Dear Yaw

My child’s school sent him to a mental institution

Dear Yaw

I raised my son to feel and express all his emotions. He’s entitled to be whoever God wants him to be without violence. He’s been enrolled in a private school and now and then I get complaints from his teachers that he’s different from his peers.

I asked what the problem is. I was told he’s having a tough time making friends and sometimes he doesn’t listen to his teachers. He’s not into fights with anyone so when I get the phone call that my child is in the mental institution I didn’t understand why? I didn’t get any call from the teachers that he’s misbehaving.

He’s only six years old. What’s a school for if they can’t help educate my child and accept him for who he is?

-Comfort A

Hi Comfort A

Well, this is a terrible thing that has happened and, unfortunately, only confirms, once again, my own sense that school does far more harm than good.

There are some really fundamental problems with school. For a start, schools really want all children to behave within a very narrow framework as if every child is much the same as all the others. See ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ But if, like me, you have noticed that kids are all remarkably different, then it makes sense that each individual child needs to be given the attention that they need in order to become the unique individual that they were born to be.

Of course, we can keep punishing children to frighten them into becoming obedient and only behaving as we want them to behave but this is not the way to nurture a child so that they realize their full potential.

And so the situation that you have described Comfort is an unfortunate outcome of a system of ‘education’  that suppresses each child’s natural emotional expression so that they can be ‘taught’ (that is terrorized into learning) what society wants them to know. This means that the support that each child should expect to guide them to their own unique destiny is never even offered.

So Comfort I am delighted to read that your son is ‘different from his peers’; that is, your son is an individual unlike any other. And that is how he is meant to be. I am also pleased that you have raised your son ‘to feel and express all his emotions’. Not only is this the only healthy option, it is imperative if he is to grow up to be a fully functional adult, not one who is emotionally suppressed and possibly violent because he never learned how to express how he feels.

As for the current problem, I certainly encourage you to endeavour to remove your son from the mental institution as soon as possible. He does not need to be there and it cannot do him any good.

Assuming that you are able to visit him in the mental institution, it is important that you listen to him about his experience while imprisoned. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’. Once he is out of the mental institution, it will be important that you keep listening to him.

More fundamentally, I would strongly encourage you to reconsider whether or not you want to return your child to that particular school. As I mentioned above, school is fundamentally flawed and I would not send any child to any school by choice. But if you do decide to return your child to school (presumably because you are legally required to do so), at least give him considerable say in which school he attends. I doubt he will choose to return to his old school.

I appreciate your parenting Comfort. Supporting a child to feel and express how they feel, and to behave as these feelings guide them, is an invaluable gift. Unfortunately, it is all too rare.

If you know any other parents interested, I have explained how we should nurture children in the article ‘My Promise to Children’.


Author Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J Burrowes

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes (Yaw) has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is and his website is here.

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