The Subtle Mistake Parents Make
Steven Paglierani offers an interesting model of conformity in the context of education that can be applied to your influence on your child. My question for you is, “How much of your engagement with your child is an insistence on conformity?” Conformity is a subtle influence in phrases like, “Say, you’re sorry.” “Say, thank you.” Most parents don’t know any better, and are frustrated when their child does not comply with their efforts. You may want to be more concerned when they do.
Steven brings in an interesting element to the discussion. Consider that your hope is not that the child SAYS something. You are hoping that the child FEELS the emotion, and has sustainable behaviors to match. To SAY it without feeling encourages Invisible Non-Conformity. You teach the child to wear masks, and hide their true feelings. The child is not afforded the chance to evaluate her feelings and empathy for the other. Worse, the opportunity for empathy may be replaced with resentment.
Facilitating Empathy & Authenticity
There is another option. Rather than believing that you must TEACH your children. Understand two things. FIRST THING: You facilitate the development of emotional intelligence through your interactions with your children. The facilitation is best implemented through discussions that explain your point of view and the point of view of the other. For example, instead of “Say You’re Sorry” ask the child, “How do you think that made, Crystal feel? I would feel sad if you had done that to me. Have you ever been sad? What do you think you can do for Crystal?” Here is the hard part. If your child doesn’t recognize the damage they have done, you must move on after addressing it. You can’t MAKE them care. You can only continue the discussion.
SECOND THING: You teach norms and authenticity through your example. When you interact with others, even when you think your children are not watching, they are learning what genuineness is, and how it behaves. For example, if you are always doing something at the request of a neighbor, then complaining about the bother after the neighbor leaves, your children learn to have two faces—not to be authentic. They learn to mask their true feelings to offer only what the other wants them to say. Another option is to exemplify how to communicate feelings with courage, tact, and risk. You learn more about people that way—a component of high emotional intelligence.
The Creativity Connection
The question of conformity is important to creativity. Creativity is another of those character qualities parents have a great influence over. Research on creativity highlights 3 areas: Climate, Attitudes, and Thinking. In our earlier example, we illustrated an approach involving each of these elements.
Climate is the context you create for your child. Is it about conformity and SAYING the right things? Or is it about ENGAGING authentically? Attitudes are the orientations of the mind. Is the child oriented toward closed systems without genuine interaction and influence? Or, is the child open to the feelings, options, information, and perspectives while articulating how they make their choices? Thinking is the ability of the child to reason and make decisions. Is the child set on a single, correct way of doing things in every situation? Or, are they able to articulate a process of careful decision-making based on the best information available and the situation at hand?
[This content is excerpted from a full training Parenting Genius: Supporting Creativity & Empathy, Application of the Genius ID for Parents and Kids available soon at Udemy.com. Subscribe to TaunyasBNB on the right-hand side of this screen to receive the training for FREE.]