Venus under water

Modern child psychology says that for every negative, critical comment parents make to their child, they should say ten positive comments. Ten! When I mention that to parent clients of mine, their eyebrows shoot up in surprise, their eyes widen, and they say, “Wow!” as they inwardly try to calculate their ratio. 

One mother had a pained look of horror on her face as she said, “My ratio is the opposite! I say so many negative, critical things to my son!” Granted, her son is now a teen, but in retrospect, she owned that for most of her parenting life she’d been more negative than positive. She made a concerted effort to comment on his positive traits and actions more, and his response was almost immediate.

Some parents think too much positive parenting equals coddling, or that it will spoil a child. Some think that the way to show a child what is right is by telling them what they’re doing wrong. While this may be effective in the moment, this approach to parenting can lead to crises of confidence and chronic low self esteem. Our kids are desperate for more positive feedback, especially in this era of toxic media!

Why are positive comments and positive emotions important? Because emotions are basically “contagious” and it is in all of our best interests to cultivate positive ones often!

Traditional psychology over-emphasizes what is wrong with us – for instance, everything is called a “disorder.” Even the Dalai Lama, who regularly meets with top psychologists and neuroscientists, says Western Psychology is at “kindergarten level” in terms of understanding the mind, and focuses too much on what is wrong with people and not enough on what is right with us. If we focus constantly on what is wrong with us or our kids, it is like gardening and focusing only on the weeds rather than focusing on planting seeds or tending to the flowers, vegetables and fruits. 

To this end, I’ve just launched the first book of a series for kids called Venus Underwater: Songs from Mermaidia, and there will be five more books coming soon after. The books focus on a community of mermaids and their sea creature friends, all of whom study magic. Everyone in this underwater world lives according to positive psychology, so these books help kids, parents and teachers imagine what such a world would be like. Today is the time for edu-tainment! We need to make learning positive and fun, and these books provide an easy way to do that. 

Even more importantly, the books are FUNNY! Full of puns and wordplay, the books make adults and kids alike laugh. Positive emotions like laughter are incredibly healing, helping people feel happy and connected immediately; this brings relief from anxiety and depression.

Andrea Moller, world record-holding big wave surfer, mom and paramedic, said the books are: “An inspiring read in so many ways. It made me smile, laugh and relate to the different personalities. This is a kid’s book that I think many adults need to read. I’m looking forward to reading the entire series. So clever! Absolutely loved it!”

The world is toxic and negative enough. The World Health organization says, “50% of mental illnesses begin by age 14.” It is time to be accountable for creating more positive vibrations and environments. Positive psychology focuses on resilience, healthy emotions, relationships and reflection in kids, all of which prevent mental health issues. Positive approaches to psychology have all been correlated to an improvement in kids’ attitudes, academic performances, ability to create friendships and handle conflict, negative emotion management and concentration skills. 

One of the first steps you can do is to bring some positive media into your home. Check out Venus Underwater: Songs from Mermaidia and let the inner peace begin.

Image Credit: Julia Hengst

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Julia Hengst is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an avid surfer, traveler and word nerd who resides in Maui. Passionate about psychology, spirituality and media literacy, she holds an undergraduate degree in Media Studies from UC Berkeley, a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology, and an imaginary degree from the University of Puns. To learn more about her practice go to www.juliahengstmft.com

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