Objectivism and Behaviorism – for parents and professionals

The way we interact with children is immensely important for development and a child’s ability to become competent and cooperative children and adults.

My practice and the way I interact with children has shifted immensely over the past year. As a pediatric OTA, I used to work 100% of the time in the realm of behaviorism. Now, it pains me a bit to think about some of those past sessions and the opportunities I missed with my little clients. Objectivism has changed me as a person for the better which in turn, has made me a more effective therapist.

Objectivism is based on a shared understanding that infants and children are conscious human beings from day one. This conflicts with subconscious beliefs that have been passed down through generations. Beliefs that children are not rational and should be treated as less than adults, talked down to, and controlled to teach behavior.

Fortunately, we have access to updated research on child development. If this concept is new to you or piques your interest, definitely read A Theory of Objectivist Parenting and watch this video from The Mellow Mama. I love her statement, “babies are not potatoes.” It’s true! Babies and children are conscious beings and should be treated with respect just as we would treat a friend, coworker, or spouse.

I’m not a parent – but I have been fortunate enough to work with dozens of families, each with their own parenting style and household culture. I also intentionally seek out research, mentorship, and knowledge from experts in parenting. The way I interact with kids in session parallels a style of parenting called Objective Parenting. It can also look a lot like RIE or Respectful Parenting or some aspects of the Montessori Method.

Whether you are a pediatric professional or parent, I hope that you are able to take the pieces that speak to you. Take what works and leave the rest behind!

So what is Objective Parenting?

My friend and mentor, Katie from Thriving Littles, helped me put this into eloquent words with her definition. “Objective parenting is non-judgemental parenting without expectation or perspective of what should be without meeting individuals where they are.” Objective parenting or interaction with children looks like leaving out our perspectives of what a child “should” be doing in the moment. Instead – observing what they need in the moment, then meeting them there without judgement.

A mama by the name of Caroline who writes on The Medium – PERFECTLY summarized Tracy Hogg’s work. The Objective Parenting Challenge – has a description of Subjective vs. Objective Parenting –

“Objective parents are motivated by their child’s individual needs, while subjective parents are motivated by their own emotions. Consequently, subjective parents react to emotions from within themselves rather than detaching and responding to what is going on within the child.”

Whoa! Yes! This had been my exact experience while shifting from Behaviorism to Objectivism in my pediatric practice. In my sessions, I had my own thoughts on needed to happen with a child during activities I chose. All the while, the child was sending me messages of what they needed from me as the adult in that moment. All I needed to do was to get out of my own ego and pay attention!

Theoretically, Behaviorism and Objectivism differ greatly — so what are they at their core? Glad you asked… Let’s break that down a little bit.

Behaviorism

The book that changed it all for me, A Theory of Objectivist Parenting states if perfectly. “Behaviorist parenting is: influencing a child’s behavior using any method of intentional reward (from an approving glance to praise to bribery) or any method of intentional punishment (from a disapproving glance to threats to spanking).”

More simply put

Something a child does is a behavior. Our society qualifies behaviors. You may typically see a little one sharing a toy or saying ‘please’ as a “good” behavior and hitting someone or crying in a store as a “bad” behavior. Behaviorism often uses rewards or punishment to encourage a behavior to either continue or stop. How often do we hear the reward “Good girl, that was good,” or the punishment of shaming “Bad boys do that, you were a bad boy.”

As a pediatric therapist, I can tell you behaviorism is the norm. It is how we currently raise children. It is how I was raised and how at least 95% of parents currently interact with their kids.

If you want to learn more on why this may not be ideal for children, watch the videos below from Thriving Littles and The Mellow Mama YouTube Channels. They’re gold!

Objectivism

SO – what is this beautiful theory that’s gaining ground among parents and therapists everywhere?

Objectivsm. I like to define Objectivsm in child interaction is a sequence: Observing a behavior, taking in the information, checking judgement, then regulating ourselves with mindful intention, then responding to what a child needs in that moment.

I first learned of Objectivism through Kaitlyn Sapp of The Mellow Mama – she recommended Rosyn Ross’ book, A Theory of Objective Parenting.

Objectivism looks like:

From a Parenting Perspective:

Every parent’s super power – knowing their child, what works for them, what they need in each moment to enjoy the world around them

Generally:

  • Acceptance of a current situation
  • Acceptance that your worth is not determined by a child’s needs or behavior (therapists:their ability to complete a task that YOU chose.)
  • Mindfulness and acknowledgement of what your opinions are on what a child “should” be (i.e. “a child should be polite” “a child should be quiet” “a child should behave in their car seat” “a child should sleep through the night at ___ months old”
  • Awareness of neurological development and what children are truly capable of emotionally at certain ages (this one is KEY for me)

I’m all in! What do you think?

Now that I’m all in for Objectivism in my practice – my heart hurts sometimes when I think on some of the behaviors we expect of children, before they are neurologically or otherwise ready.

My heart really is pained when I think back on sessions early on in my career and what I was asking children to do when they weren’t ready. So many missed opportunities to connect with them and help them feel seen in a moment. Those moments could have been nurturing and promoting growth rather than a moment of requirement of accepted performance or behavior.

What’s really beautiful (to me) is there are so many ways to parent – and the most beautiful part? You get to choose what is right for your family and your child. Not everything is for everyone and I understand that fully. I truly believe that even if Objectivist parenting is implemented imperfectly can make a massive difference in the quality of life of children everywhere.

I found Objectivism earlier this year and to be honest, its been near impossible for me to go back to any sort of Behaviorism strategies, it’s changed not only how I interact with children, but also friends, family, and the world around me. I truly believe it can change the world!

Contact me and let me know what you think! I love to connect with both parents and professionals to discuss emerging topics. I can point you in the right direction for more resources and I have resources for parent coaching I can provide you as well.

If you want to learn more:

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