Seeing some classic mischievous behavior in the studio as of late has prompted me to elaborate through the lens of Positive Discipline. First lets read Glenda Montgomery’s explanation of Positive Discipline. Glenda Montgomery is a Teacher, Parent, Certified Positive Discipline Instructor and here is her wonderful description, borrowed from the PSA website.
“Positive Discipline is based on the work of famous psychiatrists from the past century, Alfred Adler and Rudolph Dreikurs, who proposed the idea that human beings are goal driven and that as human beings our top two goals are to feel significant (that we matter) and to feel a sense of belonging. We act in order to achieve our goals. In other words, much of our behavior is driven, often subconsciously of course, by the need to feel both important, and an integral part of something cohesive and larger than ourselves.”
Dr. Jane Nelsen says, “There is a belief behind every behavior, but when confronted with a ‘misbehaving child’ adults usually deal only with the behavior. Dealing with the belief behind the behavior does not mean you don’t deal with the behavior. However, you are most effective when you are aware of both the behavior and the belief behind it.”
This quote is in constant rotation in my mind. “You are most effective when you are aware of both the behavior and the belief behind it.” It is a useful quote to remember when encountering any person and their behavior. In this vein I’d like to share two moments I’ve encountered in the studio that can further explore this idea.
The first encounter I’d like to share took place at the large sculpture table in the Studio. At that time Volcanoes had been a very strong emerging theme throughout the entire school and to further that investigation, the large sculpture materials were blocks, red yarn and volcano books. Throughout the day one could witness cities being built, canals being forged, animals being freed from prison and erupting volcanoes with an abundance of molten lava.
But in Silas’ case this is not so obvious. When passing the sculpture table I was confronted with image of Silas drawing on the blocks with a Sharpie. (In the Studio Sharpies are a tool that is available at all times and is used very often.) With my trusty documentation device I recorded our interaction. I didn’t quite manage to capture me asking him what his idea was and him giving a quick explanation of how a volcano erupts. And no Silas was not prompted or coached! He’s just that understanding and flexible.
And we did check it out! We gathered many toilet paper rolls for Silas to create with. His creativity and ingenuity was contagious. In this situation it was hard for me to not immediately react to our blocks being permanently altered. Instead of telling Silas to put away the Sharpie and spout off adult centered statements about respect and consequences, I invited Silas to share with me his idea. And in our conversation Silas was able to explain to me that he knows Sharpies can’t be erased and because of that he’d be willing to adapt his idea to another medium.
In this simple situation Silas’ idea was respected and the Studio’s blocks were taken care of. Ideally Silas left the Studio that day knowing that his ideas are valuable and important and that our materials are special. Here’s another great quote from Dr. Jane Nelsen.
“What happens to us is never as important as the beliefs we create about what happens to us. Our behavior is based on those beliefs, and the behavior and beliefs are directly related to the primary goal of all people — to feel that we belong and are important.”
The second moment I’d like to share I unfortunately did not catch on tape and so we’ll have to settle for a written rendition. Earlier this month Atti expressed excitement in police officers and official law enforcement. His excitement was contagious. And because the Studio is a place to elaborate on your interests, I quickly had three very stiff lipped, official police officers; suited, badged and dutifully ticketing me for “talking to much”, “bossing everyone around” and for “littering”.
Because the theatrics were playful and the outfits were finely crafted I played along as the disgruntled citizen. I stated over and over that these citations we unjust and that I planned to take them to court for unlawful ticketing. After it became obvious I was only interested in representing reality I was politely asked to not participate in the game. Over many days I posted pictures of Atti and his friends building their characters and developing ideas about law enforcement. I supplied an image of the SPD badge and a copy of the SPD Mission. This was my attempt to inspire authenticity and instill a deeper meaning in their play. Their work space exuded their excitement and their hard work.
Some days the investigation was about crafting elaborate “walkie talkies” and other days it was about being a K-9 police officer. But when the game took a turn to good old fashioned “cops and robbers” I stepped in.
I sat in between Royal (the robber) and Atti (the police officer) and I asked them, “What makes a robber and robber?” Atti replied, “He’s a thief. He steals money.” I then asked them why they thought robbers and thieves steal money and Atti’s reply was “Because they don’t have any money and you need money to live.” So I responded by asking if they thought ticketing and arresting the robber was the best solution they could think of. I asked them if they could think of ways we can help the robber not steal anymore. Atti then wisely reflected that putting the robber in jail wasn’t helpful but instead was hurtful. Which gracefully takes us back to Jane Nelsen’s quote “You are most effective when you are aware of both the behavior and the belief behind it.”
Obviously through an adult filter this is a loaded and heavy topic that many spend their lives debating and fighting for. But in this one simple fleeting moment, Atti opened himself to deeper thinking. He thought about the belief behind the behavior. He reflected on a person’s behavior in context of our complicated world. If I’m not mistaken I believe Atti ended up making Royal (the robber) return only a portion of the money to the rightful owner and allowed him to keep the rest if he promised he’d not steal. This game continued to be a playful social experiment for both Atti and Royal.
Let me end with an inspiring video clip of Viktor Frankl. “If we take man as he should be we make him capable of what he could be!”