Social Veganism: How to Talk to Kids + Non-Vegans

April 8, 2015

Vegan FAQ

If you don't yet know "Eco Vegan Gal" Whitney Lauritsen, I'm so happy that I get to introduce you to her! She has a popular YouTube Channel that you'll be super impressed by, and I was stoaked to be on her live Q&A show recently. 

We answered some of my favorite questions ever about veganism from a live audience about everything from society's addiction to meat and dairy, to dealing with disrespectful in-laws, getting picky kids on board with vegan eating, split omnivore-veg families, must-read must-see vegan resources, getting people to consider veganism, and a lot more in between...from religion to adoption to our school systems. We really packed it in. 

And per Whitney's general awesomeness, she has bookmarked each question so you can skip forward to the ones you're most interested in as well as listed all the resources we cover. It's all in the YouTube video description area for your convenience. 

Happy viewing! 

Teaching Power without Domination

January 12, 2015

guns n grenades

A friend of mine once asked a question I’ll never forget.

It was in high school, on the first day of a small sophomore think-tank-like seminar, where we, the students, would be setting the curriculum for the semester (my high school was way better than college).

Suggesting a topic for class exploration, my friend posed a question he said he’d been wondering about: “Does every relationship—whether between two people or two countries—end up with one side being dominant over the other?”

Mind. Blown.

It was the smartest question I’d ever heard. With my neck stuck out, jaw a-slackin', I a little bit fell in love with nerd dude. Even the teacher’s eyes glazed over, I thought she might cry.

The question has stuck with me for 16 years. It never grows old, it has never become irrelevant.

Nerd boy’s question occurred to me again recently, when I spotted a 50¢
gumball machine selling miniature plastic “Guns 'N Grenades” on the street (my first thought, of course, was, ...but my children’s books about veganism are “disturbing”?). 

While I stood staring at the gumball machine in world-weary disgust, I filtered through my reaction...welcome to my brain:

Step 1: detect feeling.
Step 2: name feeling.
Step 3: analyze feeling.
Step 4: name correct feeling.
Step 5: repeat Step 3.

It’s not even that I’m necessarily anti-gun. I have family members who would have been murdered if not for guns in the hands of protectors. 

Really, what I felt was abandon; the abandon with which we allow kids to develop a taste for utter entitlement.

What truly disturbs me about “Guns 'N Grenades” is the distorted prerogative that playing with them instills in children. When little kids play “guns,” they’re not usually playing Rescue the Victim. They’re playing domination.

Maybe that raw tendency is human nature, maybe not…but now we have giant, “evolved” brains to deal with that, don’t we?

We have to teach kids about being powerful without domination.

Left unchecked, I do believe that the dynamic between any two given entities is liable to slip toward imbalance. The economic, environmental, and ecological crises we find ourselves in today are obvious consequences of unbridled, unrefined power.

Historically, learning to wield power effectively, honorably, and justly is warrior work. It is never achieved alone, but in a setting of checks and balances, where one has to practice deference, examination, restraint, and self-control; where one has to answer to an otherand be accountable for his or her actions.  

This kind of training is a subtle but very real benefit of ethical veganism. We learn to go through the steps of examined accountability—answering to our better judgement, to the environment, to animals, to the earth. It is inherently a restraint against tendencies toward reckless and unjust domination.

Kindly take the following request as it comes from the bottom of my heart: please consider gifting my books to a child in your life or to your local library. They are about more than veganism—they are about the kind of questions that last a lifetime.

How to Handle Parties with Vegan Kids

July 3, 2014

Vegan Kids Treats

One of your fellow subscribers, Cory W., had a question this week about his vegan kids and making exceptions for treats/special occasions. I think you'll relate:

Q. Today my 6-year-old daughter (who has not always been vegan) had a pizza party at summer camp. We made her a delicious vegan lunch, set up our expectations, but still she asked the staff members to call me for permission to eat the cheese pizza. I stayed strong and luckily had stashed a vegan ice cream bar for her and she was happy, but I felt so bad that everyone else was eating pizza around her and she wasn't allowed. Even more, I felt like a bad father when the staff asked me if she could have a slice and I said no. Am I possibly causing a food disorder in the future? Do some kids just NEED animal products? Is she going to rebel against us in her teen years and eat all the meat she wants? 
A. Firstly, only good dads would ask such questions in order to become better parents, so don't feel down for an instant! 

Second, all teens do potentially, but not necessarily rebellious things to assert their independence. You can not possibly imagine today what form that might take, so stop wasting time worrying about imaginary future scenarios. Keep a good head on her shoulders and "rebellion" might simply look like growing up (as annoying as that alone might be).

Let's focus on how to keep a good head on our kids' shoulders in the short term and long:

Good thinking supplying alternative treats. Only next time, I would recommend sharing your vegan contribution at the party—in this case a vegan pizza—so your daughter can celebrate along with everyone else, out in the open (and who knows, you might inspire others).

Your daughter didn't want that pizza because she's craving or needs animal products. She just wanted to enjoy eating with friends as a group. But to be sure, ask her! Find out what problem it is she's trying to solve by eating the cheese pizza (Mordecai Finley, PhD calls this strategy "parenting the soul of a child") and then seek a solution together. 

But here's the bottom line and bigger picture:

Your daughter still wants the cheese pizza because she doesn't yet understand WHY your family is vegan. She may need a little more coaching on the motives—you may not have taken previous discussions far enough for her unique mind in particular. She may need to hear more explicit reasoning from you to justify the family's new habits.  
At home, create more of a shared culture around your vegan choices. Include kids in grocery shopping, talk about your purchases, share your own new learnings (don't sugarcoat them, either!), visit animal sanctuaries, enjoy juice shops together, discuss fast-food ads when they pop up on TV, and ask lots of questions so your child begins to formulate her own values and opinions. See How to Help Kids Relate to the Ethics of Veganism and How to Keep Your Kids Veg Even When You're Not There for more help.

Eating disorders stem from fear and a compulsion to control, often arising out of unstable environments or psychological distress. Raising young vegans should not be about policing or enforcing rules. Rather, foster an atmosphere of critical thinking, education, and love, and your family's veganism will be based on celebration, reverence, and a passion for justice.  

It is always an option to tell your kids that they do not have your blessing to eat animal products, but nor do they need it; that you trust them to make intelligent decisions. My second book, Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action highlights all the opportunities we have to make kind and powerful choices. But at the end, I remind kids that only they get to decide how to eat and live. I trust that with enough information, an educated kid will choose wisely.

Can you relate? Leave a comment below!
Got questions? Email Ruby here.