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By now I'm sure social media has informed you of the riots in Baltimore. In particular, I'm sure you have seen the video of Toya Graham, the mother going postal on her son over his involvement. 

Most of the commentary I saw around that video was predictable – ranging from “mother of the year” to “shame on her” but there was one reply, written by a lady called Alicia Johnson, that stood out for its compassion and its eloquence.

Alicia has very generously allowed me to share her parenting journey and some thoughts: The response that first drew me to speak to her is in bold.

What kind of parent would you say you were? 
I view myself as my children's guide, their mentor, their interpreter. This role is assigned to me not by right or accomplishment, but simply because I have been here a little longer and have experienced a bit more. My children don't yet have the words or understanding to express all their thoughts and feelings, or to decipher the meanings of events as they unfold. However, they often provide me with insights that I may not have come across on my own, because they all experience this world slightly differently. 
Was that how you were brought up? 
No, not at all. I was raised in an authoritarian household, where corporal punishment and arbitrary limits were the norm. I was often punished for asking "why?" and for my unwillingness to accept "because I'm the mom" as an answer. 
My decision to become a different sort of parent has been a journey that has lasted more than a decade. It had been an ongoing discussion between my husband and I since we started dating, but when our first child was born 11 years ago, we still believed that children needed to do as they were told and have certain limits in place. We didn't really know any different way to handle things, so we resorted to spanking, time outs, and other methods that we grew up with. 
As the years passed, and our second child was born, it became more and more apparent that methods were at odds with our philosophy but it wasn't until we unenrolled them from public school that things began to change more rapidly. We started researching homeschool methods and came across the concept of radical unschooling, and we began to incorporate more and more of these ideals into our lives. We knew right away that this is the way we wanted to raise our family. 
Knowing and doing are two very different things, though. It is extremely difficult to implement this drastic of a change but we see how much better this way of living is by watching our babies as they grow. We are all so much happier and more peaceful, although I know that this journey will probably last a lifetime. Every day, every hour, every minute, we have to make the conscious choice of peace. I hope that one day, that choice will be more natural to me. As for now, I fail often. But I choose to try again and again, because I believe it to be worth the struggle.
How do you react when you see examples of parenting that involves corporal punishment? 
I feel sadness for the child who is experiencing pain, fear, frustration, and confusion. I feel sadness for the parent who is experiencing frustration, exasperation, and stress. And I feel sadness because I know that I was that parent and those were my children just a few short years ago. 
Have you seen a specific example recently that has given you pause? 
There is a video going around the Internet of a woman physically attacking her son who was involved in the clash between police and rioters in Baltimore. Most people are hailing her as "mother of the year" for her actions.
My first reaction was "violence begets violence": This boy was feeling frustration and fear and anger and felt the best way to express these emotions was to become violent toward those he perceived as the source of his feelings. 
It's the very thing his mother does to him in the video: She feels frustration, fear and anger and expresses those emotions by enacting violence. However, it's apparent to me that her actions are not only harmful to her relationship with her son; they are completely ineffective in communicating her feelings. I'm sure that she was doing what she felt was the best thing to do. I do not seek to condemn her for her actions, but I do believe that we can learn from them.
If I was in her position, I would be crying, begging, pleading with my child to come away with me. I would let them know that I understand why they feel the need to be there. I would offer to help them voice their protest in a safer, more effective way. If they still would not come away with me, I would stand in front of them and say "I understand that I can't make you leave, but I cannot leave you, my child, in a place where you may be harmed. So I will stand here and protect you, with my own body if I must. Because I love you more than life itself. And while I disagree with your actions, I cannot leave you here to potentially die. I will stay here and spend what may be your last moments on Earth with you." 
I understand that most people view that as an unrealistic scenario, but if we are talking about the most ideal, effective response, I believe that would be it. First, we must make a connection to feelings of others, and then we must express why we want them to do things differently. Violence disconnects us from one another. Once we are disconnected, open communication and understanding are lost. 
What is your most important goal as a parent? 
I believe the goal of being a parent should be to prepare my children to take care of themselves and others; to give them the best possible foundation for living, including the resources and desire to continuously learn and grow as individuals.

I will teach them that they always have a choice: They are the only ones in control of their lives and with that power comes great responsibility, to themselves and to all their fellow beings. It's my hope that they will come to me for guidance when they aren't sure what choice to make. I believe that's my ultimate job as their mother.

I accept The Renegade Mother’s point that I don’t know shit about Baltimore, and about the people who live there. 

But let’s remove this from a time and a place and look at it simply as a conversation about a parent and a child: I applaud the mama in that video for loving her son and I acknowledge her fear and her anger in trying to remove her son from danger, but like Alicia, I can’t help but think there is a better way than smacking seven shades out of someone.

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