The Power of Mothers’ Groups
March 2, 2010 · Posted in Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on The Power of Mothers’ Groups

DSC00086-250x250Motherhood can be an oddly lonely time of life.  It is ironic that in some ways you may have never felt so connected to another human being and so alone at the same time.  Surrounded by a sea of other mothers you can still feel isolated.  Even if you have a partner who is invested  in the details of your children’s lives, the nature of our society and the division of labor demands that most of the time we parent alone.

Lisa and I were exceedingly  lucky. We met while working at Bellevue Hospital before we had our first children, who coincidentally  came within months of each other. During the early months of new motherhood, now at home with our babies,  we moved from being colleagues to being each others friends, confidants, and second set of eyes, ears and hands for each others’ children. We counted on each other for honest feedback and advice.  It is this combination, knowing each other and each others’ children deeply that turned what could have been a lonely endeavor into a shared journey. We also hatched the plan for our current practice with its mother’s groups during that time. Much of the impetus was our desire to create the kind of forum, support and companionship we had found in each other for other new parents.

We have now been running these groups for 22 years.  Our longest running group is 16 years old! Once a week for 1 and 1/2 hours 7-10 mothers (and a handful of dads) meet in our comfortable and peaceful office and talk. These parenting groups are the place where mothers can find the companionship, support and honest feedback. It is here they can share any and all aspects of life- marriage, families of origin, babysitters, friendships, work, sex, weight, anger,the gamut. and as many of the groups continue over the years  and families grow, the breadth and scope of these discussions grow as well- sibling rivalry, marital discord, choosing schools, teaching kids about sex, deciding about religion, again the gamut. There is  always tons of laughing and plenty of tears.

It has been an honor and a pleasure for us to lead and participate in these groups. We asked group members to share what this experience has meant for them:

“Our group gives me a safe, neutral place where I can candidly bring all my questions, doubts, fears and celebrations to bear without having to screen for judgment.  I know I have an incredibly talented therapist along with six other remarkable mothers who are all in my corner. Probably not a day goes by that I don’t refer back to some parenting tool, skill or philosophy took away from my Soho Parenting Mothers Circle.”   Cara Marriott, full time mother of 3

“I can’t imagine journeying down this complicated yet joyous path of motherhood without it.  I get insight and wisdom on all aspects of parenting as well as guidance with compassion and learned expertise.” Anne Patterson, set and costume designer, mother of 3

“I was so fortunate to be in a Mothers Circle at Soho Parenting. I looked forward to it every Monday, having coffee and talking with other moms. We talked about many different issues that were so important.  I have passed on so much information Lisa gave me that I seem like the expert!  I really loved the group!” Molly Shannon, actor, mother of 2

“Jean and the other mothers in my circle group have been an incredibly valuable resource and I am always amazed at what I learn about myself and my own relationships when I come in to talk about my “parenting issues.”   Jennifer Daniels, full time mother of 3

” As a new mother- Soho Parenting was and still is my oasis- joining a group of other mothers/fathers who were just as committed, mystified and terrified as I was – is by far the most rewarding investment …3 kids and 6 years later our parenting group is still together – still helping each other through ever-changing terrain.”   Debra Eisenstadt, actress, director, writer and mother of 3

” I have been in a Mothers Circle for almost a year now, and it has saved my life as a parent. Jean not only offers us the developmental back story on what is happening inside the minds and bodies of our kids, but has a real intuitive grasp on who they are as individuals.”   Leslie Astor, full time mother of 3

“What is Soho Parenting to me?  My keel.  My family is the ship… Soho Parenting keeps us steady as we sail!”   Norma Katz, full time mother of 2

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“You’re Too Sensitive”
January 28, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

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This post from Straight Talk On Relationships is right to the point and very helpful!

Remove The Phrase “You’re Too Sensitive” From Your List Of Responses In Your Relationship

by Lisa Merlo Booth
In my work with couples, I’m constantly hearing men tell their partners, “You’re too sensitive”. They often say this in response to the women complaining about how the men are speaking to them.  The women complain that the men are harsh or derogatory in how they speak to them and the men complain that the women are too sensitive.

Ironically, I had to chuckle this morning when I corrected my son about his tone and his response was…yep you guessed it:  “Mom, you’re too sensitive”.  Actually, I would’ve chuckled I suppose, if I weren’t so annoyed by the dismissiveness of the comment.

Many people believe that if they don’t intend to have a tone, that they don’t have a tone.  Many also believe that if they don’t think they’re being disrespectful or speaking harshly, then they’re not.  Because they don’t agree with the complaint, the problem must therefore be that the other person is too sensitive.

Telling your loved one that they’re too sensitive when they ask you to lower your tone/harshness is dismissive and damaging to a relationship.  When you’re talking to someone, you’re not the judge of your tone, they are.  They know how it comes across to them, you don’t.  Regardless of whether you meant to be harsh or not, if they hear it as such—change your tone and energy.

We all have a tone every now and then.  It’s not a big deal to be human & consequently imperfect.  It is a big deal to turn it around on your partner.  Calling your partner sensitive is a cop out on your part.  Instead of worrying about yourself, worry about how your partner is feeling treated.

There have been very few incidents when the reality truly was that the person was too sensitive.  I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and trust me the odds of your partner being too sensitive versus you having a tone (or the like) are slim.  Just cop to it, apologize, CHANGE YOUR TONE and move on.  You’ll be amazed at how this one shift will change your relationship!

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Mutual Support System
December 24, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Fatherhood, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Mutual Support System

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This post from Straight Talk On Relationships offers great insight into enhancing your ability to support your partner.  Enjoy!

THE ART OF BEING SUPPORTIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS

By Lisa Merlo Booth

When we first enter relationships it seems as though our relationship IQ is in the genius range.  We’re loving, great listeners, good sharers and incredibly supportive.  The longer we stay in relationships, however, it seems as though some of us develop relationship dementia — we simply forget how to be in a relationship.

This effect is similar to the one I see when I’m training therapists across the country in Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy Model.  When I’m running a workshop, the therapists are quite adept at speaking about the concepts of the model when we are in lecture format.  When they are placed in a role-play situation, however, their IQ’s drastically decline.  For the participant role-playing the therapist, it’s as though there is an IQ vacuum that sucks 50 IQ points out of their brains—and adds 50 IQ points to the therapists who are observing.  Because this phenomenon is so universal, we all laugh, normalize it and have a lot of empathy for the person in the “brain-drain chair.”

Regarding relationships, however, the brain-drain is anything but a laughing matter.  It seems the longer a person is in a relationship, the larger the brain-drain effect.  This is particularly true around supporting one another.  Couples in the honeymoon stage are brilliant supporters.  They are encouraging, understanding and great motivators.  Of course, in the early stages of a relationship there is very little to lose by encouraging your new loved one to take risks, leave their job, start a new business, etc.  Your finances, future and children are not wrapped up in that risk.  As the relationship progresses and your life is more intertwined with your partner’s, this level of support is much more difficult to give.

For those of you who struggle with supporting your partner, here’s a cheat sheet for you:
1.    Join them where they are.  If your partner comes to you with an idea they are excited about—first join them in their excitement.  Do not start with all the reasons why their idea will not work.  When you talk about all the negatives right off the bat, you’re a major downer!  Stop throwing a bucket of water on your partner’s idea and just listen.  The same is true when they come home and talk about something cool that happened at work.  Just because it’s not something you would think is cool doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their energy around it.
2.    Pay attention to their energy.  Some partners don’t readily talk about their struggles.  If this is true for your partner, learn to listen to what is unspoken and check in.  “Honey would you like a hug?  You look beat.” “Honey, you seem down. Is everything okay?”  If they don’t want to talk, just let them know you’re here if they change their mind or want to run anything by you.
3.    Listen with the ear of a friend.  If your partner is struggling at work or with friends or even with parenting—first be on their side.  Too often we’re quick to point out what our partners did that was wrong or should do next time that we forget to just be their friend.  Don’t try to fix it or point out where your partner was off—just listen.  Every once in a while let them know you’re sorry they had a hard day.  Do not offer advice unless you ask them if they want it.
4.     Lead with a gift.  If they say that they would like advice, make sure you lead with a gift.  Do not just launch into all the things they didn’t do well, instead start with what they did do well.  For example if they’re upset about parenting, you might say, “First off, honey I know you love our children very much.  I also know you’re really working hard to teach them how to be responsible, which I think is great.  Sometimes I worry though that you may be pushing the responsibility part harder than you do the relationship.  I believe that if you let up a bit on the responsibility part, it will help your relationship with our son.”  The gift must be heart felt and genuine—not just words you’re throwing out so you can get to the advice.
5.    Breathe and use a pause button.  If your partner comes home with a BIG idea (such as quitting their job or moving to a different country), remember to breathe.  Just because they have this idea doesn’t mean they are going to do it.  Once you’ve slowed yourself down, listen to the idea with an open mind—knowing that listening does not mean agreeing.  If you’re too agitated to talk calmly, just tell your partner you’ll need to think about what they said for a few days.  Later get some space and figure out what your concerns are and what information you need in order to be better able to take your partner’s idea seriously.  Too often, one partner gets reactive and angry in response to the other partner’s “crazy” idea.  If you’re that reactive then chances are your reactivity is about you not the idea or your partner.
6.    Check in.  If you know your partner is going through a tough time at work due to layoffs or new management, etc. then check in with them.  Let them know you’re aware things are stressful and that you have their back.  If they are facing layoffs—you need to stay calm in the storm.  Let your partner know that you will manage whatever happens as a team.  Do not tell your partner that they had better not get laid off.  That’s ridiculous and unfair pressure to put on them.  Be their backbone during this time.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Arguing (And Our Acting Debut)
December 22, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (1)

So few of us are taught how to communicate effectively and with respect. Couples in particular, deep in the parenting trenches where emotions run high are likely to say things they regret. Here’s the remedy, a five step communication strategy from Terry Real. Listen and watch the first clip which outlines the process. YouTube Preview Image

This clip illustrates a very common marital argument where no holes are barred.

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Now let’s watch Lisa and Laura work on this same conflict using the five steps for healthy communication:

The speaker follows these steps. The listener’s job is to be curious, quiet and non defensive. You will have your turn later.

1. Ask permission to speak.

2. State what happened objectively, as if a camera caught it on tape.

3. List the emotions you felt.

4. Now describe your interpretation using the sentence, “And what I made up about that is….”

5. Ask for what you would prefer in the future.

The listener now responds:

1. Own up to whatever part of the complaint you have actually done.

2. Apologize for what you feel sorry about.

3. Reassure your partner that you will take steps to change that behavior.

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Now the former listener gets to be the speaker. She gets the chance to voice her complaints and reactions, but in a similarly respectful way. Using these guidelines may initially feel awkward and forced but with time the tenor of your arguing moves from damaging to productive.

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“You Say Goodbye, And I Say Hello”
December 3, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (2)
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This post from Straight Talk On Relationships highlights the importance of the first and last things we say to family members in the midst of our busy lives.

THE POWER OF THE 2 G’S IN RELATIONSHIPS: GREETINGS AND GOODBYES

by Lisa Merlo Booth

Couples are busy, stressed, financially-strained and often running on E.  People are frequently coming home, walking past their partner, barely saying hello to the children and burrowing their heads in computers, Blackberrys, televisions, etc.  So many of us are trying to hold so many things in our heads that we forget about the most important thing—relationships.

In an effort to help all couples everywhere, I want to talk about the importance of the two Gs:  greetings and goodbyes.  These are very powerful moments in relationships.  One starts off the relationship on a good foot while the other ends it on a good foot.

You can think of them in terms of the primacy (first, i.e. greeting) and recency (last, i.e. goodbye) effects.  Just as research shows that the primacy and recency effects are powerful forces in terms of sequences (the most remembered components are the first and last.  For example, the first or last person in a debate, speech, audition, etc.) so are they in terms of relationships.  The greeting is the first thing that happens and often sets the stage and mood for what’s to come later.  The goodbye is the last thing that happens.  Typically, we hold the first thing and the most recent interaction in our memories the longest.  The mundane stuff that happens in the middle often gets lost in the shuffle of our brains.

In many ways this is very good news for busy couples and families.  Because of the way our brains work, if you strengthen your entries and exits, you can significantly impact your relationships for the better.   Both of these elements take minimal time and effort.  They do, however, require that you’re deliberate and focused.

When we enter our homes with our heads distracted, our eyes averted and our moods somber, we’re like a gray cloud sweeping through the house.  If we haven’t seen our family for 7-10 hours, that’s a hell of a way to greet them.  This entry is felt and can set the tone for the entire evening.  While I understand that working all day (in or out of the home) can be stressful, it’s not an excuse to be cold, rude or emotionally absent.

Entering and leaving the home is a pivotal moment in families.  If you’d like to make it a powerful entry and exit, here are three steps for each to help you do that:

ENTRY
1.    Prior to entering your home, center yourself.  It should take less than 5-7 minutes. You can do this in the driveway, garage or even by a park close to your house.  Take a moment to quiet your mind, calm your energy and let go of the day’s stress.  You can get back to these worries later, but for now put them on the shelf and don’t allow them to ruin your night as well.

2.    Set your intention.  Tell yourself that your intention is to be a loving husband/wife, father/mother the moment you step in that door.  Minimally, this means that you are respectful, present and positive.  You can also make a smaller, more targeted goal, such as: be playful, listen intently to how your family’s day was, be complimentary, etc.  Your intention can change daily according to the needs of your family.

3.    Plan your greeting.  You must greet your family upon entry.  This is not up for negotiation.  Say hello, ask about their day, tell them it’s great to see them, etc.  Do not wait for them to come to you; take the lead and soon they will meet you.  Enter your home with a hug, kiss and/or a great line: “How’s the most amazing family/wife/husband in the world today?!”  Make it fun, playful, endearing or serious and endearing.  The bottom-line is greet your family every time.

GOODBYES
1.    Denote your goodbye—do not sneak out.  I remember Caroline Kennedy talking about the importance of letting loved ones know you love them.  Due to the immense loss in her family, it was a poignant reminder that everyday could be your last.  Say goodbye before you leave.  You can do so with a hug, kiss, high five, joke or any other creative, connecting exit you can come up with.  This last interaction is the one we carry with us.  Make it a positive one.

2.    Put your heart in it.  This takes consciousness and determination.  Don’t just go through the motions.  Your partner and children know when you’re truly present and when you’re not.  Don’t try to fool them.  Instead, take the extra minute and BE PRESENT.  It takes less than a minute, yet has a lasting impact.

3.    Come up with a family exit.  Make it explicit with your partner and children that you think it’s important to say goodbyes when one of you is heading out.  You can all decide what that will look like or if it’s up to the individual.  Coming up with a tradition can be fun to start with newlyweds and young children.  Young kids love big family hugs or cool secret handshakes.  New couples like to leave with a kiss.  Start it early and allow the tradition to take hold.  If it fades, remember to bring it back.

When it comes to relationships, never underestimate the primacy and recency effects.  Spruce up your hellos and goodbyes and feel the relationship shifts.  Be sure to never sneak in or out of the house.  It gives the message that your family is inconsequential to you.  This is a sad message for children and adults alike.

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Girlfriends
November 17, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (4)

mammamiaAsk any girl-from 7 to 70- who the most important people in her life are. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t answer,”my girlfriends.” Even with the phases of distance or jealousy that are usually a part of female friendships, connections with other women are like the spinal column of your body. They are the mainstay of support, strength and flexibility.

The solace and hilarity that comes from a great girlfriend is unsurpassed. The ability to deal concurrently with things of such depth and such ridiculousness is the hallmark of girlfriendness.  It is your girlfriends that will listen to the never-ending concerns about your children and your weight, your love life, work life and what shoes you get for the fall.

I asked some girls/women ages 7-72 to explain why their girlfriends are important.  Here is what they said:

7 year old

“You need to be understood, and boys sometimes don’t. They are fun to play with and it’s good because they understand what it’s like to be a girl. There’s this movie, Mama Mia, and if you want to understand more about girlfriends you should watch it!”

23 year old

“I would die without my friends.  When I just couldn’t get out of bed after my boyfriend and I broke up my three best friends showed up, dragged me out of bed, made me shower, get dressed, put on make up and go to a club.  They reminded me that life goes on! Most romances end but girlfriends are forever.”

34 year old

“My mom’s friends totally understand how strange it feels to be a parent. It’s hard for anyone else to really understand – how could we be the ones hiring a babysitter when we were just the babysitters. It’s too crazy! ”

48 year old

“It’s like we take turns now, each of us has gone through something so hard, a parent dying, a kid with depression, a divorce, losing a job. Thank god it doesn’t usually happen to us at the same exact time because we all just rally and take care of the one who needs help. Through it all we still laugh so much.”

72 year old

“We constantly say “How could we be in our seventies?” We feel the same inside, although outside is a totally different story!  The only thing that helps keep the fear of losing my keys, wallet and mind at bay is that we all don’t know if we are coming or going! It becomes a comedy of errors.”

So make sure this year you take time away from children, work, and spouse and go away for a day, a night or a weekend with your ladies.  Feed the relationship that will give back in the most unconditional way throughout your life.

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The Wrong in Being Right
October 6, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (2)

supreme_court_buildingThis post on the blog Straight Talk on Relationships goes right to the heart of a common relationship toxin. So many of us get caught up in self righteousness when we fight. It’s hard to stop, but it is a great goal!

ARGUING THE FACTS CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP

by Lisa Merlo Booth

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who constantly corrects you or argues their case?  For example, you’re talking to your partner about how hurt you were when he called you “needy” and he says, “I didn’t call you needy, I said you can be needy sometimes.”  When you try to move past the point by saying that either way it didn’t feel good, he won’t let it go. He goes on to explain what truly happened:  “I think it’s an important distinction.  I would never call you needy.  I think if you realized what I REALLY said that you would see that you’re getting upset is silly.”  (As I’m sure you readers are aware of–this would drive Gandhi crazy–in fact, it’s driving me crazy just writing about it).

This “innocent” correcting is what Terry Real terms the losing strategy of “being right”.  Being right may sound harmless, but make no mistake, it’s not. In fact, being right can be treacherous in a relationship.  When a person is forever arguing the facts, they fail to listen to the message. Instead of being a loving partner, they become a trial attorney.  Here’s a real-life example of this at play:

Sarah: Honey, I really don’t like the way you treat me.  You talk down to me, you call me stupid, you tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.  I just don’t feel like you respect me or like me.
Scott: When did I call you stupid?  You tell me one time when I called you stupid?  I may have said you were acting stupid but I never called you stupid.
Sarah: You may not have said it directly but you and I know that’s what you meant.
Scott: But did I call you that? No.  Let’s be clear that I did not call you that.
Sarah: Okay Scott, you didn’t explicitly call me stupid.  I just get the sense that’s how you see me.  I feel you talk down to me.
Scott: We both agree I never called you stupid.  See this is what you do.  You make a big issue out of something that didn’t even happen.

Yikes!  Scott is so caught up in being right about the verbiage that he has totally lost site of her message.  The ripple effect of people having to be right is their partners are always wrong.  Eventually the partner stops trying to share their opinions, concerns or upsets; it’s not worth the hassle.  They know that if they do share this information, their partner’s going to turn it around on them and keep doing what their doing anyway.

In the end, one partner grows more and more resentful while the other partner grows more and more right.  Because there is little avenue for repair, the resentful partner is struck with the scary reality that this relationship is not going to change.  They then have to figure out if it’s worth it to stay knowing that almost every issue is going to be a win-lose battle (with them on the losing side almost every time).  Staying, without change from their partner, will be a long, hard and near impossible road to travel.

If you struggle with the being right affliction, know that it is toxic in relationships.  Stop acting like a lawyer arguing your case, and step in as an accountable partner listening to another person’s story.

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Thoughts For a Healthy Marriage
July 2, 2009 · Posted in Marriage · Permalink · Comments (3)

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“This is going to be the best time of your life!”
“The baby will bring you so much closer.”
“You two will be so happy-enjoy every second of it!”

These are common comments and advice directed at new parents upon the arrival of their first child. It is amazing that these platitudes continue to be perpetuated decade after decade in the face of people’s actual experience. The more complicated truth is that marriage plus children equals a healthy dose of both highs and lows.
On February 4th, 2009, The New York Times published an Op-ed entitled, “Till Children do Us Part” by Stephanie Coontz. The day it was published, my inbox was flooded with emails about the article. Clients, friends, and family all wrote, relieved to see a more nuanced and realistic picture of family life in the press.
For over twenty years at Soho Parenting, Lisa and I have watched countless couples fall in love with their babies and new parenthood. We have also counseled them about the stresses and changes in their marriages. Our goal has been to reassure parents that these hard parts of family life are natural and inevitable. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Here is an excerpt from our book, A Mother’s Circle, first published in 1996 and revised in 2006 that speaks directly to this issue:

Perhaps the greatest pressure on new parents is trying to live up to the romantic image of happiness and harmony that a new baby is supposed to bring. It is a myth that, as parents, you and your husband will automatically feel more in love, more deeply bonded to one another, fulfilled and happy. Because everyone around you seems to expect you to be basking in new love, it becomes especially difficult to handle the bad feelings you may be having.
“We are both stretched to our limits”, says Nan. ”He rarely gets to see the baby. It’s not his fault I know, but it makes me angry.”
”There is a lot more tension between us. I snap at him like that.”” Says Maggie clicking her fingers.
Some couples do bond together in a new way… merging with a common focus. As often, however, the paths and roles of husband and wife, father and mother begin to diverge. The arrival of a new baby demands a major reshuffling and reorganization of responsibilities and roles for a couple. This, in itself, necessitates some adjustment. But beneath the logistical, domestic changes is the shifting of attentions and affections going on within the new family…Jealousy, competition, tension and judgmental feelings are all common, but they can feel especially threatening to new parents who expected a more rosy time of family life. It can be liberating to let go of the myth of the new happy family, to work toward realistic expectations of each other and to begin to build a new kind of loving relationship.”
With the sped up demands of the new millenium life has gotten progressively more stressful for adults, children and marriage. Here are some important pieces of advice to ease some strain, keep lines of communication open and help make family life richer.

1) KNOW EACH OTHER’S STORIES.
Share your stories of growing up with each other, the details about your childhood. What was mealtime like? Who was the disciplinarian? Who put you to bed at night? Who comforted you when you were sad? Knowing each other’s histories will give you a much needed road map to anticipate the ‘hot spots’ and ‘soft spots’ that will inevitably be triggered in parenting.
2) DO NOT MIND-READ!
Couples must talk and articulate what they are thinking and feeling to each other. Don’t assume you know what is in your partner’s mind.
3) BE RESPECTFUL!
Yelling, name calling and icing one’s partner are all out of bounds. Of course, we will all falter, but we should know that these behaviors cross into dangerous territory. We tend to think we should be able to “let our hair down” at home. But if this means we mistreat our most beloved family members we are sorely mistaken. Self-righteous indignation, contempt and withdrawal are toxic to a relationship and a destructive model for our children.
4) POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT REALLY WORKS.
This is for you ladies: If you want your spouse to stay confidently involved, do not constantly criticize how he parents. “No dear, she likes to be burped 10 minutes into the feeding not at the end” translates to “You can’t do anything right”- which in turn will surely mean he will be feeding that baby less and less. If you want more involvement, be complimentary about his strengths and contributions.
5) FOCUS ON TIME SPENT AS A COUPLE.
As Coontz points out in her article, parents spend so much time on child centered activities that they tend to give up adult time together. Wrench yourself away from the kids and go out together with friends, go away for a weekend, spend a night in a hotel around the block. It will feel like you are in another world. Why wait for the empty nest to feel more connected?
In sum, we applaud Stephanie Coontz’ willingness to articulate what so many in parenting media fail to highlight. In marriage and parenting the lows are as extreme as the highs. The couples who are prepared, realistic and commit to healthy communication, have an easier roller coaster ride.

This article first appeared in A Child Grows in Brooklyn

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A Letter to all Fathers
June 18, 2009 · Posted in Fatherhood, Infant Development, Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (8)

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Dear Mothers,

Please show this to all the men in your lives. In it they will find the simple secret of what all children want from their fathers.

Dear Father,

Here is what I need from you.  When I am a baby, take care of me. Bathe me, feed me, and diaper me. We will have fun while you are doing those things. You might not do things perfectly but I really don’t care about that, I just want to be with you and I will hold on to the memory of a masculine caregiver, the early touch of a strong, solid, but gentle man.

When I am a toddler, play, play, and play some more. Rough and tumble me and make me laugh. Let me explore. Encourage me to find my own abilities. Let me try and fall and try again. If I am a boy don’t tell me it’s nothing when I cry, don’t belittle me for needing my mom, or being scared or even being angry when I can’t get my way.  These are my natural emotions and the more I can express them out loud with you the safer I will feel.  This will help me be more sure of my feelings and I will not be ashamed to be vulnerable. If I am a girl look at me with adoring eyes and delight. Encourage my physicality and playfulness and my assertiveness. Scoop me up when I am sad and hold me close and stroke my hair.

When I am a little older, take me to school sometimes. I will feel so proud to show off my dad. Talk to my teachers, get to know my friends. They are important to me even though I am a little kid. Take me out on your own. We don’t always need to have mom with us. Let’s have our own adventures, our own special things we do. Teach me to do all the things you can do, but if I like to do something else better, come and learn about that. I feel important when you are interested in the things I like.

You can go to work and love your job, but don’t stay there when you really could be with me. Don’t talk on the phone or stay on your blackberry when you come home from work.  If you always work or you are always distracted I will come to feel unworthy. Play puzzles with me, build with legos , read to me, watch me swim in the tub.  When I am not listening tell me what is right. Try not to yell. Put me in my room, or take  something away but don’t hold  my wrong doing against me. All kids misbehave. That is what we are supposed to do while we are learning about the world. Don’t push me to the best at everything even though you will want me to be the best that I can be. It makes me feel loved if you accept that sometimes I’m just OK or even not so good at something.

The most important thing, Dad, is that you be brave enough to be honest with yourself. What ever has hurt you in life will become a part of our relationship. Pay attention to that. If you have been neglected don’t neglect me or smother me, if you have been hurt physically, don’t hurt me or be so afraid of your anger that you withdraw. Tell me about your growing up so I can understand you. Let me know your story.
Control your anger, be kind and respectful to my mother and give her love. Listen to her, spend time with her, show me how to treat women or what I deserve from other men. I love to see you two having your own private love affair. Show me how to love and be loved. Give me space and freedom and confidence and teach me respect and kindness, and that all people matter.

Never leave me, ever. I know you can’t imagine that now, but some dads do. More than you think. Never stop rooting for me, having faith in me, believing in my abilities and telling me that you love me and are proud. Care about the details in my life not just the generalities. Put me to sleep, snuggle me, kiss me on my neck and belly, and I will feel like I am the biggest gift in the world to you.

Don’t worry dad, you’re going to be great! Have a Happy Father’s Day!

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When is it Okay to Yell or Speak Harshly
June 16, 2009 · Posted in Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (5)

We would like to introduce Lisa Merlo-Booth and her blog Straight Talk on Relationships.  We have studied with Lisa as part of our training with Terry Real at The Relational Life Institute. Lisa is a therapist and life coach. This post is important food for thought.

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Relationships and Anger: When is it Okay to Yell or Speak  Harshly?

by Lisa Merlo-Booth

At times I’m taken aback by how many people — men and women alike — believe that it’s okay to speak harshly or yell at others in anger.  I’ve even had clients call me “one of those frickin’ feminists” when I stated it wasn’t okay to swear at their wives.  Sadly, they are not alone in this belief.

Many men and women believe that yelling, swearing and/or speaking severely to their child, co-worker, lover or spouse is a part of relationships.  They believe that harsh speaking is warranted at times and often understandable.

While they justify their callousness, the people caught in their cross-fire cringe.

The bottom line is:  the only time speaking harshly is warranted, is for safety (such as stopping a child from running into the street) or protection from physical abuse.  Otherwise, it is not okay to yell, swear, belittle or speak unkindly to others.  Period.

You can be angry, speak with a firm, but not raised voice, tell a person you are angry, set a limit and/or make a request.  You are OFF if you yell or are disrespectful in any way.  This is true regardless of what the other person has done or is doing.  Their behavior does not give you the green light to be harsh or verbally abusive (such as yelling, swearing at, name calling or belittling someone).  Stop looking for times when it’s okay to speak harshly and instead be determined to give — and take — nothing less than respect.

CHALLENGE:  If you continue to snap at others, yell in anger or justify your harshness because of the behaviors of others—STOP IT.  There is no justification.  Commit to taking disrespect and verbal abuse off the table in your relationships and notice what happens as a result.

Visit Lisa Merlo-Booth’s website at www.relationalcoaching.com

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