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Liberated Parents; Liberated Children

By Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish

How the teachings of famed child psychologist Dr Haim G Ginott helped a group of parents and children find new understanding and fulfillment in family relationships.

  • “The language I use does not evaluate. I avoid expressions which judge a child’s character or ability. I steer clear of words like ‘stupid, clumsy, bad,’ and even words like ‘beautiful, good, wonderful,’ because they are not helpful; they get in a child’s way. Instead I use words that describe. I describe what I see; I describe what I feel.”
    • Instead of saying a picture is good, say what you see, “A house, a purple frog, a green flower. It makes me feel like I’m in the country.” The child will feel reinforced that you see her efforts, not that you judged them.
    • Specific, descriptive praise
  • Anger without insult
    • Describe what you see, but you can do it angrily.
  • Whenever possible, replace a paragraph with a sentence, a sentence with a word, a word with a gesture.” As we speak less, we listen more to what a child is really saying.
  • In time of trouble, we do not blame. We focus on solutions. We lend each other a helping hand. 
  • All feelings are permitted, actions are limited. We must not deny a child’s perceptions. Only after a child feels right, can he think right. Only after a child feels right, can he do right.
    • People tend to invalidate other’s experiences. Validate them by observing the reality to the other party. Not: it’s not cold in here; Yes: so you are cold? Do you want a sweater?
  • When you feel like you need to offer a solution, you’re not empowering your child to feel or solve problems themselves: You strengthen your child by identifying the child’s painful emotions, and nothing more.
  • Comfort is not solutions – comfort is letting someone know you feel their pain and understand them. Tell them what you see.
    • Small offerings like a hug or a bandaid are totally cool, though.
    • Drawings and writing is a good idea. It’s a good way to get out emotions constructively.
    • If a kid doesn’t want you to know how they feel, give them that space.
    • There’s a limit to validation of feelings. At some point, you can tell them to stop and move on.
  • A feeling is a fact: if a child feels a certain way, that is his reality in that moment and you are not to invalidate that.
    • Your child can have two contradictory feelings. 
  • It’s a good idea to learn to depend on other people to help with your children. If something comes up, perhaps a teacher, coach, other adult or whatever can set the example or impact your child better than you can in context.
  • How do you handle something where you can’t praise?
    • If you can detect a child’s disappointment in their effort, acknowledge you can see the disappointment and explore the child’s feelings about the effort but do not try to convince them otherwise or expand on the disappointment.
  • How can you help a child change? We treat the child as if they are already changed. Give them chances.
    • Sometimes parents unconsciously reinforce bad behavior by labeling their kid and being affectionate about it. There’s an unconscious message that they are reinforcing a child’s role. Be careful.
    • Look for ways for the child to be the mensch you believe in – even if you have to set up a situation and reward them for playing a part in it.
    • There are times to be a parent and act, not react:
      • Stop wasting your energy being hurt or trying to defending yourself
      • Use your maturity to help look for opportunities
    • Tell your child that when they say you are mean, it makes you want to be mean
  • Sometimes writing a note that describes what you see is a good way to take away the emotion of a negative exchange. This can be you writing or the child writing.
  • With multiple kids, get both sides, but do it in the descriptive way, do not allow judgement, just say what you hear. Ask them to resolve it together. “When someone feels something, that’s their reality.”
  • Don’t change a mind; change a mood!! If the kid is stuck in upset, distract with humor or something.
  • A parent should respect their own limits. If you are upset or not psyched on something, DON’T DO IT. It will not end well. Martyring makes you grumpy and your kid and family can feel it.
    • You are working on validating your kids’ feelings all the time – don’t forget to validate yourself!
    • NOBODY needs a reason for why to feel how they feel. That someone feels it, that is enough.
    • Express your problem to your children – if you hate driving, say so. Work on finding a solution together.
    • If you don’t, this is the cycle:
      • Children make demands
      • Parent ignores negative feelings and complies
      • Resentment creeps in
      • Resentment comes out
      • Someone gets hurt
      • Whole family suffers
    • Ask your child to give you a break. They will if they understand you.
    • Let kids know you’re not on your “A” game and it’s not them.
    • If they ask to participate anyway, warn them they have to be super cooperative or bail when you ask. And then follow through. Protect yourself.
    • A child’s pleasure should never come with the price of a parent’s suffering (not for picking up extra work or anything like that)
  • Don’t just do something, stand there. If you’re upset, just take a moment and wait stuff and the child has space to work things out.
  • You don’t need to be calm all the time. You’re allowed to be angry. Just express anger without insult.
  • Authority calls for brevity.
  • Words not working? Offer a choice: Ball outside or no ball. Then reinforce.
  • Do not punish. Offer choices. And let the child know you’re disappointed, the victory of getting away with something will be diminished when they know you’re not happy. Describe what you see and your feelings.