Friday, July 15, 2016

Guest Post: Go With The Grain: It's Not What You'd Think

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In wood-working or carpentry, there's a common phrase used as a general rule-of-thumb: "Go with the grain".  This principle holds true while processing raw materials, cutting specific pieces, sanding, and even finishing a project. In all of these instances, the recommended action protects against the wood splintering, unsightly grooves and scrapes that cut garishly across the visible grain, and subtle waves and brush-marks in the finished product.  In each case, the idea is to work with the natural strengths and vulnerabilities in the wood to minimize damage and maximize the appeal and integrity of the final product.  In many pockets of modern society, fathers are often regarded as the primary disciplinarians of the family.  It seems common to hear the phrase, "Just wait until your father gets home".  Even if nowadays the phrase is used mostly in jest, the sentiment behind it remains common enough.

As a father myself, I try to take an equal role in parenting my children with my wife; this includes discipline.  I've been doing a lot of reading lately from several books by a Child Psychiatrist named Daniel J. Siegel ("The Whole-Brain Child", "No-Drama Discipline", "Mindsight") wherein he talks extensively about the importance of meeting our children where they're at and assisting them to expand outward.  Summed up incredibly simplistically, Dr. Siegel's basic premise is, "meet the need, calm the child, grow from there" (my words, not his-I strongly recommend these books to anyone interested).

To relate this to my example at the beginning of this post, I think that as men, fathers typically hold the belief that we have to use force to impose our will over our child's to successfully discipline; this was captured fairly hilariously in the recent Disney/Pixar movie, "Inside Out".
This is perhaps a perfect (albeit somewhat humorous) example of what not to do in these situations, and an excellent example of going against the grain with disastrous outcomes.  Fathers, this is not the only option that we have open to us.  It's often mocked or belittled in popular culture to talk about or address "feelings", but, like it or not, dealing with said "feelings" is one of the most significant hurdles of childhood, and definitely one of the biggest contributors to the behaviors that we think necessitate discipline.  

Discipline originates from the Latin disciplina, which means instruction.  Disciplining should be synonymous with teaching.  If we're merely punishing our children for behavior, rather than teaching them how to avoid the behavior in the future, we're missing the mark.  Teach your children (when they're calmed and receptive to teaching) what to do with those huge feelings that cause them to act out.  Of course, before we can do that, we need the know-how and ability to do it ourselves.  Our children give us ample opportunity to practice.  

There's wisdom and truth in this quote by John Greenleaf Whittier, "Thee lift me, and I'll lift thee, and we'll ascend together."  May we each learn and resolve to recognize the natural grain (the strengths and vulnerabilities) that exists in our children and do our best to work with both in such a way to bring out the best in them.  Calm yourself, calm your children, 
Live Deeper.

Justin Nuckles works for the Utah State Health Department in the Bureau of Child Development. He travels across the state to promote developmental screening and protective factors that strengthen all families. He is the father of two little girls.

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