Wednesday, March 8, 2017
I often say ‘It is not about the child, it’s about the parent, or teacher.’ The reason is neurology.
When we are young, we develop strategies for getting our needs met. These strategies offer us some amount of feelings of safety, satisfaction or connection, and we fall back on these strategies because they work (to some degree). Strategies that we use over and over again become our habits, our reaction patterns. When stress rises up for us, when people don’t do what we want, we react. These reactions have become conditioned, patterned responses in our behavior and our neurology. From my previous posts, you can understand when I say that these habits, these reaction patterns, live in an interaction between our Reptilian Brain and our Limbic System.
Now what if it is a young child that isn’t doing what we want? First of all our reaction pattern kicks in, usually to ‘attack’ the child in some way. When we use shame as a weapon, when we blame the child or the like, we are attacking. That is what it feels like. When we punish the child in any and various ways, it is attacking.
Additionally we are using our power over the child to get what we want. We have more physical size and strength, as well as more connection to our own ‘self.’ We become a ‘bully’ toward our child. And in doing so, we are damaging the connection between us and our child.
The child reacts to this danger from the depths of his brain stem, the Reptile Brain, to alleviate the threat. Guess what? Learning is a function of the Limbic System. We want the child to ‘learn’ not to do something, but we create an impossible to learn-from situation. All he can do is protect himself, usually by retreating or freezing. The part of the brain that does learning is not active.
Our child loves us, and love is based on trust; trust in safety and connection. When we use attack reactions to get what we want, the child experiences a lack of safety and a lack of connection. When you do your reaction habit, you are not home. Your habit is in charge. Your prefrontal cortex is not in play - just your Reptile and Limbic systems.
So the child feels the love, and also feels the potential for danger, for non-safety. The love has become conditional on behavior. So the child withdraws a little each time in the face of the danger you present.
Of course we want our children to learn. Unfortunately what they are learning is our reaction techniques. They imitate us.
What sort of example do you want to be?
Do you want to create an environment of unconditional love for your child?
It is up to you.
You have a prefrontal cortex. Use it, and make yourself worthy of imitation.
Overcome your reaction patterns and be present to creating solutions in the moment.