I'm taking a Hand-in-hand parenting course for the next six weeks.
I heard about this approach from Joe Hudsons, Art of Accomplishment podcast. Joe said he learned most of his empathy from Hand-in-hand parenting. Since I had so many questions about applying the Art of Accomplishment to kids, I decided to take the Hand-in-hand parenting course myself.
The notes that I'm sharing will be theoretical. I didn't live them through to have deeper context and life stories. However, I plan to apply them and have my perspective added in a future essay.
However, there still are a lot of deep learnings in the notes.
Can kids be bad?
We often assign the capacity to do evil to kids. For example, when kids misbehave, we often yell at and quickly punish them.
By doing so, we assume that kids have a choice in their behavior. Therefore, we can convince them to be good by applying punishment and intimidation.
This approach is ineffective for several reasons.
First, you can't bully people into being good. People become good because of deep intrinsic motivation. By applying verbal or physical violence, we assume they will react constructively and change from bad to good. It will never happen and will lead to increasing escalation. Also, long term, they will internalize aggression to resolve conflicts.
Second, constant confrontation leads to a disconnection between parents and kids. Kids that see nagging, accusation, and punishment won't be open to connecting to their parents and sharing their authentic feelings. Disconnection will reduce the ability to influence kids on a deeper level even further.
Third, stress inhibits kids' development. When kids are exposed to constant toxic stress, they develop a high-alert stress response, diminished ability to relate, and reduced learning capacity.
Why do they misbehave?
Kids' brains are underdeveloped. As a result, they can't process emotional fluctuations, follow strict discipline, and resist their natural urges.
So, punishing them and yelling at them will not yield results. It's like punishing a person for eating and breathing. It's not going to work.
What should we do instead?
It's more constructive to assume that the kids are good. If things are not going as you desire, it's either growing pains of development or a rebellion against disconnection.
If our natural reaction to blame kids is unproductive, what should we do instead:
- Help them to process emotions. They can't suppress a tantrum. They need to see it through to the end. The best way for a child to calm down is to see a calm adult who she's connected with.
- Build the connection. A child develops emotionally through a connection with a loving adult. Help them to build this connection. Listen empathically. Be impartial. Connect with their sense of wonder.
- Be a role model. Children copy their parents. If you want them to be calm, authentic, and responsible - be that yourself. They will surely copy you in time. The opposite is true. You will see them doing the same if you are always stressed, blaming, and yelling.
At the same time, you don't have to be overly permissive. You can still establish rules and guardrails. Just do it without drama.
All kids are good. If you think they are not - look inside yourself. Change your mindset and behavior. Build connection. Kids will follow.