Article by Justin Coulson.
See his Happy families blog here or follow Justin's twitter.
If your children could see themselves through your eyes, what would they see?
In a local park I recently overheard a conversation between two parents. "He's such a terror!" "She's a totally spoiled little brat." "This child is driving me crazy."
It was an eye-opening moment, because when I looked at their children I saw a helpful girl playing with a younger sibling, an energetic boy laughing and running and climbing with excitement, and a child who wanted to share his playtime with his mum.
The way we 'frame' a situation, or a person, heavily influences our interactions. If we consistently see our children as frustrating impediments in what would otherwise be a well-ordered life, then every interaction with our children will be marred by that default view. Such a view promotes a deficit-orientation towards a family. It reduces motivation on the part of parents to help their 'good-for-nothing' 'bratty' 'ungrateful' children. And unsurprisingly, such an approach is hardly inspiring for children. They feed off the negativity of parental perception and typically live up to precisely what is expected of them... which is not much.
Conversely, seeing our children as people - real people - who we value, and who bring positives to our family and our lives ensures that our interactions with them can be far more positive. We take a strengths approach, stating what we value and appreciate in them, and sharing those positives. We consider things that they are good at and invite them to develop those attributes. We give them opportunities and acknowledge their contribution.
We decide whether the glass is half full or half empty. This is not to be naive or ignorant of shortcomings and concerns. When we see a half-full glass, we can still recognise that it is not completely full, and we can help to remedy that in appropriate ways. But it does make a big difference.
If you see your child as talented, helpful, and willing to think of others, you'll see those traits exhibited more. If you see your child as selfish, a non-contributor, and rude, it's amazing how often those attributes will be evident - often prompted by the expectations of those around her.
Are your children angels, or terrorists? Are they a delight, or delinquent? Are they a pain or a pleasure? They can be either, but if we choose to see them as angels, as a delight, and as a pleasure, then they most likely will be.
Your children can see themselves the way that you see them. What are they seeing?