BREATHE. EXAMINE. ACCESS. TRY IT. B.E.A.T.
According to a N.Y. Daily News article, a five year old boy “tried to punch another kid and wound up spitting on a classmate.” His mother was told by school administrators he would either take a paddling or get suspended. The Mom secretly recorded the paddling and posted to social media, warning to schools the new style media is always watching. School district officials in Georgia where this took place are investigating but did want folks to know that “corporal punishment” is allowed in the district. Sounds like some “Old School” rules that folks in schools can fall back on if they want to. As a Mom who parents “new school with an old school chaser,” I know that changing the way you discipline takes more than just the notion of doing things differently, it takes hard work and skills.
We are naturally inclined to do what was done to us especially during times of stress, because truthfully it’s the thing that is most accessible. When children do things that we have taken on as stressful or unacceptable whether we want to or not in that moment, we most often become our parents or whoever the authority figures were in our lives. In order to change, we have to see it coming and prepare ourselves to respond consciously.
We have to learn how to B.E.A.T. our kids.
One of the most underrated things on the planet is the power of breathing correctly. We have all heard about taking a breath when we are angry but that is less about the power of the breath and more about stopping for a minute which is also important. The administrators in this situation needed to give themselves time to process their own feelings in order to be fully present enough to take the right next step. Breathing correctly has the power to really shift the situation you are dealing with.
First, you need to focus on your breathing, be aware of whether it is fast or slow or even.
Our breath is constant which means unless we are dead we are always breathing. So it is the perfect thing to focus on because we can always find it. The very fact that we are choosing to focus on it brings us into the present. We need to take five second belly breaths in and out for five seconds to release the stress.
When we operate out of what we think we know, we don’t listen past what we want to respond to or want to shut down. If we take the time to commit to examine what has happened and what the child is saying to us, we can ask questions that help us understand their thinking, their reasoning (even if we think there couldn’t possibly be any good reason for what they did) and ask their ideas for correcting the situation. Even as a five year old, this child could have benefitted from this approach. Having his mother be a part of this discussion could have modeled for her skills that she can use at home.
One major purpose for examining things is to discover what is leading you.
Is it fear or rules that were good enough for your school administrators or your parents and your culture so they are good enough for your children? Or is it that you are just plain tired or fed-up? Thinking that, “I don’t need a reason because I’m the adult in the situation” is not going to work enough times to establish a connection where the child views you as someone they can talk to and learn conflict resolution skills from.
What you are going for is accessing conscious choice and not reacting in the moment from a place that is not honoring your desire to make the best choice you can in this situation. Do you have other tools alongside the old school ways? Do the old school ways make sense here or is it just fear, anger, a power move and a need to reach for what’s been comfortable for you and the culture? You should decide that from a conscious place.
What skills did those administrators have access to that could let that child see that conflict and responding well to it is a part of growing up and learning?
In moments like this, as parents and adults in authority, we need to ask ourselves what skills can we access that allow for some sharing on our part of experience, mistakes we’ve made and the desire to talk this through?
What will you model for your child that you want them to use in the future?
The next step is to try something. What conflict resolution skills do these administrators have that would have allowed this child to think about how he reacted and what lessons are important to learn from this experience?
The truth is discipline can be about doing it the way that it has always been done because it is easier to shut it down than to hear about every situation. Believe me, there are days when I feel like I just don’t have the energy to go new school, but most days I do.
I wish the administrators and the Mom had known how to B.E.A.T. this child.
Lynne Maureen Hurdle is the Conflict Closer, facilitator, speaker, coach, wife and mom who blends the connection between conflict and culture into her unique style of engagement. At the age of 17, she experienced a racial bias incident where she was able to escape with her life and limbs intact. She also came away with a clear knowing that somehow she had to be able to do the work of connecting people around these issues and find ways to help resolve them.