Before Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, or many of the other consensually living authors of our time, there was Dr. Haim Ginott. Ginott revolutionized the parenting and psychology worlds with his new philosophy on communicating with children. His book, Between Parent and Child, was on the national best seller list for over a year when it was written in 1965. While the republished version, edited and ammended by his wife Dr. Alice Ginott, has been updated, it retains the same basic premise.
First and foremost, children need compassion and understanding from their parents. They need to hear that their feelings, wishes, and dreams are acknowledged by us and that those internal feelings are always acceptable, although the resulting behaviors may not be. Guidance, not criticism, will help them to convey their thoughts and feelings in appropriate manners. As parents – the indviduals whom our children should be able to count on and trust more than anyone else, the words we use hold much more power and we should be cognizant of that when we speak with them. By modeling effective communication and giving our children the opportunities needed in order for them to develop their own responsibility, we will be helping them develop the skills they need.
If you are looking for one book to add to your home library this year, I would strongly recommend putting this one on your list of possibilities.
I once had a parent tell me that the reason she didn’t like consensual living was because she felt that first thinking about your response in a situation was “fake parenting.” In order to be “real,” she thought it was important for the parent to say whatever was first thought. However, that isn’t responsive parenting; it’s reactive parenting.
We’ve all had experiences during our lifetimes, and those experiences shape our lives. It’s an ineveitable fact of life. However, the extent to which those things shape our lives is up to us. Reacting relies not on conscious thought but on unconsciuos scripts. If you have ever heard yourself say a phrase which reminded you of your mother or father, you know exactly what I am speaking of. In order to authentically commnuicate with our children, we need to be willing to push past those automatic responses. Naomi Aldort’s S.A.L.V.E. technique has helped a lot of parents with this.
- S – Silent Self-Inquiry or Separate Yourself from the Situation – Before you unleash the words that want to pop out of your mouth when an incident happens with your child, take a moment to separate yourself from the situation. If you jump into your automatic script, you will merely be reacting rather than authentically responding.
- A – Attention on Your Child – Pay attention to your child and try to understand what is really going on from his perspective.
- L – Listen – Really listen to your child. We learn the most when we stop talking and pay attention to what is going on.
- V – Validate – Your child has feelings which affect his behavior. Regardless of what just happened, he needs to know that you love him no matter what. By validating that you understand his point of view, you will be strengthening the connection you share with him so that you can work together to come up with a solution which meets everyone’s needs.
- E – Empower – Empower your child be expressing your trust in him. CHildren are very resourceful and are quite capable of coming up with solutions for their problems or helping to come up with solutions to meet everyone’s needs.
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell is an informative and insightful book. Our previous experiences have lasting effects on future experiences. If we don’t take the time to process our own pasts – good and bad, we are destined to repeat history. While I didn’t find any of the information to be new, the biological and psychological processes were very interesting. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend the book for many individuals due to the technical nature of much of the book. If you are looking for a good parenting book addressing healing yourself from your childhood and separating yourself in order to be fully present with your children, I would steer you instead to Naomi Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.