In order to convince children that they are OK and good, a parent first needs to know that they are OK and good. Psychologist Thomas A. Harris suggested four levels of emotional intelligence that provide a framework for positive parenting. To read about the four levels, see “I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: OK and EQ“.
In an ideal world, parents would always be in an “I’m OK, You’re OK” state of mind. For this, the parents must agree with the “I’m OK” part – they must first believe that they are OK. Once this is established, it is time to work on the “You’re OK” mindset.
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, parents who see the good in themselves and their kids tend to raise kids who see the good in themselves as well. This is a great cycle. By taking care of ourselves, we ensure our children and their children know they are good and “OK”. This mindset can impact for many years even after we are gone.
Most of the ideas below on how to shift to “You’re OK” parenting are similar to how you as a parent can work on adopting an “I’m OK” mentality. However, they can be a bit more challenging. Seeing good in ourselves can sometimes be easier than seeing good in others, especially if they are experiencing the shame and guilt of the “I’m not OK, you’re not OK” mindset.
Here are some tips for you. It is best to focus on one or two tips first. Try to master them before moving on.
- Write down 100 things you appreciate about your kids
- Write down 100 things you are very proud of your kids for.
- Give your kids compliments at every opportunity.
- Tell your kids you love them at least 10 times a day. Kids have a tank that needs to be filled. If there is any shame or guilt in that tank, only love can scare it away.
- Tell your kids how much you are proud of them. Avoid taking the credit for their success. I once met some parents who said good things about their kids and added “because he is my son”. The opposite of shame is pride. Whenever you think your child was shamed by someone, compensate by giving them 10 expressions of pride.
- Give your kids the benefit of the doubt. If you do not know why they did something (perhaps something you are not particularly happy about), try to first to guess a positive justification for why they might have done it.
- Be patient. Parenting is a long process and kids learn things at their own speed. They do not have a clock in their head that says that now that they are 6 years old, 35 days, 20 hours and 51 minutes it means they absolutely have to know how to do something or another. If they make mistakes, do not rush to fix it. Give them the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes.
- Help your child do things he/she is good at. Support and promote this gift and ability. If possible, give them responsibility that highlights these skills.
- If you have complaints and see faults, do not express them too often. Complaints and disappointments create shame. Once it becomes ingrained, shame is very hard to get rid. Regardless of the outcome, point out good behavior, the progress, the process, the courage to try, the participation. Follow this rule: If you have something good to say, say it. If you don’t, keep quiet.
- Lower your expectations. If you find yourself often frustrated, it means reality does not match your expectations. It is a bit like looking in the mirror and trying to fix the image. Many parents get upset when I tell them to lower their expectations. Honestly, if you do not expect anything, how will your child learn? I myself think that high expectations are generally good for kids. However, we need to be conscious about the gap between our expectations and reality. Increase your expectations slowly. Just be aware that whenever you are frustrated, this can be a sign that you are expecting a little bit too much.
- Notice good behavior. This does not mean we ignore our kids’ negative behavior. It means we do not generalize from one incident to a lifelong habit. More often than not, they will learn that it was not a good idea by themselves.
- Be a kind and generous parent. Give your kids attention, care, time, skill and knowledge. Try not to force it on them. Force puts you in a superior position and your kids straight into the “I’m not OK” zone.
- Be a responsible parent. Do not blame your kids for your misfortune. Many parents use the excuse, “I gave up my career to raise kids”. You did not have to, you chose to! It will not alleviate your own guilt about your choice if you transfer the guilt to your kids. Your kids did not choose to be born.
He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.
– Thomas Fuller
- Be forgiving. Kids are not perfect – they are human. They make mistakes and they learn from them. We all do.
Join me for the next installment in the series for a list of beliefs we can adopt in order to overcome guilt and shame. Learn beliefs to help you regain happiness and control over your life. This list is important for us as individuals, and even more so as parents.
This post is part of the series I'm OK - You're OK Parenting:
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: OK and EQ
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: Shame
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: Guilt
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: Parenting Styles
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: Being an “I’m OK” Parent
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: Being a “You’re OK” Parent
- I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting: “I’m OK” Beliefs