This was originally written for Kars4Kids Educational Parenting Blog.
I have a general rule of thumb that has been termed Lynette’s Law. It is basically a rule of engagement. I call it “Four Compliments To One Correction!” It teaches you how to be an effective person that is kind.
People like rules, instruction manuals and systems, so teaching people how to be kinder requires rules just like everything else. Unfortunately, kindness rules are a type of interaction oxymoron because being kind means throwing out the rulebook and putting the other person’s actual wants into the equation. So how can I have a kindness law?
The question is a valid one and presents quite a conundrum initially. After all, rules stand between us and free will. This is especially true when they are followed blindly. So open your eyes and think about them, consider each rule and its applicability in your situation. Rules are meant to be bent, not so much broken. Shape the rule to fit your circumstance and your family’s circumstance, or the rule will shape you, your family and your circumstance. In other words, if you are unwilling to bend the rule the rule will bend you.
Used as a gift that inspires analysis and sophisticated thinking, rules improve your free will rather than impeded it. They facilitate cooperative ease and keep the drivers on the appropriate side of the road. Thus, a little rule based living is needed if we want to build a successful system, even if that system is a system of humans being kind.
So yes, adding rules to learning how to be an effective person that is kind is a dilemma, but not an unsolvable one. You only need a few rules of engagement to get the job done. Safety rules, like look both ways before you cross, especially in a foreign country where they may drive on the other side of the street. Manners on occasion are required, like let the lady who appears close to giving birth step ahead of you in line. And Lynette’s Four Compliments to one Correction Law. Insert Lynette’s Law into almost any interaction and you will be an effective teacher, parent, lover, boss, who is kind.
I have read a lot of theories about compliments adding too much responsibility to the person being complimented. Theories that imply a good compliment builds fear and resistance. These theories have some basis in reality but they are drawn on a misunderstanding of compliments and corrections. Corrections are simply adjustments, like driving your car and constantly nudging the steering wheel enough to stay between the lines. If the wheel alignment is sound your car will follow a straight line for ages without needing a correction but most roads are windy and most cars veer a little, so correcting is a simple adjustment of trajectory. No judgment, no failing. The compliment is a reinforcing of the thing that is going well. No resistance comes from having what comes easy appreciated. For example, if a child is learning to walk but loves standing, compliment the standing. Shore them up and make them strong before they venture forth.
So, if you have been told not to compliment your child, student, friend, employee, because they will grow resistant, you have been mislead. There is no such thing as over confident, though inaccurately confident is a problem and resistance when incorrectly complimented can be born. Specificity solves both.
For example, let us say I want a child to sit calmly in their chair when in a restaurant. Start by catching them being this way and noticing it. Let us say (s)he is resting on the doorstep for a minute, exhausted from running. Match the child’s state and sit down with him or her. This makes you a friend, not a bossy complimenter of sitting who is modeling that sitting sucks. 1) Mention how nice it feels to be together in this way and 2) How much you enjoy when (s)he sits with you. 3) Suggest a time in the future just like this when you will be happily visiting in a restaurant and everyone will think he/she is 12 not 8. Mention that if (s)he is has dirty bare feet in the restaurant they won’t let him/her in because they are worried about germs and injuries. 4) Then say thanks for the moment, and drop it.
Those were your four compliments (anything positive is a compliment) and your correction (any adjustment to the present behavior).
Later you can suggest wearing her shoes to get used to feeling grownup.
Let’s say your child is now sitting in a chair eating breakfast. You catch the child being good and point it out. 1) Explain how nice it is since her/his cloths stay clean and (s)he doesn’t have to stress about being messy at school. (Compliments are about what matters to the other person not solely about what matters to us.) 2) Add an extra treat for breakfast and point out that you got the idea because his/her calmness gave you time to think. 3)Thank him/her for this blessing. 4) Smile and give a thumbs up. Now show how the cutlery will be used in the restaurant, explain how using it correctly will signal the waitress when she is done. Corrections are about giving information that empowers a person, not about bringing them down to size.
So to be clear: Catch them behaving well, explain what’s cool about it and why you love seeing them do it. Add a benefit (real or imagined). Then make the correction matter to their own self-vision, like noticing their posture and mention how it rubs against their other goal of being a fashion model. Extend gratitude for the connection.
Remember the correction is not about what is bad or even what they are doing wrong so much as what is counterproductive to their goal.
While doing this you become a person who smiles, compliments and shares wisdom applicable to your audience, the child. You become happier. It helps you like you. It helps them like you. All because you began by liking them.
As it turns out, all good parenting is primarily self-serving.
This is true of bad parenting too. The difference lies in understanding the methods and the goals.
The goal should be a happy parent, boss or teacher raising a happy student, child or employee. We are all capable of having this. Unfortunately most of us have been misinformed to believe that unhappiness leads to happiness; that hard work, boundaries, discipline and self-sacrifice lead to happiness. The truth is happiness comes first, and when you’re happy the hard work becomes fun work.
Don’t buy in to warnings of future danger like, “If you pay your employees well, they will get greedy.” Generosity breeds generosity. Good breeds good. The end. Any proof you have to the contrary is a mistake of observation, it is a mistake that will confuse and disorient you.
When you are happy you think clearly. Remember the child who we complimented for standing? We got them standing stronger not running in the road. They grew stable, not wild. If you are doing this you are focusing yourself and your people in the present while simultaneously knowing the future skill you mean to build.
But wait, what if they are special needs? Same deal. Different lessons more steps. More often. Same Law. I know, I raised six adopted special kiddos.
That is – in part – how I created the Lynette Law. Parenting the special child. The only difference between them and my neurotypical children was that I had to be minutely specific, with compliments and corrections.
And add a little Neurofeedback.
To be honest, while I was struggling to teach my special children I learned that the optimal speed of change in regards to learning happened when people got feedback on a four to one ratio. It was neuroanatomy class, and I was reading a study that I can no longer find. I was inspired.
I applied it to behavioral teaching, to loving, and then also to neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain and it gives its compliments (or Yeses) objectively, no judgment. It allows me to teach the brain before the brain resists the compliment. Then once the brain is feeling cooperative I use real compliments to shape the results. This combo is magical.
It has made everything easier, teaching, parenting, learning, everything, especially my mood. And a happier mood makes me better at parenting, teaching, learning– the infinite upward spiral.
I chose neurofeedback because it worked for every different brain in my differently brained house. It also worked on every different brain around the world. I now travel Abroad and call myself The Brain Broad! Because when you find something this useful, you just want to share it. Useful breeds useful.
I also chose neurofeedback because I could have it at home. It was handy, once I knew how to make it work, making it work was always accessible. This was a must have ingredient for me with my brood.
I think everyone needs to find their therapy, the one that fits their thinking and their lifestyle. Some people choose diet, vitamins, hyperbaric, meditation, chiropractic to name just a few. The important thing is to investigate and choose what matches you and yours, with the intention of staying out of the pharmaceutical companies pockets and staying in charge our own health.
For me, and all the people I help, that answer came in the form of neurofeedback at home.
Working with the brain taught me about the brain. Understanding the brain made me better at knowing if a theory being presented to me by any type of expert makes any sense for my family. For me, neurofeedback made sense because it “matched” my desire to grow more blissful, yet also more powerful, two goals that appear in-congruent but aren’t.
Neurofeedback helped me design and implement Lynette’s Law. It was congruent in my home by combining corrections and compliments in the right ratio. And because it matched my wishes and style, it didn’t set up a new stressor by adding something counterproductive.
You see the brain targets things, brings them into your focus, depending on your mood. If you are unhappy it shows you problems, and if you are happy it shows you solutions. So be happy. And define yourself.
What is it to be a parent, teacher, employer?
It is someone that leads the way.
Don’t confuse this with a tyrant which means to push and force and not care if your people want to follow.
True, change requires building a desire and then correcting problems. Understand, though, that problems are not a problem, they are the fuel of life. Problems are part of the equation for learning as long as we don’t add judgment.
Be congruent, complimentary and seek to know about your brain and body. Thus new ideas and solutions will be easier to come by when new problems and hurdles land in you and your children’s path.