It wasn’t until a job training that focused on “positive discipline” for children that I realized I was walking around with an insane idea that greatly affected my relationships.
A slide in the presentation read, “It’s a crazy idea, really: to make children do better, they have to feel worse.”
Have you ever unknowingly operated from this crazy idea? I know I have. When I care about someone deeply and want their behavior to change, for their benefit or my own, I make them feel bad about it. It sounds harsh, and consciously of course I wouldn’t try to make a loved one feel worse. But up until this idea was exposed to me in such a clear manner, I was making people feel worse when trying to “help” them.
Human beings do this all the time, and not just when disciplining children. We do this with our spouses, siblings, friends, and co-workers.
Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline series, talks about the deep roots of sprouting behavioral issues in children. But how can we react when encountered with an adult close to us whose behavior we want to change?
That question cannot be answered in one small post. But there are a few essential steps before you go about trying.
Firstly, take a look at the “man in the mirror.” Ask yourself what parts of the issue bothering you, do you contain within yourself.
Then completely accept the other person as they are, and forgive them.
Lastly, become utterly present. Let go of the unhappy story you are telling yourself and instead focus on the feeling of your hands and feet. Feel the inhale and exhale of your breath.
While this won’t necessarily change someone else’s behavior, it will change yours. Whatever you do in a state of presence will be positive and productive for everyone. Of course the consequences of this presence will not be known until it is tried and tested. I will attempt these steps the next time I feel the impulse to change someone else’s behavior through the old, criticizing manner. Comment and let me know how it goes for you!