Only hurt people hurt people. Compassion can be hard to find when you’ve been hurt by someone else, but unless you find it, that hurt will just grow and spread. Compassion is the antidote to pain.
Think about that for a minute. Only hurt people hurt people. Only those that have been hurt, inflict hurt on others. Not everyone who has been hurt will become one who hurts others, but someone who hurts others has ALWAYS been hurt. Somewhere, sometime.
Now think about it in terms of your relationship to your child.
Their relationship to others.
Bullies and the school system, how they handle discipline.
And suffering communities.
What do we do? It’s not okay to allow people to hurt others, to inflict damage. But let’s approach it with compassion and understanding instead of an attempt to control and punish in response. More pain delivered in order to quash pain doesn’t work. It never has. The attempt to control with rigidity and judgment, or worse, humiliation and violence, will only grow the feelings of being unheard, unseen, misunderstood and hurt. So children, parents, and oppressed communities will have to be louder to get their needs heard.
But understanding, finding compassion, collaborating to find solutions while holding them accountable for their actions…now that may offer some relief to everyone.
How do you do this when you are faced with someone who is misbehaving or harming others? After stopping the harmful behavior if it’s happening in the moment, before you handle it as far as consequences or punishment, take these steps:
1. Check in with yourself. Where are you feeling it in your body? Bring your breath to that place. Create space within your physical body. Get support if you need to, and if you can, identify the thoughts, feelings and images that are being triggered for you.
2. Take a moment to separate your own thoughts and feelings from what’s going on here and now. This is yours, this is mine.
3. Try to find out any underlying reasons why your child is behaving or feeling the way they are. Be curious. Interview them as soon as things have calmed down enough to do so. Chances are, they won’t be able to articulate much, but you can ask. Reach out with your heart and mind, and feel where they are in their life. Don’t minimize anything – sometimes things that seem small to us, are huge to small humans.
4. Cultivate empathy and compassion. Do your best to understand. It’s okay to deliver logical consequences, but also deliver kindness and love. We all lose it in the face of pain sometimes. We get anxious, cranky, pissed off, stressed and we aren’t on our best behavior. It works better to have a loving hug of reassurance than it does to have someone angry with us in those moments.
5. Remember that the level of misbehavior is indicative of the level of hurt and pain your child is struggling with. Get help if you need to.