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I saw some behaviour the other day whilst out shopping that unfortunately reminded me of this article that I wrote a couple of years ago. I wanted to share it again;

Firstly I’d like to establish my credentials. I was the Principle (Head) of a large and very successful school in an urban area on the outskirts of London for over 21 years. Behaviour was deemed as outstanding by Ofsted the Government body who rigorously inspect standards within schools in the country. We were deemed one of the top 100 schools twice during my tenure. Since leaving my post I have spent the last ten years working with individuals, teams and organizations helping them develop leadership potential and to support personal empowerment.

The success of our approach to behaviour was based on teaching children (and adults) to take ownership of their emotions and their behaviour. Supporting the development of self -awareness and self- respect is I believe the foundation for developing confidence, a great sense of worth and a willingness and enthusiasm to behave well and help others. It is that which leads to people behaving well and teaching others with respect.

Much of the work I do now involves changing established patterns of behaviour. This includes helping those who are the victims of bullying behaviour from partners, children and in the professional setting from colleagues, bosses and clients and from those who see aggression and bullying as a way to achieve what they want in life. The paradox is that both groups need much the same.

It requires a mixture of unpicking the tangle of limiting beliefs – generally installed by parents or teachers. These lead to a lack of confidence, poor self- worth and fear of failure and indeed a fear of success. The most common cause of all these difficulties is the way in which adults have dealt with them in their most formative years.

When you humiliate any one and most particularly when it is done in public you are either establishing or further developing a belief that the person who is being humiliated is of little worth. It actually diminishes both parties. It may appear on the surface to stop the unwanted behaviours but far from solving the problem in the long term it creates far bigger individual and social problems which have far reaching effects.

Of course there is a need to create and maintain effective boundaries for what behaviours are acceptable and sensible and sustainable consequences if the boundaries are crossed. Public humiliation governs by fear and does little to teach the victim of it about the right way to behave.

1)  Children Learn By Example

Modelling the behaviours you want to see in others has long been recognized as a very effective way of teaching others. It is particularly effective when teaching young people. If you want people to treat one another with respect it is vital that you model that consistently. Humiliation demonstrates a complete lack of respect.   Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in others.” Public humiliation teaches people to be vengeful it is based on fear. It is externally imposed rather than a personal choice to do the right thing.

Being the model you want for young people, showing respect for others, their feelings and their property is the first stage to supporting youngsters in developing a moral conscience.

2)  Set clear, high explicit expectations for others

So often we tell others what we don’t want rather than what we do. When children and for that matter adults know from the outset what is expected of them and why it is far easier for them to understand what is acceptable and what is not.

Part of the problem for youngsters is when are unclear of what is expected. This happens when no expectations are set, when expectations keep changing, when people say one thing but do something else, when they are told what is expected but not held to account consistently.

I have no doubt that those who use public humiliation as a means of control also tell children that they should be kind to others, that they should treat people and their property with respect. None of these things are demonstrated through public humiliation.

3)  Hold people to account, against the expectations consistently

I have no doubt that those who use public humiliation would justify it by saying we’ve tried everything else. It is a last resort. Therein lies the rub. How often do you hear parents in the supermarket say something like “Don’t do that” or “If you do that again I’ll …..” The words become meaningless, a white noise constantly going on in the back ground.

Even more problematic is when children are threatened with a consequence for poor behaviour but the consequence isn’t carried out. The threat is an idle one and children learn very quickly that the adult doesn’t mean what they say. They see no consequence for doing a behaviour they have been told is unacceptable and therefore it becomes ok to do it. Many adults take this mixed messaging a step further. I’ll give you an example of something I saw in the supermarket only this week. A harassed mother was shopping after school with her three children. They were excited and lively and she kept telling them “Stop that” (It wasn’t actually clear what they were to stop doing). By the time our paths crossed in the next aisle I heard her say to the eldest two in a raised voice, “If you do that again you’ll have no pocket money this week” She said this several times in my hearing. We met again in the queue to pay. By this time the children were running up and down, being bored and noisy. I then saw her reach for three packets of sweets which she gave them and told them that they were to keep them quiet. I’m sure that this is a common scenario and I appreciate how difficult it is to manage everything especially when under pressure.

The message the children received was the very opposite to the one the parent wanted to give. They had learned if you keep behaving long enough you will be rewarded with sweets. It is not surprising that as the children get older they ignore their parents and their teachers

Public humiliation often comes when adults are at the end of their tether. There will have been a whole raft of incidents which have either been allowed to go un-noticed or been dealt with inappropriately.

Behaviour you want and hold children to account against those expectations – consistently.

Never threaten anything you are not prepared to carry out. Nip things in the bud when they are small. There are times when this is tiring and inconvenient but it pays HUGE dividends.

4)  Create a sense of significance for the right reasons

People are motivated in different ways. For many they need other people’s attention in order to feel that they have any value. The need is so great they will have attention on any terms. If it isn’t given for doing something positive they will get it by doing something naughty. It is important to realize that this is a deeply held need and the person will feel driven to achieve the recognition attention gives them. It is wrapped up in their need for significance from which they derive a sense of self- worth.

Many children learn very early on that no one notices when they are being good. Everyone is too busy managing daily living until they behave badly. When they do they get lots of attention – the pattern is then set. Children get a reputation for being the class clown or the naughty child. Even though it is negative it satisfies that deeply held need to be validated.

5)  Reward the behaviours you want to encourage

There is now a great deal of research which has identified the most effective way to change behaviour effectively in the long term. Research demonstrates that the vast majority of people work far better for a carrot than a stick. Offering a positive response creates the incentive to do repeat the behaviour. Recognizing the behaviour as it happens and giving positive feedback in the form of praise has proven to be a very effective way to change even the most challenging behaviour if it is done consistently. Not only does this strategy engender better behaviour but it develops greater self- awareness and a far more positive sense of self –worth, confidence and of moral integrity.

The attention we give to children’s behaviour has the capacity to become self- perpetuating. When recognition and praise are given for good behaviour it encourages even greater effort to be good. Of course the praise must be both deserved and heart felt. When poor behaviour is made the centre of attention it erodes self -confidence leaving the person feeling undervalued and unloved. There is also an inherent danger that the person is given high status by their peers and this in turn drives more and more negative activity

In the first instance creating opportunities for youngsters to succeed requires some effort. They also need to be observant so when the youngster behaves well it is noticed and praise is given. It is often easier to ignore the challenging behaviour, to bribe or to pacify. Parents and teachers who are run off their feet and who are tired and want a bit of space themselves have to dig deep to hold the boundaries they have set. The cost of not doing so is incredibly high for them, the family or class and the consequences can last a life time for the child concerned.

Humiliation, public or in private is not a last resort. It is a form of emotional abuse and should never be used. There are other far more effective strategies which I know having worked with large numbers of them work just as well for Managers and Leaders as they do for parents and teachers.

If you would like to learn more about my approach to living a happy, successful and fulfilling life then sign up for free to see my TV Show: https://genuinely-you.com/theshow 

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