Most parents would agree that children are likely to thrive in a family atmosphere of “positiveness” – when parents are able to be supportive and encouraging, and nurture in their children positive expectations for their futures. (1) In the daily life of many families, however, positiveness has been eroded. As we struggle to cope with the demands of being parents, with our uncertainty and stress, moments of joyfulness and pride in our children too often give way to argument and withdrawal. Sadly, many parents now report that being a parent does not bring greater happiness to their daily lives. (2)
In today’s post, I will discuss how parents can restore and strengthen positiveness in their relationships with their children. In subsequent posts, I will continue this discussion, with additional recommendations.
The emerging field of positive psychology offers new insights into the benefits of positive emotions, throughout our lives. Positive emotions have been shown to broaden our thinking; to speed our recovery from emotional distress; and to improve our health, our longevity, and the success of our marriages. Positive emotions increase our productivity at work and our willingness to give to others.
A plan to improve children’s emotional health therefore begins with an effort to strengthen positiveness in family life. Increased positiveness is a first step toward improving our relationships with our children - and toward more cooperative behavior.
- Express enthusiastic interest in your child’s interests, even if these are not the interests you would choose.
As parents, our enthusiastic responsiveness to our children’s interests is the surest way to engage them in meaningful dialogue and interaction, and a first principle of strengthening family relationships.
“Mommy, Can you sign me up for this?”
My therapeutic work with children has taught me, over and over, a fundamental lesson: Children respond to our enthusiastic expressions of interest in their interests with evident pleasure. Children enjoy this interaction, and they want more of it. Often, when I begin therapy with a child, after even a brief period of talking about his interests and engaging in animated play, he may comment, “Mommy, this is fun. Can you sign me up for this?” or “Can I come here every day?”