The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mult-level communication with Jason

Got a great email from a very old friend yesterday, in response to my thoughts on Jason:

"Not that I know anything about raising kids, but having to call dad "sir", I think that would suck, no matter what the situation. You're his dad first, and hopefully always, the army drill sargent is sir! Just my opinion. and since you're sharing, I'm sharing."

You bet he doesn't like it! That, of course, is part of the point: I'm using discomfort to show him the ranges of acceptable behavior. I tend to be very "conservative" about raising Jason, and look to methods that have worked for thousands of years, in multiple contexts. And one of them is the combination of carrot and stick. I got a note yesterday to take a look at a book called "Punished by Reward," the work of a psychologist named Alfie Kohn. Wasn't ready to run out and buy a book (Jeeze, I'm too far behind with the stack I've got right now) but did read three of his articles. Seems to be a very impassioned and intelligent argument for a very "Yin" or "Liberal" view of education, with the concept of rewarding behavior in children considered as a projection of the parents' own insecurity rather than a genuine gift to the child. A fun example was if a child would respond to the approving "good drawing, Mary!" with "good praising, Mommy!" to demonstrate how irritating that would be.

I chuckled. I see his perspective, and think he'd have to combine it with a very boundary-punishment model to create balanced perspective, from which appropriate tools could be selected for specific instances. Jason, for instance, is SERIOUSLY hierarchical in many of his behaviors and attitudes. I was quite surprised by this. I didn't have brothers, or a father in the home, or uncles, or male role models growing up, so I just made that crap up. Decided that if I couldn't determine exactly what "male" meant, I'd have to concentrate on "human" and let the rest sort itself out. Considering that I got exactly the results I desired from the "male-female" thingie, I guess it's worked all right.

But I was still taken aback by how hard Jason "pushes" at me, and it forced me to reinterpret a lifetime of memories about interactions with other guys. Times when they pushed at me, bumped up against me...and I interpreted it as aggression and hostility. No. They just wanted to know, NEEDED to know where they were on the hierarchy. Who was above them, and who below.

That is totally different, and quite healthy so long as you are not confined to that behavior set. In fact, it is just as healthy as non-hierarchical non-competitive behavior, which is just as unhealthy when taken to extremes.

I am communicating with Jason on EVERY level, because I don't know which "channels" are clearest. I take Thom Hartmann's opinion to heart: he considers that ADD kids are hunters in a world full of farmers. But I've heard Hartmann for years, and although he's smarter than I am, he also sees the world through a VERY left-leaning lens, and I suspect he has little understanding of the Warrior archetype. Warrior-Hunter is a fascinating position on the archetype wheel. There was nothing natural about my attraction to that position--I was forced to develop that due to external circumstances, and a lack of role models.

But Jason is a natural. Jeeze. All he wants to do every night is beat the hell out of me, or have me dominate him. He doesn't feel safe unless I do. When I ask him why he wants to slam me around, his standard answer is: "that's how boys play." Boggles my mind a little.

But if Thom Hartmann looks at the Hunter/Farmer split, and I'm right that there is a color of the rainbow he isn't perceiving, or isn't comfortable with, I'm not sure what the balancing energy is for Jason. Warrior/Healer, perhaps? And how is that in society? Male/Female? And could the fact that ALL of his teachers so far have been women have anything to do with this? If the boy was supposed to spend his time running, jumping, exploring, hunting, fishing and, yes, killing (let's not put too fine a line on it) in preparation for a life spent hunting and practicing the martial arts to protect his village, would his difficulty with focus have anything to do with that? I don't know.

But I do know it feels as if an energetic shift is happening/has happened in our society as female energy becomes more active in the external sphere. That's not something I can change, or even would attempt to. Or think SHOULD change. If true, it is just part of the cycle of life, and Jason has to learn to surf on that chaos wave.

How do I do that? Well...I have to make the assumption that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form. I'm also starting with the assumption that love and fear are the major emotions I have to work with, and his emotional flares are at least partially a sense that his "isness" isn't fitting the world around him

So...I have to help him learn to transform, guide, and flow his energy to fit the circumstances. Like a clever warrior. I also need to be certain he feels ABSOLUTELY LOVED at every moment. That Daddy's love is NEVER at risk.

But approval? Heh heh. That's another matter. I can love him without loving his behavior. Hell, I can love him without LIKING him from time to time. So let me march up the "Chakras" and look at how I'm knocking at every door he has:

1) Survival. I'll use pain to create aversion to some behaviors or responses. Physical pain. Not spanking or hitting, though--I have no moral opposition to spanking, but don't want to anchor a flinch response into him when I touch him. So I'll have him hold "downward dog" or plank position in situations my mom would have whacked me for. All the pain, plus learning a very very useful set of skills--for instance relaxation under stress, which has a positive effect on keeping emotional control. Control your breathing and you control your emotions.

2) Sexuality. Hey, he's at the "girls, yuck!" stage. But under that is the natural human awareness of these amazing and mysterious creatures, and the questions: what are they? What are they about? And while, of course, he wants nothing to do with them, discussions of why girls tease him flirt with the edge of that pre-sexual awareness. And of course, while he will never be attracted to girls, he doesn't mind the idea that they should be attracted to HIM. And what does that? Power, channeled into some arena they understand and admire. And focus is power. Booyah.

3) Power. He wants control of his body. Physical mastery. And boy, is he going to have it. He can already do things I could never do. At all. The sky's the limit. But I've made it clear: he will never master his body until and unless he masters his emotions and mind. And more specifically: if he's in a fight, the moment he loses focus, a lesser opponent will smack him down. He HATES that. There is absolutely nothing like pain to force you to learn. Can't wait until he is old enough to actually slow-spar with, so I can demonstrate this to him more. But right now, he needs stillness. Yoga, I think works great for this. Noisy on the inside...quiet on the outside. Until you are congruent.

4) Emotion. Daddy loves him. Period. Hugs every morning, every night, and the knowledge of that love never withheld. But as my friend noted, he HATES the more formal "sir." Great. I can literally withhold his right to call me "daddy" as punishment.

5) Communication. I noticed that one of his issues is talking in class without permission. So I flirted with forcing him to raise his hand before he speaks at home. More extreme, would be forcing him to WRITE OUT his messages to us. Slows him waaaaay down. Good behavior earns him the right to speak spontaneously again. Also...when he is on "red" he has to spend more time reading aloud. This is powerful on so many levels I can't count 'em.

6) Intellect. Lots of explanation of what I'm doing, why I'm doing. Examining the set of rules that seem to have the most impact on his behavior: specifically (at this point)

a) Pay Attention

b) Do what you're told

c) No talking (at school, without permission)

d) Do not think dishonestly

e) Keep your hands to yourself.

Each morning, we concentrate on just 3 of those.

7) Spirit. We meditate together EVERY morning. I cannot overstate how important "direct

transmission by congruence" is. In other words, you must BE whatever you seek to teach, for greatest efficiency. That means that if I see him to lack focus, I must concentrate on my own focus. If he has emotional issues, I must be super-calm. If I want his actions to be smooth and match the curve of energy and attention required for a specific task...I must exemplify it. Otherwise, it's like a smoking, drinking, junk-food junkie trying to get his kids to live a healthy life.

The most solid model I have for human growth is to align the dreams and needs of childhood with the wisdom of our elder selves. I now have the advantage of being closer to death than birth, and there is fantastic freedom and perspective in that. Jason is taking the very first, bare steps along that journey, with all the attendant fear and insecurity. He wants to trust and follow me. If I can create sufficient rapport, he will follow me through fire. But I must never, ever abuse that. And I must be the change I wish to my son, or in the world.

If he has more "static" in his system, then I must show him how to develop greater clarity and balance. That's all. If he has half as much as others, then I'll show him how to get three times the results.

I was asked: what if my child was actually autistic? Then, from my understanding (which is admittedly limited) I'd forget about the majority of the digital/intellectual pieces and concentrate on the physical aspects. I would go DEEPLY into yoga and/or martial arts, and breathe with my child, putting their hand on my diaphragm, with my hand on his. Work to find the way to achieve whatever rapport was possible, and communicate with him on that level. If there is a narrowed aperture of perception or communication...or a snarl...then I would seek whatever channels were open, and trust the human brain's fantastic level of redundancy. Find what is working, and start there. Go deeply within myself so that my actions were based on both intellectual concepts, kinesthetic knowledge and deep intuition.

Of course, I would have the widest, deepest circle of allies and professionals I could find. But I would take full responsibility on myself. I do not suggest that that is an approach others should follow. But I'm pretty sure it would be mine.


Shady_Grady said...

I grew up calling my parents "sir" and "ma'am". Some aunts and uncles too. It wasn't that long ago. Doesn't bother me. Just a sign of familial respect. I did that as an adult as well.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Gave me a lot to think about.

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