Tag Archives: relationship

Fighting in Front of the Kids

fight[This is part of a week long series on Parental Anger.]

Many of today’s parents grew up in families (or knew families) who didn’t handle conflict well and they want to learn how to handle conflict better around their kids.

It is unhealthy for kids to be around their parents’ fights if the parents are hostile or threatening, insulting each other, dragging up every example of wrong-doing from the whole relationship, or storming away in anger. This sort of family conflict is associated with guilt and shame, depression, withdrawal, anxiety disorders, aggression and impulse control issues. Sulking, the silent treatment and the cold shoulder are just as hard on kids. They sense the tension and know something is wrong, but they don’t know what is wrong, and whether it’s their fault. If you’re in a relationship where these kinds of fights are common, your children would benefit from you seeking counseling and support now to resolve some of these issues.

On the other hand, if parents have a healthy relationship and argue in a healthy way, that can actually benefit the kids. If you’re respectful and loving toward each other even in an argument, if you stay focused on the current issue, and if you resolve things before walking away, this can show your kids that people can disagree, even when they love and respect each other, and then work out their differences in a constructive manner. They learn that negotiation, compromise, and resolution are possible.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Some topics are off-limits in front of the kids (like your romantic / sexual relationship.)
  • Don’t argue about the kids or about parenting issues in front of the kids. It’s very important to resolve issues out of their view so you can present a united front to them.
  • If you notice that your arguments start off civil, and then escalate upwards, make a plan. Set an anger cut-off point. On an anger scale of one to ten, when do you start to lose control and behave inappropriately? If you’re in a disagreement with your partner, and notice you’re nearing that cut-off point, call a time-out. Table the argument for another time. Or set a time limit on arguments, after which you walk away to calm down and come back to it later. Watch your children for cues that it’s too much: they cry, become clingy, freeze in place, look withdrawn or depressed. They may also misbehave to draw you away from the argument, or try to peace keep. If you do call a time-out, be sure to go back to it later, resolve the argument, and let your kids know that you resolved it.
  • Children interpret your arguments within the full context of your relationship. If you have a warm, supportive, loving relationship despite arguments, that will shine through.

Family that Fights Together: www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304213904579093151181560622

When Mom and Dad Disagree: www.nbcnews.com/id/29959807/ns/health-childrens_health/t/how-dare-you-when-mom-dad-disagree/#.VVwUcUY2ekI

For ideas for relationship skills for building a healthy relationship, check out: https://gooddayswithkids.com/category/parenting-skills/relationships/

Photo: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1185567

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Relationship Skills for Parents

In every relationship – whether with our romantic partners, our children, our parents, our co-workers, or friends – we have good days and bad days. We can have more good days if we know and use effective relationship skills. Here are some I find most helpful, with links to more details on each.

Turning Toward your Partner (based on Gottman)

When someone wants to make a connection, they make “bids for affection.” These can be questions, invitations, non-verbal gestures, glances, or touch – anything that asks you to connect. When someone bids for your attention, there are three main categories of ways that you might respond.

Turn Toward: Act in a responsive, interested, positive, and loving way. Reach out, touch them, look at them, smile. Say “I hear you”, “I want to connect with you,” “I’m interested in you.” Ask a question.

Turn Away: Act in a way that ignores them, or dismisses their bid. Look away, wander away. Don’t respond verbally, or respond in a way that has nothing to do with what they said.

Turn Against: Act in an angry way that rejects them and their bid. Walk away, glare, make threatening movements. Use sarcasm or put-downs, roll your eyes. Do the opposite of what they asked you to do.

In the most successful relationships, partners have a 20:1 ratio. They have 20 positive bids and/or turning toward incidents for every one incident of turning against or away.Can you aim for at least 5:1?

Expressing Appreciation (inspired by Hendricks and Louden)

When juggling day-to-day responsibilities at work, home, and with children, we  we might start feeling disconnected and invisible, or drained and undervalued. One of the best ways to re-fill our tanks is by creating a “culture of appreciation”. Some ideas:

  • Always thank your partner for the things s/he has done. Even if they’re part of his/her “job.” It’s still nice to know that they are noticed and appreciated.
  • When asking your partner to do something, make it a real question (i.e. something they could say no to) not an order disguised as a question. (And say please!) Thank them if they say yes.
  • Five minute writing. Each of you takes a piece of paper and a pen. Spend five full minutes listing everything you love about your partner. Pour out all the appreciation you haven’t had time to share. Give your list to your partner to have and to hold.
  • Exchanging appreciations: Sit facing each other. One person begins with “Something I appreciate about you is…” The other partner listens to that, lets it sink in, says thank you, and then shares something that they appreciate about the other.
  • Post-its: leave notes around the house, listing what you love about each other or life in general.
  • Write a thank you note, letting him/her know why you’re glad s/he is a part of your life.

Speak your partner’s love language (Chapman)

In Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, he argues that different individuals have different “languages” they use to express love, and that we “hear” love best when it’s spoken in our language. Which one of these sounds most like how your partner hears love from you? Which describes how you hear love?

Physical Touch: Feels most loved when you touch him/her: stroke her hair, hold hands, massage, rub her feet, hugging, kissing, sex. Feels most rejected when touch is missing (or if touch is used in anger).

Words of Affirmation: Encouragement and praise are vital. Being acknowledged for work, appreciated for who s/he is, validated for concerns, cheered on for efforts. May be very sensitive to criticism.

Acts of Service: Wants active support with household tasks, like laundry, washing dishes, running errands, making a to-do list together and taking on jobs. Feels unsupported when you don’t pitch in.

Gifts: Loves any special little thing done just for him/her. Little notes left around the house, something special from the grocery store, pictures of the baby texted during the day. Will be especially upset if you forget a birthday, anniversary or other gift-giving occasion.

Quality Time: Wants your Presence – time together, spent talking and connecting, doing activities together. Feels unsupported if you’re off buying gifts or doing tasks instead of spending time together.

Discuss this with your partner. Are you right about what his/her language is? What does s/he think is your language? Sometimes couples discover that if one is feeling unloved, it’s not that their partner wasn’t trying to communicate love, it’s just that s/he was shouting a lot in the wrong language.

Spend Time with your Partner

Ideally, you will find a way to have a regular date night with your partner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a chance to be together, really listen to each other, really see the other person, and remember why you chose to spend your lives together. Celebrate being a couple!

But beyond date night, think about ways that even a few minutes a day can make a big difference. In an article by Carolyn Pirak (www.parentmap.com/article/make-time-for-your-partner) she recommends making a commitment to 40 minutes a day to improve your relationship: When you separate, spend at least two minutes saying goodbye. When you reunite, spend 20 minutes talking about your days. Take five minutes a day to express appreciation to each other. Devote at least 8 minutes a day to showing affection. Give at least five minutes a day to sharing dreams and planning ahead.

Make a plan for special time together this week. Each day, grab some sweet little moments together.

Conflict Resolution / Communicating needs

Many conflicts arise because one or both of you is not getting something that you need. You can start feeling like opponents on opposite sides of an issue or like competitors for scarce resources. Here are some steps to start thinking like allies again, and being working things out.

  1. Identify what you need. Sometimes you need to figure it out yourself before you can tell your partner. Hint: if you often find yourself saying “You never do X” or “You always do Y” or “I never get to do Z,” there’s a hint in there somewhere.
  2. Communicate that need to your partner. Be clear, and specific. Use the “I” word – “I need this”, not the “You” word – “Here’s what you need to do.” Help them understand how you feel about this emotionally. “It makes me sad when…” “I feel overwhelmed when…”
  3. Ask for help meeting that need.
  4. Listen to your partner’s opinions and concerns. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, defensiveness, and contempt. (Expressed out loud or with body language.) Paraphrase – repeat back what your partner has said, and make sure you heard him/her right.
  5. Ask your partner what s/he needs and work together to get that need met.

Next time you find yourself in conflict, try these ideas. Even better, try working preventatively. When you’re not in the heat of the moment, explore one areas of conflict, and see what you learn together.

Here’s a printable handout covering this information on Key Relationship Skills.

Sources: Louden’s Couples Comfort Book, Hendricks’ Conscious Heart; Gottman’s Baby Makes Three.

Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 5: Expressing Needs

ask

Many relationship conflicts arise because one or both of you is not getting something that you need. You can start feeling like opponents on opposite sides of an issue or like competitors for scarce resources. Here are some steps to start thinking like allies again, and being working things out.

  1. Identify what you need. Sometimes you need to figure it out yourself before you can tell your partner. Hint: if you often find yourself saying “You never do X” or “You always do Y” or “I never get to do Z,” there’s a hint in there somewhere.
  2. Communicate that need to your partner. Be clear, and specific. Use the “I” word – “I need this”, not the “You” word – “Here’s what you need to do.” Help them understand how you feel about this emotionally. “It makes me sad when…” “I feel overwhelmed when…”
  3. Ask for help meeting that need.
  4. Listen to your partner’s opinions and concerns. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, defensiveness, and contempt. (Expressed out loud or with body language.) Paraphrase – repeat back what your partner has said, and make sure you heard him/her right.
  5. Ask your partner what s/he needs and work together to get that need met.

Next time you find yourself in conflict, try these ideas. Even better, try working preventatively. When you’re not in the heat of the moment, explore one areas of conflict, and see what you learn together.

I have a one-page handout with more details on this conflict resolution skill. Also check out the Non-Violent Communication method by Rosenberg, one of the key inspirations for this technique.

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 4: Make Couple Time a Priority

couple

After you have children, it becomes much more challenging to find couple time, but having that one-on-one connection time is so essential to keeping the love alive in a relationship. Without it, you may find that you and your partner end up in a place where you’re great housemates, co-parents, business partners, and so on, but no longer lovers. (In the physical way or the emotional way.)

Ideally, you will find a way to have a regular date night with your partner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a chance to be together, really listen to each other, really see the other person, and remember why you chose to spend your lives together. Celebrate being a couple!  (Here are more thoughts for why that’s important: www.families.com/blog/making-time-for-your-marriage-couple-time)

But beyond date night, think about ways that even a few minutes a day can make a big difference. In an article by Carolyn Pirak (www.parentmap.com/article/make-time-for-your-partner) she recommends making a commitment to 40 minutes a day to improve your relationship: When you separate each morning, spend at least two minutes saying goodbye. When you reunite, spend 20 minutes talking about your days. Take five minutes a day to express appreciation to each other. Devote at least 8 minutes a day to showing affection. Give at least five minutes a day to sharing dreams and planning ahead.

Make a plan for special time together this week. And each day, grab some sweet little moments together.

Here’s some solutions to some couple time challenges:

No time? Here’s some “8 minute date ideas”: https://bellevuetoddlers.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/timetogether.pdf

Can’t find a babysitter? Tips for a date night at home: www.romantic-tips.com/datenight.shtml  and http://familymatters.net/blog/2011/04/04/date-night-for-parents-kids/

Can’t afford a babysitter and an expensive date? Cheap date ideas: http://workingmoms.about.com/od/parenting/a/Cheapdate.htm and http://parentingfamilymoney.com/393/inexpensive-cheap-date-night-ideas-for-parents/

Please share comments on how  you make date nights work as a parent!

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

photo credit: Rinoninha via photopin cc

 

Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 3: Love Languages

languages

In Chapman’s Five Love Languages, he describes how different individuals have different “languages” they use to express love, and that we “hear” love best when it’s spoken in our language. Which one of these sounds most like how your partner hears love from you?

  • Physical Touch: Feels most loved when you touch him/her: stroke her hair, hold hands, massage, rub her feet, hugging, kissing, sex. Feels most rejected when touch is missing (or if touch is used in anger).
  • Words of Affirmation: Encouragement and praise are vital. Being acknowledged for work, appreciated for who s/he is, validated for concerns, cheered on for efforts. May be very sensitive to criticism.
  • Acts of Service: Wants active support with household tasks, like laundry, washing dishes, running errands, making a to-do list together and taking on jobs. Feels unsupported when you don’t pitch in.
  • Gifts: Loves any special little thing done just for him/her. Little notes left around the house, something special from the grocery store, pictures of the baby texted during the day. Will be especially upset if you forget a birthday, anniversary or other gift-giving occasion.
  • Quality Time: Wants your Presence: time together, spent talking and connecting, doing activities together. Feels unsupported if you’re off buying gifts or doing tasks instead of spending time with him/her.

Discuss this with your partner. Are you right about what his/her language is? What does s/he think is your language? Sometimes couples discover that if one is feeling unloved, it’s not that their partner wasn’t trying to communicate love, it’s just that s/he was shouting a lot in the wrong language.

(Note: I also wrote a 5 question love languages quiz you can take. Or you can take Chapman’s 30 question quiz here)

Read what other bloggers say about Love Languages:

One person’s experience with how the love languages work in reality on INFP blog

Applying love languages to relationship with your child on GoodTherapy.org

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

Photo Credits:

 

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