Healing Our “Connective Tissue”
May 19, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Healing Our “Connective Tissue”

Healing our “Connective Tissue” by Carrie Krawiec, LMFT

Yogis have long known the healing power of turning into oneself and deeply stretching one’s muscles and ligaments — while also stretching one’s mental focus, tuning out the static and noise of the world outside. This practice, thousands of years old, has far-reaching physical, mental, and spiritual benefits for the individual, and it fosters a sense of community and fellowship for the group.

In Yin Yoga class, practitioners hold nonmuscular poses to delve into connective tissue, healing joints, tendons, and ligaments. Recently, the instructor said in a slow, smooth voice, “There is a reason why there are only 10 of you here this morning.. We live in a society that does not value turning into ourselves, focusing on our values, or taking the actions necessary to facilitate our intentions.” How true. We live in a culture that instead turns out or tunes out; we turn to iPads and smartphones to get relief from daily burdens.

Perhaps this observation resonated so deeply with me because, as a marriage and family therapist, I often see the breakdown of “connective tissue” in individuals, couples, and families. No one is shocked to hear that Americans have the highest rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obesity in the world. Turning out and away from our burdens naturally leads us to seek relief from outside. This temporary relief may come in the form of food, alcohol, prescriptions, hours spent on Facebook or Farmville, gambling, shopping binges, or infidelity. Such activities damage our “connective tissue” to our unique values and intentions — and prohibit us from taking the actions to reach our goals. Likewise, these activities also damage the “connective tissue” of our relationships with those we hold closest.

Just as the practice of yoga can be strenuous and challenging, the practice of turning in to ourselves will likely be painful and difficult at times.

Just as yoga helps the body to melt away soreness and tension, shifting our focus to our true values and needs will help to ease the emptiness and anxiety that often cause us to look for external solutions.

Whether it’s within the practice of yoga or within the context of the individual or family, the act of turning inward involves behavioral, emotional, and cognitive adjustments.  An initial — and rudimentary — behavioral change is simply to turn off everything electronic. Silence the radio and cell phone on the way to work, and ask your child to turn off his iPod or DSI. The silence will help you hear your own worries, questions, intentions, and goals — and those of your child or partner.  Emotionally, make an effort to be patient, positive, and open, both with yourself and others. Leave denial, defensiveness, judgment, excuses, criticism, resentments, and competition at the door. Remind yourself of what you admire about yourself or your child/partner.  What are your/his/her strengths? As you gain strength, you may consider asking yourself,  “What can I learn from this? ” or “What is my part in this problem? ”

As we begin to heal the “connective tissue” in our bodies and our relationships, we can hope for a society that is more sensitive to the needs of the individual and the community. If we look inward for solutions, we can aspire to be part of a society with less substance abuse, mental illness, divorce, violence, and crime.

Read more: http://addictionrecoveryreality.com/healing_connective_tissue.html#ixzz1LaYKgzvV

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Women in Relationships: The Five Biggest To Do’s!
May 12, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Women in Relationships: The Five Biggest To Do’s!

by Lisa Merlo Booth

•    Listen to your gut. Too many women ignore their instincts.  We need to learn how to tune into that voice that tells us something is off.  If something feels off, it usually is.  Check it out, don’t tune it out.  In my experience, this voice is usually right on—even when others swear it’s not.  (Note:  the only caveat to this is if you tend to be suspicious, jealous or untrusting to begin with.  If this is the case, then you need to get more data and ask yourself if your jealousy is at work here or are the facts supporting your suspicions).

 

•    Ask for what you want, not what you think you’ll get. Too many women base their requests on what they believe the other person will be willing to do.  Your requests should be based on what you want—that’s why they are called requests.  Do not dummy down your request because you don’t think the other person will want to fulfill it.  Ask for what you truly want and then celebrate the yeses you get and learn to accept the nos.  If the nos far outweigh the yeses, decide how you want to handle that imbalance and then step in and speak to it.

•    Share what you want to share, not what you think others want to hear. If a loved one asks you how your day was or something similar, share about your day if you want to.  Don’t silence yourself because you think the other person won’t be interested.  Speak about what you care about and know that if the other person cares about you, s/he will be happy to listen.  (Note: this, by the way, goes for you, too.  You need to listen to what others choose to share — even if it’s not something you’re excited about hearing).

•    Be authentic, not “nice.” I’ve seen countless women lie to friends, lovers, parents and kids under the guise of being nice.  Believe it or not, lying is not nice—even when you do it with the best of intentions.  Telling your girlfriend you’re sick and can’t go out to dinner because you want to go out with someone else is not being a nice friend.  Be honest, not fake.  If you can’t be honest, then, minimally, be neutral…but don’t lie.

•    Speak directly. If there’s something you don’t like, stop stewing about it and, instead, discuss it.  Trust me, you will feel much better, even if the conversation doesn’t go well.  When we hold things in, we pay the price.  We end up holding the unspoken stress in our bodies and then get sick, depressed or worse.  Nobody — and nothing — is worth that.  Be determined to speak directly—and respectfully—about issues from the start.  The more you deal with things directly from the beginning, the less baggage your relationships will have…which can lead to the end.

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Rescuing Adult Siblings
April 21, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (1)

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It seems as if countless people have troubled siblings.  One person’s sibling is struggling with addiction, another’s with bi-polar syndrome, and another’s with depression, still another’s is in a violent relationship and yet another’s is just plain mean and reactive, and on and on.  The possibilities are endless, yet the problem is always the same: How do I help my troubled sibling?

Regardless of whether the issue is substance abuse, depression or reactivity, the key is to not work harder than your sibling is working for himself or herself.  Too often we are so anxious to help them that we end up spinning ourselves into a state of frenzy while they sit back and complain…but take no action.  Stop your frenzy.  Be willing to help if they ask, but don’t pursue.  It is even okay to offer to help…and then wait until they take you up on your offer.  And…don’t pursue.

Often people in trouble need to feel the pain of their struggles before they’re willing to do anything about them.  Make sure you are not protecting your sibling from that pain.  Do not save them, rescue them or minimize the consequences of their behavior.  Saving them from feeling the way their actions hit is called enabling.  When you soften the consequences, you enable the destructive behavior to continue.  Don’t do that.  Enabling makes matters worse.

It’s also important to make a distinction between behaviors that are hurtful to your siblings (e.g. depression or a violent relationship) and behaviors that are hurtful to you (reactive or emotionally abusive).  With behaviors that are self destructive, you offer help and then pull back until they are willing to accept the help.  Behaviors that are abusive to you require self care on your end.  It’s one thing to enable drinking, it’s another thing to throw yourself under the bus by being an emotional punching bag.  Do not be empathetic to a sibling who is abusing you – be loving and firm.  Love your sibling while setting a limit on their toxic behavior.

Too often we allow our love for our siblings to get in the way of doing what’s best…for our sibling and ourselves.  Stay level-headed.  Your goal is to be effective and compassionate—not enabling or rescuing.  You cannot save your sibling from himself or herself, only your sibling can do that.  You can be a resource and a friend, not a savior.  If you think they have a problem, speak to them about it honestly.  Don’t minimize it, avoid it or think it’s none of your business—be straightforward, compassionate and honest.  Set limits to protect yourself, help where you can and leave the onus for change on them.

Remember that loving someone sometimes requires tough limits.  Don’t work harder for someone than they are willing to work for themselves.  Offer assistance without doing all their work.  And don’t ever allow yourself to take a hit from someone because you have pity for them.  Have empathy for you and take care of yourself while feeling compassion for them.

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Intensity and Relationships: Why People Get So BIG in Times of Upset
February 24, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage · Permalink · Comments Off on Intensity and Relationships: Why People Get So BIG in Times of Upset

Lisa Merlo Booth

Time and again I find myself working with clients on their intensity.  Countless men rage, bully or intimidate when things don’t go their way.  Many women yell, scream and threaten when they don’t get what they want.  Bosses are going off on their employees and parents are going off on their children.  The intensity can be off the charts.

Our athletes, politicians, parents, teachers, leaders and followers are all getting BIG when things don’t go their way.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see someone bullying, intimidating, threatening or raging in times of disagreement or upset.  Countless marriages are being impacted—and destroyed–by this intensity.  Numerous businesses are losing employees due to intense bosses and co-workers.  And too many friendships are breaking because of words said in the heat of the moment.

So why are so many people reacting to things with such intensity?  There are a number of reasons people get so intense, including: it feels good, yelling takes no discipline or thought, it’s a learned behavior from childhood (and our culture) and — the main reason people react by getting “BIG” — is because IT WORKS.

The bottom line is when people rage, yell, bully and/or threaten, it gets people off their backs.  People grow quiet in response to intensity.  They do what they need to in order to get the intensity to stop.  If, every time you bully, others shut up and do what you want, then why not bully?  It works, right?  Wrong.  The truth is, getting BIG often leads to short-term gains and long-term losses.  People do quiet when threatened…and they also stew, get resentful and begin to pull away.  This is true at work, at home and in friendships.  Nobody likes to be bullied; it’s just not fun.  And, while you may like the way it gets you what you want in this moment, you had better be prepared for the backlash.

The reality is that bullying almost always comes with a price.  You may not pay that price today, but almost certainly you will pay for it in one of the tomorrows.  I’ve seen the meekest of wives leave raging men and the meekest of men leave raging women.  I’ve seen complacent employees reach their limit and leave well-paying jobs.  And, I’ve seen lifetime friendships end when the intense friend didn’t settle down over the years.   Intensity may work in the short run; however, the cost in the long run is often more than people want to bear.

If you find yourself often yelling, intimidating, snapping at others, etc., then know the timer is ticking.  The more you act BIG, the faster that timer ticks.  The only way to slow down the timer leading to the end of relationships is to slow your intensity down.  Seek help for your reactivity before it truly wreaks havoc in your life—if it hasn’t already.

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Language Delays
January 4, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Therapy, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Language Delays

by Melissa Krantz

Melissa Krantz is a speech therapist with over 14 years of experience.  She is a partner at Language Lab, a private speech therapy practice on the Upper West Side.

Does this sound familiar? Every week when you take your two year old son to music class, you notice that the other children are talking much more.  Not only do they seem to have more words in their arsenal, but they are also putting words together to make short phrases like, “Mommy look!” or “More push.”  Your son, on the other hand, uses about five words and many hand gestures to communicate.  You find yourself feeling more and more anxious that something is wrong. Many parents of toddlers are confused about what constitutes normal language development.

Here are some general guidelines to find out whether your child falls within normal limits or if this would be a good time to get professional input.

Typically your 18 to 24 months old should be able to:

  • Name common objects: BallDoggy, ‘BaBa
  • Use simple pronouns: me, it, I
  • Use two or three prepositions: on, in, under
  • Say social words: bye bye, hi
  • Use two-word phrases consistently: “No night night!”, “More cracker!”, “Want juice!”
  • Has a vocabulary of 100+ words
  • Asks questions:“What’s that?”, “Where’s duckie?”

In addition, a familiar listener (caregiver, sibling) should be able to understand 50% – 75% of the child’s speech.

If your child’s ability to communicate is very different than the capacity listed, it may be helpful to have an evaluation by a speech language pathologist.

There are various ways to seek assistance. You might decide to get help from your state or city early intervention program. Here is the link to New York State’s site. If your child qualifies, based on the extent of the delay, services are often provided free of charge. The second suggestion would be to contact a speech and language graduate program at the closest university to your home. Another option would be to ask for a recommendation for a private practitioner from your pediatrician or toddler/preschool program.

Whichever option you choose, the evaluation itself should involve very similar procedures. The therapist will rely upon both caregiver report and professional observation.  Activities might include both pretend and structured play, reading books and completion of standardized testing.  Examination of your child’s mouth, including his tongue, lips and teeth help to inform the therapist of any structural issues that might be inhibiting your child’s speech development.  Regardless of the setting, the evaluation should be fun and engaging for your child.

At the end of the session, the speech therapist may discuss overall impressions with you, but be prepared to wait a week or more for a formal written report which should include goals and therapy recommendations.

Remember, you are the ultimate authority on your child. If you disagree with the evaluation of your child it is important to feel comfortable seeking a second opinion.

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Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin
December 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off on Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stay in the same family role we played when we were children.  Perhaps you were the peacemaker of the family and still find yourself trying to keep the peace among everyone.  Some people are the family scapegoat, forever seen as the troubled or irresponsible one.  Still others are the quiet ones, who just try to stay out of the line of fire.

Regardless of the role we played years ago or how much we’ve changed since then, our families have an uncanny ability to pull us back into our old roles and patterns like no one else in our lives.  We could have been working on ourselves for years and then — wham — we see our families and we’re right back to being that little girl or boy again.

Part of this phenomenon happens because, no matter how much we’ve changed, we tend to act the same as we always did when we get back to our old home turf.  It’s as though we become that young child again – the one who has to throw a tantrum to be heard or has to silence to feel safe or…

The reality, of course, is that this re-enactment truly is not the case.  We can choose to be different with our family, just as we can choose to be different with anybody else in our life.  All it takes is a conscious decision to not play by the old rules, good boundaries and healthy self-esteem (not an easy task, I realize).  We need to decide how and who we want to be in this world and then have the courage to be that person regardless of the audience.

In my own life, I am the youngest of five children.  Naturally, I was seen as the baby of the family.  I played that role well for many years, until I finally realized that it didn’t fit me anymore.  As I began to step up in my interactions with my family, I began to change that story.  I didn’t need to cower in the presence of my father or have everyone do things for me that I was able to do for myself.  I could share my opinions, set limits and speak honestly and confidently about what was going on for me.  As I began to step up, I started to break through the chains of my old family role.  Although, I’m sure there are times when my old role creeps back, it feels really good to not be acting like a nine-year old every time I go back home.

I constantly hear stories about raging fathers who are still hotheads in their 70s or mothers trying to micromanage their adult children.  Whatever the issue is with your parents or siblings, remember that you’re no longer that nine-year-old who had to just take it.  You are a grown adult who is responsible for taking care of yourself and your family—even if that means setting limits on your own parents.  Break the chains of your old family role and have the courage to have an adult relationship with your family.  Set limits when you have to, share your opinions when you choose to and make requests when you’d like to.  Take all of these actions with a centered, powerful strength that is always respectful.

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Letting Go Of The Rage
December 14, 2010 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Parenting, Teens, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (4)

By Kim C. Flodin

Kim Flodin has been part of the Soho Parenting community 20 years, is a writer and mother of two daughters. Her work has been featured in Newsweek and New York Times, among other publications, and you can read more from her on her blog – http://blogsgotnotitle.blogspot.com/.

After a lifetime of even-temperedness, becoming a parent struck a chord that released both a passionate, besides-myself love, as well as an intense anger when things got tough.  My rage kicked off in my first-born’s toddler years; it intensified during my daughters’ teen years, especially my second child’s adolescence, which has been stormy.  If she yelled, I yelled louder.  If she got snarky, I replied in kind.  If she threw something, I threw two things.  It wasn’t pretty.

With my elder girl wrapping up her teen years and my “baby” half-way through them, I can report that things have been better, a lot better.  For months now.  And not by magic.  To help turn the tide, I had to learn that:

* I needed help.  Last year, my husband and I enrolled in a six-week, one-on-one immersion in counseling specifically to learn new skills and new ways of doing things, all the while going to half a year of monthly parenting coaching sessions.  I kept (and keep) up my individual therapy.  I mean, really, I can be taught.

* My home is refuge for my children from a sometimes-scary world, and if I infect this refuge with more scariness, where can they turn to?

* This is not about me and my hurts and my pain.  I have other places to bring that to and other people to whom I turn for help.  I have to be bigger than that for my girls.

* My hurts and pain, and even my rage, are real and deserve honor and attention in appropriate settings.

* It’s important to sometimes shut up and stop teaching, guiding, critiquing, limiting, punishing, expressing disappointment and dismay, and instead paint our nails or play ping-pong.

* I can still be mad, piping mad, but there is a line between anger and rage that I wish to respect always.

* I don’t have to make my kids admit that they understand my every opinion or decision and that they have become so won over by my exquisite reasoning and persuasiveness that they express, “Aha, mama, I see the light,” and willingly accept my every limit, conclusion or judgment gladly and with grateful hearts.  Sometimes, it’s enough to just say, “It is so.  I’ve explained why.  You don’t have to like it; it is still so.”

* It’s ok for my kids to be angry with me.  Their anger can work itself out without my responding every single time in kind.

* It’s overwhelming to them and to me to vent all my collected frustration at their every mishap in any given moment.  “What!  You didn’t clean your room again?  You never clean your room, and you don’t go to bed on time, and you are always behind in your assignments, and you need a haircut, and you were late coming home from that party, and and and.”  As one wise counselor advised, “Don’t kitchen-sink it.

* Taking breaks really helps in the moment of anger (walk away, mama), and in the bigger picture (a date night out, a few days away).

* “We are all doing the best we can.  We can all do better.”  More wise words from the wise counselor.

* We are all destined to follow our own paths and sometimes those paths are mysterious and winding and all the amount of guidance and “whoah, Betsy’s” that I extend can’t always change a child’s individual journey.  Or at least not now in the moment and maybe never, as hard as that it is to accept.

* I do love my children unconditionally.  If they take a million years to figure things out, make terrible mistakes, and maybe never get their act together—these things won’t matter more to me than that I love them above and beyond anything in this world.  Period.  End.  Stop.

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If Boys Will be Boys, They Need More Help
December 7, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on If Boys Will be Boys, They Need More Help

A study 0f 43,000 American High School students by the Josephson Insititute, a non-partisan, non-sectarian, organization, whose mission is “to improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior”, is a treasure trove of information. I want to focus on gender differences regarding bullying and intolerance.

Here are some specific findings:

Is it sometimes OK to to hit or threaten a person who makes me angry?

Boys 36.7 %      Girls 19.1%

I am prejudiced against certain groups.

Boys 28.2%    Girls 17.5%

In the past year I bullied, taunted or mistreated someone.

Boys 32.7%   GIrls 20.6%

In the past year I bullied someone because they belong to a different group.

Boys 14.7% GIrls 6.6%

In the past years I used racial slurs or insults.

Boys 37.2 %   Girls 19.4%

The differential between boys and girls is dramatic. As parents, we need to pay particular attention to helping boys manage negative emotions, giving clear limits about aggressive behavior and not succumbing to the “Boys will be Boys” excuse.

Helping our boys to be tolerant and kind will change society!

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The Fallout Of Affairs: Think Before You Leap
November 16, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Many people do not purposefully leap into an affair. Typically they start as innocent conversations, cups of coffee or lunches with a friend or co-worker.  Seldom are they a well thought out plan for deception.

Unfortunately, the impact is the same regardless of whether they were planned or not.  And the fallout is often way beyond what people expect.

Before you jump into an affair take a moment to think about the implications of that choice to you as well as to those around you.  The reality is that affairs rock marriages.  In fact, affairs actually destroy many marriages.  Below are some of the almost universal effects of affairs…the ripple effect, let’s say, of affairs:

1.    Affairs break the trust in relationships.  This mistrust does not come back simply by ending an affair.  Mistrust becomes a new entity in the relationship and typically lasts for years. If the partner who had the affair doesn’t address the mistrust in an honest, forthright and compassionate way, the mistrust is likely to remain in the relationship throughout its duration.
2.    Affairs have a tendency of being passed down from generation to generation.  Your children are likely to also struggle with affairs in their life (either their own or their partner’s).  This is such a powerful phenomenon that at times it can be shocking.  I’ve worked with several couples impacted by an affair who reported that there were no affairs in their parent’s marriage only to later find out that when they asked, there were indeed affairs.  Their parents just tried to keep them a secret from the kids.
3.    Affairs take 3-5 years to overcome…under the best of circumstances.  This does not mean you are doomed for 3-5 years of the kind of intensity prevalent in the first year; however, the affair takes up a lot of space for a long time.

4.    Seldom do affair relationships work.  Many people have left their partners for an affair only to later regret it or realize the same issues are repeating themselves in the affair that were present in the marriage.  The grass is often greener at first but soon turns brown when it’s not watered.
5.    Often when one parent has an affair, their relationship with their children is damaged.  If the children find out, they are incredibly angry and hurt at the offending parent.  The affair puts the children into a loyalty bind between their parents that is unfair and caustic.
6.    The offending partner often struggles with guilt, self-esteem issues and depression as a result of having an affair.  Many people who have an affair struggle with the decision they made and lose respect for themselves.  Others around them also may lose respect for them as well.
7.    Affairs minimally damage relationships and often ultimately destroy them. This is especially true if the offending partner is not willing to do the hard work necessary to repair the damage they caused.

The bottom-line when it comes to affairs is they are caustic to individuals and families.  No one comes out of an affair unscathed and the ripple effects are often far reaching.  Before you enter into an affair be certain that you are willing to bear the brunt of your actions.  Also be certain that you’re willing to have your family bear the brunt of your actions.

Don’t just blindly put your relationship in jeopardy.  If you aren’t happy at home then speak to that.  Get help if you need to but don’t run via an affair.  There’s never an excuse for having an affair and the repercussions are far worse than you predict.

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We All Have Little Mean Girls Inside
October 12, 2010 · Posted in Bullying, Communication, Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on We All Have Little Mean Girls Inside

Mean girl bullying is showing up in younger and younger age groups. An article by Pamela Paul, in Sunday’s New York Times tackles this complex topic. Let’s look at some of the key issues. First, is the labeling of “mean girls”.

Paul writes,

A kindergarten teacher at one of New York City’s top private all-girls schools observed, “The mean girls are often from mean moms.”

Now that is a pretty big statement. Mean girls, mean moms. Nice girls, nice moms.  Seems too broad and more importantly, what do we do with that?

Who of us has not made many a snarky comment about how someone looks or acts? Or not had zillions of mean thoughts about someone?  Not you, not me. All of us have a mean part. Too often we label the whole person by looking at just one of their characteristics. No one is defined by one quality- we are all made up of a multitude of parts. A care-taking part of our personality, a sad part, a courageous part, and a part that lashes out.  This mean part develops to protect us- to make us feel better and to shield us from feeling shame, rejection, or loneliness.

Take this scenario: You show up at the park with your kids and see two mothers from school sitting together on the bench talking. You automatically feel nervous because you are a lone adult and would love some company. In a nano second the following inner experience takes place: You wonder if you should approach the two mothers. You think one of the women sees you but turns away. Immediately, the mean part jumps out to protect you by thinking, “They are such snobs, and their kids are out of control. At least I pay attention to my kids in the park!” You walk to the other end of the park.

When looking at it closer, that mean part just doesn’t want you to experience those uncomfortable feelings. It wants you to feel strong, better in fact. The same is true with children. Imagine the same scenario at the writing center at school. The mean part in a little kid is just as protecting as an adult, and an intimidated child will likely have the same reaction.

Talking to kids about their mean parts -not telling them that they are mean- will help them to stop bullying.

But here’s the really tough part.

“The mean girls are often from mean moms.”

Parents of kids that bully or condescend to others need to hold up a mirror to their own behavior. One-upsmanship, criticizing others for not being as smart, as rich, as pretty, as athletic, etc. in an ongoing way will create children who feel they have the freedom to do the same. Parents that have a strong mean part will most likely have kids that develop one too. So the first step in combatting relational bullying is to shine a light on your own need to put others down. Take that mean part in hand, recognize that it is protecting you and help that part of you to stop hurting other people.  This is the key to making our children safe psychologically, emotionally and physically.

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