Tammy Sassoon, M.S. ED
Parents often ask how to “get” their children to be kinder, more responsible, or more of anything, for that matter. The problem with this question is that if your children feel that you are trying to “get” them to act a certain way they will feel like you are trying to control them.
Imagine a mother who learns that if you empathize with your children in times of intense feelings, children often calm down. So, the next time her son is crying, she says, “Oh that must be so hard for you,” and she is secretly hoping that he quiets down already. Then she wonders why it didn’t “work.” The answer is that the child felt controlled. Kids feel our vibes and her son knew that she wasn’t really emotionally with him. Her intent was to quiet him down.
In any relationship we lose sight of closeness when we search for conditions.
Children Need Proper Guidance
There is nothing wrong with our children, except our own perceptions. We do not have to do anything to make our children good kids. They already are!
Was there ever a time when you thought otherwise? I know I used to think that my children were problematic when they acted in certain ways. When I let go of all that unhelpful thinking, I started to see that every child on the planet is an amazingly valuable human being. I don’t have to have them act a certain way in order to see that. Obviously, as a responsible parent, I have to guide them, but I don’t need any conditions any more to see them for who they are. I don’t judge them when they make mistakes because that’s just a part of the human experience. And ironically, if kids feel that we believe mistakes are a big problem, so do they, and in turn that makes them suffer from feelings of low self-worth, causes them to fear mistakes, and creates a disconnect between us and them.
So now the question is, when your kids act up how do you guide them in a way that shows that you don’t think one drop less of them just because they made a mistake?
I will present you with several ideas:
1. Firstly, don’t even bring up things that are isolated incidents. It’s just plain annoying at best, and counterproductive at worst.
2. Make sure you are modeling whatever behavior you want your children to adopt. If you are trying to raise children who are happy with whatever comes their way, make sure you show them how you embrace the challenges in your own life. If you want them to value kindness, make sure they see how sweet and considerate you are to others.
3. Let them know the benefits of whatever you would like them to do. For example, people who try to solve problems in ways that are good for themselves and the other party are actually happier in the end. People who only care about themselves do not lead lives that are as happy and fulfilling.
4. For repeated infractions have the “I know you don’t mean to…” conversation. Here’s how it goes:
● “I know you don’t mean to be hurtful. When you____it makes____feel like you think they are not important. And I know you’d never want to do that.”
● “Can you please try your best to pay attention to not doing____?”
● If it happens again say, “What happened?”( not in a judgmental way, but in an accountable way, even with a smile) if the child says they forgot, say, “That’s okay, everyone forgets sometimes, now please go and___.”
What behaviors make you forget your kids’ true value? Mine is the fighting between them. So, when they fight, I try to remember the gift of life, and I remember holding them in my arms when they were newly born. Same person. New challenges. Same gift. Same life. That memory reminds me of their real true unchanging value and helps me speak to them in ways that demonstrate just that. ⠀