Connection: The Cure for Most Behavioral Problems (That We're Still Afraid to Use)
We live in a world of quick fixes; almost everything we desire is at our fingertips. When one wants an item, it can be delivered to their door within 48 hours with two, simple clicks. When one wants food, it can be summoned to their doorstep within 20-30 minutes. But fundamental, emotional, human needs cannot be satisfied with such haste. Humans thrive off of connection; authentic, rich connection. So why is it when our children are having trouble, we search for the quickest fix? Behavioral charts, psychiatric medications, spanking, time-outs, etc.? These methods are even recommended by those we are supposed to trust the most, including professionals. Perhaps professionals also feel this desire to deliver the quick fix those are seeking. Perhaps it is scary to not have the quick answer that so many seek. But then isn't everyone just playing a part of the greater problem?
The issue with how we approach children with behavioral problems, is there are two ways to parent: we can parent through authoritarian fear, or we can parent with understanding, love, and care. The real challenge is, parenting with authoritarian fear can produce quick results, so many are inclined to think, Hey, this works. How do you argue against something that works? What we need to consider with these methods are short-term versus long-term results. Parenting with fear creates more fear; fear creates suppression, isolation, self-loathing, anxiety, etc. In the long-term, do we want our children to be fearful of us? Sure, it may get them to quickly comply when you tap them on the behind at 5-years-old, but what message is that sending? "Hey, when you get angry with someone and you don't know what to do about it, hit 'em". It is against the law for an adult to hit another adult, so is this a skill we want to instill for them to take forth into their journey of adulthood? Now some may be reading this and thinking, okay, that's too far. But really, I would like someone to come up with a good, life-long lesson or skill that spanking teaches.
We have got to stop putting more effort into telling our children what they shouldn't be doing and put a lot more effort into modeling what they should be doing. Which skills will be valuable to our children throughout their lifetime? What is important outside of this moment? When your child ages and becomes part of the workforce, they won't be able to smack their coworker into complying with their ideas. When your child is an adult in an intimate relationship, they won't be able to force their partner's nose into the corner of the wall to think about what they have done. Real life just doesn't work that way, so why are we wasting our time modeling these useless methods?
It's because we haven't been shown any other way.
The way that we manage emotional responses is passed down through many generations. Great-grandpa Bill never talked out being sad, so he never talked to his son Ted about being sad, who never talked to his son Jason about being sad, and now we have Little Teddy in the corner crying about losing his favorite toy, and all we have are 3-generations worth of emotional response patterns fortified to not know how to be with this sadness. This discomfort and feeling of helplessness causes one to resort to those quick methods; anything to make the discomfort of dealing with feelings stop.
The theme here is instead of focusing on real, raw, human, emotional connection, we have focused on those quick fixes; anything to extinguish the expression of feelings, because those make us feel uncomfortable. When really, all along, the most effective, most tried and true intervention has been at our disposal all along: the parent-child connection. Being in relationship with a caregiver who is consistent and trustworthy allows a child to feel safe; this creates a space where they can flourish developmentally and emotionally. We have to understand that children are just smaller humans, meaning, they need similar types of support and comfort in their feelings like adults do. When we are sad, we need that loving and sturdy shoulder to cry on. When we are angry, we need that stable anchor to stay with us and understand. When we are utterly joyful, we need someone to celebrate with us. We have complicated it so much, when we really are so similar. The best way to think about it is to be who you needed when you were a child. We can save future generations by tolerating discomfort now and focusing on the true, underlying, emotional needs that arise in our children.