A Coaching Power Tool created by Kathryn Tonges
(Parenting Coach, CHINA)
How we view our children influences our interactions with them and affects their brain development. If we believe as coaches that every person/client is resourceful, creative and whole then viewing our children otherwise is a contradiction. The aim of this power tool is to support parents to reframe their perspective of how they view their children so that they ultimately bring out the best in their child and themselves.
Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood
Pam Leo ‘Connection Parenting’
According to Dr Thomas Gordon, three times Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his pioneering work on peaceful parenting, children are always behaving to get their needs met. Sometimes we like their behavior and sometimes we do not. At these times parents might say that they are misbehaving or even label them naughty yet really they are behaving to get their needs met. When behavior is seen in terms of needs parents can help children get their needs met with respectful and assertive guidance rather than punishment.
Defining Misbehaviour and Needs
Misbehaviour is defined as improper or wicked or immoral behavior, a misdeed, wrongful conduct, misconduct. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/misbehaviour). Misbehaviour is usually viewed by parents as a child’s behavior which might harm something or someone. It is also a term used by parents to describe a child’s behavior when they do not conform to a parent’s wishes or expectations. It is interesting to note that we do not usually speak about adults as misbehaving.
A need is defined as a condition or situation in which something is required or wanted.(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/need) To more fully understand needs an exploration of two useful theories about our basic human needs is essential.
Two theories about needs
The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a Hierarchy of Needs about the nature of human needs. He studied exemplary people in society who had a zest for life, creative energy, a sense of humour and higher and more frequent “peak” experiences. He believed these people used their full potential and called the possession of these characteristics “Self-Actualisation”.
Self- Actualisation is depicted in his model as the pinnacle of a triangle at Level 5 while Level 1, Physical Survival needs, are at the base.
- Level 5 – Self actualization needs
- Level 4 – Success and achievement (self-esteem needs - productivity and achievement)
- Level 3 – Social relationship needs (we are social beings & need relationships)
- Level 2 – Security needs (feeling safe and free of fear - psychologically and physically)
- Level 1 – Physical survival needs (our biological needs)
If children (or a parent) are not getting level 1 needs met then Maslow suggests it is difficult to focus on getting higher level needs met. When people are deprived of needs satisfaction at any level in the hierarchy, Maslow found they were limited in their personal growth.
Another way to look at identifying children’s (and adult) needs is a theory by psychiatrist William Glasser. His theory, Choice Theory, explains that all of our behaviour is internally motivated. He says that our behaviour is our best attempt to satisfy one or more of the five basic internal needs (love, identity, fun, freedom and survival) at any given time. Choice theory helps us to become aware of our own Quality World and how to be sensitive to the Quality World of others.
A fun way to explain this theory is using the analogy of a chair with 4 legs. The seat of the chair represents Survival, while each leg stands for a need:
- Love and Belonging
- Power (self-competence and identity).
This chair varies from person to person as the thickness of each leg varies in ratio depending on internal needs. In other words, a parents chair will look different to others and also to each of their children.
For some people they know when their needs are not being met – when their chair gets wobbly! They might get irritable and cranky and with the people they love the most. Their chair becomes stable again when they tune in to what needs are not being met and take action to meet them.
Identifying ones needs helps one get ones needs met. It helps individuals feel more empowered and comfortable within themselves. A parent can be clear with themselves and their children. They can give more freely of themselves. So too for children and coaches.
The effects of how we view our children
When we view our children as misbehaving we are likely to view children as problems, culprits, deficient, a product and a recipient. We then tend to be problem focused, judgmental, blameful and punitive. We are often reactive, coercive, controlling, critical, and underestimate ability. When we use power based punishments like physical force, yelling, bribery, grounding, time-out (or the disguised time-out ‘the thinking chair’) children resort to fight or flight reactions. (Alfie Kohn ‘Unconditional Parenting’). Children cannot ‘think’ about what they have done and change their behavior when they are in a heightened state of emotional arousal. (Daniel Siegel, ‘The Whole Brain Child’). This is the primitive part of the brain, the amygdale, that is activated. When we as parents understand this we will have far more success activating a change in a child’s behavior
On the other hand if we are to view our children as behaving to get a need met, we are more likely to view them as learners, helpers, competent, resourceful, creative, developing, researchers. We then tend to be solution focused in supporting our child to get their needs met. This frees us to be appreciative, unconditional, respectful, and role models of the very qualities we want for our children.