Note: This post is part of an ongoing series on the war that is being waged against families and family values---and what we can do to strengthen and protect ours. I teach a Sunday School class on strengthening the family and parenting skills. The lesson manual is terrific, the points "right on" and the suggestions doable. This post is a continuation of that series.
Among all the assets we possess . . .
nothing is more precious than our children
Nurturing is a fancy word for simply doing the things we automatically do (or should do) every day day for our family --- nourish (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), love, teach, protect, help, support, and encourage. Parents play a crucial role in preparing their children to handle life’s many challenges.Proper nurturing better equips children to withstand troubling times.
However, sometimes we get so involved in the many things of life that we do this nurturing on auto-pilot. This post, from the Strengthening the Family manual, addresses the need to, and the way to, put more into “one of the most important things parents can do for their children.”
Psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington studied 119 families and found that couples who had the greatest parenting success were able to help their children when their children needed help the most—when they were distressed and upset.
Dr. Gottman discovered successful parents did five things — all nurturing tasks—that gave their children a much better foundation for life. They are listed here as steps the surveyed parents took and you can take.
As you consider the following please also consider the age-appropriateness of each step, tailoring each to the ages of your children.
Step 1. Be Aware of the Child’s Emotions
They were able to recognize and appropriately respond to the feelings of their children. Parents who recognize and accept their own feelings find it easier to recognize and accept their children’s feelings. Children who see their parents handle difficult feelings often learn to manage their own emotions.
Step 2. Recognize Emotion as an Opportunity for Closeness and Teaching
Sometimes parents avoid talking with a child when he or she is upset, perhaps fearing rejection or fearing they have somehow failed the child. Many parents hope their children’s troubling emotions will go away. Often, these emotions do not go away without some kind of help. Parents should look at their children’s troubling emotions as opportunities for bonding and growth. Helping soothe a child’s trouble feelings is one of the most satisfying things parents can do. Children feel understood and comforted when kind and loving parents acknowledge and understand their feelings.
Step 3. Listen Empathetically and Validate the Child’s Feelings
When parents have questions about what their child says or feels, they can ask for clarification, keeping in mind probing questions may cause the child to become defensive and to stop talking. Simple observations often work better. For example, the parent might say, “I noticed that when you started talking about grades, you seemed to become tense.” The parent should then wait and allow the child to continue. Children are more likely to keep talking when they feel a sense of control over the conversation and have an uncritical, empathetic listener.
Step 4. Help the Child Identify and Name Emotions
Sometimes parents mistakenly assume their children have words to describe what they feel inside when in reality they do not always have a vocabulary for their emotions. Parents can provide words for their children to help them transform vague, undefined, uncomfortable feelings into descriptive words such as sad, angry, frustrated, afraid, worried, tense and so on. Children begin to feel a sense of control over their emotions as they learn words to describe them. The best time to teach feeling words is when children experience emotion. The mother who sees her daughter crying because her friend is moving away can say, “You must feel really sad. You have been such close friends.” Hearing this said, the girl not only feels understood but now has a word that describes her experience.
Step 5. Set Limits while Helping the Child Learn to Solve Problems
A child’s sense of control increases as parents help the child learn to deal with unpleasant feelings. Children must learn to deal with troubling thoughts and feelings in ways that are socially acceptable and emotionally healthy. Parents may need to set limits on inappropriate behavior while helping children work out problems.
Reuben, age 12 dropped a fly ball, which cost his team a win and entry in the championship playoffs. While he was walking of the field, one of his teammates shouted, "Why to go, klutz!." Already feeling horrible, Reuben ran to the youth, grabbed him around the neck and shoulders, and tried to throw him to the ground. Reuben's father immediately bolted from the stands, pulled his son away, held him firmly, and said, "I know you're angry and hurt, but we never hurt others. Let's go home and talk about a better way to handle this."
Rather than scold or preach, the father in this example used the occasion to draw close to his son by listening empathetically , validating Reuben's feelings, and helping him explore other ways to handle difficult situations. The way his father handled the situation helped Reuben feel understood, valued, and better able to manage his feelings.
If parents do not know the cause of a child's problem, they should first ask questions to identify the cause so a solution can be found. Parents should ask questions such as "What is causing you to feel this way?" They should not allow the child to blame others when others are not to blame.
Once the cause has been identified, parents can ask, "What do you think will solve the problem?" They should listen carefully to the child's answers. They can offer some tentative solutions to help the child consider others possibilities. They may find it helpful to brainstorm solutions with older children. When parents and children brainstorm, they should not consider any solution too silly or inappropriate; criticism impedes the creative process, and parents and children can select appropriate solutions later. Parents should allow the child to take as much responsibility as possible, helping the child grow from dependence to self-reliance.
Sometimes it is helpful to have a child recall other times in life when he or she handled problems successfully. What did the child do at that time to cope? Can the same approach be taken with the current problem?
While the following is important, it is very important that the parents do not slip into the decision-making role, as often happens.
- Once the child and parents have explored the implications for each solution, the parents should help their child decide which solution is best.
- Since parents have the advantage of experience and wisdom they should offer their opinions and guidance, and can share their experiences in resolving similar problems --- sharing the choices they made and what they learned from them.
This help can be invaluable WHEN the underlined words are followed.
If a child seems determined to try a solution that parents believe will fail, they may want to allow that to happen if the outcome will not be harmful and will not burden the child with major problem. Some of the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. Afterward, without saying, "I told you so," parents should help the child work out another solution.
An important part of parenting is to help children grow from dependency to self-reliance. Parents can help their children develop self-reliance by teaching them correct principles so their children can learn to govern themselves righteously and responsibly. If parents take over their children's problems, they unnecessarily burden themselves while depriving their sons and daughters of the opportunity to learn responsibility and self-reliance. As a general rule, children should solve their own problems, frustrations, boredom, and failures, with parents assisting as teachers and leaders as needed.
Until we "meet" again remember among all the assets we possess . . .
nothing is more precious than our children
My next post will address Fostering Confidence in children. "Confident children do better in life. They are healthier, more optimistic, more socially comfortable, and more emotionally secure than children who lack confidence..."