One of the most immediately impactful applications of UTHP is in the world of parenting. The impact is created by the shift in focus of child behaviour from problematic or dysfunctional actions that need to be corrected by the parent, setting up an immediate conflict, to a focus on the behaviour being ineffective, positioning the parent in the role of facilitator assisting the child in getting what they want.
In practical reality, this means that when a child is behaving in a way that is not conducive to group enjoyment, instead of telling the child to stop and/or change their behaviour, you work through a series of steps:
- Identify what the child wants
- Ask them if that’s an effective way to get what they want
- Help them identify a more effective way of getting what they want
- Support them in implementing this new way of getting what they want
For example, if your child is taking toys from other children without asking and you want them to stop, instead of telling them to stop doing that and possibly punishing them for doing so, you work through the above steps:
- Why are you snatching toys? What do you want? They want the toy
- When you snatch toys from other children, the first thing that happens is that an adult takes that toy from you and gives it back to the child and the second thing that happens is that you get in trouble. So is that a good way to get a turn with the toy?
- What is a better way to get that toy you want? Could you distract the child by giving them another toy?
- What kind of toy do you think that child likes? What kinds of toys have you seen them playing with?
Why this works
Because instead of positioning yourself as the authoritarian controller who limits and inhibits the childs desires and goals, you position yourself as the facilitator trying to help the child get what they want. You’re not on opposite teams, as is the case with most parent/child challenges, you’re on the same team trying to help them move forward.
On top of this, it removes the emotional component from the interaction. When emotions are running high, it means that the emotional brain can overwhelm the logical system 2 and remove the possibility of any parties making a logically sound decision. This process allows the child to engage their rational system 2, rather than their emotional system 1.
Attributional style isn’t set in a child until early adolescence (this is from my psychopathology textbook, page 551)
Aside from making parenting far simpler and easier, this process helps develop a critically important psychological foundation within the child.
When you engage with this parenting style with a child, it assists them in understanding that any limitation or restriction they face in life is not due to their inherent limitations, but due to the strategy they’re using to get what they want. This helps them form the perception that they can get anything they want and solve any problem by finding a more effective strategy.
This beleif that they can solve any problem and get what they want means that when they encounter a problem or can’t get what they want, they’re more likely to persevere in the face of challenges, competition, and setbacks while they try a new strategy. This perseverence in the face of barriers means that they’re more likely to solve the problem and reinforce their belief that they can overcome new challenges. This self-fulfilling mindset then allows the child to continue to push towards their goals.
This is backed up by heaps of scientific research into growth vs fixed mindest conducted by Carol Dweck.
The other benefit is that this mindset is a powerful way to prevent depression. Depression is the perception that all avenues to fulfil a particular psychological need have been exhausted and there is no chance for the individual to fulfil that need. Teaching children that their failure to achieve a goal is due to them not having the correct strategy means that they will develop a schematic map that there a many, many, different strategies to fulfil a goal. This means that if they fail with one strategy, they will typically seek out an alternate strategy rather than just giving up.
The strategy of focusing on helping the child fulfil their needs has shown promising results in helping children overcome the limitations of ADHD (Chronis, Jones, & Raggi).
Reduces stress and anxiety as the child develops the perception that they have the resources necessary to overcome challenges.
Reduces rumination allowing for increased memory consolidation.
Reduced stress results in improved digestion (due to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system) and improved immune functioning.
Improved sleep, which also aids in memory consolidation.
People form groups with people who hold similar beliefs. If your child believes that anything is possible, they’re more likely to form social groups with people who also share this belief. This will further reinforce their belief that anything is possible, leading to higher levels of perseverance and success.
When you parent from this perspective, you establish your relationship with your child to be that of someone who is there to help them get what they want. You’re constantly helping them find more productive ways to fulfil their desires and so they see you as someone who wants to help them get what they want. This results in them having a strong, positive perception of you and your relationship to them and being more willing to trust you, listen to you, and do what you ask.
The Reason This Is Important
We all suffer from confirmation bias – both positive and negative. If you establish a schematic map that the child can do anything, they will seek out information that supports that viewpoint and disregard evidence that disconfirms it.