Putting out the Fire

People are often put off a bit when I let them know that Positive Discipline parenting doesn't condone punishing their children.  Eyebrows will go up and I am met with the look of, "oh really?  And you expect me to believe that?"  Its true, Positive Discipline is a non-punitive, solution based program that encourages parents to take time for training and to connect with their children before correcting them.  Its a huge mind shift for many of us who were raised by parents who punished us for making mistakes and rewarded us for "good choices."

I was just reading an article about how childhood trauma can lead to a high likelihood of poor adult health.  In this article, the author compared the medical communities lack of desire to look at a patients past trauma when diagnosing their current health to the relationship of smoke and fire.  When there is a fire, the first thing we see is the smoke, right?  But firefighters don't go in with a fan to put out the smoke, they know that it is the fire itself that needs to be put out for the problem to be solved.  When I read this, I immediately thought of how this logic works with kids as well.

Often, parents will respond to a "misbehavior" by punishing a child. Lets imagine that the "misbehavior" is that the child is caught in a lie.  This has actually come up a lot lately with parents that I work with and is a hot button issue.  We don't want our kids to lie.  We don't want our kids to be liars.  There is a lot of fear that if we don't nip this one in the bud then we are doomed to have kids who are...

So what do well meaning, loving parents sometimes do?   Perhaps the child is sent to their room for a set amount of time, or they are scolded, lectured about how lying could lead that child to having no friends or never being trusted (cue the Charlie Brown adult voice, wah-wah, way-wah, waaah), or perhaps they get spanked.

But what could be going on behind the behavior?

If a child is routinely punished for making mistakes, are they likely to tell the truth about their mistakes?

If a child is embarrassed about their behavior, and aren't sure the adult will be compassionate and listen to how they are feeling, are they likely to tell the truth about it?

If a child is hurting and not feeling as though they belong, might they lie to share the hurt with someone else?

If a child is feeling disconnected or ignored, do you think they may tell a lie to engage a parent?

The answer to the above questions is yes, kids behavior is motivated by lots of internal emotions and beliefs about themselves and the people around them.  When we start to get curious about why our kids are engaging in "mis"behavior we begin to see the fire behind the smoke.  As parents, if we really want our kids to make good choices, we need to connect with them, listen to them, encourage them to share with use how they are feeling.  Kids want to belong.  We all want to belong.  Sometimes, they just get mixed up along the way.  It's up to us, the grown ups, to puzzle it out and recognize what is going on behind the behavior we are seeing.

Smiles ~