In this journey toward becoming Socratic, there are only two more steps.
Step 4: Learn to be kind and tough.
At Acton, we use the terms “warm-hearted” and “tough-minded” to describe the character of a Socratic Guide. It’s not enough to show empathy and affection. Nor is it effective to weigh too heavily on holding boundaries and delivering consequences.
Being truly Socratic is a balance between the two.
Warm-hearted behaviors include listening with your whole self, affirming with growth mindset praise and supporting (not intervening) through struggles with love and presence. It is usually the fear of not being loved that drives people to be overly warm-hearted. The risk carried with it is caring more about being a friend than being a guide/parent.
On the other hand, tough-minded behaviors include sticking to your agreed upon schedule, being consistent with the delivery of consequences (ie, no special favors, or giving in because you are tired) and being crystal clear on limits and expectations. Here, the fear of losing control is what lies behind being overly tough-minded. The risk it carries is becoming a disciplinarian rather than a guide/parent.
We all lean more heavily toward one mindset and it takes self-awareness to know where you need to shift and grow. It helps to have a partner for such growth. For example, in my family, I lean too heavily on being warm-hearted. Jeff leans too heavily on being tough-minded. We need each other to become more balanced. He teaches me to hold the lines consistently and I teach him to have more empathy.
Step 5: Unpush your own buttons.
I’m no psychologist but I do know what gets me riled up about my children is more about me than about them. It’s taken years for me to recognize when my buttons are being pushed and to step back, take time and come back only when I can be fully present without heated emotions.
At Acton, we ask our guides to leave their own “stuff” at the door. In other words, don’t bring into the studio your frustrations, buttons ready to be pushed or hang ups. Come with fresh eyes and, when needed, pause and step back to get re-set.
This New York Times article gives a simple way to think about stepping back and re-framing the situation when your emotional buttons are pushed.
You are ready if you so choose to become more Socratic at home. Godspeed on your journey.