Frankie and Jack

Frankie and Jack

 

Ihave been obsessed with parenting for as long as I can remember (even while I was being parented). As my father predicted, now that I am a parent I have a perspective I couldn’t have had otherwise. Parenting has been a humbling, error producing, and corrective experience for me.

Above all things, parenting has been an opportunity to apply the science and principles we preach in THE MOVEMENT. I want to share with you just a couple of those principles and practices that has made it easier for me to be the parent I aspire to be.

We care about how our children feel: we want them to be happy, but we also want our children to behave. How can we get both? By focusing on both, most often in sequence.

Focusing on behavior or emotions to the exclusion of the other makes for a dysfunctional child. Emotions and Behavior are inextricably linked: How well our children behave is a function of how they feel. Scientifically stated, “Emotions automate behavior” (I think either Panksepp or Ledoux said that).

If you get hungry enough, you’ll find a way to eat. Tired enough, you’ll sleep. Angry enough, you’ll be violent. Sad enough, you’ll cry. All of these sensations, including emotions, produce correlated behaviors. In fact, if one gets so emotional, one can ONLY produce those dedicated behaviors.

So if we want our children to act differently, to act better, we have to (more times than not) address their emotions before their behavior. Want them to do better? Help them to feel better.

Whenever I pick up Jack from school everyday, the very first thing I try to determine is, “How is he feeling?” Bad or good? If it’s good, then that’s my green light to address behavior (if necessary). But anything other than feeling good is feeling bad…and that bad feeling needs to be addressed.

Predictably enough, the second question I ask is, “What would make him feel better?” The answer could be as basic as: needing something to drink, or eat, a nap, or use the bathroom. If not that, it may be a hug, pat on the back, or a tussle of his hair. It could be a bad experience at school that he needs to convey and get encouragement over. When all else fails, it becomes a matter of finding something to distract the child that will make him feel better. And when he feels better, I can then help him focus on doing better.

“Doing better” is the science of THE MOVEMENT. Our basic premise is that progress is always a possibility but there is a caveat: progress in one particular area isn’t. You can get better in the gym one day but maybe not the other…but in that other day, there will be something else to get better at. This applies to children, as well.

Just because a child has a behavioral issue doesn’t mean that behavioral issue can be resolved right now, but that’s OK, there’s some other behavior that can be improved. And so I ask, “What is it he can get better at?”

Just as feelings and behavior are linked, so are these questions. Quite often what it is a child can get better at is what will make that child feel better. Back to Jack.

When Jack knew he was going into an environment where he was likely to be bullied, he was anxious. His Mom and I prepared him for the situation but understandably he was still nervous. Then came the moment he was bullied. He started feeling fear but then remembered his training, got a little angry and asserted himself. And after he acted, he wasn’t nervous any more. Just as eating makes hunger go away and drinking makes thirst go away, his behavior (in response to bully) resolved his emotions (in response to bully).

These questions have helped Jack (and others) be a kid who feels better and acts better. These aren’t just questions that I’ll ask about Jack and of Jack. These aren’t questions Jack will grow out of. These are questions he’ll learn to ask of himself.

How do I feel?
Do I feel good or bad?
If I feel bad, what do I need to do to feel better?
Now that I feel better, what else can I get better at?

While asking Jack these questions and teaching them to ask them of himself is of the utmost import, there is a greater role for me to play. The most critical thing I can do for Jack is to show him that I ask myself these questions.  I have to demonstrate this to him: The defining feature of grown ups is that they never stop growing up.  They never stop getting better.  And, Jack, buddy, I still got some growing up and some bettering left to do.

 

[Originally for The Movement by Frankie Faires]

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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