LVAC stands for: Listen, Validate, Ask, Comment.
Most people pronounce it “L-VAC”.
It is a trademarked communication technique which I developed to remind us how to give each other what we need when talking to one another.
It is especially important to LVAC with your child for three reasons.
1) it builds up your Emotional Credibility with them (which equals trust + likability)
2) it helps them learn more about themselves while you are learning about them at the same time
3) they’ll never outgrow the need for it since we all need it
If your child came to you and told you that they lost the locket or keychain you gave them for their birthday, what would you do?
What if they came to you and told you they had just been bullied at school or at the park?
Or how about if they told you they were scared about something? Worried? Angry?
What do you do when your child “talks back” to you?
The point is that most of us, given the above situations, make some sort of immediate Comment to the child. We’ll usually make some sort of generalization, or ultimatum, or maybe get defensive somehow (or all three!)
Sorry to break it to everyone, but this is NOT parenting!
What we tend NOT to do is to first Listen to what they are saying, then Validate their feelings on the matter (i.e. “I see”, “Oh, I can understand that”, “Uh-huh, I see”, “Yeah?”, etc.)
Once we Listen and Validate, then we can move on to Asking questions.
The best questions to ask are open-ended questions, such as “What’s going on?”, or, “How’d you feel about that?”, or, “Then what?”
Don’t be afraid to use open-ended questions with your child to help them clarify what they are trying to say to you, and to themselves. A great deal of the magic of the LVAC technique lies within the Asking of open-ended questions instead of making immediate Comments. A good open-ended question encourages the other person to talk more; it doesn’t shut them down.
And don’t make the mistake of using closed-ended questions such as, “You’re not wearing that are you?”, or, “I hope you didn’t do that, did you?” These are actually just Comments in disguise, and they contain the same things that our Comments contain: shame, blame, guilt, anger, defensiveness, etc.
The real problem with Commenting as a first response is that the Comment tells the child about where WE are emotionally; i.e., about OUR reaction to them or to what’s happening. It does not help us learn about them, and it does not help them learn about themselves.
Our immediate Comments short-circuit the process of teaching the child how to feel what they are feeling so that they can learn to communicate their position WITH WORDS.
Instead, with our Comments we are teaching them to be more in tune with us than with themselves. This is how we pass our life experiences (and our neuroses) onto our children, generation after generation. This will not gain us any Emotional Credibility with them, since they will begin to realize over the years, at some level, that we always make it about US instead of keeping our attention on THEM and they will pull away from us or cease to trust us emotionally.
Our Comments also promote DISCONNECT between us and them, and between them and themselves, and as you know from some of my prior posts, these disconnects are what ultimately lead to destructive acting out behaviors.
The LVAC technique will help you behave in a calm, focused, productive, and invaluable manner with your child so that they get from you what they need as your child, i.e., they need to use us as sounding boards for their lives, not continuous commentators.
If we use LVAC, our children will learn important things about themselves, about life, and, lastly, about us and our competence (and incompetence.)
They will grow to trust us and want us around for years to come because of what we’ve always given to them.
And, most importantly, they will grow to like and accept themselves as they become the emotionally competent, strong, and confident adults we want them to be.
Good luck, and all the best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
(You can find out more about the LVAC technique in my book, LVAC Nation!, available on amazon.com, or by going to http://www.LVACNation.com)