Written by: Leja Mahnič, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
During this festive time, there is one common phrase that I hear at every turn – while walking through shopping centers, picking my son up from school, chatting with my friends whose children are in kindergarten, I hear mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, and every other significant adult threatening their misbehaving children, children who can’t control their excitement, and therefore their actions and emotions, because of the festive spirit. This most commonly and excessively used disciplinary phrase during December every year is: "If you don’t behave, Father Christmas (or Santa or any other present-bringing character) won’t bring you any presents."
What kind of message are we giving our children? Father Christmas or Santa are supposed to be good characters, who bring gifts for everyone. But it seems as though only the "good children" are deserving of presents in this case. How interesting. Why do we never hear adults being threatened in a similar way? Are adults not supposed to be "good" too? Or are adults "good by default", because they are independent and can take care of themselves?
What are we accomplishing? Do we even realize how destructive fear and threats are for our children’s brains? Our brains require a positive environment for healthy development.
It is well known that the brain development of children who grow up enduring physical or psychological violence is heavily impeded, as their synapses are damaged. If a child is constantly scared or stressed, they tend to use their 'reptilian brains' too much. This results in an underutilized and therefore undeveloped frontal lobe, which is used to creatively find solutions to problems and challenges. This means that our brain starts functioning like the brain of a reptile, which is governed by the instinct "fight or flight". This is why children like this act in two ways: either very aggressively or in an extremely introverted manner.
Both types of behavior point towards violence, but sadly we are not as aware of this as we should be. Adults are often too self-assured and confident that we know everything. We are certain that children only act in these ways because they want to make us angry or even blackmail us. It makes me sad to see so many parents who, even in the 21st century, have no idea about their own child’s growth, brain development, or emotional development. They don’t realize that the message behind sentences like "You are behaving badly, so Father Christmas won’t bring you any presents", can be so destructive.
Let us first examine the reality of the situation: what does it even mean to be "good"? Each and every person has their own explanation and expectations, so one child can’t possibly measure up to all of them. A child who wants to be "good" is therefore usually meek, quiet, and god-fearing. A child like this then starts going to school and later enters a work environment where creativity and self-initiative will be expected of them. These expectations are very difficult for a "good" child to live up to because they always did what they were told. Where are their mother and father to tell them what is okay? Will they be considered "good" in their parent’s eyes (therefore in their own eyes) if they do this or that?
The next thing we must examine is the fact that despite all the threats and intimidation the child is subjected to, Father Christmas and Santa still bring them presents. But how can this be if the child wasn’t "good"? These contradictions between words and actions are very confusing for the child. Will the same thing happen next time?
Despite everything, unconditional love and raising your child with love that is not conditioned means focusing on the child’s actions – finding a solution together with the child to manage an action better in the future. If we want a child to behave appropriately, the child must understand that they aren’t doing an action just to avoid punishment. Because if this is the case, the child will only behave in a certain way when you are present. When you aren’t there the child will do things his or her own way and you probably won’t like the outcome. This kind of behavior leads to lying and covering up the truth because the child knows we won’t like what he or she is doing. In this case, you will often hear the child say "It wasn’t me!" even though there was no one else around to do it.
We must therefore be careful of what we say and leave the child’s integrity and personality untouched by labels: good, clumsy, naughty, stupid … The message they convey to the child is: "You are not okay the way you are." These and similar messages are often addressed and solved in coaching sessions with teenagers and adults, so I speak from experience. Be careful.
And you know that Father Christmas sees your children for who they really are. And when your child "misbehaves" he knows why. And that is why he brings a gift anyway, because he knows that every person is good inside. And a child is just a small person.
Leja Mahnič, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
She grew up in the 70s. And with the education that was most common at the time. An apostolic education that did not allow the questioning, crying, opposition, and healthy development of human integrity. She had big dreams that she wasn't allowed to talk about, and of course, a very low self-esteem. She left home early, thinking that she would run away from all this. But you can't run away. The only way was to work on her personality, and that's how she got to know NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Because she wanted to give her child, who later came into her life, a different basis, she started working and first healed a wounded child inside her. Later, the coaches encouraged her to make coaching her profession. She became a coach and then specialized also in coaching with children so that she could give a family full assistance. As an expert, she has been called on several occasions to participate in tv shows on learning and education. She has also written many expert articles on the subject. She worked with the well-known expert Jesper Juul. She was lucky to train with the biggest ones like Iris Komarek, John Grinder and Bostic St. Clair. And here she is. A Parenting coach. She loves to work with parents and kids, this is why she also trained in München and became an NLPaed Learning coach. She can really help the whole family to become an inspiring place to live in.