Hello Everyone! I hope this Newsletter finds you a little closer to BETTER this month!
This Month’s Issue:
For Parents and Caregivers: The Importance of Focusing on Positives, Efforts and Accomplishments with Children and Youth.
For Leaders: Houston, We Have a Problem!
Getting to Better™ Kindness Partners and Friends
The Importance of Focusing on Positives, Efforts and Accomplishments with Children and Youth
Like most G2B™ articles, this one is written for caregivers of children and youth who want to strengthen their relationships with those they care for. This particular discussion has been motivated by the feedback and input of thousands of youth from “in-tact” homes and those who are or were in the care of various helping systems. It speaks to the importance of focusing on the positives, efforts and important accomplishments of the children and youth in our lives.
I can’t count the number of times I have heard the following statement from children and youth; “The only time I hear from my parents is when I’ve done something wrong or I screw up.” This is not an uncommon sentiment heard in my experience working with children and youth from care. In addition to this feedback, I have come to learn that, one of the hardest questions for a child/youth to answer, no matter how long they have been in the helping system is, “What are you good at?” or variations of this question. However, ask some of these kids what they “suck” at or what they don’t do well and they will write you a short novel complete with all of the details.
It is so important that children and youth know first and foremost that they have worth and value regardless of their behavior. However, with that said, an important element that contributes to stronger connections, increased trusting and caring relationships as well as the overall well-being and development of children is for them to hear and know that they themselves and, their positive efforts and accomplishments are noticed; that they matter!
For many of us parents and caregivers, life seems to be getting busier and busier with no real signs of slowing down. Unfortunately many days are characterized by parent-child interactions that can sound something like the following segment.
[Please read this section as fast as you can – for effect, of course]
(PARENT/CAREGIVER): “Time to getup. Hurry, up we can’t be late. Is your homework done? Is your bag ready? You’ve got to eat. Who left the lights on downstairs and, whose towels are those on the floor? Get something to eat. did you eat? You need to eat! Let’s go. Hurry up. The LIGHTS!. Whose shoes did I just trip over?! And who’s bag is this? Let’s GO! What do you mean you didn’t eat?! Just get in the van. “– (After school and work) “Ok, make sure you get your homework done before hockey and piano. And those lights were still on when we got home. Don’t eat, we are going to eat soon. No you can’t watch TV. Those towels are still not picked up. Let’s go, let’s eat, and hurry up.” (Later that evening) “Is your homework done? I don’t want to see that bag or those shoes in front of the door tomorrow. Make sure you brush your teeth. Don’t eat more; you just brushed your teeth! Ok, it’s getting late. Please shut that off. Let’s go! Hurry up. Are you sure your homework is done? Oh my goodness, those shoes please, that darn bag! Never mind, get them in the morning. It’s time for bed. What do you mean you didn’t brush your teeth! Goodnight.”
More and more, it seems as though our parent-child interactions are becoming increasingly about task-maintenance and are lacking relational and connective quality. There seems to be less and less time to stop, notice and compliment positive efforts and accomplishments.
This is problematic for many reasons. A Big One? There is less and less room to connect with and build relationships with the most important people in our lives – our children. In addition to this, many moments of interaction revolve around the teaching, guiding, rules and correcting behavior. While this focus is important, positive moments can become left behind and, according to the feedback from many children and youth, barely existent at all.
Serious problems can arise for everyone when children and youth feel that they are noticed only when they “screw up” or do something wrong. Such experiences over time can give youth the “wrong” message; that they are only worthy of being noticed or noticeable when they behave “badly”. Some children and youth may internalize this skewed and incomplete perspective and may come to define themselves as such. Focusing more on the rules, corrective comments and task maintenance can increase the number of negative and/or stressful interactions in the caregiver-child relationship. It may also lead many children and youth to avoiding parents and caregivers in an attempt to lower stressful communications and interactions. Without getting into all of the negative implications arising from this parent-child relational phenomenon, it must be noted, the greatest consequence of placing attention on task maintenance, rules and correcting behavior at the expense of a focus on positives, efforts and accomplishments, is that it can become a major barrier to connecting, building and strengthening relationships between children and their caregivers.
In our busy lives, parents and caregivers must make conscious efforts to take time and acknowledge, admire and appreciate the positive efforts and accomplishments (to the extent possible) of the children and youth in their lives. The positive benefits for children, youth, their caregivers and relationships overall are immeasurable.
Here are some tips for Getting to Better™ :
- Pay attention to the business in the day – note the quality of your interactions with children and youth
- Work to make time and space for positive and relational interactions
- Work for increased focus on relationship over rules, or a least try to strike a balance
- Try not to fall into the trap of talking to them only when things “go wrong” or when they “screw up” – To see Steve’s informative and amusing video clip on “Effective Discipline and Lessons from Double Dutch” Click HERE
- Be cautious that you are not focusing solely on accomplishments, but on efforts to reach accomplishments as well
- Call your children over (where ever you are) and simply tell them that you notice some of their efforts and how much you appreciate them
- Try to add “please” and “thank you” to commands and demands
- Catch them being good to great with tasks and behaviors
- Get them out of bed and welcome them home, in a positive and gentle way: “Good Morning; It’s nice to see you; How was your sleep? How was your day?”
- Tuck them in at night – ask them what went well in their day and what are they looking forward to tomorrow
- Have meals with your kids – take that time to talk about all the great things you appreciate and admire about them
- Periodically, ask them what they are good at – let them know good things you notice
- Tell them you Love them
There are so many things we can do as caregivers to make time and space to be more positive and to focus on efforts and accomplishments for the children and youth in our lives.
For Additional resources on building relationships, the power of appreciation and considerations for getting children and youth to talk with us, see the following G2B™ Archived Newsletters:
Hope and Practical Things for Holding onto Your Children – HERE
What Matters Most: An Interview with Dr. Jean Clinton – HERE
3 Simple Ways to Change the World – HERE
Houston, We Have a Problem! Read the Blog HERE
Getting to Better™ Kindness Partners and Friends:
If you need or would like to See Beautiful in life, check out the amazing work of Lydia Criss Mays, who continues to promote amazing and inspiring people, who do brilliant things to make the lives of others BETTER. Check out the latest See Beautifuls HERE.
This just in! Stephen de Groot and Dr. Jean Clinton are teaming up to co-present for Youth Justice Ontario – “The Teenage Brain Under Construction” – in Toronto, April 3, 2013. Find out more HERE.
Congratulations to Dr. Michael Ungar! The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) has awarded Dr. Ungar with one the Association’s greatest honours, the Outstanding Service Award. Thank you Michael, for all of the great work you do; helping so many children, youth, families and communities Get to Better! Find out more HERE.
Due to the number of requests regarding non-conference and/or agency sponsored training; an “EVENTS” tab has been added to the MYRIAD Consultation and Counselling website. Find out more HERE.