What are we REALLY teaching our children?
Let’s start building our present discipline to allow for the future children to grow.
Something that really bugs me, I mean something that really, really bugs me is Is the utter unawareness with which we as a society operate in regard to what we are actually teaching our children in preparation for their future. I don’t mean academics learned in school, I’m talking about what they learn about life - how to interact with each other through the tough times, through the imperfect times, through times of anger. Those moments define us not only as individuals but as a culture, and I strongly believe they need addressing. NOW.
Think about it with me for a moment. Imagine if our children knocked on our door in 25 years. What would we want them to be like? Imagine some traits you would hope they display. I work through this exercise with my private parent clients and students of Keep Your Family Kind in our first session.
So, let’s imagine some now:
- Risk Takers
- Good Citizen
Leave in the comments your thoughts on what you would add to this list. If you don’t have children, I invite you to still share something you would hope the next generation would display. If you’re a teacher, what do you hope for in your students to grow and foster? Let’s get all the awesome traits moving.
Now, think about the current ways we typically discipline our children.
We yell, punish, humiliate, shame, blame, spank, isolate, suspend, ground. The ways we are disciplining our children work against us. Bluntly put, we are punishing all the strength and resiliency out of them. We then unintentionally set them up to spend their adulthood searching for the validation and support they craved in childhood. If we foster children who are simply scared of getting punished, we are fostering a fear-based culture that does things “because this is how we’ve always done it.” And that’s a scary world.
“It’s interesting that you work with parents to help support their children in the present. I help my clients get back to their childhood to validate and support themselves. Your job seems much more logical.”- A client, who is a psychotherapist.
This is exactly why I do the job I do. I help parents learn how to navigate the challenges of the day to day parenting dynamic with a fierce focus on the long-term goal. I remove fear so that children can make safe failures and use them as opportunities to learn and grow through them. Mistakes are how we all learn to innovate.
I urge us all to examine the discipline methods we use with a long-term vision.
A friend of mine recently shared that her child ran punishment laps at her elementary school. I have heard this from other parents before, I have witnessed it at the Preschools I have worked at. I know this is a common disciplinary method. In my friend's case, her child's class had misbehaved and the teacher had all the children run laps as punishment at recess. A very obedient child at school, my client’s daughter found herself running on a twisted ankle because she didn’t know that she could stop. In other words, she felt scared to stop running, so she kept on. That evening my friend's daughter complained of a sore ankle and was ultimately put in a cast. It wasn't broken, but quite strained.
When my friend shared that with me, my jaw literally dropped. I couldn’t believe that this school would still run (no pun intended) on such archaic methods of discipline. I asked my friend what she thought her daughter learned in this experience. She shared that maybe she learned to just be quiet and run, and behave in class. I added that perhaps the students may now see running as a punishment and be turned off by physical activity in the future. Punishments rarely reach the long-term goal of changed behavior. Instead, punishments tend to end in resentment, revenge, rebellion, or retreat.
"Children do better when they feel better." - Jane Nelson
Recently, I was teaching Kind Club at an elementary school. It was February 15th and on this day a 1st-grade boy entered the classroom with a sour look on his face. I could tell by reading his body language that something was wrong. When I asked, "Hey- Nick, you alright?" He answered, "No, I am feeling shy, sad and frustrated." I shared with him "Okay, well, we are here to help when you feel better you can come join us on the carpet." At this time, I gave him some space to move through his feelings. He was safe, in control and I was working on connecting with him by showing his feelings respect.
Just as I finished saying that he could have some space to process through his feelings, the teacher, whose room we were meeting in, interjected and reprimanded him:
"I need to get my papers [from behind Nick] and you need to listen to her, go to the carpet."
She then used her body to direct him, not with her hands- she kind of leaned into him, leading him to the carpet. Instantly, he moved over and sat next to me and start crying. Everyone in the club just looked at him and held silent space. I rubbed his back and shared "I am sure you're feeling upset that someone wasn't respectful of the space you required, I can totally understand that." The children then asked me "Why did she do that?" and I answered, "I'm sure she thought she was helping." First grader, Karina, shared "It wasn't helpful."
The lesson that day was exploring with a feelings chart. (Thank you, universe.) I passed it out and asked the children decorate and mark it up. I prompted them to make it their own.
Nick quickly set to this task. He grabbed a black marker and started asking me what each picture was. I would read "Happy" and he would replay "No." and put a giant X across the picture of the cartoon feeling.
"Excited". No. X
"Angry." No. X
"Surprised." No. X
This continued until he found the three feelings he identified with, circling them. Shy, sad, and frustrated.
We discussed his feelings and I shared with him that those are not fun things to feel. I also offered some hope that perhaps when we start talking and playing, that those might change. This is where he dug in and affirmed that they won't change "for the whole Kind Club."
As the afternoon progress, he began playing with Karina. As they were playing magformers, I asked how they felt playing together. Karina shared "Good!" and Nick shared "Good!" I asked him if he was still feeling shy. He looked confused and then looked at me and said "No!!! I'm not!!! I need my chart!!!" I watched as he crossed out shy. By the end of that afternoon, Nick was successful in clearing all his negative feelings from his chart.
That is what we all need more of. Help to move through our feelings safely. Bringing awareness to the effort it takes. This is how we start setting the future up for success.
If you are searching for this shift in your own family, now is a great time to reach out. I am still accepting new clients until May 15th, when my coaching doors will be shut until the Fall!