In my early years of “teaching” in Amazing Life Games Preschool, in Washington, D.C., I saw something that apparently other teachers and parents were not seeing. I found I could get an amazing level of cooperation - well beyond what was typically expected for four-year-olds - simply by telling the children how they could get what they want, and how the adult environment they were in works. I would point out things that I knew the children knew, but for other reasons (we examine these other reasons in The Curriculum) they were focusing on something else. Here is an example:
When we were getting ready to go on a field trip, I asked the class if they thought the teachers had a good time when they had to continually remind them to sit down on the bus, or to lower their voices, or to walk with the group. They said, matter-of-factly, “no.”
Then I asked, do you like to go on field trips?
“Yes!” they responded.
“Well, do you think you would go on more field trips if the teachers had a good time too?” “Yes,” they replied unequivocally.
“And do you think your parents would more often want to take you out to cool places, too?”
“Well .. uh .. yes,” they agreed.
Then I asked the big one: “Who is responsible for your behavior?”
“The teacher is!”
“No,” I replied.
“My mommy is!”
“Nope … you are.” It was silent. I learned to not automatically interrupt these moments before I continued. “You can choose to behave however you want. Some behavior makes people want to be with you and take you places and play with you. And some doesn’t. And you can choose. It is up to you, not anyone else.”
We created a simple set of social tools after that talk. You can find the story and tools from that process in my book, Beyond Good Parenting.
Postscript: I never asked any of my students or my own children to be “nice” or “good” or told them (in words or looks or tone) that anything they thought or did was “bad” or “wrong.” Does this sound strange? We do have to talk about behavior with each other. Not only the other person’s behavior, but our own also. That is how we learn to relate. I found that I did and said things that “didn’t work,” that undermined trust and respect, and I went back and talked about it. And I made promises to my class about my own behavior, and they reminded me when I forgot - at four years of age! And we had the best time doing the most amazing things, learning that we all are great learners.
How to have conversations about behavior using a new - yet familiar - language is covered in my seminars.
Beyond Good Parenting Seminar
Part 1 - Beyond Good Parenting (aka A Path to Partnership) is a discussion of nine valuable concepts and neurological facts. Many will be new, some will be old and problematic, and some will be old and useful, but all are relevant to seeing behavior in a new way, a way that gives you access and tools for creating a future that you really want. This work is about you and your family or classroom, about human growth and development, and about relationship. This first part (90 minutes) sets you up for an increase in accomplishment, fulfillment, and freedom. You will:
Discover there is a copy of a Hidden Parenting Manual that all parents have, including you and your parents.
Observe our Parents’ Dilemma and how we inadvertently undermine our relationship as we try to get compliance or cooperation.
Begin to notice the Childrens’ Dilemma and why it is unsolvable in the current context of parenting, the best parenting education, and schooling.
Just from a new awareness of the above, feelings of guilt begin to dissipate, and you will begin notice the quality and/or frequency satisfying conversations shifting in your family. New choices arise.
Parts 2, 3 & 4 - The solution to both dilemmas unfolds over the course of these three fun and challenging sessions, 90 minutes each, begins a process of discernment and replacement of an ancient behavioral assessment paradigm with a new one, out of which conversations about behavior and learning feel natural, with more freedom to be oneself, especially in our most vulnerable times and relationships.
In these sessions we also consider the pros and cons of the consequences caused by the ancient yet essential, behavioral paradigm as an unseen paradigm, and then intentionally create a replacement that expands the pros and eliminates the cons. In the new paradigm, our real-life parenting problems, issues, and concerns begin to be seen - and felt - as desirable opportunities rather feeling as if something or someone is wrong or bad. In this session you become a transforming agent rather than a fixer. With a little ongoing practice and coaching, life gets easier and more fun, for you and for everyone around you.
Among other useful and surprising things, you will see that there are two significant parts to our communication, one of which goes unnoticed but greatly influences the effectiveness of the other one, the one we are usually most concerned about. Happily, the one that goes unnoticed, once seen, is easy to use to affect cooperation, communication, play, and accomplishment.
In our role as parents, we could say there are three distinct yet integrated human motivations to consider that, when satisfied, allow us to increase cooperation, more enjoyable conversations, and engage more in cooperative play as well as accomplishment. How these are addressed make all the difference.
Seeing how these pieces are interdependent takes more than one session, and requires a bit of observational practice. Here is a way to grasp this: let's compare parenting to driving:
First, without being specific about where we want to end up, even good driving skills will not get us there. Secondly, if we are using the rear-view or side-view mirrors as if they are the windshield, it is difficult to stay on the road. After that, it is about steering in the direction we all want to go, how to accelerate, slow down, and how to stop. As in driving, knowing how to accelerate without knowing how to slow or stop may be interesting, but not really very useful. And also as with driving, practice will make going beyond "good" parenting effortless and habitual. You will be free to focus on your goals, mission, play, and dreams.
Coaching is a service available for parents, grandparents, teachers, and parent educators. Coaching integrates relevant and useful information about our human behavioral design, and Marty demonstrates how to use this information for transforming the issues that are currently causing upsets, frustration, or dissatisfaction.
Fast tracking your learning through coaching is especially valuable for parents of young children—they learn as you learn, just faster with no teaching required. The goal is for you to master dealing with any issue under any circumstance in a way that forwards what is important to you. You will begin to see that time for practice occurs every day "on the court" in your life, and support is only a call away.