One of the most enriching forms of self-disclosure is the Appreciative I-Message. These are messages that describe parents positive feelings toward their children. Although kids do plenty of things that are problems for parents, they also say and do plenty of things that are a pleasure, often helping a parent in unexpected ways or displaying kindness, maturity, consideration or good humor just when it's needed most. When these behaviors occur, it is appropriate and important for parents to disclose any genuine positive feelings they have about them.
Unfortunately, many parents are only self-disclosing when they are upset with their child's behavior. This is clearly appropriate self-disclosure, but the important point is that parents should disclose both their feelings of unacceptance and acceptance. Appreciative I-Messages that express appreciation, love, enjoyment and affection toward children (spouse, friends and others) can contribute greatly to warmer, closer and more enjoyable relationships. Very young children, with their building self-esteem and desire to be a "helper," seem especially to thrive on Appreciative I-Messages.
Consider the value for you, your children, or others in the following examples of Appreciative I-Messages:
- "I appreciate your taking my turn making dinner--it gave me time to finish writing some emails."
- "I really like the story you wrote."
- "I feel proud of you when I see you stand up for yourself like that."
- "Honey, I really love you."
It is important that Appreciative I-Messages not be used to manipulate or "shape" a child's behavior. Such ulterior motives invariably come through to the child and make your sincerity suspect. The Appreciative I-Message should be a "no-strings attached" expression of acceptance and acknowledgment.
Even though changing your child should not be the motive, parents who express a lot of positive feelings toward their children are often automatically rewarded with less unacceptable behavior, more trust, mutual respect and cooperation, more affection and caring. Honesty, warmth and affection are highly contagious in families!*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book