Change Your Movement, Change Your Life! Come play with me! I’m co-teaching a new workshop with Linda Ugelow, principal dancer of Libana, combining reflexes, authentic movement, world music, journaling, and a really wonderful lunch. Saturday, Sept. 6, 9 – 3:30 in Bedford, MA.
I’m seeing lots of young kids these days, as we move closer and closer to fall and school . . . parents want their kids to be ready. And teachers sometimes suggest that the parents take the children in to see me – they aren’t reading up to speed, or they are over-sensitive to noises or other disturbances in the class, or they get anxious or wired very easily . . . the list of reasons is long, and at least slightly different for every child. Reflex integration, combined with Brain Gym and craniosacral therapy, tuning forks and lots of play is effective. It is even more effective when coupled with the work of my homeopath and chiropractor colleagues.
But honestly, the most important factor in the positive development of any child is the parent. When parents worry, children take it on. They believe that there is something wrong with them. Children – all people, actually - are originally wired for unconditional love and positive regard. Anything else is neurologically confusing.
What We Believe. Most of us grew up on a constant diet of judgment. Am I smart enough, fast enough, strong enough, hard-working enough, talented enough, pretty enough, popular enough, good enough? Even our best, most loving parents and teachers tended to judge us. And we internalized these judgments – and we usually pass them on to our kids and students.
Wait! Children need discipline. They need to know when their behavior is unacceptable, and how to behave appropriately. They need to know how to follow the rules.
Yes, children need discipline. They want to feel the boundaries and know the rules; that makes them feel safe and helps them to behave in positive ways. But this information is best learned in an environment of acceptance and compassion.
Judgment is always read as indictment. Consequences are read as punishment. Children are judged when they are wrong and punished when they are bad. Therefore, the child believes, there is something inherently wrong and bad in me.
Parents may say, “I’m not judging you, I’m judging your behavior.” There are two problems with this. One is that this concept becomes possible to begin to understand in the late teens . . . if then. It’s a sophisticated idea requiring an identity that is large enough to stand outside its immediate emotions, desires, and identification with the other person. Honestly, I still find this challenging - and I’m pushing sixty.
The second problem is, it isn’t true. If we look in our heart of hearts, there is at least little piece of personal judgment coming through. And the child knows it.
Judgment and Survival. The judgment thing is very hard to shake. It is a deep cultural assumption, embedded in most of the religious and political infra-structures of today’s world. But our bodies are nature’s bodies. They adapt to these cultural assumptions, but they are not originally wired for them.
In terms of the brain, when a threat (like judgment) is perceived, the survival system is quick to jump into reflexive behavior patterns. Because survival trumps every other function, the exact parts of the brain we want children to engage – emotional connection, executive function – detach. When we are running away from a predator, we don’t want to be emotionally connected – we want the opposite, so we can just get away. And we don’t want to be thinking creatively – because that takes time, and we have no time because we need to get away.
How many times have you tried to reason with, or discipline, or punish a child who just wants to get away?
How many times have you, faced with the judgments of others, felt exactly the same way?
Needing to get away can manifest in a myriad of survival behaviors. The child can literally run away. Or his behavior escalates (crying inconsolably, tantrumming, becoming ill) to the point where he actually needs care. Or she deflects the situation so that something or someone else becomes the focus (siblings are extremely useful here).
The problem with these survival behaviors is, when the crisis is over, the adult’s original judgment is usually reinforced. And so the loops continue, and become habitual negative patterns of relationship and identity.
What To Do . . . The sad fact is, when we judge children, we are usually judging ourselves. Their behaviors trigger our own unhealed wounds. And when we are triggered, we tend to displace our own grief and anger and abandonment and disgust and whatever else is in our basket of misery, and pass it to the kids.
I do it too. Not in my office. But family life can be a challenge.
It is really hard to deal with our reflexive responses on the fly. My 12/2/14 post, From Fight, Flight, Freeze! to Breathe, Smile, Move! is a list of ways to achieve grace under pressure. And if you are in New England, you can come to a workshop with me, Change Your Movement, Change Your Life!, where we'll be releasing the triggers through reflex integration, expressive movement, journaling, community and fun. Adults need to play, too!
We need to take the time, every day, to release our own total load of stressors. We can do this in the context of general mind/body maintenance: Meditating twenty minutes a day. Walking the dog without the cell phone and the mental to-do list, and just taking in the sights and sounds and feeling of the world around us. Yoga. Whatever you love to do that brings you in to your body and the physical world you live in.
It’s all about being there. When we are judging ourselves or others, we aren’t really there.
Our children need us to be there. And we need them to remind us of how important it is to be who we truly are.