I love the fall, I think it’s my favorite season even though I’ve never lived where the seasons actually change. Ah well, maybe someday. Anyway, as I was decorating I was thinking about trees…and possibly planting some that change colors in the fall. We admire the part of the tree that we can see: the leaves, the shape, and the fruit. Those are what draw our eye and lead us to declare a tree beautiful or productive. Observing the characteristics of a tree helps us to determine whether or not the tree is healthy. However, it is what is going on below the ground and deep inside the tree that determines whether or not the tree is going to thrive.
The analogy is an apt one when we think about child rearing and education. When we see a happy, well-adjusted child we have indications that all is well, and when we see a disruptive, angry child we can be equally certain that all is not as it should be. Sometimes, as parents, particularly on those difficult days, we tend to focus on the outward, visible signs. When we see bullying behavior we discipline our child, when they are disrespectful we send them to their rooms, when they are selfish, rude etc. we reprimand them. All of these things can be appropriate, necessary steps, but they are like pruning a tree, they only address a small part of the issue. The roots and internal issues are left to fester and grow, without addressing these our tree, or child, will soon be troubled.
Behavior is an outgrowth of how a child thinks about himself and the world…there is a lot going on below the surface. While we need to prune back that out of control branch, we cannot ignore what is going on below the surface. We need to try to determine the root of the problem. (I’m loving this tree metaphor.) Frequently, due to the pressures of parenting and time, we resort to situational, or reactionary parenting. We merely react to each situation as it presents itself. Obviously, there is always an element of this to parenting…if your three year old throws a tantrum you need to react. However, if that is your main mode of parenting you are missing out on some powerful tools that will benefit both you and your child. (more…)