Paddles Are For Boats, NOT For Hitting Children!

This story of a kindergartner being held down and paddled for spitting at another child in a Georgia school  really upset me!  And, of course, the pro-spankers are in full force cheering about this and insulting anyone who dares to disagree with them, thus, showing once again that lack of empathy is a negative effect of being spanked/hit.  No one with an ounce of empathy could be supportive of this.  Plus, you can’t hit a child with a large wooden paddle if you have any empathy!

There are a few points I want to cover in this post.  I know I keep saying this stuff in different ways over and over again, but until the abuse of children ends, I will never stop speaking out for children.  After all, children are human beings!

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So let’s get started!

  1.  The first thing that struck me as I half watched the video of the kindergartener about to be paddled/hit at that school in Georgia was the paddle was almost as big as him!  A small child got hit by a big wooden paddle.  Am I the only one who sees a major problem with this?  I can’t even imagine how painful and scary that was. We had a paddle with holes in it at my house growing up and I was terrified of it even though, thankfully, I was never hit with it.  But I saw it used on my siblings.
  2. Hitting a small child with a big paddle can cause major injury.  And from the testimonies I have heard from people who were paddled at school, the staff don’t hold back much when hitting the children.  This is very disturbing.  And even if they flick their wrist first, most children have lower pain tolerances than adults do.  I can guarantee that kindergartener was in a lot of pain after the spanking/hitting which is not a good thing!
  3. Imagine having to sit the rest of the day in a hard desk after being hit hard by a wooden paddle that was almost as big as you!  Could you focus?  Could you learn? Of course not!  Research shows that pain and fear inhibit learning.  Plus, Kindergarteners should be playing, not sitting in desks!

Corporal punishment should never be used with children!  It is time to ban it in all schools and homes!  It is not your “right to hit your child with a paddle, wooden spoon, paint stick, tree branch, or hand.”  Can you imagine how scary school is for the children in the nineteen states that still allow corporal punishment in schools?  It does not make children better behaved either.

So, how would I handle a child who spit?  I would explain that spitting is gross and would have given him alternative ways of handling conflict after hearing what happened from both children.  I would guide them through conflict resolution.  And I would have told the child that he may spit outside on the ground or in the bathroom toilet.

It’s all about being willing to discipline (teach and guide) instead of punishing them.

After all, paddles are for boats, NOT for hitting children!

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Why I Share My Story Of Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and anyone who knows me or has been following me or has my first edition of my book, Gentle Firmness, knows that child abuse is something I am extremely passionate about.

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Tattoo by Candace Lyon

I am a child abuse survivor.  I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my dad and various other adults until I was 17 years old and finally told people that I was being abused.   All abusers make their victims feel shame and guilt.  One often thinks, “If only I did better,” or “It’s all my fault.”  I still struggle with this and have recently learned of additional abusive behavior that I’ve continued to endure as an adult that I was either unaware of and/or denied it was real.  Unfortunately, I continue to get confirmation that this abuse and manipulation is real and am putting a stop to it.

Mental illness runs in my family most likely due to the horrible cycle of abuse.  Genes may also play a part in the mental illness of my family.  My Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score is a 7, which is pretty high, and I struggle with anxiety, PTSD, and depression every day. But every day I work towards healing and helping people.

To not share my story and pain would be like not sharing something that, unfortunately, is a part of me.  It would be like denying that I have severe cerebral palsy.  While I don’t allow either of these things to define me, I have wounds and scars from my trauma and I believe in using my pain to help others—others who were abused, others who are trying to break the cycle with their own children, and others who need to know that we’re not alone in this. And if I can prevent one child from abuse and heartbreak from the people who are supposed to love them, then it’s all worth it.

Another reason I share my story is to show that there is hope even when it doesn’t always feel like it.  Some days are harder than others for us survivors, but we are survivors.  There is no shame in getting help professionally.  There’s no shame in creating healthy relationships to support you.  Abusers and their defenders will make you feel like a horrible person for opening up about your abuse but don’t let them win.  This is typical abuser behavior.  Unless the abuser gets help, nothing will ever change.

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I hope also try to help people understand that even “normative spankings” are abuse in that corporal punishment can make children at a higher risk of being physically abused.  When a parent spanks/hits a child and the child doesn’t obey, the parent may decide to spank/hit even harder.  This is a risk for physical abuse even if one doesn’t consider corporal punishment as abuse.  No child ever deserves to be hit.

And countless other studies show that corporal punishment is harmful to children and it often includes emotional and verbal abuse because the child is told how “bad” he/she is and how he/she “deserves the spanking.”

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My dad hit me because of my spasms, which are involuntary muscle movements due to my severe cerebral palsy.  He also hit me for other things.  He was verbally and emotionally abusive as well. He passed away in 2003.  

After extensively researching narcissism as well as conferring with a colleague that knows more about this mental illness than meI do, I now believe that both of my parents very likely had/have this disorder.  In addition to refusing to admit they were/are wrong, they exhibited/exhibit other key characteristics of narcissism such as a lack of empathy, “an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships” (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

I have been over-analyzing my own behaviors because I am absolutely terrified of getting this mental illness.  It’s important to realize that it’s human nature to occasionally be selfish and self-absorbed.  It is also human nature to want recognition for accomplishments or to not to want to always admit when we are wrong.  Sometimes, like children, we want our own way and lash out when we don’t get our way.  This is not narcissistic as long as we recognize these tendencies and can admit that we do some of them occasionally.  I know I do these things sometimes but I always admit it.  I will always apologize if I am in the wrong.

To have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one must exhibit at least 5 or more of these characteristics to an abnormal level and not be able to admit that he/she is doing any of this.  People with NPD will deny that they have it and will make their victims believe that it’s the victims’ fault, not theirs.  And as with any kind of illness, there is a spectrum wherein each individual lies.  Some people have narcissistic tendencies and some have NPD.  Unfortunately, because people with narcissistic tendencies or NPD will absolutely not seek help for this mental illness, it’s very difficult to diagnose.  These people usually seek treatment for depression or anxiety but not narcissism (Bressert, 2019).  In addition to this, NPD and other personality disorders can have the same kind of characteristics.

It has also been suggested that the stigma of mental illness can be associated with narcissism (Arikan, 2005, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/aadd/5cd265bcaeeaff77d9ce4fe16abf4ad39dc8.pdf).

I forgive my parents and other abusers and their defenders, but I cannot remain silent.  This is now a part of my story and I will tell it in a respectful manner.  Because people with NPD or narcissistic tendencies are masters at manipulation, one must put up strong boundaries and stand firm.  Otherwise, through manipulation that isn’t always obvious, these people will break the boundaries.  Walking away from them is the best way to protect oneself and hopefully get them to get help.  But nothing is guaranteed with this mental illness.

One can and must forgive his/her abusers because the forgiveness is more about setting oneself free from harboring anger and resentment towards them.  However, this does not mean letting the abusers off the hook.  I can’t do this myself.  Forgiveness also does not mean that you have to reconcile with them.  It just means you are able to work through the pain and heal.

I also don’t believe that all abusers are narcissistic or have a mental illness.  The cycle is so hard to break especially when the community is actually encouraging the abuse and the silence of the children and adults.   I’m aware of many abusers and/or pro-spankers that have realized that they were wrong and have apologized for it.  They change the way they parent or interact with their grown children.  Change is possible!

I am learning how to not be in toxic relationships with people who continue to hurt me.  This is far from easy but having healthy relationships is crucial for healing and recovery.  Getting psychotherapy is a must.  And I heal from getting tattoos so I recently got the tattoo below.  It was very emotional for me but reminds me that I am a SURVIVOR!  I need this on the days that feel impossible to get through.

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Narcissistic survivor tattoo by Todd Bass

Gentle parenting is prevention for child abuse. If parents understand typical child development, then I believe that they are less likely to spank/hit or otherwise abuse their children.  Therefore, I will never stop sharing my story.  It is a part of my healing process.  I don’t do it out of spite.  I do it because I understand the pain and struggle after trauma and abuse.

May we value children and stop child abuse someday for good!

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References:

Arikan, K.  (2005).  A Stigmatizing Attitude Towards Psychiatric Illness is Associated with Narcissistic Personality Traits. Psychiatry Relat Sci Vol 42 No. 4 pp. 248–250

Black, R. (2019).  Personality Disorders: A Guide to the Ten Different Types.  Retrieved https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders-10-different-types/

Bressert, S.  (2019). Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder/

Goodtherapy.  (2018).  Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).  Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/ace-questionnaire

Psychology Today.  (2019).  Narcissism.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism

Mayo Clinic.  (2019).  Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

 

Christmas, Bullying, And Raising Kind, Compassionate Children.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas time again. Well, it was when I began writing this post.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy helping others in need all year-round, but especially this time of the year.  There are so many people in need and we are called to help them.

Unfortunately, this time of year also brings out the greediness in many.  You usually see this on Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving night now) and just before Christmas when people fight over the products that they must have.

Our children are aware of all of this.  They are also aware of when we are unkind to each other and them. Conversely, they’re also aware of our kindness and compassion for each other.

This is why I was sickened and angered by this dad who forced his daughter to walk to school which is miles away while he videotaped her in order to punish her for bullying.

Punishment is also a form of bullying because it teaches children how to force people to do what they want.  It is a temporary, ineffective solution to any behavioral issues, but especially for bullying.  Most bullying is the result of bullies feeling powerless because there’s either too much control in the home, i.e. authoritarian parenting (very controlling and punitive), or not enough care and acknowledgment, i.e.neglectful and permissive parenting. Some children (and adults) are so desperate for control and power that they will target seemingly weaker people. They push and push until they get the reaction they want and then they feel powerful being over the other person.

While I completely understand the seriousness of bullying as I have been bullied and made fun of my whole life, and I just dealt with a cyber bully, I feel like the dad just reinforced the bully mentality by making his daughter walk to school and video it. 

What did it teach her about kindness and respect? NOTHING! And his demeanor was very punitive and bullyish. Forcing her to walk in the cold while he followed her in his truck and videoed the whole thing is punishment, not a consequence of her actions. And SHE was also bullied herself. Think maybe she was trying to exercise power over others like they had done to her? There is no excuse for bullying, but you have to understand all the reasons why a child is behaving in a certain manner so that you can work with him/her and teach him/her.

Children learn what they live.  As I said, I just recently had a cyber bullying incident that I had to report to Facebook.  Both children and adults get behind their screens and say things that they usually wouldn’t ever say to the other person’s face.  I have not been a bully but I have been harsh online and have had to apologize for my behavior.  Saying anything cruel and calling names is bullying and verbal and emotional abuse!

It’s very important to realize that people of any age that act poorly usually feel poorly.  If one feels good about oneself, usually they don’t have the need to exercise control or get a reaction from another person.  There’s no need to purposefully hurt another person when you have healthy self-compassion.  Bullies are trying to get/do one of two things:

  1.  Exercise control over a weaker person to feel powerful and inflict pain so that someone else can feel the pain that they are feeling.
  2. To get a negative reaction from the victim as well as attention from others.

I would be very upset if I had a child and my child ever bullied another child. Social media and other media outlets are showing bullying to children. So the first two things I would ask if my child was being a bully is “What have I been doing to contribute to this?” And, “Why is my child feeling like he/she has to bully?” There is a reason for all unwanted behaviors.  I would work on the connection between my child and me.

I would limit screen time for my child and insist on knowing every account they have.  Many children and adults have secret accounts for bullying and other inappropriate things that they don’t want anyone else to know about.  It is crucial to be an active participant in our children’s online activities.  We need to stop cyber bullying and teach children that cyber bullying is also never okay.  If they see online bullying, they should put an eyeball 👁 emoji in the comments.  And cyber bullying must always be reported!

I would have many long discussions with my child about why it’s NEVER ok to bully. I would read books with him/her about people who were bullied. I would role play to teach kindness. I would have him/her do community service with me.

Teaching children unconditional kindness is so important.  Unconditional kindness is when we do something kind to someone without expecting any type of reward or credit for it .  This is true kindness.

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Another critical thing I would do is teach my children about all different people and not do anything to criticize differences.  When disability, culture, religion, age, race, and sexuality differences are understood, there’s less bullying because children learn that we’re all humans and we deserve equality and respect no matter what!  This is why I wrote my children’s book about my cerebral palsy which is currently being illustrated.  When we understand someone very different than us, it leads to kindness and compassion (unless the person is mentally ill and unable to be kind).

Finally, I would take the child to and from school and check in with her/his teacher until I could trust him/her again. Gentle parenting is more work than just punishment. Most parents don’t do anything because they don’t know how.

This is an excellent article about helping bullies become more empathetic and compassionate with others.

Understanding what drives bullies is crucial to both stopping and preventing it.  Teaching children empathy and compassion is so important. And Christmas time is a great time to really teach this so it will continue year-long.  When children see and are involved with more giving than receiving, they’re taught about empathy for people who aren’t as well off as they might be.  It also teaches gratefulness and that they are not entitled to get anything.

Christmas and New Years’ is a time to get involved with different charities.  It’s also a time to reflect on our relationships with our children and other people.  Children need our love and a deep connection with us.  They need to see healthy relationships with people.  This is vital for teaching empathy, compassion, and love towards others. They also need us to teach them healthy coping skills for their negative emotions.

I believe most bullies can be reformed if they are worked with for a while.  It may not happen overnight but we have the power to show them what empathy and compassion looks like. We can soften a harden heart by helping them deal with their own pain that is causing them to bully. We can teach them gently that greed and entitlement are bad.

Here is another excellent article about how to deal with bullying.

Children who witness bullying should always report it to a trusted adult.  If they are being bullied, they should do their best not to react and walk away to report it.  I believe teaching children self-defense is also important.  Taekwondo and karate are wonderful ways of accomplishing this!

This Bible verse came up in my devotional recently during my cyber bullying incident. It comforted me and applies to everyone even if one isn’t a believer.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, NASB).

As we enter the new year, may we use gentle parenting to prevent bullying and raise kind, compassionate children!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy, healthy, blessed New Year!

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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me, Huh?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  We probably have said it as children, but is it true?  For me, it is not true at all.

In fact, this is not true for many people.  Words have power.  The Bible even acknowledges that words have power and we need to choose our words carefully.  Let’s look at some of these verses:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18, ESV).

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV).

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (Proverbs 11:12, ESV).

As we can see, words have the power to build people up or tear them down.  And sometimes words hurt more than being hit, though that is never an excuse to spank/hit a child.  

I was verbally abused by my dad and my high school personal assistant. Even though I was able to rise above it with the help of the Lord and my husband, I still struggle with not feeling good enough or not believing in myself.  I beat myself up a lot in my head.  I take things very personally.  I hate making mistakes because I best myself so much.

In this technological-advanced age, there is a horrible trend of shaming children online.  So not only are parents saying that their children are “bad,” “brats,” “disrespectful,” and “crybabies” to their faces, they’re posting it for the whole world to see.  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and embarrassment these children feel or will feel when they see the world looking at their mistakes and applauding their parents for “putting them in their place.”

It’s hard enough being shamed and put down privately. The messages that we put into children’s heads become their inner voices.  They start to believe that they are “bad,” “sinful,” and “ungrateful.”  Putting children down only tears them down.  And it begins in infancy.  Infants hear our tone and read our body language to understand us. And most infants begin to understand words before they ever start talking.

Therefore, telling an infant to “shut up,” calling him/her a “brat,” and saying things like “you’re gross” will make them internalize these messages.  And of course, treating infants like we don’t want to be with them also sends the message that they are “burdens.”

Sometimes shaming is used to threaten the child before physical punishment is administered.  Some parents who may not use physical punishment with their children, but believe that children deserve some type of punishment, use shaming to control their children’s behavior.  Many Christians tend to tell children that they have “sinned” against God.  This does nothing but lead to worldly sorrow.

Shaming and punishment leads to worldly sorrow as the child focuses on stopping his/her own pain. The child may appear to have self control after receiving regular punishment and shaming, but it’s actually self-preservation to avoid pain. Discipline, however, teaches godly sorrow and true self-control because discipline teaches empathy for others. There may be pain as a byproduct of discipline due to the discovery of hurting another and God, but pain is NEVER inflicted on the child by an adult. This allows for true self-control as the child learns from natural consequences and gains empathy. Godly sorrow makes the child truly want to repent and make things right. And it’s important to remember that self-control develops very, very slowly in children.

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn’t correct our children.  We should do so in a way that doesn’t shame them. Pointing out how their behavior affected another person and empathizing with him/her will allow the child to calm down and eventually see that he/she hurt his/her friend which will lead the child to true sorrow.

For example, if 4-year-old Billy hits Sarah, we make sure Sarah is ok and then talk to Billy about his behavior and why he hit.

Adult: “Billy, you hit Sarah.  I know you were angry but it’s never okay to hit people.”

Billy:  “But she wouldn’t let me have a turn with the ball.”

Adult:  “Yes, I can see why you got angry. But you cannot hit.”

Billy:  “But I really wanted to play with the ball.  She wouldn’t let me.”

Adult:  “It’s hard to control our impulses when we’re angry.  Did you try to use your words?”

Billy:  “I asked her over and over for a turn and she said ‘no’ all the time.”

Adult:  “Ok, but when she kept telling you no, you hit her.  What happened when you hit her?

Billy:  “She started crying.”

Adult: “Yes, she cried because hitting hurts.  And now nobody is playing with the ball because you’re both upset.  What can we do to fix this?”

Billy: “I shouldn’t have hit her. I will go say sorry.”

Billy goes to Sarah and apologizes all on his own. They talk and begin playing together.

There was no need for shaming or punishment. Billy just needed help getting his brain to calm down enough to realize that he hurt his friend. The adult remained calm and empathetic to Billy.  The natural consequence for Billy’s behavior was that Sarah was hurt and cried when he hit her.   Of course, some children will take longer to calm down and realize they hurt someone. This is all based on the development of the child and how that child is treated.

The more we tear down children, the harder it is for them to learn empathy. If you’re always in self-preservation mode, you can’t see past your own pain.  And sometimes people that have been so torn down may actually take the opposite approach by becoming bullies. Children and adults who feel badly about themselves can sometimes gain “power” by hurting others.  Not all people beat themselves up.  Rather, they take their pain out on others.

We can discipline children without shaming them and putting them down. Let’s build them up so that they can build others up.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words DO HURT ME.

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ALL LIVES MATTER!

With regards to what’s been happening in this world lately. I am broken-hearted over the two cop brutality cases. Shooting in a car with a 4-year–old in the backseat is SICK!  I cried over both cases.  It is clear that both were brutality cases.

That being said, I cried over the cops who were murdered and injured FOR NO REASON!  Yeah, there are always bad cops but the majority of them are GOOD and risk their lives to protect us!  Don’t take it out on them!

FINALLY, peace begins at HOME! Stop spanking and punishing children!  There’s an epidemic of corporal punishment in the black community in combination with the fact that they don’t have dads around and usually live in poverty.  See Beating Black Kids for more info.  Teaching all children empathy and respect through respectful parenting would do A LOT to stop violence!  Also, stopping them from playing violent video games and watching violent stuff would also help to stop violence as children get desensitized to the violence.

And social media seems to desensitized us because we’re behind screens and feel a sense of anonymity.

This ISN’T a Democratic or Republican issue. This isn’t a gun issue!  This is a HUMAN issue and we need to come together to fix it.  ALL LIVES MATTER!!

Please see my follow-up to this post here.

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Think You’re Not Damaged From Being Spanked/Hit? Think Again!

There is a video going around Facebook from a mom who thought it would be funny to show the world that her little boy put on ten pairs of underwear to protect himself from being spanked/hit for, yes this makes sense, hitting his sister. Then she proudly announces that she still spanked/hit him on the leg.

The child looks afraid and has a shy smile on his face during the video. But, pro-spankers can’t see that. They insist that he looks “just fine.”

Then the pro-spankers proceed to laugh at the child’s fear and pain. They applaud his mom for inflicting pain on him, then taking a video of him showing how many pairs of underwear he wore, and proudly proclaiming that his efforts to protect himself didn’t work.

A lot of the pro-spankers insisted that they were not damaged from being spanked/hit as children. They kept laughing at the pain. Then when people like me tried to show them that this wasn’t funny, and that children are human beings too that never deserve to be hit, they went into attack mode.

So, you think you’re not damaged? Think again!

1. Do you laugh at videos showing children fearful and in pain?

2. Do you believe spanking/hitting children is “fine” and even “good?”

3. Are you defensive when people like me stand up for children?

4. Are you unwilling to consider gentle yet firm discipline?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, I’m afraid you are. And if you answered “No” to these questions, then you probably understand you have been damaged by spanking and don’t ever want to hurt your children in the same way.

Here’s the thing. Most damage from spanking/hitting is unseen unless you know what you are looking for. We now have mounds of research from scholars such as Gershoff, Straus, Holden, Turner, and Miller showing that corporal punishment puts children at a higher risk of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, brain damage, denial of pain, anger, aggression, learning problems, sexual dysfunction, and continuing the cycle of violence toward children. It even puts children at risk for health problems later in life. Just Google these names and tons of valid, reliable studies will come up. Plus more from others.

People can be sick with cancer and one would never know it by looking at them. Appearances are often deceiving. Pro-spankers tend to exhibit symptoms such as lack of empathy, aggression, and just plain meanness.

This shows that they are indeed damaged by being spanked/hit as children.

I do not want my children laughing at another’s pain. This world would be so much better if people would discipline (teach, guide) children. Violence begets violence. Respect begets respect.

If you read this post and get nothing out of it and still believe you’re not damaged, think again!

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The Mocking Tone of Pro-spankers

I am sickened and saddened by the harsh, mocking tone of yet another pro-spanking meme circulating Facebook.

It’s as if being hit and/or hitting a child is not serious. It also further proves that pro-spankers lack empathy and compassion. To truly believe that children need a “good whipping or spanking” in order to learn limits and boundaries shows a lack of regard for the fruits of the Spirit, the child’s feelings and dignity, and for people who were spanked and did not turn out “just fine.”  The reality is that if you believe inflicting pain on a child is “ok,” you’re are not fine.

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Denial and repression are very strong coping mechanisms when one has been hurt by their parents.  It’s easier to deny and repress and even mock the pain rather than deal with it.  It’s very sad that this not only perpetuates violence towards children, but it turns some into downright angry and hateful people.

Yes, children who are physically punished/abused can learn empathy, but it is much more difficult for them, and they often learn it from someone other than their parents. The research and actions of pro-spankers clearly demonstrates that physical punishment/abuse limits the development of empathy in children.

But, you can fight this. You can become gentle. I encourage all pro-spankers to search their hearts and ask if they really want their children to be like them; mocking, angry, un-empathetic, degrading, and mean?

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