Day Four - What If It's Your Relationship That Triggers
Got Questions or having some thoughts you want to share? Join the discussion on this video below...
Got Questions or having some thoughts you want to share? Join the discussion on this video below...
Got Questions or having some thoughts you want to share? Join the discussion on this video below...
Got Questions or having some thoughts you want to share? Join the discussion on this video below...
This topic would have to be one of the biggest challenges that parent face due to the gap between the old school and the new school that I very briefly touched on in yesterday’s lesson.
As a society, we are in complete confusion of how to best raise our children. There are studies that say this, parents that say that, grandparents who swear by their way, attachment parents that swear by theirs.
We have labels for all sorts of parents too – helicopter parents, dependent, isolated, polarised narcissistic, overprotective, the super parent, the aggressive coach parent, the anything goes parent, the I could do it better parent, the spotless house parent. That’s just some of the labels out there that are getting judged and celebrated.
Then we have the different styles of parenting too – positive parenting, attachment parenting, conscious parenting, spiritual parenting, slow parenting (or nurturant parenting), authoritative and authoritarian parenting (yes they are two completely different styles), neglectful, or narcissistic parenting and toxic parenting (obviously three styles of parenting we don’t want to be categorised as, but it’s still recognised as a style of parenting) and more!
The old school follows the ‘my way or the highway’ and ‘children should be seen and not heard’ and if they do something wrong, they need to be smacked approach.
The new school wants to understand, talk, nurture, give kids a say, communicate, negotiate, compromise, but still wants to teach respect and good manners, just like the old school.
THEN we have the different personality traits of females and males, some of which we have talked about today, alongside the messages boys and girls are getting from society as they are raised, and the changes in society that are happening so much quicker than ever before – the ones I spoke about that are affecting relationships like women’s liberation, financial pressures, technology advances, more competition etc. Guess what? They’re affecting how you raise your children too!
And THEN on top of that we have the parents themselves and their beliefs on what is the right way and what is the wrong way.
Some parents want to read all this research and parent in accordance to the experts. Others want to parent instinctively. Some want to follow the old rules exclusively and don’t see a need for change. Some only want to follow the new rules and ditch all the old rules, and some are aimlessly trying to strike a balance between everything they’ve read and heard.
OMG I’m confused already!!
There is so much research out there on how to be the best parent. It’s little wonder there is so much confusion in the parenting community.
Who’s doing the best job?
How do I do it better?
Am I ruining my child’s life if I don’t do it this way or that?
The issue of raising children can be a major cause of arguments between couples.
You and your partner may have both been brought up by your own parents in a completely different way, and this can come out in how you wish to discipline your own children.
We know how we were raised and what that did for us on a very personal level, and this will strongly dictate how you want to treat your own children.
For example, you or your partner may have had a very physical form of discipline while growing up, and you may either feel that it worked for you because ‘I turned out alright’, or because of the way it made you feel, you have vowed NEVER to allow that to happen to your kids.
For various reasons you may find that you both feel very strongly about how a child should be disciplined, so there needs to be some deliberate conversation about what each of your standpoints are on this matter, so you can decide how to handle it before the situation presents itself.
Rule #1 – Do not criticise your partner’s approach. There are reasons why they want to parent that way. I’m not saying you can’t disagree with it. I’m saying that if you criticise it outright, you are going to lose their willingness to discuss the issue at all. No one is ever going to be open to negotiations and compromise when they feel judged, ridiculed, put down or made out to be wrong when they believe they are right!
Rule #2 – You need to get an understanding of the reasons why each of you believe your discipline method is the ‘right’ way. When you understand each other’s points of view and where you’re coming from, you may discover that the reason they are so adamant to parent that way, may be from a past hurt that has been experienced, and compassion can be factored into the equation when discussing this issue.
Rule #3 – Get clear on what you’re both wanting. There is one reason why each parent feels so strongly that their way is the right way – because they BOTH want what is best for their kids! They BOTH want to raise happy, independent adults able to cope in the world. Both parents are doing the best they can with the information they have.
Perhaps start by answering this question individually:
“If our child grows up to be ____________, I will be happy that I’ve done a great job.”
(Fill in the blanks to gauge what you each want for your children. I bet your answers have the same theme or similar ones).
Rule #4 - Educate yourself on specifically tried and tested alternatives to what you are both doing, if you feel it is detrimental to your child to continue the current way. If you want to try something else, don’t go to your partner with ‘you’re wrong and I’m right’. Go to them with ‘what if we tried this instead. Are you willing to give this a shot if it meant we were able to reach the same goal?’
Rule #5 – When implementing your new technique, run with it for an agreed period of time. If it doesn’t work within that time frame, then agree on trying another one for another period of time. It may be that you need to try your partner’s technique of discipline to really see if it works, or that he may need to give your method a try for a while and wait for the results.
At this point, because you’ve not criticised your partner’s stand point, but took the approach of understanding it and understanding the objective, it’s likely that your partner is going to be more open to trying something new, if it is promising the same results. Chances are if the technique they are using is causing conflict, if they new a better way to get the same result, they’re probably likely to be open to it.
Rule #6 – What if your partner isn’t open to it, even though you’ve found a better way? Try drawing upon the knowledge you have of their upbringing and ask questions like, “When your parents did ‘x’, how did that make you feel? If your child was feeling that way when you do that, would you want to know and change it?” or “What didn’t you like about how your parents handled things and what would you want to do differently?” Or “Sometimes my parent’s approach used to make me feel ‘x’, did your parents ever make you feel crap to teach you a lesson? If there was another way to teach that lesson would you rather they used that instead?”
What you’re trying to do here is marry up their pain that they don’t want to repeat in their children, with your alternative solution, without making them feel bad for repeating their parents mistakes (which is often what they’ve unknowingly done).
You’re just asking the questions. They are the ones who are joining the dots. You may need to have these conversations separately to discussing the new technique. Let it sit for a bit and then come back and say, “hey, I found this new technique that’s meant to teach kids…… wanna try it? It might help us get to …… instead of US (include yourself, don’t blame) getting cranky all the time.”
Rule #7 - Be very aware of why YOU are disciplining your child when you do. Are you trying to be right, or are you trying to control and get them to obey you? Or are you trying to teach them social and moral boundaries and respect for others? Discuss with your partner what your intentions are when administering your type of discipline. Discuss how your method effectively creates the education that your child needs, that you both want your child to have, and get your partner to do the same.
Rule #8 - Put yourself in your child’s shoes or help your partner do the same (again without criticising). How do they feel when they are receiving this method of discipline? How would you feel, if as an adult, you received this kind of approach from a work colleague or a friend or loved one? Now think about it from a young ignorant child who’s brain you are literally writing upon so that they hold onto these beliefs about self-worth for life (unless they actively work to change them). If you think they are feeling hurt, humiliated, not loved by either parent, or getting literally physically or emotionally scarred, then another method must be found.
Which brings me to the next rule…
Rule #9 - You as a parent must also feel that your child is well loved and taken care of. If for any reason you feel that your child is being abused either physically, mentally, sexually or emotionally then in my opinion, there is no negotiation. This is a deal breaker and you need to get your child away from that situation straight away. If you cannot get your partner to change their behaviour from administering discipline in this way, then it is your responsibility to help your child get away from that cycle, as this is against the law and VERY damaging for your child!
All relationships are complicated. There’s no one way to align on your parenting. There’s no one way to parent. It’s about communication, respecting the other parent’s beliefs, values, morals and how they too want THEIR child to be raised too. It’s not just about you.
Don’t think that just because they’re not doing it your way that it’s the wrong way. Sometimes they have knowledge that you don’t. Look to who they are as a person for how they might be able to raise their children. I remember my husband being a little harsher to my kids than I would have liked. I remember arguing with my husband about how he approached it. Keep in mind that it wasn’t physical or nasty, it was just harsh. I would have preferred a lovely chat about it over a hot chocolate, lol.
I vividly remember my husband say to me… “Jac, school is tough for boys. I’ve been a boy. I know what it’s like. You need to trust me that I know how to raise my boys and I have a different approach that’s going to help them that isn’t going to be a female way of doing things, but it’s a way that’s going to help them.”
I looked at the man my husband was – strong, balanced emotionally, kind, rational, assertive when he needed to be, permissive when he needed to be, non-confrontational, polite and more. I loved the man that he was and what he stood for. I stepped back more.
Sometimes I had to recognise that he had parenting skills too and my way wasn’t necessarily the right way.
Perhaps this might even be rule #10, or at least the #10 perspective to consider when thinking about the way you discipline your child.
At the end of the day, like everything in your relationship, you need to have a discussion and align on a decision. Try something different and see if it works. This is not a right and wrong game, it’s a trial and error one.
Every child is different, as we know, and you may go through a few discipline techniques before you find the one that works for your child. The key is to stay aligned with each other.
Discipline fails when two parents are not providing a united front for their kids. Never undermine each other, but if you have a problem, then fix it at a separate time when the kids aren’t around. Kids are very perceptive about when parents are unaligned and will exploit that whenever they can.
The whole point to keep in mind when handling issues that arise within a relationship, is that this is a team effort – your partner is NOT the enemy.
You cannot handle these issues in a selfish way, nor allow your partner to. You are two individuals that are integrating your lives and your beliefs, into a partnership that will allow you to be the individuals, couple and parents that you both desire to be. Even though the way you do this may be different, you can always negotiate how you can both get what you want and become a dynamic couple and a united front for your kids.
Once you start practicing communication without judgement, criticism, selfishness, ‘woe is me’, I’m right, you’re wrong, give me what I want or else, and begin communicating with compassion, respect for another person’s right to be happy and have an opinion, in the spirit of union, fairness, compromise and flexibility about how you achieve what you want, then you will start to see a more affectionate, united & happy relationship.
Now let’s face it, isn’t that what you are both trying to achieve?
It is so easy for men and women to misunderstand each other when they are talking because their love languages are so very different. Our interpretations of life are so very different, as we’ve been exploring.
So in this lesson, we’re going to turn the table and give you some specific tips for effectively communicating with men and/or women. This will be handy even to know for how you relate to your children.
Due to the format of this program, I have had to cull my usually longer list down to just six communication tips each, but there are plenty more that can help you, which I discuss in my Truce Program (more on that later).
These are the most important ones, I believe.
So here they are:
When communicating with women it is important to remember these key concepts, which we have discussed already in one way or another:
Her primal fear is that she is not lovable or that you don’t love her.
Before speaking ask yourself:
Is what I’m about to say going to come across as being unloving?
With that in mind, here are some other tips on how to effectively communicate with a woman:
Before speaking ask yourself:
Is what I’m about to say going to come across as being critical, disrespectful or unappreciative?
Here are your best tips for effective communication with a man.
Okay, time to take these bits and pieces out for a test drive. Like I mentioned, this is not an exhaustive list of ways to communicate with men and women, but there are some really important ones, and enough that should get you seeing even just the slightest shift in how you communicate with your partner and the response you get.
Keep in mind what your partner's wants, needs and insecurities are and help them feel good about themselves. This really is the core of making the shift to improve your relationship. If you’ve been having repetitive problems, then your partner likely has reference points of you being hurtful or critical, as do you.
Someone has to break the cycle!!
This is your chance to change his/her reference points and become aware of how much better things are when someone begins to break that ‘I’ll hurt you because you hurt me’ cycle.
Eleven years ago, I was a stay at home mum to a 2 year old and a 6 month old and I was a nightmare to live with.
It took me a while to realise it, but thank goodness I did, because I know my husband was certainly not game to tell me so at the time (although he will openly admit it now!).
You see, I was feeling like there was a gross imbalance in workload from what I had to do, compared to he had to do. I felt that I was too tired, overworked, overwhelmed, never got any me time, had to think of everything – what meals to cook, groceries to buy, sleep, eat and bath routines, housework, the business book keeping and marketing, arranging appointments, paying all the bills, basically thinking of everything to do with running the household.
And really, when we fast forward 11 years, not much has really changed in that department either.
When on earth was there any time for me?!!
Little did I know, that my husband was also feeling the pressures of life with two little children too.
Yes, he got to eat his lunch with little or no interruptions and he got left alone with his thoughts when commuting the 45minute drive to and from work, but what was he thinking during those times?
How tired HE was, having the kids wake him up (even though he wasn’t getting up to them) and then having to go and do a physical job with little sleep (then a shade sail installer) and whether he was going to have enough money to pay the bills (severe anxiety emerged from those worries), and how he was going to help the family get ahead.
He was thinking about how stressed I was and why he wasn’t able to make me happy anymore and if the truth be told, he was ‘effing’ over my whingeing and carrying on about all the chores I had to do and how tired I was.
He didn’t know how to help me anymore and to be honest he was dreading coming home to me because when he got home, he was handed a child, grunted at and told what to do (which he hated) and his day would end with falling asleep exhausted on the couch after the kids were in bed, dragging himself to bed, only to then get up at 4am and do it all over again.
Weekends, if he wasn’t working, involved taking care of the kids (his version of it – very different to mine), helping around the house (his version of helping), looking after the 1 acre yard and all that involves – pool cleaning, gardens, mowing, general maintenance, renovations etc. And listening to – as well as not knowing how to fix – his screaming, crying and tantrum driven children, and worn out wife.
Were either of us enjoying ourselves? I’m sure we were at times, but it all stacked up for both of us pretty quickly.
The point is, we both had our gripes. We were both under pressure. We both felt hard done by in our own ways, and had we not had good communication skills at that point, things could’ve been a whole lot worse.
Thankfully, out of my own overwhelm and eventually mental and emotional breakdown (but that’s another story), I began saturating myself with personal development information that forced me to take an objective, hard look at myself and also the relationship dynamics around me.
I quickly learnt what was causing so many of the arguments, disconnection and conflict that was starting to frequent our relationship, and I wanted to share them with you today, and over the next 9 days.
So where to start?
Well, the beginning is really all about YOU!
Now I know that you’re not going to like that very much because you know, you want your partner to change and when we have gripes with our partner, we’re in that point of view that they need to change as well, and that could very well be true.
So I’m not saying that you are the only person that needs to always change in the relationship.
Yes, the other side may need to change as well, but I’m only talking to you right now. I’m working with you, and you can only working with you. Because there is one thing you absolutely MUST do if you intend on getting anything out of this program. That is…
TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS
You cannot control your partner’s action, but you can always control yours. How you think, how you feel and how you act and react, is ALWAYS up to you. Mindset is going to be EVERYTHING if you wish to improve your relationship.
Don’t think about whether your partner is doing it or not, or whether they even should do it or not. Just YOU do it first and see what happens.
The mind will always find more and more evidence of what you have your attention on. So often, we get stuck viewpoints that only show us how bad we have it and how someone is doing something TO us. From this place, there are no solutions, there are no pathways out. We become victims of our circumstances and no changes occur. You’ve got to stop this. Now, I’m not talking about just accepting where you’re at and putting up with it, doing nothing about it. Far from it. I’m talking about the mindset that wants to do, what I call, ‘Roll in the mud’ and only whinges, complains, moans, judges, criticises, blames, and makes everything the fault of the other person. They’re doing ‘that’ TO ME.
You are a part of the relationship too, as we will be exploring, so you want to start taking responsibility for your part and thinking about how you can also become part of the solution, rather than stuck in the problem and how you ‘can’t do anything about it’.
Think in a solution focussed way instead. What do I want? How can I get it? Where is the answer here? Questions like that help the mind to be a lot more productive in getting results.
I remember at around 4pm every afternoon, making a mental list of all the shit things that had happened in my day, wrapping them up into a nice tight little mental ball, and throwing it right at Steve as he walked through the door so he could understand how hard I had it that day. As I stacked up these ‘shit things’, I would also get crankier and crankier.
We often stack until we crack with our partners and what we think they’re doing wrong, with our kids and how many times they’ve annoyed us or been naughty, or how many chores we need to do, or how much we’re not getting done, or how hard we’ve had it all of our lives because of bad experiences. We live our lives as if these bad things are the only things that have happened to us.
We continue to stack up these lists of negativity that cause us to feel angry, annoyed, tired, overwhelmed and more! Then we project that at our partners and become a nightmare to live with and they’re probably doing the same thing to you, but someone has to break the cycle and this is why we’re starting with you because you’re the one who’s doing the program. Today, become aware of when you do this and try to stop yourself from doing it and see if it makes a difference to how you feel and how you respond to your partner.
Your partner comments about how dirty the fan is. All of a sudden, that comment means that you’re not doing a good enough job at cleaning the house, you’re a shit parent and you’re not good enough at taking care of the family. You should be doing more than you are!
You create this whole story that just came from this one comment about a fan being dirty.
We assume that our partner’s comment = a personal judgement or an attack.
Does that sound familiar?
Recognise today how often you personalise or make assumptions about your partner’s comments or actions, when you really don’t know what’s going on inside their head.
Are you looking through old reference points you have of them, or making assumptions based on past behaviours or opinions your partner has had before? The mind loves to put things in boxes like that and it experiences as if it’s happening in real time, and often, it’s not!
We are ALL guilty of this one, because that’s how the brain thinks. It’s always thinking – what does this mean and what does it mean about me? It’s looking to understand a situation, so we can decide what to feel and do about it.
When we forget to look objectively at a situation or only view it through the filters of our beliefs and judgements, we can miss key information and solutions that create alignment in your relationship.
So today, your homework is to recognise these 4 mistakes that we make, and think about how you can stop yourself from making those mistakes today and moving forward. Take note of how much difference just this small effort makes to the usual outcome with your partner, or even with your kids.
Today’s lesson is all about personal responsibility and BEing the change you wish to see in your relationship.
There’s a lot of attention on how to eradicate the stigma that is attached to depression and mental health, but what about the stigma that is often attached to the idea of single parents, blended families or children of divorced parents?
There seems to be this underlying message that kids can’t thrive or are somewhat damaged if their parents can’t stay together, however this is often further from the truth.
The reality of raising children is that the messages they receive about life are what are important, not whether it matches some indoctrinated perception of a ‘right path’ life is supposed to follow, judged by society.
When we look at how life unfolds for everyone, we see that every single person on this planet experiences events that don’t go to plan and don’t reach the ideal of how we would have liked it.
If you stay in a relationship this results in a child learning certain things that lead them to experience ups and downs in their life.
Leaving a relationship will result in the child learning certain things that lead them to experience ups and downs in life, because the reality is, we ALL experience ups and downs, regardless of the direction life takes.
We want parents to see that circumstances don’t make a person happy, it’s their mindset that does.
Rather than continually focussing on kids having a pre-conceived ‘right life’ to aspire to, we need to educate our kids on how to handle any event in life.
In life, circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. Ways of living that we adapted to and have become our norm can be taken away from us at any time. A boss can sack you. A friend can decide that they don’t want to be friends or may do the wrong thing by you. In this case a parent can decide for whatever reason, that the current relationship they are having no longer works.
We need to teach our children:
For parents, we need to develop the skills to:
While there is a lot of work that may need to go into how these lessons get learnt and taught when a family separates, if you are to look at the basics of what I’m suggesting, you will see that all of these lessons and skills kids and parents need, are actually no different to what a married couple with kids need to learn too.
That’s because after a relationship breakdown between parents, life has changed, it isn’t damaged. Life is going in a different direction, not a wrong one.
This is going to happen in life and if we can equip our children with the skills to deal with those times in life, then the actual event of parents separating, can actually be an important lesson for a child to receive on many levels.
What’s needed for our children is an ability to handle life, whatever the event. Because life doesn’t go wrong, it just presents us with experiences from which to grow and learn.
Live, learn, share, grow, evolve. This is the purpose of life. We just need to show our children how to do this without stress, regardless of what the circumstances are, and then we will see children with a happy life, not just if mum and dad are together or not.
Firstly I’d want to ask whether she was okay - the traditional approach to seeing someone in distress like this.
After giving her a big fat hug, I would want to tell her that she was doing a great job and that this parenting gig is hard, despite any pre-conceived ideas that it wasn’t going to be.
I’d want to show her the many different parents I come across on a daily basis who feel exactly like her, so she could see that she wasn’t alone and her emotional struggles are NOT a reflection of her being a bad parent.
I’d want to help her to see how this is only small part of her experience as a mother, not the totality of it because I know personally and professionally that we can get consumed by these moments and see them as the only thing going on in your life.
I would want to teach this mother how to shift her mindset when she gets bogged down and help her to adopt three fundamental ways of pulling herself out of those emotional dark places when life doesn't go to plan.
I would teach her to entrench these messages into her habitual thoughts to take with her during the baby years, toddlers and beyond, so she doesn't get bogged down by the inevitable challenges of being a parent.
Here’s why these three mind shifts are really important when you have a baby in the house (whether you are a first time parent, or adding another child to your family).
What causes us the most stress in life, as well as parenting, is when we have attached ourselves to an idea, a picture of how we thought something was going to go.
Throughout the course of our lives we adopt all these ideas of what we anticipate will occur in our parenting experience.
We adopt this expectation at a time when we knew absolutely nothing about parenting at all.
Often we’ve gathered this primitive understanding from the way we were raised (“I’m so going to be like my parents!” Or “I’m going to be NOTHING like my parents”).
We observe other parents, we see cute kids on their best behaviour, we hold other babies, we see Huggies commercials and baby formulas where kids are at their best.
But nothing can prepare you for the reality of what parenting is actually like, because your picture came from misinformation – you weren’t looking at the whole picture.
The reality of parenting, especially a newborn and young child who's still learning about the ways of the world, is that there are going to be highs and lows. It won’t be all warm and fuzzy snuggles on the couch with your baby.
There’s going to be sore nipples, lack of sleep, messy house, whining or screaming, children throwing tantrums, complete overwhelm, and times where you don’t have a damn clue what you’re doing.
Which brings me to my next point.
When we start to realise the reality of being a parent to a baby/young child, we can very quickly get consumed by the difficulties to such a degree that we forget to enjoy the good times, and there are good times.
Our brains are geared to find evidence of what we have our attention on, so if you are only looking at the hard stuff, you won’t be seeing the easy, enjoyable stuff.
What about those times where you do get to snuggle that sleeping baby?
What about the times where you do look into your baby’s eyes and feel overwhelmed with love and are mesmerised by this little being that you created?
What about those times where the baby is sleeping and you did get the house clean or felt productive?
What about the times when your child said something or did something super cute?
Once you start to put your attention on all the highs, you start to realise that the difficulties do not define your parenting experience.
And the most important point to keep in mind for you ENTIRE parenting experience is DO NOT PERSONALISE YOUR CHILD'S BEHAVIOUR.
I fell into this trap myself and caused myself so much anguish and upset by believing that the challenges I had - breastfeeding and getting my baby to sleep - suddenly meant I was a bad parent.
Just like you sometimes tend to only see the bad in the parenting experience, sometimes we can get into a bad spiral of only seeing the bad in ourselves.
We inaccurately compare all our ‘failures’ to everyone else’s successes, when you have no idea what is going on for them in their lives.
Even if they aren’t going through difficulties with their children, that still doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. It just means that’s not their area of life they find difficult right now.
It is inevitable that we all have challenges in life. That never reflects self-worth. It just reflects life lessons and learning how to do certain things as a new skill.
Perhaps your strategy isn’t working with your child.
Perhaps there is another approach that might work better for your child.
But none of this means anything about your worth as a parent.
All it means is that the current strategy isn’t working and you need to find an alternative solution.
When parenting a child, especially a young one, we have to be really careful about the mindset you are approaching the highs and lows with, because it’s too easy to train the brain to only see the bad stuff and see it as a reflection of your self-worth or the quality of life.
And going down that hill repetitively, leads us to intense stress, emotion and even depression and anxiety.
Just like we spend time working out how to help bubs settle and feed in a healthy way, we may also need to spend some time learning how to settle our own emotions by working on our mindset and the way we see those challenges.
This too can not only effect how you feel about parenting, but also can ripple out to affect how settled your baby is.
As they say, happy mum = happy bub.
Having a baby is a massive transition, even if it isn’t your first. Be aware of how you are thinking and feeling about it and whether those thoughts/feelings are escalating to the point of effecting your experience with your child and reach out for help.
It’s okay to get assistance of those who have been there before.
And that’s exactly what the mum in the opening picture needs to know.