All Posts in Category: Parenting

Letting Go

I recently discovered this and thought it might be helpful to many of us:

Letting Go -
 Author unknown

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, 
it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off, 
it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable, 
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, 
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, 
it’s to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for, 
but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix, 
but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge, 
but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging the outcomes, 
but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

To “let go” is not to be protective, 
it’s to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny, 
but to accept.

To “let go” it not to nag, scold or argue, 
but instead to search out my own shortcomings, and correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires 
but to take each day as it comes, 
and cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody 
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To “let go” is not to regret the past, 
but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less, 
and love more.

 

In what ways are you holding on to things you shouldn’t?

Why do you think it is so hard to let go sometimes?

 

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Carrying the anxiety ball and the relationship seesaw

An interesting thing about relationships is that there often seems to be a finite amount of anxiety or other emotion around a certain topic within the relationship.

For example, if one partner is carrying all the anxiety about finances, the other partner often seems much less concerned about finances.  The more the worried partner can let go of the anxiety the more the other partner begins to worry and the more the partners meet in the middle.  And conversely, the more the relaxed partner can worry; the more relaxed the worried partner can become.

This can be true of many different emotions about many different topics.

The same concept is true with our relationships with our kids too.

If the child is unconcerned about completing homework, studying for tests, keeping their schoolwork caught up and organized—guess who picks up the ball?

As the child becomes a teenager, this usually leads to resentment from the child who feels the parent is meddling and/or being a helicopter parent.  The best way to deal with this, is to have the child pick up the anxiety-about-homework-ball him or herself.

Often relationships become sort of artificially polarized this way.

In other words, for example, let’s say Suzie and Tom (if you ask them individually) very much agree on how to parent their children.

They both agree that children need limits but should be able to exercise some age appropriate choice and control.

But somehow they have ended up playing different roles with Suzie playing “bad cop” and Tom playing “good cop.”

Suzie and Tom both think they are responding to the other parent.

Suzie thinks she has to be extra tough because Tom is so lenient.

Tom thinks he has to be especially lenient to counterbalance Suzie’s toughness.

The longer this goes on, the more polarized they become (picture them each moving further and further towards the opposite ends of a seesaw).

In my work, I sometimes suggest that the parents switch roles (this really throws the kids for a loop, who by now have learned which parent to go to, for the answer they want).

However by just working together as opposed to trying to counterbalance each other, both parents can move to a more comfortable position in the middle.

Do you notice any issues that have become polarized this way in your relationships?

Do you feel yourself being bad cop or good cop, even though you know that isn’t necessarily where you want to be?

 

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How to communicate with kids more effectively: “I don’t speak whinese!” The importance of tone for productive communication

I used to often tell my kids when they were whining, “I don’t speak whinese…” that I couldn’t listen to them when they whined, but I would be happy to listen to them if they could speak normally.

Tone makes such a huge difference in whether or not we get our message across.

This is important for children and adults to be aware of.

I will discuss below how easy it is to not realize we as parents need to make a concerted effort to teach this to our children (for our own sakes as well as theirs).

How highly emotional states can disrupt communication and how to increase the effectiveness of our communications

Think about how much easier it is to take someone seriously when they are speaking calmly versus when they are ranting and raving.

When someone is yelling or in a highly charged emotional state, their right brain (the emotional side of the brain) often takes control and the more rational (left) side of the brain seems to take a back seat.

Since the language centers are largely in the left side of our brains, this often means we literally are not able to speak as fluently when we are upset as we can when we are calm.  This of course, means we are more likely to say things we don’t mean or not communicate well.

So it is no surprise, that as an audience to an upset person we often tend to assume someone is being somewhat irrational when they are in a highly emotional state, and we sometimes miss the merit in what they are saying.  We are more likely to dismiss their possibly legitimate points.

So there are at least two reasons to try to stay calm to increase the effectiveness of your communication: your brain allows you to communicate better when you are calm, and people have learned to tune out others more often when they appear to be highly emotional (of course both of these things are not always true).

Teaching and modeling good communication to our children

However a funny thing often happens when we are parenting our children, which contradicts this.

Because we love our children so much and tend to be more patient with them than we are with other adults, and because we have been conditioned to respond to their crying in their infancy, when they become verbal, we sometimes mistakenly reinforce whining, and our children’s emotional outbursts or tantrums.  In a sense, we have been conditioned to respond to crying and we condition them to continue.

Because whining is annoying and we want it to stop, we often do the opposite of what I am suggesting is generally true of communication, we pay attention to the whining and tantrums (remember even negative attention can be reinforcing).  If we give in when our children whine and throw fits, we reinforce it.  Whining, unnecessary crying and tantrums become the currency of our households.   Even if we get angry with them or punish them, it can reinforce the behavior in negative way (children sometimes like to see they can have such a powerful effect on their parents, even if it is negative-especially when they are feeling powerless).

This scenario develops initially out of necessity.  When our children are infants and/or cannot communicate through speech we have to respond to their crying, because that is the only way they can communicate.  When (and in some cases if) they learn to communicate through speech and as they mature and get more adept at it, we have to try to wean them from the earlier form of communication (now unnecessary crying and fits).  Sometimes parents get so caught up in that negative cycle they don’t realize it is continuing longer than it needs to (parents of multiples, parents whose children are very close in age are often caught in this cycle for longer than they need to be, because child crying gets the attention, initially out of necessity.  Because the parents and the children have mutually conditioning each other crying remains the currency even after there are better forms of communication available.

It is necessary for the parent to change the currency, disrupt the cycle and teach and  model more effective, adaptive and mature forms of communication.

If instead of giving in to whining or tantrums, we try to calmly teach our children (it may not be possible or advisable during a tantrum) by example and by our words, that they are much more likely to be listened to, taken seriously and possibly even get what they want if they can present themselves reasonably and calmly, we may be able to teach them a valuable lesson and decrease the whining and fits as well and change the currency of our households to a much more palatable one: calm and effective verbal communication of our needs, feelings or wishes.

 

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I need your help

Four simple words can make such a difference when asking your child to do something around the house.  For example, I asked my son this morning to put his dishes in the dishwasher after breakfast…he grumbled a little, but he did it.  About 15 minutes later while he was already doing something he enjoyed (an even harder sell) I told him I needed his help to clean up some crumbs and put some stuff away in the family room.  He happily came to help.  Then another 10 minutes later I told him I needed his help again to sweep the front walkway.  Again he jumped up and did it cheerfully.  The difference? Four words…”I need your help.”  I think if you frame requests this way children feel more valued, like they are making a contribution.  It worked for me anyway! Tell me what you think! What ways have you found to elicit cooperation from your kids?

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