Even the best parents struggle with trying to figure out what to do when their children or adolescents have intense emotions and are out of control about something that seems small. The one skill I teach and promote over and over to help is VALIDATION. Why? Because it is an agent of change. Frequently, the mention of validating evokes feelings of frustration, disagreement, and sometimes anger in parents. However, it does not take long for them to appreciate validation as one of their most valuable parenting tools and realize validation is not:
- permissive parenting and poor boundaries.
- parroting words.
- being ruled by your children’s emotions.
- giving undeserved compliments.
- agreeing for the sake of avoiding a fight.
- condoning tantrums, selfishness, or out-of-control behavior.
Validation does not equal Agreement
Why should you try validation?
- What you are currently doing does not work.
- It helps in managing emotions and behaviors.
- It reduces your children’s stress level.
- In increases happiness
- It shows your children you understand and accept them regardless of their feelings.
- It increases your children’s self-worth.
- It builds self-esteem and confidence.
- It builds your children’s ability to self-validate.
- It decreases vulnerability to peer pressure.
- It promotes dignity.
- It builds more secure relationships.
- It is an agent of change.
Validation does not always feel comfortable or even natural. It requires you to pause and step outside of emotional mind in order to see the situation through the eyes of your children. It is powerful for children and adolescents to know they have been heard, understood, and accepted. There is something about someone simply allowing your feelings be…be without judgement or criticism…just be. Many parents think they are validating when they offer praise and support. Validation is a little bit more involved than that. It requires patience, sometimes the patience of Job (an expression my mom used to use referencing a man in the Bible who went through a lot without giving up). If I may be transparent, there have been times in session, when I had to have the patience of Job to keep validating until the child felt heard and emotions de-escalated. Validation takes mindfulness and balance. The good news is that mindfulness and balance are things you can learn or improve. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), validating is important and so is change. Yes, your children are doing the best they can and they need to do better. The balance you want is to validating emotions and empowering your children to change. Trying to enforce change without validation can increase distress and resistance. Validating without encouraging change promotes their over identification with their pain. Try validation for a change. Take a short 5 minute quiz to test your validation skills.
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