Parents and caregivers for children want to be the best person to help teach their kids right from wrong, help make them happy and nurture them into functioning adults with as little emotional scars as possible. It seems like a simple enough concept to grasp, but with all the varying parenting styles available, conflicting views and access to the internet, it seems everyone has an opinion and nobody agrees on what’s the ‘right’ way to raise a child.
American psychological researcher and clinician John M. Gottman conducted a study that analysed different types of parenting. He came to the conclusion that there were four types of parents:
Dismissing parents disregard, ignore or trivialise negative feelings.
Disapproving parents critical of negative feelings and punish kids for emotional expression. Laissez-Fair parents accept children’s emotions and empathise but don’t offer guidance or set limits on behaviour.
Ultra-parents raise emotionally intelligent children.
So how do these ultra-parents operate? What kind of aspects of parenting do they pay the most attention to?
To harness this knowledge and practice raising emotionally intelligent children, we turn to Jelena Parry (@jelenaparry). An amazing Mum, osteopath, blogger, and Happiness Co ambassador as well as a mindset coach. She has put her heart and soul into creating the HappinessCo Happy Hearts program; a hands-on guide for families to learn more about deepening the connection between child and parent but also extends to helping adults from other parts of life such as grandparents, uncles, aunties, and caregivers.
An over arching theme explored in the Happy Hearts program is Mindfulness; the art of awareness by utilising breathing techniques and stillness. By approaching these pillars with mindfulness you slow down your stress responses and the mental chatter decreases. When you use mindfulness in a family setting, you are simply enjoying quality time with your kids with no distractions. The more time you do this the more attentive, aware, kind and understanding your kids will be. Mindfulness gives your children the skills to develop their awareness of their inner and outer experiences.
The HappyHearts program focuses on seven main pillars:
1. Listening to Understand
This consists of hearing your child when they explain what they are feeling, accepting their feelings and to acknowledging why they are feeling that way. This communicates to them that they are worthy of your attention. It also demonstrates that their view of the world has merit, and by allowing them to decide action after they have processed their feelings it tells them that you trust in their problem-solving abilities.
Being grateful in the worst of times is an excellent tool to maintain a positive mindset. But how do we explain that to children? The University of North Carolina found that parents who showed more gratitude were more likely to set goals that gave their children opportunities to develop a sense of gratitude themselves. This is incredibly important as developing gratitude in childhood is known to bring advantages later in life. It will translate into a greater life satisfaction and a higher state of physical and mental wellbeing. To practice gratitude in front of your children and lead by example. An example of this is to be consciously grateful during challenging moments. If you have a disappointing outcome from work or you lose a game despite your best efforts, you can choose to respond with gratitude and positivity. Your children will soak up this message like sponges and lean towards the bright side when they face their own difficulties.
3. Fixed, Growth and Benefit Mindset
The concept of a growth mindset was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A mindset, is a self-perception that people hold about themselves, such as "I am a good parent" or "I am a bad parent". Our mindset is something that is shaped from our earliest experiences and environments that we were placed in. It can have profound effects on learning achievement, acquiring skills, personal relationships, professional success, and many other dimensions of life. Teaching our kids that they actually have control over their growing brains through the actions they take is really empowering!
Emotional intelligence in parenting begins with you. It’s important that you recognise and understand your own feelings so in turn you can teach that to your little ones. To be an emotionally intelligent caregiver you are there to help guide your children through difficult feelings. It’s also a teaching point to create healthy boundaries when it comes to behaviour.
The role of a parent is widely recognised as the most selfless act, sacrificing so much for your children. It’s important to know that self-love is NOT selfish! It’s one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and in turn to your kids. It’s the self-respect and esteem that navigates them through challenges, otherwise known as inner strength. Self-love is taught through example. If you look after yourself then your kids will do the same. There’s no faking this! If you don’t practice self-love your kids will recognise and internalise. Can you think of a time when you were a child and you realised your Mum or Dad was self-deprecating or self-sabotaging? Do you say the same things to yourself now?
6. Love Languages
Love languages are the different ways in which we like to give and receive love. When it comes to recognising your children’s love languages, observe how they express their love to you and to others. Listen to what they request the most and notice what they complain about. It may be different to what you personally prioritise, but it’s the best way to show them how much you love them.
Developing a sense of empathy is an important developmental process for young children, and one that can benefit them not only in childhood but well into the teenage years and adult life as well. Building an understanding of what others are feeling, how their own actions can impact on others and why someone might be feeling certain emotions at a particular time is a valuable life skill for children to possess. To be empathetic you are being in tune with your child’s feelings and consider them when you take action. Encouraging solutions rather than focusing on problems, empathise with their feelings by looking from their perspective or putting yourself in their “shoes”. As well as explaining to them that their emotions are a natural reaction and that it is ok to express them. Modelling empathy is one of the most powerful ways to teach empathy to children and builds a strong sense of self and connection to others.
All in All...
There will still be outbursts and you will still have days that everything goes hay-wire. Your role as a parent or caregiver is to nurture young people into independent, well-rounded individuals. Practice makes perfect. If you haven’t been raised in a home where some, if any of these concepts were considered, this will feel very foreign. Be gentle with yourself and accept that you are also learning. The more you practice each day the tighter the bond will be with you and your little people, and the better equipped they will be for life's amazing unpredictability.
All of these pillars in the HappyHearts program will be focused on in depth and taught through the use of practical online workshops and activities to implement these essential tools within your own family.
Love & Light.