Little Hari came back sulking from the park. With his hands folded, he walked over to his mother.
Hari: “I’ll never go the park again mama.”
Mom: (pulling Hari close to her) “But why? What happened?”
Hari: “I don’t want to play with anyone. No one likes me.”
Mom: “How did you come to know that no one likes you?”
Hari: “Prashant pushed me and told me that he did not like me.”
Mom: “It’s really unfortunate that Prashant said that. But, what about the others? No one else has said that they don’t like you, which means all of them like you and they really want to play with you.”
Hari: (thinking) “You’re right mama. Bye. I will be back after our game is over.”
Hari was disheartened by Prashant’s behaviour. But, his mother reframed the situation and made Hari look at the brighter side of the picture, filling him with a sense of positivity.
It is natural for us to feel buoyed when things are going in the right direction and dispirited when they go wrong or take a turn for the worse. What we fail to remember is that, the risk of things falling apart or failing is an inherent part of every task or challenge we take up. And, when things do go south, most of us feel helpless, hopeless and miserable. We aren’t willing to see beyond the debacle, and recover and redeem ourselves.
It is during times like these that the ability to reframe situations can help us look at situations from a different perspective and come up with solutions to the issue at hand.
When we reframe situations, the following happen automatically:
1. We gain insight into our own behaviours and often the patterns of others, leading to a better understanding of self and relationships (even if we cannot verbalise it or use words to describe our insights).
2. We gain a new perspective on situations and problems that are stressful.
3. We find options, where we previously couldn’t.
4. We develop problem-solving skills over time.
5. We feel more relaxed and empowered at being able to deal with situations that previously seemed difficult to handle.
These five changes help foster a sense of well-being in both the child and the parent by acting as catalysts that strengthen family bonds. This happens because the child feels empowered, valued and supported. Also, there is an increased sense of trust in the parent–child relationship. This, in turn, leads to better two-way communication, which is essential to initiate, maintain and enhance the quality of any healthy relationship. —*Aarti C Rajarathinam
How reframing helps in parenting
Display of troublesome behaviours by children often makes parents feel frustrated and overwhelmed. However, reframing the situation can help parents look at the child’s behaviour in a different way. This can prevent them from becoming upset or angry, and work towards finding solutions.
But, do you know how to reframe situations? If not, then here are some tips to help you learn and master the technique:
- Do not get angry: When children persistently display bothersome behaviour, parents begin to think that the child’s conduct is intentional, and that the child is trying to manipulate them, or irritate them deliberately. This makes most parents feel very upset and they end up reacting in anger, which, in turn, upsets the child even more. The first step towards learning and using reframing techniques is to shun anger, and stay calm and composed while facing a tough situation.
- Look at things differently: Remember, little children neither know the name of emotions nor do they have the language skills to express what they feel. As a result, they find it impossible or difficult to verbalise their thoughts and needs. So, when your child displays troublesome behaviour, instead of getting upset, reframe the situation by asking yourself questions like, “What is it that she wants which is making her behave in this manner?” and “How can I help her express herself in an appropriate manner?” Asking yourself such questions will help you see the problem in a different light.
- Do some brainstorming: While brainstorming is usually used in a group setting, it can also be done as an individual. The biggest advantage of brainstorming is the number of diverse, creative solutions you can come up with for any problem. One of the ways you can brainstorm is by writing down the problem(s) you are facing as a parent in the centre of a page, and then drawing lines outward and writing the solutions. Once you are done with the process, compare your options and choose the best one.
- Use visualisation: The first few moments after getting up in the morning is the best time of the day to use visualisation to tackle your problem(s). For example, when your child is reluctant to go to school, you usually tend to be harsh with him. In such situations, you can begin visualising that you are motivating your child to go to school instead of being severe with him. Using visualisation can infuse your spirit with hope and positive energy.
- Dispel negativity: Nothing distorts an individual’s perception and halts his progress more than harbouring negative feelings. A simple exercise to fill yourself with positive feelings is to spare some time to do what you like doing. It can be anything from writing a diary to reading something on a topic of your choice to spending a few minutes tending to plants in your balcony or garden.
- Adopt an objective approach: The thought of facing a tough situation increases our anxiety and makes reality appear scarier than it really is. For example, your spouse has planned to take you and your toddler to a movie. But, you are scared to death thinking about what would happen if your toddler starts crying or screaming as soon as the lights go off. Adopt an objective approach to assess the positives and negatives of a situation than letting fear dictate your perceptions.
“You can't always control what happens to you. But you can control how you react to it” — is an adage that most of us remember but never live by. Reframing not only helps us find solutions to our problems, but also increases our imagination, problem-solving ability, and happiness quotient.
*Aarti C Rajaratnam is a psychologist specialising in childhood and adolescent mental health, a best-selling author and an innovative education design consultant.
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