Accepting Our Children (Part 2 – When They’re Young)
Correcting the behavior of young children can be a huge challenge. If we aren’t careful how we do it, it can be harmful to the child and perpetuate undesirable behaviors or create low self-esteem. If we work to see every interaction with our child as a two-way learning curve I think life can be a lot easier. When our child does something that is not acceptable to us, it’s important to remember this is a learning opportunity for us as parents, as well as the child. We can learn a lot about who our kids are as individuals and also about ourselves and how we act as parents.
I have previously talked about separating the child from their behavior. Today I want to focus on how we deliver and accept “feedback” (or as some might say, “criticism”). Everyone knows that some people are better at discussing and analyzing challenges than others. Some people have a way of making “feedback” feel good and constructive, while others make us feel small and weak.
Especially with kids, it’s important that we foster healthy positive feedback that flows both from parent to child and from child to parent. Take a look at this video by leading relationship psychologist John Gottman:
Gottman defines the difference between a relationship “master” and a relationship “disaster” in terms of how the feedback is delivered. Masters are “gentle” and take at least partial responsibility for every issue. Disasters “point their finger”, make critical “diagnosis” and attempt to fix the other person. This kind of harsh criticism attacks the person and they will register it as blame. A receiver of blame immediately starts defending and justifying, which creates two different worlds and separation in the relationship. When we do this with our kids, the child learns how to be defensive rather than investigating, and working on their behavior. The child will start to feel like they feel they are never good enough and their self-esteem will suffer.
On the other hand, if we address the behavior, as opposed to attacking the person, and come at the situation from a position of mutual learning and shared responsibility, our kids will be able to look at their behavior and analyze it with you (instead of becoming defensive and non-communicative). This makes it much easier to correct unwanted behaviors without all tears, shouting and stress! If we do this then their self-esteem can remain strong and positive.
So in summary, when working through challenges with our kids and delivering feedback to them:
Accept and love the person and critique the behavior. In our criticisms, be gentle and share responsibility. No one in a relationship gets to be “innocent”. Avoid at all cost finger pointing and direct, personal criticism – this kind of conversation is absolutely toxic and will create resentment, anger, and low self-esteem.
If we follow these tips we will be able to better accept and love our children and equip them with self-assessment skills through which they can grow and mature into happy, productive adults.
Gonan is the originator of the philosophies behind Gozamm, the home of the Parentology, Trust and Open Heart workshops. An industry thought-leader and a perennial innovator, Gonan is setting trends in the realms of families and business worldwide. Her eclectic background; being born in Turkey, married to a Swede, having lived in the Middle East for 25 years and now living in California, she truly brings a new dynamic perspective to an important field. -- view all articles