So much of what we learn in our families growing up and through cultural norms is that the only way to teach our children the “right” way of doing anything is to bring in some pain. Think about it. When we give a consequence or we punish, we’re bringing in some pain to “help” someone learn a lesson. It may bring about a temporary behavior change, but what is happening to our relationship?
My name is Rebecca Thompson Hitt and this is the All Relationships Can Heal podcast. Today is Time-in Tuesday and we’re talking about the things we need to do to shift the way we look at relationships to support the healing that is waiting to happen.
Principle #2- Nothing is more important than the relationship. The relationship we have with others is more important than anything else. Parents-child relationships are often filled with well-intentioned discipline that misses the point of the behavior. When someone has something going on and their behavior is reflecting that, when the need has been met (like the child acting crazy because he’s hungry and blood sugar has dropped), the child can be taught how to recognize those body symptoms and communicate that food is needed before the behavior spirals out of control. When we recognize the need underlying the behavior, we can meet that need, in this case for food, and then we can teach while staying in connection. (“Wow! You were so hungry! I wonder what it felt like in your body when you were just starting to feel hungry? Do you remember? I get hungry like that, too, sometimes and I get hangry. I always feel better when I eat something good for my body. How did you feel after you ate something? Better?)
When we make the behavioral intervention, consequence, or punishment more important than the relationship, we miss out on our opportunities to connect. And we need to understand that connection, from a physiological standpoint is paramount. We are designed to be in relationship. When something threatens our relationship, we are in survival. When we are in survival, we’re not thriving and we cannot learn new behaviors other than avoidance and self-protection. It doesn’t mean that we don’t correct or teach our children. It means that we do it in a way that maintains the connection in our relationship so that they can effectively learn those new behaviors.
These patterns of punishment, consequences, withdraw of love, etc. are repeated in our adult relationships. When someone doesn’t do what we want them to do, we’re likely to withdraw our love, or react to a behavior we don’t like or that scares us with something other than connection. We can unlearn these patterns when we start to realize that behaviors are a communication and there’s nothing more important than our relationships. Nothing.
Healing happens within ourselves and between our relationships when we start to get it and start to see our own patterns of what was done to us and what we have done in our own intimate relationships.
Time-in Exercise you can try:
What would it have felt like for you if, at a time when you were punished in some way growing up, someone had focused on how you were feeling, wondered about what was going on for you that you were acting that way, or asked how they could connect with you FIRST before the trying to teach you what was right? I would invite you to share your story with a friend and ask them to repeat back what they heard you say, not only the words, but the feelings and the strengths they see as you’re sharing. And invite them to share a situation with you, too. This is a great exercise to do with your partner or a friend. When you can really get this for yourself, it will help you to make the connection with others.
I’d love to hear what happens when you do this exercise. Feel free to leave a comment and share!
I’m Rebecca Thompson Hitt and this is the All Relationships Can Heal Podcast. We’ll be back tomorrow with more of our guiding principles on Wisdom Wednesday.