The stern face and the cross voice are coercive emotional tools, which tell the target person that they are not ok. Coercive emotion can be devastating for some people, but there is currently little-to-no social prohibition against using it on children. I recently put into words how it’s important to remain warm, calm and respectful with my children at all times. A manner that you would simply call “professional” in the work context. Every time I come up with a revelation about how my kids need to be treated with respect, a helpful friend reminds me that all kids benefit from such treatment. This post explains how reliance on coercive use of emotions can routinely downward spiral.
My diagram (below) is based on an understanding of autism and empathy.
Consider emotion as consisting of:
INPUT (reading emotion),
PROCESSING (what you feel) and
OUTPUT (conveying emotion).
The Autist has less ability to input and output subtle emotion, but experiences emotion deeply and even overwhelmingly.
A child whose emotional experience follows this pattern cannot be taught by an adult who thinks that coercive emotion is acceptable and normal. Here’s how the downward spiral works:
1- adult uses a stern face or other coercive emotion to convey the seriousness of a matter
2- target child does not perceive the emotional message
3- in the absence of expected feedback, adult increases emotional pressure
4- child perceives but does not show any response to the emotion
5- adult further increases emotional pressure until they see some sign of appropriate feedback
6- child is internally overwhelmed by the emotion, their brain is in full fight-or-flight mode, unable to think, recall or commit anything to memory
7- adult may become angry that the child is ignoring them, and/or they may assume that the child is stupid
8- child’s first outward sign of emotion is of extreme distress
9- adult perceives the child’s sudden, explicable display of extreme emotion as the child’s behavioral problem
I do wonder how many children have been denied an education by a culture which makes the learning environment untenable for them.
Everything I know about autism can fit on the back on an envelope:
a) I’ve read Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson.
b) I know that while food intolerance does not cause autism, it can exacerbate the symptoms in some people, so it’s worth checking out.
c) And I owe a debt of gratitude to this author for explaining how Autists are highly emotional for all that emotional communication is difficult.