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Don’t Manipulate Children

From a talk by Tim Jackins at a teachers’ and leaders’ workshop in Hebron, Connecticut, USA, May 2000

We do a lot of things to small ones. Some of these things are completely patterned and not intelligent at all. Some of them do probably need to happen, but we’re often not letting the young ones be a part of it. We’re not letting them understand what’s going to happen; we’re not informing them. We’re just doing it, and it comes as a surprise and feels like a manipulation to the young ones. It also puts in distress about their lives being manipulated by the patterns of adults. Then, like with any pattern, the distress gets restimulated not just by irrational things but also by anything that looks a little bit like what originally happened. If we go in and interrupt how they are clamping down on themselves and not discharging, it’s probably going to restimulate that distress. Then when they cry, they’re crying about a couple of things: they’re crying about the hurt they got, and they’re crying about how our actions have restimulated them into feeling helpless.

It’s better to not play that manipulating role, to not use our larger physical advantage to manipulate the situation. How many of you have feelings of powerlessness you still need to work on? Guess where they got started? Yes, they got started in your childhood when you were treated as small and unimportant and not very intelligent.

Of course all children are tremendously intelligent. They don’t have all the information adults do, but they think just fine. They have ideas and wishes and aspirations and plans they’d like to test out and learn from, and they usually don’t get the chance to. We’re too impatient. Society has our lives marching too fast for us to be able to slow down and let learning take place.

Because we were manipulated as children, we tend to unthinkingly do things in that direction unless we’re really careful and thoughtful about it. You don’t want to go in as a child’s counselor too forcefully. It isn’t the force that will let young ones discharge; it’s your attention.

Often what they’re avoiding is feeling your attention. All you have to do is get close enough, maybe call their name, and just not go away. If they run out of the room, you can run after them. You don’t have to stop them. You can just run after them—it will work just as well.

Some of the best sessions I’ve given to young ones have been when they’re on the other side of a locked door and all I do is go “tap, tap, tap.” They blow up wonderfully—cry and scream and storm and throw things at the door for twenty minutes, while I just sit there. I probably don’t even need to be there. (laughter) Twenty minutes later I go “tap, tap, tap” again, and they’re reminded that I’m there and still thinking about them and they can storm at me some more.

If you lie down on the floor and look up at young ones when they’re concentrating on something, just slip your head under their stare, they’ll often turn away. You’ve probably seen that when you’ve tried to pay attention to them. They can’t quite bear it, and they can’t quite dare to discharge. You may remember that from your own childhood. (laughter)

Don’t be in a hurry, and don’t think you have to impose something. We fall into that because we are comparatively big and powerful and because we were handled that way when we were children. It isn’t what works best for young ones.

They need our attention, but they need it in a way that feels safe to them. It’s different for every child—it’s different for every person—but it’s all about your attention. That’s the valuable part of you: your mind and putting it at their disposal.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 186, January 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00