The liberated conscience …. Thoughts on an attended lecture on education, given by Heinz Etter Part 2
In the last article I shared with you my résumé of what I got out of the lecture about education with the title “The liberated conscience”, held by Heinz Etter.
As promised, I will share more about the final thoughts of that lecture: this article will help us to understand, how to deal differently with our children. In the next article I will end this series with the subject of how to get rid of this latent bad conscience in our own lives.
The privilege and the challenge I have as author of such a website, choosing to write you a résumé out of that lecture I attended is: I have to dig into it, bear in mind what I heard, in order to be capable to transmit this information.
Doing this by listening to that lecture all over again and reading my notes, observing my own attitudes towards me and my children, I recognized how much I am personally concerned by that subject– both of how I treat my children and how I can identify.
This, even thou our way of raising kids is very much free from shaming and blaming our kids. We don’t work with fear and we work hard on a great connection with each one of our kids.
However, I observed how I am guilty of implementing this feeling of “If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me” into our kids.
Last week, I caught our four-year old coming out of the kitchen, in both hand a cup of water.
I realized, that my reaction, away from that lecture, would have been:
“What are you doing!? I don’t want you to take water out of the kitchen! This will create a mess all over. Put it back!”
This time, because I had this lecture in mind, I didn’t do that. Instead, I asked gently:
“Oh, what are your plans with those cups of water? “
“I want to bring my two older siblings (who just came back from school) something to drink. They have to be thirsty!”
I was amazed to hear the motivation behind his action. And considering that the content of those cups was only water, I simply (and genuinely) praised him for his great idea and let him go. Seeing the happy expression on his face, I knew that instead of giving him that feeling:
“If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me”,
I was able to give him the affirmation of:
“I did what I thought was right, and it feels good, I’m okay!!”
( Looking back, I realize it would have been even better if I had just “seen” him. If, instead of praising him, I had simply said to him, “Wow, so pleasant when you’re thirsty and the water is supplied…” or “Oh, today you are a waiter… ?!»
The reason for this consideration can be found in this article )
But back to the actual subject of how to treat our children when we catch them lying, taking things away from others (form of stealing), or use body power to get what they want?
In the last article we saw a different way of reacting in situations when, for example, Leo (4) takes the car from Anna (3) and Anna is crying.
For a moment, let’s talk about lying:
We all agree, if a child lies, it would be practical if his or her conscious would surface, making him or her feel “I should not lie, I have to tell the truth!”
Now let’s look at a practical example:
I ask my child:
“Did you switch off the lights in the bathroom after you used the toilet?“
Now, if the child didn’t switch off those lights, it might realize:
“Oh, no I didn’t. Now, if I say I didn’t, pressure will be coming and my mom will say: “Go back, switch off those lights, this is important, it is a waste of energy…….(and on she’ll go..)!” But if I say yes, everything will be alright.“
And why should a child not say “yes” in that situation?!
Let’s look at the development stage of this small child:
“While a child is playing, mama comes and asks this child whether it switched off the lights and it says yes, everything will be OK for that child. That there will be, on a later time, reprimands because the light is actually not switched off, is not relevant at this point of time. Simply because a small child lives in the here and now, it wants to continue playing and avoid the unpleasant. This is normal for the present stage of development of a small child. It does what it seems right to him.
But now we adults enter the scene and try to take influence over the conscious of such a child. Because:
“I want to teach my child that lying is never ok!”
Therefore, we put the pressure on. We scold the child:
“I can’t believe it: You didn’t switch off the light and in addition to that, you are lying! Shame on you! Now, immediately go and switch off that light, I am very disappointed of you!”
Well, you might say, “I have to react like that: Lying is very bad and it is a high value to our family. I want to teach my child to never lie, and I certainly don’t want it to feel, that lying is convenient in that precise situation!”
However, by reacting in a way of shaming and blaming our child, we actually expect our child to react above his level of development. In that way, we implement into our child that very feeling of „If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me”
Now, Heinz Etter does not say to simply ignore the lying. That’s not his point. He simply wants to make it clear, that shaming a child, giving him the feeling that he/she is very bad, that his/her natural reaction was shameful and wrong – will not bring any results in forming that conscience of our child – it will only form this latent pressure in a child’s (and later adult’s) life of: “If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me.”
So what is a better way to respond to such a situation?
He explains that the less pressure, shaming, fear and blaming there is, the less a child will lie.
We can do that by gently telling a child, which truthfully told us, that it didn’t switch off the lights in the bathroom:
“No? Then go and do it now”
Or: “No? I’ll go and do it for you”
Or: “Oh, so now the light is still on, but no one needs it”.
Therefore, dealing with our children in a way that is free from pressure, shame, blame or fear will much rather succeed and bring forth the expected results.
From my understanding, a response filled with pressure, shame, blame or fear would sound something like that in this situation:
In the situation a child tells you the truth:
“I can’t believe you forgot it again! What’s wrong with you?”
In the situation a child lies to you:
“You didn’t switch off the light and in addition to that, you are lying! Shame on you! Now, immediately go to switch off that light. I am very disappointed with you!”
Personally, I love the way Heinz Etter is teaching about education.
In many ways I find myself in his descriptions of the ways we act in aim of raising godly, morally correct citizens.
It reminds me of how I was raised by my well-meaning Christian parents.
From my observations, his descriptions of how not to do it, are common belief found in many (Christian) families, even today.
Of course, all with the well-meant goal raising children up to become to godly, morally correct citizens
Heinz Etter ended this lecture with the statement that this whole subject has a spiritual dimension.
“Pedagogy is a basic tool to transmit the liberating love of God. But pedagogy can also be the basic tool to give children a completely false image of God – from which this latent bad conscience accompanies us up to adulthood. ”
I agree. How many children have been hurt because pedagogy was used to shame, blame and implement fear into their lives in order to get them where we wanted them to have?
Heinz Etter does a great job, along with several other experts worldwide, to show us another reality, founded in a solid bedrock of child development and neuroscience. I firmly believe that this different reality will help us to use pedagogy as a basic tool to transmit the liberating love of God into the lives of our children – along with the personal process to walk into our own freedom as adults – by understanding the same truth about our own lives.
In the next article I will hit the subject of how to do that. How we, being an adult with a childhood that is finalized, can enter into this liberating love of God concerning our own conscience.