Conflict Reframe

Conflict, or times of significant stress, can often be the greatest opportunities for connection, healing, and growth when you learn to embrace the negativity and trust the journey. It is scary to be vulnerable and even though I have experienced the benefits of this experience, a part of me still gets triggered to fear and naturally wants to resist and that’s OK. It matters more how we choose to respond, to love ourselves and everyone else through. ~Debra

“Conflict can be a sign of where we are in conflict with ourselves: It can signal an unmet need that we’ve ignored for too long. It can give us a clue to where the fire’s burning so we can find ways to put it out instead of letting it spread and destroy us. It can point to where we’re stuck in our lives. It can invite us into awareness and reduction of stress. It can alert us to the first symptoms of illness. Conflict also can help us cultivate deeper connection: It can show us what’s unresolved in our hearts that keeps showing up in our lives and in our relationships until we confront it. Conflict resolution is a way of being rather than a method of getting along. When we practice being conflict resolutionaries, our children learn to embrace conflict as safe, fleeting, and a compassionate window into our humanity.” ~Lu Hanessian

The Love We All Need and Deserve

 “The essential message of unconditional love is one of liberation: You can be whoever you are, express all your thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. You do not have to be fearful that love will be taken away. You will not be punished for your openness and honesty…There may be days when disagreements and disturbing emotions may become between us. There may be times when psychological or physical miles may lie between us. But I have given my word of my commitment…So feel free to be yourself, to tell me of your negative and positive reactions. I cannot always predict my reactions or guarantee my strength, but one thing I do know: I will not reject you! I am committed to your growth and happiness… There is nothing else that can expand the human soul, actualize the human potential for growth, or bring a person into the full possession of life than a love which is unconditional. We have labored for so long under the delusion that corrections, criticism, and punishments stimulate a person to grow. We have rationalized the taking out our own unhappiness and incompleteness in many destructive ways…Unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow…Of course, free will is a factor in every human life. Everyone must say his or her ‘yes’ to growth and integrity. But there are prerequisites. And one of these is someone must empower me to believe in myself and to be myself. ”

 Excerpt from Unconditional Love  by John Powell

Family Hug

This description of love is the epiphany of what I aspire to cultivate. I am blessed to reap the benefits of this intense connection. My marriage has liberated (and challenged) me in ways I have never dreamed of. The problem often comes that although we all deserve unconditional love, when we are not getting it, our fears, negative core beliefs, and most insecure parts of ourselves get triggered.

Our defense mechanisms ensue, resulting in a host of negative reactions and cognitive distortions. We become hyper-focused on the threats and negativity. It very quickly becomes a volcano of negative thoughts, feelings, triggers, unmet needs and hurt. As the unprocessed pain keeps building, our minds, bodies and hearts become overwhelmed with stress, and resentment takes over. This negative chain of reactions unconsciously distorts our efforts to give our love unconditionally as well as thwarting those who wish to give it to us.

I see this pattern push children and adults over the edge and make amok of marriages. We wonder how a couple can be so in love on their wedding day then filing for restraining orders or divorce years later. When I listen to people talk to or about their children and/or partner, I am not surprised by our state of affairs.  So when your child says they hate you, or your partner says they no longer love you (although we usually “act out” way before ever saying this, and kids are more honest and direct), do you retaliate with the things they did wrong or truly listen and empathize with their fears, feelings, pain, and needs?…

We are biologically wired to be in relationship. We need one another to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We will naturally still get triggered and activate defense mechanisms to protect ourselves but what matters most is how we choose to respond and get needs met in proactive, nurturing ways once we are aware of out negative reactions. We heal best and regain trust through connection, when we feel safe and supported in a relationship with another. Every moment is a gift to transform fear to love, suffering to resilience, reaction to response. We are all born with the innate resources we need to choose wisely. Slow down, notice what you are sensing… breathe…this will connect you to your innate intelligence so you may choose to respond and align your intentions with your actions and thoughts.

How to get Calm…from Aha! Parenting

Thank you Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting for this very useful post.

“When our child acts out, or lashes out, it’s natural for us to panic.  We move into “fight, flight or freeze”  and our child looks like the enemy.  We all know whatever we do next won’t serve our child’s growth and healing, but we’re in the grip of strong emotions, and we can’t help ourselves. Or can we? What if there were three steps that would help you shift back into calm, AND keep your child from getting upset as often? There are.

“STEP 1:  Get Your Own Emotions Regulated

1. STOP, DROP whatever else you’re doing and BREATHE deeply.

2. Reduce the pressure: Remind yourself that there is no emergency.  No one is dying.

3. Change Your Thoughts: Say a little mantra in your mind:  “She’s acting like a child because she IS a child.  I’m the grown-up here.”

4. Physically release your tension: Notice where you’re holding tension in your body and shake it out. Take a deep breath and blow it out. Make a loud (but nonthreatening) sound. Get a drink of water.

5. Be Here Now. 

If you can bring yourself into the present moment, your upset will drop away.  Give yourself permission not to worry about the future or the past. In this moment, what action would be healing?  Anything else can wait.

“Step 2: Shift the Energy 

1. Make things emotionally safe. Say “We’re having a hard time, Sweetie. Let’s try a Do-Over.”

2. Empathize. Acknowledge your child’s perspective. “Seems like you want ______. ” 

3. Find the common ground. “But I need _______. What can we do?” 

4. Help your child get emotionally regulated. Kids usually do this best by crying or raging in the safety of our arms/presence. Breathe your way through this, reminding yourself that afterwards, he will feel safe, connected to you, and cooperative.

“Step 3:  Learn the Lesson

1. Learn. When you’re calm, reflect on what you can learn from what happened.  How can you support yourself to stay more emotionally regulated?  (Allow more time, get more sleep, better organization, fewer commitments, see things from your child’s perspective more?)

2. Teach. Later, when you and your child feel calm and connected, say “We had a hard moment today, didn’t we?  I’m sorry I got upset.  I guess I was worried.  When you _____, I feel ______.  What can both of us do differently next time?”

3. Change. If this is a recurring situation, make a list of possible solutions and start trying them.  Life is too short to endure the same lessons over and over again. “You won’t remember these steps in the heat of the moment.  Why not print out a little cheat sheet and carry it around with you?  A few months of practice, and you won’t even remember the last time you lost your temper.”

Dr. Laura Markham has since removed this original post I copied and pasted above, but here’s link to an updated version:  http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/How_to_Stay_Calm_When_You’re_Losing_It/ Even though this is the  advice I’d give, I still printed a copy of this to put on my fridge because no matter how well I know this, I still get stressed and forget it in the heat of moment. No human is immune to emotional hijacking. We all can benefit from deep breaths so oxygen can reach all our cells and open more channels to process the information. I’d check out more blog entries http://ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog and you can sign up for the newsletter and daily inspirations from Dr. Laura Markham. I am a huge fan of the books she recommends too.

If you’d like further support in applying more coping skills like these in your home as well as learn about normal human development and improving co-parenting relationship Email me  Debra@postivereframe.org or check out my profile at wecounsel.com

Make it a Calm and Connecting Day<3

Debra Wallace MS

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

An accepting look at sleepless nights…

“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

Sleeping through the Night   http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/sleeping-through-the-night.html

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.
IMG_2515

…. [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 wish I knew who to give credit for this 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.

To help you find a balance that works for you and your child, I highly recommend listening to this podcast: Attachment Parenting Versus The Science of Attachment, Clearing Up Misconceptions

Some online resources respond to nighttime wakings:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201301/simple-ways-calm-crying-baby

http://www.awareparenting.com/sleep.htm

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/sleep-problems

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10358548.htm

http://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/sleep/

To deep breaths and baby steps, this soon will pass.

~Debra

 

Putting on new lenses for parenting…

My life became so much more peaceful, loving, trusting, and joyful the day I realized my children had more to teach me about life than vice versa… Yet to fully understand, I had to look at them differently. I had to stop focusing on how they seem to make life more difficult and drain all my resources. I had to step in their shoes to truly appreciate what they were giving me…the ultimate opportunity to heal, grow, and transform from fear to trust.

“As a parent, there will be times when you are very challenged by your children – they won’t listen, they won’t do what you ask, they fight when you have asked them not to, they won’t stay in bed when you put them there, they melt down when you are out and other people are looking at you…. That is the nature of parenting. And you have two ways of viewing your child in situations like this: you can view your child as a problem – that’s what most people do – or you can fit specially ground pure crystal lenses and view this child as your teacher. The child who challenges you can teach you more than any other teacher you have ever had or will ever have, and without a student loan. So how does a ‘problem’ suddenly turn into a teacher? Your perspective.” ~Pennie Brownlee

You can read the full article here: http://penniebrownlee.weebly.com/1/post/2012/10/a-short-story-for-far-sighted-parents.html

I was happy to have stumbled upon Pennie’s book, Dance With Me in the Heart at our local library in NZ. She cited research I had already knew yet her words were music to my heart. I was even more grateful when I got to hear her speak at a home-birthing conference. She is an amazing inspiration. I highly recommend her works and creations.

Here is a list I created with some common negative descriptions of children’s behaviors through a more positive lens:

Positive Reframe list DWallace4