parentingWrite this word on your hand ‘Acknowledge‘, it’s a very effective fun way to connect with a child of any age, it will help you to reduce their tears and tantrums and even help you to prevent them. Let me tell you more, it’s a simple but surprisingly challenging thing to do, particularly in the heat the moment when we are busy or stressed.

Start to imprint this word on all you do in connection with how you parent, and remember you have a choice as to how you parent. So the next time you feel the need to say something to your child or teenager, consider the word ‘acknowledge’. Before you tell your child that it’s time to leave leave their friends and come indoors, acknowledge your child’s point of view, acknowledge your child’s feelings even when you can’t go along with their wishes. This is not the same as agreeing, and is definitely not indulgent or fostering an ‘anything for a simple life behaviour.’

Acknowledgement isn’t condoning our child’s actions, it’s validating the feelings behind them. When your child see’s that you consider their feelings, you will teach them to consider yours and other people’s feelings, this will make them a more social and confident child and future adult.

Acknowledging is simple, but it isn’t easy. It’s a strategy that we find difficult as parents, ‘Do as I say’ as parents we often think we know best, in many situations this is true, but we can forget that our child knows what they need better than we do.

We worry that acknowledging our child’s wishes may make matters worse, Won’t saying “I know how much you want an ice cream like the one your friend has’ make your child want it even more, in reality what it will say to your child is that you understand, follow that up with  a good reason why now is not the right time for an ice cream and you will win your child’s respect.

Our fears about an honest acknowledgement of the situation “making things worse” are almost always unfounded. Feeling heard and understood allows children to release the feelings, let go and move on.

Here are 3 great tips that acknowledging our child’s truth is worth the conscious effort it takes:

  • Acknowledging can stop tears and tantrums in their tracks: 

I have witnessed this many, many times during my work with children and families whilst working for the NSPCC. Whether a child is upset about an injury, a disagreement with another child or anger over a conflict with a parent, acknowledging what happened or that your child is hurt, frustrated or angry can quickly ease the pain. Feeling understood is a powerful and your empathy will not be lost on your child.

  • Acknowledging, instead of judging or trying to fix a problem increases trust and encourages children to keep sharing their feelings: 

Parents and caregivers have an enormous influence on children, your responses too, have an impact on young children. If, for example, we try to calm children by assuring them that there’s no need to be upset or worried about something that’s troubling them, they may become less inclined to express their feelings with you in the future, they may feel you don’t understand them. If our goal is our child’s emotional health and well-being, then keeping the door of communication open is essential.

I was reminded of this recently when one of my online counselling clients told me                        of how she struggled with a conversation with her daughter. Her teenage daughter shared her anger and heartbreak over a long time best friend’s lies and betrayal. My client shared with me how difficult it was to not tell her that this friend is not worthy of her friendship, and that my daughter deserves so much better. How hard it was for my client to just listen and acknowledge the hurt and disappointment. As painful as this experience was for my client and for her daughter, it has deepened the bond between them,her daughter trusted her with her Mother with her pain and her mother listened in full, it will encourage her to share with her again. A week later her daughter ended up friends again with her long adored friend, choosing to accept her flaws, and my client was pleased that she had held her tongue.

  • Acknowledging helps to develop language development and emotional intelligence.

Children gain insight and clarity about their feelings and emotions when we verbally reflect them and help them to express them. It’s important we clarify their feeling before we label it, it’s safer to use the words “upset” or “bothered” rather than jumping to “scared” or “angry”. When in doubt, check it out, try asking, “Did it make you mad when your friend wouldn’t share his toy?” “Did the dog barking frighten you or just surprise you?”

If you do this regularly, you will be helping your child with how to express their needs, how to become more emotionally intelligent and reducing the tantrums caused by them feeling misunderstood.

If you would like to see more about parenting, have a look at my parenting and family page. I will also be posting more great parenting tips tomorrow, so why not bookmark this page.

Written by Paul Parkin – online counsellor and life coach.

April 21st 2013