I was asked in a recent interview in the Vancouver Sun about what I hoped that people would take away from reading Discipline Without Damage.
Below is my answer:
It is my belief that we could change the world by embracing our role as parents and other big people with this kind of message at the heart of everything we do. Imagine a world where children are assumed to be full of goodness – instead of needing to be purged of their irritating tendencies. Imagine a world where children are assumed to be fully human – instead of only part-way formed. Imagine a world where children were assumed to be perfect reflections of what nature intended – instead of a conglomerate of imperfections requiring sorting out by all of the adults pressing in upon them.
This is the kind of world our children need to grow up in. And it is going to take an army of mindful, peaceful, compassionate, conscious big people FULL OF SWAGGER to make it happen.
I have the wonderful day-to-day life of interacting with colleagues and friends who are largely like-minded in their approach to growing up children. In my clinic it would just never cross anybody’s mind to even talk about time outs as a discipline strategy, much less argue their merits. It literally has not been a part of a conversation with my chosen professional colleagues in years.
And so, even though my brain knows much better, my heart continues to be so startled by the vehement and even angry retort of the world around whenever I talk in a public forum about being kind, alongside our necessary firm, as the bottom line for how we “be” with our children. I can explain all of those reactions in long, developmentally informed and psychologically sound ways. But, even after all of my years doing this work, the idea that my own children walk around in a world every day full of big people who largely think of children as irritating, partially formed, and imperfect is, well… it’s heartbreaking.
And it is amidst this reality that we stare the concept of “bullying” straight in the eye. In my view, it is not the “bully” that should have a light shining upon him or her, but rather all of the adults that have ever interfaced with that bully. And instead of jumping immediately to parent blaming, what if we were to ask ourselves, “Last week, in the grocery store check-out line, when that unknown-to-me child was causing such an irritating raucous, did I respond with care or did I respond with harshness – even if only in my mind?”
Or if you are a teacher, ask yourself, “Is my default understanding of the most difficult-to-like child in my class that of being a child who is “struggling” or that of being a child who is “difficult”?”
Or of you are a parent, ask yourself, “Do I think of my child as inherently “good” no matter what behaviour is coming out of them, or is my opinion of them conditional on how they conduct themselves?”
It is in the answer to these questions that we find the buried mystery of the culture of bullying. It comes from the adults. It comes from all of those biases and twisted understandings of children that we allow to leak out of us and onto all of the children we come into contact with. Over and over and over again.
Drip drop. Drip drop. Drip drop.
…. until they are drowning in the misconceptions that power plays are the name of the game.
That to be safe and in charge, we hurt and mistreat.
Of course, addressing the issue of bullying is something that requires a systems-wide response and this cannot be oversimplified. But, what is very simple and plainly true, is that it starts with all of us adults and the beliefs we marinate our children in as we interact with them each and every day
So as we approach Stand-Up to Bullying day and the Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying day, I implore you to take a long, hard, revealing look at your inner understanding of who children are. Wonder how this trickles out of you in the minutia of your daily interactions with children everywhere. And as your heart is fully awakened to the reality of what you see inside of you, know that you have landed beautifully, safely, and precisely on the message of love and safe-keeping for bullies and for victims of bullying alike. It is inside each of every one of us.
Let that be what trickles out of you.