Constant Positive Regard

act as you think

There’s a concept in psychology called Unconditional Positive Regard. It means to set aside biases and to think well of someone and accept them regardless of their actions. Professional helpers like therapists and coaches this practice this all the time to build a relationship with a client the create a no judgement zone to support them and help them reach their goals.

 

As parents, this may or may not be an easy thing to do. If you and your child are in a cycle of reactivity to each other there is a lot of mistrust and judgement flowing from both of you. There is a lot a parent can do to be the one to restore an atmosphere of connection and trust. One of the main things you can do it to remember your love for this child and practice a constant positive regard for your child.

 

If your find yourself complaining about your child, and getting tense just thinking about your child you need to restore your positive regard for your child. I blogged and kept a Facebook chronicle of my children when they were very young. I took tons of pictures of them- and still do. I love the Facebook feature of Memories on this day. I check it every day and get an “aww” feeling when I see pictures and cute saying of my kids when they were little. Look back on your memories with your children and get that sweet feeling of nostalgia. Give hugs. Build hugs into your routine; hugs when they leave for school or you go to work. Hugs before bedtime. Hugs are affection, acceptance and a transfer of warmth and love- positive regard.

 

You may need to just take some time out and sit and think about your child. Do it as a mindfulness exercise. Sit where you can see your child when he or she is occupied with something else and you can just quietly sit by. Think of your child when they were born or when they entered your family and the warm and overwhelming feelings of love you had then. Think of what you love about your child. That walk, the way they laugh, how sweet they look sleeping. Think of his or her talents, their generosity, and what makes them so special to you. Just take some time to think of only positive thoughts and love toward your child. Set aside the friction and irritations and saturate your mind with positive regard.

 

Just like “you are what you eat” you also act as you think. Your thoughts affect your feelings and your actions. Next time your child has a big behavior, it will be easier to see the child behind the behavior and stay calm to try to meet their needs. So decide to keep positive thoughts toward your child, and watch how your constant positive regard affects your relationship to keep you connected with your child.

Choosing Connections: Problem Solving with your Child

problem solving

Choosing Connections is a positive parenting approach in which the goal is to keep communication and connection open with your child. It is helping a child solve a problem instead of causing a child to suffer because he has a problem.

 

To choose connection is to see past the behaviors of a child and realize that he is trying to communicate through his behavior. I help parents build their skills to see what a child is trying to communicate through their behaviors and help the parents to stay in a calm, regulated body to stay connected with their child. When a parent chooses to be available, calm and curious, the parent and child can work together to meet both of their needs which will build connection and trust.

 

Children can also understand what parents are communicating through their own behaviors. If a parent yells, criticizes, complains, nags, and blames, the child understands that the parent is trying to control a child’s behavior. This may result in a child’s choice to obey to a parent’s wishes, but they will not do it from a place of connection, they will do it because a parent has the greater power.

 

We are all good at wielding our parental power and telling a child how we are going to solve his problem-

“Go to your room!”

“Get your shoes on!”

“Stop doing that!”

 

Instead of telling a child how you are going to solve his problem, try asking your child to help you solve the problem. The problem-solving rules are that each of you can only offer what you are willing to do to solve the problem. No blaming, no criticizing. Stay calm. Make sure you both understand the rules.

 

“The problem is that we need to get to that appointment. Let’s see, I could get everything in the car, and get it running, or I could help you put on your shoes if you need help.” Then see what your child has to offer.

 

By offering what you can to help solve the problem, it keeps communication open helps you both feel closer and gives the child a shared sense of power and freedom to solve the problem. He has options. You may find out that your child has some impressive problem-solving skills when given the chance to solve a problem with you.

Rethinking Discipline

discipline

Positive Parenting is all about connecting to your child and keeping that the first goal in all communications with your child. Discipline actually means “to teach”. Someone recently asked me how I discipline my children, what they meant was, “how do you punish them when they don’t do the right thing?”  Discipline is helping a child solve a problem, not punishing them because they have a problem. We can do this as parents even when the child has not done the “right thing.”

 

Let’s assume your child has done something wrong, it probably won’t be too hard to go back in your recent memory to think of an example. The traditional way to “discipline” that child and teach that that is not ok is to get loud, lecture and dole out punishment. Think back to when you were a child, did that work? If you decided not to do that activity again, it was probably because the consequence was not worth it, not because you were convinced it was wrong. And if the consequences were not a deterrent to your activity, you probably just got better at hiding it from your parent. Walls are up, tempers are up, and connection is down.

 

Also, think of the last time you were reprimanded as an adult, how did that feel? You probably felt belittled and angry even if you deserved the reprimand. Your child has similar feelings and wants the same thing you want in those situations, empathy and connection.

 

So. when you need to correct your child, think of these three things:

Stay calm

Stay connected

and teach

 

Stay calm is the biggest one. Once you can control your own impulses to react and slow down and take a deep breath before engaging with your child, the rest should come easier.

 

Stay connected by validating the child’s feelings if you know what they are. If you don’t know what they are, be curious and ask questions.

“I know you don’t want to share your toy with your sister, that can be frustrating.”

Or

“You seem angry, can you tell me about it?”

 

Take the time to connect especially when your child is caught in the act of doing something they know you wouldn’t approve of. This helps the child keep his own thinking brain online instead of being reactive, and is able to listen and engage by mirroring your calm and connection.

 

 

Depending on how emotionally charged the situation is, you may decide to teach now or later. If you are upset, please talk to your child later about his behavior. When you feel like it is a good time, talk with your child about the incident.

“Hey about that thing that happened this morning, that didn’t go so well, what do you think we can do next time?

 

This type of discipline affords the child with respect and empathy and allows him to make his own path to right a wrong to maintain connection rather than out of feelings of shame and anger. It’s connection.

New Year- Choosing Connections

So, I’m a Doctor Who fan. There’s a great statement that the Doctor makes when he is regenerating into yet another form of “the Doctor.” If you don’t watch Doctor Who, that’s ok, the quote is still good.

dr who quote on change

New Year resolutions are about making changes in your own life to be happier with yourself. Change is good, change can be slow, but remember who you were, and embrace who you are- and keep moving forward.

As parents we want to be better parents and we often fall into a self defeating pattern of beating ourselves up when we make mistakes. Just know, the mistakes will always be there, no amount of parent coaching, classes and tips will result in perfect parenting, unless you find a way to no longer be human. It comes with the territory. What you can do this year is embrace who you are, and let your kids see how you deal with your mistakes. You don’t always have to be right, and even though much of the time, we are right in our battles with our children, we may not make good choices in enforcing our rightness.

This year, instead of focusing on your mistakes, focus on restoring the relationship after strong words have been exchanged. Wait until you and your child has had time to calm down and go to your child and say, “I don’t like how that went, I’m sorry I…”  You can always make it right again. You can restore connection with your child, and have the added benefit of modeling for your child how to restore a relationship after conflict. Maybe not right away, but eventually, your child will take part of the restorative conversation and you can both have an open discussion about went went wrong and what you will both do differently next time. That’s connection, and that creates a happier home, and a happier you. That’s a great goal for the new year!

Emotional Intelligence

Carl Sagan love quote

Emotional Intelligence is the term developed in the 1990s by Dr. Daniel Goleman that refers to the sum of feelings, thinking and emotions that go on inside of us (Goleman, 2008). The more we understand how our feelings and thinking effects our emotions and actions the more “emotional Intelligent” we can become.

 

Children and adults who have gone through trauma may understandably have a heightened sense of danger and can interpret seemingly harmless words and actions as danger and act on their emotions. It is important for both the children and adults to understand themselves, in order to better interact with others.

 

Emotional Intelligence has two main parts, self-awareness and social awareness. The caretaker can help themselves and the child improve both of these areas to help them be more regulated in their emotions.

 

The key to teaching children to regulate their own emotions is to model empathy and calm.

 

  1. Notice your body and emotions. Without judging yourself, how does your body feel when you are stressed, happy, tired or angry?
  2. Identify what makes you upset and what helps you calm and think of ways that will get you back to a calm state when you are upset. When you can calm yourself, you can think more clearly and make better decisions instead of reacting to what is going on around you.
  3. Empathy is the ability to understand how another person may feel in their own circumstances. To practice empathy, get curious. Ask questions and be attentive to the other person to see if you can pick up on how they might be feeling to get outside of your own viewpoint.

 

To help a child in your care with emotional intelligence, stay calm and stay present when they are feeling big emotions.

 

  1. Remember big reactive emotions like anger are usually a defense against thoughts of fear or hurt.
  2. Model empathy by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know feelings are ok and sometimes we need to let them just roll over us.
  3. Repeat back to the child what they said to help them sort their feelings and feel heard.
    “You seem really angry because your friend won’t talk to you?”
  4. Try to keep them talking. “Tell me more”. This helps a child calm and put words to their emotions.
  5. Make daily habits of helping a child to practice empathy. This could be a game by pointing out people or animals and asking the child what emotion they think that person or animal is feeling right now based on their facial expressions or circumstances.

 

A higher emotional intelligence allows caregivers and children to be aware of their own emotions and those of others and be slower to react and find more positive ways to interact with others.

 

 

 

 

References

 

Goleman, D. (2008). Building Emotional Intelligence. Boulder, CO. Sounds True Inc.