Phil Erichsen, M.A., LMHC
Hi. My name is Philip Erichsen, and I’m a licensed therapist at Crosswinds Counseling. I’m here today to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart. Something I’ve been doing a lot of lately. That something is in family therapy. It is a homework assignment I’ve been giving my entire career. All 13 years I’ve been giving this. It’s a standard homework assignment in family therapy. This homework assignment focuses on the parent and the child spending individual quality time together.
Now how it works is when they do this time they have to do it at least 1 to 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Let me explain how this goes. They’re going to focus on the 3 A’s. Attention. Affirmation. And Affection. These are the core needs that every child has. And especially when they’re getting it from their parents is something that brings [them] so much joy. I remember when I was in college, my Childhood/Adolescent Psych professor mentioned this homework assignment – that he gives it as a standard one. He says if you just do this, give the 3 A’s – Attention, Affirmation, Affection, spending at least 30 minutes 1-3 times a week, individual time with your child, relationships and behaviors will improve in the child and believe it or not the parents. When I heard this the first time I was like there’s no way that’s going to work. Kids and parents are way too complex. There’s got to be more than that. But here I am, 13 years later doing this same assignment.
Now I love this assignment because I get to hear about the joy it brings parents and kids when they’re doing this. When you’re doing the 3 A’s. The attention part first, you are focusing on your kids. So what you’re doing when you’re spending this time is you’re setting this thing aside (holds up a cell phone). You’re focusing all of your attention on them. Trying to learn about them. Trying to engage with them. Trying to see what they’re passionate about and that tells you something about that child. And I actually encourage parents to dive into that interest. What that means if moms out there, if your kid loves to play some video games, your daughter loves to play some video games – I got a Nintendo Switch here. If they love playing Mario Kart, guess what’s happening, you’re diving in and playing some Mario Kart too. And that’s ok that you’re not doing so well, because sometimes the student becoming the teacher is a great learning experience for both of you.
The second part of the 3 A’s, the Affirmation part is where you’re trying to give encouragement, Precise encouragement. Not just, ‘Hey, good job.’ But ‘Hey,I love that.’ Or, ‘That was really neat.’ Or, ‘That thing I just learned about you is awesome. I never knew that.’ Or, ‘That character that is your favorite character. I thought he said something pretty funny and that is going to make me laugh all day today.’ And [when] you encourage the things that they’re passionate about, you are in turn encouraging your kids.
The last thing is the Affection. And what you do is give High-5’s. Fist bumps. Just even the physical presence of being near each other. Sitting near each other. It can even be just a hug. Even just you know a quick shoulder bump. Just having some fun. What I can tell you is, once again, doing those three things, those 3 A’s – Attention, Affirmation, and Affection. If you do those things, things improve. And I love seeing families getting along. Having fun together. Enjoying each other’s companies. And especially parents diving into these fun interests. That’s what I wanted to share with you today.