Do You Ever Assume?

When was the last time you sat back and simply watched your child/student as he was working or playing? Did you ask yourself why he did a step in his action the way he did? Or did you simply assume he did it for “X” reason because he was trying to make it harder, or make more of a mess?

As a society, we have spent a great deal of time “assuming” intentions which were not even on a child’s radar. Therapists have dealt with adults still suffering from those past “assumptions.”

Be the adult your child/student needs. Learn to Never Assume with my book,

never assume 2013 small pixx

Never Assume: Getting To Know Children Before Labeling Them.

I am not a company person

I just made a decision this week not to interview with a medical clinic in Wisconsin.  If I had gotten the position I would have been able

albino peacock, different yet beautiful

to move up there to be with my husband sooner.  But my gut kept saying that this was the wrong path to follow and there were many signs that kept popping up to reinforce that feeling.  The most blatant one was that they couldn’t confirm which of two days they were going to see me on, after having 6 weeks to come to that determination.  This was with less than one week to go before I drove the 7 hours to see them.

Now, they are not a bad clinic and in fact are very respected in the state.  But they were very staid and status quo and I have found out after a lifetime in this business that flexibility and the willingness to draw outside of the lines are needed for some changes to occur.  This is what makes me a poor company person.  This is why I have gotten in trouble with some other healthcare providers, many parents, and many, many schools over the decades.  This is why I have done better being a solo physician, hiring people to be around me who understand, like I do, that life is more full of questions than answers.

As a pediatric profiler,  my purpose is to fully (or as fully as possible) describe a child in order to help him/her find a life that accepts, respects, and loves him/her.  I use what I have learned about the child to explain to adults the “whys” of behavior, the “whys” of academic output problems, and the “whys” of social-emotional struggles.  I provide recommendations on how to help the child succeed, the support needed, and the interventions needed.

I find, however, that my way of working with children is heretical to many.  I am trying to tell them that not all that a child does is intentional.  That not all choices they make are based on the facts that we, adults would use.  That children need more direct, supportive instruction, modeling, and constructive feedback for what are considered normal development skills.  But somehow this doesn’t fly with many adults.  They tell me that it is okay to assume that a kindergartener with a history of wetting accidents should be forced to sit in her wet clothes since she should know better than to wet her pants and she is being lazy or manipulative. And that if that same child has a temper tantrum because she is not allowed to change her wet pants, she should be sent to the office to be punished for her misbehavior.

Like I said, I am not a company person.  I don’t play well with others when they won’t look beyond the surface of life to understand how it all fits together.  But I am happy with my choice. Even if it means it will take a little bit longer before I get to join my husband in Wisconsin.

The leadership challenge for parents and teachers

I am reading a great book right now, The Leadership Challenge. It is written by James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner.  Mr. Kouzes is a leadership scholar and executive educator.   Dr. Posner is a professor of leadership at Santa Clara University in California.  He has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and administrative theory.  Together they researched what it takes to be a great leader.  They determined that there are 5 exemplary practices of leadership;

  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

These are the very same practices that parents and teachers should aim to excel at.  Children are born wanting to be loved, accepted and respected, but the rest we have to teach them.  As leaders, we need to realize that we need to spend enough time for each child to learn how to reciprocate those same desires to others.

First we need to model, frequently and clearly at all times what love looks and feels like. The same goes for acceptance and respect.  We have to remember that we are the most influential models children have until adolescence when they look to their peers more than to us.  It is embarrassingly funny when a preschooler swears just like dad when he hits his thumb, but it is not what we want him to do. It may mean that we have to look more closely at how we approach situations, how we react and respond, and how we demonstrate our emotions.  We may have to do some changing so that we are doing “what we tell our child to do” not the opposite of what we do.

A child will respond with more acceptance when he can share your vision.  But you have to know how to market that vision.  It shouldn’t be marketed as a chore or responsibility that he has to get used to.  Rather it should be a collaboration so that the two of you can do something together sooner.  There also needs to be the respect to the child that if he makes the choice not to collaborate, he is choosing to forgo the shared activity  due to a lack of time.

A child doesn’t always understand why something has to be done a certain way.  You can create collaboration by agreeing to challenge the process and think of other ways that may also achieve the same outcome.  At the end, together you can evaluate  if the alternative way  was as successful in job completion, time needed, and amount of difficulty. This will instill ownership of outcomes and allow the child to feel that you respected his questions and need to check things out. This will allow him to use the same behaviors with you, which is showing you the same respect that you modeled for him.

There are times when you would rather do things yourself because your child is too slow, not capable enough, or not old enough to participate.  In the mode of acceptance and respect, however, you need to allow him the time to do the task so that he can become faster, if he is slow because he is still mastering the skill.  If he is not yet capable, you can have him  repeat after you or put your hand over his hand as you push, pull, or do some of the steps.  The same applies to not old enough, with an explanation that the later steps of an activity are reserved for people of a certain age due to size, motor skills, or the law.  Sometimes it is okay to stretch the law reason, since it makes the legal system the bad guy, not you, thus decreasing arguments.  As kids get to be adolescents they may actually do this in a manner by having you be the “law” as to why they can’t do something that their peers are pushing them to do.  This happened several times at my house, where my teens told me that if anyone asked, I had grounded them, which is why they couldn’t do an activity or go someplace.

Encouraging the heart encompasses all three of the desires of newborns – love, acceptance, and respect. It means modeling and encouraging your child to do things for others because everyone deserves assistance, kindness, and friendship.  This also means teaching them how to understand those who don’t reciprocate the three desires and not go to their level of behavior or get taken by them.

Following the 5 practices are great for business executives but they shouldn’t be limited to them.  As parents and professionals, we all have the ability and the responsibility to utilize these practices in our encounters with children and adolescents each and every day. So now would be a good time to start.  Model and they will copy you.

If you are interested in the Leadership Challenge, click here: The Leadership Challenge, 4th Edition

Suffer the Children

This week I read an article on the horrible outcomes for some children due to extreme corporal punishment.  The parents were Christians (which is not the problem) who believed the writings of a Tennessee minister and his wife, Michael & Debi Pearl.  Several of these children died from following what he wrote in his book To Train Up A Child. This book endorsed using a switch on children as young as 6 months of age. He described it as being no different than how the Amish trained their stubborn mules.

Does anyone else have a problem with relating a 6 month baby to a farm animal?  I thought we had gone beyond seeing our children as property that we could do with as we pleased.  I thought we had learned in the last century that children are not born knowing right from wrong, but need to be led with love and guidance to understanding.  He  points to the bible referring to the rod, as justification for his teachings, but we live in a much different society than when the Bible was written.  Children were not seen as important, but rather workers for their parents and others that they may lend them out to.   If we didn’t see children differently than in biblical times, why did we institute child labor laws? Why did we create laws against child (and any) abuse?

7 months old is a time of exploration

Fifty years ago, according to the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Chess and Thomas had their first article on temperament published.  It was a longitudinal study to understand the behavioral responses of infants and children in order to determine how to best help them grow mentally as well as physically. They followed those children then into adulthood, looking at the role of environment and other influences on their personality and mental health.  Others have followed, some with slightly different groupings and labels for these traits, but they all found that children are wired individually, inheriting behavioral traits from their families, which need nurturing and guidance to flourish.  This is what they called goodness of fit.

Parent training such as what is promoted in To Train Up a Child, and many Assertive Discipline methods don’t use the knowledge from this longitudinal research.  They stay back in the dark ages of seeing children as property or as “evil” and needing to be coerced into compliance.  We as a society need to say enough is enough to old ways that mentally and physically abuse children.  We need to learn to use the knowledge from temperament research to create methods of raising children that allow them to flourish and learn cooperation and problem solving skills, not just fear  and cowering.

What do you think?