Go back to the moment when you chose to work as a caregiver of teacher, or when you decided to have children. What dreams and expectations did you have then? 

I don’t think we all had the same dreams, but we probably all dreamed about being kind and loving towards others and the connection we would feel with them. This is naturel, because caring for others is a natural expression of our loving core quality. 


But if you look at the reality now. Do you always manage to be as loving and warm towards the people you serve as you dreamt about? Probably not. 

Most of us have two faces: a warm and loving face when everything goes smooth or when a person or child explicitly appeals to our warm feelings. When it goes awkward, when the person or child doesn’t listen to us, or does something harmful, our cold and harsh face appear. 


We often assume that we cannot influence this; it just happens to us. But this isn’t true. It is a conditioned pattern, developed by our lessons in life in which we try to ‘survive’ at challenging moments. It’s our wall of ‘self-protection’. We fight ourselves out of a situation we find awkward, without facing the real problem and dealing with it. And every time we do this, we reconfirm the situation we do not want and it brings us into a positon that only costs us a lot of energy. And above all, it makes us respond to others in such a way that they won’t learn to feel safe with us and unconditionally loved by us: the opposite of what we want.


The first step in our change is to look at how you respond on the behavior of others. You have to look at your own attitude, without any judgments. There is no good or bad. It is just as it is.

How do I respond on disturbing behaviors?


Confronting the person with what he does;

Making the person responsible for the effect of his behavior;

Warning him to stop;

Looking harsh;

Talking harsh / yelling at the person;

Using punishment;

Grabbing the person;

Isolating the person;

Ignoring the person;

Only helping him when he behaves better;

Only being kind again when he apologizes.



Minimizing the effect;

Giving warm protection;

Giving unconditional help;

Providing nearness;

Making warm and safe eye contact;

Talking warm and kind;

Evoking warm reciprocity;

Non-violent communication and attitude.

If you look at these two sides, you most likely want to be on the warm side, but you also realize yourself that you not always manage to do so.

Your preference for the warm side is natural. It’s the side with which we express our core quality of caring for others (also called compassion).  Moreover we know this side gives satisfaction and energy. The cold side on the contrary costs us energy and gives no satisfaction.


Why do we fall back on the cold side?

There are several reasons why we fall back on the cold side. First it is because it is so familiar for most of us. There is a big chance that we already got familiar with this posture when we were still very young: at home with our parents, in the street, at school. Look around in the street, in the supermarket or in the waiting room in the hospital, how many parents react on their children of they do something that disturbs the parents. We see it all over where we are, so it’s no wonder we know it so well and think it’s normal.

This also made it our habitual pattern on which we fall back when we are facing challenges. Or when we are tired or have a lot on our mind.


What if the person needs it?

An argument often used is that a child or a person with special needs won’t listen when you ask him in a warm an gentle way to change what he is doing, and that he needs it to be approached in a harsh and domineering way.


Once in a while Joan can be stressed and act ‘negative’ towards the caregiver. When this happens she usually is corrected in a short, but domineering way: “Hey, stop doing this!” You don’t even have to say this loud, but the combination with a stern look will help.


Joan stops. Joan and the caregiver are used to this and both of them seem to accept this.

But by doing this, both the caregiver and Joan keep training the cold posture. And if she is more upset and doesn’t respond on the mild correction, the caregiver has to become more domineering.


So it’s better to train the warm posture. When Joan is a little bit upset, don’t control her, but invite her to come to you or allow you to come to her to give her warm support. “Hey Joan, please come and sit with me. What can I do to help you?”


If she is not yet too disconnected and lost in her inner turmoil, she will come to you and together you practice the warm solution for this moment.

This is a huge misunderstanding.  When a person is troubled and doesn’t listen, it’s a sign that he is losing himself in his own emotions and he is no longer in contact with you.

Usually his emotions are related to fear or insecurity. At that moment he doesn’t need us to even increase his fear by our cold and domineering posture. He needs to feel safe and loved and connected with us. This requires a consequent warm posture from our side.

The problem however is that - just as us- he also is more familiar with the cold posture. He doesn’t understand our warm words and actions. At least not in conjunction with this moment of stress.

Here we come to the essence of Gentle Teaching. We first have to teach the person to feel safe, loved, loving and connected, in order to help him when he needs our help most.

As long as we don’t leave the cold responses behind us, we will always keep training in this posture and we will also keep training the person in this posture. We better start training the opposite; the warm posture. 


Caring for yourself

If you prefer the warm side, and if you also know the warm side is better for you, why do you let circumstances or other persons push you to the cold side?

A first way to care more for yourself is to train yourself in being more and more on the warm side, and get your satisfaction and energy out of this. Changing begins with recognizing the moments when you shift from warm to cold. There are plenty moments when you think afterward “well, I could have been more kind or gentle”. These are the moments when you, without being aware of it, shifted from warm to cold on your automatic pilot.

You can use the caregiver evaluation form “Am I a gentle teacher” to become more aware of these moments.


Feeling different à acting different

When a caregiver tells me that he realizes himself he wasn’t acting very warm and tomorrow he will be more ‘gentle’, I usually give this advice: ‘Don’t try to act different, but first try to feel different’

It’s important not only to change the outward posture, but it has to begin with changing the inner posture. If you only focus on the outwards posture, the change won’t be genuine and authentic. The person will notice it and he may even feel more unsafe with you, because under your warm words, eyes and touches, he will feel cold emotions. Children and people with special needs are very sensitive for this double message we send out.

When we shift from warm to cold, it’s not only our outward posture that shifts. Also our emotions shift from warm to cold. If you decide to be warm towards Joan when she is grumbling towards you, you first have to discover how you feel when she is grumbling and how you can work with your feelings in an authentic way. Only then your change in outward posture will work and give satisfaction. Otherwise is will cost you double as much energy.


On other pages you can read more about working with emotions and supporting practices.