I have a general rule of thumb that I call Lynette’s Law. It is basically a rule of engagement. I call it “Four Compliments To (every) One Correction!” It teaches you how to be an effective person who 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 forgetting the rules, actually throwing out the rulebook and instead taking a good hard look at another person’s actual needs and wants. There IS no law that covers this.
So how can I have a kindness law?
The question is a valid one and initially presents quite a conundrum. After all, rules stand between us and our free will: our ability to go beyond the rules to think with our hearts. This is especially true when rules are followed blindly. That’s why being kind means opening your eyes and thinking about the rules, considering each one and how it applies to your situation.
Rules, you see, 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.
When used as a gift that inspires analysis and sophisticated thinking, rules improve your free will rather than impede 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 to one another.
So yes, adding rules to guide you in learning how to be an effective person who is kind is a dilemma, but not an unsolvable one. You only need a few rules of engagement to get the job done. You need 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.
Lynette’s Law: Four Compliments to One Correction
Manners, too, on occasion are required, like allowing the lady who looks nine month’s pregnant step ahead of you in the checkout line. And finally, you need 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, and/or 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 are drawn from 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 wind and most cars veer a bit, so too here, correcting is a simple adjustment of trajectory. No judgment, no failing. The compliment is a reinforcement of the thing that is going well. Appreciating what comes easy to your child never results in resistance. For example, if a child is learning to walk but loves standing, compliment the standing. Shore her up and make her strong before she ventures forth.
So, if you have been told not to compliment your child, student, friend, employee, because he or she will grow resistant, you have been misled. There is no such thing as becoming overconfident, though becoming mistakenly confident is a problem. When you offer the wrong compliments, resistance can develop. Specificity solves both issues, avoiding both mistaken confidence and the development of resistance.
For example, let us say I want a child to sit calmly in his chair when in a restaurant. Start by catching him sitting this way and noticing it.
Lynette’s Law: A Correction Surrounded By Compliments
Let’s imagine that, for a minute. You find your child resting on the doorstep, catching his breath for a minute, exhausted from running barefoot. Match his state by sitting down with him. This makes you an ally, a friend; and not a bossy complimenter of sitting, who models the idea that sitting quietly in a restaurant, sucks.
2) How much you enjoy it when he sits with you.
3) Suggest a time in the future when, just like this, you will be happily visiting in a restaurant and everyone will think he is 12 instead of 8. Mention that if he is has dirty bare feet in the restaurant they won’t let him in because they worry 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 he wear shoes to get used to feeling grownup.
Lynette’s Law: Catch Him Being Good
Let’s say that a couple of days later, he’s sitting calmly in a chair eating breakfast. You catch him being good and point it out.
1) Explain how nice it is since his cloths stay clean and 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 the idea for the treat came to you because his calmness gave you space to think.
3) Thank him for this blessing.
4) Smile and give a thumbs up.
Now show how the cutlery would be used in a restaurant, explaining how using it correctly will signal the waitress when he’s done with his meal. Corrections are about offering information that empowers a person, and not about bringing that person down to size.
So to be clear: Catch children 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-visions, like noticing a daughter’s posture and mentioning how it matches her goal of becoming a fashion model. Extend gratitude for the connection.
Remember that the correction is not about what is bad, or even what they are doing wrong, so much as what is counterproductive to their goals.
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.
Lynette’s Law Equals Happy Parents
This is true of bad parenting too. The difference lies in understanding the methods and the goals.
The goal should always 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 hard work becomes fun work.
Don’t buy into warnings of future danger such as, “If you pay your employees well, they’ll become greedy.”
Generosity breeds generosity. Good breeds good. The end.
Any proof you have to the contrary is a mistaken observation: a mistake that will confuse and disorient you.
When you are happy you think clearly. Remember the child you complimented for standing? We got her standing stronger instead of running in the road. She grew up stable, not wild. If you are parenting like 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 your children are special needs? Same deal. Different lessons more steps. More often. Same Lynette’s Law.
I know. I raised six adopted special kiddos.
That is—in part—how I created Lynette’s Law: through parenting the special child. The only difference between my special children and my neurotypical children was that I had to be minutely specific with my 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 regard to learning happens when people receive feedback on a 4:1 ratio. I read about it in a study (now nowhere to be found!) during a neuroanatomy class.
That study inspired me.
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.
Infinite Upward Spiral
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 to focus on neurofeedback because I could have neurofeedback at home. It was handy. Once I knew how to make it work, making it work was always achievable. Neurofeedback became a must-have ingredient for me with my brood.
I think everyone needs to find their own therapy, the kind that fits their thinking and their lifestyle. Some people choose diet, while others may choose vitamins, hyperbaric oxygen, meditation, or chiropractic to name just a few. The important thing is to investigate and choose what type of therapy matches you and yours, with the intention of staying out of the pharmaceutical companies’ pockets and staying in charge of your own health.
For me, and all the people I help, that answer comes in the form of neurofeedback in the home.
Working with the brain has taught me about the brain. Understanding the brain makes me better at knowing if a theory presented to me by any type of expert makes sense for my family. For me, neurofeedback makes sense because it matches my desire to grow more blissful, yet also more powerful, two goals that appear incongruent but really aren’t.
Lynette’s Law: All About The Right Ratio
Neurofeedback helped me design and implement Lynette’s Law. It was congruent in my home by combining corrections and compliments in just the right ratio of 4:1. And because neurofeedback matches my wishes and my 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, a teacher, an employer?
It is to be someone who leads the way.
Don’t confuse being a leader with being a tyrant which means to push and force and not care if your people want to follow (or not).
Problems Are the Fuel of Life
True, change requires building a desire for change and then removing obstacles by 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 your path and that of your children.
Happy complimenting 🙂