The beliefs we hold about our children are powerful. They influence how we interact and treat our children and ultimately shape how our children develop and think about themselves. Sometimes our beliefs can be helpful and empowering. Other times they can be unhelpful and limiting.
If we notice ourselves holding a negative belief about our children, a useful tool is to adjust or change our perception. This can help us see things differently, feel differently and problem solve in a new way. This therapeutic tool is called reframing. For example, if your child is “bossy” reframe your perception to “they have good leadership skills” or “they know how to get what they want”.
Reframing isn’t about seeing our children through rose-colored glasses. It’s also not about ignoring behaviors that children should work on. Instead it is about providing opportunities to view children and their behavior in a new light. This opens up the following possibilities.
– Reframing helps parents appreciate aspects of a child’s behavior that was previously viewed as problematic.
– For example, a “bossy” kid can be annoying, but aspects of being “bossy” are often positive, such as confidence, asserting oneself, being able to speak one’s mind, leadership, and more.
– Reframing helps parents tease apart different aspects of behavior, helping the child retain the positive while adjusting the negative.
– For example, if a child is “bossy” help them retain the ability to speak their mind, but help them work on not being overbearing, demanding, or not listening to others.
– When we reframe, new solutions to a problem become available.
– For example, if a child is “bossy” help them learn to become the best leader they can. Help them figure out which skills good leaders have and include skills that they can work on such as listening to others, considering others perspectives and helping others find a voice.
– Point out other leaders for your child to model. Have your child point out leaders they admire.
– Suggest they run for a school leadership position.
Reframing does not make problems go away, but it does provide relief and new avenues to work through problems.
Reframing can also be a tool for parents to view their role and function through a different lens. For example, if your child is going through a rough patch it can be frustrating or even make one angry. Reframe the situation and your role as an opportunity to show your child how to handle difficult circumstances or an opportunity to show them a deep level of support.
Below are examples of particularly difficult behaviors reframed.
Negative Behavior – Bossy
Reframed – “You have great leadership skills. I appreciate how you organize everyone, just make sure you give everyone a change to voice their opinion and participate in their own way.”
Negative Behavior – Stubborn
Reframed – “You are dedicated to what you believe in, and that takes strength, but it would be helpful if we could think through this together.”
Negative Behavior – Selfish/Manipulative
Reframed – “You are good at watching out for what you need and working to get it. This is an important skill, but thinking about how others feel is also important.”
Negative Behavior – Resistant
Reframed – “I appreciate how cautious and careful you are because it can help avoid problems, but it can also keep you from trying new things. How about we try it and if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it again?”
Negative Behavior – Rude/Bad Attitude
Reframed – “You have the ability to affect people. That is a strong skill you should hold on to, but maybe you can think of ways to affect people so that it works out better for you.”