What you appreciate appreciates, especially in family life
Day in and day out I meet with parents who are struggling to find practical and compassionate solutions for family life. Over the years, I've come to discover that the most effective tool for getting things done, creating deep, enduring relationships and keeping the love flowing as a family is appreciation.
Why is this the case?
Well, it's actually quite simple.
Children arrive as human beings. I like to say we are BIG BEINGS in little bodies. The being part of us is here to express our fullest potential. The human part is most concerned with the survival of this amazing physical organism. Upon arrival the being part of us is present, aware, fully conscious. However, the human part of us is very primitive and limited in function. In the early years, quite quickly, human beings develop amazing skills that allow them to be productive members of their families and ultimately society.
And, this does not happen in a vacuum. Human development requires energy. Children need physical nutrition in the form of food to fuel development. However, they also need emotional nutrition in the form of energy from their parents and caregivers to fuel the massive amounts of emotional development that is taking place in childhood. The highest quality emotional nutrition, the emotional super food - if you will - is appreciation. When children receive appreciation they are receiving love and joy-filled positive energy from their parents. Feeling connected is a primal need that all humans have, especially developing humans. It helps us feel safe and seen. And when we feel safe and seen we are motivated to give more of what is being appreciated. It's an efficient use of the system. Love begets love, kindness begets kindness, appreciation begets appreciation.
But, when it doesn't, when more energy is going toward "misbehavior" or the things that are not working in family life, children will be motivated to continue doing what draws them the most energy. Even if it is negative energy. The energy is the need, the developmental currency. Children will do whatever it takes to get energy from their parents. If a child is unappreciated for the positives but given lots of attention for negative ways of being, they will learn how to fuel their emotional needs with negative energy. They will continue to do whatever it takes to get energy from their caregivers. This can often result in the child exhibiting very unsavory behaviors. Not because the child is “bad” but because the child has learned that “I get more attention for my negative behavior than for my positive behavior.” In other words, if a child is given more present moment energy, i.e. attention for doing something that is not desired, the negative behavior is being appreciated. And what we appreciate, appreciates.
My work is about offering families information, inspiration and tools for creating positive, joyful and connected lives. I draw upon neuroscience, prenatal and perinatal psychology, attachment theory, intuitive wisdom and two decades of working professionally with families. I am committed to helping people know themselves and their children deeply.
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