Your child is crying due to a conflict with kids in his school. What would you say?
Option 1 – Get over it! It happens to everyone; you don’t need to cry about it. (Denial)
Option 2 – Poor thing, you’ve had such a hard day at school. I will talk to your teacher about it. (Coddling)
Option 3 – It was a hard day for you. It is normal to feel this way. Tell me more about it. (Validation)
Which option seems best to you? Using option 1 was the most-used method by adults in the past. A child was expected to be small, insignificant and behave in a certain way. But joint families and strong social structure helped in well-rounded growth of kids despite lack of empathetic attitudes of some of our parents.
But times have changed since. Only mom and dad (or sometimes single parent) have stayed as solid family structures have collapsed around us. And option 2 popularly name as Coddling and option 3 or Validation have mostly stayed. In both cases, a child’s feelings are acknowledged. But option 2 indulges a child while option 3 makes him strong and confident.
Now Coddling and Validation seem very similar. There is just a thin line in between! Validation is a balanced approach while you go overboard with coddling. The trick is to identify the boundary.
Parents who coddle offer to intervene on behalf of the kids, signalling thereby the child is incapable of handling his problems.
Coddling makes a child feel manipulative, helpless, victimized and entitled. The child feels controlled and babied.
Coddling parents indulge in helicopter parenting – a phrase coined for those who hover over their child’s every move in an effort to protect them from pain, disappointment, and failure. When kids are over-praised, they start feeling entitled and reduce their efforts to do something and be challenged.
And if kids are overprotected, they feel restricted, socially inferior and inadequate.
We all are guilty of doing this, aren’t we? The thing is keeping a child’s self-esteem intact while challenging them to rise and shine, is a hard task and it comes with practice.
On the other hand, parents who validate empower the kid to make his own decision and find a way out of challenging situations in his life. Parents kind of mirror back his emotions and show their trust in his ability to deal with it.
Parents who validate do not overindulge or offer to make things right for their kid (unless it is some serious problem that requires intervention of adults). Also, they do not deny their kid’s feelings but show warmth and understanding. It is a kind of midway between denial and coddling.
Validation creates independence, emotional intelligence, better social skills and strengthens parent-kid bonding.
The book the ‘Power of Validation’ talks about it at great length.
The authors define validation as “the recognition and acceptance that your child has feelings and thoughts that are true and real to him regardless of logic or whether it makes sense to anyone else.”
Validating means acknowledging thoughts and feelings of your child without judging, ridiculing or abandoning them. It means listening and making him or her feel ‘heard’ – this conveys that you love and accept your kid unconditionally.
Hall and Cook, explain that validation is not the same as comforting, praising or encouraging your child. For instance, telling your child that they played great in their soccer game isn’t validating. What is validating is saying the truth, such as “It’s hard when you don’t play as well as you would like.”
“Validation is acknowledging the truth of your child’s internal experience, that it’s normal and okay to not always play your best, be the best player, or do all things perfectly or even well,” they write. So, just validating, just listening, just understanding …works wonder.
Parenting is hard and identifying those fine psychological lines that can straighten or bend our kids is even harder. It is difficult to be understanding when we have so much going on in our lives. But then it is not impossible! And this balanced approach comes with commitment and practice. We owe that to our kids, don’t we? Happy parenting!
(Images courtesy Google)