Internal Compass

What if most of the work of parenting was not to correct our children when they did something wrong, but an ongoing effort to help children learn about themselves and their place in the world so that they naturally chose to do good things for themselves and others?

It’s a bit of leap of faith to trust that children have an internal compass that will guide them to do good things. But it’s true. We all have this internal compass.

Will children make mistakes? Yes. We all will. But what strengthens the internal compass is not someone else correcting you or punishing you. This actually weakens it.

The internal compass gets strengthened when a skillful guide listens to you, empathizes, and holds up a mirror for you…so that you can see you. A skillful guide helps you connect your feelings to your actions, so that you can understand the guiding power of your own feelings. A skillful guide lets you know that you can trust yourself. When you remember who you really are, you don’t need punishment or steering. There is no better teacher than than a strong internal compass that tells you that, “I am good, and I feel happy, true and fulfilled when I do good things.”

This is powerful

I believe that helping children reflect upon their own feelings and actions is a stronger and more enduring motivator for positive behavior than punishment could ever be.

The child who is invited to think about his own actions gets to ask himself important questions. He gets to ask the questions: Is this who I am? Is this who I want to be? What could I do next time? This is powerful and enduring…and it all happens without yelling, shaming, and disconnecting from your child.

So, I invite you to think about parenting in a different way, non traditionally. Take the leap of faith that the real job is to draw out and strengthen the internal compass that already exists in our children. This is hard to do, because it decenters the parent from the conversation. We become the supporting cast. It’s a tough one for the ego to swallow. And it flips things on it’s head. For example, it’s not what you know as a parent that matters, it how you help your child know themselves that matters.

 

2 Comments

  1. journeyforward
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    I love the idea that we have an internal compass and what we really need is a guide. I like asking children what they think and feel about a particular situation. I actually ask new parents that I work with this same question. I tell them they have parenting instincts and what they don’t really need is another person telling them what to do, but instead need someone to listen to them and encourage them helping them gain confidence.

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