This article was published in the December 2013 issue of Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. The online version is at www.ponthep.com.
Studies have shown that people who feel appreciation have greater joy in their life. Imagine how happy your family will be when each member appreciates each other. Imagine less criticism and more connection, caring and cooperation.
To make these changes, think of your family as a garden where you plant the seeds of appreciation, weed the words of condemnation and fertilize with words of loving structure. You can be the gardener leading your family towards greater joy through your example of skillful parenting.
The processes of planting, weeding and fertilizing are most effective when occurring simultaneously. However, change takes time and effort so choose whichever part of the process is easiest first. Try making determined efforts for two weeks and journal the changes you see and feel in yourself, your partner and your children. The results will encourage you to continue.
Planting the seeds of appreciation and affirmation in your own heart first can be challenging. To appreciate your child takes effort especially if you were raised with criticism as the primary parenting tactic to get obedience. Some believe that pointing out children’s faults will result in kids turning out “right”. I propose that the reverse is true. When kids feel respected, loved and affirmed, they feel better about themselves and this is what brings out their best.
A family where everyone appreciates each other is a safe haven. Appreciation multiplies when it is given freely. Words of appreciation are similar to words of affirmation of your child’s capabilities in that your children feel that you care about them, love them and even like them.
When you appreciate, make sure you are not saying words to manipulate your child to do what you want. Let the appreciation stand alone. “Thank you so much for helping me with the groceries.” Period!
Examples of appreciation are:
I appreciate you when you …
I feel appreciated when you …
That was a big help when you …
I love getting hugs, thank you.
Affirmation words examples:
I noticed how you helped your sister with her socks. You’re really a great brother (sister). (Ignore any negative behavior at this moment. Only focus on the positive.)
I see that you were able to fix your own snack. That shows maturity when you can take care of yourself. (Don’t focus on the mess in the kitchen at this time.)
As in every garden, there are weeds to be pulled. While focusing on appreciating and affirming your kids, it is just as important to focus on what words not to say. I’m calling these “poison words” because they keep the good feelings and self-worth from growing.
When parents get angry, they can say poison words that get implanted in their children’s hearts. You apologize yet the hurt feelings still linger to be brought up another day. You’ll know the weeds have grown when your children say, “You don’t like me, “You think I’m stupid or even “You wished you didn’t have me.”
Avoid these poison and hurtful words.
You’re supposed to
You ought to
You’re just like
That’s not the way ____ would
How many times
That is irrelevant
And shaming, name-calling, threatening, blaming, and assuming the worst.
Don’t worry. Your child’s heart can still be mended. Focus on big doses of appreciation and you will notice an increase of love and cooperation. Remember the old saying; you get more bees with honey than vinegar. It’s true.
The final process of fertilizing is to state limits and expectations clearly and with loving structure so children grow strong and resilient. A “Do what I say” approach feels disrespectful and can lead to rebellion and revenge.
At the beginning, often limits need to be repeated. Expect this and remain calm. Make sure you have their attention by looking in their eyes and/or gently touching your child. Do not yell from across the room. Reduce the number of words as you repeat the instructions.
· It’s time to get ready for bed. (Child complains) 2nd time: It’s bedtime” (Child complains) 3rd time: Bed, now.
· After you finish your homework then you can watch TV. (Child complains) 2nd time: Homework first then TV. (Child complains) 3rd time: Homework first. Be careful not to add threats such as if you don’t …. then … ….
Be a conscientious gardener and watch your joyful family blossom.
©2013 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 341.0779 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.