Instead of reward & punishment
[by Scott Swain]
In my work with children, I found it doesn't take long for kids to adapt and thrive when presented with this mix of "Conscious Discipline (CD)" (developed by Becky Bailey) and "Nonviolent Communication (NVC)" (developed by Marshall Rosenberg).
Here is one example where the kids were new to these techniques. This example uses more NVC than "Natural Consequences" as defined by CD:
Looking across the playground, I see one child, let's call him Bobby, push another child, let's call him Jake. As I'm moving toward them, I ask myself, what unmet need is Bobby probably expressing by what I saw? I settle on "power" and potentially "connection". So when I arrive, here is how it went:
Me: "Jake are you okay?"
Me: "Hey Bobby. We don't hit our friends. Do you know why?"
Bobby: "Jake wouldn't share the ball with me."
[here I choose to flow with Bobby's perspective]
Me looking at Bobby: "You really wanted to play with the ball?"
Jake: "He tried to take it. I was playing with it."
Bobby: "Yeah I wanted the ball and he wouldn't share."
Me: "Bobby, were you wanting a friend to play with or were you wanting the ball?"
Bobby: "I wanted Jake to play with me."
Me: "Bobby, did you have a need for play and connection you were trying to get met?"
Bobby: "I guess."
Me: "Jake. Do you think Bobby was trying to play with you and connect with you?"
Jake: "No. He tried to take my ball."
Me: "Bobby. What if we could turn back time and start over? Would you like to play a game where we pretend we are starting over and you get to try other ways to get Jake to play with you?"
Me: "Jake, do you want to play that game?"
Me: "Okay. I'm going to back up so you two can pretend I'm not here. Bobby, I want you to think about the best way to get your needs for play and connection met and try it with Jake. What do you hear me saying?"
Bobby: "I'm going to talk to Jake but not hit him?"
Me: "Yes! You are going to tell Jake what your needs are and ASK him if he wants to play with you. What are your needs, Bobby?"
Me: "And... connection."
Bobby: "Play and connection."
Me: "Yes! Now I'm going to back away and the game will start."
Now, this didn't always work right away or even at all. Sometimes we discovered their needs were not at all what we first thought. Sometimes we found that certain strategies for meeting needs didn't work. But on average, it worked very well and the kids began learning how to express themselves on a deeper (needs) level. This was extremely satisfying when a child would come up to me and say, "Scotter, I have a need for nurturing and mental stimulation right now. Would you read me this book?" or to hear one kid saying to another, "I have a need for safety and peace so stop throwing sand at me!" The natural consequences comes into play in the above scenario subtly. Bobby is learning that natural consequences of peaceful request will get his needs met more often than natural consequences of violent action. Also, as the mediator, it is important to strike a balance between organic flow and opportunities for lessons. For example, early in the conversation, I could have chose to share with Bobby on "why we don't hit our friends" but it seemed more natural to flow in the other direction and trust that there will be other opportunities to talk with Bobby about that topic and/or Bobby will and is already learning an aspect of that lesson.
Up to then having mostly worked with adults, it was amazing to me how fast they picked up on and integrated this language of empathy! Imagine a whole generation of children growing up with it being natural to know deeply their own needs (you can call them values, by the way) and feeling comfortable expressing them! Not only will these children be difficult to dominate, but they will also be less likely to want to dominate others.
Some books on this topic I recommend:
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