Connection before Correction

One of the major tenets of Adlerian theory is that all humans desire a sense of belonging; including children. So, all behaviors – good or bad – is based on the child’s perception of how to gain a sense of belonging. I was shocked when I heard this. How can my child not realize that I love him??

This is when I got to know about experiencing the child’s world and the concept of “private logic”. Whenever the child feels discouraged, they perceive the world differently and try to compensate and behave in a way, which they guess will help them to get attention and thus belong. This can be in the form of misbehavior also. After all, all that matters to them is that they should belong. When parents react to such misbehavior with some form of punishment, the child’s belief that they don’t belong gets confirmed as true. So, the punishment might stop the misbehavior for a short while, but over the long run, this is not helpful.

When children feel a connection, they feel both a sense of belonging and significance. Often that is enough to correct/ stop/ redirect misbehavior. There is a lot of research which says that in order to influence children in a positive way, we first need to create a connection with them. We need to make sure that the message of love gets through. Fixing their mistakes or over-protecting or giving in to their demands are not means of creating connection. A few Positive Discipline tools to form effective connection are spending special time, hugs, truly listening, and sharing feelings and thoughts.

Once a connection is made, the child starts feeling belonged and usually opens up for effective and mutually respectful correction.

Rudolf Dreikurs explained in his book "Children: The Challenge" - “Children are good perceivers, but poor interpreters.”

So irrespective of the behavior and personality of the child, on one hand, connection creates a sense of safety, security and significance. This leads to more openness in the relationship. On the other hand, punishment, lecturing, nagging, scolding, blaming or shaming become counterproductive. Although we may have the best interests of the child in mind, being the poor interpreter that they are, children tend to close up, when faced with these methods.

Correcting misbehavior is needed, but the "how" matters a lot. The "how" determines whether the child feels empowered or discouraged.

Dreikurs said, “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child”. Creating a connection before correction is a great example of the ‘kind and firm’ discipline model, which focuses on encouraging and helping children feel belonged. Almost all the positive discipline parenting tools provide ways for creating connection before correction.

Using Positive Discipline tools help children to feel belonged, respected, empowered and feel significant in the relationship with the parent. This helps them in their life journey, when they can direct their energy towards becoming capable people, instead of focusing on gaining attention. If the parent can connect and help change the underlying mistaken belief of the child, it not only helps to change the child's behavior, but also helps them to thrive and direct their energy towards becoming capable.

“Children’s lives will be determined by how parents live. The parents’ love and way of life will, like magma beneath the earth’s crust, form the innermost core of children’s hearts and become a source of energy to support the rest of their lives.” -Daisaku Ikeda in his book “Happy Parents, Happy Kids”