It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Tip #1 of Seven Tips for Getting Along Better With Your Kids

We are publishing this article on this blog as a series. We won't necessarily cover all the tips sequentially, but you will be able to separate out all of them by clicking on the "7 Tips" Series link under Categories. Although these tips are part of my book, If My Kid's So Nice, Why's He Driving ME Crazy?, they really are applicable to ALL young people, not just difficult ones.

Tip #1: Affirm Unconditionally

Whether we like it or not, we live in a conditional society. Adults have to perform to stay employed. Sometimes our children sense they must perform to be loved. Youngsters can have difficulty separating who they are from what they do. Unfortunately, we too often add to the confusion by praising our kids when they make the team, if they make first-chair trombone and because they won the science fair. Although there's nothing wrong with recognizing a child's accomplishments, such affirmation must balance with the recognition of that child's (we're including adolescents here) unconditional value.

One way for a parent to do this is to say to the youngster, "Suzie, I was just thinking about something. I know we have our differences from time to time but, through it all, you're one of the best things that ever came into my life. You don't have to say anything; Ijust wanted you to know."

The secret to making this affirmation stick is to ask a non-related question that takes away the pressure of the child to respond to the compliment (like, "Say, have you seen the scissors?"). Or you could quickly excuse yourself from the room or in some way make it comfortable for the child not to respond to what you have just said. (If Suzie really wants to thank you, she'll find the opportunity to do it.)

Casual notes left on the bathroom mirror or in a lunch box are another way to affirm a child without him or her feeling like you're pushing too much on the affirmation. Keep affirming in small and casual ways, it will pay off. 

 James Sutton, Psychologist

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June 21, 2006 - Posted by | Difficult Child, Parents

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