Getting on the same page…

My partner and I just celebrated 20 years of dating and as happily married as we are, I assure you it has taken great effort and positive intentions to heal past wounds, un-learn negative conditioning, rewrite narratives, and resolve many, many conflicts. We have traversed serious medical issues, grieved babies, lost dreams, financial woes, and international moves.

I liken the development of our relationship as if we were from different sections in a library and met in the music section. It felt exhilarating to meet someone who liked the same music as me along with some other interests. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore, like someone got me. We connected, we danced, we found our groove, then life happened, reality set in, stressors, negative events, and new experiences. Gradually, I realized that my partner likes other music that I can’t stand, and actually enjoys more of my least favorite sections in the library, on a whole other level from me. We began to disagree more, coming from totally different perspectives, not understanding the other, and slowly wandering off to our more desired sections of the library. I began to wonder who this person was, how did we ever get along, and what the heck am I doing here in this section alone and confused? Did I even have the energy or the will to enter my partner’s section? And why can’t he come to my section more?…

You can read my blog How couples can thrive through parenting…to learn what motivated me to go to my partner’s section more and it wasn’t till about the 14th year of being together that I felt we got in the same book. Now into our 21st year, we actually get on the same page and even same line on a regular basis, on many subjects. We still need and enjoy our favorite sections yet we now value and visit each other’s sections often as well created new sections together. We sing and dance as a family.

All my research in relationships, neuroscience, trauma, and attachment gave me faith that it was worth the discomfort and seemingly endless, intense discourse.  Seeing how our children relate and reflect on our relationship and family is music to my ears and daily living proof.   One comment that sticks out that my son made was, “I use to think you and Dad argued a lot, then I started to notice other families and wow, do others not get along. You two really try to understand each other and work it out.” He was moved to share this with me as his dad and I were in the middle of one our discourses, each taking space to calm down and he wanted to provide encouragement. What he noticed is my legacy that I have worked passionately to give my children and everyone I work with: Anything is possible when we feel safe and understood. Let go, fear less, love more and trust the process. Deep breaths, baby steps ❤ Debra

Click here to discover Five Steps to a Positive Reframe

You can find more information about my experience here on my Vita.

I’ve added a video counseling service called Breakthrough. Now we can meet wherever it’s most convenient for you. All you need is a computer and broadband internet access. It’s secure and accepted by major health insurance companies.

Please visit www.positivereframe.breakthrough.com to learn more. I can only see Illinois residents via Breakthrough

International clients can find me at https://www.ring.md/doctor_profiles/debra-wallace

If you have any questions please contact me:

Debra@positivereframe.org

847.603.4677   USA

09.950.7514   NZ

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Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

Enriching Our Resilience & Connections Tips

We can enrich our resilience & connections by tuning into our senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. Here is a summary of keys to empowering you to make conscious choices that meet your vital needs. Understanding and following these will harmonize your mind, body, and heart connections as well as your relationships.

Bright side..Resilience

 

Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs):

  1. Nutrition/Hydration
  2. Temperature
  3. Sleep
  4. Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
  5. Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included
  6. Unprocessed stress/trauma (negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)

“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham

stress-model

Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out? 
When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, HALT(S) and reflect: 

Are we Hungry?

Angry/Anxious?

Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?

Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)? 

Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?

Get regulated together by doing the following daily:

  1. Take Deep breaths
  2. Eat nutritious food & Drink water
  3. Rest/Sleep/Meditate
  4. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temp, turn off electronics, lower noise level, get fresh air and sunlight)
  5. Increase production of happy, calming hormones by doing fun, interactive activities  such as smiling, silly faces, singing, music, hugging, playing games, tickling, dancing, exercising, attend social events, spending special one-on-one with each other
  6. Process stress & release negativity through play, drawing, exercising, writing, understanding, reflective listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathy…the list is endless and unique to individuals interests and/or preferences.

When applying these keys, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/heart and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps. You can do it.

If you’d like support, international clients can find me at https://www.ring.md/practitioner_profiles/debra-wallace

Clients living in Illinois can find me at http://positivereframe.breakthrough.com

Key Terms:

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences

Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met

Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming

Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond your threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/BSRC_Resilience_English_fnl.pdf

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/resilience/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/toxic-stress/

https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

http://lindagraham-mft.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Neuroscience-of-Resiliency-Interview.pdf

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/resilience/according-experts/resilience-development-importance-early-childhood

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

https://postinstitute.com/?s=stress+model

https://www.heartmath.org/

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

New filters to live by…

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with curiosity and joy.

I am acutely aware of the toxins that run through my cells. I am hyper-sensitive to suffering and tension. I can feel pain a generation away. I can sense dissension in the most subtle expression. I use to absorb and internalize all this negative energy. It made me hate myself and everything I touched. I was terrified to share my true thoughts and feelings. I condemned myself and built a wall; silence was my defense.

Fortunately, I have found my voice. I can now speak for the voiceless. I am a weaver of love, hope, and faith. I have found a way to share the pain, stir conscience, reflect brilliance and cultivate trust that within all chaos, awaits beauty.

With all my research on brain development, I have learned that I do not have as many “filters”/templates within my brain chemistry to block out all the stimuli (i.e sounds, smells, feelings). I am constantly taking in too much stimulation at any given moment and often in a hyper-aroused state. When I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children and felt I was constantly getting triggered and reacting negatively, I came up with a few affirmation statements to filter my thoughts, behaviors, and feelings through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator and I took it down to proclaim the following:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with curiosity and joy.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which was signaled when my chest tightened, my voice raised, the negative tape overriding, or when my kids were acting out. I refuse to pass on any more negative energy onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that their light has the opportunity to manifest like the sun shines through and a rainbow follows a storm.

Here is what this random creation looks like which now rests in my binder as I travel. Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to hear when I get triggered.

I am grateful for a past therapist who gave me a safe place to process and many resources, one being a website for a highly sensitive person: http://www.hsperson.com/

Take wonderful care of yourself and the world needs you.

Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am licensed to provide Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

How couples can thrive through parenting…

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely valid, and you did the best you can with the resources you have.  You need to make decisions that are best for everyone involved based on your unique situation. I also know the reality of high-conflict marriages and domestic violence, and how even more devastating this is, especially for children. In fact, it is common for men to start to become physically abusive when their partner first becomes pregnant, so of course, divorce is sometimes the safest and healthiest option. Yet this does not excuse the reality that far too many of us have not had enough positive role models nor been taught the skills needed to process negative feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and events as well as promote emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and non-violent communication. So my intent here is to give a personal example of how these skills helped me in hopes of helping others…

Having a baby is a huge shock to any relationship. Even the healthiest of relationships will have issues. It is emotionally and physically taxing and stressful on levels no one could ever fathom. Not to mention that relationships within themselves have their own stages of development as well, so after the honeymoon stage it is like you enter an infancy stage within a committed partnership.

All negativity comes from a state of stress and unmet needs. When we feel fear (like afraid we will never get a good night of sleep), our stress response gets triggered causing us to unconsciously react with either fight/flight/freeze or with behaviors we learned in past within similar situations like with our own parents. Thus our worst thoughts, behaviors, and feelings will likely be triggered during this intensely critical stage of development and naturally wreak havoc on any relationship. A recent study found that having a baby caused significantly more dissatisfaction than divorce, unemployment, or even death of a partner.

I experienced this first hand in my marriage and we even made a conscious choice to be married for five years before having our first child. I was a child of divorce and wanted to ensure my marriage was secure and healthy before having a child. Even with a Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies, the birth of my first child triggered intense insecurity and turbulence. I suffered post-postpartum depression, and my partner and I had many ugly, combative, disconnected, stressful times that lasted months and even years on some issues. I would wonder how we ever got along and can we do this… forever!?

Fortunately, we have made it through the trenches and, we not only survived, we thrived. When I reflect on what motivated me to work through the hardships, four reasons come to mind: For one, I have a core belief that committed partnerships are good for us and more love and support children are raised in, the better for all humanity. We are biologically wired to be in relationships and committed partnerships provide consistent opportunities to meet vital needs for our wellbeing.

This second reason is, unfortunately, fear-based and not what I would hope to be a motivating force but I’m honest so here goes: Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would have felt absolutely ashamed to even utter the word “divorce”. If I can’t make it work, then who can. If I divorced, it would even shatter my core belief in the former. So back to my first reason, I was determined to make it work because I knew it would be worth it and everyone’s well-being will be better off in the long run.

Number three, I cannot stand hypocrisy so I practice what I preach thus upon great reflection and introspection, I used all the skills I tell my clients: I remembered what attracted me to my partner, all his amazing traits, his dreams, and the core beliefs we shared. These things were still present, they just got lost in the 24/7 demands of parenting, dirty dishes, diapers, bills, the battle for sleep, and work.  When I focused on the good and where we agreed, conflicts would end sooner with more understanding, and life just seemed to flow and become more joyful.

The final motivating force came when I was reading the book Living, Loving, Learning by Leo Buscaglia who specializes in Love. He shared this quote:

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” ~Erica Jong

I realized that I needed to take responsibility for getting my own needs met and it wasn’t fair to put so much on my partner. I really put myself in his shoes and I could see he was suffering too. I realized we both had many negative feelings and unmet needs but that we had very different ways of expressing them and getting our needs met. I was taking a lot of frustrations out on him and there was so much that I wasn’t doing that he’d like more of yet he would rarely complain about. I could see he was working just as hard as I was although it appeared through my stressed-out-resenting lenses that he had it easier and was doing much less.

I have been counseling couples for over 13 years and I hear the similar stories of how the demands of parenting trigger parents into adversaries instead of partners. The good news is that parenting does not have to be so disruptive and dissatisfying. It actually can be a great opportunity to connect, grow and be a source of nurturance, support, and joy. Acknowledging and validating each other’s efforts, feelings, and needs seem to soften us. It became easier to give each other the benefit of the doubt, love and trust each other through the hardships instead of blaming, criticizing and fearing the worst.  When tension arises now, I affirm that we are in this for the long haul, like another 60+ years, so if we can’t get all our needs met right now, that’s OK because we will have plenty of time to do so. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the seeming endless cleaning up of bodily fluids and messes, the absolutely no privacy, it really does get better and you start to see the brilliance in your children, your partner and even yourself.

I often wonder what if my parents took responsibility for their own behaviors and found non-violent ways to resolve their issues, what I would have gained instead of needing to clean up from the destruction and healing the deep wounds that still disturb me from their high-conflict marriage and divorce. I have also found that if relationship pain is not healed, then similar negative patterns of interaction will likely reappear in your next relationship, after the honeymoon stage of course. And you still have to co-parent for the rest of your children’s lives no matter what. Then you’ll likely have to deal with the unprocessed pains of potential new partners on top of the added stress of being a single parent. I know the lure of having freedom and space from conflict and the negativity of your partner feels utterly dreamy, yet there truly are positive ways to get both needs met and create freedom and peace within your relationship. A 75-year long study on what men need to be happy confirmed that memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength and that marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.  A study regarding women’s wellbeing and increased marital satisfaction was highly linked to her partner’s level of caregiving during the transition of parenting. I believe your wellbeing and family are worth it.

Here are some links easing the transition to parenthood:

Click link Steps to healing conversations to the handout I developed to transform your conversations from hurting to healing.

https://www.gottman.com/about-the-bringing-baby-home-program/

https://ellytaylor.com/about-the-book/

http://www.mindful.org/save-marriage-parenthood/

Please take wonderful care of yourselves and each other,

Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am licensed to provide Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

Anxiety, Sleep, and Trying Again and Again…

I have had a unique relationship with Anxiety my whole life. Anxiety had affected just about every facet of life, especially sleep. For as long as I could remember, I had trouble falling asleep. I would lie awake for hours worrying, and replays of my past experiences and decisions haunted me. In 2005, it got even worse; I would wake up in the middle of night and could not fall back to sleep no matter what I tried. I complained that it was my stressful job and my partner watching violent TV shows at bed time. I desperately needed to sleep and wanted my job and my partner to change.  Anxiety continued to sabotage me. In order to get a peaceful night of sleep, I had to do the following:

Step 1: I had to accept that my job is stressful and that I cannot control other people’s reactions/behaviors.

Step 2: I had to take responsibility for getting my own needs met.

I finally dragged myself back into therapy and my therapist recommended listening to an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing; click here to learn more) CD which plays soothing sounds that alternate playing in each ear to mimic REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Guess what I told her? … “I tried that, it didn’t work.” I did try it two times about a year before. I had put my boom box on my bed (very uncomfortable) and then the CD started skipping at song 4. She said she’d make me a new copy of the CD and I could go buy a portable CD player.

Easy solution right?

Step 3: TRUST

Well, I am a frugal person so I mulled over buying a portable CD player for weeks. My husband didn’t think it was necessary purchase. I thought of all the things he buys that seem frivolous to me and decided to trust my therapist’s suggestion to buy one. Suffering from anxiety of course, I stood in front of the CD players for 20 minutes and still couldn’t decide. I even had to call my sister for advice on which player to get (I am 30 year woman at this point).

Step 4: Put my words into action and implement plans.

I finally bought one for $30, which of course I felt guilty about. I put in the batteries and new EMDR CD to go to bed only to find out that the CD is not working properly; the music was not alternating between ears. I complained to my husband and he suggested maybe the headphones are not in stereo. So he finds me another pair from around the house. It worked!!! I had to listen to the CD twice but I did fall asleep peacefully. When I woke up in the middle of the night and listened to it, and it soothed me again but then I ran into another hurdle…because I was using batteries, the player ran out of power right as I was falling asleep. A few days later, I had no more batteries to replace with. I kept buying more and more batteries but they ran out so quickly. I was so irritated and ready to give up…

Step 5: Love myself through trial and error!!! Give myself permission to feel exasperated and any other negative feelings. Believe in success.

So I told myself: That I can work through this. I know this will work. I have to keep trying.

For a couple weeks I kept trying different power adaptors around the house. On my 4th attempt about 2 weeks later, I found a working adaptor. Eureka!!! I was able to fall asleep …except the bulkiness of the headphones limited my sleeping positions. I complained again. My husband found me a pair ear buds.

Finally, after 20 years I was able to fall asleep with no problems and sleep through the night. The progress was gradual and rocky. I needed to listen to the entire CD a couple times to fall asleep and would still awake in the middle of the night. Then I got to fall asleep after one time through the CD and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night. Eventually, it got to where I’d fall asleep during the first song. After about 3 weeks* of listening to the CD every night, I could fall asleep with out it. I changed a problematic behavior and situation in two months with no drugs. Now, I only use it once in a while. It took a heavy dose of: acceptance, taking responsibility, trust; commitment to act with perseverance, unconditional love, and support from people who genuinely care about my needs.

  • It takes on average, 21 times to repeat a specific behavior to make a secure connection in your brain and within your relationships.

So when it comes to positive, healthy, and proactive changes, please try again and again. Genuine and sustainable healing takes time. Trust the process.  ~Debra

Here is a link to a EMDR CD target for Anxiety: anxietyreleaseapp

This is not the CD used though I have read and used included CD of Mark Grant’s book: Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain success and progress

The Roughhousing Trigger

The current Positive Reframe I am working on is the trigger I have when my children are roughhousing and my daughter gives a blood-curdling scream even though she is having fun. I know and believe in the importance of roughhousing (see link below) yet have also suffered the harsh reality of aggression and violence. As their energy intensifies, I feel terrified and quickly jump to needing to defend and protect which sends a negative and mistrusting message to my son. As I am well aware of this negative cycle, in these moments I am choosing to focus on the strengths of my family by saying:

“I do not need to worry. I have raised two sensitive and caring children who have many skills to handle and resolve conflict.”

I’ll be honest, I do have to say it often yet It is amazing how quickly if transforms the energy. The situation went from triggering a negative reaction which was aggravating and draining for all to a conscious response that builds trust and is nurturing. This seemingly simple change in perception creates a trusting and positive experience for the whole family.

http://theartofroughhousing.com/science/

P.S. I am also very grateful I read the book Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I am utterly amazed by how loving and genuinely caring my children are together.

http://www.fabermazlish.com/pub_viewer.php?Siblings-Without-Rivalry-How-to-Help-Your-Children-Live-Together-So-You-Can-Live-Too-4

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TEACHing RESPONSE-ability

When my son was three, he had a small snow globe with Pluto the dog in it. Every time he’d touch it, I would say, “Be careful, it is glass so if it falls it will break.” One night, he played with it intensely, not heeding my warnings.  It shattered. My initial response was one of exasperation and quickly removed him from the area. I fought back the impulse to say, “I told you so… you didn’t listen.” but I am sure he still felt that negative energy as he broke down in tears and was inconsolable.  My husband and I both hugged him, and I stated, “It is my fault because I should have taken it away from you. I knew better.” I calmly suggested he go play with his miniature sandbox and he agreed that would make him feel better.

I think many would be taken back that I took responsibility in this situation (and I do this in most parenting situations). I frequently get comments about how will he learn responsibility? How will he learn if there are no consequences? I was first exposed to this response in a training for regulatory parenting (see link http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/key-services/trauma-informed-care/). The presenter, Juli Alvarado, gave numerous examples of “taking responsibility” topping with a story about her standing before a judge for a foster child and stating that she will take responsibility for his actions. These stories surprised me because they were counterintuitive to what I was raised to think, but her reasoning, and better yet the progress, sold me.

So I will apply the reasoning to the situation with my son. First off, there were consequences. They were natural and inherent in that specific situation like sadness and grief for broken cherished toy which we never replaced; instant feelings of guilt for knowing he broke toy; added negative feelings from disappointing his mother; time away from his mother whilst cleaning up.  Also, I did not take responsibility for him; I took responsibility for my behaviors. In the end, the parent is ideally the one with more knowledge, more experience, more skills, more resources and is responsible for meeting a child’s needs.

By me taking responsibility, I decreased the negative energy (i.e. blame, disappointment, shame) being absorbed by my son as well as calmed myself down. All negative behavior comes from a state of stress (see Stress Model by Dr. Bryan Post http://www.postinstitute.com/resources/the-stress-model.html ). When we are stressed, we usually react negatively and inappropriately. Scolding, raising my voice, or punishing would only add more stress, which a child (and most humans) can’t handle as well as escalate the situation. It also causes the child to focus on and retain negative feelings about the parent as well as lessen their ability to internalize the actual event and subsequent lesson. When we are calm, we are able to respond gently by becoming aware of as many variables as possible and problem solve effectively.

I was also role-modeling for my son how to take responsibility. There are complaints that there is not enough discipline and kids have no respect anymore. I think we need more positive and respectful role models.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear a parent or adult say “Don’t you raise your voice to me!” in an elevated and harsh tone, and the countless other times that same parent raises their voice to that same child or to another person or to their partner and so on. Another common parenting contradiction is  “Don’t hit her sister!”…”I’ll spank you if…” later child witnesses or experiences domentic violence. Dr. Bruce Perry commented once that if you speak English, you learn English; if speak rudeness, violence, anger, etc., then you learn rudeness, violence, anger, etc. How is one able to learn respect and empathy when they are rarely given any? Or only given when certain conditions are met depending on someone else’s mood?

I really wish adults could notice all the things they complain about or demand of their child or partner. Then really think about how many times you have committed a similar offense. I continue to do this experiment and I have yet to find a time I have NOT behaved or reacted in a similar way. I then choose to hold my complaint until I have successfully worked on changing my own behavior.  By then, I have gained enough insight and empathy for the person that the original complaint seems a bit unreasonable and even petty.

A child will learn more positive skills and values from a vulnerable and calm adult who changes their behavior to reflect their requests, than a defensive and angry person who threatens consequences. I know threats and punishments seem to work, but they work for the wrong reasons and promote more destruction than you can imagine, at so many levels.

So back to my son and the broken snow globe…after about 15 minutes, my son called to me. He said he felt better now and asked if I would help put his sandbox away to keep it safe. I did and we went to his room for story time. He immediately went to the spot where he broke the globe and calmly said, “I am sorry mommy for breaking it.” I accepted his sincere apology and we got back to our bedtime ritual.

Teaching Responsibility = Role-Modeling the Ability to Respond appropriately to get needs met

I believe we all deserve kindness and compassion so “appropriately” means with “kindness and compassion.” Neuroscience is even proving that kindness and compassion help integrate the brain and create positive connections for all. My son is now Nine years old and he amazes me daily with his level of empathy and responsiveness. He consistently teaches responsibility to his younger sister and genuinely apologizes on his own.

*The training I went to was by Juli Alvarado from http://www.coaching-forlife.com/

*Link to Dr. Bryan Post’s Website http://postinstitute.com/hope.php?p=DW1&w=home

*Dr. Bruce Perry’s website http://childtrauma.org/