Children don´t need to behave

Ever since I had my children, they started to give me “work”, I´ve been struggling with how to educate them. I struggle with the word education too. It means a lot, but here I want to focus on making a child obey or behave. Do you agree that children don´t need to behave?

Children don´t really misbehave. They engage in behavior to pursue normal children´s need. The misbehavior is an adult judgment of a child´s action that is contrary to what the adult expects. What we commonly call as misbehavior is often a symptom of a child´s need and we are to meet that need somehow.

Well, I always felt uneasy with the time-outs. I´ve read in many books about how you can start controlling children´s misbehavior by putting them in time-out (check any mainstream book or TV show on parenting).

I´ve read that you can consider one minute per year and start at the age of two. By the time Luísa was around 1.5 years, I was being told more and more often about how I should start disciplining her and how if I didn´t start then I could lose my authority for good.

Sure, I agree that we must set limits, this is out of the question. The problem is how to set these limits. People offered me only the behaviorism approach, rewards, and punishments, but that didn’t speak to my heart. So, I didn´t know what to do, it´s true.

Usually, people have nothing to show for their experience beyond having a kid well adjusted to the system and technology (but the system is so sick that I really don´t mind Luísa to be a bit maladjusted). Or a kid that responds to their demands, but keep misbehaving later, I´m not comfortable with the way the traditional parenting approach turns out. Keep in mind that storytelling is a key element of keeping your children focused and well-behaved!

So, what a relief that after some diligent research on what I call alternative methods of education (meaning not what we see in the majority of schools, homes, and books). I find all this information in education blogs on Unschooling, Mindful Parenting, Attachment Parenting, and  RIE approach, just to name a few.

Finally, I´m in contact with all these guidelines to not use time-outs, like Dr. Peter Haiman explains in The Case Against Time-Out about the disadvantages of the practice (like increasing the child´s frustration that can lead her to “misbehave” more and what she feels when being left alone, separated from the parents who she must rely upon to meet her needs).

These ideas are so revolutionary!

For some, it´s hard to take these approaches in at first, especially today, it’s so hard to balance social media, family, and education, because the first question (more like an accusation) is: “So, how do you discipline kids then?”

We listen to them, we prevent them from damaging stuff or hurting people, we hug and basically, we connect to their needs (in opposition to teaching them lessons all the time).

We don´t need time-outs to mold our children´s behavior. We can teach them to communicate their needs. Of course at the beginning (meaning the first years of a child´s life) this will be hard because young children are learning how to control themselves, their motor skills and their impulses to act in one way or another.

It requires much patience and trust

It means you get stuck when your child is reacting in a way that is counterproductive to the family routine. It means talking and explaining things, in the beginning to children that might not really have a good grasp of what you are talking about, but by seeing you act gently, compassionately, especially playful the message you want to pass will go through. See also this post about how some parents keep their children safe online.

I´ll dig into these alternative methods which basically bring us down to listen to kids more (than what we are used to see in our society), find their needs and attend them with all the love and respect  (oddly enough, we have to learn to respect children, traditionally we haven´t practiced this much).

There is so much information out there to help us be gentler in our approach to education. Going beyond behaviorism is the way to do it. That way, you’ll push them in the right direction (I think) while taking care of your own career will become less of a challenge.