Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Relatedness - the adverarial legal system, parents and teachers

Self Determination theory explains that people's interests and intrinsic motivation are best served when their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are met.
When kids are behaviorally challenging in the home, classroom or playground their needs for ' relatedness '  are not only ignored but in most cases the relationship is used against them in order to teach them a lesson. Caregivers' acceptance and love is made contingent on behavior.

This in part is due to the 'adversarial' legal system, the model upon which our legal system is based. The business of the parties is not to find the truth , but to win.  A lawyer needs to believe that his client has justice on his side and then go into battle.  Enemies, is what the system is all about- the need to beat the other side in the courtroom , win at all costs invites unethical behavior. The unethical practice of lawyers is more about the competitive structure of law, the intrinsic nature of the adversarial ethic itself , than the moral fibre of lawyers themselves.

 Instead of relatedness we get division and polarity – we against them , the good guys vs the bad guys , and then the court adjudicates who won , who lost , who are the good or bad guys. The court then issues sentences – retribution and the bad guys must pay for their crimes.

The problem is that we see  Right and Wrong as the only two possibilities.

 Anne Strick –' Injustice for all'  urges that   consensus through cooperative exploration , should replace the concept of truth through battle.'   - Alfie Kohn - No Contest , the case against competition 

In fact nearly 2000 years ago the prophet Zachariah said that  judges should  give verdicts that were expressions of truth and peace ( Zachariah 8:16 ). The commentary says that he urged judges to encourage the parties to settle – reach a compromise -  with the help of the court . In the adversarial system parties  need to settle disputes  outside the courtroom.

The problem with compromise is that because someone loses out , so  the verdict cannot be truthful. The answer is that in the end , everyone benefits because the essential needs of ' relatedness '  are being met. The 2 parties need not avoid each other and can sit at the same table at a wedding.

The same confrontation and lack of trust we find in the court room , we  also find in families and in schools. Parents and teachers use rules and laws to  dictate behavior and  the only possibilities as right and wrong . So when a rule is broken , what is called for is punishment , retribution ,consequences , detentions and suspensions .

But if we use guidelines of moral behavior and talk about expectations and then when those expectations are not met , we can do something different. Parents and teachers can ask why expectations are not being met and help the kids reflect and  look for solutions to problems.  Solving problems in a collaborative way ensures that solutions address the concerns of all parties and protect the relationship between kids and their caregivers.

Parents , teachers, principals , judges , management etc , in fact all human beings must be aware of the important human need of ' Relatedness ' and give expression to this value. After all that has been said and done  - people need to live together and work together.

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