Teaching parenting skills over the years has really opened my eyes to the power of asking for what we want – both from ourselves and from our children. It’s amazing how frustration can be transformed when we get out of our own way by readjusting our thinking and interactions. Here’s why:
Telling children what we would like them to do instead of what not to do allows them to be successful at something.
How many of us were inundated with “no” and “don’t do that” growing up? Sure, it might have stopped us for the time being, but the more we heard it, the more frustrating or curious it became. Whether children hear “Don’t do that!” or “Sure, do that!” they are going to do the thing they hear because that has now become the focus. For example a parent might say, “Don’t run,” when at the store. The child hears “run” and that becomes the focus. Obviously, the parent is giving this instruction to keep the child safe. The child is then met with “don’t touch that orange…don’t play with that box…don’t explore…don’t be curious” (okay, I added the last two to make a point). Being told not to do things over and over will eventually lead to feelings of frustration. Since children are still working out those social and emotional regulation muscles, that frustration can quickly turn into a meltdown.
What to do instead?
Set the stage of expectation in advance – before going to the store let your child know the rules of what they are allowed to do. “We’re going to the store. We only walk in the store and keep our hands to ourselves. If you want to touch something, please ask first.” Stores are great places to learn about numbers, colors, shapes, manners, etc. By setting up the rules ahead of time, you have more time to increase the learning and positive interaction between you and your child. It also sets you up for success in reflecting back the success of your child for following the rules.
Telling ourselves what we want instead of what we don’t want has a similar effect.
We attract the energy that we put out into the world. By saying that you don’t want something, you are meditating on the negative outcome instead of on your hopeful outcome.
For example if you are looking for a new job and your thought is, “I don’t want to work for an awful boss,” the traits that you deem as awful will be most relevant. Perhaps you may even close yourself off to opportunities because your mind is in the negative space. Not to mention that this thought is also vague. Transforming this thought into, “I would like a boss that is organized, empathetic and relatable,” gives you traits that are specific as you go through the interview process. This also allows you to ask questions in the interview that will give you a clear picture of how the boss interacts with others.
Our brains are evolutionarily wired to think negatively, so it can take a while to retrain the brain. The good news is that it is possible. That’s what all this talk of neuroplasticity is all about. Being compassionate, mindful and curious can help open the doors to this new way of interacting with yourself and your child in a positive way. This is not to say it will come easy, but continued practice can help pave the way.
Are you interested in learning more strategies that will increase a positive connection with yourself or your child? Contacting me is the first step.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.