Have you heard of that theory on plants? It says when you talk to a plant, play music for it, or touch it gently, it grows better.
Is raising a kid that different from growing a plant? They can both be just as moody and most of it is guesswork anyways!
We get it, parenting is hard work. Most times, it is a struggle just to get through the day.
And well, threats are easy. They roll off our tongues quickly, and in the beginning, we might even believe that they work. But do they really?
The positive results we get from threatening our kids with consequences are almost always short term.
But what if we try treating them like those plants? Remember that story in Taare Zameen Par, about blaming the trees. What if we do the opposite of it?
Because, if you take a step back, you will see that our own behaviour and the reactive way in which we operate actually negatively affect things long-term.
Our children are no different from us.
To paraphrase Shakespeare— If they are like us in everything else, they'll resemble us in this respect as well!
Here are some typical examples:
The setting: Getting the kids into the bath. The threat: " No bedtime story!"
The setting: Struggling to get the wriggling kids to get into the car. The threat: "We'll just leave you then."
The setting: Telling them to stop running around outside. The threat: "No screens when we get home!"
Sounds familiar, right?
But, let's consider WHY the threats backfire.
They erode our relationship:
Though at times it's hard to believe, our children actually want to please us too. But if we employ threats to regulate behaviour, it influences our relationship and stifles this innate desire in them.
They make our kids resent us:
Threats might prevent unwanted behaviour in the short term but at what cost?
It drives our kids to resent us. Even adults tend to dislike people who punish us. And so, we unwittingly create an eternal power struggle.
They teach our kids to wonder, 'What's in it for me?':
We want our kids to think for themselves, think of others, and make the right choices. We want them to use their internal drive and budding conscience.
They shut down communication:
Threats close down the thinking part of our kid's brains, and we just stimulate their lower reactive brain. That automatically drives them into a fight, flight or freeze responses. No learning or thinking is occurring, and we are not giving them the desired understanding.
They kill motivation:
Motivation comes from how WE see ourselves in our world. Genuine motivation is not achieved from external threats.
They kill empathy:
Empathy is an acquired skill. We need to show our kids that we do and will continue to better understand them. If we wish our kids to think of us and others, we need to first educate them on what empathy looks and feels like.
It doesn't have to be that way!
Empathy recognises our child's need to feel heard and understood. And, in turn, teaches them the same. We need to start learning and teaching our children how to make the correct and positive choices in life.
So, Positive Affirmations…
You, me, and almost everyone in the 21st century has heard of them. And yes, there is sound research and a fair amount of neuroscience behind the practice.
But if you are a parent who's never tried them before, the idea can seem incredibly awkward.
Telling your kids how awesome they are can become repetitive, but if that's all you're doing, there are likely more productive ways to go about it.
How to practice positive affirmations with your child:
You can practice affirmations with your child to inspire positive thought patterns and develop a growth mindset.
Affirmations help when they are practised consistently, so plan a routine around positive affirmations in your house and guide your child to practice it a few times a day.
To start, recognise any negative self-talk or behaviour that you'd like to correct.
Next, come with a positive way to change their thought process.
Then, use the new, positive ideas to create simple, positive affirmations to inspire your kid.
Have your kid practise these affirmations at least daily.
Give them positive recognition when they do what you say or overcome something difficult for them before.
Is There Science Behind Positive Affirmations?
Well, I am glad you asked! Because yes, there have been actual empirical studies done on the subject.
Both the practice and the popularity of positive affirmations are based on broadly accepted and well-established psychological studies.
The basic idea here is based on the idea that we can sustain our sense of self-integrity by telling ourselves (i.e. affirming) what we believe is good in us. If we can, so can our kids!
A Little Tip: Some families find it useful to use affirmation cards to remember the statements. Your child can just choose one card from the pile and read it to herself in the mirror. Parents can even utilise these cards as starting points for meaningful conversations with their kids.
Remember, positive affirmations demand regular practice if you want to make a lasting, long-term difference to how the children think and feel.