It’s not often you meet a true ECE trailblazer.
But with 30 years’ experience, 2 million top-selling books in circulation, and 20 million children in 47 countries benefiting from her work, it’s fair to say Dr. Becky Bailey is leading the way.
And like most pioneers, her journey hasn’t always been easy.
Becky spent many years waiting for her “lightning-strike moment.” She veered from medical school to psychology training, worked as a teacher for many years, and discovered a passion for neuroscience after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car accident.
But it was working in a Florida university where she hit some major difficulties.
Despite her experience and talent for the job, Becky was getting paid way less than other teachers. Even worse, the lack of respect for ECE pros—known as "babysitters" by other members of staff—was holding her back from achieving what she needed to. (Sound familiar?)
Frustrated with the system and knowing she could change the world, Becky stepped out on her own and created Conscious Discipline.
Fast forward 30 years and the Conscious Discipline method is taught to millions of people across age ranges and wealth divides—even doctors, police officers, and the U.S. Secret Service have benefitted from her work!
Yep, Becky has spearheaded a wellbeing revolution in ECE—and we think that’s totally awesome.
We caught up with Dr. Bailey to find out all about Conscious Discipline, why adults should always come first, and how leaders can use conscious decision-making to inspire change for the better.
Check it out!
Table of contents
From teacher to teacher’s guru
“I've had some different experiences that were certainly eye opening and they all kind of led me to the path of where I am today,” says Becky. “I'm a teacher, but I ended up impacting a lot of people—but still I'm just your basic teacher and I'm amazed at how it spread.”
From her array of qualifications to the awesome podcast she now hosts, it’s clear that Becky’s sense of curiosity has been key to her success—and it all started in the classroom.
“I kind of asked myself, now, why is the child doing that? Why is this happening? Why do I get so frustrated? Why do I seem to not be able to reach this child? I'm constantly trying to be my best teacher and in that kind of metacognitive state, then I can relay all my information to [others].”
Becky started to realize the system she was a part of was flawed. And after a move across the country to Florida, her frustrations mounted.
“When I got here I had to fight within the university with the other educators because we were at that point [treated like] babysitters… That's how I moved into [thinking] ‘I'll do it my way. I'll remove myself and start a business—you're just stopping me from what we all need to know.’ …That was the frustration moment. It was a moment of, ‘I've had enough.’”
So, Becky created Conscious Discipline—a decision that sent her career into an upward spiral.
“We planted seeds and the seeds scattered as teachers and providers and educators, you know, they just went all over. And so now we've got such a critical mass that… we can see whole schools, whole programs, whole agencies [using Conscious Discipline]… It's seeds that grow and now… there's some trees around and a couple bushes and little flowers,” Becky laughs.
Conscious adults = conscious children
In an increasingly noisy world, Becky believes the key to wellbeing is through helping adults achieve a sense of calm.
And with today’s educators experiencing twice as much work stress as the average US employee, teacher wellness should be at the top of every leader’s agenda.
“The ultimate goal [of Conscious Discipline] is wellbeing,” says Becky. “We're all living, including children, with our buttons pushed all day long without the ability to manage that upset. It's a dangerous combination.”
For Becky, it’s all about reducing that “upset” to help adults—and ultimately the children they take care of—develop into conscious, connective humans.
“Conscious Discipline is a very comprehensive self-regulation (or social emotional learning) program based on neuroscience,” she says, “It takes the brain and says, what do we need? What skills does a person need to help the child in front of you feel safe? And how do we reach children who are very defended and don't want to be reached? How do we help people [be] disciplined enough to set and achieve their goals? Conscious enough to know when they’re off in the weeds? And willing enough—which means connected enough to yourself, to the planet, to each other—to come back and continue and persevere on that goal?”
For a naturally curious person like Becky, it’s easy to see why she would be keen to pursue questions like these.
But it’s not just for her own sake that she does such an awesome job—Becky’s main concern is to make the world a better place by giving adults the skills they need to develop happy, healthy children.
“We're imploding on ourselves either through depression and aggression or anxiety and phobias… and we have to do something about that,” she says, “How you determine the health of a nation is how well we deal with our children—generally zero to five years of age. That’s how you destroy a culture… We're doing this unconsciously and that's why my program is called Conscious Discipline.”
“If we want our children to be better off than we were, [we have to ask] ‘Where does your heart hurt?’ and ‘How did it get that way?’ and ‘How do you want to heal your heart so that you don't pass it down to the next generation?’”
How to ace conscious discipline in 3 simple steps
It’s not just children that can benefit from the Conscious Discipline approach.
Becky works with businesses to help leaders develop the skills they need for a healthy, happy, and productive workforce.
Becky believes the key to a positive working culture is a simple three-step plan to get you started—but first you need to pinpoint the people in your business who are most willing to make the change.
“Work with the willing and watch your organization change,” says Becky. “Feed them the skills they might want... Let them be a model so that the others look at you and go ['Conscious Discipline is for me']. Work with your best, invest in your best, and your garden will grow.”
Here’s Becky’s three-step plan to Conscious Discipline:
“How we discipline ourselves in our head is how we're going to discipline [others] in crucial moments,” says Becky. “Generally we're very mean to ourselves in our head. So, we have to say, where does that voice in my head come from?... I ask adults, ‘Would you like to learn how to treat yourself better so that you could be all that you want to be for [others]? Would you like the skills that would help you when you get upset so that you don't beat the crap out of your own self?' And most adults will say, 'Yes, please.' So, that's where we start.”
What it comes down to for Becky, is self-respect.
“We have to change how we treat ourselves first and then we'll change how we treat others. We have to start with ourselves. So be the change you want to see.”