The Powerful Influence of Nonverbal Communication
Our children are teaching us what we need to know all the time. They show us, through behaviors and appearances, exactly what they believe is the truth about themselves. This becomes apparent in children as young as one year old, if not younger. How often do we assume that what we see in children's behavior is the only truth about them?
What messages are we giving children on a daily basis? Their beliefs and perceptions of the world are formed by the messages they receive from their environment. Children behave in accordance with these beliefs. Often, we assume their behavior is the only truth about them; we transmit messages, whether verbal or non-verbal, which reinforce more of the same.
One way we give and receive messages is through our thoughts. Physics has proven that our thoughts consist of energy. Although we can't see our thoughts (we can't visibly see electricity, yet we know that it exists) they still carry vibrations. The kind of energy we direct at our children has an effect on how wanted, loved and capable our children feel. This energy transfers to them through our attitudes and emotions. Children are open receptors; they are wide open to outside influences, receiving all that comes their way, especially in their early, formative years. It is a well known fact that an adult's primary responsibility to the children in their lives is to guide, protect and nurture them. Yet, what has gone unchallenged is what we transfer in our thoughts (attitudes) and our feelings.
According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, endocrinologist and author of Quantum Healing, Perfect Health, and Unconditional Life, there has been much research in the past six years on a group of chemicals the body produces called pheromones. These are hormones which the body produces in response to our emotions. The initial work with pheromones was not done with humans but with plants. It was discovered that when a tree becomes infected with a virus or gypsy-moth, it releases pheromones into the atmosphere. Immediately, all the other trees in the forest know that there is a disease nearby and become prepared for it. This happens instantly.
Pheromones have been studied among animal species also. A very cruel experiment was done in Stanford for several years. Scientists electrically shocked mice and then removed the mice from the room. Other mice which had not been shocked were then brought into the room. These mice immediately panicked. The unshocked mice released hormones of stress and fear because they had inhaled the pheromones of fear left behind by the mice which were frightened.
Now it has been scientifically proven that for every emotion we experience, we too release pheromones into the atmosphere. Love, compassion, rage, excitement, anger or any other emotion one can think of has it's own chemistry. This chemistry is not confined to the physical body, it extends outside the body as well.
As a result of this research, it seems appropriate that we now consider the effect we have on our children through both our thoughts and our attitudes about them. It is also imperative that we consider how many "messages" we received as children; messages which became beliefs we assumed to be true about ourselves, our siblings or our parents. How many of these messages are we passing on to children non-verbally?
If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship with a child based on the behaviors they are exhibiting, stop for a moment and list all the words you are using to describe this child in your thoughts. The power of the unspoken word can influence the emotionality of the child. Look carefully at what you are feeling in this situation. Children respond significantly to the amount of tension you are carrying in your response to what they are doing. Children react to pheromones. All humans do.
If we want children to behave appropriately or take charge of themselves, we must get in touch with what we are experiencing ourselves. We must become focused and calm. The pheromones we are emitting have a direct impact on the child's behavior.
Children are like little radar detectors. Think back to a time you were emotional and upset. What did your child do? A child may jump up and cause alot of disruption or the child may stay close to you and try to snuggle in. This is an attempt to either cause a diversion from the emotions the you maybe locked into or give you comfort by staying close, thus comforting themselves in the process.
Often, as adults, we try to hide how we feel from our children or even from ourselves. As discussed in last month's article, it has been scientifically proven that for every emotion we experience, we release pheromones into the atmosphere.
We have an element of non-verbal communication going on at all times whether we mean to or not. The nature of the pheromones we emit are a direct result of what we are feeling. What we feel is determined by the perceptions and decisions we are making.
If we want children to behave appropriately or take charge of themselves, we must get in touch with what we are experiencing. It is important to take charge of a situation by first becoming focused and calm ourselves. The influence of our nonverbal messages can be magical and uplifting or detrimental and condeming. The energy of our thoughts and the emition of pheromones have a direct impact on the child's behavior.
One strategy for quickly adjusting a difficult situation which is escalating is to "put love first." In putting love first, we release all judgement. This increases our ability to understand the child's behavior. This instantly diffuses agitated emotions which changes the content of the pheromones.
In putting love first, we let go of the rigidity we feel about the inappropriateness of the child's behavior. This allows our focus to be directed to the source of the problem -- the child's need for safety, attention and approval.
In putting love first, we understand that it's O.K. for a child to need and want our attention and approval.
"Loving" releases pheromones which calm and soothe children, as well as adults. Every action is either an expression of love or a call for love. So, put love first in all your communications; then notice how situations ease and responses soften.
Here are 10 strategies, taken from my booklet Makin' Magic -Ten Tricks That Work With At-Risk Kids, which channel our energy into effective output. It is relatively painless to incorporate these simple strategies into our repertoire of mentoring and/or parenting techniques:
1) REFUSE TO ACCEPT APPEARANCES - The trick is to see the child "as if" he were competent, capable, responsible and a pleasure to be with.
2) REVERSE THE LABELS - List the labels you have already accepted as the truth about this child and then make a new list of labels reflecting the exact opposite, i.e.; disruptive/peaceful, calm, quiet, happy. Affirm what you would like to see in the child.
3) STOP ACCEPTING EXCUSES - Accepting an excessive number of excuses demoralizes children and enables them to act "as if" they are incapable.
4) "NO, YOU CANNOT!" - It is truly the magical trick which teaches children that you love them enough to expect them to have boundaries (limits) and behave appropriately.
5) ELIMINATE MANIPULATION - The magic of understanding manipulation is to see it as a child's unskilled attempts to get their needs met. That's all. Stop making children wrong or bad for having challenges and needs.
6) REFUSE TO REMAIN ENGAGED IN CONFLICT - You can move out of conflict by asking, "What's going on for you?" as opposed to ignoring or suppressing anger and hurt feelings. It helps to remember that anger stems from one of three things: hurt, need and/or fear
7) INSIST ON HIGH PERFORMANCE - It is absolute magic to watch the wheels turn in a child's head when you refuse to accept anything less than his best.
8) GET A NEW ATTITUDE - Before you can change anyone else, you must first change yourself. Your attitude holds 50% of the weight in an interaction.
9) TRASH THE WET BLANKET - Children are wide open to adult suggestion, and criticism. Instead of limiting children, visualize something beyond what you originally thought possible for them and see what magic happens!
10) I'M ON YOUR SIDE - Find something right about everything. People teach us exactly what we need to know. They exhibit what we need to understand about what is not working, and what is.
©2001 Mary Robinson Reynolds, Heart Productions & Publishing
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©2006 Mary Robinson Reynolds. All Rights Reserved.
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