Foster relationships not power struggles

Here is another post I wrote last month and never posted. I think I meant to go back and proofread it but I never had the energy or time. I think I will leave it as it is, mistakes and all.

Today in my New Teacher Orientation, we talked about our school’s discipline policy…or really lack there of. They do not routinely address discipline in the traditional sense…they relationship build. They believe that if you know the child well, you can better understand any underlying issues that may be present and prompting the maladaptive behavior. The school does not focus on a system of punishments but rather on understanding and respecting the child as an individual and as a member of the school community, a community the child has contributed to building. They ask questions and find what the real problem is. They care deeply and they show it.

They believe that children don’t just want to act badly but the this poor behavior is most likely a sign of something going on within the child. There is a need that is not being met or they may be being asked to perform in a way that requires skills that they do not have yet or are struggling with…and this discrepancy can manifest as behavior problems. No child wants to be bad. There may be some emotional issues going on that are not being addressed or are being exacerbated.  If we believe that underlying all poor behavior is a need that is not being met or a skill that is lacking, we can better help the child (or anyone) turn things around by identifying the real problem and not just the surface behavior. Remember, we all make mistakes. We should be able to learn from them instead of being defined by them.

This is just a quick (and poorly written) synopsis of the articles, theories, and discussions that went into this topic. I am definitely not doing it justice because my ability to think straight is hampered by all the information I am accumulating this week…please bear with me.

While I participated, I also observed those who were leading us and my participating cohorts. The facilitators have a genuine love for what they do and they truly come at this work from the heart. The teachers here are fantastic managers, coaches, friends, educators, leaders, and advocates…all of them. There is a kindness and a sense of decency in every person in that building. Everyone helps and believes in helping each person in that community, both student and teachers, be successful. Everyone succeeds here. The team and community building is real, empowering, and refreshing. It is not just words on a piece of paper, they really live it. You can feel the positive energy the minute you walk in. They do not have same level of behavior problems you see in other public schools…hmmmm?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all behaved like this in all aspects of our lives. What if all parents fostered relationships of mutual respect with their children instead of creating power trips and hierarchies where the adult is the master and the child better succumb or else? If our children felt more respected, maybe they would show more respect? What if parents truly modeled the behaviors they wanted to see in their children? What if we all cared for each other at this deep level? Wouldn’t the world or at least our community be a much nicer place?

I know this is me seeing the world through my rose-colored glasses but certainly it is something to strive for. If we treated people, all people, with respect and kindness, our communities would look so much different. There would be less violence. There would be less fear. There would be more positive interactions.

I can already hear some of you come at me with your contradictions and how this cannot happen but I think that’s pessimistic and short-sighted. We can never get better as individuals, parents, or as a community if we don’t strive to be better. We need to stop hiding behind excuses in all aspects of our lives.

We all come to the game with our set of baggage but owning that baggage when it comes to our relationships can really help. People make mistakes, they shouldn’t define them forever.

Next time you see someone (especially a child) acting poorly, think about that fact that, as humans, we feel it is better to be bad than to be stupid. No one wants to feel or be stupid so they just act out.

Think about that…

Think about that the next time your child misbehaves…

What are they really trying to say about how they feel? Maybe they can’t process or verbalize it, but you can ask questions to figure it out for them…and then help them. That’s a relationship.

Remember children grow up to be adults. They will bring what they learn in childhood into adulthood….every single word and experience.

Are we building them up to succeed or breaking them to bend to our whims?

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