Sunday, March 25, 2012

Using the sweetness weapon on cantankerous people

The behavioral psychologist, John Gottman, speaks about the days when therapy was heavily based on the notion that repressed anger was the root of all emotional problems.  Married couples were encouraged to express their anger towards each other.  Plastic bats (that didn't really hurt but made a lot of noise) were given to couples to whack each other with, under the watchful eye of their therapist in the belief that the more expressive they were about their anger, the healthier their relationship would be.

I wonder if there's a link to the fact that the divorce rate shot up to around 50% of all first-time marriages during that generation.

Letting it all hang out, anger, hatred, grudges, accusations... the research shows that people who thought they were cleansing themselves of this poison, were actually strengthening it, injecting it deeper into their systems and feeling justified to hold onto these destructive emotions.  The sad thing is that this passing experiment was like letting a genie out of a bottle. The way many feel so free to lash out at those they claim to love, and then justify their "right" to inflict pain, shows that this mindset has infiltrated every area of life.

 Dr. Gottman also comments on how children who are constantly criticized for what they do wrong, actually live up to those criticisms.  "You are so lazy!  What's wrong with you? You never like to listen! You're so obnoxious!"  They most likely do need to be taught not to behave that way, but attacking them with put-downs turns kids with negative traits into kids who believe they are innately bad people.  The become who you accuse them to be.

On the other hand, the opposite approach has been proven over the years to be what brings out the best in everyone.  Spouses, children, friends, cantankerous bosses...  It's the words of kindness, of affirmation, of praise and faith in the innate goodness of another, that causes them to live up to that expectation. It's the sweetness that makes them sweet.

Your child may have serious problems with selfishness, for example.  He is insecure about his toys, won't share, won't obey when it's time to put down his game to eat a meal.  You have punished him, scolded him, shouted at him, and he becomes more belligerent.

As frustrated and angry as you feel that he is so unresponsive, go against your anger, and use your head.  Lure him into a state of wanting to please you, through the power of praise.

Pounce on every opportunity to tell him what he did right, thank him for every sign of good character or behavior, praise him and make him feel such a difference when he does what is right, that you will start to condition him to want to do more that is right.  Allow him to hunger for more of that praise, and to search out new ways to get you to give it to him.

This starts out feeling wrong.  It feels like you "should" be punishing him more.  But we all know where feelings lead us.  Do what experts know works.  Do what God commands us to do to all people, to return evil with good.

That doesn't mean that you will never punish him again, or that being tough is no longer an option.  It's more than an option, it's a necessity!  But the ratio of how much praise and positive affirmation you give him (or her) to how many scoldings you give, has to be far outweighed by the positive to such a degree that the negative becomes so rare that it feels even more painful in contrast to all that love and warmth.

What starts out feeling wrong, quickly reveals itself as the best, the most fruitful and the most joyful way of raising a child.  Think about it!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs Evelyn

Thank you for the post,We must not allow anger to control us instead we must act the opposite and do what is good to our loved ones and to shower them with praises and you will see a change in them.

Best Regards

Stephanie Michelle Gamboa said...

"Return evil with good" I have heard this many times, but haven't applied it this way. I myself do not have children but I do have two younger siblings and in trying to help them, i have realized that constantly scolding them only distances them. This tactic is most definitely one that I will be using.Thank you very much, Mrs. Evelyn.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs Evelyn. I love everything you
had to say here. "It's the sweetness that makes them sweet." If only all women would hear of this, of the power of sweet talk, what change it would have done on our marriages, families, relationships. This power is unleashed when we are able to discipline our tongue. When we are able to think deeper than what our mouths can say...deeper from our conscience connected to God.

- UCKG Phil, Melody Habla