The Daily Groove

Transcending Culture

Imagine you're visiting a strange culture where people's perceptions are quite different from what you're used to.

They're offended when you shake their hands, and they're honored when you spit on their feet. They believe that a broken mirror brings good luck, and they compete over who gets the privilege of cleaning the toilets.

After a while, you cease making any assumptions about the goodness or badness, rightness or wrongness of anything.

Now you see a little girl start to hit her mother. You await the mother's reaction... Will she be offended? Will she be delighted? Will she be indifferent?

In that moment, you yourself have not assigned any meaning to the hitting. It just is.

Congratulations! You've transcended culture and connected with Reality.

As you observe your child's behavior today, pretend you're a stranger in a strange land who doesn't know what s/he is supposed to think about each behavior. Then choose an interpretation based on how good you feel when you think that thought.

Comments (closed)

But hitting means something to *other* people

On the one hand, I'm in favor of choosing a benevolent interpretation of my kid's behavior. "My kid is hitting me because she's wants my caring attention or understanding." On the other hand, I can't keep in the flow when I worry about leaving her with the idea that it is okay to hit people. How will my kid learn about social limits if I always interpret behavior in ways that other people don't hold?

Learning by example

If you release the conventional interpretation that hitting is an act of malevolence, you can choose an interpretation that not only feels better to you but also inspires responses that enhance your child's social skills.

In a way, when we deem our children to be "wrong" for hitting, we are essentially hitting them back with our thoughts. So by seeing your child in positive light, you'll be teaching by example the value of kindness and compassion.

This post was never intended to be about hitting. Hitting is just one issue about which many parents have strong negative judgments, even when the hitter is a toddler who can't (and doesn't really want to) seriously hurt them. If real harm is likely to occur, then of course the parent should take protective action in addition to helping the child resolve his or her frustration nonviolently. That can be done successfully without ever judging the child or the behavior to be right, wrong, good, or bad.

When we consistently help children create harmony successfully, they will naturally prefer that path over the path of violence. They only resort to violence when they can't see any other way to resolve their frustrations. They don't need to be told that violence is "wrong" or "bad" because it already feels bad.

When the parent responds to aggressive behavior with heavy judgment, the child learns that s/he IS bad -- a wrongdoer. When the parent drops judgments and works with the child to solve the problem successfully, the child learns that s/he is human -- capable of getting lost but also capable of getting back on track with a little help from a friend who has more experience and wisdom.