I teach using questions.
I script them.
I anticipate how my students respond.
I script that, too.
But sometimes my prediction fails, my students go off script and surprise me.
Within the first five minutes of THE MOVEMENT’s inaugural BioPsychology course,
I was surprised.

I asked, how many psychology books have you read?
By a show of hands, greater than 20?
Greater than 10?
Greater than 5?

I thought the average would be between 5 and ten.
The number was so few, I had to ad lib,
“More than one?”

The overwhelming majority hadn’t read any psychology books, at all.
At least they were honest.
And they weren’t a biased sample.
The majority of people haven’t read many, if any, books on psychology.
It’s as if they don’t question what they question with.
And it shows.
In all arenas.
Especially parenting.

I wanna tell you about the last time I spanked a child.
Bratty little girl.
Presently misbehaving.
Hitting me.
I got spankings. Lots of them.
She didn’t.
I behaved better than her.
So I obliged my little sister.
I was twelve years old.

I think my twelve year old, barely educated, mentality is indicative of many people’s justification of corporal punishment (a form of adult violence, or physical abuse, against children). They believe that misbehavior is due to a lack of punishment. Let’s examine that.

I am a student of human behavior and all human behavior can be described in terms of movement, or biomechanical events. When we think of BioMechanics, we often relegate it to the realm of sports. That’ll work. We’ll start there.

Let’s say we have a child having trouble catching a ball (a biomechanical event). What should we do? According to some parents’ logic, we should punish. If he misses, swat him. Sound ridiculous? It is (although some parents do essentially the same thing by verbally abusing their children when the child makes physical errors).

Physically speaking, is there any distinction between catching a ball or any other behavior? No. All are biomechanical events. If that’s the case, what if we applied how we got better at catching a ball to getting better behavior from our children?

OK, how do we get better at catching a ball?
Practice it.

How do we practice this?
Scaling it. If it is too hard, we find a way to make it easier. If we mess up, we don’t make a big deal out of it. After all, we’re playing while we’re practicing. And if we aren’t getting better when we practice, we stop practicing and do something else.

Punishment most often occurs when a child is doing something we don’t want them to do. In Psychological terms, we want to extinguish that behavior. But there’s a question we aren’t asking: What do we actually want the child to do?

What if every time the child did something we didn’t want him or her to do, we provided a scaled, emotionally considerate, and age appropriate practice of what it was we wanted them to do? Wouldn’t the child stand a better chance of performing the right behavior if the parent practiced it with him? Are children not doing the right thing because a lack of punishment…or a lack of practice?

If you do fall into the camp of using punishment, consider this: punishment requires so little from you and takes so much from your child. It takes away both their psychological and physical health. I’m not saying, “don’t correct.” I’m saying correct more by practicing more. Practice will require so much more from you. You’ll have to emotionally regulate so that you can practice…but isn’t that what you ultimately want from your child? Take the opportunity to model that.

While practicing requires more from you, it gives that much to your child. You’d do it…you’d take the time if your child couldn’t catch. Please take the time to practice with your child so your child can behave.

NOTE: For those of you reading this that aren’t parents, what if you applied this to how you treated yourself and how you treated others?

 

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About The Author

Frankie Faires

Frankie Faires is the co-founder of THE MOVEMENT and an avid Martial Artist. You can read more of his articles at AreYouTheMovement.com and Movement Martial Arts