What do you mean, children do better when they feel better?

Somehow over the years, some people have started to believe that we need children to feel bad about themselves to “make” them behave. You know what I mean:

“What have you done?”

“You silly boy!”

“Your sister doesn’t do that”

“You are so clumsy”

Do your words make your child feel ashamed of their behaviour? Do you mock their behaviour or humiliate them? This is counter intuitive; we forget that children are small people, like you and I. Like us, they are more motivated to co-operate, learn new skills and offer affection and respect when they feel encouraged, connected and loved.

Conventional thinking about helping children feel better:

  • Rewarding them with thinks like sweets, toys or whatever they want.

  • Piling on the praise: “I’m so proud of you”

  • Patronising, pacifying or denying feelings: “You’ll feel better,”, “You’re OK.”

  • Rescuing or fixing children. This doesn’t allow them to experience, and therefore deal with any negative emotions.

  • Giving in to their demands.

  • Trying to make them happy all the time (really, who is happy ALL the time?!).

  • Over protecting them so they never suffer and wrapping them in cotton wool.

The long term results of conventional methods can include our children feeling inadequate, and means they become unable to do things for themselves. They learn to depend on things or people, and worse, feel entitled. Children can become materialistic and believe love means getting others to take care of them and give in to all their demands.

There is a better way. Here are some Positive Discipline methods for helping children feel better:

  • Validate their feelings

  • REALLYlisten to them

  • Help them discover their own resources and be their own problem-solvers

  • Treat them with respect by providing them with choices and responsibility

  • Empower them by showing faith in them. “I can see you’re feeling bad inside, I know you can do this, do you need a hug?”

  • Allow them to develop their ’disappointment’ muscles

  • Give unconditional love

  • Provide opportunities to help and contribute

  • Provide experiences where they can feel capable

  • Teach them that mistakes are wonderful learning opportunities

Another important way to help children feel better is by understanding how the brain works and that positivetime-out (not tradition time out) provides children (and adults) with some time to calm down so they can come out of the flight or fight mode, and access their rational brains. Sometimes, this alone is enough to change behaviour. And following up with a brainstorming session to explore solutions that might work for everyone will help your child feel empowered and responsible.

Why bother, I hear you cry. The long-term results of using Positive Discipline methods are many and varied. You’ll raise a child who feels capable, confident, worthy and open to new possibilities. They will have faith in themselves, and believe they can learn from their mistakes. Not only that, but you’ll equip them for life by being able to handle disappointment, and make healthy decisions about how to experience belonging and their own significance in the world.

Don’t forget - the things that help children feel better also help adults feel better!

We reap what we sow in life, and this is never truer than when raising children. Our children treat us the way we deserve, by mirroring our behaviours.

I’m not saying that this is easy – there are times when doing what works long term is tough. I know that there are times when it’s easier to give your child what they want, or to rescue them so they won’t have to suffer. But remember, those things could lead to your children feeling incapable instead of the truth, which is that they can handle these situations, either alone or with your support and empathy.

Remember those conventional methods like bribery, giving in, praising and rewarding etc.? By trying to resolve issues, what those tools are actually doing are creating weakness in our children.