Validation of another person’s feelings strengthens relationships and build bridges. It’s a skill parents need in their toolkit, and it works to strengthen relationships between people of all ages, not just between parents and children.
We have talked a lot about validation recently at our Parent Support Workshops.
What is validation? It is listening non-judgmentally and acknowledging another’s feelings. It is showing that you understand their feelings, thoughts or actions. You can validate someone’s feelings without validating their behavior. Just because you listen and acknowledge a feeling doesn’t mean you approve or agree with what the other person has done or is feeling.
“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” —Cheryl Richardson
The next time your child is upset, instead of trying to console or talk them out of their feelings, try this:
- Focus on their inherent worth.
- Listen attentively and make eye contact.
- Observe what is said with words and what is expressed with the body, without words.
- Describe, without judgment, the facts. “You’re really upset that it’s time to turn off the TV. You’re crying. You’re so unhappy right now.” Try to communicate that you understand how your child feels.
- Show tolerance and seek to understand how their feelings make sense even if you don’t approve or agree with the feeling or behavior.
- Respond with empathy, and even state their wishes. Mirror back their emotions, tone or facial expressions. “I know you really want to keep watching that show! You wish you could stay up later and keep watching!” (This doesn’t mean you’re going to let the child stay up later; you’re just validating your child’s “truth.”)
- Don’t rush it, but you can then add, “And it’s time to get ready for bed.” Note the use of “and” instead of “but.” (For more about using “and” instead of “but,” join us for our next Parent Support Workshop as we continue discussing dialectics.)
You may even be surprised how quickly your validation of their feelings starts to defuse the situation, at least some of the time!
Would you like to learn more about validation and ways to improve your parenting skills? Join us for a free Parent Support Workshop! Sign up now for Aug. 10 or Sept. 14!
“Validate people’s emotions. Whether you understand them and where they came from, and whether you agree with the intensity and their reaction, simply accept that they feel a certain way. Help them to feel better. Be there for them.” — TheMindsJournal.com