Book Club: Dr. Reivich’s Pick05/02/2013
Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich
How do you respond when your child comes to you with a problem and wants to talk about it? You probably stop what you are doing, pull up a chair, and listen attentively. You're likely engaged, ask questions, and offer advice. Now think about how you respond when your child comes to you with good news to share. You likely to listen as you continue to prepare the meal, answer emails, play with your baby, or continue with whatever else you were doing. Then you may say something like, "That's great, Sweetie! I'm happy for you!"
Your authentic interest in your children's concerns and problems helps them feel understood. They learn that you will be there when things go wrong.
However, if you tend to respond more passively and distractedly when your children share everyday good news, they might wonder, "Will you be there for me when things go right?"
In fact, "Will you be there for me when things go right" describes a new psychological study about the way we respond when people share good news with us.* The research shows that when people actively respond to another's good news, both feel happier, closer, more trusting of each other, and generally more positive about the relationship.
To put it another way, when your child, spouse, or friend brings you news of joy, you can be a Joy Multiplier simply by taking a few moments to stop and be fully present with the other person. On the flip side, when someone you care about brings you news of joy and you don't give authentic interest, you are depriving yourself of an opportunity to strengthen the bond you share. You are unintentionally being a Joy Thief!When are you a Joy Multiplier? When are you a Joy Thief (e.g., What times of day? With whom? With what kinds of good news?)
You can teach your children to be Joy Multipliers by modeling an active constructive style of responding to their good news. Active means to be engaged in the conversation—not distracted and or multitasking while you talk.
Being constructive means being positive and helping to build the positive emotion. The trick to being a Joy Multiplier is to ask questions that help your child savor the positive experience while sharing in their positive emotion. Here is an example of what a Joy Multiplier versus a Joy Thief might say to a child’s good news.
Child: Mom, I found the coolest-looking bug in the yard!
- Joy Thief: “Ugh. I hate bugs. Please take that back outside!”
- Joy Multiplier: “Wow! That is pretty cool-looking! Where did you find it? What do you think it eats? I’ve never seen so many legs on a creature.”
Karen Reivich, Ph.D.
Source: Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Social Support for Positive Events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 904-917.
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