Over the past thirty years, I’ve observed thousands upon thousands of parents and educators try to reach extremely challenging kids. Some have tried force in the form of anger, lectures, and threats. They were never successful. Others tried punishment. This always backfired.
Many have implemented rather tedious reward systems. Sometimes these worked—for a while. A large number experimented with copious amounts of praise, saying things like, “You are so great!” Most were perplexed by why many of these kids acted worse as a result.
Some even tried “Love and Logic.” Misunderstanding our approach, they believed that consequences alone would solve the problem. They were disappointed. Many tried being permissive. They became doormats.
In our experience, the only thing that works is a healthy relationship based on true love. Relationships between adults and kids based on true love are characterized by:
- Someone who believes in them when they don’t believe in themselves.
- Authority figures who are powerful in soft-spoken, gentle, and positive ways.
- Caring eye-contact, smiles, and touch.
- The safety of having consistent limits.
- Opportunities to make mistakes, to experience reasonable consequences, and to see that we continue to love them unconditionally.
- A healthy sense of control, feelings of belonging, and success experiences leading to real self-esteem.
- Parents and teachers who take great care of themselves so that they can consistently demonstrate patience and dignity.
Building healthy relationships with the kids is critical for helping them grow into responsible, resilient adults.
Thanks for reading!