Last time on the blog I wrote about the power of reconciliation gestures (click here to read), how to use them and the positive effect they can have on your relationship with your child.
To recap, the term ‘reconciliation gestures’ refers to the actions we use to show a child (or anyone) your unconditional love for them. Any sign, act or words that you have up your sleeve for showing them just how much you care about them. The NVR method, that I learned in order to radically improve my relationship with my adoptive son, recommends making a conscious effort to continue showing your child these gestures, even at times when they are behaving inappropriately.
Unlike many parenting tools NVR doesn’t condone ignoring a child who has misbehaved or excluding them from wherever the ‘action’ is – for example, by using a naughty step. Even though NVR teaches us not to withdraw attention from a child showing negative behaviour, it still isn’t a great idea to start showing reconciliation gestures immediately after a meltdown – as it could be seen as a reward for a tantrum. It’s better to make a conscious effort to put them in play later in the day – even if (especially when) you are still feeling pretty cross! The gesture separates the behaviour from the child and shows them we love them irrespective of the behaviour.
There are various types of reconciliation gestures; you may have some that are unique to your family. It isn’t always obvious when you are using them, as they often become second nature. The ideal result of using them is to reassure the child feel that you are thinking about them, and that there’s someone in their world who really cares for them. It’s the same sort of feeling that you might get if an unexpected gift or bunch of flowers arrives at your house. You are touched that someone would go out of their way just to make you happy.
The obvious ones are physical reconciliation gestures – a kiss or a hug. It could be a special smile that you use only for them, or the way you hold their hand.
Alternatively, you might decide to allow the child some kind of privilege. You might decide that it’s their turn to choose the dinner or which film to watch. Or, allow them be the person who gets to open the post. Whatever means a lot to them.
If your child is going to be out of the house for the day, you could try putting a note in their lunchbox or book bag. Just make sure it’s age appropriate. The last thing you want to do is embarrass them in front of their friends. If they have a mobile you could leave a voicemail or send them a funny photo of yourself or a pet to show them that you still love them, despite the bad behaviour.
Another type of gesture is giving your child your time. So, sit and play a board game with them, or curl up and watch a film together, even if it is Frozen for the 40th time. Try to resist the temptation to use this time to ‘get a few other jobs done’. It is engagement with the child that really shows them how much you love them. Your child will notice if you aren’t paying attention to the film, because you are doing your online food shop at the same time, and it will have the opposite impact from what you are trying to achieve. There is no need to give them this specific attention all day, a little bit goes a long way, especially if your child has felt neglected in the past.
One final tip – don’t make it predictable. If it feels routine the child won’t appreciate the gesture in the way it’s intended. And, even if they reject your offer – and they will only be rejecting it because they can’t cope with the feeling, not because they don’t want what you are offering – keep going, don’t stop the gestures as it may take the child time to accept them and realise you are genuine. The more you make these gestures, the stronger your relationship will become.
I know this isn’t the easiest part of NVR and can feel counterintuitive. Please use the comment box below to ask questions, or for help if you are getting stuck. Alternatively – if you’d prefer a more private conversation – please don’t hesitate to email me and we’ll come up with some ideas together.
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