Positivity, choice, and reflection are to be fed. They reduce stress, increase parental effectiveness, and improve relationships. Why? Here’s a brief synopsis of each.
- Negative comments prompt negative feelings. Positive comments engender positive feelings and responsible behavior. Parents who are effective in influencing their children to positive actions phrase their communications in positive terms. Positivity creates an atmosphere in which children feel valued, supported, respected, motivated, capable, and proud.
- Either consciously or nonconsciously, people are always choosing how to respond to any situation, stimulus, or impulse. Teaching young people about choice-response thinking—that they never need think of themselves as victims—is one of the most valuable thinking patterns we can give them. This type of thinking teaches the difference between optimistic and pessimistic thinking, empowers young people, and continually fosters hope—the greatest of motivators.
- Reflection is the most powerful strategy for prompting change because reflection engenders self-evaluation. This is particularly important for parents to understand because parents cannot change children. Although a parent can control a child, no one can change another person. A person can only change oneself. The key to actuating a change in behavior is asking reflective questions. Asking these types of questions is a skill that is developed through practice and that any parent can learn in order to prompt young people to make responsible decisions.
In most discipline situations, especially if your child is extremely independent, you will have more success—and reduce stress on everyone’s part—if you aim at empowering, rather than overpowering your child. When a young person feels overpowered by a demand for obedience, then defensive behavior often results in both resistance and resentment. In contrast, when you aim at promoting responsibility by using the three practices of positivity, choice, and reflection, obedience follows as a natural by-product.