Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

For those of you following along with our book study, we are looking at Chapters Five and Six today.  This is an incredible book by Dr. Louise Hart that I feel gets at many of the issues affecting parents and how they discipline their children today.

Chapter Five begins with the baggage that many of us lived through – the era of “children should be seen and not heard.”  Dr. Hart points out that with this style of parenting, many children were “deprived of the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions and to gain confidence in their own abilities.  Many of them came to believe that what they had to say wasn’t important, that they weren’t important, or even that no one cared about them.”

I personally think this may have led to some of the present problems I see with the number of narcissists on the rise.  If it was never about them when they were children and there was a severe lack of attachment, and everything was shut down communication-wise as they grew older, I think perhaps many of these people never received the guidance or ideas as to how to integrate into a family grouping.  Of course, some people withstood this and grew up to be amazing, sensitive and fabulous communicators.  The author points out she didn’t feel really listened to until she was seventeen years old, and then by a friend, not her family.  That just seems a shame!

“Real listening expresses interest and caring.  It is a powerful and intimate experience that enhances self-esteen and friendship.” Parts of listening are listed on page 35-36  in my book and I urge you to look at this list.   Good communication also involves taking turns (so no interrupting or going completely off the topic in order to be an effective communicator on either side), and it involves giving feedback.  It involves practice to really be able to communicate in this way!

Chapter Six is about asking and refusal skills, and talks about the three simple ways people to try to get what they want:

Monster Ways – shouting, venting anger, hitting, manipulating, intimidating others.

Mouse Ways – crying, whining, begging, pouting, hinting, hoping someone will read your mind.

The author points out that stereotypically, males are taught aggressive ways of communicating and females are taught a very passive way of communicating.  I am so happy about this generation of parenting, because I think the parents that are teaching communication skills to their children are teaching their girls and boys assertive communication skills.  It involves knowing what you want and asking for what you want, with a timing that is SENSITIVE to the other people in the household or group (the last part may be the most  left out part when we teach our children).

We also need to teach children to ask questions when they don’t know the answers or understand.  This is especially important in tweens and teens that believe they know all the answers, and therefore have no need to ask more deeply. This is especially important to teach childen who have special needs, so they can advocate for themselves the older they get, but I think it is important for all children.

The other side of this asking, though, is the answer.  If someone is consistently wishy-washy and without boundaries, that can also be frustrating.  In this age of teaching children to say “no” to various things, we also need to be on the lookout for ourselves as to what we need to say “no” to as well.  “No” is a perfect word all by itself, and parents have to be able to say “no” in order to set boundaries for children.  If you can’t say no to things without couching it with a paragraph, why?  What negativity does no mean to you? How you say no makes a difference, of course, but no is important as it helps us develop our own freedom, our own power, our own control, our own self-definition.   A simple no in parenting works better than threats (“I’m going to do x if you don’t stop y.”)  How much better is just “No!  You may not do that!”   The flip side of this is that if you are saying “no” all the time, then perhaps you need help with your environment, your support network, your own baggage.  If your toddler is touching everything in the house, and it’s a constant “no”, maybe you need to re-evaluate what kinds of things are out in your house for a toddler to get into.  If you say “no” to every request from everyone, maybe you need some support.  If you can’t say “no” at all, maybe you need to explore why you can’t.

Next up, dealing with feelings!    It’s a great chapter full of insight.

Blessings,
Carrie

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