Friday, April 6, 2018

Practical Love


What? Practical Love? Can love be practical? Let me explain.

The main thing is that we exercise a process of transforming wisdom we have gleaned into actions coming from loving intentions.

I think the universal question with raising young children, whether as a parent or teacher, is how to serve the true developmental and individual needs of the child, of each and every child.

To me this is practical love. We can pour out love toward the children, and provide what they truly need. There are various ways to consider basic needs. One list includes safety and connection (love). David Richo puts 5 A’s on his list. These are Attention, Acknowledgment, Affection, Appreciation, and Approval. When these needs are provided, the child feels that healthy sense of attachment that is so necessary for a young child. The parents in delivering these needs to the young child create a a fabric of trust which is named love. 

With the young child, I keep in mind the following wisdom principles which I have gleaned from my life’s work. These four principles inform all I do with the young children, and I have written about them numerous times already.

1. All learning, all development of new skills and capacities, at any age, is based on the will. What is the will but that inner force that moves us, consciously or not, toward goals? We all have a will nature, but in the young child we see a being who is primarily will oriented. Their thinking life is not awake yet.

2. The principle by which the young child learns is imitation. All ‘teaching’ for young children needs to be based on the principle of example and imitation.

3. The neurology of the young child is very different than that of an adult. If we look to the pre-frontal cortex, the home of all “executive functioning,” we see that it is still developing into the late 20’s of one’s life. In the young child it is merely a seed!

4. The experience of self that we, as adults, take for granted, is also just in seed form and is little developed in the young child.

These 4 principles must inform all that we do in relation to young child. To me, that is how we make love practical. Love is not a power that requires another to obey. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” is not effective. And it teaches the child to use force to get what he wants. (Remember the principle of imitation?)

Equally ineffective is a sentimental loving that engages the young child in decision-making, and ends up putting the child in charge. 

Practical love says to listen to the needs of the child. Listen through hearing what he wants, into his core of true need. Try, “It looks like you had fun visiting that kindergarten,”  instead of, “Honey, which kindergarten school do you want to attend?” Or, “Are you ready to move into kindergarten and out of pre-school.?” Or, “Should we put our extra money into savings or splurge on a big trip?” 

Observe your child, listen to what he says without asking a lot of questions. Then as best you can, intuit what to do. 

Sometimes the children may not be happy with our decisions that affect them. Sometimes life dishes up challenges for adults too. Resilience is developed by moving through moments of not getting what is wanted, and by moving through sadness and even anger. Many of us parents and teachers want the children to be happy all the time. So we do whatever is necessary to get them to that happy place. Perhaps the adults think - ‘if the child is not happy, he won’t like me anymore.’

This is not a practical way to live life for an adult. This is not practical love of an adult for the young child.

Please consider these principles, and see if you can incorporate them into your life with young children. This is a path of practical love. Not sentimental not superficial. This is deep love that leads to actions based on insight. 

Think about it. Consider if you want to make these thought guide your actions. 

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What are the Consequences?


Recently I have heard adults saying, “I don’t punish my child. I give consequences.” When I ask what is meant by that, I hear ‘If they don’t do what I tell them, they don’t get the ice cream I said we would get,’ or ‘they don’t get to go to the park,’ or, or, or...

Let’s start off with some clarity and honesty here - ‘consequences’ is another way to say ‘punishment.’ When you take away something from the child based on behavior, that is a form of punishment. 

The ancient principle is: Someone does something ‘wrong’ and therefore must receive punishment so they don’t do it again. Punishment takes many forms but all are based on this principle of retribution. 

1. When you have the attitude a child did something ‘bad’ and ‘wrong,’ even if you don’t speak a word to the child, it is punishment.
2. When you scold a child and use words like ‘shouldn’t have,’ ‘bad,’ ‘wrong,’ and ‘not appropriate,’ it is punishment.
3. When you withhold something a child wants based on the child's not doing what you want, it is punishment.
4. When you put a child on ‘time out’ it is punishment.
5. When you hit a child it is punishment 

Okay, often adults observe young children behave in ways the adult does not like, and the adult wants the child to act or speak differently. This is a given, it will happen. I think the adult goes astray when any of the above 5 types of punishment are taken up. And I’ll tell you why.

When we use any form of punishment, we are teaching the young child to punish others when he doesn’t get what he wants. Young children learn by imitating our example.

When we use any of the forms of punishment, the child experiences it as an attack. We are a danger for the child in those moments. When someone experiences danger, the ancient part of the brain, the survival system AKA the Reptile Brain, takes over. Learning does not take place in this part of our neurology. This is the irony; we want the child to learn to do something different, and yet we force the child to use a part of the neurology that does not learn. Learning takes place in the more advanced parts of the brain, particularly the Limbic System.

The young child wants what he wants, just like you and me. He tries to get what he wants and needs by various strategies. Repeated use of those strategies becomes the child’s habit. Why? Because those strategies are discovered to be successful. The strategies are successful in relation to us, their adults!

Let’s reframe this. Instead of thinking the child is ‘bad and ‘wrong’ and that what he did he ‘shouldn’t have’ because it is ‘not appropriate,’ try to look at what he did as a strategy and these strategies often become habit. Then we can try to offer different habits that are more in line with what we want.

Truly, we use those judgmental words when something happens that we don’t like. That is the central truth of the situation. I don’t like hitting, I don’t like food to be thrown, I don’t like the dog’s ear to be pulled (the dog doesn’t like it either), and so on. Let’s bring to the child’s attention something that is the truth of the situation - do I like what just happened?

Then we can try to offer a different action for the child to imitate. With our actions and words. Over and over for days in a row until the child begins to try out the new strategy we have offered. There is no sense getting frustrated or impatient because it has taken many days and still no change, Changing habits takes time (for us too).

What are the consequences of consequences?
1. Damage to your connection with your child. It is hard to trust and feel safe with sometimes dangerous Y...O...U.
2. Your child adopting the technique of punishing to get what he wants. Imitation is how the young child learns.
3. Perpetuating the Blaming/Fault-finding/Shaming system that permeates our world. Imitation is how the young child learns.

When we understand the actual consequences of our own actions, we can begin to reframe the way we think and offer the young child a new behavior in the modality in which they can best learn. We offer the example for imitation based on the understanding that the child is simply attempting to fulfill wants and needs.