When you are trying to win an argument, the relationship loses. You can discover mutually satisfying solutions when you are open to dialogue…
Dialogue vs. debate
Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding. Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal. In debate, winning is the goal.
In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement. In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view. Debate affirms a participant’s own point of view.
Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation. Debate defends assumptions as truth.
Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position. Debate causes critique of the other position.
Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions. Debate defends one’s own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change. Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it. In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs. Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.
In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements. In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions. In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.
Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend. Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution. Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
Dialogue remains open-ended. Debate implies a conclusion.
I know that every parent is doing the best they can with the resources they were given or are aware of. I also believe that everyone truly has good intent yet may lack the know-how to get their needs met in calm, respectful ways. We all can very easily feel overwhelmed and unable to express ourselves. This is extremely true for children. Even if you have told them a hundred times, they were likely overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts or emotions or some other variable and didn’t absorb the message fully. They are also learning. Learning is messy, repetitive, and challenging process at its best. It may sometimes feel that our children are out to make our lives difficult, that something must be wrong if they haven’t got the message yet, or that they are purposely not applying themselves. I assure you, they are learning. Slow down to actively listen, empathize, assert yourself and problem solve together. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to cooperate when they feel heard, empowered, and trusted to do so.
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 posts reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only as this online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. 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, as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA
I first wrote this blog in 2010 and sadly, more and more tragedies are on the front page…
It is bitter-sweet for me to read all the talk about “bullying.” Great that people are seeing that it is a serious problem, but I know like after Columbine, it will fall off our plate and another tragedy will take its place. I am tired of talking. I am sick of running into walls and double-edged swords. Emotionally, I liken going to school like heading into battle naked with no triage on site, and I went to a private school in a nice suburb.
This is a typical bullying scenario through my lens: If an adult is sensitive enough and not stressed or distracted by other things and catches the barrage of insults, they will call attention to the Bully. The adult will threaten or cast some irrelevant punishment which will insult the Bully and add more pain to an already stressed soul. A soul who clearly does not have resources to cope and will take it out on another vulnerable soul. If the Victim gets any attention at all, it is to the tune of “Oh, don’t let it bother you” or “toughen up.” Then everyone is expected to get back to their task or whatever they were doing and pretend everything is fine.
The most heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people think we are “fine” and we’re getting what we “need.” We are not fine. The majority of our vital needs are neglected and abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed. I will read more headlines tomorrow about how could someone do this horrid act and how it came out of nowhere. I could reflect a truth yet the truth hurts and we are not allowed to feel pain or cry. Yet to feel compassion, you must heal, and to heal you must cry, or at least process through our negative thoughts and feelings but we are afraid to feel or share. So where does that leave us?… Sadly, on the front page again.
I plead for people to open your minds, your hearts, and your souls. Bullies aren’t born bullies, they’ve been bullied. Social interactions and emotional intelligence amongst kids (and most adults for that matter) are atrocious. Yet, I am even more disgusted when I hear adults belittle and disrespect children on a constant basis. How can we expect kids not to bully when their instincts are perpetually defied and they are manipulated to meet the needs of whatever adult has power or control over them. And then when we are tired of fighting or nagging, we let media take over.
I have been just as guilty as anyone. I can cite many examples of my own hypocrisy and human errors. Our society is full of traps, luring us to fill someone else’s pocket and boosting another’s ego whilst draining our own soul. It seems we care more about how things look than how they feel. I am sick of putting my fate and my children’s future in someone else’s hands. I choose to act in every moment I am blessed with. I have made a conscious choice to stop (as humanly possible) reacting, shaming, blaming, yelling, name-calling, and choose to respond to others how I would genuinely like to be comforted when I feel hurt or stressed or upset, especially to my children. Their feelings, their suffering, and tears are just as valid as my own even though they are small and some of their plights may seem trivial. My favorite definition of “responsible” is being able to respond appropriately in any given moment to get vital needs met = response-able. My children’s souls, and everyone I engage with, are in my hands and I take this very seriously.
I don’t believe there are bad people, only people with less vital needs met and more pain to heal. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…
I recommend turning off media/technology for at least one hour before bed and read stories as a family. Take time every day to truly connect with your loved ones. Create your own healing rituals to get vital needs met.
Changing habits is hard and scary; LOVE yourself and everyone else through it!
Take Wonderful Care,
You can learn more about me and my online services at Officite
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 thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. 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 and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA
When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.
I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.
I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.
I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships. There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.
It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in a state of fight, flight or freeze). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop. Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.
Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:
“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”
-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World
Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.
During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.
He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.
Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that can actually be a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard and vulnerable feelings with you. Emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing the learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered by fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to be compassionate and present with an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.
The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your presence, attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen to. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only on what you are hearing them say like identifying feelings.
”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott
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, and referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA
You have the right to angry and protest if you are treated unfairly or abusively by anyone.
You have the right to your own privacy.
You have the right to your own opinions, to express them, and to be taken seriously.
You have the right to earn and control your own money.
You have the right to answer questions about anything that affects you.
You have the right to make decisions that affect you.
You have the right to grow and change (and that includes changing your mind).
You have the right to say NO. You have the right to make mistakes.
You have the right to NOT be responsible for other adults’ problems.
You have the right to not be liked by everyone.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL YOUR OWN LIFE AND TO CHANGE IT IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH IT.
I was 18 when I first read a list of rights like this one. I was actually surprised to learn that I had these rights. I had to read it daily for awhile to kick start my healing. It takes on average 21 times to experience a situation the way you WANT to experience it before our brains can make a secure connection, to FEEL the benefits and to BELIEVE it is real. I use to have to read at frequent intervals when fears and insecurities would try to sabotage what my heart knew and felt. Fortunately, my healing grew exponentially as I accepted & asserted them.
Here’s a video on the history of Human Rights. I guess I was not alone in not knowing them. Please share them with love and compassion and put these rights to action.
We are all born good and connected which gets disrupted when vital needs go unmet. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…
Human defense mechanisms intrigue me (i.e. passive/aggressiveness, distortion, projection, denial, fantasy, rationalization, minimizing )…They protect us from absorbing too much pain at once so that the body/mind/heart can prepare to process the uncomfortable, hurtful, and overwhelming experience in order integrate and transcend but if we depend on these mechanisms or use them too long, they harden to bricks that build a wall. You might feel the illusion of safety behind this great wall, but the build-up of toxins, the natural consequences and negativity will delude you. Connection, being able to touch another’s mind/body/heart is one of our vital needs. Many of our other needs are cultivated within safe, well-connected, mutually satisfying and respectful relationships. Unfortunately,what we need the most to heal, few have ever truly received or witnessed. The unknown triggers fear as it is perceived as a threat. We then end up learning to fear and mistrust what we need the most.
When I reflect on my life, I took risks to allow people behind the wall I had built to protect myself. Of course, a few of these people I trusted backfired yet they all helped break down my wall. My need for these defenses continues to decrease as I find more pro-active and responsible ways of getting my own needs met. I am unsure if it is possible to rid them completely, after all, we are human. Yet as I become more aware of my use of defense mechanisms and triggers, I am better able to embrace the value and those around me. I can love myself and everyone else through the hurt even though I may be running into their walls.
Below is my favorite list of needs from the book,Healing the Child Within by Charles L. Whitfield. It is difficult to move on to getting another need met if the one before it is unmet or threatened. Sadly, I witness too many stuck and fighting at number two…
Hierarchy of Human Needs
Touching, Skin Contact
Mirroring And Echoing
Others Are Aware Of, Take Seriously And Admire Real You
You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
Rule 2: You will learn lessons.
You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.
Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.
Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”
Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.
A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.
Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.
There is no part of Life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
Rule 6: “There” is no better than “here”
When your “there” has become a “here,” you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”
Rule 7: Others are merely mirrors of you.
You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
Rule 8: What you make of your life is up to you.
You have the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
Rule 9: Your answers lie inside you.
The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.
Rule 10: You will forget all this.
Rule 11: You can remember whenever you want.
~adapted from IF LIFE IS A GAME, THESE ARE THE RULES: TEN RULES FOR BEING HUMAN by Chérie Carter-Scott~
Thank you for my wonderful mentor Barbara Wetzel MFT (author of The Ergonomic Couple) who gave me this as my clinical supervisor. I have had a copy of this on my fridge at various stages of my life and would read one rule aloud daily to my family and self. I find them all so true yet #7 seems to be the hardest yet most enlightening.
“But the first steps to dealing with the fact that your young child doesn’t sleep through the night, or doesn’t want to sleep without you is to realize that:
(1) Not sleeping through the night until they are 3 or 4 years of age is normal and healthy behavior for human infants.
(2) Your children are not being difficult or manipulative, they are being normal and healthy, and behaving in ways that are appropriate for our species.
Once you understand these simple truths, it becomes much easier to deal with parenting your child at night. Once you give up the idea that you must have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, and view these nighttime interactions with your child as precious and fleeting, you get used to them very quickly.” ~Katherine Dettwyler, PH.D
This understanding helped my sanity immensely when my daughter was an infant and wobbler. I have had this gut feeling that forcing children to sleep alone was counter-intuitive. When I did it to our first-born son, I frequently felt torn. I thought how hard and confusing for him as his parents went to sleep together every night. I love cuddling with another soul at night, how could I deprived him of such a simple and wonderful comfort. I also think having separate rooms is a luxury that many civilizations have not afforded. He must feel alienated and alone. Every night, around 1 AM, he would bump through the dark hallways to climb a ladder to our bed and I allowed him to stay there. Then I worried if he would ever learn to sleep on his own.
When he was 3 yrs old, I learned that 85% of brain connections were made by age 3 and 45% of the connections that were not made are gone. This is huge and pretty much explains how most our society may only be operating on a half of our brain’s potential. Up to that point, I had considered myself well-educated on child development and parenting, and I was when you consider mainstream. I am glad that I have the thirst for knowledge and embrace my weaknesses. I learn something new every day and challenge my “wrong truths” (my son’s wording). Along with a greater of understanding of neuroscience, I also have a theory that forcing a child to sleep through the night may cause the brain to develop out of order and/or skip crucial and formative connections.
Hence, I accept that my daughter (nor I) will not be sleeping through the night till age 3 or 4.
[Deep breaths]… I can do this and it will be worth it.
…. [A couple years passed]…
My daughter did eventually sleep through the night. I literally went 3.5 years without a full night sleep, co-sleeping, no allowance for “cry it out” and frequent night nursing. I’ll be honest, I would (emotionally) lose it about every 3 weeks due to exhaustion then I’d review my research, read new studies and reflect on our wonderful relationship and the other leaps and bounds she had made. So I continued. I had very little support. I felt I couldn’t even tell many my experiences and theory as they would think I was crazy. Fortunately, my marriage is stellar so my husband believed in me and loved me through the extremely tiring days. Her progression of sleeping through the night was extremely gradual and even getting a full sleep cycle was sporadic. She still at infrequent times awakes in the middle of the night and stumbles to our bed for a bit of milk and wakes around 6 or 7 AM for some more milk. It didn’t happen overnight and looks more like the second “success” picture:
I believe everything exists on a continuum and there are many ways to reach the same endpoint (equifinality). So there are babies who can and will sleep through the night sooner than later and vice versa. There are many nurturing, respectful, and creative ways to get vital needs met. There are also many emotional, physical, environmental, and contextual variables that play into sleeping through the night too. My oldest son is a rock solid sleeper too. We actually welcomed him back full time into our family bed when he was 4 yrs old for many reasons. At age six, he was ready and motivated to have his own space where he has been ever since (well, about once a month he still asks for a family cuddle;-).
This is a reflection of my unique experience so take what fits with your lifestyle the best and leave the rest. Where ever you are on this erratic trajectory, keep in mind these moments are precious and will be over be for you know it.