Relationships do not simply happen. Connecting with others is hard work and relationships are easier made than kept. This is even more so when it comes to parenting.
Relationships are based on genuineness, empathy and respect; and this is essential in the family. Children who succeed have close relationships with others, particularly their immediate family, and feel empowered and valued by others. On the other hand, children who are struggling and/or lonely and lacking close relationships feel isolated, useless to society and powerless.
According to Adlerian psychology, all children want to connect, feel capable, count and have courage – the crucial four Cs. How can we, as parents, enable our children to achieve these 4Cs?
Communication skills are basic to any relationship. Keeping open channels and a genuine style of communication is essential to build and maintain a healthy relationship with our children. Everyone needs to feel connected in order to form healthy relationships and bonds.
The first people babies connect with is their parents/main caregivers. It is important we find time to listen with understanding to our kids. We need to enter their world and try to read accurately their feelings with empathy.
Adlerian parenting suggests regular scheduled family meetings, maybe weekly, where the whole family can discuss, seek consultation and take decisions together. This helps children to feel that they count, that they belong, and that they are important members of the family. Anyone who feels valued in a group achieves much more. This, in turn, empowers children and young persons and motivates them to be self-disciplined.
On the other hand, taking part in the family decision-making helps a child or teenager feel capable and encourages responsibility. Any child strives to feel capable, to feel they have the capacity to acquire skills and achieve.
As young people grow and mature, they increase their knowledge, skills and abilities and find a place in society where they can feel competent and independent. Parents can support this need by allowing children to do things on their own, even if it takes extra time and energy.
“Children who are encouraged to feel competent and capable develop self-control and become independent”
Courage is not inherited. It is the willingness to go forward and do what needs doing, even if this is challenging. We should encourage things that are significant to the child. We need to reflect: “Will this help them to try more or less?”
Encouragement is not praise. It focuses on how far one has come and not how far one still has to go. We can do this by highlighting the strengths, not the weaknesses, eliminating criticism, separating the deed from the doer and encouraging independence. Courage is a sign of resilience, hope and bravery.
Feeling that we connect, that we are capable, that we count and that we have courage will go a long way to enhance a positive attitude about life and give it meaning and purpose. By embracing these very simple principles, we can change parenting and become better at understanding the goals behind our child’s behaviours and needs.
Children and young persons who are encouraged to feel competent and capable develop self-control and become independent. They are thus able to take on responsibility and have equal, healthy and respectful relationships with others.
If they embrace the four Cs, children will be able to take life head-on and make it work for them. They will develop an I-can-do-it mindset and they will have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at them. They will have a positive mental attitude and good mental health. They will be able to build positive relationships both within the family and outside. They will be responsible, productive, cooperative, self-reliant, resilient, resourceful, contributing and happy.
Maud Muscat is counsellor and vice treasurer at MACP − Malta Association for the Counselling Profession.
If you’re interested in learning more about the counselling profession or would like additional information on mental health and self-care, visit www.macpmalta.org, www.facebook.com/CounsellingMaltaMACP or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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