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Elfi Reboulleau - co-founder of Village de Pourgues, author of philosophical tales and the book “L'enfantement conscient”(Giving birth mindfully). She is also a musician, and shares texts and news on her website.
She offers immersions in Pourgues to families interested in democratic education.
Parents and children have the same rights?!
Eh yes ! Here, children are fully considered as persons, respected in their singularity and capable of self-determination. This does not mean that they are considered as "mini-adults", nor that the specific needs related to their stage of development are not taken into account, but it means that age is by no means a reason not to let them live the individual freedom each person is entitled to.
But then, where does the authority stands?
This is a radical change of habit that upsets our representations: authority is no longer imposed by someone else, but developed within each individual. Here we have rules, co-constructed and ever-evolving, which define the limits of our scope of action, which we have together considered the most relevant to create a fair framework in which everyone can be serene. All the persons who have decided to become a member of this community, whatever their age, vouch for their respect. If there is a transgression of this framework, we can talk about it in a specific place and time, called the C.E.A (Investigation and Arbitration Committee). It is a collaborative instance that brilliantly calls for collective intelligence and avoids the biases of one person taking authority to another.
Why do we choose this ?
For a pursuit of rightness, relevance, respect for being. This upsets some of the bagage we inherited and which is not very interesting. In a parent-child relationship, for example, we are not used, collectively, to question the legitimacy of this descending authority of the parent who often appears as a right, even a duty. However, the source of motivation of the parent who imposes something on his child is not always clear: fears, beliefs, projections, assumptions ... So many internal limits that belong to the parent and that can hinder a child in his blossoming.
And here too, the parent is respected in his sovereignty. If a case involving a possible abuse of a parent's authority over a child is addressed in the CEA, it will not give way to a moral lesson or a psycho-sociological analysis of the situation, but simply to the assurance of respect of each individual according to the framework we have built together.
I remember the case of a nine-year-old child, whom I saw desperately circling a loaf of bread without touching it.
I asked her if she wanted a piece, which she replied that she was very eager but she was not allowed to eat between meals, which her dad reminded her regularly. At the same time, I observed an adult who was starving, had a break in his activity to eat what he wanted. It would not have occurred to him to have to be accountable, or to have any authorization for that, of course!
This situation was discussed in C.E.A, with the father, the child and other members of the community. When facts were objectively established, it was a rich moment of discussion, of listening and intelligence, of which everyone came out delighted. It was decided that the rule “ageism” (which protects individuals from age discrimination) and "impediment" (which specifies that each person can carry out the activity they want without being stopped) were not respected. Several months passed, and just yesterday when I was writing this article, I saw this child go for a walk in the kitchen in the middle of the afternoon, gluttonously observe the contents of our various cupboards, and go out with a half cucumber in hand, crunching in with exquisite satisfaction.
Here we saw a child become vegetarian (to his parents' surprise), another to eat nettle soups as a single meal for several days, others to stop eating at meals cooked to eat here and there fruits and vegetables, others still test improbable mixtures with great satisfaction (ah, sandwiches chocolate-cheese!).
All this as a consequence of the possibility of getting to know one another without being limited by an arbitrary external authority.
This brings up another typical case. At one point, I regularly asked Isaya, my son to wash hilmself. As he did not wash himself as oftent as I thought it was necessary, I repeated my request, insisted, for several days, until he gives in.
My son then called for a CEA, and it was with great joy that I recognized with the others that the "harassment" rule was at stake here (the ageism rule did not exist yet, but it could have been evoked ... I would never have said that to anyone else, although many adults in the village were thrown into the process of no longer using soap or shampoo and washing less: I would have felt so intrusive ! Especially since I did not suffer any inconvenience related to this approach). What's great is that I later realized that Isaya did not smell bad, or had skin problems, on the contrary. His hair was beautiful too. Nice learning for me!
But then, what remains of the parent-child relationship?
Well, the essential remains, and it has finally the place to reveal itself in all its splendor. Here I see real relationships being builded between adults and children.
Individuals who allow themselves to be themselves, really learn to know and appreciate who they are.
How many parents do not really know their children, in what makes them vibrate, their unique way of being in the world, beyond the role of "child of"? Were you, yourself, with your parents in a relationship of respect and trust in which you knew each other in depth? Also, questioning and expanding parental authority, far from diminishing the strength of the particularity of the relationship between a parent and child, only reinforces it. Love that gathers these two people is immutable, and does not lessen in any way in a community.
Being a parent in a Sudbury village is also being available, having time to spend alone and with others. It is to benefit from the presence of people of all ages, all unique and all caring. It is to see his child unfold his wings without limit to their size, to offer him the gift of freedom. It is to be ready to see evolving, constantly, our vision of things.