Blind Spots
September 21, 2016 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Marriage, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)

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Everyone has blind spots. They are unconscious conflicts from the past that creep up on us unexpectedly and influence reactions we have and decisions we make in the present. They are a normal part of the human experience; pockets of feeling or behavior that are hard to explain or understand, and which seem to control us.

In the course of parenting, we all hit up against these blind spots. Something in our child’s behavior or stage of development triggers an overly intense reaction. We may know that we are “over-reacting” but do not know why. Left to our own devises these areas can become repetitive patterns of negativity in our relationship with our child. At Soho Parenting, we help parents learn to identify their own blind spots so they can untangle the past from the present.


Jeff sits in my office looking sheepish as his wife Tina, frustrated and angry, talks about why they have come for some help. She complains that Jeff continually undermines her attempts to control the wild and often disrespectful behavior of their four-year old son Gabe.

“It’s like having 2 children,” she says in exasperation, “I cannot stand to be the only parent. He just cannot say no to him.”
“I’ve tried to be stricter”, says Jeff, “but I hate it when he gets so upset.”

In trying to understand more about why saying no is so hard for Jeff, I ask him to talk about his own upbringing and early experiences of discipline. Jeff looks uncomfortable and then starts to talk haltingly about his own strict and overly harsh father. He describes him as cold and quick to anger, with little patience for childish behavior.

“My father was always flying off the handle. He wanted us to be like perfect little adults. If I didn’t hang up my towel after a bath he’d freak.”

Jeff has sworn that he will not repeat this treatment with his own son and in these first four years he has been very successful in being a warm, affectionate and available father to Gabe.

So where is the blind spot? Jeff has not been able to see that his old hurt from childhood has been keeping him from entering into an arena of parenthood that is critically important for a growing child’s health and development. Discipline. Not the harsh and punitive kind, not the arbitrary and scary kind, but the kind of discipline that teaches you how to be respectful and gives the feeling of safety that comes with knowing that your parent is the adult and will keep you from getting out of control. It was easy for Tina –and anyone else for that matter– to see that Jeff was not providing the stabilizing function of a strong but loving parent. But for Jeff, who was unconsciously avoiding setting limits for fear that he would “become his father”, couldn’t act on his son’s need for boundaries.

Jeff really understood and felt this connection in the session. He knows now that he needs to actively counteract his worry about “becoming his father” and step up to the challenge of being Gabe’s father. He was thankful for the concrete advice about discipline; having a real game plan was reassuring. TIna felt validated and more hopeful about being allies instead of adversaries. A blind spot uncovered and a path made clearer!

For all parents, raising children confronts us with our inevitable vulnerabilities. If we use these discoveries as an opportunity for growth, we can take more control of our behavior, and be more the parents we want to be.

This article first appeared on A Child Grows in Brooklyn.

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Marriage Vows are Really Parent Vows
May 11, 2015 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

When times are good with your children, you can’t even imagine not wanting to be a parent. When difficulties arise, from the typical and small, like constant temper tantrums, to the  unthinkable, like a diagnosis of Asperger’s, or juvenile diabetes, or your teenager in the grip of an eating disorder, your mettle as a parent is tested to the limits.

You may wish for an escape–that is natural. You may seriously doubt your capacity to parent, but as with nothing else, you are committed for life. You are on the journey no matter what. This lead me to think that the marriage vows, which can be and are retracted for many of us, really belong to our children.

“I take you______to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, till death us do part.”

It is to our children that we make this vow. Everything else in life can really be changed.

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A New Year: An Inner Life Makeover
January 6, 2015 · Posted in Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Every year at this time millions of people make countless New Year’s resolutions regarding appearance, work, family and relationships.  One person’s going to lose weight, another’s going to work harder and yet another is going to spend more time with their family.  All of these can be great ideas, yet somehow few actually get followed through with.

What if this year people focused on making changes on the inside of themselves rather than the outside?  What if we decided to look at why we emotionally eat rather than go on a diet that will lead to more weight gain in the future anyway?  What if we looked at our propensity to hide in our careers rather than enjoy our families?  How about exploring the relationship squashing patterns that have haunted us for a lifetime?  Hmmm, what if…?

For those of you who are courageous enough to take a look at yourself with a loving and critical eye, here are some ideas of what to look at.  Change some of your internal patterns and watch your life change on a whole new level.

1.    Look at your past several romantic relationships and write down what each partner’s main complaint was about you.  Don’t defend against the complaint—just take it in and look at it.  Imagine the complaint is true.  How has this quality hurt your relationships/life?  What step can you take to change it?

2.    Pay attention to the messages your children say to you when they’re angry, hurt or upset at you.  Do they say you’re always working, never listen, mean or…?  Take in their feedback and examine it for truth.  Don’t defend—just own your piece and decide if and how you need to change it.

3.    If you struggle with eating, pay attention to the times you eat and track what you were feeling right before you ate and immediately after you eat.  Look for emotional eating and understand what’s underneath your poor self-care.  Stop focusing on dieting and start focusing on your internal struggles regarding self-worth, appearance etc.

4.    Pay attention to how you respond to upset, poor treatment or discontent.  Do you get intense and over-react or do you shut down and silence?  Imagine what it would be like if you stepped in with a new kind of strength and were centered, grounded and strong in your responses.  What would you say or do differently? Do it.
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5.    Pay attention to how you are at work, at home, with friends and with your children.  Are you the same person everywhere or have you lost yourself in one area of your life?  Get conscious of why you’re not yourself in one of these areas and dare to step up in a whole new way.

Having the courage to look at the areas where we aren’t doing well is the only way we can play bigger in our lives.  Our mistakes make us human; pretending we don’t make them keeps us blind.   Look at your edges (those areas where we are relationally off) and dare to work them not ignore them.  You will be thankful you did, as will those around you.

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Make Your Wife Happy! Finish Your Jobs!
December 15, 2014 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

This post is for the guys. Want to make your wife feel loved, taken care of and appreciated? One very simple way is to finish whatever household jobs you begin to completion. A task done fully and completely is an act of loving kindness.

After decades of meeting with mothers the same refrain is constant, “If he would just do the whole job, I would be so happy!” Translation: If you are supposed to empty the dishwasher, empty it and put every last thing away. Do not leave a pile of tupperware on the counter for her to do. If you are making a snack for the kids, put the peanut butter and jelly away and wipe the breadcrumbs from the counter. If you are bathing the baby, go back to the bathroom and empty the tub, put the used diaper in the garbage and put the dirty baby clothes in the hamper.

This may seem trite, but it is not. When a wife comes in to a fully emptied dishwasher, a cleaned up kitchen, or a drained tub she feels loved, thought about, appreciated and relieved. If you were counting on her making dinner and only the salad -no main course- was prepared, how would you feel? If she was supposed to bring your suits to the cleaners but never picked them up, what message would that send to you? You would feel burdened, frustrated, unappreciated. I guarantee it.

So here is a clear road map to less conflict, more team work and love: Always finish the tasks you start at home. It is an easy way to show how much you care and believe me, won’t go unnoticed!

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Being Right
June 25, 2014 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

The Curse and Seduction of Being Right

by Lisa Merlo Booth

 

Many people struggle with the curse of being right.  When people struggle with being right it feels as if you’re constantly in an argument about the “facts.”  Sometimes it can feel as if you’re talking with a lawyer instead of a friend or partner.  For example, you might ask your partner to lower their voice and they respond with, “My voice isn’t loud.  I was just being passionate.”  Or perhaps you start to tell a story about work and say, “When I left home at 8 a.m.…” and your partner quickly butts in and corrects you with, “Well, actually you left after 8 a.m.”  Whatever the circumstances are, you feel as if you’re in an endless battle.  All you want to do is share your thoughts or make a request, yet the other person is busy checking your facts instead of listening to your message.

Needless to say, if you’ve ever been on the other side of this dynamic, it can be incredibly frustrating.  If you’re the one constantly “correcting” or arguing the facts, then you can be incredibly frustrating.

Stop correcting and start listening.

Being around someone who is constantly telling others how they’re wrong blocks intimacy and connection.  Ironically though, many people get caught in the being right trap…because being right is seductive.  After all, people think, isn’t it important to have the right facts?  If my partner says he’s angry that I was late for our dinner on Saturday and I know we went out on Friday—shouldn’t I correct him and tell him I was late on Friday, not Saturday?  After all, I’m right—I happen to know for a fact that we went out on Friday because Saturday was our son’s soccer game and we ate dinner on the road while driving to his game.  Shouldn’t I correct him when I know I’m right?

No.

The seduction of being right is that often our information…is right.  We’re not making it up, we’re not giving false information and we’re honestly correcting wrong information.  What’s wrong with that, we wonder?  Several things are wrong with that.  To start with, when we’re so ultra-focused on arguing the facts, we miss the bigger point.  In the dinner example, my husband was upset that I was late.  My focusing on the “accurate” day is irrelevant—even though my information may be correct.  Second, if I’m busy critiquing what he says, then I’m shutting down the conversation.  If I shut down the conversation then I’m blocking repair.  It’s often only a matter of time before people give up trying to talk with someone who seldom listens and instead corrects the minute details.  At some point we just say forget it.When it comes to healthy relationships, remember to not get lost in the details and instead hear the main message.  If you’re stuck on critiquing the messenger, s/he is likely to stop relaying messages.  When that happens, your relationship is in trouble.  The other person gets tired of being blocked repeatedly and in the end they often just turn away.  It’s in your best interest to have the courage to stop getting lost in the details and instead hear the message…and fix your part in the situation.  Insisting on being right is damaging.  Don’t give in to the seduction.

 

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5 Empowering Reflections During Divorce
November 10, 2011 · Posted in Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments Off

By Heidi Bernstein-Krantz, Professional Life Coach

1. Although it may not be easy to envision, the challenge of divorce can be accompanied by significant opportunity that would not have otherwise presented itself. Identify one goal that you can accomplish now, that you could not have achieved during your marriage.

2. Divorce can often cause our confidence and self-esteem to waver. Recognizing your positive traits is essential at this time.  Identify one of these special personality or character traits that can show itself more clearly now than previously.

3. When we are involved in a difficult life transition, we tend to focus inward. Going beyond ourselves is an effective way to find meaning and put our issues into perspective. Identify one new strategy to contribute in some small way towards helping others or impacting the world.

4. When you want to see changes in your life, reaching out for support is an important part of the process. Identify three professionals, friends, or family members who can fill this role.

5. Developing a positive vision for yourself can be enormously empowering and can help you stay focused and goal oriented. Create this future image. How do you want to see yourself in five years?  Let this vision guide you.

 

Heidi Bernstein-Krantz, OTR, CPC
Professional Life Coach
516-313-3185
www.reinventionlifecoaching.com
www.coachheidik.tumblr.com 
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A Note to Men: Want more Sex? 5 Things You Should NOT Do
September 1, 2011 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

by Lisa Merlo Booth

In my work with couples, I often hear the men complain that there’s not enough sex and the women complain that the men always want more.  What’s up?  Besides the likely differences in sexual appetites, there are a lot of things men are doing that’s shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to increased physical intimacy with their wives/partners.

If you’d like to increase the amount of sexual intimacy in your relationship, below are 5 things NOT to do:

1.    Don’t turn every kiss, hug or handholding into a sign that you might get lucky. Women complain all the time that they can’t even hug their partners without them turning it into a sexual move.  Really men?  Aren’t we past the adolescent days of even the wind blowing getting you excited? The more you turn the slightest act of affection into a sexual come on, the less affection your partner will show you.  Don’t be desperate—it’s a huge turn off.

2.    Don’t have sex be the only time you show any affection. As Dr. Phil often says, “Foreplay should start 24 hours in advance of being sexual.”  It takes more for women to get into the mood than men and men need to know that.  Be loving, playful and affectionate long before you actually do the act.  Give her compliments, hold her hand, tell her you love her and act like you actually like spending time with her.

3.    Don’t be a jerk 90% of the time and then expect that your wife will want to be sexual with you. Your wife/partner does not “owe” you sex.  This is crazy thinking that I hear from men all the time.  If you’re generally a pill to be around then don’t be surprised that your partner isn’t feeling intimate.  Stop the anger, harsh tones and meanness.  Similarly, don’t barely speak to her day-to-day and then wonder why she’s not feeling close.  Be engaged and respectful and act as though you love her if you want her to act as though she loves you.

4.    Don’t have her be responsible for the house, the kids, the food and your entertainment—even if she doesn’t have a job outside the home. Being the sole person responsible for the home and children is like being single; that’s not what she signed up for.  Remember that if your partner is the one home caring for the family, this does not mean that her job should be 24/7 while yours is only 12 hours a day 5 days a week.  Help…or watch her burn out.

5.    Don’t make derogatory comments about your partner’s body. If you would like her to take better care of herself, have an honest, respectful and loving conversation.  Don’t throw out digs to get her to notice. Similarly, don’t point out the hot bodies of other women or ogle them in front of her and then wonder why your partner isn’t interested in being sexual with you.

In general, if you want a more loving relationship, you have to be more loving.  Be cherishing, show interest in her life and world and have sex be something that adds to your marriage/relationship not a duty that is owed to you.  If you don’t add the relational aspect to the picture, sex will become a chore to your partner.  Eventually she will grow tired of doing another chore and lose any sexual desire she may have had.

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Chore Wars – Finally Equal?
August 25, 2011 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

Household duties have long been a battle ground for couples, especially when children enter the picture. Ruth David Konigsberg’s recent cover article in Time Magazine, Chore Wars, sheds new light on the age old perception that women do much more work than men. After doing research, Konigsberg reports that hours spent in paid and unpaid labor for men and women in 2011 are practically the same. This is not to say that chores are split 50/50, but the extra amount of time men spend in the office counter-balances the time not helping in the home. The exact number, 8 hours and 11 minutes for men and 8 hours and 3 minutes for women per day, has never been as equal as it is now.

What’s more, Konigsberg sites data from the The New Male Mystique, which shows that it is actually fathers who are having a harder time handling dual roles of professional and parent – not mothers. The imbalance over household jobs clearly isn’t completely gone, nor are the frustrated and overwhelmed feelings that accompany. But it does look like we are slowly getting closer to equal.

 

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Open Heart
August 11, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

The following is an enlightening piece by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. that appeared in Family | Social, on July 7, 2011. Enjoy!

Put No One Out Of Your Heart

What is an open heart? The Practice

Put no one out of your heart. Why?

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. It makes your heart heavy and contracted. And it primes your brain to be more tense and reactive, which could get you into trouble, plus trigger the other person to act worse than ever.

Sometimes you do have to hang up the phone, block someone on Facebook, turn the channel on TV, or stay at a motel when visiting relatives. Sometimes you have to put someone out of your business, workgroup, holiday party list – or bed.

In extreme situations such as abuse, it may feel necessary to distance yourself utterly from another person for awhile or forever; take care of yourself in such situations, and listen to that inner knowing about what’s best for you. But in general:

You never have to put anyone out of your heart.

How?

When your heart is open, what’s that feel like? Physically, in your chest – like warmth and relaxation – and in your body altogether. Emotionally – such as empathy, compassion, and an even keel. Mentally – like keeping things in perspective, and wishing others well.

Feel the strength being openhearted, wholehearted. Be not afraid, and be of good heart. Paradoxically, the most open person in a relationship is usually the strongest one.

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.

Notice that an open heart still allows for clarity about what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as firmness, boundaries, and straight talk. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are famous for keeping their hearts open while also being very effective.

Seeing all this, make a commitment to an open heart.

In this light, be mindful of what it feels like – physically, emotionally, mentally – to have your heart closed to a particular person. Be aware of the seemingly good reasons the reactive brain/mind throws up to justify this.

Then ask yourself, given the realities of this challenging person, what would have been a better path for you? For example, maybe you should have gotten more support from others or been more self-nurturing, so you wouldn’t have been as affected. Or spoken up sooner to try to prevent things from getting out of hand. Or managed your internal reactions more skillfully. Maybe you’ve done some things yourself to prompt the other person to be difficult. Whatever these lessons are, there’s no praise or blame here, just good learning for you.

And now, if you’re willing, explore opening your heart again to this person. Life’s been hard to him or her, too. Nothing might change in your behavior or in the nature of the relationship. Nonetheless, you’ll feel different – and better.

Last, do not put yourself out of your heart. If you knew you as another person, wouldn’t you want to hold that person in your heart?

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Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and Huffington Post, and he is the author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. He writes a weekly newsletter – Just One Thing – that suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

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Are You Living With A Woman Who Struggles with Intensity? What To Do and Not to Do
July 21, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

by Lisa Merlo Booth

A common union I see in couples is a very strong woman partnered with a fairly passive man.  The men often say their partners are overbearing, controlling, intense, critical and never satisfied.  The women say the men don’t talk, are walled off, often passive-aggressive and say yes just to get the women off their backs.  Often they’re both right: the women are over the top and the men are too passive.

If you’re a male and happen to be living with a woman who matches the descriptions above, here’s your cheat sheet for being in relationship with her.

1.    Stop ducking in response to intensity.  The worst thing you can do with an angry woman (or man for that matter) is to duck.  If your partner is coming at you with high intensity (yelling, swearing, raging, name-calling, etc.), then set a limit on the intensity.  Don’t try to talk her down or jump to do what she’s asking of you until you address the way she is speaking to you.

2.    Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Learn to become a man of integrity and stop lying to avoid her intensity.  Do not just “yes” her to get her off your back.  If you say you will do something, do it.  Otherwise, say no.

3.    Ask for your needs and wants.  Stop being resentful that you’re constantly trying to please her and stand up for yourself.  Healthy relationships require that both partners ask for their needs and wants.  The more you try to do what she wants without asking for what you want, the more resentful you will get.  Pay attention to what you want and learn to ask for it.

4.    Don’t play the victim.  Too many passive men act as if their wives/partners make their lives miserable.  No-one has the power to make your life miserable without you allowing it.  Look at how your behaviors contribute to your unhappiness and address those.

5.    Be direct.  Do not sideswipe your partner by throwing out underhanded comments, sarcastic quips or disdainful looks.  If you’re not happy about something—speak it.  Don’t stoop to being passive-aggressive by emotionally withholding or being behaviorally irresponsible.  Those are child-like responses to adult issues; step up like an adult and address things directly.

If you’re with a woman who you believe struggles with intensity, start looking at what you’re doing that is not helping the situation.  Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect at all times.  If your wife or partner is highly intense or reactive, she is not being respectful.  It’s your job to teach her how to treat you.  Do not play the victim to her rants…or you will ensure they will continue.

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