Change Your Focus To Help Your Kids ThriveJul 28, 2022
As a parent, do you spend more time focused on your child’s negative behavior that concerns you — or do you focus on helping your child develop skills that will help them thrive? If you’re like most parents I coach (myself included!), you tend to focus on what you want your kids to stop or what you think they need to improve.
Before you have any self-recriminating thoughts, know that there is actually a brain-based reason why we do this. As humans, research has shown that we tend to have a negativity bias and are more likely to focus on what we perceive as negative. This is based on genetic programming from our cavemen ancestors because those that paid more attention to negative threats were the ones that survived, and those genes got passed on.
On top of the negativity bias, we also have our reticular activating system (RAS) working against us. Our conscious brain can’t handle the massive amount of data coming at us every second, so our RAS filters the majority of the data OUT to keep us from data overload. The problem is that it filters to find evidence to prove our thoughts true — so once we focus on the negative, our brains start to filter for it so we start seeing evidence of the negative behavior or how we want our kids to improve all the time.
Unfortunately, this can have us telling our kids everything they need to stop doing, or what they should be doing differently and better — more often than we are asking questions to help them learn to navigate challenges, or acknowledge what they are doing well — and this can affect the tone of their inner dialogue and self-talk.
What all this means, is that if you want to help your kids develop skills and a positive inner dialogue that will help them thrive, you will want to get more intentional about it. You will have to consciously override your negativity bias and RAS filter. I know because I have to do this myself, all the time.
My kids are older now, but this instinct is still very strong. My brain still wants to focus on the negative and what my kids aren’t doing that I think they should be. I have to counter that by looking for examples of what they are doing well so I can affirm and help them build up those skills. In full transparency, some days I’m better at it and other days I’m just pointing out what they’re not doing and should be doing until one of them calls me out on it. I have figured out that I need to be intentional and aware of what I’m thinking and focusing on.
The first step to intentionally help your kids thrive is always awareness. Is your child good at figuring things out and handling challenges, or do they tend to come to you for help? Watch for times when you tend to step in and do or fix things for your child and consider how you can guide them to help them learn how to problem solve.
Make a list of questions that you can use when your kids are struggling. Our brains work to answer any questions that we ask, so questions will help your children’s brains start problem-solving. When your child says I can’t, you can ask How do you think you can? What do you think might be a good first step to figuring it out?
The more questions you ask and the more you get your child involved in figuring out their own answers, the more you help develop their problem-solving skills. Then when you affirm and high-five their ability to solve the problem, you help your children develop an identity of someone that knows how to figure things out and handle challenges.
I also encourage asking yourself questions to help you figure out how to help your kids develop skills that will help them thrive. What skills do I want to help my kids develop? How can I best teach them?
I did this recently by asking myself how can I teach my daughter skills that will help her transition easier when she leaves for college. As a life coach, I know a lot of tools and strategies that are really helpful during transitions, but I also know that my daughter was not likely to want to sit down and have me teach her individually nor would she absorb the material as well.
When I asked myself that question, I came up with the idea of offering a workshop to college-bound teens. I got so excited when I thought about it! I would be able to teach my daughter what I want her to know before she leaves, and in the process teach her friends and other teens life skills that will help them be successful way earlier than I learned them. The workshop will cover three ways that their brain is going to work against them when they get to college and three tools that they can use to make the transition easier. I even got my daughter on board with helping me to promote it. It’s a win all around, and it started by asking how I could best teach my daughter in a way that she was most receptive to.
I invite you to reflect on what you focus on most with your kids now, and whether you are focusing on what skills you want your kids to develop. Then ask yourself what skills you want to help them develop, and how you can best do that. Remember, your brain will work to answer any question that you ask, you just have to ask the right questions both to your child and yourself!
This material is from the final lesson in How To Help Your Kids Thrive in my Parent From Neutral course. So many of the tools and strategies to help kids thrive are counterintuitive to our natural parenting instincts. They’re not hard to learn, you just have to become aware of them and I help make it easy. I’m passionate about supporting parents to help kids learn life skills early in life that will help them thrive and succeed, instead of struggling and working against themselves for years like so many of us. If you want to learn more, line up a free call here.
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