We all have visions of parenting that include the joy of abundant laughter, brilliant and obedient children and the “perfect” home. That reality actually exists for about 10% of American families. They don’t have the typical homework battles, sibling battles, and messy rooms and disrespect that disrupt the vision for some of us. Why? They’ve become masters at going “upstream” and using an approach that focuses on activating the greatness of children. Children in these families develop strong self-esteem, responsibility and honesty, allowing most of the typical family problems to simply go away.
Children with self-esteem and responsibility tend to play together much better. They think for themselves. They excel in studies and understand teamwork. And of course, they rarely lie. We so deeply love our children and would do anything to help give them happy, healthy and successful futures. Giving our children these priceless gifts of qualities and values and this upstream approach that fosters these values is the best way any parent can give our children a beautiful future.
Six tips for the thriving child & the glowing parent.
1. Develop a deep habit of always seeing our children’s strengths/sacredness.We do this naturally when our children are very young. We celebrate first smiles, steps, and words. We search for their successes and accentuate them. But somewhere between the ages of two and four, our attention ratio changes from mostly noticing their strengths and growth to noticing—all in some misguided attempt in the name of love—their mistakes and shortcomings. And since we go toward our focus, that’s the precise moment our family starts to go backwards. How does that show up? If we label our child as shy, our child will become more shy. If we call our child a liar, he will see himself as a liar and lie even more in the future. Wise parents develop the habit of always seeing the bigger picture, always seeing our children as we know they truly are and as we believe they will become. And again, since we go toward our focus, our child will move in this healthy direction. Parents that master this watch their children develop rock solid confidence, independence and responsibility.
2. Acknowledge our children’s strengths and successes… carefully. When giving compliments, wise parents practice the 3 S’s of Yes: Compliments are always sincere (only comment on authentic observations), specific (detailed, not general strengths), and selective (make comments infrequently and well timed). When we master this, we watch our children develop solid self-esteem and life momentum, and whatever gift we are complimenting.
3. Use “Forward Focused Questions” in everyday conversations with our children. Every parent knows that children quickly tune out our commands and our “no’s,” and we lose the ability to influence and serve the people we love the most. Like adults, children love questions. The right questions build understanding, confidence, closeness, and ownership. There’s a much more in-depth discussion of questions in my book, but here are a few examples. Great questions are almost always focused forward on what lessons we can learn, where we want to go, what is going well and why it’s important in daily life. Try these and watch what happens:
- “What did you learn from that?”
- “How do you think we should handle that?”
- “Why is that important to you?”
- “What would you like to accomplish today?”
4. Sit back and deeply listen to what our children are saying and what’s important to them. If we want our children to share thoughts and feelings, we never jump in with a better idea or over-the-top reaction. Research shows that how we listen to our children has a much greater impact on their confidence than compliments, gifts, or notes. As we listen deeply to our children’s ideas, thoughts and feelings, they develop independence, critical-thinking skills, the ability to think for themselves and their own sense of responsibility.
5. Be clear and firm when giving children guidelines on the appropriate behavior we’d like to see versus what we don’t want them to do.Every wise parent knows that the more we fixate on undesirable behavior, the more our children also fixate on it and go toward what we don’t want them to do. So, great parents become masters at going upstream and sharing the behaviors that are desirable and acceptable for their family: “Michael, it’s really important to me that we all put away the milk after we use it. That way it will stay fresh and last longer, and we’ll have more money for doing other things.” Then they follow up with a couple of simple questions so the conversation becomes two-sided, ensuring understanding, responsibility and ownership. See Tip #3 above.
6. We are our children’s textbooks for life. This is most important of all. Research shows that our children receive 90% of their habits, beliefs, qualities and values just from watching us–especially the gifts of confidence, honesty, responsibility, laughter, kindness, and…love.
Steven W. Vannoy, author, speaker, and facilitator, founded Verus Global in 1990 with a vision to create resilient work cultures, more productive teams, and higher quality of life for all. Now, with more than forty years of business leadership experience, Vannoy is a recognized expert in building strength in corporations internationally, as well as creating sustainable, healthy cultures in workplaces, communities, and families. Learn more about Verus Global at VerusGlobal.com. With more than half a million copies in print worldwide, the updated 20th Anniversary edition of THE 10 GREATEST GIFTS I GIVE MY CHILDREN (Touchstone Paperback) by Steven W. Vannoy is available now.