My late wife was a behaviorist. She worked with other humans diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and severe behavior problems. It was a hard job as she often was at risk with physical injury from their violent outbursts and emotional explosions. She taught me about Gentle Teaching, a philosophy developed by John McGee in the 80’s. It approaches the behavior problem, not by controlling the behavior but from understanding what caused
the behavior to begin with.
“Every human being needs to live
Connected with others in an equal and
Reciprocal relationship within a loving
And caring community.”
“To feel safe with each other
To feel loved by each other
To feel loving towards each other
To feel connected with each other”
She would describe a particular moment in her day when she was with a client who was acting out. And her approach was always with care. As she got down on the floor, if they were on the floor, and emulated the exact behavior the client was doing, even making noises and gestures in the same way her client was, joining them in the same behavior within their space which would often get the client’s attention and cause them to pause. And then she would demonstrate a new gentle soothing behavior. She was very effective and somewhat controversial as she followed her impulses to acknowledge the client from the inside out, not judging them from the outside in.
It’s been 14 years since she exited from this earth plane via a car accident and joined the angels on the other side to continue her work. The accident was devastating and disturbing and life changing. And yet I found gifts within the recovery I experienced.
I’ve never forgotten about gentle teaching as it’s a philosophy I use because I learn better by treating myself with gentle love and respect:
The gift of resonance in my voice that developed weeks after her passing and allows me to sing and speak from a deep place in my heart.
The gift of walking to my own drumbeat in the choices I make whether or not they are accepted and expected by my outside community.
The gift of discovering my inner strength as I navigated grief from her loss alongside grief of my daughter’s illness alongside grief of losing our family unit.
And finally, in understanding the knowledge that change always happens. Loved ones come and they go from our physical eyes but in truth they never leave. For loved ones always inhabit our spaces, inhabit our thoughts and inhabit our hearts with the gifts they share with us.
Thank you for sharing your life with us. Amazing how we can relate to pieces of it. I am reminded of a song “change is the constant.” I taught math, about variables and constants. This is at a deep level. Change is something we have to deal with. I read Karen Armstrong’s autobiography and she talks about being epileptic. I’ve had family members with that. In terms of losing people, she said it feels like we miss them more than when we had them in our lives. Without their physicality, we think more of them. I loved the image of the gentle teaching. We’d be better off if we practiced it.
If it could be a training for police officers, what a difference.
Thank you for sharing. I have a friend who is a Montessori teacher, and she uses gentleness and kindness. I always think how lucky her students are.
It’s like a Jujitsu move to change the sense of absence into the sense of presence. I don’t know how to do it yet.
You are halfway there with the thought. Getting fear out of your way is a first step.
I loved this idea of gentle teaching. It’s the opposite of what we were brought up with. I teach yoga. Kripalu yoga which is gentle. We get further if we move into a posture gently.
For a upcoming medical procedure, call in angels and place them all along your route, in the doctors’ offices, all along the way.
I was given a gift this morning. I was a religious educator for 26 years. There was a young man in particular who touched my heart. He sent a video at his wedding, with him singing to his wife. What a gift.
When we think about another person, positively, it is prayer. Raise them with our hearts