Establishing Connection with Our Children at Home or in School
Establishing Connection with Our Children at Home or in School: Using Principles from, Good Inside, a book by Dr. Becky Kennedy
by Learning Consultant Heather Blome
Some valuable parenting and teaching practices can be found within the first few chapters of “Good Inside,” a book by Dr. Becky Kennedy. Dr. Becky, as she refers to herself, has an online presence on social media. She shares examples of tough parenting moments with her own children and how she applies the concepts in her book. Her focus in parenting and in the work she does with families is establishing connections that guide children through difficult times. I want to preface that with any parenting strategy or tool, it takes practice and consistency over time on the parents' part, however, each of her principles are simple in nature and can be implemented immediately. Here are Dr. Becky’s guiding principles when connecting with children that I will briefly discuss: assuming children are good inside, finding the most generous interpretation, and two things can be true.
Dr. Becky operates under this primary condition: assuming children are good inside, assuming they are doing the best they can with the tools they have at their disposal; she assumes the same of parents. Otherwise, and most importantly, children will conclude the opposite, that they are bad inside because a great deal of kids are concrete by nature in how they cope with mistakes and messing up. I am sure as adults, and as parents or teachers, I think we can all identify a time where we felt like a “bad parent” or a “bad teacher” when we have made a mistake. Except, we have years of experience processing stress and combing through mistakes to identify the point of difficulty for ourselves. If children don’t hear words of encouragement or feel understood, they will draw false conclusions on their own, especially sensitive children. Children might shame themselves for making mistakes, and conclude on their own they are “bad” unless they are explicitly taught, reminded, or feel understood and seen. She uses the phrase with her children, “you are a good kid who is having a hard time” to help teach and guide children through their difficult moments. Dr. Becky goes on to remind parents before reacting to these hard situations, that we should remind ourselves that our kids are good inside. It may be beneficial to take a few deep breaths and to stop and pause before responding and connecting.
Dr. Becky’s next principle to guide our thought process when looking for the good inside, is evaluating our Most Generous Interpretation (MGI) of the situation. She goes on to describe how our bodies and thoughts may “soften” through this step so that we are able to empathize with the child who is upset. This will help us try to understand their feelings on the inside rather than interpret what they are showing us on the outside. When kids are dysregulated, they are looking for external guidance, boundaries, and understanding to lead them back to a feeling of calm and feel in control of their own bodies.
The final principle that I want to discuss is the concept of “two things are true.” This is the idea that two conflicting feelings can exist within a person’s reality. For example, I can want to help my child complete a task, but I can also want to foster independence and stand back to see if they can complete it on their own. Or, Dr. Becky gives the example that a parent can set a boundary and the child can have their own feelings of disappointment, frustration, or anger about it. It doesn’t mean the boundary is removed, it just means that we can tell the child we understand their feelings and where they are coming from. In my own home recently, my son was frustrated with his sister, my daughter. He was so frustrated that he was using his words in an unkind way to communicate his disagreement with her choices. I simply said, “I understand what it’s like to be frustrated with a little brother and sister, but you cannot continue to speak unkindly to her.” He paused and said curiously, “You do?” Did the problem diminish? No, but it made him feel seen and understood–a connection was made between us, which rerouted our next steps.
These principles from Dr. Becky can be found within the first two chapters of her book, Good Inside. My hope is that these concepts resonate and seem helpful to guide your own thought processes through parenting and teaching. Dr. Becky goes on to provide further application of these principles to common situations that arise in families. Online, Dr. Becky has other simple phrases that help shape our mindsets as well as help children to feel seen, which is the essence of connection. Check her out!
Dr. Becky Kennedy, Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent you Want to Be (2022)