The TOP Emotion for Parents to Feel. The Answer Might Surprise You!

Aug 18, 2021

If I asked you: “What’s the #1 best feeling you’d want to feel most often as a parent raising your children?” would one of your top feelings be confidence?  Do you want to feel like you know what you’re doing instead of second guessing yourself and often wondering if you’re doing the right thing?

A common theme that I hear from many of the parents that I work with is that they want to help their kids, but they’re not certain how and some days they feel like they just make things worse.

What if I told you that you don’t always need to know the HOW, that there is a better feeling than confidence that helps you stay connected to your kids and helps you parent better?

Do I have your attention now?  Because, there actually is a better feeling than confidence and the answer should surprise you because it’s completely counterintuitive.  The top feeling that I encourage for parents is curiosity.

Stay with me here, and let me show you three places where curiosity can be of a huge benefit.

The first area where the attitude of curiosity can make a big difference in your relationship with your child is discipline.  Think of how you react when someone tells you not to do something…  imagine someone saying “No!” at you (as we often do with our children!).  Do your hackles go up so you get reactive and defensive, feeling guarded or ashamed for your behavior?  Studies have shown that judgment and shame shut down the learning centers of the brain which makes it nearly impossible to listen and learn new lessons.  

If we don’t want our children to shut down and we want them to stay receptive and open, one of the best ways to do this is with an attitude of curiosity.  Can you find a way to ask a question to lead your child in the right direction while keeping them in a receptive and open state?

Here are some examples:

When your child takes away a toy:

How do you think James felt when you took the toy away from him?

When your child hits a sibling:

“I understand that you were mad and it’s okay to be mad, but what are some ways you can respond without hitting?”

The second area where the attitude of curiosity can make a big difference in your relationship with your child is your ability to establish a strong connection with them.  Parenting is more about connection than it is about guidance because kids have to be connected to us first to listen to us.  In last week’s blog post, I introduced the concept of Active Listening as a way to better connect with your kids.  

With active listening you stay in a place of curiosity, not judging anything that your child says, nor are you giving your child any advice on how to handle things or what to do.  You are staying completely open and curious to see what comes up for them, allowing them to process work through things without any input or judgment from you.  You stay curious and see what they might come up with on their own.

How do you practice Active Listening? Active Listening is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back in a question what is said, while withholding judgment and advice.  

Here is an example: Your child says “they made me play this game today at school.”  You would just repeat back “they made you play this game today?”  Your child might say, “yes, and I didn’t want to.” And then you would respond “you didn’t want to?”  And then keep going with the questions.

The third area where the attitude of curiosity can make a big difference in your relationship with your child is your ability to guide and coach them.  As a coach, one of my jobs is to help parents gain more self-awareness so they can be more intentional with how they show up and the results they want to create…  and I do this by staying in a state of curiosity and asking a lot of questions.  When you can stay in a place of curiosity to help someone else come to their own conclusions, making their own decision once they have thought things through, it can be more powerful than just telling them.  And it’s the same for children.

One of the first exercises that we were taught as coaches was to imagine that we were an alien that just arrived on this planet and we didn’t have any preconceived notions about anything.  Can you have a conversation with your child without making any assumptions or coming in with preconceived notions about what they are thinking or what is best for them?  

Here are some questions that might help:

  • Why or Why is that? (You can always start here…  when your child tells you they want something, ask why, and keep asking why until they tell you what feeling it is that they are after because we always want things for the way they make us feel! Get them to clue into what feeling they want when they desire an item so they start to connect with their feelings.)
  • Can you tell me more?
  • Can you imagine another way?
  • How could this be easy?
  • What if you did know what to do?

I was recently coaching the mother of a teen boy who acted very resentful towards his parents.  He had so many privileges; he had a phone, access to a car, a college fund…  and they couldn’t understand why he was resentful instead of grateful.  After coaching, his mother was able to have a conversation where she stayed curious and asked more questions.  It turned out that her son was wrestling with a much deeper question that there isn’t an easy answer to.  He was wondering why he was born to a family of privilege where there were so many other children that weren’t.  Why did he have a college fund when so many kids didn’t?  What his parents were interpreting as resentment was likely guilt, and his mother had so much more understanding and compassion for him following that conversation.

The key is to not jump to any conclusions about what you think is happening in your child’s brain, because it’s most likely not what you assumed.  Instead, stay in a place of curiosity so you keep them open and receptive.  Practice Active Listening so you can connect with them, and then ask questions so you can figure out what is going on in their brains and find out what they think is the issue.  The self-awareness alone can help them, and it can also give you insight so you are better able to parent and guide them.

This is part of my Counterintuitive Parenting Series for Mindful Parents.  These ideas may go completely against your natural instincts, but learning how to integrate them into your parenting style can completely change you as a parent and significantly improve your relationship with your child.  

I help parents learn to parent mindfully and confidently so they can stop reacting and second guessing, and start intentionally connecting with their children to raise resilient and confident kids.  Unlike other parenting courses and books, I use proven coaching and teaching methods to help parents confidently coach their kids, helping them establish a strong emotionally healthy foundation from the start.

My ultimate mission is to build a new emotionally healthy and happy generation, starting with our kids. I believe this is how parents change the world, one beautiful child at a time. 

I have a free mini class coming out on Three Steps to Stop The Worry!  How to Help Your Kids with Anxiety and Worry.  Go to melpeirce.com/StopTheWorry to get on the list and you will receive it automatically as soon as it’s released!

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