Positive education?

The first time I heard about Good treatment was when working with Jorge Barudy at the beginning of the 2000’s. It was, at that time and even now, a revolutionary approach in the field of psychology: talking about resources, resilience, good treatment, instead of disorders, weaknesses or mental illness.

Scientific advances, especially in the area of affective neuroscience, argue the merits of this approach based on the positive treatment also called Positive Parenting or Positive Education.

This amazing work allows us to understand better the impact of our behaviour as parents, grandparents, educators, teachers, instructors etc. on the development of our children’s brain.

Extensive researches on the brain have shown that an appropriate education together with an empathetic commitment enables the brain to a better development. This research also shows that the physical and verbal abuses and stress can change children’s brain causing cognitive and behaviour problems.

Furthermore, parents’ voluntary involvement along with their appropriate and coherent action to children’s needs allow developing a secure attachment. This form of attachment is the base of a social, emotional and harmonious development. A child can learn to explore the environment on his own, seek help and build constructive relations with people. This secure attachment is the base of self-esteem, independence, value and empathy.

Children’s brain is immature at birth, it develops in the relation and interaction to the others. Every interaction will create new neuronal networks. So an affective, empathetic and a supportive relation can be the key to build these new neuronal networks to an optimum development of the brain.

In particular, Positive Education is important for oxytocin release. Oxytocin can be considered as the “connecting molecule” with the others. It can also be called the molecule of love and friendship. It fosters empathy and creates confidence, altruism and cooperation. It can also minimize stress and anxiety, and stimulates three other molecules: dopamine, serotonin and endorphin. Dopamine boosts motivation, crucial for learning; it also gives us the pleasure of living and promotes creativity. Endorphins provide comfort and Serotonins stabilize the state of mind. These molecules induce children to be calm, empathetic and willing to learn.

What can we do as parents so that our children grow with a better development?

This article does not intend to give magical recipes or moral lessons. However, it tries to give us some considerations based on the latest scientific investigations.
It is important to bear in mind that it is never too late to improve our Educational practices and that there is not just one right way to do educating and parenting.

1. Taking care of yourself.

Parents need to feel supported and take care of themselves to provide appropriate answers to their children. That is highly important since our capacity to face drawbacks on the way is limited and frustration is accumulated through the day. Therefore our energy and patience decrease (i.e. cries, screaming, frequent nocturnal wakening, food and drink spills, toys all around the room, etc.). This is particularly frequent to parents during the first year of their child’s life due to the lack of sleep and rest. We should not forget that female hormones make mothers particularly vulnerable so that it is important to provide them logistic and emotional support. For that reason it would be highly convenient that fathers could assist mothers so that they can take care for their babies in the best possible conditions. So that mothers could recover easily and take care of themselves such as taking a relaxing bath, having a coffee with friends, meditation, sports, etc.

2. Responding to children’s needs

Parents should watch out children’s needs when they are crying and take action fast and adequately. Normal questions can be raised as: “Is my child hot or cold? Is he hungry? Or tired? Or over stimulated? Or maybe the diaper needs to be changed?” But we also have to think about other necessities that can be hidden as: does my child need to he hugged? Or get loved? Simple things as holding them gently can give them confidence and release stress. Oxytocine, the hormone anti-stress, is released after 20 seconds of physical contact. This is a message that strengthens the link between parents and children.

3. Knowing the child through their actions

Julia was only three years old when one day she drew on the walls. His father very nervous shouted at her: “You just cannot stop doing silly things! You are stupid because you drew on the walls!!!

Julia, very proud of her piece of art, does not understand her father’s annoyance or why she is stupid.

However, the real problem is not Julia but what she did. And, obviously, she has not understood the reaction of his father. But if the father says to her:” I can see your beautiful drawing. It is really a piece of art, but I have to remind you that it is not allowed to draw on the walls, so let’s find some paper to draw and a sponge to clean up the wall.”

We are talking about saying the same thing but with other words so that the message is received in a better way for the child. The impact in the one’ self-esteem is huge. Julia feels that she has been respected since her father recognized her natural need of creating and expressing herself. She has also the opportunity to identify and correct her errors.

Nevertheless, when parents say: “My daughter is stupid and selfish” they put their children in a position so that they can have a distorted vision of themselves and start to believe it. In short, an “unbearable” child will behave as an unbearable child.

4. Naming the emotions and accepting them

Your child is crying because he has fallen down and he has hurt himself. His father says: “You are crying because you have just hurt yourself. I will give you a big hug”, the child recognizes his emotions and accepts them. A simple hug can release oxytocin, the anti-stress hormone.

However, if the father says: ”Stop crying, that is nothing”. The child does not understand because it does not correspond to what he is feeling. That is to say, father’s message is not linked with child’s feeling. And with many repetitions the child can think that he cannot trust on his feelings and show them.
However, if the child sees a different approach: “I can see that you are really annoyed. This is understandable, but you can hit a cushion or try to draw your anger down in a piece of paper.” With this attitude, children can feel listened, understood and they have also learnt other constructive ways of expressing their emotions.

5. Formulating other positive linguistic ways to get what we want them to do.

Children’s brain has difficulties to assimilate negation. Messages are well received when they are formulated in a positive manner. For instance, we can say: ”In the bath sit down for your safety” instead of: ”Don’t stand up in the bath or you will fall down”.
Or: ”Try to calm down” instead of “do not shout” or: “Stop” instead of: ”No”.
With these options we can also get collaboration from our kids.

There are more examples: “Will you want two or three tablespoons of green beans?” instead of: ”Do you want some green beans?”. Or: ”What is coming first the T- shirt or the trousers?” instead of: ”Now you have to dress up”.

6. Anticipating and establishing rules in advance to seek involvement.

Obvious things for parents are not for children. A way to avoid meaningless situations is to try to anticipate them. As an example: ”We are going shopping. I hope you behave well and help me: you are going to be in charge of taking the apples and biscuits and to put them all in the shopping trolley.” We will have to repeat it many times since children are not able to assimilate rules up to six or seven years old.

7. Bearing in mind his level of development.

We have already mentioned that the child is born with an immature brain. The brain is developing through out the childhood and adolescence, even in adulthood. As parents, we do not have to forget that the brain is immature when the child is having a tantrum. The child lives this moment as an emotional distress, his brain is not connected and he is not able to think. He can not get out of this mess neither physically nor emotionally. So what we can do as parents is to hold him tight and say simple statements like: ”You are upset” or “you are sad”. He feels frustrated and we understand it perfectly. Parents should help them naming every emotion they are having in a calm atmosphere and with a soft and relax tone. That helps the brain matures.

Not before five or six years of age the brain is prepared to manage and normalize better the emotions and tantrum should diminish in intensity and frequency.

8. Allowing the child to explore the environment.

It is very important to let the children move around in safe environments so that the brain can develop adequately. Children must explore in a safe area without any source of danger. They should move freely and go at their own pace along the stages of motor development. It is crucial to creep, to crawl, to stand up for developing a good laterality, as well as attention, control of impulsivity, etc.

Exploring is the best way for children to build self-confidence and self-esteem.

9. Modeling is an important part.

Children learn by imitation: education is lead by example. Parents should talk to them as they like to be talked to: “Sorry, pardon, thank you…”

We are not perfect. We make mistakes; we admit them and we apologize. Our children learn from what they see of us and from the environment in general. Kids learn easier from given examples than from words. So leading by example can help the children to take care of themselves, to listen to their needs and to be.

Please, do not hesitate to contact the school if you are interested to know the sources of the article.
Thank you.

Inès Despature
Psicóloga Col. 17431

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