Frozen has taken the country by storm with its sensational music. But it also has embedded in its lively action some food-for-thought nuggets about relationships and emotional health. Here are a few key takeaways for parents:
[NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD!]
1. Fear is your enemy.
The wise old troll cautions Elsa about controlling her powers as she grows up: “Fear will be your enemy.” When parents parent through fear, they teach kids to resentfully comply out of fear rather than willingly obey out of respect or wisdom. Thoughtful parents instead look inside their hearts to ensure that they parent from a place of peace and love, not fear or anger. (See 1 John 4:18.)
2. Teach kids to be safe instead of shaming their big responses.
If kids are struggling with being safe, treating them as dangerous and “locking them away” (“Go to your room!”) to protect others from them will only cement their identity as the “bad kid”. Instead, let your child know she is part of a family team to keep everyone safe. Include her in making plans for how to be safe around others.
3. “Conceal, don’t feel” is NOT a healthy mantra.
When kids learn to hide or avoid their emotions, they miss out on learning the skills they need to actually be able to control their emotions. In order for kids to grow to be emotionally healthy, help kids to first honestly express and identify their emotions. Then, once they have mastered this, they can learn to express their emotions in calmer and more appropriate ways.
4. Find the “gift gone awry”.
In the movie, when Elsa’s powers explode from her in anger and fear, they are destructive: she shoots ice at people, and the ice freezes in jagged, ugly shapes. But when she learns to come from a place of love, she is able to use her powers to bless her subjects. Similarly, kids’ misbehaviors often have gifts underneath them. If you can find and affirm the gift, you can help kids redirect it to a more constructive outlet.
5. True love thaws frozen hearts.
In Connected Families language, we call this “love no matter what.” When you connect with kids when they misbehave, they learn to “thaw” and be more open to both your love and your correction.
Last year we coached a family who actually exemplified all these ideas with their passionate, expressive, often impulsive daughter — a “little Elsa” whose name is Sierra*. Five-year-old Sierra had been struggling with controlling all her intensity and was often aggressive toward her little brother, JJ. In order to control Sierra’s aggression, her parents hauled her kicking and screaming off to her room when she hurt JJ. The more this scenario was repeated, the greater the disconnect between angry Sierra and her worried parents, Steve and Kristi.
Steve and Kristi dove headfirst into changing their approach:
- They began to deal with their fear and anxiety about Sierra’s struggles. Phrases like, “We’re on the same team. We can solve this together,” replaced “I’ve got to win these battles, or we’re in real trouble.”
- They talked with Sierra about how she was an important part of the team in keeping everyone safe. They affirmed her when she was safe with JJ. When she was aggressive, she began to say, “I wasn’t safe. I need to go to my room.” After a few minutes of calming down a parent would help her process how to rejoin the family in a safe way, reconciling any hurt she had caused. Steve and Kristi affirmed her every effort at being safe.
- An important part of this process was teaching Sierra to accurately identify her feelings, since this skill builds emotional intelligence and strongly decreases aggression.
- They overtly valued her “gifts gone awry” of passion, expressiveness, and confidence. They encouraged her to take on a solo role in her church’s musical, which she did… with passion, expressiveness, and confidence!
- Most importantly, they were diligent to communicate a message of – “Even when you struggle, we love you very much. Nothing can change that.”
The change was dramatic. “I can’t believe how much our family has changed,” Steve and Kristi stated. “We are so much more peaceful together.”
Give these tips a try with your family. You just might be a… happy snowman! =)
*Not their real names.
4 simple messages.
1 simple framework.
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