Editor’s Pick: Astrid Lindgren on “Never Violence”

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time.

But one day when her son was 4 or 5, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking — the first in his life. And she told him he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, ‘Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock you can throw at me.’

All of the sudden, a mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. The mother took the boy onto her lap, and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence.

And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery, one can raise children into violence.” ~ the late Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking

This story isn’t new. A quick search on the Internet will show you that it’s been recounted time and time again. And its a touching story that makes many parents stop and think about how their children might view the world around them.

astrid lindgren - wikipediaBut what I found most interesting about this story was that when Astrid was 20 years old, it would have been 1927 or 1928. This was a time in which the prevailing child-rearing philosophies very much condoned corporal punishment. And Astrid is speaking about an “old pastor’s wife,” who would’ve lived in a very, very pro-corporal punishment culture back in the 1800s.

So, even back then, “in the olden days,” there were parents who chose to do something different than the cultural norm. That’s inspiring to me.

Looking more into Astrid’s life history, when she was about 20 years old, and was hearing this story first-hand, she would have either been expecting or had recently given birth to her oldest son. At the time, she was a single mother, working as a typist and stenographer for very little pay. She left her son in the care of foster parents during the week while she worked and then traveled home each weekend to see her son. Her early years were far from glamorous as she worked hard to make a life for her and her son.

How that old pastor’s wife must have influenced her views on raising children!

Eventually Astrid was able to afford to raise her son herself. Later, she married, had a daughter, became a journalist and then a full-time author. Her books, including Pippi Longstocking, were inspired by her family and childhood memories.

A well-known author, Astrid was less known for her activism. According to the Swedish Book Review, she advocated for animal rights, protected threatened trees and campaigned against the closure of library branches, but was especially vocal about her views of world peace.

The above story, which was written by Astrid at some point later in her life, was included in a similar way in her 1978 acceptance speech of the German Book Trade Peace Prize. The Swedish Book Review published the speech, written and given by Astrid, in 2007. The title of the speech is “Never Violence,” and directly ties parenting approaches to world peace, such as this snippet:

“Many parents will no doubt be worried by these new trends, and may start to wonder if they have done wrong, if an anti-authoritarian upbringing is reprehensible. But it is only reprehensible if it is misunderstood.

An anti-authoritarian upbringing does not mean that children should be left to drift along and do whatever they please. It does not mean that they should grow up without a set of norms — nor do they want to. Both children and adults need a set of norms as a framework within which to conduct themselves, and children learn more from the example of their parents than from anything else.

Of course children should respect their parents, but make no mistake about it: Adults should also have respect for their children and not misuse the natural advantages they have over them. What one would like to see in all parents and all children is mutual loving respect.” ~ Astrid Lindgren, 1978

Sounds like Attachment Parenting to me.

Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

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