During the summer, we spend more time with our kids and we experience more of their various emotions.
When we are on holidays, the kids are with us all day and we get a better sense of the rhythm of their activity, feelings and sense of self. And we truly want them to feel good about themselves. How can we make this happen for them? Is positive thinking the answer? If we believe it will happen, it will. We just have to have faith in ourselves. And, oh yes, you do have to do some work to achieve your goals. But somehow, when I hear about these attitudes, the work involved is almost an afterthought.
In recent years we called it The Secret, previously it was called the Power of Positive Thinking, and when I was young, we had a chirpy girl called Pollyanna. Pollyanna was a novel written in 1913 and became a Walt Disney film released in 1960.
So what is the result if we follow this belief when raising our children? I would never say that a positive and upbeat attitude is a bad thing. Unless it's a lie.
There are times when a negative attitude is a fine response to a situation. When I am driving home and cross the intersection on a green light but a car coming the other way runs his red light and broadsides my car, all the positive thinking in the world isn't likely to work or be appropriate.
With our children, we already have difficulty seeing them grappling with what we would define as negative feelings.
All too often, when our children express sadness, anxiety or worry, we try to appease them.
And this backfires. We do it to reassure and to comfort our children. But they get the message that they can't trust their own feelings. They think they feel anxious about something. So they tell us, and we dismiss the feeling.
So what do children learn? Besides learning not to trust their own feelings, they learn to ignore, dismiss and bury any 'unacceptable' feelings.
Children build a positive sense of themselves when we acknowledge and respect all aspects of their being. We permit them to talk about all their feelings. We listen when they vent about their day.
When you talk to people who are committed to the idea of being positive, they will admit that they sometimes have a bad day. But they quickly get past that. Problem is, they're moving forward in a phony way.
Let's appreciate our children, and for that matter ourselves, in an honest way. Let's acknowledge the good and bad. Let's give ourselves the luxury of feeling badly.
If we do that, we will be healthier because we won't be artificially submerging bad feelings.
We will model for our children a full range of feelings. And they will learn to appreciate themselves for who they are in any given moment.
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