Have you ever had one of those days where it feels like you are constantly nagging your children to get something done or to stop bothering his sister? Or maybe you are sitting down with your partner at the end of the day and you can only think of the million and one ways that the kids drove you nuts today? Somehow, we struggle with, as the song goes, to “accentuate the positive.”
We want to think about all of the ways that our kids are amazing, but we often struggle to find those moments, particularly when we are tired and our resilience is running low. Yet, when we complain, we stop thinking about our kids from a positive, strength-based perspective.
Like the TV news, it seems so much easier for us to go negative. As the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” There is something in the human psyche that draws us to the negative, that causes us to stare at car wrecks as we drive by. And a negative perspective can be contagious as research has shown. If our partner or a friend starts going negative, we are much more likely to head in that direction as well.
Psychologists think that being aware of and attracted to the negative is an evolutionary trait. Knowing where danger was kept us out of danger. Studies have shown that we are much more influenced by negative news than we are by positive which is why you can remember each little thing your child did wrong, but not all of the nice things that she did today.
Parenting Bright Spots
Shifting out of this mindset isn’t easy. Just telling someone who is thinking negatively to think positively isn’t a good solution. As innovative parents, we need to be aware of the positive even more than the negative because parenting innovation works best when we focus on what works and not on what didn’t work.
So, how do we find those positive things when the negative is so glaring?
You look for places where things are working.
These “bright spots” are the places where things are coming together, often in unexpected ways, to make life actually work. Innovators in organizations look for bright spots in business processes to see where someone has made a difficult situation work and then look to duplicate it elsewhere. At home, we’re looking for these bright spots as a way pulling out the positive.
How Do We Find the Parenting Bright Spots?
Observation is a key piece of the power of innovative parenting. It means more than simply sitting there and staring at your kid. Observation in the context of innovative parenting means asking questions. Think about what your child is doing. What are they saying or feeling? Can you look at tasks, chores, or parts of routine in smaller chunks? Try thinking about what you would see if you were a stranger walking into the house. Doing this allows you to look beyond what you just notice by pushing you to ask deeper questions and encourages you to track your findings.
When we use our observation skills, we start to see the “bright spots.” It helps us begin to notice the smaller successes that we might be having with a difficult child. You might find that the child that has so far evaded your attempts to clean his room actually keeps his bed clear of debris. Or a child that is constantly in her sister’s business might be really empathetic when the sister is upset. Without observation, you might never find these victories.
Celebrating the Parenting Victories
We can escape our negativity bias by using our observations to create a feedback loop. A critical element of that feedback is taking time to celebrate the victories that you do get.
The need to celebrate the small stuff is universal to parenting. I’ve worked with parents with kids who might be the next Einstein and provide for their parents’ retirement. I’ve also worked with families that are considering long-term care plans for young children and everything in between. The best of them have known how to turn even the smallest success into a celebration. As someone who is actively observing and seeking to grow your understanding of your child, you will start to see when you have opportunities to celebrate even the smallest victories.
Celebrating these small victories might be just a knowing glance between you and your partner. Or it’s an opportunity to open up a bottle of wine later at night. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important that you and the other adults in the child’s life acknowledge these victories to each other, rather than dwelling on the challenges ahead.
Don’t leave your child out of the celebration, either. For them, these victories could be marked with a treat or prize, but sometimes just a hug or a high five will be sufficient. What they need to hear is your praise and approval because that validation will push them to try to succeed again.
Small victories are important because they are the building blocks of larger success. If we stack enough together, we can see incredible growth in our children and we can set our negativity aside.