How Do We Validate

Validation and active listening techniques are specific ways of approaching your child to increase cooperation and balance the change we are often asking for from our children.

  1. Responsiveness: Addressing our children with interest in what they are saying, doing and understanding. Expressing concern about his or her wishes and needs.
  2. Warm engagement: Approaching kids with warmth and friendliness. Active positive communication with our voice, tone and posture.
  3. Self-Disclosure: Communicating our own attitudes, opinions, and emotional reactions to our children, as well as reactions to how they are behaving.
  4. Genuineness: Being ourselves, rather than always acting as “parent” or “authority figure.”
  5. Vulnerability: Empowering them, rather than having an exclusively high-power-low-power relationship.
  6. Cheerleading: Cheerleading is helpful in validating the person’s inherent ability to overcome difficulties and learn new skills. It is believing in our children, assuming the best, providing encouragement, focusing on their capabilities, contradicting other people’s criticisms that are not accurate, and providing praise and reassurance.
  7. Articulating their unverbalized emotions, thoughts, or behavior patterns. Children are often unaware of their own feelings and behaviors. It is validating for us to give voice to what they are thinking and feeling.

Remember: what each individual child finds validating is different. One child may respond to simply being listened to, while another may respond when you articulate and express understanding for how he or she feels. Our children are not the only ones who can benefit from understanding and active listening. Husbands, friends, family and yes, even we, ourselves, need it. We all have times when we’ve got an important problem, emotional pain, are having trouble with change or are feeling out-of-control. Validation can help us and our children make necessary changes and face challenges.

In my house, once I stop pushing everyone to ‘get things done,’ I find the solutions come fairly easily. My kids will pick up the toys if I assure them they can keep out their favorite. They’ll put their dishes in the dishwasher if we spend dinner talking about their day and I notice small attempts they’ve made to be helpful around the house. My family life is not a fairytale of cooperation and teamwork, but I do find that when I’m paying attention and listening to my kids, I feel less like I’m alone in the never ending battle against disarray.

See my March 31, 2010 post for more discussion of validation. Comment below to share how you create an atmosphere of cooperation in your family.

References:

Linehan M. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press; 1993.