Connect Before You Correct
"Connect Before You Correct."
This happens to be one of my all time favourite Positive Discipline nuggets. Many parenting experts feel that 80% of parenting (and teaching) is simply about connection. When children feel they can relax into our love, they are more willing to receive our guidance. Brain science backs this up. Connect before you correct might sound something like this:
“Wow, you love painting so much, it sure is hard to stop! AND it is time for dinner.”
“I bet it was scary to tell me the truth. What do you think you can do to make amends?”
I am noticing that it is not just children who are more likely to cooperate when they feel their perspective is being taken into account. Grown-ups respond well to connect before you correct too! I’ve made it my new mantra when advocating for my son. Here are a couple of examples from my own life:
An older gentleman stops me and asks, “Is your son a mongoloid?”.
Deep breath. I say to myself, connect before your correct.
I smile and answer, “Yes, my son has Down syndrome.”
His eyes light up. He tells me sweet anecdotal stories about the “mongoloids” he met during his volunteer days at an Ontario Institution.
“You should volunteer again,” I say.
“You know, maybe I should,” he nods.
I gently add, “these days we don’t use the term mongoloid. Some people find it offensive. Now we use the term Down syndrome.”
“Oh, I’ll be sure to use it,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, especially someone with Down syndrome. They’re my favourite people.”
Our son’s application to a private school was declined as soon as they found out he had Down syndrome. My husband and I were hurt and angry that they wouldn’t even meet our son.
Deep breath. Connect before you correct. We wrote the following email to the school:
Dear (Person Who Shall Remain Nameless),
When we learned of our son’s diagnosis we were afraid we might not be up to the task to be his parents so we can certainly understand why you might feel reluctant to be his educators. However, we would like you to assess our son just as you would any other prospective student. We have included a link to a short video we created about his time in preschool as we would like you to know more about our son than the words Down Syndrome.
“They’re expecting your call”, she said.
Our son went through a thorough application process and was offered a spot in Junior Kindergarten. He loves his new school. Rejection was the perfect redirection.
Inclusivity isn’t born out of anger or attack. It comes from taking a pause, a deep breath, and making a choice that won’t add more fear and divisiveness to our world. I know it’s not easy, but we owe it to the parents who went before us. "Connect before you correct" models the kindness and connection we hope to see in our communities, and we need it more than ever.