Building A Relationship Reserve: 25 Ways to Cherish Your Partner
September 28, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage · Permalink · Comments Off on Building A Relationship Reserve: 25 Ways to Cherish Your Partner

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Too often couples forget about the importance of the little things.  We can get so wrapped up in our lives that we think things are okay as long as we’re not fighting.  Although I wish this were true—it’s not.  Great relationships require a lot of positives, not just the absence of negatives.

Relationship guru John Gottman talks about the importance of couples having positive relationship reserves to draw from when things are tough.  Building relational reserves is like having a relationship savings account that both partners make deposits into daily.  Think of this relationship account like an emergency fund.  The way couples build up these reserves is by doing loving, cherishing acts.  Think of each compliment, hug, supportive word, etc. as a deposit.  The more loving the act we do, the greater the deposit we make.

When things aren’t going well, we need to know that there’s a good chance they will get better and we’ll survive the struggle.  If couples have minimal positive interactions day to day and often have neutral or negative interactions, there’s no reason to think things will be okay.  Below are 25 ways to be cherishing and build up your relationship reserves.  I call these tender sprinkles.
•    Greet your partner when you come home by saying hello and asking them how their day was.
•    Say goodbye, when you leave, with a hug or kiss.
•    Give a compliment whenever possible.
•    Listen to their stories as if you care.
•    Share your stories.
•    Notice the ways they help and thank them directly.
•    Help with chores you don’t usually help with.
•    Smile at your partner as if you’re happy to see them.
•    Call them before a tough meeting/event and let them know you’re thinking about them.
•    Text them a loving message.
•    Hold their hand.
•    Touch their shoulder as you walk by.
•    Randomly tell them you’re glad they’re in your life.
•    Tell them you love them.
•    Bring home a small gift.
•    Put a little note on their bathroom mirror that says, “You ROCK!”
•    If they handle the children well—tell them so.
•    Laugh with them, not at them.
•    Go out on a date.
•    Surprise them by doing something they like to do, but to which you typically say no.
•    Give them a shoulder rub without expecting the same in return.
•    Say something nice about them in a group when they’re present.
•    Give them time to themselves without resentment—tell them to go enjoy the day while you watch the kids.
•    Shut off all technology whenever possible and give them your undivided attention.
•    Periodically tell them three things you love about them and why.

Making deposits into our relationship bank accounts is not hard work and nor is it necessarily time-consuming.  Making deposits just requires us to pay attention and to be the partner we wish to have.  When you add these tender sprinkles to your relationship, it’s like taking out insurance on your relationship.  It’s well worth the effort and can potentially save you a lot of future misery.

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Should We Cut The i-Embilical Cord?
September 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Should We Cut The i-Embilical Cord?

Technology has given us many ways to stay connected to our children: text, ichat, skype, email and cell phone. They keep us feeling in touch even when kids are off to summer camp or college. A new book entitled The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore challenges parents to think carefully about the benefits of  pulling the plug on these means of communication. The book looks at the downside of parents being over involved in the day to day, or many times a day, lives of their college age children. Children who were in such close contact were less able to problem solve on their own and were less competent in caring for themselves.

Hofer is not suggesting that parents cut contact with their kids but she does illustrate the benefit of the kind of independence and separateness we had from parents when we were in college.  She points out that less contact does not mean less close and that sometimes we can inadvertently undermine the young adult development that is so important by being overly connected.

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Healthy Self Esteem is the Cure for Competitiveness
September 16, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Healthy Self Esteem is the Cure for Competitiveness

You thought  you were done with junior high school. Then you had a baby.

Now the worries about being invited to play dates and birthday parties has begun.  What about serving anything with white flour when friends come over when you neighbor only has organics? The not-so-subtle competition for the most “advanced” child, who takes more classes, which preschools accepted you. It is enough to cause a nervous breakdown.

Mothers in our groups are really feeling the pressure out in the world and it cuts into their enjoyment of motherhood. In many ways, motherhood seems to have become a competitive sport.

The only antidote is remembering that healthy self-esteem is feeling that you are no better, or no worse, than someone else. We all have the same essential worth. Working toward not feeling smug because your baby is talking a lot, or believing you are a terrible mother if you don’t make all your baby food is the goal.

All this competition is just a reflection of how worried parents are about doing a good job. So give yourselves and your peers a break. Practice healthy self-esteem.

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It’s Not Their Character, It’s Their Behavior
September 14, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on It’s Not Their Character, It’s Their Behavior

Raising children is the most emotional work you will do. When your children act up, act out, or go through a new stage it is hard not to equate that behavior with their whole personality. Mothers of young toddlers testing limits will say, “She’s so manipulative all of a sudden. “A preschooler who is clingy in the first weeks of school’s parent will say, “He’s a totally different child, he’s usually so confident.” The parent of a sulky teenager will lament, “He’s such negative person!” It is so hard to keep perspective that these new phases or behaviors are just that — behaviors. They are not your child’s character, they are not even their whole self at this time.  They are parts of your children. A curious mischievous part, a worried part in need of reassurance, a solitary part that wants privacy.

No one part of our child defines them. We just have an easier time with the parts of them that are gratifying and not challenging.  The reactions to negative behaviors can be kept in perspective when we remember that we WANT our children to show us all the parts of themselves. That way we can help the parts that are struggling rather than try to stamp them out.

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Learn to Relax
August 24, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Communication, Mental Health · Permalink · Comments Off on Learn to Relax

The following exercises are ancient yoga breathing techniques shared by Francesca Bove, a registered yoga instructor in New York City.  One is called Sama Vritti Pranayama or “same length breathe”; the other is “alternate nostral breathing” or Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit. These both work to calm the mind and body, clearing the way for sound thinking. Enjoy!

Sama Vritti Pranayama

Benefits: Calms the body and focuses the mind.


1. Come to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees hip width distance apart. Take padding under your seat as necessary.

2. Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first.

3. Begin a slow count to four as you inhale. Then also count to four as you exhale. The exercise is to match the length of your inhale and exhale.

4. You may experiment with changing the number you count to, just make sure your inhale and exhale stay the same length.

5. Continue breathing this way for several minutes.

Nadi Shodhana

The term nadi shodhana means the purification of the nerves.

1. Sit in a comfortable cross legged position, spine straight, shoulders down, and relaxed. Head centered between the shoulders, chin tipped slightly downward, eyes closed. Use the thumb, and fourth finger (ring finger) of your right hand. The two middle fingers can rest gently on your forehead. To avoid strain in the neck, and shoulders, keep them closed into the palm. The pinky is not in use.

2. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring-little fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.

3. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle.

4. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand position and go back to normal breathing.


Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety

Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain

Said to purify the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice

Special Note:

Do not force the breath in any way. At the slightest sign of discomfort reduce the time of each inhalation, and exhalation or discontinue the practice, and check with a health professional.

Alternate nostril breathing should not be practiced if your nasal passages are blocked in any way. Forced breathing through the nose may lead to complications.

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Praise is Pressure
August 3, 2010 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on Praise is Pressure

Low_Pressure_Capsule_GaugeHow could praising your child be anything but good for them? Here’s how. It turns out that praising a child’s intelligence or performance too much backfires in several different ways. With too much performance focused praise – kids will start to shy away from doing things that they are not naturally good at. They begin to see their worth in terms of stellar accomplishment and fear the loss of approval if they perform in a mediocre or poor manner.

The other is that they start to relate accomplishments to their intrinsic abilities and not effort. In a sense, the idea that effort has to be made is seen as negative or unnecessary. In many developmental studies, children whose effort is praised over ability actually do better on tasks.

Of course all praise isn’t bad. Sincere, specific, praise like “You can climb like a fast monkey on those bars!” or “Your paper is so well-written, awesome job!” does make children feel seen, appreciated and loved. Just don’t overdo it!

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Discipline: Stop Before Entering
July 15, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on Discipline: Stop Before Entering


Children need clear limits and guidance. From the end of the first year of life on, setting parameters about what is, and what is not appropriate behavior is the bulk of your job. Setting limits and clear expectations is not a punitive action – it is teaching. The goal is to raise a person who uses good judgment.

Proactive discipline-telling your child what is expected of them up front, increases the likelihood of their following the rules. We often go into situations “hoping” our kids will behave instead of telling them what goals, expectations and consequences exist right off the bat.

For example, before you go into the playground with your four-year old, have a quick conversation:

“Ok, so remember the rules: No hitting, no pushing, no throwing sand. If you do that you will have to sit on the bench with me for a little while. If you do it again then we will have to leave the playground. So what are the rules?”

“No hitting, no throwing sand and no hurting!”

“Right! So let’s go in and have fun.”

Your child has a clear road map of what is to come. The rules, the expectations, and without anger, the consequences. Chances are, your child will not be able to follow those rules on many occasions–that’s part of childhood, they are learning. Your job as a parent is to teach them the rules and follow through on the consequences.

After the upset has died down and everyone is calm, talk about the experience. Hear their perspective and feelings. Let them know that even though they make mistakes, break the rules, have trouble controlling themselves, that there is an open forum to talk about their grievances. Clear rules coupled with deep conversation later helps to stay connected and allows children to understand and control their behavior.

So, worst case scenario you had to take your child from the park kicking and screaming. Next time you go say, “Remember what happened last time when you threw sand? We had to leave.” They will vividly remember. “Follow our rules and we won’t have to go home early!” You’ve got a better chance of follow through on their part this time. This example of limit setting can be applied to almost every situation and activity in your young child’s life. After repetition, you will begin to see their automatic recognition of what is acceptable behavior. Keep in mind – your children are counting on you to guide them.

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Goo Goo Gaa Gaa
July 6, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Infant Development, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Goo Goo Gaa Gaa

Whether you feel silly or elated when you talk to your baby in “baby talk”, you should know that you are doing one of your most important jobs as a parent. The high pitched, drawn out, sing songy, repetitive “parent speak”, as it is now called in the field of infant research, is the perfect way to communicate with your baby. “Parent speak” is innate and cross cultural. It is a foundation of language development.

Often you hear parents say they want to talk to their child like they are more grown up so they will learn to speak more quickly, or with more sophistication. They fight the instinct to speak in baby talk. It’s helpful to know that it is precisely speaking this way that paves the way for complex conversation.

Ellen Galinsky, a seasoned professional in child development, lays out the most important research in the field of language acquisition in her new book “Mind in the Making”.  Some of  the best infant research show that parent speak also regulates the mood of the baby and helps children get into the quiet, alert state in which they learn best. So go ahead, make a fool of yourself with abandon- it’s educational!

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Divorced? Feeling You Have a Scarlet D?
July 1, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (1)

scarletHere is some sensitivity training about divorce. To say divorce is provocative is an understatement.  Though approximately 40% of couples divorce, people experiencing divorce can still feel like an outcast. It is common for friends or acquaintances to fade away and seem uncomfortable around you – as if it were catchy.  Married friends are often frightened by separation. “If that could happen to you maybe that could happen to me,” clangs in their heads. Out of this insecurity some friends feel compelled to wax on about how great their marriage is, lessening their capacity to be supportive.

On the other hand, your divorce may cause jealousy. Your new freedom, a sense of liberation and empowerment, new romantic partners – it’s enough to drive a moderately unhappily married friend insane. Those people may want to live vicariously through you, or judge you because of the way your new life makes them look at their own.

There are of course, friends who are there through thick and thin and can manage their reactions. Acquaintances can surprise you with incredible empathy and support.  So remember, for the divorced and married alike — try not to judge and be aware of your reactions.  Life takes unexpected turns and if we can support each other the journey is much, much easier.

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Alcohol and Relationships
June 24, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Alcohol and Relationships

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships helps you recognize whether alcohol is playing too big a role in your life.


by Lisa Merlo Booth

Too many couples have a third party creating problems in their relationship. That third party is alcohol. When alcohol is a source of stress in a relationship, it is typically because one partner thinks the other partner either drinks too much or is no fun to be around when they drink. The other partner, of course, does not think this is the case.

For those of you who struggle with this issue in your own relationship, let me help you out. Below are several warning signs that your drinking is, minimally, a problem and possibly alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
• You’ve ever been worried about your drinking and tried to stop or cut back as a result.
• You’ve experienced blackouts due to drinking.
• You become mean-spirited and nasty when you drink.
• Your drinking has resulted in your missing work, losing your job or not being able to perform your job as expected.
• Your partner, friends, children or co-workers have commented on your drinking.
• Your drinking is a source of tension between you and your partner (and not because your partner is opposed to drinking).
• You “have to” have a drink to calm down or relax.
• You often drink to get buzzed or drunk.
• You seldom, if ever, stop at just one drink.
• You use alcohol to loosen up and give you social confidence.
• You drink alone or hide your alcohol use.

There are several signs that your drinking has moved beyond social drinking to problem drinking, but the best indicator I know is: if your drinking is creating problems in your relationship or your life—your drinking is a problem. The problem is not your partner’s thinking it’s a problem.

If you’re not sure whether or not you have a drinking problem — chances are you drink too much. If people in your life think you have a problem and you get defensive when they say this — chances are you drink too much. If either of these two circumstances is present and you have a family history of alcoholism — you’re playing with fire. If you don’t control it, you will get burned.

Alcoholism has an uncanny way of getting passed from one generation to the next. If there is any question that your drinking is a problem, then deal with the issue NOW. Stop the toxic legacy of addiction. You, your marriage and your children deserve to have a safe, sober environment in which to thrive.

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