Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline

Wisdom I Learned from My Teacher, Avatara Adi Da


3. Inappropriate behavior is usually a sign

of the loss of intimacy.

Every human needs to feel connected. Sometimes that need may be expressed in a positive manner, but the hurt associated with the feeling of non-connectedness will often show itself in negative ways. A child not given attention will demand it, any way possible. Therefore, it is necessary to actively connect with your children so that they are not driven to get your attention negatively. Therefore, when bad behavior is upon us, we must first look to ourselves, make sure we do connect strongly with our children. Without spoiling or too much affectation, we assure our children of our commitment to them -- in loving words, touch, and action.

When we recognize bad behavior and increase our nurturing force in order to assure our children of connection and commitment, we must be diligent not to inadvertently reward bad behavior by that affection. Herein lies the art of the parent or teacher, to keep both challenging and nurturing forces present.

Realizing that inappropriate behavior is usually a sign of the loss of intimacy releases us from the superficial psychology of behavior modification and lets us deal with the inappropriate behavior in depth. Seeing thus, we can address the hurt that underlies misbehavior. To do so, we acknowledge the feelings the children are having, not try to change them into being superficial smiling faces. Thus, we bless all feelings, acknowledge and show understanding for anger, sadness, fear, depression, frustration, rage, and boredom. By blessing where they are at, we can draw and invite them into a connection with you, others, and when they feel this basic trust, they can feel their deep connection with nature and everything.

When we meet with friends or associates with children, we make sure to quickly address any children and let them voice an opinion or two; we let them know we appreciate them and see them as real people there too. Then the received and connected children can relax and not feel the need to be connected, they will already be acknowledged. Or if we need to address any unacceptable behavior, we won't be rowing upstream.

The efficacy of this principle first became clear to me at Adidam's Big Wisdom Free School, where I had the opportunity to be exposed to great teachers. I remember being exasperated by a new six-year-old named Jubal who bullied the weaker children, and I couldn't control his behavior. In the playgrounds, I sounded like a broken record, "Jubal, stop hitting Donya. Jubal, you can't just take the ball away from Chris", etc., etc. One day, I looked over and saw Jubal bullying a younger kid and was about to yell, when I dropped my arms in overwhelmed frustration. My master teacher, Peter Churchill, saw my surrender and my situation and rushed over, offering, "You want me to show you how to do handle Jubal?" When I heartily and disbelievingly assented, Peter called out, "JUBAL!"

Jubal arrested his arm in mid-swing, looked up, his eyes saying "guilty", and he was convicted in fear. Then Peter, instantly sensing acknowledgement from Jubal of his dramatizations, called surprisingly as he gestured, "Come here and give me a hug, I haven't had one from you in a long time."

Jubal's eyes melted from fear into gratitude and he rushed into Peter's embrace. Peter had every right to discipline him for his behavior, but he didn't. Instead, Peter invited him directly back into the intimacy which forms the very substance of community.

After the bear hug, Peter looked right in Jubal's eyes and inquired, "You having fun?" What Peter was really saying was, "Why are you being mean? Wouldn't it be smarter to play happily and not get into constant trouble?"

Jubal's eyes told the adults that he understood the subscript and he was grateful for the gracious reproach to community. He nodded yes. His "yes" spoke volumes.

Peter said, "That's good, it's a great day for having fun. It's beautiful out, and you can breathe in all the feeling of the mystery and beauty we can see, and share it with your friends. Right?" Peter was obviously leading Jubal into a deeper responsibility and feeling connection and Jubal responded with a deepening breath and a knowing smile.

"So go on back to your friends, and let me see some sharing of this good feeling in some happy play ... and apologize to Donya, will you? OK, have fun. See you."

That day I was given a key that has always unlocked the closed doors in children I have known.