by LOYLA LOUVIS
For Montclair Local
In “Mother Matters,” parenting and life coach Loyla Louvis, AACC, provides parenting tips. She is dedicated to eliminating frustration in the parenting journey by customizing solutions to fit the uniqueness of each family. A mother of four children, she is experienced with single parenting, remarriage, home education, mentoring and teaching. Louvis runs Mothers in Training, LLC, and is a certified professional parenting consultant/coach. More info can be found at coachloyla.com.
Deep within the heart of every child is a desire to please, do good, find his or her best self and contribute something positive to the world. Ask any little one, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you will discover a fireman, veterinarian, doctor or superhero in the making. All of these responses reflect a heart that longs to be and do good things in the world.
Experimentation with selfishness, manipulation and impulsiveness is also part of the human experience, but no little one is ever proud of such things and might eagerly pursue this or her better self with the help of a parent. It is a wise and loving mother who can tap into the good intentions of a child’s heart and cultivate what is already there longing to bloom.
The atmosphere of home can make a dramatic shift from stressed out to positive and supportive when Mom approaches a parenting conflict with the attitude that her child means no harm, even when all appearances indicate otherwise. In other words, behind the most frustrating behavior is a child longing to receive your approval. With a positive mindset, as well as your correction, he or she can get back on track. Keeping a child’s good intentions in mind makes all the difference while you are navigating through the awkward moments in the parenting journey.
From this positive perspective, let’s consider various ways to tap into good intentions when dealing with a child’s undesirable behavior:
Explore the motivations. Resist the urge to instantly correct or discipline when a child says something harsh, insensitive or dishonoring toward you. A question such as “Did you mean to hurt me with your words?” momentarily allows a child to pause, reflect and engage the brain center responsible for logic and intention. Many times a child does not realize that what he or she is saying in the heat of frustration and may be causing pain or sorrow.
Create a word picture. Provide imagery to communicate the effect of dishonoring communication. A word picture such as “Jake, when you speak to me using hurtful words, it feels as if you just picked up a rock and threw it at me,” puts a new perspective on the impact of those words and provides a powerful visual. Try using a word picture to describe the hurt of disrespectful communication and then watch as this new insight will likely soften your child’s tone and demeanor during a conflict.
Reinforce the positive. Remind the child that you know he or she has good character and is the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. For example, “Kyle, I know you’re a kind and loving person. Can you think of more gentle words to express what you’re trying to say?” addresses the matter without speaking in negative terms. By keeping the emphasis on the good in a child as you correct the undesirable behavior, positive self-worth is preserved and correction can proceed without fear of instilling a poor self-image.
Allow for self-correction. Invite the child to brainstorm ways to make things right after a conflict. Praise the child for any efforts to make amends. Celebratory words such as “You did it! You found something positive and kind that you could do to make things right again. You have a beautiful heart!” produce confidence and teach a valuable life lesson that a positive disposition can overcome a negative situation.
The parenting journey is rich with opportunities to practice a positive mindset in the heat of conflicts. When we stay focused on the good intentions at the core of a child, we can correct negative behavior without harming self-worth and a fragile ego. Asking meaningful questions, using powerful word pictures, reinforcing the positive and allowing for self-correction are some of the many ways we can build up a child and tap into those good intentions.