If you want to improve your physical health, get into better physical shape do you know what to do? Of course you do! Remarkably most people over six-years old are informed and educated on what to do to improve and maintain good physical health. There was a time in this country when physical health was defined as the absence of physical illness. Not today. When people are in good physical health and shape there is less likelihood of becoming physically ill. During those times when you do become ill, you are better able and quicker to recover rebounding back into good physical health and shape.

What do you need to do to get into good mental and emotional health? Do you know? Hard to know the answer when you don’t even know what being in good emotional and mental health means.

 Here’s my definition: You are mentally and emotionally healthy when you are able to meet your psychological needs for safety, love, power, fun and freedom responsibly and respectfully.

 This definition originated with psychiatrist William Glasser, MD, who authored numerous books and is the founder of choice theory psychology. Peaceful Parenting is the application of choice theory psychology to parenting. Among its many tenets is the idea that all human beings are born with the psychological needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom.

 People are born with the urge to meet these needs but are not born knowing how to do this responsibly and respectfully. Peaceful Parenting teaches parents to help their children learn to meet their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom responsibly and respectfully. No surprise then that the definition of good emotional and mental health is the ability to meet your needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom responsibly and respectfully.

 This definition is simple to understand and relatively simple to achieve. In fact, this is something we can all strive for and achieve now! You can share this idea with your spouse, your family, and your friends. You can start teaching and working with your children to succeed in meeting their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom, responsibly and respectfully now.

 Just as with people who are in better physical shape and health who can rebound and recover more quickly, the same is true for people who are in better emotional and mental health. This means that daily disappointments and upsets will likely be temporary bumps in the road. Encountering a traffic snarl will not throw your entire day into a tailspin. Instead it will be dealt with as a temporary inconvenience. With some adjustments you will be able to still meet your psychological needs even though your arrival time may be delayed.

 There will be times when you encounter more than a slight blip in your life. The possibilities are numerous: losing your job because of your employers financial “adjustments,” death of a parent or family member, moving to a new location by choice with all the subsequent new life adjustments, a natural disaster affecting your daily life or the daily life of a loved one, random violence affecting you and your family or a friend, unexpected financial crises or physical illness, to name some. No one’s life is immune. More than a few people have suggested that experiencing an emotional crisis is not what defines a person’s character. Rather, how a person handles the crises is the true definition of character. And when you are focusing on developing and maintaining good emotional and mental health you will be better able to deal with crises.

 Once you begin successfully and effectively meeting your needs your reaction and ability to handle these chaotic and catastrophic life events will change significantly. This does not mean that you will never be sad, or angry, or frustrated again. It just means that your ability to handle such emotions will be more effective and swift.

 This is not only true for adults; it is also true for children. If children understand and practice good emotional and mental health at home and in schools they will be less susceptible to mental and emotional upsets when faced with a crisis, a rejection or a failure. When they practice improving their good emotional and mental health they are less likely to become the isolated, angry and violent young men who pick up a gun to rid themselves of their unspeakable pain that leads them to an unspeakable massacre.

 What has this got to do with parenting? Everything! Children are born with the genetic instructions to meet their. They are not born knowing how to meet this responsibly and respectfully. That’s a parents’ job.

 Peaceful Parenting helps parents learn to teach their children how to meet their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom responsibly and respectfully. It also helps parents meet their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom responsibly and respectfully.

 Peaceful Parenting teaches families how to improve and maintain their good emotional and mental health. Families who develop strong, connected relationships, who know how to disagree with one another without alienation, accusations or blame assingment, who are able to solve their problems together and find meaning and success in their lives together are an integral part of making mentally and emotionally healthy families.

 I do not mean to imply that all mental illness can be avoided or overcome if people learn to meet their needs responsibly and respectfully. There is a growing belief with some evidence that some mental illness results from neurological differences.

 However, even people who have been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses will improve the quality of their lives when they learn to effectively meet their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom. Of all of these the most significant is developing healthy, respectful, mutually loving and connecting relationships with other people. At a minimum all people need to be connected to at least one other significant person. The lack of this significant relationship is one of the things that all of the angry and isolated young men who massacred had in common. We can take a giant step in the right direction of improving mental health for all people in this country and avoid another Newtown, Columbine, or Aurora if we start teaching our children good mental and emotional habits now.

 I charge you with teaching your children to develop and maintain good mental and emotional healthy habits! If we all adopt this new public health initiative we have a chance in changing the level of violence in our towns, communities and country.


[Please note Peaceful Parenting is a registered trademark and cannot be used without the author's permission.]

About the Author

Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D.

Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D. tackles the tough topics facing families today. She is a developmental and author of Peaceful Parenting and Why Do Kids Act That Way?

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