15 Jun How To Raise Thriving Children
We all want our children to thrive but how can we make a positive impact on their growth? How can we help them on their thriving journey?
On Part 1 of How To Raise Thriving Children we explained the scientific background before sharing practical advice so you could better understand the how’s and why’s and use the knowledge acquired to build the foundation for raising Thriving Children.
Below are five practical examples of how you can help your children on their thriving journey. Both Caroline and I have been putting these in practice with our own children and we’ve seen a huge difference in their behaviour and happiness. As we research, learn and put new techniques in practice, we are always updating and increasing our teachings at the Thriving Group. Our team factors in their own expertise and also contribute to developing every single programme we teach.
1. MODEL THE BEHAVIOUR YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE
As mentioned in Part 1, mirror neurons allow us to model or observe and then repeat an experience based on what we have just observed. They are key for children’s development, as well as relationships and education.
And so if a child observes someone being noble, more than likely he or she will develop those virtuous traits. If they observe someone complaining and blaming and being victimised, their mirror neurons will mould and shape based on what they’re observing.
But be aware, if you’re giving mixed signals, children get very confused and they don’t trust or believe anything you say. They’re going to rebel against whatever you are saying because you’re not doing it. Never teach anything to your children that you can’t demonstrate. We can’t yell at our children and ask them not to yell. If you’re going to be a role model and teach them greatness, then you have to be willing to change yourself in the process if you are not already there. This is why children are the greatest gifts for our own growth and self-awareness.
2. TEACH THEM HOW TO SHORTEN THEIR EMOTIONAL REACTIONS
When you have a reaction to something in your life, there are chemicals that are created. If you let that period continue for hours or days then that turns into a mood. If that develops for weeks or months it develops into a temperament. If that goes on for years on end, that’s called a personality trait. So you develop your personality trait based on your emotional conditions in your life.
Aside from trauma and abuse, it’s crucial that as parents we teach our children how to shorten their emotional reactions (Emotional Refractory Period or ERP), to become so neuroplastic, that they can let go of the emotion and change gears. This is a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced over and over until it becomes a habit, and their natural way of being. The ability to let go of emotions is one of the most important skills you can teach your children, it will have a remarkable impact on them throughout their life.
As a result of that, never try to reason with a kid when they are emotional. Do you want to be reasoned with when you are emotional? Or do you want to be left alone? You’d rather be left alone until the chemicals wear off. Those different chemicals last 90 seconds to 2 minutes. That’s it. So, how do you help children to let go? Find a way to break their patterns. Something like jumping on the trampoline, walking outside, anything that your children enjoy, requires action and movement; something that can shift their attention and break the pattern.
3. DON’T TRY TO TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF AN EMOTIONAL REACTION
Based on Dr Joe Dispenza’s* advice and words he says to his children, when your children are struggling or moving out of balance (for example having a tantrum), as long as they are not hurt in anyway, never interfere and try to redirect their behaviour. Stop whatever you are doing and turn around and observe them. Stare at them and observe them until they know that you are observing them. When they stop and turn around and know what you are doing, they become self-aware in the process. Allow them to run the course of the emotion without interacting with them. In the evening when they’re in bed talk about yourself. Using Dr Joe Dispenza’s example with his children: he would say ‘I’m working on this emotion anger…’ and would talk to them like he was talking to a counsellor. He’d be really honest with them. His kids would then say ‘I also got so mad at … today.’ He’d say ’Yes, you did, I saw that!’ ‘He would then say ‘If it happens again how will you do things differently? If the same thing happens tomorrow I just want to know how you will approach it differently?’
Then they’d say ‘well I’d do this’ and Dr Joe would say ‘Well are you aware that would lead to this…?’ and then they would say ‘Oh I didn’t think about that.’
And so then they begin to modify their behaviour and look at possibilities in that moment. That’s called change.
This exercise will make them speculate potentials as a result of their self-observation and their self-awareness as well as create a new strategic plan to cope with this experience should it reoccur. The research in neuroscience shows that you can install the neurological hardware ahead of the actual experience by mentally rehearsing what you’re going to do. Your brain begins to change to look as if the event has actually happened, it doesn’t know the difference between the actual experience in the external reality and what you rehearsed in your internal reality.
Dr Joe would then ask his children after they completed the model to repeat it to him over and over again until they got it exactly the way they could demonstrate it. This primes their brain and conditions their body emotionally to begin to prepare for the experience when it happens.
Then before they go to sleep Dr Joe would tell them the story in allegory (a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics). “There was this magical land with castles and dragons and unicorns…” and he’d take them through the whole experience by allegory. Because of children’s brain wave patterns in Alpha, they have no problems imagining the allegory.
This takes children through the experience by association with the characters and situation found in the story. He’d describe the children to look just like them and tell them all these conditions they had to overcome and all the magic that was in their life and then there would be the poignant moment where they had to make a decision. He would almost repeat exactly what he had told them when they were talking about creating the model. At the end of the story they would often say ‘was that me?’ He’d say ‘I don’t know. Was it?’ And they would nod their head with a grin and fall asleep.
You begin to install the neurological hardware ahead of the actual experience so they have circuits in place to use when that situation comes up. That’s called evolution because new thoughts lead to new choices, new choices lead to behaviours, new behaviours lead to new experiences and new experiences lead to new emotions and new emotions are information from the environment that begin to alter their genes, epigenetically. Then those emotions drive their thoughts and self-esteem, self-confidence, efficaciously and everything that goes along with it.
Personal Tip: With my youngest daughter who is now 22 months old I use a mix of the advice on points 2 and 3. Depending on the situation and why it all started I may just stop, look at her and observe, letting her run the course of the emotion without interfering. Then most of the time it is she who tries to do something funny and smile to get my attention (maybe she is trying to shorten my emotional reaction :P), but if she doesn’t I then redirect her attention to something else and our life goes on. She is too young to apply the evening part of the advice so I skip that. Other times when I see that she is unsettled and observing her won’t help due to the situation that caused it and I feel that I need to shorten her emotional reaction, I purely use advice 2 and just break the pattern. With practice you will understand what works best for your child and which situations are best resolved with the advice points 2 or 3, and as they learn themselves to shorten their emotional reactions you may see yourself using more and more of the advice in point 3 although I have to say I still use both with my 8 years old.
Shortening the Emotional Refractory Period or ERP is crucial for both children and adults and it’s a full topic to be discussed by itself. I am working on it myself and trust me as an adult it’s a stiff climb, but as a child you can learn this very quickly and it will stay with you for the rest of your life, that’s why we consider this to be one of the most important skills you can teach your children.
4. BUILD A VERY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND MAKE SURE THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING ON WITH YOU
That’s the basis for them to begin their own form of change. Whatever it is, or what they dream or want. Children love that kind of relationship. Allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them, allow yourself to be human and tell the truth to them, and at the same time be passionate about yourself and your life. Talk about difficult things, they’re only hard when you’re not talking about them. As a parent, demonstrate what you teach, that you can tell the truth, that you can trust, that it’s ok to be vulnerable and have different reactions and emotions.
5. TEACH THEM THAT THEIR PERSONALITY IS THE RESULT OF HOW THEY THINK, ACT AND FEEL
Tell your children that ‘Your personality creates your personal reality.’ (Dr Joe Dispenza) To change something in their life, make them become aware of their thoughts to see if they are serving them. Help them notice the behaviours that they’re demonstrating and see if they are self-loving.
Children understand and apply this very naturally because the law with children is that if you give them the facts, they will interpret the laws.
Although our programmes are directly taught to children and with no doubt empower them to reach their full potential we are always keen to work closely with parents to give them guidance and to help them support and reinforce our teachings at home. Especially at younger ages, parents and home environment have a huge impact on their behaviour and beliefs.
Personal Development for children and teens is more important now than ever. Considering the fast paced lives we live, including access to information, technology, social media, school and peer pressure and globalisation – Teaching your children these life changing tools will benefit them immediately and continuously, throughout their lives.
“Your greatest contribution to the universe may not be something you do but someone you raise”
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*Dr Joe Dispenza is a renowned international lecturer, researcher, corporate consultant, author, and educator whose postgraduate training covered neurology, neuroscience, brain function and chemistry, cellular biology, memory formation, and ageing and longevity.