Body as a pedagogical tool

Let’s begin with an ordinary observation. I'm at the bus stop. Next to me there is a dad and daughter about four years old. The girl is humming in a low voice, bouncing and clapping her hands. There's a bus coming up. Still humming, the girl is going to climb the step and accidentally pushes a woman who also wants to enter. The woman looks at her discontentedly, and the father sharply and roughly pulls the daughter out of the bus and hisses - literally hisses through his teeth, - "Don't you know how to behave?!!" That's it. End of the scene. The girl, of course, stops singing, stands near her father like a statue, her eyes are filled with tears.

In this situation, we feel very sorry for the girl, so much could be written about her, and about the probable impact of what happened on her character, and - it is possible - even on her future, but let's talk today not about her, but about her father. Because he's feeling really bad, too. Believe me, there's no doubt about it. He is gnashing his teeth, his body is straining, his mood is spoiling (I risk to suppose that his mouth is also drying, his pulse is increasing, his temples are throbbing). So what's going on? Is it really just because his daughter just did something wrong? Or is it because he decided to protect an unfamiliar woman from his daughter (having, apparently, just experienced a hallucination on the subject of "damsel in distress"). That simply cannot be true! For even if for a moment we agree that the girl committed some improper act, such a reaction is simply unreasonable. Especially if we remember that we are talking about a person 4 years old...
I declare with full responsibility: it is absolutely useless to educate the father. The fact is that it is his body that reacts this way, practically with no connection to the intellect. It's like a memory wakes up, like his body is protecting itself from something, like an evil spirit is acting instead of him... I would like to state that the dad probably doesn't know what happened to him or why. Moreover, if you begin to convince him that this is not the way to behave, he will most likely agree dejectedly. But what's the point? Because next time, it will happen again... Sounds familiar? I think it is familiar to many. Why does that happen? Why do we, even while realizing that we are doing everything wrong, repeat the same mistakes over and over again? Repeat, reflect, lament, and... repeat again.

To understand what kind of a trap we inevitably fall into, let's use the simplest example: if you accidentally touch a hot iron, you will certainly first pull your hand away, and only afterwards realize what has happened to you. You may be surprised, but many parental reactions to children, as well as the reactions of the adult world to the children's one in general, work in almost exactly the same way. The reaction comes first, the awareness second. Don't you agree? Does it sound like a paradox? Think back! How often does it happen that a child is just beginning to ask, "Mom, can I...", and our mouths already give out a categorical "no", and only a few moments later we wonder to ourselves, "why not?" How often - as in the case of the girl - do we affect a person physically, and only afterwards stop and reflect?

Here is another familiar situation: the child "is not eating well". They smear the porridge on the plate, sit for a long time over each spoon, drop - oh horror! - the food on the table. Leave aside the question of why we care how they eat and also the answers like, "Why, this is my child!", and please remember: at this time, we experience first of all the strongest PHYSICAL sensations that provoke our subsequent behaviour. Most often, we do not pay attention (exactly as in the case of the iron: first the reaction, then - awareness), but just act - each in our own way. Unfortunately, these actions are often violent. And even if not violent - was it really necessary to do something?
Almost always when seeking advice on how to avoid such situations, parents are lamenting: "I don't know myself why I do it". But when we begin to work through it, in response to the request to remember and describe their sensations - not thoughts, not emotions, but physical sensations - they describe with surprise, for example, the pulling pain in their hands and feet, the "butterflies" in their stomach, the heaviness in their chest, wet palms, etc. Yes-yes-yes! Our reaction in the vast majority (if not all) of cases is not intellectual, but PHYSICAL! Does it ring the bell? Isn't that curious?

Let me give you another example to drive the point home. A mom is complaining to me about herself. Talking about how she "destroyed family happiness" (quote). It went as follows: they were walking with her 10-year-old son in beautiful autumn St. Petersburg, laughing, eating ice cream, both were in a wonderful mood until her big mouth (her words) asked who was the architect of the Hermitage (God, how does it happen in our minds, adults?!!). A couple of seconds later, the unfortunate woman already found herself in a state of wildest irritation, screaming at the boy who gave the wrong answer, and found him standing in front of her with tears in his eyes. The party's over. Do you want to convince me that such behaviour of a smart adult woman was the result of her intellectual choice? In other words, that she deliberately destroyed that magical weekend atmosphere? That simply cannot be true! On the other hand, doesn't it happen like that with most of us? I will not torment you any longer and I will describe the happy ending of this story. We worked pretty hard with that mom. And she remembered that her body always reacts to such situations in the same way: her hands sweat and her back hurts wildly. She IS PHYSICALLY ill, her body seems to be deliberately playing a bad joke on her. All this happens to her over and over again according to the following pattern: she walks - there is a sharp pain in the back - she bothers her son with "educational" questions" - she gives out a wild reaction to his ignorance or mistake. Notice anything weird? There is no son in this pattern! "But there IS the son!" you will say, "He really did not know who the architect of the Hermitage was!" That's the thing, it doesn't matter at all. If the mom had known what was going on with her, would she have ruined a beautiful day? She would have simply realized that she needed to sit down and rest, for example. And maybe, if it's really important to her, she would have just told her son about the great Rastrelli once more. That's it. The moment the mom started to realize what was happening to her, to her body, 90% of the conflicts with her son disappeared from her life. Forever, I hope.

“Why did she even have such reactions?” you may ask. I'll answer: strictly speaking, it is not so important. Her reactions, more precisely the sum of them, make up her essence, her present self, if you will. Even if her son memorizes the names of all the architects in the world, it won't save her. If a psychotherapist finds out what's causing her reaction, it won't help either. There will be new and new occasions. Until she realizes that this situation is a personal one, affecting only her. Until she starts taking care of herself.

(Especially for those who love to understand where what comes from, in this case I can tell. In the process of our work, the woman suddenly remembered: when she was very young (6-7 years old), her grandfather took her to museums. Every weekend. "And we're walking," - she remembers, - "and walking and walking for hours, there is nowhere to sit, my back hurts, and the grandfather is talking and talking..." However, I will specify again: it hardly matters where this connection arose from. The important thing is that it has absolutely nothing to do with her son).

Surprisingly, this is how it works with almost all "complicated" parent-child situations.
So now do you want an honest answer to the question "what to do" and an honest recommendation? Please: just take care of yourself! PHYSICALLY. When a child smears food on the plate, there is nothing wrong with the situation (though, nothing good about it either). Everything that happens to you at this moment (and so much does), has nothing to do with it - it's just the reaction of your body to old memories, resentment, fears, etc. If in those fateful fractions of a second before committing an action against the child, we check ourselves (and again - check physically: how we are breathing, whether our hands have clenched into fists, whether we are comfortable standing, whether we need to take a sip of water, etc.), 90% of difficult situations will disappear. They, after all, were never there in the first place. Think about it: it is so great when a 4-year-old daughter jumps, sings and laughs; it is so great to walk with your son - just walk around, without thinking about anything, without being engaged in the educational process; it is so wonderful to have dinner with a loved one (yes, and a 3-year-old one too) and help them if the food falls on the table or on the floor or, as it is proper in a "decent society", tactfully ignore it. It's so cool to understand what's going on with you and protect your loved ones from yourself...

Friends, I have great news: physical exercises are much easier to handle than intellectual ones. Just observe your own body at the right moments and interfere in the processes as necessary. Are you feeling that something is choking you up and it's getting hard to breathe? Take a couple of deep breaths. Are your palms sweating? Just wipe them off. Your throat is dry? Drink some water. Have you gotten jelly legs? Seat down. And so on.

Maybe it sounds too simple for some, well, put my advice to the test and just try. But no cheating! Next time (and, alas, there will be a next time for most of us) in a situation of so-called irritation, for example, pay attention to your own body. From top to bottom and vice versa. Step by step, check what happens TO YOU. Change what you want to change - it is in your power. Just please don't say that your children are to blame for any of this. In the vast majority of cases, this is simply not true! And to force ANOTHER in order to change YOUR condition is, forgive me for saying that, dishonest and improper.

Another thing to remember is that these are deeply rooted habits. In a certain situation, the body is used to giving out a certain reaction. You bet! It's happened so many times! First we were victims of such reactions and now we’re doing it to others. This means that we will have to bear it for a while. There will be disruptions, there will be disappointments. But there will be a crazy success, too. After all, two pleasures come together here: to take care of yourself and make a loved one happy. It's worth it, isn't it?