One of the best feelings in the world is when a child’s eyes light up in recognition and they run at you, throwing their little arms around you for a big hug and cuddle. I remember promising myself when I was about ten years old and dealing with my father’s death that I would never lose that innocence, and wonder and joy for life. John Gray’s, Ph.D., book Children Are From Heaven, reminds us how precious our responsibilities are as adults to grow and raise children to not just be resilient in life, but to thrive. So how do you curb your tongue, focus on the positive, and be in-Joy to raise the kids in your life? As a mother myself, I cherish this promise I made to myself as a young child. It impacts everything I do and say around our child to guide and grow his spirit, rather than stamp the light out.
When it comes to raising kids, I like to remember simple, yet effective truths to keep me focused on joyfully raising kids.
Negative response attracts negative behavior.
Positive response attracts positive behavior.
Children naturally gravitate to wanting to please and cooperate. In our family we choose to use positive parenting, because we believe that the behaviors we focus on is the behavior we are teaching our children to reproduce.
If they are doing something that is not appropriate, then we re-direct and model the behavior we’d like them to do instead. We choose to motivate our children with rewards. When adults are stressed out, sometimes what comes naturally is yelling or punishing the negative behavior. If we want our children to be empathetic and logical when reacting to undesirable behaviors, then we have to model this so our actions and words are their models. We do not use food or toys to bribe, we use words of affirmation and physical touch. When I engage with any child I immediately acknowledge and praise what they did right. We reward it by praising them with:
• verbal affirmation,
• a hug,
• a smile, or
• a high-five.
The only time we use the word “no” is for dangerous situations. Such as darting into the street, touching a hot stove, or jumping into a pool without an adult in the water, etc. The less you use this word, the more powerful its effect when it’s needed in an emergency. Every adult our son has come in contact with marvels at his politeness, his manners, his ability to look people directly in the eye while talking, his ability to share, and his compassion for others. He’s not even three years old.
What this does is take the focus off of giving children consequences for negative behavior. Instead we provide consequences when they engage in positive behavior. We let them know when they’ve done a job well, when they’ve attempted to do something helpful, and when we’d like to see more of that behavior. Therefore we use positive outcomes to motivate children rather using a negative outcome.
Children are born wanting to please and cooperate with their parents. John Gray’s, Ph.D., program taps into returning the power to parents to guide children to learn how to make the right choices. When we give children the choice to choose, and give them options for acceptable behaviors, we do not stamp out their quest for independence. Instead we provide structure for them to make choices based on their developmental levels. This starts as soon as they can crawl. The more choices we give them, the more opportunities we give children to exert their independence and feel successful at navigating their way through life.
The more often we are able to parent using techniques based on love and mutual respect, rather than fear and guilt, the more time we have to play together. We all make mistakes, so remember to be gentle with yourself too. Raising kids joyfully and guiding with compassion are the greatest gifts we can give our children so they grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.