Sunday, January 30, 2011

Validate needs , not feelings

In the moment is generally not a good time for solving problems, but often we can do more than just distracting the child or helping him to calm down. If we can make a child feel understood and validate his needs, we can get the collaborative problem solving process going.

This is the experience of a mom.

'When I have my wits about me (which is rarely), I have noticed that she is more willing and able to hear me if I have made a connection with her BEFORE I give her advice or impose limits. Somehow, if we reach a state of agreement first, it makes it easier for her to accept whatever conditions come next. For example, if she is trying to grab a toy out of my 2 year olds hands, if I tell her not to, I always encounter resistance (to put it mildly). But if I begin with asking, "is that one of your favorite toys that he has? Is that one hard for you to share?" and she answers yes, it somehow puts us on the same page, and makes room for the conversation to continue. It's as if she realizes that I can see her point of view, so she becomes willing to consider mine, and maybe even her little brother's.

If someone is getting hurt, I do the same thing, but with my body between them, so they don't have physical access to each other until after we have come to some understanding.'

Problem solving approaches have talked about validating feelings - I see that you are angry , upset , frustrated when your sister …. Etc . When we show validate feelings in the empathy stage of cps we can actually trigger more anger and upset. Talking about feelings can be valuable in problem solving only in that it helps us externalize our feelings, put them aside and then start solving problems. Feelings cannot contribute to problem solving. Naming of feelings is part of the process where we convert emotional expression into thinking.

' Children can feel in control of themselves and their world when they can use words and describe how they are feeling. If a kid has a vocabulary that describes a full range of emotions he is in more of a position to describe how he is feeling. Many kids when asked how they feel say things like ' good, terrific, bad, awful, or terrible. Very few answer ' happy, sad, frustrated, or afraid. When a kid names his feeling ' I am frustrated ' , he then continues to give the reason – I am frustrated because I have an unmet need, concern etc , he is then in a position to actually do something about it. A child might do something different if he feels sad than if he feels frustrated. Just thinking he feels ' bad, terrible or awful will not help him make an informed decision about his next step. ' - Myrna Shure Thinking parent, Thinking Child

If a kid can identify his needs and concerns we can by-pass the naming of feelings stage. What is important is his needs and concerns. We can solve problems if we can help him articulate his concerns and put them on the table.

Out of the moment - Talking with children about feelings and emotions is important. We can talk about ' what makes me happy , what do you think makes your sister happy , sad , angry , frustrated , disappointed etc This helps kids to consider other peoples' views and feelings.

In the moment , when a kid is struggling with the emotional rush , naming emotions can actually give fuel to them.

So instead of validating feelings, validate concerns and needs.


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