Riley Speaks

"all i have is a voice" ~ w.h. auden


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Smacking, Not Our Future

In 2009 the New Zealand government enforced the Anti-Smacking Law. Around 30 countries in the world have banned physical punishment towards children in any setting, inclusive of the family home. The ban is not used to criminalise behaviour such as a parent smacking a child, but used to educate and raise awareness on the parenting “tactic”.

The reason smacking is such a bad form of punishment or discipline is that it doesn’t work, kids aren’t given a reason to why their behaviour is bad and so the parent has to continue escalating the smacking. This is why smacking is so dangerous. Parents need to understand that good discipline that works will never be quick. It takes time for a child’s brain to fully understand the issue and takes about three tries of good discipline for a child to learn that the behaviour is not good. Parents don’t always have that kind of patience and understanding and that’s why we have smacking. Hitting when angry, or frustrated, shows children that as long as they are angry enough, and big enough, they too can hit says Grace Malonai. When you smack a child, you teach them that violence is okay. You dismiss this as “not that bad” of a hit, but that’s the same excuse abusers use when their spouse or child winds up with bruises and broken bones. “Oh it wasn’t that hard!”, “It wasn’t that bad!” It is that bad. The idea that you WANT to hit your child is beyond me. The idea that you do hit your child is unfathomable.

Children who are smacked tend to take to violence and anger as a natural reaction. They rarely remain calm in situations and they are what is known as ‘hot blooded’. Other than physical injuries, multiple studies have shown that punishment such as smacking and other means of causing pain can lead to increase of aggression, antisocial behaviours, and mental health problems for children. All of which continue into adulthood. Children who are smacked are more likely to use hitting as a way to solve their conflicts with their friends and siblings – according to a study published in “Child Abuse and Neglect” 2011. A study found that children smacked by their mothers had fewer cognitive skills (Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention) in comparison to other children not smacked. Research suggests this may be due to the fact that those smacked don’t learn to properly control their own behaviour. Another study done in 2013 shows that children smacked by their fathers were more likely to have problems with vocabulary and language. This same study found that children who are smacked are more likely to act defiantly in their behaviour. Malonai also notes that smacking a child can be damaging to the relationship shared between the parent and the child. Spanking can, instead of teaching good behaviour, teach a child to fear the parent. This can reduce the trust and sense of safety for the child. The negative effects are not always seen right away. Smacking changes the way a brain thinks and feels and therefore the effects are usually seen in adolescence and early adulthood.

Parents say that sometimes the behaviour is so bad that the only way to teach a child what is ‘right and wrong’. But Grace Maloni tells us this isn’t true. “In general, punishment has a very low effectiveness rate”. If we are wanting to correct ill behaviours in our children, smacking is clearly not effective, and the argument void.

When you smack a child, you aren’t telling them why the activity is bad, you aren’t telling them what they did wrong. And they will do it again. When they finally don’t do it again, it isn’t because they understand “oh if I am mean to my brother it will make him upset”, they simply stop because “if I’m mean to my brother my mum will hit me”. They begin to fear their parents, fear making decisions. Graham-Bermann says that physical punishment will only work for a moment, and only because they fear being hit.

The most effective form of discipline is to explain why it’s bad. Tell them the effects it has on them, and those around them. Teach them that it matters how others feel, how they will feel once the deed is done. eg. if they hurt their sibling, they might feel bad after too. A huge factor of parenting is remembering that these are children. They don’t know right from wrong and we need to teach it to them. They aren’t always understanding of their actions.

If you have a child that’s aged four and under, the best means to stop a situation is to explain it, tell them the effects, but keep in mind that they are most likely too young to understand. It is so important to explain it anyway. Then distract. I saw this amazing “time out” DIY that is perfect for young children. It gives them a distraction and it looks amazing! If they’re having a tantrum, it can calm them down too. When they are old enough to comprehend your words, it’s then about explaining, and patience. When explaining a situation, always relate it back to them. If they’ve taken a toy of another child, say “That wasn’t very nice. Look they’re upset. You get upset when someone takes your toy. You don’t like it when your toys are taken and neither do they.” Kids are very narcissistic (I kid) and tend to understand things better when they can relate it to themselves and how they feel. It creates a more empathetic child, and ultimately a more empathetic adult. This is where patience is key. Children don’t learn right away – if your child does, count those blessings! So it will take a few tries of explaining before they will actually understand and “listen”. Realise they are listening the whole time, even if it doesn’t feel like it, but they don’t always process it correctly or they don’t understand it sufficiently to continue the good behaviour. Patience. Patience. Patience.

And finally, a very important quote from Elizabeth Gershoff, “I can just about count on one hand the studies that have found anything positive about physical punishment and hundreds that have been negative.” – Just because some good things may come from it, it doesn’t mean the good are able to outweigh the bad. If we want functional children who grow to be functional adults – including emotionally – then we need to learn different means of discipline. We need to stop thinking it’s okay to hit our children. If you aren’t going to be able to have a child draw on your wall three times before they learn the lesson then you might want to rethink your parenting dreams. Parenting requires patience. These children rely on you for protection and proper learning – and you cannot betray that by hitting them and not allowing their brains to function properly. A lot of people believe you have to have kids, and therefore those that aren’t emotionally capable to handle being a parent end up losing patience, which results in smacking and violent discipline.


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Environmental vs. Chemical Depression

I’ve had this theory for a while. That there are two cloud causes for depression. There is environmental depression – caused by the environment around you, and chemical – caused by your brain chemicals.

In 2013 (I know ages ago, but New Zealand statistics are impossible to find) the amount of children and teenagers diagnosed with a mental health condition had almost doubled over the previous five years. But it’s known that the rate of those diagnosed with depression and anxiety is on the rise and we’re seeing some of the highest numbers yet. I think this is down to environmental depression becoming more prevalent. We have put pressures on academics, friendships, extra curricular, university entrance, job options, etc that adolescent are understandably struggling under the pressure. The way to distinguish environmental depression is if you were to have no stresses would you still be depressed? If you were climbing a mountain and no essays were due, you had just won the lottery so money wasn’t an issue, and you had a steady job source – would you still be depressed? I believe environmental depression still sees a decrease in serotonin but as an after effect – as a direct result of the environment and the situation one is in. The simplest way to determine environmental depression from chemical depression is it typically starts around adolescence and puberty.

Most people won’t admit that the environment has caused their depression, some think it makes it less real, others just don’t want to have to change everything in their life to cater to their depression. But it’s not any less real, and it’s important for one’s health to be in a position where you are able to live as stress free as possible. Of course in this consumerist, money hungry society it’s hard – and that’s on us as a nation and a globe. We have to change the demands if we want to see environmental depression decrease.

Chemical depression is as it sounds. Just like ADHD, and other chemically changing disorders, chemical depression changes the serotonin levels in your brain. Not when you reach puberty or stressful times, but from birth. It would 9/10 times go unnoticed, because children aren’t good at explaining their emotions, but it can produce as shyness. A child may seem shy on certain days and not shy on others. Looking back on my childhood I wonder how no one noticed I was depressed. It’s this lingering sense of “what’s the point of it all?” I remember thinking – as a child, about 6 or 7 – about being killed and aside from it hurting and me being scared of the person should they be a stranger, I didn’t really think it would make a difference. It wouldn’t matter if I was alive or dead – it was all the same. That’s chemical depression. And it typically goes away with anti depressants and minimal counselling. I have never received adequate counselling because it never helped. It was just annoying to me. And I think this is why. Because it wasn’t anything that happened to have caused it – sure things had happened to me, but talking about them and learning to cope with them wouldn’t make it all go away. It was just the way my brain was and when I found the proper medication, I saw my mood rise. I still get sad about the things that happened and happen to me, but they aren’t the reasons I want to kill myself. They’re just “life” to me. But for those with environmental depression they are the root of their depression.

Why does all this matter now? I’m sure we’ve all heard about or seen the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. There are numerous reasons I am against this series, but this is a very crucial part. By killing herself, Hannah has stopped all living. She cannot grow to see the happy. From the portrayal of the story on her tapes, all her reasons were a direct result of her environment. If she was removed – flown to a remote island – she would most likely not want to kill herself. In 5 years from when the suicide happened, Hannah could have very well not even believed she was going to kill herself – had she made it out alive. But because she threw it all away at high school, she will never be able to see anything she could have accomplished. Her story ends there. She could have done so much to raise awareness on bullying and sexual assault, she could have become a spokesperson for mental health, but instead she killed herself.

This means so many of those struggling with environmental depression will see this as a plausible and very real option. But they will fail to see that the situation will change. That school will end, and 90% of your friends will be people you haven’t even met yet. But because of this ill filmed and poorly devised show, people will think that it isn’t worth fighting for. That it’s better to just quit. It is not. It is worth staying alive for. There are so many great things out there that you can’t dream of because of school stress, and peer judgement. But it’s there and you can see it, but you have to stick around.


NOTE: Chemical depression is in no means a reason for suicide either. With the help of medications and a steady plan you can enjoy life. Please if you are feeling suicidal contact a 24/7 helpline

INTERNATIONAL:

LIST A (Wikipedia) LIST B (Suicide.org) LIST B.5 (Suicide.org, USA)

LIFELINE AUSTRALIA: 13 11 14

KIDSHELPLINE AUS: 1800 55 1800 (Ages 5-25)

NATIONAL (NZ):

LIFELINE AOTEAROA: 0800 543 354

SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 – or free text 4202

YOUTHLINE – 0800 376 633

KIDSLINE – 0800 543 754 (0800 KIDSLINE) *up to 18 years old


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I’ll Pee on Your Face if That Makes It Better – Trump is an a**hole.

I wish the title weren’t so vulgar and angry but I’m tired. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what other human right the dickwad has taken away each day. I’m so goddamned tired of the hate he breads by making things “legal” or “illegal”. It is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever witnessed and I own two cats that are dumb as heck. I can’t believe that someone can be so cruel…so full of hate. I’ve learned today that he is a far worse human being than I ever imagined anyone to be – even the devil himself wouldn’t be this cruel.

In May of 2016, Barack Obama – then US President Obama (please come back!) – administration made federal guidelines that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom of their chosen identity. Obama let these students be who they were, he realised that nothing made a difference where the person pees. No one wants to pee in public any way.

If transgender youth can be attacked for being who they are why can’t I hit a nazi (no I will not capitalise that, autocorrect) or a white boy wearing a “make america great again” hat? It’s the same deal – except one of these three groups isn’t hurting anyone. I would be more terrified to pee in a bathroom with a trump supporter in it than a transgender person. Why? Transgender people aren’t killing, spreading, and promoting hate. They aren’t taking away humans rights and woman’s rights. They aren’t pulling apart families and sending people – living breathing humans – back into war zones. They just wanna get rid of the goddamned water they drank earlier for f*cks sake.

His whole ploy was to create jobs. That was his focus and his main goal if elected. You want to know what jobs he’s created? Hospitals will see more fight related injuries among transgender, black, mexican, latino, hispanic, muslim, islamic, lesbian, gay, and other minority groups being beaten by bullies. The hospital walls will see more suicide attempts because of bullying. I bet his supporters didn’t think these were the jobs he meant. Wake up Bob, he doesn’t give a shit about you and your suburban family with soccer on the weekends. He has an agenda and you were simply a pawn that will be sacrificed among the play. Hurry up – wake up and realise this, then join the resistance.

And yet people STILL stand by it. They still support him and wear their hats and shirts and crap not even made in the USA as if it were something to be proud of – a badge of honour. I hope you still feel pride when your neighbour weeps for their dead child because you wouldn’t let her pee in the girls toilet. Or when your boss comes to work beaten and bruised because they had the ‘audacity’ to be black. Or Muslim. Or a woman. Or gay. I hope you still feel pride when your own child looks at you with eyes full of innocence and trust as you spread hate and pain. I hope you still feel so goddamned proud when you are standing among a mass grave. Because, at this rate, you inevitably will. I hope you still feel proud when he screws you over. He never cared about you I just wish you could have seen that before November.

Is this my most aggressive and vulgar post yet? Yes. Will it be my last? God I hope so. But at the rate this presidency is progressing…this is as tame as it will ever be again. I am mad, and I am not going to be sorry for it. I have every right to be angry. These kids, people, and humans deserve more than what they have. They are supposed to be protected. My heart aches when I think of all those that fought so hard to get where we are, Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martin Luther King Jr, and so many more seeing the hell that has become the US. My heart aches when I know how alone these transgender youth may feel seeing trump supporters yelling slurs and ready for a fight. My heart aches because I cannot hide them all in my home and give them the acceptance and love they deserve. I am broken, and tired, and exhausted of feeling the same pain each day as I see the world trump is creating. But I am not going to stop. We are not going to stop.

“Nevertheless, she persisted”


If you are a transgender student, or even just a transgender human being existing in this hateful world, please know you are not alone. Please know that there are people on your side and fighting for you. Do not give up. You deserve to live and you deserve to be given human rights. I am so sorry for the way this has gone down, but it’s not nearly over. We will fight for your rights once again and we will make sure you are loved and treated with the respect and dignity every human deserves.


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Hardships /= privilege

Following a YouTube video I watched, I have lost a little more faith in humanity. Reading through the comments I was so happy to see so many people were aware that going through a hard time and struggling with trauma is not the same as privilege. And it’s not.

It’s one thing to struggle with hard things in life – the person in the video surely has had a hard life and it’s important to acknowledge that. But to deny that privilege exists is a little immature. People will always be handed things, or given them easier because of things like their skin colour, their abilities, their religion, their gender, their sexual orientation, etc. My fight as a woman is a lot harder than a man’s. As an able bodied person I have an upper hand in the world. I’m white, I have the privilege of walking down the street with my hands in my pocket and not be shot at because I’m a “threat” and was hiding a possible weapon…As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I struggle against society and the privilege of straight people. I have more obstacles to face than someone who is straight, and that’s a fact.

Be as positive as you want, be as much of a go getter as you can be, but at some point you will have to admit that privilege exists. You can’t be a go getter when you’re dead. And many people are beaten to death or down right executed because of their lack of privilege. It has nothing to do with what hardships they’ve been through. Do you think the person on the other end of that gun or those fists gives a damn if they had a hard upbringing or if they went through a hard time? No. They only care that they are black, that they are a woman, that they are gay, that they are disabled. They don’t care about your hardships. They care about your privilege – or lack thereof.

I myself have been through hard times, I will bounce back from those. But I will continue – until the day I die – face the disadvantage of certain areas of my privilege and non-privilege. It will always be a fight. No matter how many positive quotes I tell myself, no matter how many well I bounce back, my privilege will always be at either an advantage or disadvantage.

Denying privilege exists is part of the problem. As someone on the YouTube platform it’s important to educate yourself and not be ignorant about things. Going through a hard time is not the same as being discriminated against for differences. It just isn’t. Privilege exists and it’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to say “hey look I do get it easier than a gay person”, “I do get it easier than a black person,” – It’s okay to admit that, in fact it’s important. It has nothing to do with how you were raised, what trials you went through. Privilege exists within society and it will always be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what side you are on. It’s ignorant and immature to assume otherwise.


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Why I Will Never Be As Happy As I Was When I Was A Kid…

That’s not to say I won’t have happy years ahead, in fact I see many happy years when I am older and settling down maybe with a family, maybe on my own. But my happiest, peak of it all, purest moments are gone. I look at photos of my childhood and I see a child so in love with the world. A child that holds trust in the world and believes that good people exist and bad people are just made up in the stories read to me. By about age seven I had seen and heard of enough bad things to know that the world could be kind, but the people were not.

img_0965I was always a quizzical child – questions being asked by my peers now, I posed as a child. This is not a humble brag, this is a factor in my loss of trust in the world. I was always asking questions and wanting answers, and when my questions where “why is the sun bright?” they held answers. The sun is bright because it’s a star burning due to it’s nuclear fusion (or some other scientific answer). But when I grew a little older, maybe age seven or eight, my questions became philosophical. Why do people do bad things? Why are some bad things excused and others punished? What is right and what is wrong? Who gets to decide that? No one had answers for me. No one had the answers themselves but they didn’t seem to mind. They went about life like it didn’t matter. How could these fundamental facts not matter? They are what makes humans function the way they do. And so my quest for answers began too early. I never really enjoyed things. There were always questions to follow and wonders that never ended.

I remember asking my babysitter at the time if they ever wondered what their life would be like if they were in the place of someone else. Would they still like the same foods? Would they still believe the same things? When you became someone else did everything about your personality change too? And my babysitter thought I was crazy. I remember her tone and I instantly knew these questions weren’t meant to be asked. She said she didn’t know, she didn’t care. Maybe it was her fault, maybe it was mine. Maybe the world is just a horrible place and no one is to blame. But that day was like a knife to my heart and I decided that day to never ask those kinds of questions again. I stopped asking her, held her hand and skipped merrily to the store. It still bubbled inside me though. The question. Still does. But at least now I’m old enough to know that circumstances create personalities. So if you were born in their life, yes, your personality would be different. Maybe you would still hold parts of it, but ultimately you would not be yourself.

My life from then became a big series of unanswered questions that were never even asked. I stopped questioning everything. Did everything that I was told, and stuffed the questions so far down in me that I hoped never to see them again. All the wonder and pure enjoyment from childhood was gone before I even really began. I was having an existential crisis at age five, six, seven – I still am. The one question that

I will never have answers for is the one I keep asking. Why. Why was I the one who had to IMG_0888.JPGhave such philosophical thoughts as a child? Why didn’t I get to enjoy it like others did? Why was I always pondering the greater life? Why me? I’m sure some other kid out there would have been a much better candidate. Maybe a scientist who would have discovered why we exist the way we do. Instead, it was me. A small kid who had no idea what to do, and only wanted to please everyone around her.

I definitely feel cheated from my childhood, but at the same time it was the happiest – albeit shortest – moments of my life. When people talk about their childhood they can mean anywhere from birth until thirteen. When I talk about my childhood, I mean from birth until six. After that I didn’t feel much like a child. I had too big of questions, too much unanswered. I was a kid facing questions adults face today. No wonder I didn’t feel like a kid. If you asked me at the time I would have told you I did. I thought everyone felt like this. I thought these were questions every kid had. Until I grew older and realised that they weren’t. Whether they hadn’t cared or whether they just hadn’t thought about it didn’t matter. The fact is I was a child having adult thoughts and I never got to have questions that had answers. It wasn’t fair. It still isn’t.