May 29, 2009
It's crazy how many penguins I have in my office. There have
to be over 300 of them. They are multiplying like rabbits! Many years ago, I went to a seminar led by a wonderful psychiatrist
from California, Dr. Daniel Amen. He wrote a book about how penguins inspired him to notice the positives in people more
than focusing on the negatives. I was so moved by his story
that I began collecting penguins myself. It is a daily reminder
for me to always look at what is working rather than what is broken; notice what you love about someone more than
what you're bothered by; find something in your day to
celebrate rather than holding on to something that went
So how do penguins and this notion of 'noticing the positives' influence parenting? Children are always seeking our
attention. Anyone who tries to take a quiet trip to the
bathroom with little ones around knows that those fingers
under the door are a sign that they want you ALL the time.
Or when children entertaining themselves quietly suddenly
and desperately NEED you as soon as you pick up the phone. They will take ANY form of attention - negative or positive.
If they know you tune in (and respond loudly) to the negative behaviors, children will be likely to display negative behaviors -
in part to seek your attention. If children receive wonderful attention when they are making great choices, they will
continue to seek your attention through making MORE
Consider a room filled with ten 4 year olds. If you ask the
kids to clean up, chances are there will be at least 2 kids
NOT cleaning, but more likely than not, there will be 7-8 kids cleaning up. If you channel your energy into getting the
2 kids on task, the kids who are cleaning may lose interest
or stop cleaning to gain your attention. However, when you comment, sincerely, on "how great Susie is doing getting
all the blocks put back into the bin" or how fast the kids are working, those stray few will probably join in. Make sure,
when they do, that they are noticed for their participation!
So, it's easy to see how to influence 4 year olds to make
great choices, but what about those teenagers? Same
methods apply! Teenagers are working hard on feeling
good about themselves - and it is our important mission
as parents to help them foster a healthy, strong self esteem.
It is so easy to focus on the shoes left by the door, or the
garbage spilling over in the bathroom. But noticing the
hard work your child did on an assignment, or the
compassion she showed a friend who was feeling down,
or how responsible your son was for coming home before
curfew go a long way in teaching teens about respect and positive behavior. We actually influence their healthy
choices by taking the time to notice what some parents mistakenly take for granted. Find things EVERY DAY to
celebrate your teen! Don't do it in a patronizing or false
way; really take the time to get to know your teenager
and encourage him in being the best he can be!
Make a point to start today - look around you: your friends,
spouse or partner, co-workers, employees, and children.
Watch for those "penguin" moments. Tell that person when
she impacts you in a positive way. And share on this blog
how it changes your life!