Kill them with kindness

I was chatting to a friend recently who told me of a parental disciplinary strategy being employed by one of her neighbours. To make a child sit by themselves in a room in silence for an extended period of time; to think about their actions.

This made me so sad.

A child who has wronged is already feeling bad about themselves, afraid that their friends and teachers might not like them any more- and then to have their family abandon them too!? It’s heartbreaking.

One approach I prefer is called the Nurtured Heart Approach. It values connection over consequences, personal relationships over punishment.

The first stand of the NHA is that adults should not “energise” negativity. When you talk to children, do it slowly and thoughtfully, absent of anger. If they kick and scream, give them time to cool down before you continue. Share your calm, don’t step into their chaos.

The second stand of the NHA is about rewarding successes. Focus on the positives, don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead of thinking about what they did wrong, encourage young people to make a plan for the future. To consider exactly how to avoid a similar situation happening again. And then make a big deal when, next time, they get it right.

The third stand is around clarity. Isolating a child sends an ambiguous message. Do you not love them any more? Do they no longer belong in your family? Developing an action plan makes it clear that you believe the child can change their ways and feel happy and successful in future social interactions. Using “I” statements, absent of emotion, makes it really clear to kids why what they did was not the best choice. And what would have been a better one.

In a classroom, sending kids to time out is common practice. But there’s a big difference between putting “that kid” in the corridor, shunned by their peers, and moving them to a desk away from the others, where they’re still part of the class community, but removed from distractions.

I worry that harsher and harsher discipline is fuelling depression, suicidal ideation and alienation in today’s youth. A child who feels their loved ones pulling further and further away may think themselves completely alone in the world.

And loners don’t have lifelines to hold onto when the world gets dark. Loners are in pain, and in turn may inflict pain on others. Loners take guns to school. Loners lash out at a society that has done them wrong. Loners are drowning, and may pull others down with them.

So when a young learner makes a mistake and you just want to throttle them, close your eyes and take a deep breath, and kill them with kindness instead.

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  1. NHA is amazing – treating children like humans rather than naughty little creatures. Alienating them would only cause suffering and damage. Focusing on success and how to learn from mistakes to prevent them from happening again is such a positive and productive approach.

    Liked by 1 person

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