Parenting with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Do you feel alien to your child’s understanding of the world? 

Are you often taken aback by your child’s responses? 

Do you find yourself wondering “How did they even get there?” 

Or another common one, “Whose kids are these?!”

Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP can be a great tool to support you in building the nurturing relationships that you long for with your children (and significant other). NLP is based on a number of presuppositions, that when applied, help you manage your expectations and reframe the situations you may find yourself stuck in. Applying these to parenting can create greater and richer relationships with your children.

Today, we visit “the map is not the territory” presupposition. 

As caring parents, we all want to raise happy, confident children with high self-esteem and great futures, yet we sometimes fear that our ways may fail, affecting our child’s wellbeing. Applying “the map is not the territory” to design, enrich, or assess your method of parenting can assist you in supporting your children to be the best version of themselves. The way maps are not a literal representation of the territory it depicts, similarly, the internal reality we believe in is not the same as the external reality that exists. We all act and respond differently to circumstances, based on our understanding of the world. 

In NLP, we believe that we all have a unique internal map of the world, and in order to build effective relationships, we need to understand this map. We need to realize that another person’s map may be very different from our own. We also need to realize that this internal map is constantly changing as we experience the world.

Our children have their internal maps too. As parents, we need to place ourselves in our children’s little shoes and look at the world through their fresh eyes. We need to see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel in order to connect with them. Through gaining a better understanding of their internal map, we can build, shape, or if necessary, divert the path they are on.

When parents stop appearing as imposing, distant, or dismissive, it encourages children to openly communicate and share their experiences. They begin to feel like you can really see them, hear them, and understand what they are going through.

You need to explore the map to be better guided. For example, parents need to “listen to listen” as opposed to “listen to reply”. To be able to “listen to listen” parents need to allocate time to be with their children and ask lots of questions that focus on their children’s thoughts and needs.

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When you ask a question such as “How was that experience for you?” and then attentively listen, you are inviting them to open dialogue, you are forming a bond. If you immediately have a standard response to give them as soon as they start speaking, you are not really listening, you are just hearing them; your reply is only as good as the attention and consideration you invest while listening. 

Establishing this rapport gives you a closer look at your children’s map and this is when the magic happens: when you can say “I see your point, I hear your pain, I feel what it must be like for you.” It is this acknowledgment of your children’s views and feelings that helps you expand your views and enables you to be a better guide.

To help you further explore your children’s maps, and help them explore their realities, here are a few questions you can use in daily life:

“How was it for you? How did it go for you? Who was there?”

“What went well? What went wrong? And what made it go well/wrong?”

“How did it feel? What does it mean for you?”

“What stopped you from…?”

“What did you enjoy? What did you dread?”

“What did you appreciate about the situation? Who did you appreciate?”

“Would you do it again? What would you change? What would you do differently?”

“What did you learn from this situation?”

Click here for more information about the facilitator Ankita Sharma