Creative Child

Positive Intent: A Powerful Positive Parenting Tool

by Rebecca Eanes

From the time that our babies learn to walk and talk, we are hit with warnings.

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The “terrible twos” are coming.

You’re in trouble now!

Just wait until she’s a threenager.

Oh please, that’s a breeze compared to my middle schooler.

They’ll walk all over you if you let them!

He’s just trying to see what he can get by with.

She’ll keep pushing boundaries just to push your buttons!

We are, in fact, smothered with messages about how we must get a handle on our children or there will be hell to pay for years to come. Our culture is constantly feeding us negative ideas about children. When they are infants, we see them as blessings and gifts. We are quick to gush over newborn babies as “innocent” and “sweet,” but just wait a few months and the messages begin to change. We are constantly told about how they will manipulate us, test our authority, push our buttons, and see what they can get away with. With the dire warnings come loads of advice telling us the best way to control our little tyrants – so they don’t control us.

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It’s no wonder, then, that we learn to assign negative intent to our children’s behavior. The clamor of the world drowns out the whispers of our hearts, and we end up viewing our children less as gifts and more as mischief to be managed. You may begin seeing our child’s motives as negative (to gain control, to manipulate, to challenge) and when you see negative intent, this triggers negative reactions. You become angry, embarrassed, frustrated, or frightened, and in that triggered state, you become reactive. You may even justify making your child feel bad through your “discipline” because, in your mind, you are doing it to make her a better person in the long run. So, you scold her wrongdoings and highlight her character flaws in the process. Unfortunately, when our children see the “badness” that we see, they may come to themselves that way, too. But they don’t just see their behavior as bad, but often they see themselves as bad. If that works its way into a child’s self-concept, you’ll see the “bad” behaviors repeated again and again.

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