Communities and families are an entwined part of a person’s well-being; each thread is meaningful unto itself while being important to the other threads it connects with. Similarly is the case with families; the threads that bind can strengthen through care and attention, or disintegrate from neglect. How to provide that care and attention is not always as difficult and time consuming as one might think. Years ago, a young stressed father came to me concerned about how he would maintain a solid relationship with his daughter after the divorce. The idea that he might only have glimpses into her life on a daily basis while awaiting the weekend visits prompted me to look at the bigger picture.
What do kids need to grow in a positive direction, and what can care providers in any capacity provide that will help perpetuate growth? The first hurdle is to address and overcome “all or nothing” thinking. Many parents and care providers can’t be there one hundred percent of the time for a number of different reasons, and will never physically or mentally be able to live up to the myth of you can have it all. In the words of Tal Ben Shahar during one of his Foundations of Positive Psychology lectures, he talked about this exact phenomenon; condemning one’s self to failure for not meeting impossible standards. He went on to talk about the more realistic look at how we can have a lot but we can’t have it all. Dr. Ben-Shahar identifies this type of thinking as maladaptive perfectionism thinking. The maladaptive perfectionist view leads to the outcome of never being satisfied with achievements unless it meets the “ALL” criteria. Dr. Ben-Shahar also directs the reflective affects or outcomes as doubt, unhappiness and fear of failure1.
Given the glorified media personification of being able to have it all, it is understandable that parents and care providers find themselves feeling as if they have failed their children when ALL is not possible; thus the standard becomes the buy-in to the fallacy of deduced reason that anything in-between is not good enough. So let’s explore “good enough”. If I was baking cookies and one of the two pans burned (hypothetically because I don’t burn cookies), should I throw out the good pan too, or would everyone be satisfied with getting two cookies instead of four? Sometimes good enough is just that— enough to provide something good.
If we are going to raised positive kids, what can we do if we can’t always do it all? According to Bandura, a very important ingredient is how we, as care-providers, model behavior; to act in a way that supports growth through positive interactions. These positive interactions don’t have to be day trips to Disney World or expensive cross country adventures, remember, this blog stems from addressing the diverse parent/care-provider relationships whereby five minutes is crucial. Those five minutes might be captured by a five minute telephone call, a car ride to school, or a stolen few minutes right before bedtime. We can work with life regardless of daily demands. Several years ago a book called the One Minute Manager hit the top of the best sellers list for a good reason; it showed how managers could inject positive motivation in one minute. If managers can have these positive effects on staff, why not Five Minutes for Families? Below is list of 5 minute interactive exercise that can be used to strengthen communication and relationship bonds:
Five Minutes for Families, by Lynn Soots©
- Nonsense Talk- Pick a time of day to learn about each other. Talk to your child and find out their likes and dislikes. Let the child know your likes and dislike, things you think are fun or special. This exchange lets the child know that you are willing to share your life with them. The drive to and from school is a good time (5 minutes)
- Ask the teacher to write at least two things that the child did right during that day. Focusing on the positive aspects can start the development of positive patterns- Ask your child about what it was like during the experience; talk about how they feel about those behaviors and accomplishments. (5 minutes)
- Create a night time ritual or dinner time ritual. “Let’s be Grateful”- ask each person to name three things they are grateful for that day. The things can be serious, funny, bizarre… This is a good way for parents to interject that they are grateful for their children, for their child being able to make them smile and laugh…(5 minutes)
- Let them be your helper- if you go to the grocery store or post office ask them to be a part. It can be as simple as reading the list or holding the package. (5 minutes)
- Give the child a family responsibility- put the napkins on the table at dinner time. This lets them know they are a part of the family and not a guest in your home. (5 minutes)
- Bed time ritual with your child. Tell them one or two things they did that day to make your day better. For example: “I loved that joke you told today, it made me laugh; I am glad that I have you in my life because you lift my spirits with your humor”. (5 minutes)
- Use short trips or short conversation time to make memories. If you don’t know how to start you can pick silly, fun question like: if you could paint the world, what colors would you pick and for what elements?… If you could make an ice cream sundae what would you put on it?… Do you think pillows should be made from marshmallows…. Imagine creating a memory where your child remembers you talked about oooee-gooee marshmallow pillows- how fun and funny is that? (5 minutes)
- Take a trip back in time. Show them pictures of what it was like when you were growing up: maybe an old car (could be the car you remember as a kid), the corded telephone, your grandparents or people significant in your life, fashions, your friends…this helps them connect to your world. (5 minutes)
Let five minutes be “good enough” sometimes and see what happens.
1 Ben-Shahar, T. (2009). The pursuit of perfect: How to stop chasing perfection and start living a richer, happier life. New York, NY:
2 Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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