(This post was originally written for Instagram, but it received such a positive response that I wanted to share it here too.)
I believe that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is that of unconditional positive regard. Coined by the psychologist Carl Rogers, it means that when we’re interacting with someone we choose to accept and think the best of them regardless of what they say or do. A powerful therapeutic tool, this is also invaluable for the parent-child relationship.
When we see our children as inherently good, and their behaviour as simply them doing their best to get their needs met in whatever way they know how, then we allow them to develop a strong, positive sense of self-worth.
When we adopt an unconditionally positive attitude toward our children – parenting them without trying to change them – we allow them the freedom & emotional safety to try new things, make mistakes, & take risks. We show them that whatever they do they are loved, important, and good.
This doesn’t mean they will never get things wrong – far from it, many of their choices may end up having negative consequences. But this freedom to learn by themselves, make mistakes, and figure things out without fear of punishment or shame is crucial if they are to develop a strong sense of self-worth.
So how does this look in practice? What happens if your child does something “wrong”, such as hitting their sibling?
- Focus on their feelings rather than behaviour: “I can see you’re feeling really angry that he took your toy.”
- Gently stop them from repeating the action: “I’m just going to hold your hand until you feel you can stop hitting, because I need to keep your brother safe”.
- Not withdrawing love. Children who are at their most difficult to love are in a place where they need our love, comfort, hugs, and reassurance more than ever: “I love you so much. I can see you’re feeling frustrated, but I will not let you hit him again.”
This kind of parenting can feel so challenging at times, especially if you were raised without this kind of unconditional positive regard. But keep repeating to yourself: My child’s worth is non-negotiable, whatever they do.
Then extend the same regard to yourself.
If you are looking for practical support, easy to digest information, and a kind, non-judgemental community to walk beside you on your peaceful parenting journey, The Peaceful Home is currently open for a short time to new members. I look forward to welcoming some of you into our community!