Coping, Emotional Management, Empowerment, Universal Benefit

I received a comment from a reader today that relayed their concern over how shielded and protected our ‘parenting’ approach might seem to be.  The concern was primarily that providing such a regulated environment for a young child could be a disservice in that the child would be rendered unprepared when the harshness of reality came knocking on their door.

I wanted to address this reader’s genuine concern because it is one that I am presented with frequently from those who do not have the benefit of seeing what it’s like to spend “A Day in the Life of… Us”.  🙂

The gist of the comment offered is as follows: 

“…in an ideal world, no child would ever feel any stress, but the world is far from ideal… I am worried, you seem to be obsessed with making everything just wonderful for them. Not that there is anything wrong with that as such, but I am a bit worried about how you will react when something terrible happens to them, that you cannot do anything about? Say when a boyfriend/girlfriend dumps them, or a pet/relative/friend dies.

Children are naturally resilient, they have to be as they have to learn that bad things sometimes happen that cannot be avoided…. I am NOT saying that suffering is good… But perhaps some gentle adversity as they grow up might help them to withstand something really bad when life sometimes really hurts?…”

 

I very much appreciate opportunities to talk with others who can see why the approach my partner and I have chosen to employ in creating the environment for our daughter’s childhood can be so wonderful and beneficial, while questioning whether it is realistic.   Many have inquired, and some have outright informed us that our refusal to punish, and refusal to diminish, will lead to a child that is full of her own importance, doesn’t care about others, and doesn’t think authority is anything worth considering submitting to. We run into similar concerns when others discover how we educate our children. Our curiosity driven, child-led environment, unconcerned with expectations or requirements to be part of the “norm” really seems to rattle some people. Our focus is in the full development of the whole human, without expectation of a set timeline or specific outcome. Cheerfully, every once in a while we run into those who genuinely understand the benefit of a peaceful, respect giving, upholding home that honors one another as equals, and reveres our children’s childhoods, yet they still worry children from these homes won’t be able to cope in the ‘real world’.

There is a simple quote, reiterated and slightly shifted from one person to the next, but the idea is that rather than accept that which is not beneficial to life and living things, and force the mind to learn to cope and manage, instead demonstrate through one’s own behaviors and choices, a reality that abandons that which harms, and reinforces that which is universally beneficial. ~ In other words, be the change instead of the victim of circumstance: go and create the world we want to live in.

Granted, this way of thinking is one that is full of ability, proactive thought, action, and empowerment.  It isn’t for those who feel they have no real capacity to impact the world around them.  Well, maybe it should be for them the most, but such a way of thinking has to be developed.  In our home, I think we choose to live the way we want life to be, as much as we can.  In our case, it is an intentional and conscious choice much of the time, but I think maybe it’s become sort of second nature because living with these truths for us is what provides harmony and peace, where otherwise difficulty and negative experiences would overwhelm and take us under.

Recently, and throughout our history as a species, some humans have known intuitively that it is harmful to cause a newly formed mind to cope with that which surpasses the presence of connections necessary to support such experiences. Those that don’t seem to have an inherent sense of this concept have observed and chosen to become educated in understanding that the human child’s mind is “under development” and that causing it to deal with experiences it is not yet equipped to grasp causes development that is inevitably malformed as a result of the cocktail of negative chemicals overwhelming the neurological environment in which the connections are forged.

With neuroscience, we can confirm what our ancestors took for granted—that letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.

– There are many articles that discuss this understanding, and I want to encourage you to educate yourself if you are interested.

One thing that many adults do not seem to realize, especially in Academia, is that children by nature do not need many of the “lessons” we give them, but would gain and develop so much more thoroughly and effectively if we got out of the way and let them explore, discover, and adapt in their own time and space. This method is espeially successful if we walk along side them, providing them insight and security on their journey of developing Self. One example that is relevant in our home currently is the concept of bigotry and racism, as well as religious discrimination and indoctrination. My 6 year old has no concept of there even being anything out there when it comes to humans of a different skin color, gender, or class, any more than she does of a dog having white, black, brown, tan, red or yellow fur. In fact, she has so little awareness of anything negative along these lines (our differences) that any time we have seen her exposed to retellings related to any of these concepts, she simply responds to the ideas of cruelty, injustice, and inequality; she has no concept of there being an external human rational for the harmful behaviors.

Slavery, oppression, punishment, torture, war… These things are not something we prefer to have her exposed to yet, but much like religion, it’s inevitable it will come NOT on our timeline, a timeline dictated by her demonstrating she has attained an emotional and intellectual development to be able to think through things without a resulting negative or damaging impact on her whole perspective of her world. And so, when they come before she is able to really grasp them in a beneficial manner, we sort through them the best we can, offering encouragement to her to ask questions and think out loud as much as she feels like doing so. We don’t say much in these instances, we absorb her experience and do our best to get out of the way of her thoughts, and allow her to form these most valuable connections in a safe environment.

________________________________________

My hope is to encourage adults to recognize that children are constantly observing and absorbing everything around them, and the input stream is a continual source of information their minds use to form thoughts and responses that shape their existence and who they are.

In our home, our focus is harmony and security, respect and consideration, integrity and gentleness. We all have difficult days, moods that are just not helpful to self or others, and struggles, but when we demonstrate concern for one another, a concern that comes from a genuine appreciation and mutual, equal value, those emotional struggles (often a result of physical or logistical challenges) become opportunities to grow and gain, instead of feeling defeated or ineffective and powerless. When shame, guilt, manipulation, and false consequence are not part of the equation, in their place can be honor, integrity, compassion, empathy, consideration, and kindness.

So, how does this work?  How do we know it will work? 

Well, we’ve seen the outcome to some degree already in our own home as well as others, but honestly what it comes down to is trust. It takes a rooted and renewable trust… Trust in the process, trust in the science, trust in the knowledge, and trust in the child and their mind’s natural course of development. It takes trusting that they will gain and obtain throughout their life all that they specifically need to live their life, not that which is necessary to live the life of others.

If a child is allowed to obtain in his or her childhood that which they will naturally absorb and integrate into their being, these experiences will shape their mind in such a way that it will cause them to have what they need to navigate their existence, from the first moments of consciousness to the last. Again, knowing this, trusting this, and getting out of the way to allow the natural course of this development to occur is something that doesn’t come to many of us easily. We worry because of what we have been through and how our minds have managed those experiences – we are tainted, and justifiably so. The deepest challenge is to override our own mental conditioning (sometimes at a very deep and integral level) and not allow our own challenges to become those of our children. Instead, we work to empower them to build their own world, and build a world where benefit and compassion are far more common than self serving and violence.

To address the specific concerns of the original comment, and to tie in the concept of “trusting the process”, I will share a bit about what my 6 year old specifically (only discussing her life here, not any other children that have been a part of our home) has experienced and sorted through so far in her 6 years with us. None of these experiences were manufactured by us intentionally, each of them has forced us all to grow, and quite some percentage of them we did our best to shield her from the full blow of because her mind is not yet developed enough to be able to manage them in a way that causes her healthy growth.

At two years of age, my daughter was required to adapt to losing her big sister while simultaneously being moved to a new home, which for months was in a state of transition and change (literally, location change – new surroundings).  Her father and I remained the only constant, along with her dog and some of her most important possessions.  The result? Monsters… They came to our house, lurking around every corner it seemed.  We watched a little girl, previously unafraid of anything and totally calm and secure, suddenly exhibit great fear, dread, threat, and anger.

After a few weeks of this, her father devised a solution.  He walked along side her through that which she had to face (in spite of our efforts to protect her from having to cope with things beyond her developmental abilities).  He walked along with her, and when she saw those monsters start coming for them, she told her Papa and, after getting the full descriptive run down of each one from his little girl, he simply ate them.  With peanut butter, ketchup, mustard, cheese, and salt and pepper on top.  Eventually, she decided she could do the job sometimes herself when her Papa was not available… that happened about the same time we made a very hard decision and chose a home to stabilize us in, even though a good option had yet to present itself.

At four years of age, our daughter was exposed to the idea of us adopting a sibling for her and bringing an addition to our family.  She experienced the whole process, from interviews, to exams, to training, to our private conversations.  It took 18 months, but finally a young boy joined us.  6 weeks later, after we had all started to attach, especially our daughter, we had to disrupt the adoption and could no longer be a home for this boy.  The primary reason? Somehow, in spite of the highly involved social workers and their expertise, they missed something crucial: this boy was entirely not capable of being in a family with another child, especially one younger than he.  Not only were his behaviors threatening and his volatility damaging to our daughter and to our home, but him having to witness our positive and supportive, gentle treatment of our daughter (which was a stark contrast to his own experiences through his childhood) caused him so much pain, and at such a deep level, that the exposure was determined harmful to him (and to us). The adoption was canceled.  And so, my then 5 year old had, at that point, had effectively lost two siblings, one that had been there since her birth, and one that had come from great intention, effort,  and hopefulness.

Simultaneously, my daughter was presented with another intriguing challenge: her father was diagnosed with a stage 4 Melanoma, unknown initially whether it had spread to his Lymphatic system, unknown whether it could be resolved, unknown whether it would (or ever might) return, or if his life might be in jeopardy.  She watched as we grieved, as fear consumed us, as we denied, raged, ran, scheduled exams and surgeries, and went through an emotionally charged experience such that our union was ripped apart and our life as we knew it was literally smashed to pieces.  She watched while we did our very best to not allow fear to fill her mind, and did our very best to keep the full extent of the concern from becoming her burden to bear.

She then watched us rebuild, return, restore, and renew.  She’s still watching this process.

CAM01621

Now, at 6, she is contemplating the impending loss of her Nana, her canine companion that has been by her side from the moment she was born in our bedroom.  This sweet soul, and member of our family, still tries desperately to play with her 6 year old charge, in spite of a lack of mobility and loss of sensory function.  We are all here, supporting and loving her, as she finishes her time with us and makes her way to her place of rest.

CAM03185

In the last 5 months, I have become pregnant twice, and twice have been presented with a situation where for one reason or another, the pregnancy did not continue beyond barely knowing about it.  My daughter was aware each time, as symptoms were impossible to cover – she is empathic, as well as empathetic… she knew something was up when Mama stopped playing with her while simultaneously renovating our house.  (Yes, I am renovating our entire house, myself, on top of everything. This is why the choice I mentioned to “stabilize” in a home, in effort to put an end to the monsters, was such a challenging one. Three years later, I’m about 70% done with the renovations that were supposed to be cosmetic and have become everything from structural to plumbing and electrical, to finishing, and without a reliable pool of professionals or local materials source to rely upon).  We still are not entirely certain of the full reach of these losses for our family, particularly our 6 year old.  However, signs that it impacted her more negatively than we desperately hoped against, appear now and then, mostly in the form of her stating she doesn’t think she’ll “ever have a sibling because there is no way for her to have one that seems to work”.  She’s now resorted to sometimes informing us she doesn’t ever want a sibling, while other days begging for one, and still other days being outright angry with us for yet  having provided her a brother or sister (that is still a part of our family anyway).

IMG_0238 CAM03195

Along the way, my daughter has grappled with unkind children, children who have been abused and therefore harm others, unkind adults who diminish, witnessed children and animals being poorly treated, attempted to understand the benefit of the relinquishment of her fish, the death of family members, and most recently the continued absence of her father, as he struggles to balance work with living.  You know that move I mentioned we chose to make a few years back? We made that choice out of necessity for career reasons, in order to provide us with a quality of life we thought to be impossible without the relocation and career shift.  That very decision now renders me a single parent most of the time, and my child and her father, as well as he and I, find ourselves scrambling to make the most of every single second we have together because there are so few (not to mention the additional awareness of the fragility of life that greatly impacts this desire for togetherness).

CAM02999

So, now my daughter, at 6 and half years earthside, is intimately observing the strain and stress her parents are experiencing, facing her own grief and continued dread of her father’s absence, trying to grasp and deal with the impending death of her cherished canine companion, and somehow stave off resentment in the shadow of the loneliness the absence of a sibling has cast, as we work to better our life.  So much for protecting her from having to cope with anything before she is really ready.

Or maybe not…

She now observes and absorbs our actions and conversations as we once again open our minds and commence our search, and resume our journey. For now, we are generating the life we want to live, instead of living the circumstances that .  She is now taking her own steps, no longer being in our arms all the time, and we are all walking side by side, together, arm in arm.

This is real life.

 London smile

 

**** When we force children to cope, we cause defensive and non-productive mental connections to be made. The neurological science that explains this phenomenon is actually very clear and simple to grasp. In the place of children having to figure out how to cope, instead we walk along with them through what comes, and protect them from that which is more complex than they’ve developed neurological processes to comprehend. In so doing, we allow them the natural environment necessary for their minds to make the connections in a timeline and course of development that doesn’t harm or cause fear or threat.  When those positive and effective connections solidify, instead of a defensive, protective response generated by a replaying of threat and negative chemicals being released in the body, the mind provides a proactive and beneficial alternative.  That alternative empowers our children to seek positive options, and advance and improve their world. The result is an empowered mind that will change our world in ways that lead to universal benefit.

In Awe of the Current

I stand, before the Deep,
Her rhythm, my solace.
Each moment, comes next as the last.
Anticipated and satisfied.
Each inhalation unique, but known.
Arms out, receiving her breath,
Absorbing her pulse, as powerful as my own.
Each surge welcomed, as those that have come,
Their nourishing already begun.
Her voice, silent, immense
Final and continuous.
So melodic her song.
And in this connectedness, with each beat
I am, and know, I will remain.
In harmony.
In acknowledgement and appreciation, my mind bows.
I am absorbed.

And now, we begin again.

Punishment is Retaliation

Such a simple sentence, yet so profound, it has permanently changed me.

Punishment is retaliation.

Discipline is a choice from within, rooted in integrity, awareness, and purpose.

Management of self and one’s emotions is necessary to provide a stable, reliable, harmonic environment for relationship and the beneficial growth of children’s minds.

Sometimes we just need to look at our world through their viewing portal… What a generation of empathic, aware, and respected humans we could grow.

I will begin a series on the value of guidance vs consequence delivering/punishing (what our society so often labels, “discipline), including punishment vs simple result over the coming weeks.  I have not had the ability to devote the amount of time and focus here that I have hoped this past year, but with a bit of luck, our conversations will inspire and much thought will follow.

Welcoming a year of blessing, benefit, and reverence.

 

 

Driving the Point Home

Yesterday we took our daughter to an egg, er, scramble.  The group that put it together was thoughtful and split up the field into three age categories.  She ran with the 1-4 year olds, their parents..and older siblings.  She came out ok, but next year I suspect she will be a bit more aggressive…. oh, what we teach our children from the very beginning.

After the hunt, we went over to the playground for a while.  There is a feature on this playground built for wheelchair fun; there is a long incline ramp, a bridge, and then a very gentle slide.  Needless to say, the kids on two feet and wheels really seem to dig it, including my daughter.  She spent quite a few moments on this particular piece of equipment, until one time instead of going down the slide, she decided to go up.  She did so at the peril of another girl about her age.

The mother of the other child, my daughter, and my daughter’s father were all within arm’s reach, so the girls didn’t end up with any serious injury physically, but the interplay between my kiddo and her Papa that followed is something I want to talk about.

My daughter has a very solid sense of self, she is articulate and opinionated and we encourage this. She tends to see things for what they are, doesn’t follow the crowd too much, and generally just sort of blissfully fits wherever/whatever she’s doing.  She spends most of her days with me, but often Papa is around, and when he is, she is happiest.  Her desire for his attention, approval, interest in her, and general involvement with her seems to exceed her desire for the same from me.  Consequently, she is much more sensitive to his responses toward her.

She listens to his ideas, to his guidance and suggestion, and to his heart, and most of the time, she does so silently. You can see the acknowledgment on her face, if you’re looking for it, and sometimes in her body language and movements, but her acknowledgement of his communications is almost never verbalized (at least not until later).

Russ tends to be very gentle with her, he gets down physically so he is face to face, he plays, he teaches, he leads by example, he shares himself.  Sometimes, however, he reprimands, and it flattens her. He can be too firm, too rough… this is when the impatience sets in. (Can any of you relate?? I know I can.)  But he can also be direct and loving, yet if he reprimands even in this calm and connected state, she just crumbles. And crumbling can look like falling apart emotionally, but it can also look like defensiveness and anger.

The range of emotional response from her toward him is greater and more intense than it is with me.  There are reasons for this, unique to the personalities of all three of us, which I won’t go into in this post, but understanding this is important to understanding why I notice some of their interactions more than others, and why I’m writing about the one yesterday.

After my daughter decided to assume the position to climb UP the slide, and once her Papa realized that it was going to cause a collision, I think he attempted to verbally intervene. I don’t think she responded however, which agitated all involved, and the girls collided. The mom of the girl helped her daughter, who was upset because of the physical “bump” she’d received, and Russ took our daughter aside.  He knelt down, holding her (or trying to), and I assume began to tell her something along the lines of why he thought it was not a good idea for her to climb up a slide with other children concurrently sliding down the same slide.

I watched from a distance, and saw only the body language between the two… He was irritated but seemed to be providing her “Papa kindness” (which means he was not shouting or diminishing her in some way).  He was talking to her face to face, at her height, but she was pulling away from him and wouldn’t look at him.  He persisted, physically trying to get her to stay near enough to him that they could talk by taking her hand, holding her arm and waist, and attempting to have the conversation. She pushed him off, was defensive, and eventually decided she was done and ran off to play on the opposite part of the playground from him.

This is when I walked over to him and asked what had happened.

I got the run down, followed by a papa expressing his dismay that his daughter just won’t listen to him.

I thought about what I’d seen for a moment and concluded that my husband and my daughter need to spend a lot more time together.  He is intuitive and sensitive, and given the necessary amount of opportunity to discover and experience one another (Papa and daughter), together, he would have been able to see exactly what I was seeing. He would have become aware, would have realized his daughter’s plight and need, would have seen the development that had actually occurred (that was masked and hiding from him in that moment), and he would have been able to diffuse the situation immediately in a way that left both Papa and kiddo with positive feelings about self and environment.

He didn’t see however, not this time. He didn’t realize it in the moment, but our daughter was embarrassed. She was embarrassed by him not realizing that she got the lesson in the very first sentence, the first three-five words, or perhaps even in the physical action of either him helping to prevent a major collision (if he did, I didn’t see), or in the collision itself. I don’t think she’s ever climbed up a slide with a kid coming down before… 

I know the signs of not ‘seeing’ soon enough. I have experienced it plenty of times myself when I don’t see – until later – and then I have to repair. Humility is something I seem to be gaining more and more of, as she gets older… And while I suppose this is a good thing, it doesn’t exactly feel so great.

What her Papa and I don’t sometimes realize is just exactly how little can be so much.. He felt he needed to reiterate to her the lesson he knew she needed to get from the experience, not realizing all the while, she had already gotten it.

When he insisted she give him her attention so he could explain and teach (what amounted to her as reprimand), she rejected him. She fought back to hold on to her dignity and he held on because of his reasons.  I suspect those reasons consisted (at least in part) of him genuinely wanting to encourage her social development, increase her knowledge base for the purpose of future self-safety (just a week ago, she was the kid coming down when another was coming up, and she got hurt), as well as perhaps a sense within him of needing to do something because of the other adults around. (I don’t know what his motivations were, I didn’t ask specifically.) The result of the two, each struggling to be heard, to hold on to their own sense of self and need, was a battle that divided them.

They reconnected an hour or so later, but the rift was there and one of them will consciously remember it (the adult), while the other will subconsciously file it away. It will shape future interactions and perceptions, for both of them.

Wisdom comes from screwing things up, and realizing it.  

What if we, as parents, had the wisdom, awareness, and made the choice to step back from the interplay, while remaining engaged, for the purpose of gaining highly valuable perspective?  Doing so would allow our maturity to prevail, our intuition to be heard, and our awareness could do its job. Imagine what might happen in moments of struggle, where we think we are connected and moving toward each other, when in reality each is standing his/her ground defensively for their own reasons and the distance is actually mounting every second that goes by, if we as the parent/adult stepped back far enough to see. 

~  What would we see?

We might see our inner selves shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”

We might see our children silently shouting, “Hear me! Hear me! I need to be acknowledged and know my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective is important and valued. I am significant.”


Our children are not emotionally mature. Many of us parents aren’t either. It’s our responsibility to give our children an environment safe for them to be emotionally immature, so they can develop at their own pace.  We can give them this environment because of our own maturity. When we, the adults, are aware of ourselves in such a way that we recognize what is motivating behaviors, what is lying underneath our responses and thought patterns, our perspectives change, as do our reactions. When we, the adults, have accepted ourselves fully, and confidently value ourselves, we have nothing to prove… especially to our children (or the other adults standing by, watching).  We also have nothing to have approved, because we know within us that we are ok. We know that we are beneficial and needed.  We don’t seek out that assurance, it is within us.

Our children seek that assurance until their emotional foundation is solid and developed to the point where they have the ability to provide themselves with this assurance, and regenerate it when it is temporarily not able to be found. How many adults do you know who are still functioning somewhere within this same realm of underdeveloped emotional security?

Power struggles with children are completely unnecessary.  And when they do occur, it is the responsibility of the adult to cause them to cease, and not by winning either. Let’s use this metaphor: Adult and child, each has a water gun and they’re playing a game with each other. The game is going well, until their guns run out of water.  They both need more water, there is only one hose, both need the water before the other one in order to “win”.  Where some adults/parents will demand the water first, others will give the water to their kid first, but then double up efforts in drenching (or let the kid win, which does the same for that child’s sense of self that doubled up drenching efforts does).

What if the adult had the wisdom and awareness to cause the hose to “run out” of water?  The game would have served its purpose, it would have been fun, and the battle that might have ensued, where each (adult and child) have a need to get met for themselves, would simply not have existed. The concluding moments would have been a “truce”, where each side respected the efforts of the other, and they had fun.

Perhaps you think this story is simplistic and unrealistic, maybe even childish… But I challenge you to reflect with an open mind on either the last, or the next time you and your child engage in being heard, and getting your own needs met.. You might just discover a SuperSoaker in your hands.


I’d love to have you share some of your own experiences where you were able to “see” what else was going on inside a battle or power struggle between you and your kid.

Why Command or Demand When All You Have to Do is Request?

Instead of a command or demand, (how often do you see parents barking orders at their kids, big and small, and becoming very irritated and resorting to punishment when the child doesn’t offer immediate and utter compliance), try making a reasonable and considerate request.

I received a comment/response to an earlier post in which a mother describes a scenario in her home. In this case, the mom explained directly to the child directly that “the volume level (his preferred level) was more than she (or the family) could enjoy with him at that time, and asked him if he would please turn it down”.  Her manner of handling the situation  was absolutely brilliant, and kind.  Perhaps this mom knows that referring to the family as a whole works better in her home, and maybe another home would work better if it were individualized, either way, the adult taking time to treat the child as they would their spouse, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger in the room, elevates the child’s self esteem and ability to connect and co-exist to such an extent that instead of the parent having to try (or force) to get cooperation, all they have to do is ask.

BUT here’s the catch…

A parent willing to demonstrate compassion and such a level of maturity and awareness as this type of scenario, must also be willing to bend.  Treating her child as she would an adult in the grown-up world, (sitting in one’s office, guy in the cube next door blaring awfully annoying noise – asked to please turn it down – guy either refuses or does so to such a degree that it doesn’t help), she knows that sometimes she gets what she wants and other times she doesn’t.  If the child knows he or she has the right to deny the parent’s request (scary, I know.. but hang in there with me), then the child can choose how he/she behaves, and becomes responsible for those choices. While sometimes it means the parent has to accept their request being denied (just like in the real world), it can just as easily be extremely satisfying and rewarding when the child chooses to grant the request out of genuine selflessness, compassion, or empathy.  Talk about parenting on a different level. Imagine having a teenager that respected you so greatly, and your respect of them was equal, that instead of power struggles and fear based control tactics by the parent, the parent could simply establish boundaries, set expectations, request cooperation, and trust the loyalty of the friendship between the parent and teen, and trust the teen to make his/her own choices, to accept responsibility for them, and each enjoy the other and their shared life.  This takes courage.

Hard to imagine?

Well… when you set it up from day one as a mutual partnership, a mentorship, a friendship, a love that does instead of just says, it’s not difficult and it is not imagination either, it’s reality.  Day one can be at birth or as soon as you become aware and decide to allow the paradigm shift in your mind and home.  And keep in mind, no human is consistent 100%, but grace and compassion take care of the inconsistencies until the inconsistencies take care of themselves.


 

Request vs. Demand

Request Demand
Attention Attention is on the needs of others and myself Attention is on strategies
Intention To get everyones needs fulfilled To get the others to do what I want
Appreciation My appreciation for the other person does not change, if the other one says “No.” I do not appreciate the other person as much, if the other one says “No.”
Trust I trust, that my needs will be considered and satisfied. I am scared, that my needs do not count.


 

>>> From the blog: The Key to Getting Your Needs Met

The number one reason people’s Needs are not met is unclear requests.” – Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Mastering Requests

Why:

Requests ensure that I am giving the people around me something actionable and clear so that they can respond to my Need.
Making requests of each other, rather than demands, assures that we are doing everything for each other out of an energy that will not later interfere with the quality of the connection.
As I said earlier, one of the most important insights in NVC is that whenever we do anything for one another, I for you or you for me…
…the energy with which we do it is just as important as the action itself. Because when we or others act motivated by fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds and have-tos, the relationship pays a big price, usually in terms of resentment and often an erosion of trust.
Unclear requests create confusion, and waste time and resources.
 Demands squander goodwill and trust.

What:

A true NVC request is distinct from a demand, and meets four criteria (below).
In a demand the other person’s Needs are not perceived as equally important, and the other person may do what we’re wanting out of a motivation of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds, have-tos, etc.
When I make a true request, your Needs matter to me just as much as my own. And I remember the consciousness that NVC teaches me in which I prioritize the relationship over specific outcomes, and when we are connected we find that we co-create mutually satisfying outcomes.
If I have made a true request, I can hear a response of no with as much love as a yes. Below are the four criteria for an NVC request:
(1) Specific. (Vague requests are less doable, and therefore less likely to result in your Needs being met. They are also prone to being misinterpreted; e.g.: “I want more space in this relationship.” Response: “Are you saying you’d like me to contact you in five years?”)
(2) Present. (Actionable in this moment. Even if what I want is a future action, what is actionable right now is agreement about that future action.)
(3) Positive action language. (What we do want the other person to do rather than what we don’t want them to do).

I Had Always Just Assumed I’d Spank My Children – One Mom’s Journey to Seeing

This is, quite possibly, the most eloquently written composition on this subject (specifically the Biblical aspect of the subject) that I have ever read.

This woman has two subsequent related posts, of which I will address in separate posts here.  But start with this.. just read and sit with it for the time it chooses to leave you its essence.

____________________________________

Grace

January 8, 2011 by discipleshipmothering

My Letter to Focus on the Family

Hi,

I am a long time listener and supporter of Focus on the Family. From the time I was a teenager, I listened to and from school and college, collecting much wisdom for the path ahead of me. A strange thing for a teen to do, I guess. But, I truly love the Lord, and wanted His best for my future. I hold a high respect for Dr. James Dobson and his marriage advice. I’ve been very happily married for almost ten years.

However, when I had my first child, Dr.Dobson’s advice nearly broke my heart. I’d always assumed I’d spank, and followed his advice for my spirited 2 year old. I cannot express to you in words how wrong it felt. The spirit of God was convicting me, and this precious son, whom I’d nursed for 21 months, and had continued a very close, in-synch relationship with, even through the addition o a new baby, when he was 28 mos….become afraid and distrustful of me. Not only that, it wasn’t working to improve his behavior. He fit the bill for “strong-willed”, certainly. But, could he be beyond hope, since the very method tailored to his personality wasn’t working?

With much prayer, my husband and I began to research other discipline methods. I came across gentlechristianmothers.com in my search, and discovered some very eye-opening statements about Biblical discipline.

Out son is now 4 yrs old. We are complimented often, at church, by family and friends, and even by strangers, on how happy and well-behaved our children seem. Life is not perfect, and he’s not a perfect child. But, we are a much more peaceful, loving family since learning to discipline with the Grace of Jesus.

What I see lacking on your website is acknowledgement that these verses in Proverbs may not mean what we think they mean. You can do the research yourself and find that there are many reasons to doubt that these are commands to hit children. More than likely, they are wise principles for being a constant source of authority for our children. The OT has many things to say that are covered under grace. Another good example is the treatment of women caught in adultery. We all know how Jesus chose to react. This should be the ultimate example, among many in the NT, of how to apply grace.

I write this because the advice from Dr. Dobson about strong willed children is at worse, very dangerous advice for new parents. And, at the very least, it is impractical and unecessary. I say dangerous because it’s using God’s Word to convince parents they must hit their children. I believe there are FAR more Biblical principles we can apply to child discipline, besides a few commonly misunderstood proverbs, written by a king who ended his life in such disgrace against God, and was held with such irreverence by his own sons  (Solomon). Let’s instead apply the wisdom of Christ, Himself.  How did He disciple? How did He view children? What principles of love, forgiveness, reproof, and correction can we glean from the NT church?

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind completely about spanking. It is so ingrained in our culture, most people don’t think twice about NOT doing it, as I once thought. However, I hope my letter will at least open the eyes of Focus on the Family and it’s wide-spread influence, to impact the world with Christ’s love.

My husband and I have experienced a total life change, and it has not been easy in the face of criticism. But, thus far, it has been one of the best decisions of our young life. It is my prayer that one day, Dr. Dobson will realize his mistake and change his heart on this subject.

Many Prayers,
(My Real Name)

I’ll keep you posted if I receive a reply.

 

Natural Consequence, Example One

Unedited – my kiddo woke up before I could… I will later tonight if I can.

___

Sometimes a natural consequence is one that occurs beyond our control, due to physics.

Sometimes, in my opinion, a natural consequence is one that I effect for my child, but that is wholly associated with the cause of the resulting effect.

In a previous post, I discussed a child’s actions that were concerning his father -> Read Here
These two particular incidents, and my suggestion of a parental response, fit into the Parent Derived Natural Consequence category.

Here’s an example of physics at play:  Joseph, if you carelessly put the dishes away, you may discover what will happen.  Joseph continues to haphazardly put the dishes away and he drops a plate.  Lucky for him, the floor is only wood instead of tile, but the unfortunate thing is that on its way to the floor (physics-gravity), it somehow twists just enough that instead of landing in a manner that just ends in a thud, it triggers a release of energy known as a bang, that results in the splitting in two (or four) of the material that once was a single piece, otherwise referred to as a plate.

Sucks to be Joseph… jeez, he probably could have thrown the plate on the grown and it would have landed just fine, but nooooo, it accidentally “mishandled” it just so that instead, there is now a huge mess and no longer useful plate to put away.

ENTER MOM

Scenario one:  Mom is irritated, starts telling Joseph that if he’d listened to her in the first place, which he already knows, that this wouldn’t have happened.  So, now he feels dumb for letting it happen, knows he’s going to be further demeaned by some sort of punishment for not being more careful in the first place, and he’s gained his mother’s disapproval yet again.

Some children will cry because they are grieved at both the loss of the approval, but also the failure they perceive is theirs.

Some children will laugh and defy as a response to the disapproval and impressed failure to “do as told” to “prevent problems”.

Some children will be compelled to make reparations.  This is guilt.  The concern here is how far the parent decides to let the guilt be used – in other words, they see a way to manipulate, er… that’s more politically correctly termed “teach a lesson”.

Scenario two: Mom hears the crash.  Waits.  Child either begins to clean up or starts calling for mom.  This depends on how the same situation has been handled before, and on the child’s personality.

Mom enters the kitchen a moment or two after the crash (a younger child will need you sooner to prevent injury).  But she comes quietly, not in judgement or disapproval, but understanding.  She knows what the law of gravity is. She knows that we, as a human race on planet earth, are stuck with this reality.

If child is already attempting to clean up, mom must ascertain the safety of this.  If it’s not safe, mom must intervene.  If child is capable of cleaning up the mess, mom just allows it and makes a note to come after the child is finished and make sure no shards of glass are left anywhere.  – This, by the way, is either the child who is terrified of the parent’s response, or, hopefully, the child who is wholly valued and respected, and is therefore confident enough to reason that he wasn’t quite attentive enough, which resulted in gravity winning, and well, now there is a mess and so to prevent anyone from getting hurt, it needs to be tended to.  No guilt, though there might be some grief, especially if the broken item was of special meaning to someone and the child is aware of it.  No disapproval imposed… by outside forces.  And hopefully, the child is whole and confident, so while they may tell themselves to be more careful next time, they don’t take a hit to their “value”, nor do they hit it themselves.  No humiliation.  No failure.  Just physics.

Now, if the child is, for whatever reason, not attempting to clean up the mess himself, the mother can initiate the process as follows:

“Hum… Looks like we better get to work cleaning this up before someone gets hurt.  I will pick up the pieces if you will go get the broom.”  The glass might hurt the child, so the parent is preventing injury, but the child is still actively involved in assisting.

Child returns with broom, mom encourages “Joseph” to start sweeping in an area that is safe, as she continues to work on removing potential harm.  Child is contributing, and building his confidence in his ability to resolve the concern he allowed gravity to cause.

Once everything is cleaned up – Mom tells child, “Great! Looks like it’s all clean.”  AND THEN LEAVES the area and says nothing more about the incident. Period. Like as in doesn’t ever mention, unless the child brings it up in the future.  If there are still more dishes to be put away, the mother also doesn’t mention this to the child.  She waits.. gives the child the credit that he is intelligent enough to see that there are more dishes to finish.   – Now let’s say he goes ahead on his own and finishes the task.  Great.  Nothing more is said, except if the mother knows he needs reinforcement.  If so, she still waits and unless he initiates, the most she says is something like, “Thanks for taking care of the dishes.  I appreciate you.”

However, if the child is shaken, or perhaps not entirely driven to be responsible without encouragement (like how I said that??), then the mother is put into the position of refocusing.  Again, she waits.  She observes.  Wait = Observe.

Child abandons task and goes to play.  Mother notices.  An hour later, mother reminds child, “Joseph, I noticed there are still dishes in the dishwasher waiting for your attention.”

Joseph’s reply will range all across the board.  Mother simply affirms his response with, “ok”.

That looks like this –

Joseph:  “I know, but I don’t want to do them anymore.”
Mother: “Ok.” – Now wait, don’t walk away, just stay silent.  Give Joseph a chance to explain himself.  Pretend you are having this conversation with another adult.  If he doesn’t begin explaining, prod, a little, but with respect. “Joseph, you don’t want to do any more?”  Keep the look on your face neutral but inquisitive. Don’t lace your words with a tone and motive.  He knows.

Joseph: “Yeah, I don’t want to.”
Mother: “Can you help me understand why you don’t want to?”
Joseph: “I’m worried I will drop more.”  (This is what a confident child will say.  A child who knows he is respected and treated as a valuable member of the family.  A child who doesn’t know he holds his mother’s respect will be defiant and simply state that he has better stuff to do, or insist it’s just a preference.)

If the child is concerned over a repeat failure, the mother can offer her approval and encouragement by stating that if it happens again, we’ll just clean it up again.  If appropriate and beneficial for the CHILD, the mother might also offer a little advice in the form of a trick… NEVER stating that if the child were just “more careful” (or whatever other version of that concept) that it won’t happen again.  Why never state this?  Because no matter how careful you, as an adult, are, eventually gravity will get the better of even you!  Don’t pretend it won’t, and don’t expect your kid to agree to be bound by that double standard either.

Advice in the form of a trick:  “You know Joseph, when I put the dishes away, I’m worried I might drop them too.  So, I give each one a name as I pick them up.  Then, I keep my eye on it from the moment my finger first touches the plate until it’s safely where it belongs.  Then, when I’m all done, I try to remember the names so that next time I see that same plate, I won’t have to wonder what I named it.”

Result

Child is upheld, child is respected, child is approved of
Dishes get done, even if it takes the rest of the day
Child has a new game, and it keeps him focused on his task, which hopefully decreases the chance of gravity winning

Now, there is only one additional note to make here.  In the event that you have a kiddo that hasn’t had the luxury of the high level of your respect and admiration, and doesn’t thrive in his autonomy and self worth…. OR you have a kiddo that is just not into the task for his own purposes (that being it’s boring, he has other stuff that he enjoys more, etc), you’re going to need to use a bit of parental control to make sure the task is completed and the child respects the value of his contribution.

Here’s my suggestion… and it requires patience, tolerance, foresight, and effort on the part of the parent.
Let’s say the child just outright opposes and does not finish the task of emptying the dishwasher.
Ok, this isn’t a problem.  Yes, it annoys you (mom/dad) because it means you will have to do it and the child won’t gain the good from completing it.  But that’s not all that’s going on…

Mother:  “Joseph, I noticed there are some dishes still waiting for you in the dishwasher.”
Joseph: “I don’t want to do anymore.”  – Go through the reasoning and get to just that – kid doesn’t want to comply.
Mother: “Ok Joseph, I’ll take care of them now then.”  Say nothing more, walk away and go do the dishes right then.  It will take you 2 minutes.  Just do it.  Be quiet.  Wait. Observe.  Don’t pass judgement and don’t resent or become annoyed at your kid.

If Joseph shows up to finish before you complete the task, simply thank him for his willingness to take care of the task (don’t go into helping you out, chipping in, whatever else, just focus on the task, as if it is itself worth valuing), walk away and let him.

If Joseph shows up too late and you’ve already finished, simply tell him as much.  “Joseph, I have completed it.”  Say nothing more.  He gets the point.  Trust me.  He’s not stupid.  You don’t need to add insult. He needs your respect.  He gets the point.  (Keep reading – don’t tell me that well yeah, he gets the point, that being that if he doesn’t want to do something he can just refuse and mom will do it for him.)

If Joseph doesn’t show at all, fine.  Complete the task yourself.  Say nothing to him.  Don’t resent, don’t reject, and don’t allow him to feel your disapproval at any point.

Make plans for that night’s dinner to be something Joseph really, really likes.  Include courses in the meal that go together, but omit one of them.  For instance, make macaroni and cheese with ham and apples on the side.  Omit the cheese (use butter so it’s palatable, but don’t make it as “good” as normal).

DINNER TIME

Everyone sits down, your partner knows what’s going on, but other children do not.  Everyone, including Joseph begins eating.  Someone states that the macaroni tastes different, like it doesn’t have enough cheese.

Mother:  “Well, it doesn’t actually have enough cheese because I didn’t have enough time left after taking care of emptying the dishwasher today to give to cutting up enough cheese for our dinner tonight.”  Older kid, “Oh come on, it only takes three minutes to empty the dishwasher!”  Mother, “Well, yes I know, and Joseph started it and so today it only took me two minutes.  It also only takes two minutes to cut up the appropriate amount of cheese, but I allocated those two minutes to the dishwasher instead.”  (NOT I had to allocate, I ‘did’ – chose to – simple fact.. NO DIGS at the kid that caused all this – don’t point fingers, ever. And don’t omit so that the opportunity for someone else to opens up. No passive retaliation here.)

Say nothing more about it.  If the kids complain about the taste, agree with them.  Don’t apologize, don’t lay blame, just agree.

Takes a lot of work… I know. But by doing that work, you’ll grow a whole, confident, capable, and responsible child into an adult that will hopefully continue the work in is own life.

 

Either the consequences of the act will be enough, or they won’t be- and then a parent’s job becomes to modify the environment or provide supervision until the fascination with the forbidden thing ends.

Punitive Timeouts & Spanking: Equally Damaging

As you read this, if you are unaccustomed to my beliefs or written tone and rhythm, please go here first.  Then, as you read, keep Ken’s comments in mind.

I am in a state of aggravation, spurred by injustice, impossible scenarios, no sleep, trepidation over the damage I may be causing my child with all this transition (moving, traveling), and struggling through a significant crevasse between my husband and I.  Right now, I am not whole.  I am torn in two, with a thread of goo left dangling in between. Please forgive my attempt at coping by using sarcasm instead of sheer wit and completely pure communication.  I’m jaded and in protective mode right now… and as if life isn’t large enough as it is at the moment, I have found myself being expected to conform or defend some of my core beliefs to some very real and large, tangible people (outside my home’s walls, but not far from them).  One of the topics is the use of timeouts.

Somehow, me saying that timeouts are torture in my opinion isn’t enough to get the various people to which I refer above to leave me alone.

____________________________________________________

What is the point of a time out?

From the adult’s perspective, if we’re honest, first and foremost, hopefully the answer to that question is to insist a child realize they have evoked your disapproval by their actions and behaviors.  Second, to be completely honest, it is to give the adult a moment’s peace, during which they do not have to contend with the child’s behaviors and actions that are causing frustration.

We accomplish our task by forcing our child to endure rejection, isolation, and dehumanizing “space to think”, which if they had managed to “think” in the first place, they would never have allowed themselves to be forced into the position they found themselves in – the experience of ostracism by a trusted, loved, care giver.

Below you will find links to subsequent posts as I complete them related to the subject, picked apart concept for concept, and sometimes sentence for sentence.  I hope you will summon your curiosity and continue the learning process, open your mind to your child’s world view, and soften your heart so that a greater knowledge and understanding might enter your parenting and the future health of your child (and you).

Too spiritual, mystical, out-there talk??

Ok, here’s the same thing without the flowers and fairies:  Timeouts cause the brain to sense physical pain because it is in fact, a deliberate action of forced isolation, rejection, and detachment, even at the most “dutiful and appropriate” level. What’s worse, that isolation, rejection, and detachment is being forced upon a child powerless to prevent it by the very entity that is supposed to represent a safe, secure, and protected place/person (be it a parent, teacher, etc).

The betrayal, on multiple levels, is astounding and horrifying.

It’s real.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: Cause those around you to purposely ignore your presence, the other adults you see as valuable for one reason or another, in your daily life. Now, make it so you cannot stop their lack of or refusal to acknowledge you (otherwise known as “removal of positive reinforcement”) until you conform to their will and wishes, or until you regain their approval in some way (if you are capable).  Tell me this is not damaging.  Tell me this doesn’t hurt you. Tell me that it doesn’t make you squirm, angry, resentful, vengeful, and ultimately needy.  I dare you to try.

Now, take that one step further and view the same scenario through the eyes of an under/undeveloped child, inexperienced in social and emotional behavior patterns, still forming a fundamental sense of self and confidence, not capable of fully understanding why, or what they have done to loose the approval of others that resulted in this forced rejection and isolation. (May bet is that if you use timeouts, or spanking for that matter, you do not fully disclose pertinent thoughts to your child, as that might just give them too much knowledge to use against you at some point, so there is a good chance that the child is not fully aware of all aspects of their infraction.)

My take?  Smacking a child may possibly cause less scarring than using timeouts/ostracism, and you all know what I think about using violence and spanking, smacking, hitting, whipping, or using any sort of like action – that being to strike, in any manner.   The reason is simple: Spanking causes humiliation, fear, and physical pain.  Ostracism causes all the same, in addition to a loss of perceived self value, loss of approval, pain of rejection, fear of isolation, and the prevention of remedy (while they sit there thinking about what they’ve done, they are effectively prevented from generating a resolution or remedy).  The amount of psychological scarring and damage is doubled.

Please understand that if I am made aware of your choice to hit your child, and you’re within arm’s reach of me, I will hit you in the exact manner and force you used on them.  And then… maybe I’ll ignore you after, just to make sure you get the full effect of the devaluing and dismissal.

___________________________________________________________________

Ok, here we go……

I have had parents tell me that using timeouts is an excellent option for them, it gets great results.  I cringe.. if you understand anything about me, you know that first and foremost, I believe it paramount that we raise our children with intelligence, the ability to reason and understand their world, respect for their world (this includes those who are in a position to care and provide for them), and a curiosity to explore, develop, and learn.  THE moment I hear a parent tell me that they’ve figured out a system to manipulate their child, for the sake of their own will and desire, regardless of why or what, I start to ache for their little one.  Then, I find out they hit them (ok, spank – really, show me what the physical action of a spanking is, now repeat the action with the same force using the same tool either against a piece of foam like the kind you use in the base of a fake plant, or a brick wall if you’re brave and dumb enough.  It’s the same action as hitting, and when the object makes contact, let’s see what happens).  OR I find out they faithfully don’t spank, “would never dream of it, that’s awful and abusive”, but oh yes, they definitely use timeouts, otherwise known as rejection, which includes the transmission of obvious disapproval, and then of course the torturous forced isolation aspect.  Yes, that’s a great solution.

That same parent, in their next breath, ridicules their child passively, dishonors their child’s autonomy and dignity by speaking about them as if they are less, and typically though standing right there, the parent behaves as if the child is not in the room. Then, as if to redeem themselves in the face of, well, my face, which is typically by then contorted and unable to hide the pain it feels due to the unavoidable sense of compassion and dismay I feel for the child, they begin to offer semi-relevant praise “about” their child, that they sort of direct through their child in hopes that I’ll buy it and encourage them that they’re really a great parent after all.  All the while, their child is standing there knowing full well that the praise is empty, that it has a hitch or some sort of catch and they’ll hear about it as soon as I’m not in the room, and that their parent will insist they acknowledge the efforts and praise offered, as if it is an obligation for the child to also validate the parent, as the parent insisted I do.

But I don’t. And to date, only one parent has stood their ground long enough to start asking me why I won’t buy into their ploy and help them feel good about themselves, so that their kid is forced to do the same thing… Only one parent has ever had the courage to question my refusal to help them make their child feel inferior, of course that’s not really what they want, they just want to be superior.

The parent that asked me why it was that it seemed as though I appeared to think they were full of shit, is the same parent that an hour later broke down in front of their child, crying, while sitting on the floor in front of the child, begging the child to forgive him for his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and gross oversight of the true value of his child.  The child responded with compassion and bewilderment, and didn’t say much.

The two left that night, together, connected in a way they’d never been, with a mutual respect present that was brand new.  The child admired the parent, though he was confused and didn’t seem very trusting or certain of the situation.  The parent discovered the immense worth and complexity of his child, and found that he too held a high level of admiration for the child, it had just been hiding under the surface for years – 9 years to be exact (the child was 10 years old).

I heard from this father about a month ago, his child is now 12.  This father is still struggling with allowing himself to truly acknowledge and respect his child’s autonomy and worth. He is driven to seek reasons and actions that justify him feeling and thinking this way, before he demonstrates this belief to his child.

We talked about this concern and the father indicated that he, himself, held a deep resentment toward his own parents and other care givers for never allowing him to feel as though he was a legitimate and useful contributor, simply because he was nothing more than a child.  He grew up assuming that all children were nothing more than something to be dealt with, tolerated until they’re grown, appreciated for what they do that pleases the adult (and in truth, mimics the adult’s preferences), but not too highly appreciated lest the child become arrogant… it goes on and on.

It’s a simple point of attributing a lessor worth and diminished degree of legitimacy to a person, simply because of their age.  We, as a human race, do this to each other based on ethnicity, language, religion, wealth, and gender. We’d be truly crazy hypocrites if we didn’t do the same thing because of age too. Come on, really.. we’re not that dumb, are we?

The positive side the father reported, however, was that his child and he shared a mutual respect for each other, and instead of punishment for error, the father had learned to use logic, reason, natural consequence, and give his child room to error, room to disagree, room to explore and discover, room to question and seek guidance – instead of shoving it down the child’s throat, and room to return respect and admiration for the father that can so deeply love, if he allows himself to be that vulnerable.

The real catch is, this father changed not only the dynamics of his relationship with his then pre-teen child, but that decision affected his relationship with the child’s mother immensely and brought the two parents back together in a mutual love and respect that neither had ever experienced in their former relationship together. Now, each member of this family knows they are valued, appreciated for who they are and what they think, admired for their efforts and dedication, and respected because they are, not because of what they do or don’t. Love found a place to call home and it took root. And this kid, let me tell you, is one emotionally healthy, intelligent, and confident kid, with a boatload of personal integrity and ability to demonstrate compassion and dedication like none I’ve recently seen or known, of the same age.

________________________________________________

Now, to discuss specifically the harm and damage that is the actual result of using a timeout punishment system – quite possibly the most poignant and intelligent perspective I have ever come across regarding the use of timeouts:

What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.

The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say.

S O U R C E

Then, we take a look at this from another angle –

Numb to the pain

It turns out that “hurt feelings” may be a more valid term than most of us think. Research by Williams suggests that ostracism triggers the same area of the brain that’s active when we feel physical pain. He and his colleagues used FMRI to examine what happened in the brain when people played several versions of “Cyberball”: Participants were either included in the game, excluded having been told their computer wasn’t hooked into the network, or intentionally excluded.

Each time participants felt excluded—even when it was unintentional—the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex lit up, according to findings published in Science (Vol. 302, No. 5643). This area is well-known for being part of the brain’s pain detection system, says Williams. Participants also reported feeling emotional pain.

Williams’s findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective, argue Leary and Geoff MacDonald, PhD, in a 2005Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 131, No. 2) article. They propose that social pain piggybacks on nerve pathways in the brain originally laid out for physical pain. The two now share many of the same pathways, resulting in similar responses to the two seemingly disparate phenomena, they say. It makes sense, says Leary, a Duke University professor of psychology, because social rejection and pain serve the same purpose—alerting an organism to a potentially life-threatening risk.

It may also support a counterintuitive theory proposed by Baumeister and his colleagues: that social rejection leads initially to emotional numbness. They have conducted studies in which they tell participants that based on a psychological evaluation they will end up alone later in life. They’ve found that the participants’ behaviors are affected by the news, but their moods aren’t. Baumeister compares this emotional numbing with the analgesic effect that can happen after an injury. We don’t feel pain until we’ve gotten to safety. This same pathway, he argues, may cause emotional numbness after rejection to allow the brain to begin to cope with the pain before it sets in. In fact, in a series of studies, Baumeister and colleagues find that after rejection, not only are people emotionally numb, but their threshold for physical pain increases.

Williams agrees that emotional numbness can happen. In qualitative interviews he conducted with victims of long-term ostracism, many people described their trouble engaging emotionally. However, he says, it’s not clear yet when or under what conditions people feel numbness versus pain.

Rejection’s link to aggression

Regardless, it’s clear from the research that ostracism and rejection have very real consequences. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism.

S O U R C E

In fact, long-term rejection can have disastrous consequences in the form of anger and aggression. Leary examined cases of school shootings and found that as many as 80 percent of shooters suffered from prolonged peer rejection. These are, of course, only correlations, but many lab studies support the idea that rejection can lead to aggression.

“There seems to be a failure of self-regulation in people who feel rejected,” says Baumeister. “And this allows a shift toward anti-social and aggressive behavior.”

But aggression is only one reaction people can have, says Williams. He and others find that people may also become more socially attentive in an attempt to win approval. Aggression, he argues, is more likely to occur when people have lost a sense of control. They use aggression to reassert themselves—a motivation that becomes more salient than any desire to be liked.

If you use timeouts, any chance you see the correlation here with either the aggressive response, or the opposing passive response? Do I need to draw to connect the dots or can you?

… on his first day, I witnessed the teacher giving a 4 yo boy a time-out for grabbing a toy from another child. They made him go and sit by himself on a chair away from the other kids and told him to “think about what he had done”. Then they eventually led him back to the group, and said, “next time you want a toy, you will use your…” and he said right on queu, “…words”. So obviously this is not the first time it has happened. I was just shocked. I was told in my tour they didn’t use time-outs. Apparently they do. They didn’t speak meanly, they were calm, but everyone was staring and I felt bad for him. I felt he was humiliated a little, ostracized, singled out.

S O U R C E Go read the rest of this.  The article is a bit choppy, but insightful.

Research suggests that ostracism is an effective form of controlling contranormative behaviors, punishing deviance, and increasing in-group cohesion (Alexander 1986; Barner-Barry, 1986; Basso, 1972; Boehm, 1986; Mahdi, 1986). For example ostracism is still one of the more common methods used to discipline young children, by parents and teachers alike. The issue of enforcing time outs, in schools and special education programs alike, has been discussed at length by social psychologists. The common denominator of most forms of time-out is the reduction of social attention. But this can be carried out in a number of ways, from physically relocating the child to a time-out room, to systematically ignoring the child who remains the same social environment (Brooks, Perry, & Hingerty, 1992; Heron, 1987). It has yet to be determined as to whether time-outs are a beneficial form of discipline.

S O U R C E


Note #2 – the ancient Greece part – I added a bit of something to the definition.

os·tra·cism
–noun

1.

exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance,privileges,friendship, etc.

2.

(in ancient Greece, and in most contemporary homes and schools where children spend their time, across the United States and other countries) temporary banishment of a citizen,decided upon bypopular vote.