Parenting your children with relational attunement and conscientiousness.
There is certainly no instruction booklet on how to help our children foster positive relationships. The way we first learn to socialize is through modeling our parent’s behavior, by process of elimination, and through on the job training when we are thrust into our social worlds in school and other places we socialize. As we know, sometimes these may not be the most reliable and most constructive lessons. There are evidenced based tips for parents so they play an active non-overbearing role in guiding children socially.
From my own experience and through the lens of my patients, I see the long-term negative effects that fractured relationships, especially during childhood, has on self-confidence and overall happiness. It impacts on the way we view ourselves, others, and relationships in general.
These are 8 valuable lessons:
1. Lead by your values, not by someone else’s behavior – We are prompted and taught to react and interact based on someone else’s behavior. If someone is mean, “act mean back” becomes our motto. Experiencing ourselves as mean and “feeling” mean does not benefit ourselves or the other person. Rather than being reactive, think about “who you want to be” and “who your best self is.” If your core value is kindness, valuing others, etc. then be thoughtful always, irrespective of another person’s behavior. There is a lot of shame and regret that inevitably lingers when you are not acting from your values and from a place of integrity.
2. Do not treat people the way you would like to be treated but rather how they want and need to be treated – We approach people in the way we know and is familiar to us. If someone is disappointed, we approach them in the way we like people to approach us. How would we know otherwise? Always ask others what they need; there is no way for you to otherwise know because each person is uniquely different.
3. Speak back to the mind when it evokes insecurity – Our mind is always trying to protect us, intrinsic in that is it being relentless at times. It sometimes provides more protecting than we need and could often provoke self-doubt, insecurity and worry. It could say things like “no one will like me” or “everyone is smarter than me.” We need to challenge these broad generalizations and negativity and act from a place of who we want to be. The only way to test out its validity is to purposefully lean into the challenge and then work from a more realistic place. “Some people are having negative reactions to me” is workable, whereas “no one will like me” is not.
4. Gaining confidence is an inside job – It is our job, not the job of others to build our confidence, self-belief, and self-love. The better we feel about ourselves, the better “self” we will be in our relationships and those are the people we will attract and place ourselves in relationships with. We need to think about whether we are putting in the time getting to know ourselves and better understand the way in which we think and feel and are also making strong concerted efforts to enhance ourselves within our limitations. Acknowledgment and validation are a personal practice and is critical to take note of on a daily basis.
5. When you have a strong reaction, take a pause – We all have strong reactions to others because it pushes our buttons and says something personal about us. It is important to take a pause so it gives us the time to process how it felt, what it evoked in us, and how we are prompted to react. Think through that and then go back to #1 on the list.
6. Approach relationships with curiosity and openness – We approach relationships with our entire selves, including our judgments and expectations. Always approach situations by asking yourself, “How else can I see this?” Think of yourself as a researcher, trying to better understand human behavior and make it a point to reserve judgments and expectations. Approaching with curiosity will allow for less defensiveness, more empathy and room for shifting preconceived ideas and notions about our beliefs.
7. Teach people how to treat you – People are not expected to know what you want and need even though we wish they did. We desire it so much, that we often get disappointed when they don’t know it automatically. Other people are not us, so they can’t possibly understand. We need to let them know and ask for what we need and set appropriate boundaries with others, so they get to understand our needs better.
8. Relationships evolve like people do – We, as human beings, and the relationships we engage in are forever growing, changing, and are in a state of flux. Given this, we need to understand that our needs and preferences will change over time in sync with our development. Acceptance encompasses that our friends and overall relationships may change over time and what we need from them will change too. We may become selective, develop preferences, and need to ask for what we need in our relationships. This is all expected and part of our natural development.
We may not have an instruction manual on raising our children, but we can be conduits in helping them to form positive satisfying relationships. Besides modeling the behavior for them, which is an essential part of parenting, we can teach them valuable lessons to fortify healthy relationships.
Blog as published in Psychology Today.