Friday, 21 April 2017
Can you imagine threatening your partner or good friend by counting "One… Two" if he or she did not do what you wanted?
One of the big issues in schools today is "bullying." Parents and teachers struggle daily with how to stop this behavior. Without realizing it, adults teach bullying behavior to children by modeling it when they use the threat of their physical size or power to make children do things. When I hear a parent counting "One… two" at a young child, I always wonder what the child has been told will happen if the parent gets to three. Is it the threat of a spanking, being yelled at, time out, abandonment (I'm going without you) or the withdrawal of love and approval? Whatever the threat may be, I rarely hear "three." As intended, the threat of what will happen if the parent gets to three usually compels the child to do whatever it is the parent is telling the child to do. Parents use threats to get children to cooperate because that was what adults so often modeled when we were growing up. Most of us are familiar with the phrase "or else." We did what we were told out of fear even if we didn't know what the "or else" would be.
While counting may appear to be a magic form of discipline, there is no magic in threats. Children know that adults are bigger and more powerful than they are. They comply in self-defense. If the only way we can get children to do what we ask is by intimidating them with our greater physical size and power, how will we get them to do as we ask when we are no longer bigger and stronger? "Ask the parents of any teenager if counting still works. Not only do threats no longer work, they've learned to use the same means to make others do what they want.
Many parents see a child's uncooperative behavior as a challenge to their authority. Once we understand that uncooperative behavior is usually caused by a child's unmet need or an adult's unrealistic expectation, we don't have to take the behavior so personally. Parents and children often have different needs. Sometimes our needs or schedules conflict with our children's needs. Children who are deeply absorbed in play will not want to interrupt their play to go with us to the bank or the store before it closes. When a parent needs to do one thing and a child needs to do something else there is a conflict of needs. This conflict of needs turns into a power struggle when parents use the power of fear instead of the power of love.
The bond or connection parents have with their children is their most powerful parenting "tool." A strong bond is created over time when parents lovingly and consistently meet a child's early needs. Threats communicate, "what you think, feel, want or need is not important." Threats undermine the parent-child bond. When we learn to resolve our "conflicts of needs" in ways that show children that their needs and feelings matter, we strengthen the bond and avoid many power struggles. If we want to teach children to love instead of hate, we must learn to use conflict resolution skills in our daily interactions with children. Just as children learn bullying from what adults model, they can learn conflict resolution and problem solving skills from what we model. When children learn the skills from how we treat them at home they will bring those skills to their relationships at school.
Very young children can learn conflict resolution if we model it. An older sibling can be taught to find another toy to exchange with their younger sibling instead of just snatching their toy back. When two children want the same toy at the same time we can help them "problem solve" a solution. When there is a conflict of needs because the parent wants to do an errand and the child just wants to stay home and play we can say "let's problem solve to see if we can find a way for us both to get what we need." Maybe the child could take the toy in the car or perhaps the errand could wait until tomorrow. When the parent is ready to leave the playground and the child wants to stay longer we can suggest a compromise of five more minutes and doing something fun when we get home. Often it's not that the child doesn't want to leave as much as it is that she doesn't want the fun to end. When we teach children that everyone's needs are important by honoring their needs they learn to honor the needs of others.
There will be times that we won't have the time or the resources to meet a child's need. There will be times that even after honoring the child's need; the child is still unable to cooperate. At those times it is important to communicate that parents have needs too and even though it makes the child unhappy we do have to go now and then allow the child to have his feeling about having to leave. It is never OK to tell a young child that you will leave without them. Threatening a child with abandonment terrifies a child. When a child has a tantrum about leaving it may not be about leaving the playground at all. Leaving may just be the last straw that unleashes the day's accumulation of little frustrations. The child may just need to cry to empty out the stresses of the day. A child will be able to move forward much more readily when we can say "I know you're sad and it's OK to cry" than if we say "Stop that crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" When the crying is done the child will usually feel better and be more able to cooperate.
When children's needs are met and nothing is hurting them they are usually delightful to be with. Whenever a child responds negatively to a reasonable request we need to look for the conflicting need.
Once we know how our needs are in conflict we can try to solve problem. I have learned to say, "When you behave that way I know something is wrong, because we love each other and people who love each other don't treat each other this way.
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
A parent has an interesting and often conflicting duty: keep the child safe, but paradoxically let the child explore the very challenging, often dangerous world around them. If I distract the child by making myself part of the danger I am not going to be a very effective teacher, guide and protector of my child. If I teach my child that the world, and parents or adult caregivers are dangerous people then I teach my child that being dangerous yourself is a way to survive. Or, and most sadly, I will teach the child that passivity and compliance are all one has to survive with. The child either grows up being me or in reaction to me. In either case I have crippled and limited my child no matter how wonderfully obedient he or she may seem.
We will get the world we believe in, and if we believe that children must submit to harsh authority and that they are basically evil and must be controlled then we will get a world of people who behave as though this is true. Where families raise their children with love and gentleness and do not call them names and yell at them, where they are not slapped, pinched, punched and whipped, we have children who are confident in their ability to manage in a world they see as full of exciting choices and fulfilling experiences.
Any thoughtful person looking at the belief systems of those in prisons or in our mental or social services programs gets the point. Our prisons are full of those who believe that to be dangerous is how to survive in the world. And our mental health and human service systems are full of those who have only passivity and compliance as their coping method. Researchers have given up on trying finding violent offenders in prisons who were not spanked or beaten or punished as children. If you are a parent who spanks think about how you were raised and what you may be visiting on this child you beat that they will do to theirs and theirs to theirs. It is a harsh legacy that, I have come to believe, will destroy our planet in time.
It is the child who is raised with love and attention who I expect will view the world assertively, with courage and thoughtful examination of the universe on their own who I want to govern in my place when their turn comes around.
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
by jan Haunt
"Your son is so polite," a friend once said when Jason was five.
I beamed. It felt like I was the one being praised, but I had never specifically taught him such skills. Through John Holt's books, I learned that all I needed to do was set an example of kindness (especially kindness towards Jason himself) that he could emulate.
Setting an example of social skills is all that is needed. Demanding kind behavior through threats or punishment is itself unkind - all it can do is confuse and frustrate the child. Yet many parents have not learned this. Children are so commonly mistrusted, misunderstood and mistreated in our culture that rudeness towards them has come to seem normal. Adults rarely treat each other the way they often treat children. What would happen if an adult were treated the way many children are? How would an adult feel if asked "What do you say?" after receiving a gift? Yet many children are put on the spot in just this way.
When I was five, one of my aunts, the matriarch of our family, gave me a beautifully wrapped birthday present. I eagerly opened it, only to find a plain, dark brown bathrobe. I don't remember if I said anything. I'm sure that I didn't feel like thanking my aunt, and I must not have, because she was dismayed, and my mother took me to my room for a scolding. Now I had two problems: I was disappointed with the gift and angry with my mother for not understanding my feelings. I never wore the bathrobe. And I was miserable every time we visited my aunt.
|Some of life's rules are clearly given and easy to understand, such as those involving safety ("Always look both ways when crossing a street") but many are unwritten and can be complicated ("Say 'thank you' with enthusiasm if someone gives you a gift, even if you don't like it.")|
Many of life's rules
Unwritten social rules, like thanking someone for a gift, are not inborn. Rules have to be learned, and like any other kind of learning, the use of force, punishment, or embarrassment only distracts from the intended lesson. To complicate things further, unwritten rules can be very different in different cultures. In Japan, gifts are given on many occasions, and there are strict rules. For example, the recipient of a gift is expected to open it later in private; this avoids awkwardness if the gift is not well-liked. If only my aunt had been Japanese!
What did I learn from this experience? I learned that my mother would have preferred me to lie to my aunt than to be honest about my feelings. I learned that happy occasions can turn unhappy in a moment, and sometimes there is no one there to help. It was a painful way to learn about manners.
Had my mother taught me beforehand to say something honest yet helpful ("Thank you for remembering my birthday!"), the situation could have been avoided, and perhaps I could have gotten to know my aunt better. I might have grown to understand how important social graces were to those of her generation.
The Best Way to Teach a Child Manners
Like everything else that children learn about relationships, manners are best and most easily taught by example, because children naturally watch and copy the adults around them. Ideally, parents will show by their own behavior how to treat others with kindness and genuine gratitude. After all, the whole reason for social manners is kindness. Sadly, many parents teach manners through coercion, just as they were taught in their own childhood. And parents care about how their children's behavior will be perceived, because it reflects on them. Yet isn't it confusing to the child to be taught kindness through unkindness? If a child forgets to thank someone for a gift, the parent could simply say, "Thank you so much for thinking of him! How nice that you remembered!" This will model to the child how to express gratitude in an appropriate way.
Children naturally copy
the adults around them.
|Many children don't know what to say when given a gift, especially if they don't like it, and in their confusion say nothing, or express their disappointment in a negative way. Ideally, the parent can prevent such awkward moments by explaining gently beforehand what the social customs are, and why they are important. Perhaps the most helpful lesson for the child is that "thank you" does not always mean "I love your gift," it can simply mean "I'm happy that you thought of me". Role-playing an anticipated gift-giving scene (perhaps with the fun of switching roles) before a party or a meeting with a relative can help to give a child more self-confidence.|
The best way to teach a child manners, or any other social skill, is by our own modeling, especially by the way we treat our own child. If a child is thanked for the small gifts and heartfelt kindnesses he gives to us and others, he will naturally give thanks when he is ready, on his own timetable. A "thank you" means little if it has been coerced - it only has meaning when spoken from the heart.
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Is there room for children in our society? Most of our culture is structured for adults, and children are unwelcome or even excluded. Children spend most of their time in school and school-related activities, where parents are not welcome.
This harsh attitude toward children can be most evident when shopping; many store personnel seem to view every child as a potential source of trouble. The presence of a child is tolerated – as long as he is perfectly quiet, doesn't touch anything, and doesn't look as though they'll hurt themselves. I suspect, though, that it isn't so much the child's potential suffering that storekeepers are concerned about, but rather their own: they are afraid of being sued! This fear can be unreasonable to the point of lunacy. A child, at age seven was once loudly warned in a grocery store, "Get down from that ledge! You'll hurt yourself!" This dangerous ledge was exactly five inches from the floor.
When we look closely at a child at play, we can see that children have the same instinct for self-preservation that adults have, and a good sense of what they can handle. Why, then, are children so mistrusted? At those times when something does need to be said about a child's behavior in public, this is often done in a harsh, impatient, and disapproving tone. Yet adults too sometimes behave in inappropriate ways in public - such as dropping dirt on the floor and not in the dust bin. If the adult is corrected at all, such a request is usually made with the utmost cordiality. Do adults deserve more consideration than children?
When children venture out in public, they are rarely spoken to, unless, like soldiers, they are asked for their names and class. If circumstances are such that children appear in public during school hours, they are asked, almost crossly, "Why aren't you in school?!" How would an adult respond if asked, "Why aren't you at work?"
Children are expected to be infinitely patient during boring errands and conversations, and never interrupt adults - no matter that children's conversations can be far and away the more fascinating. Wouldn't you rather hear about Disney world, or how you are loved Ben 10.
Despite their delightful ways, children in public places are treated as though they are invisible, and their needs are often considered irrelevant. In making their needs known to others, they are at a particular disadvantage, because of their youth and inexperience. Unlike senior citizens, who also encounter unfair age discrimination, there are no child spokespersons to elicit empathy for their condition. Who has not seen a distraught infant or child whose tears are ignored by angry parents and indifferent strangers? If an adult were crying in public, would not everyone be concerned? If an animal were obviously suffering, would everyone walk past?
Even churches, while teaching of love within families, segregate children from the most meaningful activities. Housing discrimination against families is still a problem in many areas, where children are placed in the same category of undesirables as pets.
Could things be different? Sometimes they are, All children behave as well as they are treated - just like adults. Why is it so difficult for adults to understand this? After all, we have all been children. How have we forgotten so soon what it is like to be a child in an adult world? Children deserve to be treated in the same way that we wish to be treated – with kindness and understanding, dignity and respect. As an author wrote, "Human beings should be treated like human beings." We are all human beings, and, in a sense, we are all children. Some of us have just been around a little longer.
Monday, 30 January 2017
by John Holt
We should try to get out of the habit of seeing little children as cute. By this I mean that we should try to be more aware of what it is in children to which we respond and to tell which responses are authentic, respectful, and life-enhancing, and which are condescending or sentimental. Our response to a child is authentic when we are responding to qualities in the child that are not only real but valuable human qualities we would be glad to find in someone of any age. It is condescending when we respond to qualities that enable us to feel superior to the child. It is sentimental when we respond to qualities that do not exist in the child but only in some vision or theory that we have about children.
In responding to children as cute, we are responding to many qualities that rightly, as if by healthy instinct, appeal to us. Children tend to be, among other things, healthy, energetic, quick, vital, vivacious, enthusiastic, resourceful, intelligent, intense, passionate, hopeful, trustful, and forgiving - they get very angry but do not, like us, bear grudges for long. Above all, they have a great capacity for delight, joy, and sorrow. But we should not think of these qualities or virtues as "childish," the exclusive property of children. They are human qualities. We are wise to value them in people of all ages. When we think of these qualities as childish, belonging only to children, we invalidate them, make them seem things we should "outgrow" as we grow older. Thus we excuse ourselves for carelessly losing what we should have done our best to keep. Worse yet, we teach the children this lesson; most of the bright and successful ten-year-olds I have known, though they still kept the curiosity of their younger years, had learned to be ashamed of it and hide it. Only "little kids" went around all the time asking silly questions. To be grown-up was to be cool, impassive, unconcerned, untouched, invulnerable. Perhaps women are taught to feel this way less than men; perhaps custom gives them a somewhat greater license to be childlike, which they should take care not to lose.
|But though we may respond authentically to many qualities of children, we too often respond either condescendingly or sentimentally to many others - condescendingly to their littleness, weakness, clumsiness, ignorance, inexperience, incompetence, helplessness, dependency, immoderation, and lack of any sense of time or proportion; and sentimentally to made-up notions about their happiness, carefreeness, innocence, purity, nonsexuality, goodness, spirituality, and wisdom. These notions are mostly nonsense. Children are not particularly happy or carefree; they have as many worries and fears as many adults, often the same ones. What makes them seem happy is their energy and curiosity, their involvement with life; they do not waste much time in brooding. Children are the farthest thing in the world from spiritual. They are not abstract, but concrete. They are animals and sensualists; to them, what feels good isgood. They are self-absorbed and selfish. They have very little ability to put themselves in another person's shoes, to imagine how he feels. This often makes them inconsiderate and sometimes cruel, but whether they are kind or cruel, generous or greedy, they are always so on impulse rather than by plan or principle. They are barbarians, primitives, about whom we are also often sentimental. Some of the things (which are not school subjects and can't be "taught") that children don't know, but only learn in time and from living, are things they will be better for knowing. Growing up and growing older are not always or only or necessarily a decline and a defeat. Some of the understanding and wisdom that can come with time is real - which is why children are attracted by the natural authority of any adults who do respond authentically and respectfully to them.|
We too often respond
One afternoon I was with several hundred people in an auditorium of a junior college when we heard outside the building the passionate wail of a small child. Almost everyone smiled, chuckled, or laughed. Perhaps there was something legitimately comic in the fact that one child should, without even trying, be able to interrupt the supposedly important thoughts and words of all these adults. But beyond this was something else, the belief that the feelings, pains, and passions of children were not real, not to be taken seriously. If we had heard outside the building the voice of an adult crying in pain, anger, or sorrow, we would not have smiled or laughed but would have been frozen in wonder and terror. Most of the time, when it is not an unwanted distraction, or a nuisance, the crying of children strikes us as funny. We think, there they go again, isn't it something the way children cry, they cry about almost anything. But there is nothing funny about children's crying. Until he has learned from adults to exploit his childishness and cuteness, a small child does not cry for trivial reasons but out of need, fear, or pain.
Once, coming into an airport, I saw just ahead of me a girl of about seven or eight. Hurrying up the carpeted ramp, she tripped and fell down. She did not hurt herself but quickly picked herself up and walked on. But looking around on everyone's face I saw indulgent smiles, expressions of "isn't that cute?" They would not have thought it funny or cute if an adult had fallen down but would have worried about his pain and embarrassment.
|There is nothing|
|The trouble with sentimentality, and the reason why it always leads to callousness and cruelty, is that it is abstract and unreal. We look at the lives and concerns and troubles of children as we might look at actors on a stage, a comedy as long as it does not become a nuisance. And so, since their feelings and their pain are neither serious nor real, any pain we may cause them is not real either. In any conflict of interest with us, they must give way; only our needs are real. Thus when an adult wants for his own pleasure to hug and kiss a child for whom his embrace is unpleasant or terrifying, we easily say that the child's unreal feelings don't count, it is only the adult's real needs that count. People who treat children like living dolls when they are feeling good may treat them like unliving dolls when they are feeling bad. "Little angels" quickly become "little devils."|
Even in those happy families in which the children are not jealous of each other, not competing for a scarce supply of attention and approval, but are more or less good friends, they don't think of each other as cute and are not sentimental about children littler than they are. Bigger children in happy families may be very tender and careful toward the little ones. But such older children do not tell themselves and would not believe stories about the purity and goodness of the smaller child. They know very well that the young child is littler, clumsier, more ignorant, more in need of help, and much of the time more unreasonable and troublesome. Because children do not think of each other as cute, they often seem to be harder on each other than we think we would be. They are blunt and unsparing. But on the whole this frankness, which accepts the other as a complete person, even if one not always or altogether admired, is less harmful to the children than the way many adults deal with them.
Much of what we respond to in children as cute is not strength or virtue, real or imagined, but weakness, a quality which gives us power over them or helps us to feel superior. Thus we think they are cute partly because they are little. But what is cute about being little? Children understand this very well. They are not at all sentimental about their own littleness. They would rather be big than little, and they want to get big as soon as they can.
|How would we feel about children, react to them, deal with them, if they reached their full size in the first two or three years of their lives? We would not be able to go on using them as love objects or slaves or property. We would have no interest in keeping them helpless, dependent, babyish. Since they were grown-up physically, we would want them to grow up in other ways. On their part, they would want to become free, active, independent, and responsible as fast as they could, and since they were full-sized and could not be used any longer as living dolls or super-pets we would do all we could do to help them do so.|
Or suppose that people varied in size as much as dogs, with normal adults anywhere from one foot to seven feet tall. We would not then think of the littleness of children as something that was cute. It would simply be a condition, like being bald or hairy, fat or thin. That someone was little would not be a signal for us to experience certain feelings or make important judgments about his character or the kinds of relationships we might have with him.
|Children do not|
think of each other
|Another quality of children that makes us think they are cute, makes us smile or get misty-eyed, is their "innocence." What do we mean by this? In part we mean only that they are ignorant and inexperienced. But ignorance is not a blessing, it is a misfortune. |
Children are no more sentimental about their ignorance than they are about their size. They want to escape their ignorance, to know what's going on, and we should be glad to help them escape it if they ask us and if we can. But by the innocence of children we mean something more - their hopefulness, trustfulness, confidence, their feeling that the world is open to them, that life has many possibilities, that what they don't know they can find out, what they can't do they can learn to do. These are qualities valuable in everyone. When we call them "innocence" and ascribe them only to children, as if they were too dumb to know any better, we are only trying to excuse our own hopelessness and despair.
Some infants who were just learning to walk. I used to think their clumsiness, their uncertain balance and wandering course, were cute. Now I tried to watch in a different spirit. For there is nothing cute about clumsiness, any more than littleness. Any adult who found it as hard to walk as a small child, and who did it so badly, would be called severely handicapped. We certainly would not smile, chuckle, and laugh at his efforts - and congratulate ourselves for doing so. Watching the children, I thought of this. And I reminded myself, as I often do when I see a very small child intent and absorbed in what he is doing and I am tempted to think of him as cute, "That child isn't trying to be cute; he doesn't see himself as cute; and he doesn't want to be seen as cute. He is as serious about what he is doing now as any human being can be, and he wants to be taken seriously."
|What is cute|
about being little?
|But there is something very appealing and exciting about watching children just learning to walk. They do it so badly, it is so clearly difficult, and in the child's terms may even be dangerous. We know it won't hurt him to fall down, but he can't be sure of that and in any case doesn't like it. Most adults, even many older children, would instantly stop trying to do anything that they did as badly as a new walker does his walking. But the infant keeps on. He is so determined, he is working so hard, and he is so excited; his learning to walk is not just an effort and struggle but a joyous adventure. As I watch this adventure, no less a miracle because we all did it, I try to respond to the child's determination, courage, and pleasure, not his littleness, feebleness, and incompetence. To whatever voice in me says, "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to pick up that dear little child and give him a big hug and kiss," I reply, "No, no, no, that child doesn't want to be picked up, hugged, and kissed, he wants to walk. He doesn't know or care whether I like it or not, he is not walking for the approval or happiness of me or even for his parents beside him, but for himself. It is his show. Don't try to turn him into an actor in your show. Leave him alone to get on with his work."|
We often think children are most cute when they are most intent and serious about what they are doing. In our minds we say to the child, "You think that what you are doing is important; we know it's not; like everything else in your life that you take seriously, it is trivial." We smile tenderly at the child carefully patting his mud pie. We feel that mud pie is not serious and all the work he is putting into it is a waste (though we may tell him in a honey-dearie voice that it is a beautiful mud pie). But he doesn't know that; in his ignorance he is just as serious as if he were doing something important. How satisfying for us to feel we know better.
We tend to think that children are most cute when they are openly displaying their ignorance and incompetence. We value their dependency and helplessness. They are help objects as well as love objects. Children acting really competently and intelligently do not usually strike us as cute. They are as likely to puzzle and threaten us. We don't like to see a child acting in a way that makes it impossible for us to look down on him or to suppose that he depends on our help.
Children do not like being incompetent any more than they like being ignorant. They want to learn how to do, and do well, the things they see being done by the bigger people around them.
Thursday, 19 January 2017
Nurturing Compassion from the Beginning
by Jan and Jason Hunt
We all hunger for peace. Yet far too often this seems to be just a dream, hopelessly out of reach. Instead of the peaceful life we all want, we have strife in our families, in our communities, and between our nations. We lose hope of anything better, and begin to think that nothing will ever change. Our dream of peace remains elusive.
This is a hard dream to relinquish, because it began at birth. Every infant beams when there is peace in the home, and looks perplexed and cries when there is not. To an infant, conflict is a puzzle. As infants, we not only want everyone to get along, we expect it. We are born expecting peace. Even as adults, we are shocked and saddened by every new story of brutality. We still believe that life can and should be peaceful. But we know that each day, in far too many places, there will be conflict, fighting, killing, and even war. If we are all peace lovers in our infancy, what makes us so divisive in adulthood? What goes wrong? How can it be fixed?
|We wake each morning with the hope that things will change, but every day there is another sad and shocking story. We are all bewildered, and want to understand what went wrong. It seems to be human nature to focus on the most recent events, not those further back in time. So we wonder what could have been done on the days before a tragedy that might have prevented it. What last-minute interventions could have made a difference? What could have been done differently at the scene to save lives?||The best prevention|
is always the earliest.
|There is nothing wrong with these kinds of questions - they may help to prevent future acts of violence from taking place. But to reduce the potential for violence in general, it may be more constructive to look at the earliest links, not the most recent ones. While there are many factors that can lead to violence, the best prevention is always the earliest - the one that keeps the first domino from falling.|
Monday, 16 January 2017
Most parents and teachers think of children as either "behaving" or "misbehaving". This labeling of behavior as "good" and "bad" begins when the child is quite young.
Interestingly enough, the term is almost exclusively applied to children – seldom to adults. We never hear people say:
- ''My husband misbehaved yesterday."
- "One of our guests misbehaved at the party last night."
- "I got so angry when my friend misbehaved during lunch."
- "My employees have been misbehaving lately.''
Apparently, it's only children who are seen as misbehaving - no one else. Misbehavior is exclusively parent and teacher language, tied up somehow with how adults have traditionally viewed children. It is also used in almost every book on parenting I've read, and I've read quite a few.
I think adults say a child misbehaves whenever some specific action is judged as contrary to how the adult thinks the child should behave. The verdict of misbehavior, then, is clearly a value judgment made by the adult - a label placed on some particular behavior, a negative judgment of what the child is doing. Misbehavior thus is actually a specific action of the child that is seen by the adult as producing an undesirable consequence for the adult. What makes a child's behavior misbehavior (bad behavior) is the perception that the behavior is, or might be, bad behavior for the adult. The "badness'' of the behavior actually resides in the adult's mind, not the child's; the child in fact is doing what he or she chooses or needs to do to satisfy some need.
Put another way, the adult experiences the badness, not the child. Even more accurately, it is the consequences of the child's behavior for the adult that are felt to be bad (or potentially bad), not the behavior itself.
When parents and teachers grasp this critical distinction, they experience a marked shift in attitude toward their children or students. They begin to see all actions of youngsters simply as behaviors, engaged in solely for the purpose of getting needs met. When adults begin to see children as persons like themselves, engaging in various behaviors to satisfy normal human needs, they are much less inclined to evaluate the behaviors as good or bad.
Accepting that children don't really misbehave doesn't mean, however, that adults will always feel accepting of what they do. Nor should they be expected to, for children are bound to do things that adults don't like, things that interfere with their own "pursuit of happiness.'' But even then, the child is not a misbehaving or bad child, not trying to do something to the adult, but rather is only trying to do something for himself.
Only when parents and teachers make this important shift - changing the locus of the problem from the child to the adult - can they begin to appreciate the logic of non-power alternatives for dealing with behaviors they don't accept.
Monday, 9 January 2017
Peter Haiman, Ph.D. has been a childrearing consultant for over 30 years. He developed and administered a nationally recognized parent and child center in Cleveland, Ohio, and also served as chairman of the Department of Child Development and Early Childhood Education at the University of South Carolina.
This article was first published in the May-June 1998 issue of Mothering. It is reprinted here with permission from the author and the editors.