Caring Relationships….are one the best protective factors for children who the face the high pressures and demands of parents, school officials, and society.
I recently attended a talk by Suniya Luthar, Foundation Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and Professor Emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Dr Luthar has spent years studying resilience and vulnerability in children from many different populations.
The consistent message is that those children who have a positive caring relationship with a parent, teacher, or any adult have a higher resilience, less depression/anxiety and less destructive behaviors. Certainly there are other factors and just having a caring parent does not guarantee your child will never do drugs or have a bought of depression but it does make the case that we, as adults, need to do more to demonstrate how much we care, speak more kindly, ask how we can help, and reduce our criticisms and unreasonable expectations of our children.
This is also a call to educators to reach out and practice compassion, empathy, and non-violent communication. Ask your students how you can help. Reach out to a student who seems withdrawn or one whose grades are decreasing. Sometimes just saying ” I notice you have been quiet, how can I help?” Letting them know you care could make a HUGE difference in their lives. I have experienced the power of those words and how they can truly turn a student’s behavior around if they feel supported and know that you want to help them…that all is not lost.
Dr Luthar also explained that “bad” comments have a much greater effect on children than “good” comments. So it takes 3 positive comments to balance out the negative effects of 1 critical remark.
As parents, it is so easy to constantly harp on grades, chores, room cleaning, etc…that we forget that this constant nagging can be detrimental to the child and our relationship. I would suggest that we learn to change HOW we say things.
At the Parker School, where I taught last year, we always started our feedback with warm feedback (positive) then transitioned to cool feedback. Even then the cool feedback was discussed in such a way that the student or fellow teacher felt supported and not attacked or criticized.
Recently, I have tried to back off the nagging of grades with my son. He felt that I was constantly criticizing him because I was addressing some chronic low performance. A friend suggested I back off and I did. When I did address it, I put my “coach” hat on and tried to ask questions and give him choices. I asked how I could help and when he was going to speak to his teachers instead of telling him what to do. Same outcome…different emotional triggers.
I think my new stance is working better. We have less outbursts, fewer fights and he has admitted to not putting in the effort he should… which is a HUGE step. It doesn’t mean he is going to change right now but the admission in a calm manner was progress. Baby steps!
Dr Luthar has TONS of articles and research on her website. I highly suggest you check it out.
We don’t have to be the bad guy in our kids’ lives and we don’t have to bully them to get them to do what we want or to do what they need to do. Helping them rebound from mistakes is huge. Remind them that mistakes are learning lessons and we can always make a fresh start.
“I Love You”
” I am here for you”
“How can I help?”
“What do you need me to do?”
“Tomorrow is a new day”
“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
Remember, no parent is perfect. YOU are NOT perfect. We ALL have something we could be doing better; some way that we can also grow and make progress. Life is a journey. Don’t stop evolving!