Well, there are two big words that need some defining in order to answer that question.
1. Difficult: A child can be difficult for so many reasons and in so many different ways, that we could not possibly give one definition to it. However, I can say this: the fundamental reason children are difficult, is because of a break in positive relational connection.... or they are hungry, or sleep deprived.
So, once you've made sure they are neither sleep deprived, nor hungry, that's when the detective reconnective work begins. How do we do this? Well, it does require us as adults to feel our love and #compassion for the child, the #maturity to realize they are only acting out because they feel disconnected, and a lot of guess work... and don't forget a very important one - humor!
In the book How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, they say it is good to #guess at what children might be feeling as apposed to asking them. Think about how you feel when someone outright asks you what you are feeling. It's much easier if someone asks you: “are you feeling …. because....?” This is a simple way of re-connecting with them at a feeling level. Make sure you are at eye-level with them and make loving physical contact with them. They need to feel you are there for them and you love them no matter what.
note: keep in mind that small children (under the age of 7) are still very much physically oriented, so physical communication is senior then.
“What if I am too #upset and can't feel my love for the child?” - you might ask. Take some deep breaths, express how you are feeling, and maybe, if you are just too upset, remove yourself from the situation until you are ready to re-engage.
So to recap what a child might, first and foremost need if they are being difficult, is hugs and humor, both very powerful stuff!
2. #Discipline is just like difficult children, there are so many different versions that it can be a huge challenge to decide what to do.
First, before we talk about the forms of discipline we advocate at Everything New Academy, I must bring up the importance of emotional sustenance. We can not very well meet the #challenges in life without first feeling #sustained enough to do so. If you feel emotionally malnourished, you will not be able to handle challenges with as much endurance.
As I mentioned above, a child needs to feel and know that we are going to love and support them no matter what. Once they fully feel that, we can challenge them to grow beyond whatever difficult behavior they are exhibiting.
At Everything New Academy, discipline has two meanings:
1. To provide the conditions or guidelines through which children can adapt to happy and balanced participation in life and relationships. Some examples of this are: guiding them to feel the enjoyment in helping others, expressing love, saying “please” and “thank you”, going beyond physical, emotional, and mental barriers, learning new things, showing interest in others.. just to name a few.
2. Helping them correct the behavior that is not in harmony with those principles. One of the ways to do this is to encourage them to do something that brings harmony and balance back to the situation.
For example a child has said to his or her friend: “you are stupid and I hate you!” What do you do? First remember to reconnect and find out what the child is feeling. Then they could do something for their friend that gives their friend happy energy. It could be as simple as saying “I am sorry” or giving them a hug, or telling their friend something they love about him or her, helping their friend complete a task they were doing, etc. Let the child be creative and try to come up with something on their own.
Sometimes this is not feasible in the moment and you need to take a different kind of action – temporarily withdraw the privilege of participation in whatever the circumstance may be. This is not a form of punishment, but gives them an opportunity to choose to “stay mad” and be on their own, or to find a way to participate in a happy and loving way, which is the naturally enjoyable thing to do. The opportunity to happily re-establish participation should always be available to them, and they should frequently be asked if they are ready to participate happily again. There is a fine line between this form of a “time-out” and a punitive “time-out”. In order for this to work, the child needs to be very sure of our #love for them.
Connection and relationship (or love), and guidance, are two very key elements in providing our children with the ability to be happy and to grow up to be a balanced and confident individual - aka Heart-Strong Warriors.