond this narrow valley. I had been using a Macintosh to write my newsletters, then foto-copied, printed, stapled and stamped them at my own budget-busting expense. It was called "Parenting Without Punishing": 100 copies, mailed out 50, handed out 50. These later morphed into chapters of the book of the same title, to be found on my website:

Dec '99: My letters to the editor were challenged by a right wing principal of a "Christian" school, and by year's end the public debate waxed fast and furious. His chief selling point for the school was his Bible-authorized infliction of corporal punishment, paddle-beating small children in the name of Jesus. This lengthy debate ended abruptly when his 3-yr-old son, left neglected in their back yard, wandered barefoot in the cold desert all night clad only in diapers. The massive all-night search by several sheriff's rescue crews and statewide TV helicopters made national news. The parents declared his survival a "miracle", a gift from God, and promptly resumed their paddle beatings in home and school with vigor and self-righteousness.

Dec '99: Hundreds of miles away, my son Russell exclaimed, "Dad, that newsletter needs to be on the Internet!" On a Xmas visit he took me by the arm, marched me to a computer store, and bought his dad a first class computer rig that was even better than his own. The PWP newsletter was on the air, and readership quickly increased exponentially. I quickly found support - and a host of much-needed friends - nationally.

Dec 2000: Correspondence and friendship with Alice Miller began, and we were soon working together on shared goals.

Dec '01: Writing of the newsletter was interrupted with my launching The Norm Report to help in counseling children traumatized by the 9/11 attacks. When the local paper invited readers to send in their New Year resolutions for printing in a special feature, mine was to intervene in assaults on children (see Step Up Resolution below). The furious editor/publisher refused to print it, and, evidently on advice of counsel, printed their resolution "feature" without ANY resolutions. Tho they are still fuming about the "outrage" of interfering with the beating of children, hostilities had reached a peak in giving editorial space to the defense of "parents' right" to spank and to printing personal attacks without allowing me space to respond. Among the degreed, on two occasions my deafness was ridiculed before a cackling audience, once by the social workers, and once by mental health personnel. Elder abuse plain and simple, and cruel treatment in that my deafness is caused by beatings during childhood.

Dec '02: To his surprise many wonderful letters of support from Step Up readers went zinging in to the weekly Courier's editor. (This may have set a style for the movement. since then, dozens of editors and school boards have felt the sting of the Anti-spank Movement's Usual Suspects.) In Spring '03 the editor departed to a Texas weekly; to be replaced by a spankin' new editor who is even more close-minded.)

Dec '02: At nearly 74 years I finally followed my father and uncle with angina, a serious heart disease. Imagine my appreciation on receiving dozens of caring and supporting messages from friends far and near. Would that there was enuf space here to name you all. You know who you are, and I am thanking you still.

Dec '02: Friend and colleague Jordan Riak built a web site for me, and goes "on the air", making available PWP - the book, and both newsletters monthly.

Dec '02: Invited to aTLC Summit Conference in Santa Barbara, at which I briefly spoke.

Dec '03: Invited to speak in Chicago at Dr. M. Gomez's Summit "National Leaders in Non-Violence and the Child".

Dec '04: STEP UP surpasses 240 signatures, hits on website reach 6,212.

THE GOOD NEWS: Unexpected good happens when one persists in work worth doing: I am engaged by a new newspaper in this valley, " The Arizonian," as writer of a regular column, "Parenting Today". It is indeed a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

- Norm

December 15, 2004

A child may lie in imitation of parental falsehood....
The wretched pretense that [parents] have to keep up cannot deceive the child.
[Yet] he is ... driven into an unreal fantasy world of make-believe.


Faking Joy [12/25/01]

Three years ago at this time my friend Bob Scharf sent a holiday message to everyone on Alice Miller's discussion list. The previous January Alice had asked Bob and I to help her get started on the list she wanted to launch, and Bob has been moderating it for her ever since. Recently he forwarded to me a long-forgotten post I had sent in response to his "seasonal greetings". Here it is, slightly updated:

December 25, 2001 Thanks to your seasonal message, Bob, we have at last a holiday card that is not fraught with pretend cheerfulness. (Isn't that why rum eggnog and "parson's punch" is necessary - to suppress the agonizing truth?) As a sad-faced boy undergoing frequent beatings and constant humiliation, I was severely admonished for my lapses in faking happiness, especially on Xmas day. I was accused of ingratitude and deserving of punishment, when, in fact, I was unable to contain my heartbreak as I struggled to hold back the tears. Thus I learned the Rule: Keep your suffering a secret; do not let the grownups know the truth, do not dispel their fantasy. To do so makes them treat me worse.

I know there are millions of children this Xmas morning who are experiencing the same agony, the deep grief that mere gifts cannot assuage. On live TV Katie Couric reads a story to a group of small children, some attentive, some not. She then asks if they liked it. All, already wise to the ways of adults, said Yes. (Our job is to make the grownup happy.) Except for one child, who said No. Katie instantly turned to (on) him: Why didn't he like it? Didn't everyone else like it? Why did you not? It was clearly a demand, to deliver satisfaction to the adult. (This child is defective!) The child quickly reversed his position, and the program proceeded with the fakery. Political correctness at age 5.

There followed more dream world with the phantasmagoric Disney World parade. But the Tooth Fairy does not happiness make. What is needed is more Reality, less Barbie and Tinkerbelle. Then, I think, the holiday season will cease to be a peak season for children's suicides. We must insist on reality in our lives, whether or not it is pleasing, or politically correct, or offensive to the pious, the sanctimonious - and avaricious. Shakespeare got it right (as usual): "To thine own self be true."

When my sons were small we dealt head-on with this problem of the whole culture annually going Spend-and-Get crazy. ("Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,/Little we see in nature that is ours." wrote the poet.) In place of the annual madness we together decided to celebrate the changing of seasons; we gave each other small gifts at each season: Wintermas, Springmas, Summermas, Fallmas. Together we created a colorful new calendar based on the solstices and equinoxes, with 91 days a season. (Some of that wonderful crayon artwork is still stored somewhere, I believe.)

We found that playing down the Festival of Greed did not prevent any of us from enjoying a reading of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas In Wales", or the Dickens story. As the boys were spared the intense materialistic frenzy, we felt we were far wealthier than those who salivated "happiness" at the ringing of the bells. And Henry and Russell grew up knowing that fake joy is an oxymoron.

I don't wish to sound lugubrious. I look with much optimism to the progress - now becoming a movement - toward authentic living. Bob and the remarkable people of this list - and in the now burgeoning movement to ban corporal punishment - are the strongest evidence for that. With continued work, we and others will have a happy new year. Thank you, Bob.

- Norm Lee

December 1, 2004


Eleven states recently rushed legislation into law banning same-sex marriage. They felt that gay couples threatened the institution of family as we know it. Yet, altho family violence breaks up many families every day, getting legislation passed prohibiting spanking and other violence against children is like pulling teeth. Legislators demand bloodshed and broken bones for that. And even that fails to morally awaken them, despite that corporal punishment delivers trauma that keeps on disturbing for life. Meantime, 28 states have prohibited CP in public schools, and a dozen European countries have banned it altogether: homes and schools. That USA remains the most violent of nations gives reason for pause. Can it be that when violence is done to kids, that they grow up to be violent?

With ethically comatose legislators at State, and serial spankers in county and city governments, what is one to do to stop the abuse? (All corporal punishment is child abuse, by definition.) In my narrow valley here in Arizona, the supervisor of the school district, instead of forbidding violence against children in his charge, defends the use of CP and comes armed with his oak paddle and his PhD from BYU. Thus he legitimizes child battering in our community. Red faced that I should mention his paddle in a board meeting, he sprang from his chair, screaming at me. At the county health office, my suggestion that it be a zone "where children are safe from spanking" was as if I had announced the apocalypse. The idea so disturbed them that I was all but ejected from the office. The local "behavioral health" people are equally hostile, as they counsel carrot-and-stick "behavioral modification". Only the CPS is still speaking, having presented me with a Certificate of Appreciation some time ago.

Here, I have found, is what works for me: This valley hosts three supermarkets: IGA, Basha's, and Safeway; there's also WalMart's and Walgreen's. My friend Jordan Riak sends me a roll of stickers whenever I ask. Attractively printed, they read, "KIDS' SAFE ZONE" and a small "spanking" with a red circle/slash. With a score or two of these stickers, I approach a parent asking permission to give their kids a sticker. Out of hundreds, only one parent has refused. All kids love stickers. The parents are glad the kids get a break from the market boredom, and many tears I have stopped with, "Oh, he needs a sticker!". All thank me.

This is more effective than my earlier method of seeking out complaining kids and impatient parents. And much better than when I began, which was to simply wait until the yelling, spanking and screaming started. Here I make friends by the dozens among parents, children, and market employees. At Basha's I'm welcome with a smile, and for three years have kept posted on their two bulletin boards copies of Riak's "Plain Talk About Spanking". At IGA the employees nearly unanimously support spanking, yet all remain cheerful acquaintances. Walgreen's, recently opened here, has not objected to the stickers.

Alas, the giant Safeway (a misnomer not of my making,) is the exception. A deeply disturbed young woman at the customer service desk spotted two kids wearing the stickers, and called for the ass't manager. He opened with a series of accusations: I was "leafletting", "distributing political propaganda," "soliciting", and "disturbing customers". I always ask the parent's permission, I said. Only you and the desk "mom" are upset. "But some customer MIGHT disagree with the message!" The odd thing is that he never asked me to stop handing out stickers, to which I'd have complied. Instead he tried to kick me out. Failing that, the martinet called the cops. Talk about "disturbed"!

Yet, in this religious-right, edge-of-panic valley, there are bright and encouraging signs of change. In WalMart's I regularly supply one of the greeters with stickers, my having deputized him a "children's advocate". A young woman at the post office also hands out "Kids' Safe Zone" stickers, and they are even handed out at the county sheriff's office. I tell them they can order more free stickers from me, or from friend Jordan Riak:

In the past months I let my white beard grow. Now topped with a Santa's red hat I infiltrate the madding crowds as they grapple for the illusive gratification promised by material Xmas stuff, handing out "Kids Safe Zone" stickers to smiling kids. "Ho-ho-ho" If only Safeway management could be as cheerful as I. "Ho-ho-ho."

- Norm

November 15, 2004

A Glimpse of Parenting In Italy

Because I am particularly attuned to how parents treat their children, I had much to see during my recent visit to Italy. While resting outside the towering walls of the Colosseum I talked with a young Japanese couple visiting from Honshu with their two small children. We talked about childrearing as we watched the kids joyfully feeding the busy pigeons. No, they had never spanked their little girls, and wondered at my asking. Had they seen any Italians slapping or spanking children? Certainly not, and would call the police if they did. People simply didn't treat children that way. That confirmed what I had observed during my two years in Japan 50 years ago.

Later, as I jotted notes in my journal at Rome's giant mall near Piazza Navona, I sat watching young parents with their youngsters. The affection shown their children, and the remarkable happiness and good behavior of the youngsters, I at first found hard to believe. Incredible not because the kids were happy but because I had never witnessed this parent-child relationship large-scale in the U.S. For two hours I lingered to confirm my observation. This was not only genuine care, it was an absorbing interest in the child, an authentic and lasting enjoyment of the tiny individual as his or her interests unfolded before them.

This was not fake, as it often is in America, mere indulgence to meet the emotional needs of the parents, but quiet and steady love from the heart. Absent were the constant issuing of commands with enforcement follow-up, gone were the endless lessons taught. The children could be who they were: happy, natural kids. During my two weeks in Italy I saw no sign of the parent-child adversary relationship so common in the U.S.A.

It took me some time to grasp just what accounted for that cultural difference. The Italian lifestyle is centered in the family in a way different from American. And this feeling of family affection embraces relatives, and by extension, apparently, all other Italians. In my personal experience, it included even me, a foreigner. The warmth was unmistakable. It was obvious that the children felt it and thrived on it as they do on their mother's milk.

In Florence, later, I watched a young mother mimic her little boy taking giant steps along the sidewalk, giggling as they tried to out-reach each other. At St Croce Piazza I watched for a long time a young mother and her little boy. He had just learned to walk, and in trying out his new powers he delighted in approaching pigeons until they took flight. His face showed ecstasy on discovering that he could actually cause things to happen. His mother remained quiet, never letting her attention wander from the boy; I thought of the many mothers who would have found it boring. But patience was not a factor here.

The little adventurer found a stone, squatted to pick it up, then threw it down. He did it again. Then picked it up, looked around, spotted a drain grate and headed toward it. Squatting, he tried to get the too-large rock thru the grate openings. Mama did not help or correct. In fact, she did not say a word to him in all the time I watched. But there was much smiling. He was to do what he was to do, unhindered. Later she picked up smaller stones and offered them, open-handed. The boy tried one in the grate, and it worked. Then he took one of them and brought it to me, put it in my open hand, then snatched it away, smiling and watching me. He did it again, and walked away a few steps, turned, and came back to retrieve his stone. He looked up and gave me a devastating beautiful smile. Mama said nothing. I said nothing. What's to say? Communication was complete.

Near Ponte Vecchio a young father stood proudly by his 2-year-old daughter in a stroller. We talked about her devastating beauty, and about Italian childrearing practices. He wouldn't dream of punishing her for anything, he said, and didn't know anyone who punished punitively. "She's only a child," he emphasized. To him, that explained all.

While awaiting departure time for the flight back to US, I watched an Italian couple's interaction with their 5 yr-old daughter. The little girl wanted to watch the huge airplane loading below the window. For more than an hour a contest waged between mother and daughter, the former yelling orders and threats, the little girl periodically repeated the disallowed behavior. There was no danger there, the window only a few feet away, but that was not the problem. The issue was that of Obedience.

Damn, I thought. There goes my idealistic view of Italian childrearing. I brought out my "KIDS' SAFE ZONE" stickers, which I'd carried for two weeks without handing out a single one. Turned out it was an Italian American family from Jersey, here visiting relatives.

- Norm

November 1, 2004

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.
It is easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community,
not my world, not my problem.’
Then there are those who see the need and respond.
I consider those people my heroes.

– Fred Rogers

       [Thx to Sue & Steve Lawrence]


My daughter and I were at a Six Flags amusement park, waiting in line to go on the "Sky Ride." It was a hot sunny day, the last week in August. I heard a child crying, and looking around I saw a 2 year old girl in a stroller, looking hot and tired. There was a stout woman next to her, wiping the tray in front of the stroller, and she was gripping the girl's arm very tightly, with the girl's flesh popping out on either side. The little girl was trying to push the woman's hands away, and then the woman hit her on the back.

I took my daughter's hand and went right up to the woman and said "People are not for hitting, and children are people too." She looked up at me and smiled. It was very noisy with crowds of people; perhaps she hadn't heard me? I backed off a bit and watched. The woman started roughing up the little girl again. Again I went over and said, loudly, "People are not for hitting, and children are people too!" She stood up and came within 2 inches of me, staring me in the face. I backed off a few inches. She came right up to me again and told me to mind my own dxxx business. I said children were everyone's business. She told me her daughter had hit her. I looked at the tiny girl, and said "you're about 20 times her size!"

She claimed she didn't hit her. I said "I saw you hit her." She could raise her child however she wanted, she said, and I could raise my daughter however I wanted. I reminded her that her daughter wasn't her slave; she said to get out of her face. I told her again not to hit her child. She said, incredibly, that it was illegal for someone to tell a parent how to treat their child. I said it was most certainly not illegal!

The woman eventually backed off, and my daughter and I returned to the waiting line for "Sky Ride." But I kept an eye on this woman and her little girl, who was no longer crying. I saw no more hitting or arm-squeezing. The woman wouldn't make eye contact with me. Nearby a boy around 10 years old appeared to be the woman's son. He was watching me intently. Likely he had suffered the same kind of treatment from this woman, I thought, and nobody had ever said anything to stop it. Although the scene had gotten quite nasty, I think it was positive. I'm glad I stopped the rough treatment of the tiny girl.
Doubtless the little girl is glad, too. And the boy. And so am I. Few interventions are easy. We're dealing, for the most part, with disturbed people who are bullies and are indifferent to children's needs and rights. These bullies have a lot of anger in them and are hard to manage; they use their bullying tactics not only on children, but on adults as well. Especially when they feel challenged as they tend to when someone "steps up". They don't want to deal with any guilt, and are quick to turn on others in anger. I think, too, that this incident pointed up a very prevalent idea in our society - that children are a parent's property, to do with as they please. It's an old, old notion that dies hard. I think it's well to remember that the bullies are that way because they were once bully victims themselves. And they feel that now it's their turn, not realizing that to be top dog is still to be a dog.

- Norm

October 15, 2004
Peace in society depends upon peace in the family.

- St. Augustine


In a class of teacher candidates we were discussing the harmful implications of using corporal punishment when Linda, an apparently gentle young lady from Long Island, blurted out, "But sometimes they just need a good slap!"

Silence in the room. "'Good' slap?" I asked softly. "Does than mean a 'gratifying' slap? To whom? Certainly not to the child, who is traumatized by the violent assault from a trusted adult. And you say a child 'needs' a good slap. Since no one 'needs' to be attacked, are you not saying that at some unconscious level it meets your own needs?

"Suppose I, a teacher, am displeased with you, Linda, and I suddenly slap your face. Not a wimpish slap, but a 'good' slap. Let's examine that hypothetical eventuality. Will everyone please close your eyes and center on how you feel right now, at this very moment. Breathe in and fully experience the feelings. At the unlikely prospect that as authority figure I slap the face of a student in your class, exactly what feelings arise inside your guts? If your teacher is capable of committing violence against Linda, does that not make you also vulnerable to physical attack? What effect does that thought have on your feelings of security? To what extent does that fear not only control you physically, but seriously limit your intellectual capacity to learn anything? Is it at all possible, when threatened by physical blows, to center your attention on anything but the threat? How can the feeling of possible violence meet your needs? Can you tell us, Linda, what that prospect does to your feelings about authority, and about a teacher's role and relationship with children?

"What does 'a good slap' say to a child about his or her rights and worth? Now let's open our eyes and see that a slap or a spank to a child is not only alien but destructive to the protective, caring, role of a teacher or parent. It is not professional, and is definitely not effective teaching. Indeed, the moment the slap is delivered, learning stops abruptly. Because fear PREVENTS learning. All the children can think about is how to avoid being hit, just as we would. They are cowed - as we once were - by the prospect of being hurt and humiliated by 'a good slap'.

"Because it is likely that every one of us, at one time or another during childhood, were victimized by the hurt and humiliation of 'a good slap'. If we indeed wish to 'make a difference' in the world as we claim, we can do so by renouncing 'a good slap' and refusing to pass on that 'good slap' to the next generation. We can refuse to be a part of the punitive system that terrorizes children."

October 1, 2004

"Childhood is not a disease to be cured,
or a crime to be punished."

                              -John Holt

From Yvonne Gaston, (responding to the July 1 STEP UP from the PA student who felt he was cowardly):

[Yours] is a wonderful answer to the young person’s dilemma and something that needed to be said. I agree. The first time is the hardest, and I don’t know if I would have been strong enough as a young person, not having the greatest self-esteem from which to challenge other people, myself. But now, I am always looking for the opportunity. I buy small toys at the baby resale store and give them out (with permission,) when I see a distressed child. I engage parents in conversation. I play with their child while they complete what they are doing. I occasionally suggest a different way of handling the behavior and model it. Most of these parents are young enough to be my children themselves. I want to tell you that I also see a ton of gentle, appropriate parenting going on, now that I am watching what is happening. When I can, I tell the parent how good it makes me feel to see how loving and skillful they are as a parent in difficult circumstances. I feel like the grandmother to the world and want every child to have the same loving acceptance that my own adorable grandbaby has. She is seventeen months old and my love for her makes me feel such tender feelings for all little children

For the next aTLC Conference, I wonder if someone might want to make a bunch of child advocate buttons to sell. Or it could just say, “I do TLC.” There are lots of creative people in the organization. Somebody could figure out a pleasing design. Warmest good wishes to you, Norm. I only wish you could know what a difference you are making in this world.

Yvonne Gaston
ACT for Wisdom

N: Yes, Yvonne, you bring to our attention our developing acute awareness of how people are treating their children, something that previously we may not have paid much attention to. We've often been condition in the mindset that how others treat their children is their business, but now we know that it is OUR BUSINESS.

- N

September 15, 2004

"If to be free is the most important goal of all,
then to help someone to be or become free
must be the most sublime and rewarding of human endeavors."
- Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate


Thoughts on the massacre of school children in Beslan, Chechnya.

The deliberate targeting of small children makes it different. The Beslan massacre of small kids was no "collateral damage".

Our shock turned to grief; our tears changed to rage, and I made the disturbing discovery that, despite a half century of pacifist activism I was longing to strangle the bastard killers myself.

It was the final betrayal of the innocence of children. In the idealism of my boyhood I had seen that men liked to fight, but surely they were honor bound to not involve women and children in their blood sport. What else defines a man? What happens next door to every broken child in Chechnya matters here in Nashville, in Omaha, in Oakland, and in my Arizona valley. Their suffering is our suffering.

A line must be drawn: No cause - political, religious, domestic, whatever - justifies hurting children. Our work is the most essential there is: to change the world into one where little children can toddle to their first day of school carrying apples and wildflowers to their new teachers without some demented, soulless fundamentalists capturing, torturing them with hunger, thirst and fright, and then shooting them.

I found encouraging ideas in the words of Patrick Seale and Rami G. Khouri writing in The Daily Star, the Herald affiliate of the Middle East. That horrifying footage, seen around the world, provides for us an opportunity to stop and reflect that the U. S., Israel, Russia, Iraq, Al Qaida, Neocons and the others need to recognize and deal with certain realities:

Revenge is not working. Revenge breeds more terrorists. The U.S. response to 9/11 was the answer to Osama ben Laden's prayers. (Some of us saw that three years ago, and said so.) The violence against civilians has steadily increased for the past 10 years, with each escalation increasing the number of combatants. "Vengence is mine," said God (paraphrased). "I'll take care of the bad karma they earned by their acts against humanity. Your revenge will only bring you bad karma in your turn. WHEN are you all going to catch ON?"

The violence grows increasingly inhuman; deliberate victimization of innocent non-combatants multiplies. Women are now among the militants (as in Beslan), and children have been used as pawns in battle since the beginning. A 16-year-old boy straps on his bombs believing he will bring honor to his family and 72 virgins when he is dead. "You cannot deter a person who wishes to kill himself ... by threatening to kill him," wrote Mr. Khouri.

When we close our eyes to the causes of problems, we become blind to their solutions. Every event has a history; all violence has a history of maltreatment. The Beslan massacre did not appear out of nowhere, tho it appears to have no reason but hatred. Putin's policies and direct orders have caused the death of some 250,000 Chechens, wiping out one-fourth of the population. The militants were willing to die to be taken seriously. Our own government would have us believe that al Qaida's sole motive in attacking U.S. is that they "hate freedom" and "hate America". Worse than nonsense, that is rank bigotry. Those we call "terrorists" have suffered years of humiliation, shame, and degrading treatment. It must stop, they say, at whatever the price, however extreme.

The surest way to cause another terrorist attack on our homeland is to continue proving that we can out-terrorize the terrorists. It didn't work in Vietnam, it doesn't work with adolescents imprisoned in boot camps. For 30 years Israel has been teaching us, (tho unintentionally), that militaristic responses to terrorism are doomed to failure. The punishments are effective recruiting agents for more terrorists. We have to see the folly in putting our faith in the power of punishment and begin valuing openness to understanding and negotiation. Punishment is a drug: feel-good revenge may deliver a brief high, but massive suffering surely follows.

With Beslan, punishment is no longer affordable. As a people, we demand toughness in our leaders and extreme measures, placing our trust in violence. A more effective, wiser approach would be to examine the root causes of the "terrorists'" grievances, and take slow but sincere steps to rectify them. Their motivations can be analyzed and discussed, debated and negotiated. People don't choose to die for a cause when their emotional, spiritual and material needs are met and they have a purpose for living.

There is work underway with exactly that goal in mind. Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization working to raise global awareness on more than 100 U.S. university campuses and in more than 10 countries. AID fulfills its mission by coordinating town hall meetings on America's role in the world, hosting leadership retreats for young multilateralists, and publishing opinion pieces and reports on issues of global importance. Through these efforts, AID seeks to build a new generation of leaders dedicated to a multilateral U.S. role in the world. AID is supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Institute, Hewlett Foundation and its many participating universities. Learn more about AID:

Americans for Informed Democracy hosts Face to Face Video Conferences: On October 12, young leaders at six American and six Muslim world universities will talk "face to face" about the future of the U.S.-Islamic world relationship in an unprecedented series of videoconference dialogues. Heeding the 9/11 Commission's call for the U.S. to "act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world" and to share America's "vision of opportunity and hope," this videoconference series will build a virtual bridge between Middle America and the Muslim world, allowing students in Tennessee, Indiana, South Dakota, Illinois, and Minnesota to engage in live video discussion with students in Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey. For more information about "Hope not Hate," please contact: Americans for Informed Democracy

Phone: (202) 270-6268 Email: - Norm

September 1, 2004

"Nothing is more important in the world today
than the nurturing children receive in the first three years of life,
for it is in these earliest years that the capacities for
trust, empathy, and affection originate."

- Dr. Elliott Barker, Director,
Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Madeleine Gomez, PhD, reminds us that, in intervening in child abuse we cannot dependably expect appreciation or support:

I share this experience because I want to support those who struggle with the reality that stepping up is difficult and often not fun. I was with my husband and two sons, ages 10 and 6, waiting to pick up their sister, age 19, to go on a sailboat ride on Lake Michigan. As we were waiting, we saw a family prepare to enter the gate and a little tot was playing with the chain that formed a loose fence around the grass. The mom said "no" but the toddler continued to swing the chain. She proceeded to karate chop him in the head and then to my dismay did it again and was ready to administer another blow when I shouted, "Stop the violence".

The dad turned and looking quite angry said, "What?"

I responded, "Stop the violence."

The dad, with a threatening look, started to walk towards my car and again stated, "What did you say?"

At this point, I smiled (though within my stomach I could feel that sick feeling that comes with the threat of being hit) and said, "Peace".

For some reason, the mom stopped hitting the kid and the dad said "Oh". Then they walked into the complex and the violence seemed to have stopped - at least for the moment.

A few minutes later, my daughter (who was raised without hitting) showed up and her brothers told her about the incident. Instead of supporting me she asked me to not embarrass her, and, when in her neighborhood, to mind my own business. I calmly told her that when violence is occurring right in front of me, it IS my business. And besides that, I am a mandated reporter. I reminded her that I had a right to free speech and would continue to use it whenever I saw a child being treated in a violent - and potentially brain damaging - manner. It took her most of the evening to get to the point where she was able to acknowledge that it was ok for me to do what I did.

At the end of the night, my 10 year old told me that he was going to continue my mission when he got older.

I guess the moral of this story is not a happy one. When you "step up", people are not going to applaud you, or even like what you're doing. Nonetheless, I can't imagine looking the other way and passively supporting the mistreatment of one another. We may not expect much in changing the adults who hit kids, but the seeds that we plant in the children DO have the power to change the world. - Mady

And THAT moral of the above story is, indeed, a happy one. - Norm

August 15, 2004

"There is only one thing more powerful
than all the armies in the world,
and that is an idea whose time has come."

- Victor Hugo


Any mention of the Sixties in this desert valley where I live, where racism and anti-Semitism still lurk close to surface consciousness, brings a curled lip and mutterings of "permissiveness" and "loss of family values". Images of beeded, pot-smoking hippies, and bearded, cop-hating anarchists are evoked, wildly protesting en masse in Washington and Chicago, together with angry student activists occupying college administration offices. Lack of discipline, said Authority, too much drugs and sex, said the churches, and, in the end, shot a few students to death at Kent State (1970). (Nineteen years later, the Chinese government did their own massacre, killing hundreds of students in Beijing.)

The majority of those here who decry the Flower Generation were not of an age to have experienced it first hand. They come across as posturing a superior morality. In response, I cite only five of the many examples indicating that the contrary is true: the youth of the Sixties showed remarkable maturity, discipline, and superior human values:

1. Hundreds of young people boarded Southbound busses during "Freedom Summer" in 1963, to help get blacks registered to vote and hasten school integration. They suffered terror tactics, police beatings, cabin torching, hideous torture, and death.

2. Hundreds of thousands of youth bussed and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. demanding that the killing in Vietnam be stopped. They (we) were met with pepper gas, police clubs, and mass (unconstitutional) arrests.

3. Sixties youth contributed to the ousting - on grounds of conscience - of both Pres. Johnson and Pres. Nixon from office.

4. They shaved, showered, and donned ties and jackets to work in "Clean for Gene" presidential campaign for Sen. Eugene McCarthy. In full view of the world Mayor Daley's brutalizing police clubbed them hideously in Chicago.

5. In Florence, Italy's devastating flood of Nov. 1966, American students numbering over 500 dropped their notebooks and pens to wade thru mud and slime to rescue thousands of priceless paintings and sculpture. They, and hundreds more from all over Europe, remained for weeks to dry out and restore, page by page, thousands of volumes of precious manuscripts that had been soaked in the great library, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale.

These are only five examples among thousands of significant contributions by so-called "undisciplined no-goodniks" in the fields of science, literature, education, music, and more. Some would say the Sixties were our finest hour.

In the summer of 1956, between college semesters, I worked as a camp councilor in the Adirondack Mts. In my cabin was a nine-year-old boy, brilliant with boundless energy, named Andy. In every activity he committed himself with unreserved enthusiasm. Some would see him as a "discipline problem", but I saw in him an unequaled leader and an essential element in the camp. At season's end, his parents - both psychiatrists, Jews from New York City - gave me a nice gift "for putting up with Andy". I said, "Put up with? His love of freedom and adventure sustained my spirit all summer. I wouldn't want to be in camp without him." And I told them about our being chased off the mountain by a colony of bees.

Twelve years later ('68) the nation was shocked by the news that three Freedom Riders were murdered in Mississippi: Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy sent FBI agents; the murderers were KKK members in the local police department. You might have seen the story of its investigation - and Gene Hackman's brilliant acting as FBI agent - in the movie "Mississippi Burning". A later news account froze my attention: one of the boys, Andrew Goodman, came from NYC, it was disclosed. His parents were both psychiatrists.

I'm still grieving for that "undisciplined" kid who "lacked family values".

- Norm

August 1, 2004

If you are neutral in situations of injustice,
you have chosen the side
of the oppressor.

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

From Debbie Haskins -

I was shopping at a large discount store late one evening when I encountered a woman with a crying little boy of about three years of age in her cart. She was trying to decide on some purchase while he sat in the cart crying. Before long she began to threaten him in a thick accent. " Shut up or I'm going to hit you. Do you want me to hit you?" He cringed and kept on with his heartbreaking crying. She only frowned and threatened more.

I moved close enough for her notice me and caught her eye. I gave her my best sad, disappointed look as I gazed at her crying child. Then I looked her in the eye and shook my head. A moment later she scooped him out of the cart, hugged him to her chest and began to comfort him with soft words and gentle pats. He immediately stopped crying. I left with a warm heart and a stronger resolve.

I never said a word. My message was clear.

- Debbie Haskins

We may be dealing with infantile, temporarily insane adults bigger and stronger than we are. Physical means are out. We need to communicate with hitters on the level we find them: stressed out, out of control, burdened with cares and worries and perhaps bodily pain, people who likely were themselves brought up by unloving, violent, stressed-out parents. We are dealing with a person who is suffering, and sees the toddler as adding to it. We are dealing with a person who is way out on a tightrope, shaking with fear, and cracking under the strain. Threatening and screaming at them is the worse thing we can do. They feel alone and need someone who cares about them, just when we are perceiving them as The Enemy. But in many ways they are the children in the cart. They need to be supported, talked to gently, assured that we understand how difficult it is for them. We need to exercise the very skills we are trying to teach in gentle childrearing.

In a different light, what we are doing here is preventing child sacrifice. Were we Incas witnessing priests leading a child to an alter, there to have her chest cut open and her dripping heart held up to the Sun God, we'd be compelled to leap to prevent that act of unspeakable horror. Today's form is similar, in that spanking/hitting is an act that sacrifices the child to the same terror that the offending parent was forced to endure as a child. When the abused child grows to adult size, it is always their child who picks up the trauma tab. And keeps paying that emotional price for the inner pain, inflicted on the parent when they were the crying, terrified, defenseless child.

- Norm

ps: If you wish to be added to the mailing list for the STEP UP and The Norm Report e-letters, send name and email address to

For complete list Step Up signatories, click on

July 15, 2004
" You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

- Eleanor Roosevelt


Dear Norm Lee,

I am one of the signatures on your petition. I believe I have a duty to end hitting children. And I believe I have a duty to prevent people from hitting children if I see it.

I am cowardly however.

NORM: So am I. So is nearly everyone, tho few are as open and honest about it as you are. As a childhood victim of extreme physical abuse, I am terrified of violence. Many are the macho men who hit their sons "to make them tough", but it makes them cowardly instead. But the fear needn't stop us from intervening. Indeed, once past the first one, every intervention experience will sustain and boost your courage.

You and I have something stronger than physical courage: Moral Courage. When defending children from assault, we know we are on the side of Right. And we're dealing with people who, while claiming to "teach their child right from wrong", don't even know that hitting a child is wrong.

Being in the right multiplies our courage by a factor of ten. Because the Universe is with us. We discover that we are more courageous than we had ever dreamed. As it says on the T-shirts of the co-eds on your campus, "JUST DO IT".

STUDENT: I just moved to a University in the city from the countryside. I just saw a black woman screaming at her infant. Now this is a crime by international standards. This is the blacks' legacy from slavery, as articles on Mr. Riak's page shows. But I am not used to black people, and they scare me in my unconscious. So when I must fulfill my duty and tell the bad lady that it's not her kids' fault her life sucks, instead, I avoided a fight and walked on after murmuring something. Now there is peer pressure involved, but most of all cowardice.

NORM: Now is the time to think of the range of possible approaches. If it's not physical, speaking softly can be effective if it's in a friendly, helpful tone. Direct confrontation is most likely to invite hostility, even violence. Don't use it. First, stay out of reach, next, speak softly, offering to help solve the immediate problem the parent is dealing with. Sermons, lectures, moralizing will often be resented and rejected. In the market, on the street, I'm always scanning to see parent/child conflicts in the making, so I can approach them in ways to head off the problems before the abuse begins. That's why I carry popcorn, or a kazoo to toot, or a small bubble-blowing kit. It distracts the parent as well as cheers up the child. I also wear a badge: "Children's Advocate", and approach with a supporting smile, and admiring the child. Now I also have the "Kids Safe Zone" stickers to hand out to kids, asking parents' permission and commenting, "Have you ever seen a kid who didn't like stickers?" This works like magic. (Available free from Jordan's PTAVE: html:// )

If the hitting is already underway, in the worst and most frightening situations, call the manager, call the cops, call on bystanders to help stop the hitting. Drawing attention to child abuse is sure to make the abuser realize that what they are doing has to stop, because they can see trouble is coming their way. Because of the publicity about hitting kids in the press, it is much easier now to get people to stop. Everyone knows it's wrong, even tho, in their rage, they deny it. If that doesn't stop it, I quickly look around for something to drop on the floor with a CRASH! If necessary, I'll knock over a display. Everyone stops whatever they're doing to look when that happens. That breaks the momentum of the violence.

STUDENT: Now I signed onto your resolution, and I failed... I am writing for advice in a moral quandary. I am so cowardly that I cannot always uphold the oath I have taken! Please reply, Sincerely yours,
[college student]

NORM: No, you did not fail. If you failed, you would not be writing to me. You are still working on it, my friend, and you're doing FINE. I admire your moral commitment, but hope you recognize that feelings of guilt add barriers to the goals you aspire to. The serious work we have to do won't permit indulging in self-flagellation. This is not an either-or thing. You are working on a process, you are progressing along a path with a noble goal in mind. Give yourself credit. Rather than condemn yourself, feel confident that you are advancing inexorably in the right direction. And keep working on the skills needed to intervene effectively.

So read again the suggestions on my website under STEP UP, and think about the wide range of alternative approaches to intervention. Forget the John Wayne macho approach of the movies. That's fiction. Actually, by his own admission, he couldn't shoot a barn if he was inside it, and he was once a scared kid named Marion.

- Norm

July 1, 2004

"Any form of corporal punishment or 'spanking'
is a violent attack upon another
human being's integrity."

- Ashley Montagu

1. Intervening with Dianea Kohl:

Today, I was walking in downtown Ithaca, NY, when I saw a light brown woman “clock” her 3-year-old son’s head, and I felt my heart tighten like a stretched rubber band. Holding sadness and fear. I’d promised myself this past decade to interrupt abuse of children, despite my fears to do so.

As I walked up to the crying boy and his young probably late teen parents, I caressed his afro-curled head with my middle-aged white hand and said something like, “That hurts doesn’t it?" I can’t remember what words I chose next as I looked into his mother’s eyes, while two young black men, one dark, one light, looked at me and after the 2-year-old boy sibling.

At some point I said to the parents, “Do you like to be hit?” The dark man said that’s what his parents did to teach him respect, which I followed with, “You mean by fear and humiliation? Our generation is learning a better way.” I was relieved and surprised that they continued an exchange with me and didn’t say, “Mind your own business honkie!” like earlier harsh expletives I’d heard them say.

Before I walked into the doctor’s office I said it’d be helpful to talk to your children like you’d like to be talked to. When I came back out a few minutes later, the five of them were still standing on the sidewalk, and the biracial man began a sarcastic joking statement about how he’d treat the kids to get their respect, and without thinking I was conversing with him about how he was raised, one of eight, hit by his folks – when my ears were hit with, “I’m not a kind man.”

A coming clean that had all the filth of violence laid over, “Yes you are, you were born a beautiful loving baby until that was taken away from you, ” I replied firmly.

Automatically, I reached into the trunk of my Jeep and found a copy of my children’s picture book, Everybody Cries, and gave it to the black man for his child. The little boy walked down the street turning the pages. And tears opened my heart once more.

June 15, 2004

" We need every morning to practice mindfulness breathing
to weed out the internal chatter that has grown in overnight -
and to face down the fraud that is fear."     Norm Lee

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I receive a letter from a reader who has really taken to heart what I wrote in my book PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING (available in its entirety on the above website). Brian Vanderlip, of Ontario, Canada, and I have never met face to face, but we've enjoyed mutual respect and friendship for several years. He has a young family, a brilliant mind, the skills of an author, and the heart of an artist. He wrote this recently:

June 1, 04
Dear Norm,

Thanks for the Step-Up... and thanks for noting that the church in some of its flavors (Methodist) abhors child abuse.

Donna, Kora, Lukas and I are moving soon to work in an international school... Well, Donna and I will work, and Kora and Lukas will attend the school with us... Lukas will be in his mother's grade one class and I will see them both in their trips to the library where I will be assisting with English as a 2nd Language and computer support...The International School in Macau is across the bay about an hour from Hong Kong, and it is the second school opened in the region using a Canadian curriculum and taught completely in English. I hope to be able to implement some of the principles of basic respect you express so eloquently in your newsletter....

We have made the decision to leave Ontario and do a bit of international travel with the kids. You should know that each step of this decision, from inception to finality was made with the full participation of our Kora (now 6) and Lukas (5), during our weekly family meetings. We would not have made a move like this without their being on-board and wishing to travel too.

We started our family meetings after reading your work and feeling thoroughly convinced that your respect for innocence and the autonomy of all human beings is foundational, and absolutely necessary for healthy relationships.

I want you to know that I am now not only a Norm Lee fan but also a parent who tells anybody who will listen, that family meetings are a bedrock foundation for a tight-knit family, family meetings based on equal involvement and with each family member taking turns as chair. What our children have been able to articulate and openly feel in these meetings has utterly dumbfounded us with gratitude and joy.

If a parent is concerned about the well-being of their children and being a good, happy parent, there are only two pieces of advice I give to them. First, honor your experience and your own feelings. If necessary, get some kind of support from a helping witness to confirm and strengthen yourself so that you can own your own feelings and not dump them on others. The second piece of advice is Norm Lee and family meetings.

Thank-you for your support and for putting children first, Norm. You are a remarkable human being who deserves so much more than the abuse and censoring you endure via the local news in your state. Remember that I stand with you always, either here in Canada or in our new residence in Macau, on the South China Sea. When I am set up there and have access to the net, I will be signing up to receive your newsletter...

With thankful respect and love,
Brian, Donna, Lukas and Kora Vanderlip

June 1, 2004

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it to me."

            Matthew 25:40

In a move beyond hope and imagination only a few years ago, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant church in this country, recently passed a resolution to "encourage its members to adopt discipline methods that do not include corporal punishment of their children". The General Conference is the only body authorized to set social and political policy for the denomination.

Will other churches follow? If not, why not? If Yes, when? Will STEP UP members be asked by their local churches to "engage in dialogue and education on effective discipline of children"? Maybe they will - if you "step up" and offer your input. To prepare for it, you can begin with these sources (the short list):

  • http://www.

      - Norm

Title: Corporal Punishment by Parents and Caretakers (41038-CS-R9999)

Petition Text:

Whereas, corporal punishment models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict,

Whereas, some research has associated corporal punishment with increased aggression in children and adults, increased substance abuse, increased risk of crime and violence, low self-esteem, and chronic depression,

Whereas it is difficult to imagine Jesus of Nazareth condoning any action that is intended to hurt children physically or psychologically,

Whereas, time-outs and deprivation of privileges are as effective as corporal punishment in stopping undesirable behavior,

Whereas, the effectiveness of corporal punishment decreases with subsequent use and therefore leads caretakers to hit children more severely,

Whereas, children must eventually develop their own conscience and self-discipline, which are fostered by a home environment of love, respect and trust,

Therefore, be it resolved that the United Methodist Church encourages its members to adopt discipline methods that do not include corporal punishment of their children. And be it further resolved that the United Methodist Church encourages congregations to offer opportunities for dialogue and education on effective discipline of children.

Vote on the Main Motion:     892 Votes For     7 Votes Against.

See related: The United Methodist Church also calls for a nationwide ban against corporal punishment in schools. Click on

May 16, 2004

If my father had hugged me JUST ONCE,
I wouldn't need to do comedy.

- Ray Romano, of TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond"

This past month I was privileged to be one of the four speakers selected as "National Leaders in The Child and Non-Violence." Dr. Madeleine Y. Gómez sponsored the event, in association with PsycHealth, Ltd. and Hartgrove Hospital, Chicago, Illinois. The conference explored the current state of non-violence and children, including ending corporal punishment in the school system. Non-violent paradigms and global initiatives were also discussed.

Dr. Madeleine Y. Gómez, Summit Conference coordinator, spoke of society's general acceptability of violence in response to problems or as an attempt to "resolve" problems. "What we have yet to incorporate is that violence does not in the long term resolve problems... In fact, violence has proven to reinforce the cycle of violence..."

To understand the nature of violence we need only to look into ourselves and our own homes. Altho fewer people use violence as a "disciplinary" method than in past years, we will find the beginning of violence in the way most children continue to be socialized via violent methods. "Safe attachments are not based upon fear or violence. Through our work we must promote safety in all spheres from the food we eat, to the water we drink and of course, interpersonally.

She described the damage that trauma does to the developing child's brain, and the consequences of damaged neurons in the behavior and happiness of the growing adult. "[T]he focus for children must be upon a safe, predictable environment, containment of negative self destructive behaviors, teaching of reducing arousal and regulating emotions, increasing behavioral and problem solving choices, tolerating affect, including negative feeling states such as anger without physically and destructively acting them out, dealing with and managing painful memories, nurturing and soothing of the self - including relaxation techniques and promoting healthy social interactions

"Perhaps this is the only way we will affect meaningful changes" in this violent world, she concluded.
Nadine Block announced that this century is bringing "a new epoch" for children, that of ending all corporal punishment of children. The next frontier in human rights, she said, is the right of children to be reared without physical punishment. In coming years children "will be legally protected from being punched, hit, spanked, pinched, whipped or belted by parents or caretakers for misbehavior." Since Sweden banned spanking and shaking 25 years ago, 25 million children in Europe have been provided legal protection from all physical punishment, even in their homes. Encouraging progress has been made recently in Canada and India. While over one hundred nations have banned corporal punishment in schools and in juvenile penal institutions, the U.S., alas, has lagged far behind.

All European countries have abolished school corporal punishment. So have several nations in Africa, and in China and Japan. India is expected to follow soon. Among developed nations of the world, only the U.S. and certain outback regions of Australia still allow school children to suffer systemic beatings. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children have the right to protection from “all forms of physical and mental violence” while in the care of parents and others. This important document lacks only two signatures of the member nations: the United States and Somalia.

"As a nation, we cannot be serious about ending physical abuse of children until we take the necessary educational and legal means to end physical punishment in all settings. The first step we must make is end completely the corporal punishment in schools."

Jordan Riak painted a picture of the obstacles we face, erected by the denial of perpetrators and bystanders, those whose sensitivities have not yet sufficiently awakened to feel the suffering of the youngest and most vulnerable among us. We're succeeding in this effort to overcome them, but progress is frustratingly slow in breaking thru those barriers of denial. We are fortunate that recent years have brought us our biggest asset and most powerful tool, the Internet. Without it we would be lagging years behind where we now are in this huge worldwide struggle against the brutalizing of children. He illustrated his remarks by numerous news articles and letters to PTAVE, (, of which he is director.

Norm Lee spoke of the tortuous treatment he endured as a child and his described his lifetime efforts of healing and recovery. As author of "The New Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm", he asserted, "ALL punishment of a child pronounces a life sentence." He further stated that he was sure of two things: (1) Anyone can triumph over their own childhood abuse enough to function in society; and (2) Anyone, whatever their personal history, can learn how to raise children non-violently, without passing abuse on to the next generation.

There were six pivotal decisions in Norm's life that marked his progress toward "normality", beginning with his vow - after a severe beating at age 8 at the hands of the psychopathic "guardian" for whom he worked for his keep - to survive and tell his story. He told of joining the Boy Scouts at age 12 to learn to socialize with other boys, of joining the USAF and became instructor to build his confidence, of his resolve to enter Syracuse University and to earn post-graduate degrees. Later he became a college teacher, and pioneered forming - with the help of his own children in the Sixties - his non-punitive method of parenting which later became his New Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm.

Norm ended with an appeal to join with the more than 230 signers of his STEP UP Resolution To Stop the Hitting, those conscientious and courageous folds who intervene whenever they see a child being spanked or otherwise under attack. "We can, indeed, change the world, serving as enlightened witness for one child at a time."

Mitch Hall summed up the talks with defining the ingredients necessary for a peaceful world. Nonviolent child rearing, he said, can be pivotal for transforming the culture:

  1. from domestic violence and war to safety and peace,
  2. from inequality and discrimination to equality and human rights,
  3. and from environmental destructiveness to ecological sustainability.

Research has discovered that children who are raised nonviolently--free from corporal punishment and shaming--are more likely than those raised violently:

  1. to treat others with respect,
  2. to be open-minded and respectful of diversity,
  3. to prefer peaceful solutions over war,
  4. to actively engage in rescue of the oppressed,
  5. and to protect the environment.

May 1, 2004
"It is the nature of human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity. Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue this basic desire."
H. H. Dalai Lama
From Jody Feavearyear:

[Jody has been counseling parents for the past two years. - Norm]

It helps to observe the situation and notice just what it is that is stressing the parent to the breaking point, and then offering to help in some way. Maybe the parent could use help with carrying her groceries out to the car, or with siblings all going off in different directions at once, or with a child who keeps wandering off and panicking the parent about her whereabouts and safety, etc. ... there is precious little support for the hard work of parenting in our society. Thus, parents seem to be in a constant state of low-level stress, which can quickly escalate ... especially in public where we often feel the disapproving looks of strangers if our children are not behaving "perfectly"...

The people who have been most effectively helpful to me, and hence my children, when I'm over-stressed ... are those who intervene GENTLY, usually by saying something very complimentary about my children, or just by noticing out loud in a sympathetic manner that I seem to be having a rough day. (I once saw a mother abandon her stroller, without her baby in it but WITH her purse in it, to chase a little one near a busy street. I simply pushed the stroller along behind her to make sure she didn't lose anything.)

I am just trying to go to the CAUSE (usually some kind of parental stress), rather than the effect (abuse), in trying to be an ally to children. One must also be an ally to parents as well, in a healthy way; that is, not by colluding in their momentary lapse of sanity leading to the abuse, but by really giving them whatever assistance they need to alleviate the stress and return to their senses. I ALWAYS assume that parents don't REALLY wish to hurt their children, and that it's the stress leading to the "temporary insanity" of which you speak.

Last spring I was at a festival and near the end of the day lots of people were listening and dancing to a great rock-and-roll band, adults and children. It was raining fairly hard, but nobody cared. A little boy next to me was dancing with his umbrella, in his own little world, and really making me smile. His dad I could see was very concerned that somebody might not like what he was doing, and kept leaning over to say something to him. The little boy would rein himself in a bit, then forget himself again in the music. Finally I said "he's really having a great time, isn't this wonderful?", to which the dad replied "yeah, but he might get people wet swinging the umbrella like that".

I replied "I don't think we could get any wetter than we already are, and he's having such a great time!" which seemed to lighten the mood considerably, and he stopped badgering the boy. Really, I was more upset at seeing the kid criticized than at the thought that he might get a few drops of water on me!

April 14, 2004
" I view public school as a burning building -
and I'm going to save every child I can." -
                   John Holt, author, How Children Learn

We in the Anti-Corporal Punishment Movement now have a hero. His name is Ralph McClaney, an assistant principal in a Mississippi school who resigned his position after refusing orders to paddle a sixth grader.

The Washington Post reported how the young assistant administrator in Meridian, Mississippi, refused to paddle a sixth-grade girl who had sassed her teacher. Mr. McClaney had been ordered repeatedly by his supervisor, the principal of Carver Middle School, to administer the "discipline". "The idea of a big white guy hitting an 80-pound black girl because she talked back to the teacher did not sit well with me," McClaney said. "I did not get my master's degree in education to spend my time paddling students." So he quit.

What was the school's justification, the rationale, for hitting kids with wooden weapons? McClaney's boss, Carver Middle School principal Earnest Ward, explained it this way: "The point is to get the students' attention, not to inflict pain." Hitting children with boards is not intended to cause them pain, is his thinking. Hell, he can cause some of them pain without even assaulting them: "Sometimes all you have to do is hold a paddle up, and it will scare a student to death," the professional educator said. "Others are not afraid of it at all."

McClaney's personal journal reveals that when he accepted the position he was not informed that he was expected to batter up to 10, even 15 pupils a day. "These kids are different, all they understand is the paddle ... walk the halls and, if the kids are out of line, burn their butts," Principal Ward later ordered him.

Doing bodily harm to children, especially to those with black skin, is a form of entertainment, or recreation, in the Bible Belt. Of the 28 U.S. states that have banned corporal punishment in schools, few, if any, will be found in the Belt. The joy of hitting someone defenseless, combined with "justification" from Proverbs, is not easy to deny to those who, themselves, were similarly treated when they were children. It rarely helps to simply explain that more has been learned about child rearing since the advice of Solomon more than 2,000 years ago, "hit them with a rod". And he didn't get that "wisdom" from God, he got it from his mother, who beat him. He retaliated by keeping over 300 wives and concubines, and building a tower to Molloch, the legendary beast who entertained himself by tossing children into a fiery pit. Not surprisingly, Solomon beat his son so badly he destroyed the city his father built. This is the childrearing expert that is widely quoted and celebrated, simply because it's in the Bible.

But it's no good arguing that way with those who are intent on making children pay in pain what they themselves suffered and suppressed. Especially when the so-called "educators" on the school staff think that way. The Post article illuminates the point:

"Are we going to believe man's report or God's report?" asked Cherry Moore, a special education teacher at Carver and co-pastor of a local church. She believes that Old Testament references to "spoiling the child by sparing the rod" should outweigh the allegedly negative effects of corporal punishment cited by child development experts...

Some if not most Meridian teachers and parents approve of hitting their young charges with the paddle. Three swats are all that are allowed per child/offense Evidently the moral question of battering defenseless children does not enter the discussion. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Mississippi leads the nation in school paddling with nearly 10% of its pupils thus abused annually. In Meridian, parents are given consent forms to sign regarding corporal punishment. Some 80% of the parents, a huge proportion of whom are single parents, give permission to paddle.

McClaney gave up a position that paid $53,000 annually, a job not easy to find in Mississippi. Hoping he could refuse to paddle on grounds of conscientious objection, he inquired at the state attorney general's office as well as the attorney from the teacher's union. From both came the answer: he could not refuse to obey "a valid, legal order".

Months later, Ralph McClaney was still looking for a position in his chosen career as educator.

April 1, 2004

"When you change the way you're looking at things,
the things you're looking at ... change."
- Wayne Dyer

From Rebecca C.:

Dear Norm -

I would like to tell you of a simple way I began years ago, long before I became the single mom I am now, to intervene in children being treated as lesser beings. I used to work in a very popular large retail pharmacy store. I was 17 at the time, and while shopping, many parents would be heard yelling at their children day to day. At times they would even go so far as to strike them in clear view. When I heard a parent yelling at their child for simply being a child and acting up a bit I'd always go to that aisle, stop for a moment, and simply stand there and wait until the parent made eye contact with me. Once they did they would stop. It was as if they knew I was watching and that they were being held accountable for their actions.

I have never believed in anyone's right to strike a child. There was one occasion where while watching [such a] parent, they did not care I was there and struck the child in front of me. Even years ago the city I lived in was very strict about things like abuse. The parent gave me a look as if they had power over me somehow, yet I calmly looked at them and said, "I don't think I will press charges on you right now..." I stood right where I was and they looked back at me as if they were in shock. They then stopped any actions, looked a bit shocked yet ashamed, and walked on and remained calm while in the store.

I guess it was my way of saying, "if you will not realize what you are doing and get yourself in control, then young as I may seem to you also, I do have power, control, and am more than willing to assert it to help one who is far less powerful against your control."

- R. Clemons

- - -

Dear Ms. Clemons -

When people notice they are being observed, that they are "on stage", they tend to look around for signs of approval for "disciplining" their child. Your simple act as unsmiling "silent witness" has power, as you discovered. Just standing and watching without moving or speaking can often influence people to reconsider what they are doing. Since child abuse has been widely publicized, these days they usually realize they need to stop and regain control of themselves. It's as if we all know, deep down, that attacking a child is temporary insanity.

I first saw this in action 50 years ago in Occupied Japan. I was having difficulty getting a drunken soldier under control. I didn't like that he was making an ass of himself, bringing disrespect on the military as well as on my country. The nearby Japanese family all came out their house and lined up, adults and children alike, as a SILENT audience to observe how the "barbarian" Americans behaved. I had been on the losing end of the fracas, but when I pointed out to the drunk how his behavior looked to the indigenous people, he became (much to my relief) more compliant, and returned to the air base.

In many Step Up situations we need only to "show up" and observe silently. We can have an impact as much by BEING as by DOING.

Thanks for your letter.
- Norm

March 15, 2004

"We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people."

Alice Miller

From Olivier Maurel (France):
This is an appeal to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Alice Miller. You may sign the petition by going to

The undersigned would like to submit this appeal to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Alice Miller, writer and psychotherapist. Her discoveries concerning the main causes of violent behaviour, collectively and individually, seem to us to have been a major contribution in building world peace. Her work has had, without doubt, an influence on the adoption by several countries of legislation forbidding the infliction of corporal punishment on children. Indeed, the practical application of the practice of these suggestions will allow the strengthening of these foundations of peace in the psyches of both men and women, through an education that respects the integrity of children.

The work of Alice Miller is entirely devoted to the study of the consequences of childhood traumas. In particular, she has investigated the influence of violent educational methods on aggression and violence displayed by young adults later in life. As corporal punishment involves 80 - 90% of all the world's children, the whole of humanity is concerned.

The humiliations, the bullying, the blows suffered by children at the very moment their brains are in full development, introduces into society a violence which is then expressed not only by delinquency and legally criminal behavior, but also political, social and military VIOLENCE.

Alice Miller was the first to bring our attention to the fact that those responsible for the great massacres of the 20th century, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Ceausceau, Saddam Hussein, all had a childhood devastated by the violence of their parents and their teachers. The populations over which they ruled, themselves victims of violent methods currently in use, were in the same way predisposed to submit to the violence of their rulers, either by supporting it or resigning themselves to it.

The work of Alice Miller also shows how corporal punishment operates by instilling the idea into children that violence might be good for them if it is inflicted for their "well being," thus profoundly destabilizing their psyche. Their moral conscience is, in fact, affected, by causing them to confuse good with evil. Likewise, their sense of logic is disturbed inasmuch as a real contradiction is inculcated in them: "I am hurting you `for your own good'." When such young minds are thus disturbed, they are later much more vulnerable to lies and demagogues. They are also more inclined to collaborate in the most criminal projects presumably for the good of the nation, of the race, religion, or the working class, particularly if their leaders designate scapegoats upon whom they can vent their pent up rage, accumulated throughout their entire childhood.

To all this, one must add the social and political consequences of a violent education, stressing the social plagues of drug addiction, tobacco dependence, conjugal violence and, of course, the repetition from generation to generation of this "educational" violence. All these consequences are recognized today by the World Health Organization, which recapitulates them in its most recent report on violence (November 2002).

The ideas of Alice Miller are based on the practice of psychotherapy and on extensive historical, literary, and biological research. They are also confirmed by the most advanced studies of the brain. These studies show that traumas can actually cause lesions of the neurons, particularly in the emotional center of the brain.

The works and the ideas of Alice Miller are not merely theoretical. Besides the liberating influence they have had on her readers, they have certainly contributed, directly on indirectly, to the adoption by 12 countries already so far of legislation forbidding the corporal punishment of children.

Her ideas are at the heart of the actions of numerous associations which fight against violence in education all over the world, especially in Africa. The condemnation of such punishment often goes against the fact that these children who suffer, identify with their parents, and, because of that, find it very difficult to become adults who question violence as a method of education.

The award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Alice Miller will certainly contribute to changing public opinion and to enabling responsible political leaders to evaluate the harmful effects of corporal punishment and to accept more readily its abolition.

Published during the past 25 years: The Drama of the Gifted Child; For Your Own Good; Thou Shalt Not Be Aware; Pictures of a Childhood; Banished Knowledge; The Untouched Key; Breaking Down the Wall of Silence; The Drama of the Gifted Child [revised edition]; Paths of Life; The Truth Will Set You Free.

Thus far, the books of Alice Miller have been published in 21 languages.

March 1, 2004     Month 27

"It is not just in some of us: It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fears Our presence automatically liberates others." - Nelson Mandela

From JEM: Dear Norm,

I have read all of Alice Miller's and John Bradshaw's books and have made their philosophy of non-violence to children a cornerstone in my own life. I have no children of my own, and I know that one of the reasons I made that decision in my late teens was the fear that I couldn't help doing to them what was done to me. What I've tried to do myself, even before finding your newsletter, is intervene whenever I see an adult overpowering a child in a public setting.

One thing I've found is that sometimes just making eye-contact with the child, waving and smiling can be enough to stop the ill-temper of the parent: when the child looks at me, the parent notices me looking at the child and knows they are also being observed; if the attack isn't too intense, the parent becomes self-conscious and backs off. I always hover in the vicinity, continuing to make eye contact with the child off and on and smiling and waving at them for as long as possible before the family disappears down the isle of a grocery store, the place where such things usually happen.

If a child is acting out standing in line anywhere (usually with their parent in the post office or bank, or at the grocery store register) I always bend down to the child and say "It's really boring waiting in line, isn't it?" They always smile and are pleased to be noticed and that an adult seems to understand. Then I straighten up and say to the parent in a good natured way: "You have to feel sorry for them; we're bored, too, and we know why we're standing here!"

This usually brings humor to the situation and causes the parent to see things from the child's point of view. Then I'll talk to the child and find out their name, show interest in them by saying I like what they're wearing or comment on a toy they are holding. This is a reminder to both adult and child that the child is a person, too, and that their perspective in any situation is worth consideration. I always wave goodbye and smile at the child as either they or I leave; by then, frayed tempers have usually dissipated, but it's a reminder to the parent that another adult is aware of their behaviour toward their child, and they'll hopefully remember the next time they have to wait anywhere with the child that the adult world is largely incomprehensible to children, and to try to be more understanding.

I've not yet had occasion to witness an attack as bad as the one mentioned on the front page of your newsletter [Month 26], but I think I would intervene because I've become so allergic to power struggles and the unfairness of a huge adult bearing down on a small child. I think I'll print up some copies of sites such as yours and keep them with me, in case I ever see such a thing. If the offending parent has a resource, maybe they'll try and learn something about themselves instead of taking it out on their child.

Thanks for your courage in the face of so much hardship; the word is spreading and the world is changing! I always try to remind myself of what Alice Miller wrote regarding the intervention of the "Helping Witness" -- if even one person had intervened in Adolf Hitler's situation (in a far more significant way, of course!) and the same for Joseph Stalin, 30 million people who died fifty years ago might have lived. If enough people intervene even in small ways, perhaps even that will give a child belief in themselves enough to hold on to until they reach their legal majority -- or until laws change everywhere making such treatment of children illegal.

Thanks so much!
JEM :)

Dear JEM - You've shown so clearly that each individual - as a genuinely caring person - can merely approach a conflict, in a gentle and non-threatening way and make a profound difference. If we don't try to "teach a lesson", if we don't try to play cop or other authority, but simply be decent people showing our concern that children don't get hurt, we can affect much more change for the better in this suffering society. I'm still feeling the effects of your sensitive but powerful letter. Thank you. - Norm

February 15, 2004
"If we are to attain real peace in this world,
we will have to begin with the children." - Gandhi

The Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide. - 1,647 signatures [2.12.04] and counting ...

From Van Lewis:

Dear Signer of the Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide:

We are approaching the end of the Montagu Resolution Petition's second year on the web, which is March 31, 2004. Last year, some of you will remember, we made a three-month push, January through March, to get to 1,000 confirmed signatures by the end of our first year and we made it with some to spare. We're starting the signature drive a little later this year... from now until March 31 we need ALL HANDS ON DECK to break 2,000 signatures by then.

It shouldn't be hard. Today we already stand at about 1,500. If those of us presently on the list find an average of just ONE new signer each by March 31, we'll break 3,000! Let's do it! Why not? Since there are more of us this year than last, let's see if we can get MORE signatures in LESS time! Go get two or four or eight, please! The more the merrier!

Signers of the Montagu Resolution are active in many ways around the world protecting children from genital mutilation. The movement is picking up steam, and the Montagu Resolution is a growing part of that energy and power. The website is not just a place to indicate your opposition to genital mutilation. It is also an increasingly effective tool to help you in our common human rights struggle to keep all children safe from genital harm.

For example, please make use of the Montagu Resolution website to find people in your area (or any area) who may want to help you put an end to genital mutilation in your state or province or nation. You can search the site for signers in your (or any) area by clicking the link "2. Website endorsers" on the Montagu Resolution home page [] and then clicking the "Country" or "State/Province" that interests you in the designated space. A list of signers residing there who have made their location public will appear! A wonder of the modern age! (If no other contact information is given, you can email me and let me know who you are trying to reach. I will try to contact them if they have given me permission to do so, to let them know you want to reach them, then they can contact you if they want to.)

Many thanks for everything you do to protect children from this tragic adult mistake. Let's get those signatures flooding in again! EVERY additional signature makes us stronger and more able to save the babies, the children and the good future of our world.

- Van Lewis

February 1, 2004
"Society chooses to disregard the mistreatment of children,
judging it to be altogether normal
because it is so commonplace."-- Alice Miller

Hi Norm,

I need your help. I had my first serious intervention today and I think I could have been better at it. In the Pearl Art store in L.A. I saw a large woman bending over a small girl, clutching the child's coat just below her throat saying something like "you lost your mother". Suddenly the woman began shaking the child, and I said, "Excuse me, excuse me, what are you doing?" The woman grew angrier still. "What? Who are you? Why don't you mind your own business?"

I said, "What you are doing is not necessary" I was trying to be as friendly as you suggest, but I didn't have a chance to say, "Oh, isn't she cute, she's too young to stay still" or something like that.

She continued with "This is my child, mind your own business, get out of my face..." She was much bigger than I and I was intimidated but too much into it to back out. I remained calm but in a corner in me there was fear.

A male employee came over to her and talked for about 10 minutes. I couldn't let it go. He talked quietly but the mother was loud enough for me to hear that the child was four years old. The mother also made comments about me.

Then another man appeared and went to the mother and child. Again the mother made comments about me but the man was too soft-spoken to hear. He took the child by the hand and came down the aisle toward me. He said "Excuse me" as he passed, and the child turned around and gave me a beaming smile.

At the cashier stand, the mother was talking to another employee. I approached her with your card and said, "Excuse me I'd like to give this to you".

"Mind your own business," she said. "Raise your own children, and I'll raise mine. This is none of your business."

"Child abuse is everyone's business," I said.

"If this is child abuse, then call the police"...

Well, of course you weren't there Norm, but has that ever happened to you? Should I have called the police? There wasn't anyone in the proximity that I could have called upon to back me up. What would you have done? What should I have done? The mother scared me, and I'm sure she must have scared the child much more. Many thanks for any help you can give me to continue your good work,

Barbara Vickers

Hi Barbara -

What makes you think anything "went wrong"?

Victory # 1. You called Big Mother's attention to what she was doing to the child - (too often perpetrators are not aware of their violence/roughness).

Victory # 2. You diverted her hostility from the child to yourself - exactly what you want, given that you can't do the impossible (make instant peace and a model parent of her on the spot. We're not magicians.) Of course she's angry - to be expected - it comes with the territory, and so does the fear. Accept the fear - remember? It was part of the deal when each of us signed on to Step Up. We learn how to work with it.

"Mind your own business" is also to be expected. Violators see kids as possessions, to be treated as adults damn well please. You just said "No". She got the message - the fact that it's your business, too, and she can't jerk children around with impunity in your presence.

Neither her anger nor your fear could have come as a surprise, since you were intruding in an ugly, aggressive, volatile situation. At such a moment, trust your feet to get your body out of range of danger. That's not "losing", since you may already have accomplished your aim of interrupting/diverting/stopping the child attack. Let Big Woman hate you instead. What do you care? Just don't hang around, offering yourself as a target.

Victory #3. Your intervention attracted a store employee - exactly the help you needed. Now it's out of your hands - time to skedadle - and promptly! Mission accomplished - get out of there!

We probably all need to practice "letting go" - I know it's difficult, being involved emotionally. But this isn't football, no "second effort" will help. You're not going to convert her to good parenting on the spot.

And it's a mistake trying to "fix up" a "relationship" where there is none. As the Beatle (Lennon?) said, "Let it be." As important as physical space is developing mental/emotional space. You can do this by sitting in the coffee shop or car and doing mindfulness breathing: spine straight, eyes open, mentally focusing on the rising and falling of the breath. As thought/emotions intrude, see them as passing clouds arising and drifting away. Give it 10 minutes, (or 30). Wall Street cannot offer a better investment.

Victory #4: You got a big smile from the child - (who evidently understood more of what was really going on than anyone else involved.) You can bet that the memory of your act of compassion will still be with her in 20 - 25 years, when SHE has children.

So, my courageous friend, from my view you were FOUR TIMES successful. I, for one, am proud of you. You should be, too. - Norm Lee

January 15, 2004

"We must do
that which we think
we cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

1. A Bob Dylan song in the Sixties lamented that there was "no one to look up to". Today we have few heroes to admire, even fewer role models worth following. But there is one head and shoulders above everyone, a hero and exemplar who has set a standard we can aspire to. Christopher Reeves has shown us what courage is, and in doing so, set a standard for quality of character. He related that after his accident he lay there with these thoughts: "Well, I can't move a muscle, I can't eat food, I can't breathe without a machine ... what's left? My mind. I have a mind. I'll use that. And he began the long road back.

That was eight years ago. Today he leads a non-profit organization supporting research for those similarly crippled, gives lectures without his machine, can actually move several fingers, and looks to the day when he can walk unassisted to the microphone in a news conference.

His family life meant most to him. How would he manage parenting? He tells about it in his latest book:

Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections On a New Life

PARENTING SITTING DOWN: In the weeks after my injury, I had to accept care by many hands after a lifetime of physical strength, independence and activity. Feeling like a child who had to be cared for gave me a new perspective on being a father. I became acutely aware that everything parents say and do has a powerful effect on our children, even when we think they are not paying attention. I feared that being a quadriplegic would mark the end of the life I had known with my three children while causing them enormous psychological and emotional damage. Wrong. I was still me and still Dad.

At six, my son Will, now a teenager, was afraid to ride his bike without training wheels. Sitting in my special chair in the driveway, I talked him through it. If someone had told me that you could teach a kid to ride on his own just by talking to him, I would have said, "Impossible." But we did it.

In talks with my older son, Matthew, I learned the power of inviting confidences and really listening. - Christopher Reeves

-------Wouldn't it be something if Mr. Reeves were showing us yet another positive, another strength, discovered in the aftermath of his horse-riding personal tragedy? Hands-off parenting, discipline by encouraging and supporting, not punishing. What if it were physically impossible for parents to spank? What if everyone realized they were unqualified in forming and shaping and limiting another human being, and alternately encouraged and supported children in the activities and disciplines they chose in their own time and timetable? What if each parent decided to accept a virtual handicap package: "I cannot spank, I cannot yell. But I can reason, and encourage, and support."

Would they be swinging the mail order "The Rod" to enforce conformity to parent-imposed rules? Or would they hold family roundtable discussions on how best to maintain order in the home? I think the latter. And gone would be America's "love them and hit them" approach to childrearing, the style that assumes the child is born full of evil, and needs to be punished until his/her "irrational exuberance" is entirely suppressed and the spirit destroyed.

I think Mr. Reeves could lead the way for many parents in a gentler, more enlightened parenting style, one that renounces all forms of punishment and relies on trust in the basic goodness and humanity that is inborn in every child. Nothing is impossible. -- Norm Lee

January 1, 2004

"It is a sad and stupid thing to have to
proclaim yourself a REVOLUTIONARY
just to be a decent man."       - David Harris

Parenting Without Punishing began in the late 1990s as a newsletter, in an attempt to persuade local social workers to advise their clients of the harm done by corporal punishment. The local family experts were not interested in non-violent parenting, and I found myself talking to a wall.

So I began reaching outside the valley for a wider, more receptive readership. I had been using a Macintosh to write my newsletters, then foto-copied, printed and mailed them at my own budget-busting expense. Hundreds of miles away, my son Russell exclaimed, "Dad, that newsletter needs to be on the Internet!" Soon came the Xmas visit that changed everything (1999). Russ took me by the arm, marched me to a computer store, and bought his dad a first class PC rig that was even better than his own. PWP was on the air, and readership quickly increased exponentially.

Early in 2000 Alice Miller read my newsletters and we began corresponding. She soon asked me to help her begin her email discussion list on childrearing. After excessive wrangling among the participants caused her to close the discussion and try a new approach, my attention turned to developing PWP as a book. The newsletters became chapters, and fifteen had been completed when the attack on the Twin Towers occurred on September 11, 2001. Tho I had more chapters planned, addressing the national emergency took priority. I began a newsletter - The Norm Report - to deal with the trauma children were suffering, and to reflect on possible responses to the aggression that could be alternatives to war, violence, and more killing.

In December of that year the local weekly paper called for readers to send in their New Year's resolutions, to be printed a fortnight hence. I had long understood that there could be no end to violence - from schoolyard bullying to fullscale war - so long as corporal punishment of children was allowable. My resolution to intervene whenever a child was being hit, shaken, or otherwise attacked met with an astonishing level of hostility from the editors. They refused to print it. Knowing I would take umbrage otherwise, they then decided it wise to print NO ONE'S resolution. The section they had prepared for readers' New Year's resolutions was published - without the resolutions! Having been infuriated by their own decisions, they subsequently denied me space in their letters section for nearly two years

And that is when the STEP UP newsletter was born, alternating monthly with The Norm Report. They can be seen in the Norm Report Archives on the website. Also in the Outside the Tent section there are some of your responses to the editor's truculent defense of violent parenting.

I emailed the first STEP UP report to my List in January '02. After a year's run, 122 of you - from states and countries far and near - had signed it. I sent it to the Courier editors asking that it be published. They were livid with rage. Their fancied "power" had not stopped us from getting the word out about the harm done to children by spanking and humiliating them. (They called it "love and discipline".)

In late fall 2002, while I was on the phone sniveling to my friend Jordan Riak about my need for a website, he offered to build one himself. I was aghast, knowing the crushing work burden my friend was already carrying. (I didn't know then that Jordan would have to teach himself the web-building process as he created it!) In the end, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. (Does anyone know of one other person that dedicated? That selfless?) Thus was created, and gradually grew as time passed.

In the twelve months of its existence, has attracted no less than 2,742 visitors! All fifteen chapters of Parenting Without Punishing are offered there, free of charge, in both HTML and PDF format. Eventually Jordan and I will have the entire book's Spanish version, "Ser Padres sin Castigar", posted as well. Also links to the sites of co-conspirators (most of us as yet unindicted).

Today, the total number of STEP UP signatures stands at an amazing 211 - a response undreamed of when, two years ago, I trod the streets of this valley unable to get even one other citizen to sign on with me.

The success of this venture is not mine; it is a triumph of yours, dear readers. For my part it is a pleasure and a privilege - indeed, I feel honored to be associated and identified with this highly select group of individuals who combine a rare measure of the human compassion and uncommon courage it takes to Step Up and intervene in potentially violent and dangerous situations. And for what purpose? To protect a child you don't even know. You know only that it is a child, one in need of protection from attack. You should also know that your example in Stepping Up has already influenced thousands of others by raising consciousness and demonstrating what needs to be done for children. It's showing that stopping the wrong of child assault is worth taking risks for.

I know it is not easy. When courage fails me, I ride on guts alone, and do it anyway. And when I do, foremost in mind is the motto Eleanor Roosevelt always kept on her desk:

"You MUST Do What You Fear To Do."

Thank you, dear readers and supporters for standing with us - and with children - for the past 24 months. I'm sure you'll agree that this is the most important work we can do in this lifetime.

Hitting is not an option.
It is more blessed to intervene
Than never to have objected at all.       - Norm Lee

December 16, 2003
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."         - Rachel Carson

Dear Readers -

It's been an interesting - no, a fascinating twelve months. Being poor as a church mouse is way of life for me, my having lacked the knack for making money combined with the readiness to give things away. So for years I've lived virtually without money, yet whenever I really need something it comes walking in the door. Buddhists do not believe in angels as such, (we call it "karma"). Nevertheless, as I read my journal, and the STEP UPs and Norm Reports of the past 12 months I kept seeing an Angel pop up as each need arose.

Indeed, a flock of them appeared as 2003 began, in the form of readers sending letters to local weekly editor T. J. King. He had refused to print the Resolution, would no longer print my letters, and self-righteously "supported" corporal punishment editorially. The flood of letters showed him, for the first time, the strength and commitment of the growing public outrage against corporal punishment. Not one of those letters did he print, but a few months later he was fired, and took a job on a small weekly paper in the bayous of Louisiana. (Curious: It was Norm Lee who had been - and still is - slated to be driven from this valley.) The unseated King was replaced by an "editor" who was even less educated, while the heavyweight publisher remained in office to staunchly defend the "right" of parents and teachers to hit children.

JANUARY: I announced my new website, which Jordan Riak had long labored a-building despite his appalling workload in PTAVE, and by month's end it had already logged 226 visitors.

FEBRUARY brought the diagnosis of heart disease, my having had a heart attack the previous fall and dismissed it as "growing pains".

MARCH called for cataract surgery, for which one of my Angels picked up the tab. At March's end came the now-legendary aTLC Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. Another very generous Angel funded the fees and travel. The talk I gave (which, I modestly add, brought a standing "O",) is in April's STEP UP letter. (See Norm Report Archives in The thrill of that conference I still today carry around with me. Over 500 hits on the website now.

APRIL: During a visit with my son Russell, he gave me his Mazda pickup, transportation I was sorely in need of. (Let's see, that's four Angels so far, plus one flock.) April ended by topping 800 hits on the website, and the STEP UP roster grew apace.

MAY - my Mexican Angel (#5), Gabriela, translated my entire book, "Parenting Without Punishing" so it could be read widely in Mexico. We hope to add all the chapters of "Ser Padres sin Castigar" to the site.

JULY brought my Angel-funded (#6) trip to New Hampshire to participate in Murray Straus' International Conference on Family Violence. Peak moments came at a party at the home of Murray Straus, when I had a one-on-one delightful conversation with him. Upon accepting a copy of my PWP, he said, "I will read this very carefully," and gave me a big smile.

AUGUST: After waxing discouraged about the cement minds of the local parenting extremists, Angel Flock #2 flooded my email with letters of uplift and support, encouragement and love. (It can't get any better than that.)

SEPTEMBER: The U. S. Government saw fit to award me a small "pension" to tack onto the miniscule social security check. It's a bit of a stretch to add this particular administration to my list of angels. It's a small gesture, ostensibly for my having undergone hostile fire from the communists of North Korea over 50 years ago. I sure could have used it sooner.

There's more, but it's too whelming. The anti-spank network seems to have organized into a powerful force, led by any member who calls for focus on a certain school board, or advertisement for an instrument of child torture ("The Rod"), or a state legislature voting on CP in schools, or specific cases of child abuse, or chronic and general abuse such as teachers refusing to stomach-cramped children use the toilet. Tho there is no end to the abuses, this has been the most heartening year of my life in regard to the fast-growing resistance to America's War On Children.

AND ... Now in the 24th month of the STEP UP and Norm Report newsletters, well over 200 of you have added your name to mine on the Step Up Resolution. 'Tis the season to REJOICE!

- Noel Norm

December 2003

1. As for Michael Jackson's guilt or innocence we do not know. But we do know enuf to suspend judgment, and we do have compassion for this person who was treated brutally as a child. For the public and media it's open season - a virtual feeding frenzy. M. Musto of the Village Voice opines that the country badly needs a captive victim now, so we can hold his feet to the fire. "[Michael] is much more popular to attack than Iraq", says Musto, adding,... "we can't even find bin Laden or Hussein—but if Jacko would just agree to be a pedophile, we could have our kook and eat him too."

Joe Jackson, Michael's bullying father, was and is known to have a violent temper. He's denies "abusing" Michael, yet he admitted on British TV, "I whipped him with a switch and a belt." His defense is, "I never beat him. You beat someone with a stick." He is said to have taken credit for his son's success by "disciplining" him - with switchings, belting, and humiliation.

It was many months ago that Michael opened up publicly and courageously about the brutal treatment he received as a child. "He used to hurt me, said I had a fat nose," recalled Michael in his TV interview. "He'd use a belt or a rod, anything that was around. He'd throw me against the wall. I was so scared ... I'd vomit ... I'd faint." He was beaten on a regular basis, "then I'd have to go on stage, before 20 million people." And then, revealingly, "I'd rather wear a mask."

About corporal punishment, Michael said, "I'd never lay a finger on my children." He told how, as the star of the "The Jacksons" at age four, he was ridiculed and physically punished for the slightest mistake - and more. The little trouper sang and danced his heart out to earn his father's approval, and, like so many sons of abusive fathers, continued trying all his life. He at last became the most successful and wealthiest entertainer in the world. Today his father at last respects him - but only for his wealth and fame. He does not love his son, because he never had love to give. That is the tragedy of extreme parenting.

Norm Lee

November 15, 2003

"HOLY SPANKINGS": Violent Vicar Vents Venom on Victims

Preacher Walter Oliver is pastor of the Bible Speaks Ministries of New Haven, CT. He walloped the bare buttocks of two boys, ages 11 and 12, with a belt "to save them from hell and prison." When he was charged with assault for inflicting "holy spankings", he was without remorse. When he was found "not guilty" he said he would use the same discipline again.

While his supporters celebrated the court decision as a victory for "parents' rights", the punitive parson waxed rhetorical: "What should I do, stand by and let them go to jail? Let them shoot somebody?" And remained obdurate: "I find a good spanking is a deterrent. With persistence and love, it does work," he said. The nature of the sin that provoked the beatings was not reported.

The newspaper called Dr. Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Child Study Center. "What it [beating]does is make children have a little bit [sic] more difficult relationship with their parent," he said. "Parents are more successful if they praise and reward and encourage the behaviors you want in your child."

"Those individuals who believe in the New Age, no spanking at all, they have missed the mark," said the pastor.

Norm Lee
Nov. 12, 2003
To: New Hampshire Register


The Punishing Pastor Oliver needs to check his dictionary. Striking a child's bare bottom with a belt is not "spanking", it is "beating". "Spanking," in my Merriam-Webster, is striking the bottom with the open hand.

And let him look up "discipline"; it is not "punishment". Discipline is something the preacher needs to acquire, not apply to others. Also find the meaning of "bully", and he may recognize himself. But I doubt it. Because louts who believe they will be smiled upon by God for doing "his work" of beating children get a charge of feeling morally superior to the "sinning" child. Hence, a "good" spanking, a "good" thrashing. It feels so good to God's hatchet man Oliver that he is eager to do it some more.

Dr Kazdin, with his Yalie Child Study Center, apparently got his doctorate without completing his education. He said, "Parents are more successful if they praise and reward ...," indicating that he, himself, is boxed in by the carrot-and-stick dichotomy of Behaviorism, an outworn child rearing approach I got past 40 years ago.

We cannot raise a generation of peaceful citizens until we escape the knuckle-dragging Olivers and the obsolete-thinking Kazdins. For the former there is little hope; the latter can begin by checking out my website, Parenting Without Punishing:

Norm Lee
Child Advocate

November 2003

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty."
Albert Einstein

1. Chemical discipline and"brazen drug pushing." My local neo-conservative weekly newspaper, the Eastern Arizona Courier, regularly rails against drugs, especially those consumed by children. Yet, its own supplement insert "American Profile" infrequently features a full page and a half advertisement for Concerta(R), a drug for treating children's alleged illness Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This Alza Corporation medication is the drug, methylphenidate HCI, intended to make active children manageable, docile, and obedient. It aims to correct "misbehaviors" so troublesome to teachers such as fidgeting, not listening, making careless mistakes, not following directions, impulsiveness, talking too much, being too easily distracted from lessons, and "running around" at times not authorized. In other words, the behaviors I recognize as those normal to children deprived of freedom to explore and learn on their own terms. Methylphenidate, the drug for kids, which I call "chemical discipline", turns out to be what is popularly known as "meth", the very same drug this newspaper routinely editorializes against. (This weekly is capable of denying anything, including the fact that hitting children does them harm.)

I wrote to my friend Dr. John Breeding, leading critic of the children's drug Ritalin, and Director of Texans For Safe Education, "As a veteran teacher, I recognize this behavior as a message to teachers that they'd better either learn how to teach or get out of the business and drive a cab. What can you tell me about this "stimulating" drug that transforms normal kids into unresisting receptacles of system programming?"

John Breeding's answer: Methylphenidate is the chemical name for Ritalin; Concerta is the long acting Ritalin. The effects profile of methylphenidate, cocaine, and methamphetamine are virtually identical. Take the same amount in the same form and you can't tell the difference. Speed is speed is speed. The effects profile is long, affecting every organ system in the body. Many die; 200 Ritalin-related heart deaths reported to the FDA in the 90s; [there's a] voluntary reporting system so anywhere from 10 to 100 times is the actual death rate--mostly cardiovascular.... and psychologically it is about shame and passivity and irresponsibility. The advertising is disgraceful. Check out the articles on my website under psychiatric drugs. - John

from Dr. Breeding's website, :

A Gentleman's Agreement Goes Down:
Texas is Number One on Stimulant Drug Use for Children

I spoke with Gretchen Fuessner, a pharmacologist for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)... Part of my role as director of Texans For Safe Education is to know about the extent to which we are drugging our nation's school children with mind-altering psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Gathering data on prescription rates is difficult, and the DEA generally releases such data only at the behest of a Congressional hearing. Ms. Fuessner was, however, able to share with me the latest data she had on percentage increase for prescriptions, comparing rates in 1991 with rates in 1999.

For methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, there was a 3.5-fold increase during that period. It seems that the ample documentation of the dramatic increases in Ritalin consumption over the 1980s and early 1990s, together with growing public awareness about dangerous effects of Ritalin, such as brain atrophy and heart failure, resulted in at least a slowing down of the growth market for that drug - even though the absolute numbers continue to grow at an astounding rate. An article published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which demonstrated that Ritalin was even more powerful than cocaine in its effects on certain neurotransmission processes in the brain, is a recent strong challenge to the ongoing psychiatric propaganda that tells parents that it is a "safe, mild stimulant."

For those of us feeling hope at the slowing of the devastation of our children by the runaway pharmaceutical express, the data on amphetamine prescriptions is a cold slap. For amphetamines, there has been a 15-fold increase from 1991 to 1999. A variety of new and stronger products, such as Adderall, which is becoming the most popular drug of choice for our children, have successfully ensured the pharmaceutical industry's place at the top of corporate profitability. The growth market of children and psychiatric drugs continues to be a key link in the industry's success.

Ms Fuessner also shared with me production data: ... Regarding methylphenidate, in 1992 our production quota was 3708 kilos, about 8,175 pounds. In 2002, our production quota is 17,618 kilos, about 38,840 pounds, almost a 5-fold increase in the last 10 years... The drug companies are very busy developing and

promoting new products using these drugs on our children. As Ms.Fuessner pointed out to me, large amounts of a drug targeted for research and product development are a sure sign that corporate pharmaceutical entities see a continually growing market, and intend to keep their feet in the door.

With this in mind, consider the data on amphetamine production quotas. In 1992, we produced 626 kilos of amphetamines, about 1,380 pounds. The quota in 2002 is 13,964 kilos - 30,785 pounds. These 15 tons of amphetamine are better than a 22-fold increase in the last 10 years. A 15-fold increase in prescriptions, a 22-fold increase in production. That is one enormous window of opportunity for profit. Call amphetamine "medicine," call it whatever you want, but it is still addictive and very dangerous. Remember the old saying, in my generation anyway, "Speed Kills." Today it is "Speed Sells" - big time, and legal.

The state of Texas, by the way, is the number one recipient of the product that these quotas control. A few states outrank us in per capita consumption, but we take the most in sheer volume. Since the vast preponderance of these drugs go to United States school children, mostly boys, our infamous honor is that we drug ("treat") more boys here in Texas than anywhere else on the planet.

There is much more to be said about this tragic business of drugging millions of our precious children. An estimated 8,000,000 children between ages 5 and 18 were on psychiatric drugs as of 2000, about a 4000% increase since 1970... The pharmaceutical industry, led by Alza in its campaign to promote Concerta, another methylphenidate product, pioneered direct-to-consumer print ads last year. This year, they will use television commercials. Because there is some question still about the legality of directly mentioning a controlled substance in such ads - due to controls set by the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances - these original Alza ads emphasize the alleged disease (in this case, ADHD) that the company's product purports to treat, and then give a convenient toll-free number to call to get help. The fact is, however, that direct-to-consumer marketing of Schedule II drugs is becoming more common, and apparently effective. Corporate forces call this practice good business; some like me call it brazen drug pushing, and an especially shameful disgrace when it comes to pushing amphetamines on children.

Gretchen Fuessner says there is nothing the DEA can do about this violation of a long-standing "Gentleman's agreement" between the DEA and the drug companies. I and my organization will continue to do everything we can to protect our children from any and all "gentlemen" who think there is anything gentle or manly about pushing speed directly on children and families. Especially when one considers that the current most rapid growth market is for toddlers and preschoolers. Data from the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement in California shows that out of a total of 461,636 children prescribed Schedule II drugs in the year 2000, 108,244 were under 6 years old. - John

Dr. John Breeding's website,, is a great resource on children, parenting, and psychiatric oppression. Check it out! - Norm Lee

October 15, 2003

Latest and most flagrant public defender of hitting children appeared a week ago in the form of one Bill O'Reilly, as if the wrong-headed/mean-spirited are lining up to replace Rush Limbaugh. Correspondent Isabelle Neal, of Texas, wrote: "Two days ago on Public Radio's Fresh Air program, Bill O'Reilly (from the O'Reilly Factor) was being interviewed [to plug his new book]. He is very popular in mainstream news. He stated that his harsh treatment in Catholic School was what kept him out of the penitentiary and that he believes in corporal punishment as long as it's not overdone..."

Our dozen or so anti-corporal punishment Email activists could not let this pass. Among the most powerful rebuttals to this ancient and common defense of, and justification for inflicting physical pain on children is Jordan Riak's of PTAVE, who teaches non-CP childrearing classes for prison inmates.

"Let's welcome the latest expert on child development and proponent of corporal punishment, Bill O'Reilly of The O'Reilly Factor. A few days ago on Public Radio's Fresh Air program, he claimed in an interview that his harsh treatment, e.g., slaps, smacks, ruler-on-the-knuckles, etc., he received in Catholic school, and for which he is now grateful, was what kept him out of the penitentiary.

"If it's true that such treatment was the pivotal factor in keeping him from a life of crime, then current Catholic education policy, which forbids all corporal punishment, is dangerously wrong-headed and we can expect to see a future generation of unspanked Catholic school alumni filling the prisons. But I don't think that will happen. I am confident Catholic educators have it right on this topic, and Bill O'Reilly has it wrong.

"I have some first-hand evidence to support my theory. I routinely poll each new class of students to find out what percentage were raised without corporal punishment. I lecture a new group of 20 to 30 adults every three weeks, and have been doing so over the course of the past four years. In the process of looking for an unspanked student, I think I know how Diogenes felt holding up his lantern in the market place at midday in search of an honest man. My polling results are consistently at, or very near, 0%. If their childhoods were deficient in any way, it certainly wasn't due to the lack of spanking. My students are inmates in the Pre-Release Program at California State Prison Folsom.

"Bill O'Reilly's claim that the corporal punishment of his student days kept him on the straight and narrow -- it wouldn't have kept him out of Folsom -- is a variant of the familiar: "I was spanked and I turned out okay." Let me offer another personal anecdote which I hope will be illustrative. I grew up in a family of smokers. There were ashtrays in every room and the air always smelled of tobacco smoke. My mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. There's more. Our family car didn't have seat belts and as an infant and toddler I never traveled with any kind of safety restraint. They just parked me on the back seat and let gravity do the rest. As a schoolchild, I rode my bicycle to school every day and never wore any kind of head protection. In my teens I took up the family habit of smoking. And look at me now. Just like Bill O'Reilly, I turned out okay. So what does that prove? Were my folks smart or lucky?

"If you want to tell Mr. O'Reilly something about the correlation between corporal punishment and criminal behavior, you can write to him at ."

Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033. Web site: "Project NoSpank" at Telephone: (925) 831-1661

- Norm Lee,

October 1, 2003

Letter from "Stewart6"

Stewart: Instead of focusing your attention on other parents disciplinary methods, focus on a real problem like child abuse.

Norm: That's what I focus on: physical punishment, which is child abuse. What are you doing to stop it?

S: You don't give a fair argument to Christian parents who believe that it is biblical in this form of discipline.

N: Hitting children was an acceptable method of treating children in biblical times and thru most of history. As humans have evolved over the past several thousand years, we have gradually learned more gentle and enlightened ways of treating children.

S: You refer to spankings as "beatings, child abuse, attacks, and violence. This is not a fair reference.

N: Spanking is hitting, and hitting is violence. Any hitting easily escalates into more severe hitting. And violence against a child teaches that violence is the way to solve problems.

S: I can tell you as a police officer, what you are suggesting people to do is not what the law states. This form of discipline is very legal, and parents have that right.

N: No one has the right to strike another. Even cops. In a dozen countries it IS unlawful to physically punish a child. In the public schools of 28 States of the U.S.A. it IS illegal to physically punish a child. It is illegal to strike an adult. We will not stop until it is illegal to strike children, who are much more vulnerable and easily hurt than grownups.

S: You are advising people to confront, what you call an attack. You should never approach any type of physical altercation at any time. People these days carry weapons, and someone like you won't detour them from attacking you. In fact this will probably provoke them. Is your concern worth your life, or someone who took your advise? Leave confrontation to police officers, this is unwise advise you are giving out to people.

N: What protection would a child get if you were called to stop a parent from spanking their child? Zero. Nada. You wouldn't see it as violence, you'd see it as proper and acceptable "discipline". So we must STEP UP where you cops are too uneducated, too insensitive, or too cowardly to intervene. Before objecting to the STEP UP Resolution, you might first read the caveats provided in STEP UP instructions regarding interventions.

S: In essence what you are telling a child, by confronting them, is to disobey their parents, when this is done in front of a child. You don't have the right to overstep a parents authority.

N: We are telling the child that they are worth protecting, and that it is wrong to commit violence against another, especially one smaller. But you are in the cop business because you wanted to be an authority, and to exert authority over others. But if you don't protect the weak and helpless against the bullies, you just another bad cop, another bully with a uniform. Having joined the strong against the unprotected, you don't "protect and serve", but rather become a liability to society.

S: These are just some of the arguments that are against your hasty generalization of corporal punishment. Your argument is basically a "Slippery slope." There has to be a balance between your beliefs and your oppositions. This is what I intend to find out.

N: You sound confused. Please explain that last threat-implying statement.

S: As a parent of four, I want to be the best father that I can be. I don't believe in either extreme. I feel that there is a balance.

N: I see the two extremes as neglect and violence, and you occupy the violent extreme. The middle way requires a bit of reading and understanding, which you, and your fellow extremists, seem not interested in acquiring. The problem of extremism in parenting is what I have been addressing for the past 40 years.

S: In all forms of discipline there has to be an explanation of why the child is being disciplined, affirmation of love to the child, and encouragement to do better.

N: One sure way to get a child screwed up psychologically and emotionally is to hit him/her and tell them it is "love". You might try to comprehend that punishment is not discipline, and discipline is not punishment. I refer you to Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 in my book, Parenting Without Punishing, found here:

S: The most important factor is that in all that we do, we must seek our creator, God in guidance to parenting. The Bible gives the "Fathers" intended instruction for our lives. Without it, and without an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we live our lives in vain.

N: I have yet to see evidence that you have learned anything from the teachings of Jesus Christ. His message was consistently one of gentleness and compassion. He emphasized the importance of treating children with special kindness and respect. In your defense of hitting children you insult and undermine everything Jesus stood for and taught.

S:Without "Him", what hope do we have in the future? To live our lives without meaning? Or even to live all our lives, gathering all the stuff we can, just to die and not be able to take it with us? What happens after we die? Where will you spend eternity?

N: I do not depend on distorted interpretations of ancient writings to give my life meaning and purpose, and I feel sorry for anyone who does. I am now close to my 75th birthday, and I am free of the fears you have about death and where I will "spend eternity". I sincerely hope you can find a way to quiet those fears and find peace before you're my age.

S:All these questions are answered in the Bible. The last question you can answer after reading these scriptures; John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15-16, Romans 6:23, 10:4, Ephesians 2:1-10, Hebrews 9:11-12, [end]

N: I have looked up and read all of your references. There is nothing new there that I didn't learn as a child when all the while the faithful, worshipping "Christians" were battering, violating, and humiliating me. Let me tell you something, Stewart6: with an education, (which you won't find in police academy,) you'll discover that a question cannot be decided or proven by merely quoting from the bible. There is no avoiding doing your own thinking, and taking full responsibility for that. It may not be too late for you to begin.

September 15, 2003

The movement against corporal punishment is stepping up its pace among Christians. Sue Lawrence and her husband Steve have a lively petition under way with nearly 50 signers already on it. See

Their appeal is directly to Christians who know spanking is wrong but troubled by certain passages in the Old Testament recommending archaic and brutal treatment of children. Sue's and Steve's aim is "to bring about a more Christ-like approach to childrearing". Hence, their website references to specific passages in the Bible that make clear the gentle and compassionate non-punitive message of Jesus. You can check that out at:

Sue spearheaded the recent campaign against an ad in a "Christian"-oriented magazine selling a "rod" designed for beating children. She writes: "...the latest on the "rods" business: we've found out that Home School Digest (the rods advertisers) are being promoted/advertised by National Response Marketing, by means of coupons in a coupon-pack. National Response Marketing can be called toll-free at: 1-888-777-6032 to ask them to please stop carrying coupons for Home School Digest, until they stop carrying the "rods" ad.

I have recently found out that Home School Digest (sellers of "The Rod" 22" nylon whip to "train" children) is advertising through National Response Marketing. Please call NRM at 1-888-777-6032 and ask them to stop advertising for Home School Digest until they drop their "Rods" ad. Steve and I have made several calls already, and they are interested in the comments and are showing concern. Some more calls could really make a difference!

Update on the petition against corporal punishment - 35 signers so far! Writers, clergy, people from all walks of life and religious persuasions are signing - this is so encouraging. Everyone I've talked to about this issue has been interested, and there is much concern about certain groups using Proverbs as an excuse to beat children. Please sign if you haven't yet, and tell others who may be interested:

NEWS: In Mobile Alabama, the Mobile County School Board recently voted 4-1 to ban paddlings. During the 2002-2003 school year, there were 532 reported paddlings in Mobile County's public schools. That was down from more than 1,000 the year prior. The one dissenting voter ranted about how God and discipline were taken out of schools and the Ten Commandments out of courthouses. "But there are ways to change behavior other than hitting them," said another board member.

Norm Lee

September 2003
"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element ...

It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood

that makes the weather ...

I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether the crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized."

Haim Ginott,
Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teacher

1. There are exciting things happening, corporal punishmentwise, among awakening Christians. For as long as I can remember the biggest block to non-violent childrearing has been the biblical interpretation that God would have parents eat misbehaving ("evil") children with "chastening rods". Our colleague Al Crowell, has formed a group whose mission it is to bring about a more Christ-like approach than Solomon's cruel proverb advises. Christians for Nonviolent Parenting is working on a statement against corporal punishment for church leaders to sign. [Al Crowell, Coordinator, Christians for Nonviolent Parenting at email:]

This is far from a toothless movement. For decades, a Methodist pastor in Ohio has been speaking out against the misinterpretation of scriptures as authorizing child abuse. To a so-called Christian magazine that persists in running an ad for a "rod" designed for beating children, he sent this blistering letter:

August 19, 2003

Israel Wayne, Site Editor
Wisdom’s Gate
PO Box 374-www
Covert, MI 49043

Dear Mr. Wayne:

I was appalled to learn that your organization advertises 22-inch nylon whips intended for use on children as chastening rods. I am told by one of your former customers that your justification for this is found in Proverbs 23:13. If this is correct, I would assume that your organization also advocates selling children into slavery (Exodus 21:7), executing those who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), and excommunicating those who touch a football (Leviticus 11:2-8). Nothing less would be require of those who intend to be consistent with Old Testament legalism.

Clearly you folks haven't hear of Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed with marvelous power in the New Testament. Or, if you've heard, you haven't taken him to heart. It is utterly unbelievable that our Savior, who said that a child-like quality is required to enter the Kingdom of God, would ever sanction hitting and hurting children.

By advertising nylon whips, you people are promoting the most sick and cowardly of modern diversions: child abuse. I fear especially for the safety of your own children.

Long ago, in the course of my pastoral ministry, I learned that the Anti-Christ is most insidious when he clothes himself in Christian language and imagery to do his dirty work. I suspect that this is true of your organization. On Christian moral grounds, therefore, Wisdom’s Gate must be opposed (both your worldview and the products you sell) as a sinful perversion of the Christian faith.

Yours truly,

The Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf
cc: Skeet Savage, Editor

Our STEP UP list has topped 200 souls. Rev. Sagendorf, who has been "stepping up" for years, is our most recent signer. If you have yet to join with us, you are invited to go ye therefore and do likewise. Just click on STEP UP

- Norm

August 15, 2003

THE BATTLE TO PROTECT ALL THE SCHOOL CHILDREN OF DALLAS from paddle-wielding "educators" fell short of unconditional victory. But those forces of violence know that the end of ALL corporal punishment in Dallas schools is near.

This is a struggle that has waged for more than three decades. As we know, Texas holds the dubious record for sheer numbers of children beaten annually by school authorities. Last week a group of anti-CP activists rained e-mail letters and phone calls on the Dallas school board in hopes of changing "discipline" policy. The vote on CP took place at the Dallas school board meeting on Wednesday evening. Debbie Haskins reports:

Dallas Trustees Sell Kids Out Tonight!

I was in attendance at the school board meeting tonight. In a seven to two vote, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees voted to adopt new corporal punishment guidelines. Corporal punishment may not be used on any student unless the child's parent has filed a written request stating that this form of discipline be used. This raises some concerns about equality and fairness.

The hero of the evening was our friend, Ken Zornes. He made a motion to amend the proposal and strike all language allowing for any corporal punishment. The motion was seconded by Jack Lowe, who also voted for the amendment. Ken spoke eloquently of the reasons c.p. is a poor discipline choice and sited many quotes as well as research figures that prove common documented risks, such as anxiety and depression. He also appealed to the duty of the board to act responsibly upon information and to enact policy that is fair to all students. In the end, the board voted against his amendment, seven to two. I almost cried.

It seemed that the board had made up its mind before hearing Ken's very well prepared speech. I believe this compromise is all about maintaining harmony among the board members and not about doing what is right and best for the students. It is an anemic version of what we really want. ...

Though I'm disappointed in not getting a ban, I know it could be worse. No one on the board suggested that c.p. practices be left as they were. I believe that these new guidelines will mean that fewer children will be getting paddled and schools will have to implement better ways of leading them. It also moves us closer to a real ban in the near future.

Debbie Haskins

Strong, persuasive letters came from Bob Fathman, Nadine Block, Jimmy Dunne, Laurie Couture, Debbie, and others. I made phone calls and wrote a letter that I'm told was not bad, but friend Jordan Riak's missive, as his so often do, reached levels of excellence to which we can all aspire:

Dear Board Member,

I'm sure the Dallas School Board has been the beneficiary of much good advice about the physical dangers of corporal punishment. Therefore, I won't waste my time or yours rehashing the familiar. Instead, I want to raise an issue that is rarely talked about, but needs to be talked about: the link between corporal punishment and sexual perversion.

I believe Dr. Philip Greven, professor of history at Rutgers University, said it best with these words: "These are the realities that most of us remain eager to deny... So long as children are beaten by adults, the obsessions with domination and submission, with power and authority, with shame and humiliation, with painful pleasure - all hallmarks of sadomasochism - will remain an enduring consequence of the ordinary violence and coercion done in the name of discipline... Sadomasochism is not an aberration; it is inherent in corporal punishment..."

And, similarly, this from psychologist Dr. David Bakan: "...The buttocks are the locus for the induction of pain in a child. We are familiar with the argument that it is a 'safe' locus for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic zone at precisely the time at which the child is likely to be beaten there. Thus, it is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood..."

Surely informed parents would never expose their children to that danger. Yet when they entrust their children to the care of teachers and school administrators who paddle, that is precisely the risk they are taking. If the experts are right, such schools are playing loosely with children's sexual development, mental health and their prospects for a happy life. They are also playing with fire in terms of legal liability. No amount of so-called teacher liability protection legislation is going to shield the perpetrators and their enablers. No code of silence is going keep the lid on the inevitable scandal and demand for accountability that will take place when the truth is known. If you think I am exaggerating, you haven't been paying close attention to the current problems that beset the Catholic Church.

There are some teachers who enjoy hitting children. They may do it for sexual reasons, or they may do it for the perverse pleasure of exercising absolute power over the powerless, or perhaps a blend of both.

Of course they always say they do it to "keep kids in line," "to teach a lesson," etc. But usually, when one examines the details of any particular incident, the transparency of the alibi becomes obvious. Many psychologists believe people who mistreat children are compulsively restaging key formative experiences of their own childhood, but with the roles reversed. Now, as adults, they are safely on the dishing-out side of the activity. And it seems the more they do it, the more addicted they become to doing it.

Paddling schools are magnets for such people. The school provides a perfect sanctuary where sadists can indulge their appetites with impunity. Furthermore, paddling schools provide an ideal breeding ground and training ground for the next generation of sadists - some of whom will inevitably gravitate to the teaching profession. For these very reasons, schools which harbor paddlers, whether they know it or not, are in silent partnership with the pornography industry. They are aiders and abettors of the worst brand of child abuse. When you decide whether or not buttocks beating shall continue in the schools of Dallas, you will be deciding just what business you want to be in.

Sincerely, Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), P.O. Box 1033, Alamo CA 94507-7033, Tel.: 925-831-1661; FAX: 925-838-8914. Web Site: "Project NoSpank" at

August 2003
"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the welfare of our children is intimately linked to the welfare of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. If one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will be responsible for the violent act. The good life for our own children can be secured only if a good life is also secured for all other people's children."

Lilian Katz, Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse for Early Childhood Education & Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois (Champaign Urbana)

The thought of intervening to stop a physical attack is so emotionally challenging that many people think only of taking on the perpetrator physically, or of stopping him/her with threats and shaming. This is a mistake; what is lacking is kindness and gentleness. Not all such situations are the same, therefore each instance calls for choosing from several approaches. (For a variety of suggested ways to interrupt the hitting, please click on STEP UP.)

The way we view the perpetrator is essential. It is too easy to forget that the victimizer is a victim of violent upbringing, one deprived of adequate nurturing and love. Keeping in mind that the perpetrator is suffering, and that no happy parent ever strikes a child. Our challenge is in keeping our heart open for both victims and treating them with gentleness and care. - Norm

Here we have wise counsel from both coasts, two people experienced in STEPPING UP:


I had a teacher, counselor actually, in Austin, Texas, several years ago who taught me something very important about interrupting child abuse. She said we can all be advocates for youth in the simplest ways. Whenever she sees a parent treating a child with anything less than complete respect it is so clearly a distress that that parent has. Her job is two fold: (1) to address that distress; and (2) to protect the child. This cannot be done by verbally attacking the parent.

She explained that first of all you must interrupt the abuse: Go over and offer comforting words TO THE PARENT - about how difficult it can be to parent, frustrations of shopping with a child etc. Smiling is good. It is comforting and non-threatening and does not imply approval! If you cannot actually confront the parent, drop a glass jar from the shelf or cause some other diversion to take the parents' attention away from the child for the moment.

Next, engage the child. Make eye contact and smile broadly. Let the child know by word or action that she/he is a whole worthwhile person, "This store/street/office/etc. is very loud/crowded/quiet/bright/etc isn't it?"

It was difficult for me at first but it has become easier. Sometimes I am more successful than other times but I feel it is an important job. The child will remember that she/he was important enough to deserve protection from a stranger. - Kathy


I believe that when we address these folks who are so stubbornly calcified in their belief system about children and child rearing, we are addressing the last in a long series of parents who each have had the same parenting. I say to myself: Think what that means. It means they are abused children, humiliated children, injured children, as traumatized as any I teach about in my classes. How would I want to tell people to address an emotionally battered child, a psychologically underdeveloped child?

I know it is hard for me, as like you. I took some abuse as a child...not to your degree, but from a disturbed mother. I had a loving father to run to so I ran away three times before the police got the message and custody was changed.

I think about that little guy, Donnie, and those who were so very kind to him, ... the boisterous Roger's family, ... and then my own father and his wife, who I call mother now. How some of them spoiled me and how some had to struggle to understand and love me, (my step mother,) and how they all came through for me, and I have to give that to others.

We are, both of us - and I come late to the realization - talking to the same little abused children we were. I think that is what makes it so hard. Why we are so frustrated with them, and I admit, angry and hostile toward them in my thinking. They didn't have what we had that let us escape and take such a dramatically different turn. You and I and others like us could be the surrogate parents they need.

Some of the best advice I've gotten about how to intervene with a mother whackin' her kids in the market, is to kindly step forward with a gentle supportive word or two: "Kids can be so tiring after a long day and then trying to shop." "May I help you corral and entertain them while your groceries are checked."

The clue for me is that I can't meet their harsh view of childhood with my harsh view of them. I spend so much time teaching folks to be forgiving of and non-critical of the neglectful abusive natural parents their foster and adopted children come from, for the sake of the identity of the child and his and her worth as a child of those parents.

And I missed it when it comes to the [religious fundamentalists]. Of course they are the way they are. Not enough kindness has been shown them... - Don

[Don is a teacher of adoptive and foster parents, and supervises foster parents-homes for the state of Oregon.]

Click on STEP UP and SIGN UP!

July 19, 2003

WE ARE WINNING. There is no need for discouragement, we are advancing rapidly toward universal elimination of corporal punishment of children, and it is happening worldwide. Here are some of the victories for banning corporal punishment, selected among many during the past eight weeks:

5.23 "Destiny's Law": See impassioned letter by Doyle Weaver to Texas Legislature against paddling students:

5.29: Jimmy Dunne, of POPS: People Opposed to Paddling Students: Dallas ISD is overdue to put away the paddles. 28 states and all of the other large city school districts in Texas have already done this.

6. 7 Nadine Block, coo-chair, EPOCH-USA:

OTTAWA, June 7, (AP): Corporal punishment discriminates against children, lawyers for anti-spanking groups argued before Canada's Supreme Court. The case challenges a Canadian law that allows parents and other caregivers, including teachers, to use physical force to discipline children.

Canadian Supreme Court: At issue is Section 43 of the Criminal Code, enacted more than a century ago, which protects parents, teachers and caregivers from prosecution for using "reasonable" force to discipline children.

Children's advocacy group the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law wants that immunity struck down as a violation of the Charter of Rights. "Section 43 has the effect of making children second-class citizens," Schabas said on behalf of the foundation. He condemned the law as discriminatory, a violation of children's security of person and a legal green light for cruel and unusual punishment.

6.16 Bob Fathman, Ph.D: (co-chair of EPOCH-USA, and president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools): Borneo Bulletin, Monday, June 16th, 2003 Note, Delhi has banned physical punishment in schools, but it continues elsewhere in India

7.2 Nadine Block: Malta moves to fully implement the UN charter on childrens’ rights re: corporal punishment

7.7 Jimmy Dunne, POPS: Turning the heat on Dallas:

28 states have abolished corporal punishment in schools. Delaware is the most recent state to abolish school paddling. In Texas, Houston ISD, Austin ISD, San Antonio schools and many other districts have put away their paddles. Dallas students should be put out of harms way too.

7.7 John Breeding : LEGISLATION: Texas Students Protected from Drugs and Diagnoses Texas has passed two new laws protecting parents from being coerced to accept psychiatric drugs or evaluation for their children. House Bill 1406 makes it unlawful for school employees to recommend a psychotropic drug or suggest a diagnosis for a student. House Bill 320 gives assurance that a parent's refusal to accept drugs or evaluation for their children will not be considered medical neglect. This is a significant step toward protecting the rights of Texas families. We hope that more states follow their enlightened example.

7.9 Bob Fathman: Switzerland is now the 13th country to have a prohibition of any parental physical punishment of children -- slapping, smacking, spanking, paddling, shaking and so forth! The Supreme Court of Switzerland ruling out today announces the decision. The below news article says corporal punishment is now prohibited even if no mark or injury is left. 11 countries have prohibited by legislative action. Italy and Switzerland have bans due to action of the Supreme Court in each country.

The other 11 countries are Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden.

The U.S. is nearly alone in the developed world in still allowing teachers to hit children at school.

BREAKING NEWS: The joyful news from the Swiss newspapers turns out to be false. A Geneva Tribune article, sent by our contact in France, Olivier Maurel and translated by PTAVE board member Mitch Hall, states, "In effect, Switzerland has not really outlawed corporal punishment of children ... as we had all hoped. They still allow "reasonable" corporal punishment for "educational" purposes when a child has "misbehaved."

So the struggle goes on, and this is the way it has been going for years. These people in the anti-spank, child advocacy movement work for decades with little compensation and less recognition, for a tiny crumb of success at a time. That's why, when I'm told in all seriousness, that there are no heroes any more, I laugh aloud, and tell them about the peaceful warriors going up against the child-smackers.

Not the least of the forces against corporal punishment is the work of Jordan Riak, of PTAVE. For the latest and largest resource of information on corporal punishment, check out - Norm

Read STEP UP now and sign on!

July 2003

" ... as more people begin to understand power and authority more completely and accept its use as unethical, more parents will apply those understandings to adult-child relationships; will begin to feel that it is just as immoral in those relationships; and then will be forced to search for creative new non-power methods that all adults can use with children and youth."

- Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training

America is waging a war against children, that is evident to anyone who reads a newspaper or watches TV news. But the forces advocating spanking and shaking are fast losing ground. Just look at the STEP UP roster below! In only a year and a half, nearly 200 courageous and conscientious people have pledged to intervene to stop corporal punishment! I never dreamed that was possible when I was disgusted with the local editor's angry refusal to publish it, so I e-mailed it to friends. Another crack in the armor of corporal punishment came this week when that very editor of the local weekly, the one who all but gagged me, quit to work in a rural paper in Louisiana. There he'll find still entrenched the corporal punishment legacy of slavery. But that, too, is changing, even in Dixie, as Tom Jackson King will discover. They are on the run, and there is no place left to hide.

A fortnight ago in The Norm Report I waxed discouraging at the horrors of Arizona's child abuse. Here are excerpts from the overwhelmingly supportive responses:

"...Your humility in asking for ideas is your greatest strength. I live in Texas where there are three kinds of punishment for children: a whoopin', an ass whoopin' and heaven forbid a beatin'. As a family therapist and school counselor, I too have spent a great deal of energy trying to get parents to see an alternative route. Some are ready for a move up the ladder, some are not. All I can do is stay patient, loving and kind. Sometimes I need more work. It too has been a humbling experience... I read your emails and enjoy them very much. They are a constant reminder of the good in this world." - Darin Krieger, Texas

"... [B]e kind and gentle to yourself, protect yourself emotionally and physically. Speak to those who are willing to listen. Try to remember not to focus all your concern for suffering outwards, ie you deserve your own care..." - Jay Astarte, United Kingdom

" have a record of being effective in interrupting abuse and in being a part of the creation of great alternatives. I am glad you are there, and your presence forces people to confront the places they are out of ethics, and that does not make people happy. So I say keep it up, and I hope you have a few folks around you who are like-minded!" John Breeding, [PhD] Wildestcolts - Texas

"Your Norm Report has affected me deeply, even more than usual. You are so caring, and the world is lucky to have one so dedicated and outspoken as you. I am so very sorry those in SE AZ are so hardened and unreceptive; you are speaking the truth to them and they just won't listen." - Sue Lawrence

"Thank you for your courage." - Marie Paul Baxiu, a Californian from France

"Yes Norm it is appalling. I was a Public Health Nurse for many years before the Child Protective Services was thought about. It does a minimal job where it exists. ... It is scary. I have found that change comes only one person at a time and through close one to one contact. I can feel your despair and can only say to you, keep at it. One child may hear you and feel differently." - Elaine Gowell, Calif.

" At least [the children] will know that someone cared enough to speak for them. I send you a warm embrace in support for being there and doing your best in the greatest of challenges ..." Yvonne Gaston

"A word of encouragement: Since becoming interested in the question of spanking through your regular emails, I have stepped up my own involvement in campaigning here in UK. As well as voluntary campaigning with the NSPCC ..., I now work as a researcher for the Global Initiative to End All Physical Punishment of Children ( . I have an 18-month-old daughter, Evie, and I find it incredible that some parents would punish children of her age and even younger. As you probably know, the UK government is in the process of making corporal punishment by childminders unlawful, but still condones its use by parents. We have to keep at it...!" - Sharon Rustemier, Bicester, Oxon, United Kingdom

"I do not remember if you speak french language, so I try to write you in my very bad english language. I compassionate with your discouragement. In France, the situation is less disheartening because corporal punishments are not allowed in the schools. But the struggle against educative parental violence is always to begin again." - Olivier Maurel, France

"Though at times, as I know all too well, it is difficult - I am delighted that your years of dedication to the rights of children and the ideal of non-violence have not caused you to lose your capacity to feel. It is through feeling that we connect with others, it is through feelings that we share. Without those feelings, both enjoyable and difficult, would we actually care? I highly doubt it. You are a man who has confronted a mighty force which is the history of violence that defines mankind. You have chosen to be on the front lines of change. You have made change happen, you have planted seeds, your have stirred up the forces of opposition. In all this, you have been nothing but effective. Consider yourself in an elite group and if people have had a hard time listening to some of the greatest and esteemed philosophers and spiritual guides, then some of the reactions that you have experienced have not been uncommon. Just keep doing what you are doing! If it is what you need to do, we need it more! Congratulations on the comments complimenting you in the PH post. And, thanks from all of us and especially me for making my life a fuller, truer and more inspiring (I wrote inspiriting - I think I like that) process. You never cease to inspire me and make me smile. Gracias!" - Mady Gomez [PhD], Illinois

"This is a beautiful, compelling essay you have written. You continue to be an inspiration to me and others on the childhood lists. On a closed childhood list, Brian [Canada] posted your essay and wrote this regarding your essay and other efforts:

'Dear list friends, I have such admiration for this man and his work. I know that most of you probably know him already but I wanted to post this just in case you don't keep up with his efforts. He is one of the champions for children all over the world, starting right in his own house and yard.' "I seconded this post.

"Sometimes when builders have to remove huge stone mountains, they use explosives. Someone has to chisel little holes into the face of the stone in which explosives can be placed. If you asked these fellows what they were doing, you would laugh if they told you they were taking down the mountain.

"We work with chisels, but what we do is important. One day this stone mountain, this wall of obduracy, will be brought down thanks to the efforts of men like Norm Lee." - Bob Scharf, NYC

June 16, 2003

I have to talk about Arizona. In Phoenix, where 12 years ago I tried, unsuccessfully, at the state level to enlighten thinking about childrearing, a seven-year-old boy was locked into a closet for SIX MONTHS - maybe more. His mother was surprised she should be criticized for "disciplining" the boy. He deserved punishment, she said, for "his bad attitude".

Hardened police officers were shocked when they broke open the closet to see the 36-pound boy, skin and bones, lying in fetal position in his excrement. He had been given bread and water so sparingly that when temporarily released he desperately gulped water from a toilet tank.

Reading the newspaper report affected me deeply. My own experience as a child of seven was not quite that extreme, but it approached it in several respects. I endured five years of beatings, daily humiliation and social deprivation while working for my keep in northern Vermont in the Thirties. Every night I lay, summer and winter, in a urine-soaked bed, in an unheated barn. I can feel the despair and agony suffered by that tortured boy, lying there in the dark, dying little by little from starvation and heartbreak, helpless to save himself. Punished by psychopathic parents intent on teaching him right from wrong.

Just a month ago only three miles from my home here in S. E. Arizona, three dead babies were found in a storage locker. Their mother had boxed them up and stored them along with her other household possessions. This is a "nice" Mormon-dominated valley, where the myth is that LDS families know better about childrearing than anyone else. I don't know the religion of the murdering mother, but a block from those very storage lockers, two Mormons asserted to my face that there is "little difference between children and animals," and they require being treated as such. Again I was shocked.

I have not led a sheltered life, having experienced much ugliness, included combat, club-swinging and pepper-spraying police on horseback, and angry judges. But still I get shocked more and more frequently in seeing what is inflicted on children here in Arizona.

Six years I have worked to raise the consciousness regarding childrearing in this backwater, ultra-conservative valley in S.E. Arizona, and to tell you the truth I am heartsick. The local newspaper has gagged me, having printed personal attacks in Letters while refusing to print my responses. The community, with complete faith in punishment, has ostracized me for my outspokenness. The city and county leaders have barred my access to more than a dozen community groups for which I have volunteered, including the library committee and the new prison for teenager children, their junior jail.

The county health officer all but threw me out when I asked him to post a NO SPANKING ZONE poster on the wall. The staff was furious at what they interpreted as my suggesting "letting children run loose, like Dr. Spock's permissiveness." Totally closed to anything other than spanking is "necessary", and punishment is discipline. I'd have done better talking to the wall.

When the bombs began to drop on Baghdad, I was aghast to see LDS members of my acquaintance rejoicing over the battering of "the sinful Sodom that God destroyed". My neighbors, many employed in the several prisons that comprise the biggest local industry, are praying for Pres. Bush to get on with Armageddon. (Only the virtuous will survive.)

Almost without exception there is a deep faith in the power of punishment to "shape" children, including spanking and whipping and humiliating, into the dissociated beings that are so pleasing to God, that is to say, satisfying to parents and church fathers. I sat with the sheriff and his wife, who are prideful of their childrearing skills in their devout LDS family, trying to convince them that the spanking she advocates in her public school homemaking classes are harmful. That corporal punishment may well result in gunfire your husband will have to face when those toddler become teenagers, I told her.

I asked if she had not learned differently while earning her M.Ed. at University of Arizona. "Yes, but everybody just brings kids up as their own parents did." Right there I lost my confidence in education as the sole answer to child abuse. Education didn't reach her, but she got her degree anyway. I asked why she became a teacher. "To keep others out. We need 'quality people' teaching our children."

There are hundreds of conscientious, educated, compassionate people who read this column. If you have suggestions on how I might go about reaching minds so closed and hearts so hardened, please e-mail me.

And please don't suggest I move out and forget it. This is where my work is. This is where it's needed. But I need to know how to make it effective. - Norm Lee

June 2003

"...our survival as a human community may depend as much upon our nurture of love in infancy and childhood as upon the protection of our society from external threats."
Selma Fraiberg, Every Child's Birthright: In Defense of Mothering

Dr. Phil and Oprah are fine entertainers and give some good advice, but their staffs let them down on child discipline. They are both stuck in providing substitute humiliations for spanking/hitting. That is not enough. It is now known how to STEP OUT of that punishment mindset and into the Non-Punitive Parenting Paradigm. (Visit They are stuck in the last century, as regards knowing how to treat children.

Hello Norm,

I was channel checking today and heard Dr Phil spend a minute with a family that paddles. He stated several times that he is against cp and explained that most families that use cp will end up crossing the "line" into abuse and that the risk ratio is too big. He added that it makes no sense to use cp to teach a child to be calm and in control while the cp itself is not calm and in control. His really good quote went something like this..... So do you want your child to be psychotic? the setting is a parent talking to a child who just got a spanking. The parent spanks the child ( without blatant abuse) and then says "I did this because I love you and want you to know better." The child says to the parent can you love someone else next time.

I have been doing some research in prep for a talk show that I have been asked to do on the radio... Michaela

Dear Michaela - I saw Dr Phil's encounter with the spanking couple yesterday, and I just now viewed the tape: It appears to me that Dr. Phil lost the debate, or at least conceded and gave up on the punitive-minded woman who had been a classroom teacher for 30 years. Phil ended up getting angry, flushed, and big-voiced with her, as her husband sat by smiling.

I've been confronting such people for 40 years, and there is no winning an argument with parenting fundamentalists. But Phil could have done better by the millions of TV viewers had he not been limited by his behaviorist psychology position. He and Oprah both reflect the views of the current acceptable parenting practices, which are nearly unanimous in commitment to the carrot-and-stick, praise-and-punishment treatment of children. Just as in any kennel club obedience training class. The game is simply finding "alternatives" to physical abuse and using other humiliations to control kids, like time-out, depriving of "privileges", etc. He likes to cite psych lab experiences with rats and chickens. All such manipulating, policing and dominating and bullying treatment is harmful to a child, any child, and causes the very misbehavior one wishes to eliminate. Indeed, I believe that almost all misbehavior is caused by parents.

I'm glad Phil & Oprah are against spanking, but in this new millenium that is not enough. Phil tells these hitters of children that spanking is NOT abuse(!) The spanking schoolteacher says its abuse to deprive kids of "discipline"(spanking), and the audience applauds. Phil argues that he presents research supporting both pro and con spanking, but that is a fragrant falsehood. There is more than fifty years' research in hundreds of studies showing the harm spanking does, but NOT ONE study showing harm to a child "deprived" of spanking. Phil likes to eyeball the camera knowingly and repeat, "Kids have a dark side." This invariably provokes audience applause, since it supports their resentment of children.

So Phil recommends (merely) less harmful methods of control. To him it's a contest for control; he sees the parent and child relationship as naturally adversarial. And so he has a trunk full of strategies to suppress a child's natural eagerness to win love and appreciation, and learn how the world wags. Dr. Phil (and Oprah) would benefit by reading the 15 chapters of my PARENTING WITHOUT PUNISHING.

Michaela, I can give you some help in preparing for your radio talks if you wish. On my website you will find posted Chapters 1 thru 15 of PWP; Chapter 2 provides an overview of how I came to create a new "New Non-punitive Parenting Paradigm" by which to raise my two sons (early 60's), and Ch 3 shows the harm done by the behaviorists' "behavioral modification" approach (which includes corporal punishment). Chapter 5 discusses just what "discipline" means, and Chapter 6 further explains the meaning of learning self-discipline. If you need more help and support for your radio talks, please call on me. - Norm Lee

ANNOUNCING: aTLC - East: August 29 - Sept. 1st : Washington, D. C. The second North American Invitational Summit: Bonding and Attachment in the Family--Addressing the Root Causes of Social Problems at the Earliest Stages of Life.

This Summit is the second of a series of gatherings sponsored by the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children (aTLC) -- a network of people and organizations engaged in pursuing reflective and intimate conversations directed towards creating optimal environments for the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual development of children....

In addition to sponsoring invitational summits, the Alliance has spent over 8000 hours creating and refining the aTLC Blueprint for Transforming the Lives of Children--a synthesis of leading scientific research and a distillation of ancient wisdom into specific Principles

The Alliance consists of more than 100 organizations and individuals working in a variety of ways to promote innovative and progressive educational programs, services, products, and public policies that will transform the lives of children. Please visit the aTLC website for the complete text of the Proclamation and Blueprint, and a list of Affiliates.

The Summit is a highly interactive event, bringing together dedicated professionals from many disciplines. Midwives, nurses, doulas, childbirth educators, parent educators, doctors, early childhood educators, childcare providers, concerned parents, social workers, therapists, and psychologists are among the professionals who actively participate in our network and summits. ...

If you are interested, please act quickly as enrollment is limited to 150 invitees--details at . There is an early-bird special pre-registration discount until June 8, 2003.

May, 2003

"It is my pleasure that my children are free and happy, and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents." - Abraham Lincoln

1. News of recent advances in eliminating corporal punishment comes from Nadine Block & Bob Fathman of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools and the Center for Effective Discipline. See

Delaware becomes the 28th state to ban school paddling. And Delaware is expected to be #29, with Missouri following. These are important advances resulting from years of persistent work on the part of Block and Fathman and their supporters. They state, "Paddling is most used in the South. In Mississippi and Arkansas, for example, states with the worst record of paddling, nearly one in ten students can expect to be told to bend over and hold his or her ankles while a teacher or coach strikes the child's buttocks..."

SPANK-OUT DAY USA, every year on April 30th, is the day designated to suspend all corporal punishment of children while seeking out alternatives and better approaches to discipline. Block and Fathmans' EPOCH-USA (End Physical Punishment of Children) created SpankOut Day some years ago, and the event is now extended worldwide. >From Houston, Texas, we hear from Jimmy Dunne of POPS (People Opposed to Paddling Students): While the US is exporting this day of peace for children, much of the world leads the US in establishing protections for children... almost all developed nations in the world, excluding the United States, have abolished school corporal punishment. Eleven nations have banned all hitting of children, including in their homes. In Italy, a Supreme Court ruling has found hitting of children to be unconstitutional."

More information on SpankOut Day USA and SpankOut International can be found at

Iceland bans spanking: more encouraging news from Nadine Block:
(Click on Iceland joins states offering children legal protection from all corporal punishment. In March 2003, the Icelandic government passed a new Children's Act, which completes the process of total abolition of corporal punishment of children by making it unlawful in the home. Article 28 of the new Act states: "It is the parents obligation to protect their child against any physical or mental violence and other degrading or humiliating behaviour". This is interpreted by government and by the Ombudsman for Children as explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment by parents, and is supported by provisions in the 2002 Child Protection Act which had already placed an obligation on parents "to treat their children with care and consideration", and "to safeguard their welfare at all times". The new law will enter into effect on November 1, 2003.

April, 2003

"The biggest disease this world suffers from is people feeling unloved."

Lady Diana Frances Spencer
Princess of Wales

The Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children, whose Invitational Summit Conference I attended, turned out to be a transforming agent in my own life. For four days it was my privilege to revel in the company of over 200 aware, loving, and exquisitely informed people. More below, but now let me quote the words of a new friend, Brenda Mercado:

"Our attention was: Our children, our society are in crisis. [The aTLC] invited Indigenous peoples, myself, as a representative the Chumash People, Chief Sonnie Reyes, Yaqui-Coahuilteka Nations and Sobonfu Some, African to join a variety of professional child and mother experts.

"Nearly 200 ... scientists, nurses, doctors, child developmentalists, anthropologists, midwifes, psychotherapists, and more attended this intensive gathering (from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. or later each day).

"Research reveals many hospital practices are in the way of the natural processes of Mother Nature and the infant and mother bonding. This lack of bonding and attachment makes for a very unhealthy society of today, one where teenage suicide, autism, mental health disorders, sexual dysfunction, family separations, are in epic proportions.

"The Indigenous people spoke of the role of ritual, connections of community, the need for Mother Earth, connecting to the spirit world, acknowledging our ancestors, respecting our elders, song, and having our community raise our children ....

"Joseph Chilton Pearce, [Magical Child], a pioneer in Child Development, in his late 70's showed pictures of babies who are born in natural and loving environments. The growing baby has a different shaped head and reveals the intellectual brain far more developed than the primal brain.

"Our children lack puberty rituals, our men lack manhood rituals, our women lack the love and cradling and support she needs to bear and birth her child. We as a community lack ritual and our culture is suffering from this in so many ways as made evident from this world summit. "

When it came my turn to speak I told a bit about what happened to me as a child and how I struggled with it for 60 years. Then I told about the Resolution (below) and how you good people are signing on, and invited all to join in this in-the-street effort to stop the hitting. And to my astonishment those 200+ people leaped to their feet to give me a standing ovation that continued on and on and on. People were crying, and one of them was me. Then I returned to the mic to say I never, in my 40 years of working against child punishment, had I ever been in such loving company. Then they took turns hugging me. It was open heart therapy, folks. This was a peak, changing experience in my life. We are changing the world. - Norm

March 15, 2003

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
- Theodore Roosevelt

Stopping the Mother of Punishments

It is not too late. It is not too late. The rush to war has already been slowed by an outpouring of world protest. But the Bush team is still ready and eager to begin the mother of punishments for Bad Boy Hussein, surely to result in the deaths of vast numbers of innocent Iraqi civilians and massive terrorist attacks here at home. While prospects for peace looked bleak only days ago, there are now clear indications that massive carnage can be prevented by letting the inspection team continue their work in eliminating Iraqi weapons.

Those who have received the notices know that massive numbers of cartons of petitions for peace from around the world were recently delivered to the U.N. Security Council. Now they/we are calling for a worldwide expression to stop the war momentum with a global candlelight vigil TOMORROW NIGHT at 7 p.m. wherever you are:

" Beginning in New Zealand, these locally organized candlelight vigils will circle around the globe. They'll be beautiful, powerful, and inspiring. They'll send an eloquent and clear message that the world wants peace. And they'll be supported by many religious leaders -- including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- who will help to articulate the moral case against war. This is going to be a massive global event. Already -- just since Tuesday -- 1,605 vigils have been scheduled in 77 countries. You can see what vigils have been scheduled in your area, and sign up for one, at: "

Ten Ways to Avoid War

There are many paths to peace, many alternatives to violence and war. Deepak Chopra has offered these (below). Let's see how many we can act on:

"1. Congratulate President Bush on already succeeding. The presence of U.S. troops around Iraq has called Saddam's bluff. Disarmament has begun. If pressure is kept on with U.S. military presence, in the region, without dropping bombs, further progress will inevitably occur.

2. Assign prominent figures of peace to be present in Iraq constantly, along with the U.N. inspectors. Have these revered figures address the Iraqi people and the world every day on the value of peace.

3. Ask 100,000 well wishers from around the globe to bring food and aid to Iraq's children. These people would carry humane relief in person to Baghdad.

4. Start a global Peace Corps of volunteers who will go to Iraq with the express purpose of fulfilling any humanitarian need asked for by that country.

5. Offer MTV, CNN, and Nickelodeon free to any Iraq household with a TV. Exposure to the world will make them feel like part of the world.

6. Sponsor 25,000 student exchanges for Iraqi high schoolers so that they can live for a year in Europe or the U.S.

7. Keep a tenfold number of U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq and have them report every two weeks.

8. Teach courses in all American schools on the pros and cons of globalization and multiculturalism, as opposed to instilling the false belief that nationalism is going to continue to work (war being a logical and horrendous extension of nationalism).

9. Withdraw the resented presence of U.S. troops from those regions where seeing an American army uniform inflames simmering hatred.

10. Open Disney World somewhere in the Middle East., a region where up to half the population is under the age of 15. These children are in enormous peril, not just from bombs but also from cultural isolation. Let children breathe free air at a place where fun and joy abide. What better way to reduce fear and anger? At the same time, find a way to expose American children to the children of the world."

Meantime, every evening at 9 p.m. (New York time) people all over the world are sitting in meditation or prayer for one full minute in what might be called our "Daily Moment of Peace". You're invited to join us. That's 6 p.m. Arizona time, what's yours?

- Norm Lee

March 1, 2003

"The greatest crime against humanity is the torture and mutilation of children."
- James Prescott, Ph.D.

There is no act of violence against children as horrible as the astonishingly widespread practice of cutting off parts - or all - of children's genitals. Both males and females undergo excruciating pain and terror at a time when they are helpless to protest.

Here is an opportunity for us to STEP UP - in a virtual way - to protect defenseless children and babies: Please join with Nobel Laureates in signing this petition to the World Court, the Hague: The Ashley Montagu Resolution to End Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide

To sign the petition, click on

To read the Montagu Resolution, click on

For more information about the Resolution, click on

Endorsing "The Ashley Montagu Resolution" is the quickest way to support theworldwide uprising against all sexual mutilations of children. Thank you for your protective actions on behalf of children who cannot protect themselves.

More detailed information about the Montagu Resolution:
James Prescott, Ph.D., wrote the "Ashley Montagu Resolution" in 1994.
Dr. Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate in Medicine (1962) and discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule, endorsed the Montagu Resolution in 1995, along with Dr. Jonas Salk and many others.

Dr. George Wald, Nobel Laureate in Medicine (1967) and discoverer of vitamin A in the retina of the eye and how it works there with light to form the molecular basis of vision, was also a strong defender of the human right to bodily integrity. More information about him and his historic 1975 essay, "Circumcision", is available at

On April 1, 2002, this important child-protection petition became available for all to sign on the web at Signing it is the fastest way to help protect children from sexual mutilations regardless of what sex they happen to be or what the religion, culture, ethnicity, aesthetic preferences, ignorance level, or the sexually-child-abusive insanity of their parents.

It is the CHILDREN'S bodies, THEIR religious freedom, THEIR health and safety, THEIR self-determination, THEIR human rights, THEIR futures, THEIR lives, that are important now. All humans have the inalienable human right to bodily integrity.

We adults have the inalienable human RESPONSIBILITY to protect each other's and ESPECIALLY the CHILDREN'S human rights from violations and their human bodies including their genitals and rapidly developing brains from ignorant-adult-inflicted torture and lifetime harm and mutilation.

Please sign the Ashley Montagu Resolution, and pass the word on to your friends to sign it by copying this message and emailing it to them and to your lists. We are hoping to receive 1,000 signatures by April 1, 2003, the Montagu site's first birthday, also the 10th Annual March Against Circumcision (see ), the first day of Genital Integrity Awareness Week, and the first day of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Being born human is not a disorder requiring surgical correction. Take the whole baby home!

Van Lewis

February 15, 2003

My reading of Psychohistory has deepened my understanding of the motivations behind punitive childrearing, violence, war-making, and the writings of pioneer Lloyd deMause that appear freely on the Web are an excellent beginning education in this new, exciting, and world-changing new science. Combining psychology, history and anthropology, it offers to us the results of Dr. deMause's 30-year research into the history of child abuse and "The Emotional Life of Nations," the title of his most recent book. Nowhere else have I found more perceptive insights in exactly WHY Pres. Bush II is so obsessed with killing Hussein, and destroying Iraq in the process. See for more.

BONDING AND ATTACHMENT IN FAMILIES is a conference that I will be attending, and hope you will as well. Subtitled, "Addressing the Root Causes of Social Problems at the Earliest Stage of Life", the sharing of information will take place next month, March 27-30, in Santa Barbara, Calif. It is sponsored (with co-sponsors) by The Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children, and the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. For more, see:

"This unprecedented interactive Summit will bring together leading-edge organizations and individuals to share current scientific evidence, clinical experience and cross-cultural knowledge and practices about family bonding and attachment."

Norm Lee

February 2003

Dear Friends -

Nothing, it seems, is as it seems. All the time I was concerned with the lungs ... and the hypoglycemia. Today, on the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, I got a wake-up call at the VA health clinic: I have heart disease, and it's serious. Internal damage to heart, they said, danger of clotting ... It explains the chest pains I had self-diagnosed as a cold, or flu, or pneumonia.

So for the End Game it's the whole shmear: the daily aspirin, the daily drug (heretofore only drugs were coffee, and evening glass of wine), nitroglycerine to carry about wherever I go, to place under my tongue at chest pain recurrences (if the third one doesn't stop it, head for the nearest ER real fast). And endless tests, and check-ups, and consultations...

I was just last evening on the phone waxing enthusiastic to a friend about the joys of Old Crank status - a happy surprise no one had told me about (who listens to Old Fogies? anyway?). "Hey - the best years are yet ahead!" I told him.

This heart patient thing is just not my style. For six decades I've thrown myself 100% into everything I undertook - (and did some extra, the "necessary" effort to make myself "equal"to others). At Syracuse Univ., fueled by buckets of instant coffee, I was taking a full load of courses plus working full time nights at G.E. When I learned in a psych course that the first four hours of sleep were most efficient, I adopted a time regimen: when the clock read 4 o'clock I went to bed, daylight or dark; when it was 8 I got up and went to work or class.

On beginning teaching the 100-hour weeks continued. And again in later years of homesteading, and publishing a magazine. The writing, of course, needed never to stop until the coffee gave out and my face hit the keyboard.

So the brutal beatings in childhood, the terror and humiliations, plus doing a man's work during the day and shivering thru 20-below Vermont winters at night, had to exact a price at some point. Had I not inherited longevity genes I'd have bid adieu before this.

My father died of heart failure 15 years ago. He'd been on the aspirin, the drug, the nitro, the works, for quite a while. He gave it up a few days after his 85th birthday.

I've been a fighter from the beginning, and maybe before the beginning, a combination fightin' pacifist or pacifist fighter. They're not carting me off to the crematory without my permission. I have a few more miles to go before I sleep. Too much writing to do yet. My 74th birthday is coming up March 2nd. I've already beat the insurance tables by six years.

I like Dustin Hofman's choice for an epitaph: "I knew this was going to happen."

- Norm

January 2003


We have a cultural notion that if children were not engineered, if we did not manipulate them, they would grow up as beasts in the field. This is the wildest fallacy in the world.
Joseph Chilton Pearce

1. The response to STEP UP Week 52 was heartening, and I extend my deepest gratitude for your support. Many of you forwarded to me your letters to Tom Jackson King, editor of Eastern Arizona Courier. Several of these can be viewed at my new (still under construction) website: Mr King sent me several angry e-mails at receiving the many kind and thoughtful messages (in my opinion), and I laid to rest the issue with this letter:


Dear Tom -

I am not your enemy; I wish to be your ally. I had a legitimate grievance, having been treated so shabbily by you, Schneider and your Courier staff that it amounted to abuse. Now that my protest has been expressed, I resolve to let it be.

I do not accept abuse graciously, even as I understand that the abuser behaves so toward children as a direct consequence of having been victimized by his/her parents. I doubt that your childhood was more severe than mine. My mother abandoned me when I was age four, my father when I was age seven. So I was obliged to work for my keep from age 7 to 12. I was disallowed friends or playmates, and humiliated in school for my ragged clothes, bare feet, and odd behavior.

My nights, summer and winter, were spent in an unheated barn - this was in Northern Vermont in the Thirties, where winter temperatures routinely dipped far below zero. Bad enough to carry feed and water for cow, calf and pigs, I had to plant two acres of produce all spring, and haul a cart full of the stuff through the streets all summer, selling it door to door. Ostensibly, it was for income; its actual function was to cover for the illegal abortion racket for which I worked.

I was beaten brutally and regularly with a hardwood stick - not for misbehavior - I was far too defeated for that, but for the sin of being a child. It was then that I made my first Resolution: I would overcome the emotional scars inflicted by this tortuous treatment if it took me all my life. And it has. Then 40 years ago I made another Resolution: I would find a way to bring up children not only without spanking or other corporal punishment, I would develop, through academic and in-family research, a non-punitive approach to parenting that dispensed with ALL punishment. I did that, and proved its effectiveness with my two sons, now age 38 and 39.

I came to Arizona to save what remained of my lungs after those five Vermont winters freezing in a wet bed. I came to this valley, six years ago, because it was the narrowest valley I could find. In retirement from college teaching and magazine publishing, I made another resolution: I would occupy whatever years were left to me by contributing, without fee, my best to my adopted community. The most valuable thing I could give was my expertise in my new paradigm in childrearing, parenting without punishing. I would charge not one drachma for my know-how, hard-won over 40 years and terribly expensive in time, money and work.

Pro bono, as a professional I gave lectures, seminars, and worked on several committees, and created two newsletter and hundreds of articles and letters, and suffered abuse while handing out non-punitive literature at Wal-Mart doors. I knew better than to expect appreciation; for my efforts I was thanked exactly once: I received a certificate of appreciation from the local child protection office, the people your publisher regards as a threat to him, (as they are to all abusers). But not one word of encouragement have I seen, in these six years, in your paper. Which is quite acceptable. But when you cross the line into public abuse, as you have in the past month, you must be confronted. I took all the cruel treatment I could handle when, as a child, I quivered in terror receiving the blows of a psychopath who did not recognize the pain and fright a child endures. I have endured the worst - and you are not the worse. You are just closed-minded and closed-hearted.

My Resolution for 2002 read that I would STEP UP and intervene whenever witnessing someone hitting a child. Though I will be age 74 on March 2, I renew that vow this week.

My Resolution for 2003 is to make peace with Tom Jackson King, to become his ally and supporter - in all except his pro-spanking editorial policy. To assist and defend not so much Editor King as the 5-year-old Tom who was spanked by the very people he looked to for love and protection.

My best wishes for your happiness, Tom. And for the children, too.

- Norm Lee

December 27, 2002


We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people. Alice Miller
It was just one year ago today that I wrote the resolution, "Step Up to Prevent Hitting", in response to a call from the local weekly newspaper, The Eastern Arizona Courier. The editor had asked readers to send in their New Year's resolutions, to be printed in the next edition. It was not to happen. Once they saw mine, they decided not to print any at all.

We who confront spankers understand to some extent the depth of their fear and rage. The 122 people who have signed this pledge to STEP UP to stop the hitting of a child know that they are dealing with highly disturbed people. They are apparent adults who need to find therapy to help them look inside themselves and discover why they persist in attacking children. Until then, the hitters need to be stopped, and told clearly that the terrible harm they are doing makes it a MORAL WRONG to thus treat a child. Because the hitters' first defense is that such abuse as spanking is not abuse, but actually good for the child - and to invoke God's Word to back them up.

In my six years of efforts in this rural, narrow valley to bring to awareness the harm done by corporal punishment, there have been many loud and vehement challenges to my views. I've always presented the results of the scientific research of Straus, Gershoff and others, which invariably has been scorned as my personal opinion. When the new publisher and editor came to town, they soon informed me personally that they "support spanking", called my letters and submitted work "propaganda", and refused to print them.

So when the Resolution was not printed, I sent it around to my fiends on the Internet - and thus STEP UP was born. The list of signers grew as the weeks passed, and before spring was over some 50 people had signed, and I e-mailed it to the Courier editor, Tom Jackson King. He hit the ceiling, as did the highly defensive spanking publisher. So blindly angry were they that they didn't see how easy it is to be removed from the mailing list. As the signers - many from other countries around the world - approached 80 in number, the rage of the paper's staff reached crescendo proportions, and they threatened litigation if I did not stop submitting what, to me was simply free copy for their little paper. I thought it would put this little valley on the map.

In my six years of work here - all without fee - there has never been printed a letter of support, and I knew better than to expect one. In the past many of my letters and guest editorials advocating humane treatment of children were printed. But since the arrival of the current editor and publisher there have appeared not only editorials accusing me of being "against discipline", but staff members also have written editorials and letters insisting that spanking is the only way to teach "discipline". In the past month Mr. King has twice violated the paper's published letters policy prohibiting personal attacks, and printed assaults on my character and credibility. He considers himself not only a responsible parent, but also professional journalist.

Why do I trouble you with all this? I thought that if each one of you who has signed this Resolution - and others are invited as well -should send an e-mail to Editor King explaining the terrible wrong done by advocating spanking as "discipline" and the responsibility of editors to become informed, if not educated, then he might realize that Norm Lee is not the only one who recognizes the harm done by hitting children.

He might even see that a wonderful service could be done for this community (where school children are subject to a paddle-beating,) if he would at least allow this lone voice to be fairly heard. Mr. King's e-mail address is His phone number is 928/428-2560. It would be good to wish him a Happy New Year - from the conscientious folks who have the courage to STEP UP to prevent hitting.

Norm Lee

The Courier

Oct. 17, 2002
To the editor:
It is heartening to see an article in the Courier alerting readers to the threat of sexual abuse of children. It correctly states that "the danger lies as close as next door," but it may well be even closer than that. Most sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by their parents.

It is a problem that extends as far back as the cave dwellers, and up to today in Gila Valley. There is little public awareness, (although long recognized by childrearing professionals), of the serious sexual aspects of spanking, the psychological and emotional satisfaction spankers derive from smacking the bottoms of children. Doubters can be easily enlightened by doing an internet search of "spank" or "spankers" or "spanking". What they will find are cesspools of pornography, of perverts advertising their services (to other perverts) of spanking, whipping, and other forms corporal punishment.

The buttocks are just as much a sexual part of the body as women's breasts, and it is the proximity of the buttocks to the genital area that makes spanking dangerous to the child's sexual normalcy. The internet teems with spanking victims who cannot enjoy sex without the spanking and/or whipping.

Much has been written during the past 100 years in academic literature, scientific research and legal decisions, which explains and demonstrates the sexual violation of children that perpetrators euphemistically call "discipline". And many a school official is a practicing closet masochist, wielding his or her paddle, proudly masquerading as a "strict disciplinarian".

Over ten years ago Dr. Phillip Greven, wrote ("Spare the Child"): So long as children are [spanked and hit], the obsessions with domination and submission, with power and authority, with shame and humiliations, with painful pleasure - all hallmarks of sadomasochism - will remain an enduring consequence of the ordinary violence and coercion done in the name of discipline."

Further reading can be found at

Norm Lee, University professor, retired.
Author of "Parenting Without Punishing"

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