From The Book – ‘Your Child is Your Parent’
IMPROVING YOUR CHILD’S BEHAVIOUR
Most of the problems that we, as parents, face today regarding the behaviour of children are related mainly to one emotion, that is, anger. A child can have varied levels of anger, ranging from the lowest, which is mere irritation, to being upset, bugged, disgusted, annoyed, frustrated or furious, which is the highest level.
If you are perceptive, you will find the source of your child’s anger or low self-esteem very close to you. You know where? Yes, right in your home. The behaviour of your child reflects the atmosphere of your home.
Your child is a mirror to the parent’s way of being. So the best way to change a child’s behaviour is to change the atmosphere at your home.
THE ‘BIRD’ LANGUAGE
If your child becomes angry, however, there is a unique method of dealing with it wherein we first explain to the child that anger is like a bird. Whenever you are hurt, upset, annoyed, irritated, frustrated, disgusted or furious, the bird comes to you flying and sits right on top of your head. After giving this brief explanation, you should ask the child his opinion as to what he would like to do with the bird; for example, you could ask the following questions:
Would you like it if the bird sits on your head?
What would you want to do when the bird sits on your head?
Would you like the bird to go away?
Tell the child that there are various ways of sending the bird away and that she may follow any, depending on the situation and her instinct:
- He may ask his parents or anybody else who is with him at that time to leave him alone, following which he may sit down and do the AUM technique (this consists of sitting in the meditative posture and inhaling slowly and fully, and then exhaling slowly along with the voicing of the universal sound, AUM. This may then be repeated several times).
As he pronounces AUM for the first time, he should visualise that he is telling the bird to fly away, at the second pronunciation of AUM, he should visualise that the bird is opening its wings, and by the third pronunciation of AUM, it would have gone.
- Another technique which may help the bird to go away is by taking a pen and a paper, and drawing out exactly what he is feeling at the moment.
- He should also be made to realise that sometimes the bird comes due to simple reasons such as hunger or lack of sleep. When the reasons are so simple, then the bird can be easily driven away by simply eating a little or getting some sleep.
- Sometimes, the bird may simply go away if you have a bath and get into a fresh set of clothes.
We have classified the birds into 7 types, depending on the varying degrees of anger:
- a) When you are hurt, the bird is the smallest, i.e., the humming bird.
- b) When you are upset, the bird is slightly bigger, i.e., the sparrow.
- c) When you are annoyed, the bird is even bigger, i.e., the pigeon.
- d) When you are irritated, the bird is really big, i.e., the crow.
- e) When you are frustrated, the bird is among the biggest, i.e., the eagle.
- f) When you are disgusted, the bird is the biggest and the ugliest, i.e., the vulture.
- g) When you are uncontrollably angry or furious, the bird is the largest of them all, i.e., the ostrich.
- h) The last one is, jokingly, dinosaur.
WHY DOES THIS ‘BIRD LANGUAGE’ WORK?
When one is angry, it feels like your whole being is angry; it feels like you have become uncontrollable, and in such a situation, you react violently. After the initial surge of anger has died down, one may begin to feel very sorry, very low, very sad, very awkward and very embarrassed.
The same issue which was earlier beyond your control may now seem very trivial, and you may begin to wonder if it could have been possible for you to have behaved in a more dignified way instead of reacting so strongly. In other words, the self-esteem takes a dip, and you begin to look down upon yourself. Imagine this happening 6 to 7 times a day or even more.
The above process of dealing with anger helps one to understand that anger is not something that is inside of you and, therefore, it cannot control you.
Anger is something external to your being and therefore it is OK to get angry, and, although it may come on very unexpectedly, driving it away is totally under your control. This, in a way, is a form of meditation. The above technique when used correctly can solve almost all issues relating to anger.
Anger, when expressed negatively, can be very damaging; however, the same when channelised in a proper direction proves to be very positive, giving one a lot of energy and gust to move ahead.
Whenever a child is angry, and you ask him, “Why are you angry?” he will get even more upset. But if you speak to him in the bird metaphor, he will be able to detach himself from the anger, and thus handle the situation much faster and in a better way. In the whole process, the most important point to note is that the whole family should use the bird metaphor.
When a child has a ‘bird attack’, the parent should not make fun of it, or he will get more upset. The parent should, instead, go very gently and compassionately to the child and say softly, “I think the bird has come. Let us see how we can make it fly away”.
Another method that can be tried is as follows:
Tell the child to place the bird on your (i.e., mamma’s or papa’s) head. Then, if the child is receptive, take his permission, and if allowed, enact his behaviour (imitate her). He will then laugh and the bird will have gone. This works better when the bird is a small one.
I have tried and tested this technique many times with my child. I cite below a few examples.
One evening when I was sitting in silence, Wednesdays happen to be my days of silence, on the terrace, I suddenly heard Vedoci frantically calling from below, “Papa, papa, come down fast, mummy’s got a big bird”. I hurried down to Vedoci and we both helped Nina, my wife, into a room and closed the door behind her, leaving her alone.
This goes to show that even at the small age of 5, Vedoci was capable of realising that her mother was disturbed over something and that the best way to deal with it was to isolate her from the situation and leave her to herself.
On another occasion, I was on a tour, and in a telephonic conversation with Vedoci, I happened to ask her if any bird had come in the last few days when I was away. After having thought for some time, Vedoci replied, “Yes, a small bird had come”. I further inquired in the same manner about Nina. Promptly, Vedoci answered, “Yes, papa, when my bird came, mummy’s bird also came”. Here again, a small child like Vedoci had the realisation that it was her anger that had triggered off her mom’s anger.
Enquiring about the happenings of her day, I casually asked Vedoci one day, “Did a bird come today?” When Vedoci replied in the positive, I probed her further, “Which bird was it, a vulture?” Immediately, Vedoci stuck out her tongue, put her hand to her mouth, and shook her head violently from side to side, “No, no”, she said, “the vulture is too big; mine was only a sparrow”.
By now, due to continuous practice, Vedoci had begun to realise, understand and judge the levels of her anger. She had also realised that a big bird like a vulture might prove to be harmful.
Another day, Vedoci said to me, “I saw a bird coming, but before it could enter my head, it flew away”. Again, here, it goes to show that Vedoci had now begun to recognise and track emotions, which is actually very complicated even for adults to do.
One day, Vedoci was refusing to let Nina go out, and was clinging on to her. Slightly upset, Nina told Vedoci that if she sticks on, her (Nina’s) bird would come. This, in turn, upset Vedoci, and she told her mother that if she leaves, a bird would come to her (Vedoci). At this point, I intervened and told them both that if a bird came to both their heads, then a bird would come to my head, too.
Note, here, how each one of us is actually forecasting their temperaments. This obviously helps us to have more control over our emotions. A seemingly tense situation had thus become lighter and playful.
For best results, it is important that every person in the house uses the same ‘bird metaphor’, whether it is spoken to the child or between two adults.
Similarly, other emotions may also be separated from the body; for example, “I am tired” may be reframed as “My body is low in energy; it requires rest” or “I am hungry” may be reframed as “My stomach is empty; it requires food”.
This whole technique of bird language is actually a manifestation of the knowledge that one is separate from one’s emotions — this is exactly what meditation is. Keep applying this technique with your child, and, gradually, even you will be applying this in all the areas of your life.
Consequently, you become more and more meditative, which is the true nature of your self. You and your family get to see how passing emotions are transcended by effortless meditative awareness. A child masters this art far quicker than the rest of the family.