Defying Defiance

By Karen DeBolt | 14th Jun 2011 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, School help, Social Skills, Techniques

With the end of the school year drawing to a close, I have been getting lots of parents contacting me regarding their child’s defiance at school. Sometimes this is an ongoing problem, but often it seems to be escalating now or coming up for the first time. This doesn’t really surprise me. Defiance in children is often misunderstood as being about “willful disobedience” or about “trying to drive authority figures crazy” when that is very often not even close to what is going on in the child’s mind.

Allie (not a real child) is a bright and talented 9 year old who is often found starring out the window in the classroom and spinning in fast circles on the playground. Allie often struggles with back talking at home, but does usually doesn’t make a lot of waves at school. This week Allie began to refuse to do things that her teacher or playground attendants requested. She refused to come in from recess with the other children and had to be escorted back to the classroom, then she refused to work on the year end review worksheets that the teacher asked her to do.

What’s going on? 

Allie’s mom and dad were confused about why all the sudden Allie was having trouble at school and they worried that this would carry over to the new school year as well. In the moment, Allie would only answer an informative “I don’t know” with a frown and a shrug when asked about her behavior. Her teachers and parents were very concerned.

Putting on your detective hat 

Defiance can be somewhat complex to untangle at times because the causes are rarely what the adults in the child’s life might think. I find that the most helpful way to think about it is that the child is doing the best that she can in the moment, but is feeling too overwhelmed to do what is asked. This overwhelm can be caused by a myriad of things. Here are some ideas of things your child might say or do to give you some clues.

Anxiety/Perfectionism: “I don’t know how!” “I can’t do it right.” “Its too hard.” “You do it.” “I can’t do it without <the certain color crayon or other supply>”

Sensory Overload: “Its <too loud>, <smells bad>, <that this tag hurts>” Child may hold ears or nose or other sensing organ for protection. Child may bang head, bang into walls(sensory seeking), may shut down, flap hands, or stiffen fingers (sensory defensive)

Emotional: “She did it on purpose!” Uncontrolled emotional outbursts of crying or yelling over things that seem small to others. Holding onto grudges.

Social Skills: May not recognize authority of teachers, parents, etc. Might be upset over a perceived slight or even a righteous bullying experience. Only sees her own point of view and cannot understand another person’s point of view.

Executive functioning: May be overwhelmed with other responsibilities or perceived responsibilities and unable to properly prioritize.

These will hopefully give you some places to start in exploring with your child her reasons for not doing what she has been told to do. As your child becomes more self aware and better able to communicate her needs she will be able to express her reasons for refusing so that problem solving will become easier for both of you. The key is to ask with empathy so that she more likely to communicate with you and then you can begin problem solving.

Now what? 

Once Allie’s parents were able to have calm information gathering session with Allie they found out a few things that they did not know before. Allie had problems with some girls on the playground and she was very upset about that situation, so that is why she was refusing to come in from the playground and return to class where those girls were. Allie’s parents informed the teacher who did some work with Allie and these girls to help them work out their problems.

So Allie was getting hit from many sides at once which went a long way towards her “defiance.” Allie was having strong emotions regarding the problem with her classmates on the playground. Allie was also feeling that she was not able to do the work in the class room perfectly due to her upset, so she refused to do that as well.

Can you see how punishing Allie for “defiance” would not be helpful in changing her behavior? Through understanding and problem solving, you will be able to help your child to learn how to communicate her needs and problem solve rather than just shutting down and yelling “NO!”

This will take some work, but in the long run you will have a stronger relationship with your child and your child will become skilled at problem solving and self advocating which is bound to build self esteem as well.

 

Its a big win for both of you!

 

Sounds great? or think I’m all wet? Let me know by leaving a comment.

 

 

 

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Vitamin N Improves Behavior

By Karen DeBolt | 18th Apr 2011 | Filed under Family Rituals, Parenting, Personal, Reflections, Relationships, Self Care, Techniques

I feel very fortunate to live in an area where nature is
very close, yet it is so easy to forget to go out and enjoy
it. I get so busy that I forget to smell the freshly mown
grass or forget to go over to the local woods for a nice
walk. This lack of being in nature or “vitamin N” can
really start to make us feel crumby after a while.

This is especially true for children who get stuck watching
TV or playing their favorite videogames. Its not like when
I was little and my mom would just say, “Go outside!” and I
would hang out with the neighborhood kids riding bikes or
skating. Our modern world seems to be full of a lot more
worries now.

Lessons from Day Camp

Yet, this vitamin N deficiency really does affect our
children’s behavior in a negative way. During our Summer
Day Camps, we have learned that taking a hike in nature
every single day means that the afternoon activities go
well. Even just going to a playground doesn’t quite work in
the same way. There’s something special about mindfully
walking looking for living creatures to show to each other.
Our campers would be able to focus better and control their
emotions better after taking a hike.

So take this as a reminder to get your Vitamin N this week,
both for yourself and for your child.

And, if you are still thinking about whether to sign up for
Whiz Kid Summer Day Camp then now is the time. We have a
few different options to choose from a 5 week two day a
week camp and a traditional one week Camp for each boys and
girls. All the details are here:

http://www.socialwhizkids.com/services/camp

Please don’t delay if this is something that you think would
be a good fit for your family! We have 3 more spots available
in August and 4 in June/July.

Check out the link or feel free to give me a call at
503-459-2073 to get started.

All the best,  Karen

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Social Skills: Leader or Troublemaker?

By Karen DeBolt | 16th Mar 2011 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Social Skills, Techniques

Lately, I have been working with several young men in my Whiz Kid after school program  who are natural born leaders. They have great ideas, they have strong opinions about how things should be done. And unfortunately, they are often in trouble at home and at school for these very same traits. It may be  highly annoying for parents and teachers to have to deal with a child who doesn’t blindly follow the rules, who has their own opinions, and is very willing to blurt out what they truly think at any given moment.

While I can relate to how hard it can be sometimes, these very same traits are what makes a great leader! So the child who tries to take over the classroom, then gets sent to the principal isn’t necessarily learning how to focus that brightness into being a great leader and instead is being constantly invalidated for being a “troublemaker.” Do we really want to squash those leadership qualities out of them and risk more problems down the road like poor self esteem, depression, and anxiety?

Of course not!

So while we as parents cannot always control what goes on at school, we can make some changes at home that will build leadership skills rather than squash them. Here are some ideas and I would love to hear yours.

 

  1. Give your child opportunities to be in charge of planning an event. Obviously, you are not going to start with Thanksgiving Dinner, but how about planning a family game night? Allow your child to think about what is needed, what would have to be obtained, when it would be held. Let your child create invitations, put together the snacks that the guests will enjoy, and pick out a variety of games that will be fun for those who are invited..
  2. When your child starts to take control of a situation, use your collaborative problem solving skills to put your concerns and your child’s concerns on the table. This teaches problem solving skills.
  3. When your child is in a leadership role, teach him or her perspective taking. Its critically important for leaders to take the opinions and feelings of others into consideration. This includes parents, teachers, peers, etc.
  4. When your child comes up with a “wild idea” rather than dismiss it out of hand, help your child to consider all the ramifications of implementation. Big picture thinkers must be able to see the challenges as well as the rewards of their ideas.

 

I know that all of this takes more time than just having a child who obeys us without question, but remember that you are building a leader. Who knows, you may have the next CEO of a major corporation on your hands. Give your child the tools to succeed.

 

Whiz Kid Club – Spring sessions

If your little leader is having a hard time with perspective taking, controlling behaviors, and other sorts of trouble making that keep him or her from being successful at school and at home, you might want to consider enrolling him in Whiz Kid Club. Whiz Kid Club is a social skills training program held after school that teaches children how to make and keep friends, control impulses that get them into trouble the most, and best of all its really fun! Check out the website for all the details then fill out the form at the bottom of the page to get started or feel free to call Karen at 503-459-2073.

Summer Day Camp Dates are Set!

I know it may seem way too early to think about Day Camp, but with our small group sizes, its really important to get on it if this is something you are interested in signing up for this year. We are doing three camps this year. One week for boys August 1st to 5th and one week for girls August 15th to 19th. We are also doing a new program this year which will be a two day a week camp over a five week period from June 21st to July 20th 9 am to noon. We are hoping that this will work for families who want a little more structure to Summer, but still freedom for weekend getaways. Check out all the details on the website and see if one of these programs is right for your child.

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Keeping things golden for the holidays

By Karen DeBolt | 22nd Nov 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Techniques

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful to give you all a new tool to use to help your child to avoid getting in trouble, having anxiety attacks, and even melt downs. I developed this idea with my husband and we call it the Golden Triangle of good behavior. The Golden Triangle is a tool that you can use to evaluate what is going on with your child before trouble starts and then make changes that will hopefully help your child to feel better and so behave better as well.

In order for a child or adult for that matter, to feel good and therefore behave at their best, there needs to be a good balance of two areas. When these are in balance, then your child is inside the Golden Triangle.

  1. Basic needs: hunger, thirst, sleep, safe, warm, free of discomfort
  2. A good balance of stimulation – not too much and not too little

These two areas interact to create either a focused, happy, well behaved child or a perfect storm of trouble! The key is to get the needs met to the degree possible so that the child is within the Golden Triangle and avoid being in the outside areas of unmet needs. Let’s talk more about each area and what happens when they are not in balance.

Feed me now!

When a person’s basic needs are not met, they are uncomfortable or even in pain. No one is at their best under those circumstances. Your child might also have the added difficulty of being unable to identify which of these things or combination of things are needed. I think that lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems and can cause a child to be hyperactive (trying to stay alert) have difficulty focusing on any one thing, and of course may become extremely grumpy. Yet, he’s not sleepy when its time for bed again because he is coping with that feeling by excessively moving around.

Hunger is another one that can cause big problems if it is not caught quickly enough. When my son is overly hungry, he will often become very demanding and grouchy, but sometimes he is not able to say “I’m hungry,” much less go into the kitchen and get a snack or make a sandwich especially when he is way over hungry. When he is mildly hungry these things are a possibility, but when he’s too far gone his communication skills go out the window.

“I’m Bored”

Under stimulation is another area that can cause children to get into trouble quick. When a child is not effectively engaged, trouble will often follow. This may be in the form of impulsive behavior either due to seeking stimulation or seeking trouble which will also have a consequence of a negative reaction– yelling and punishment give a lot of stimulation even if it is the negative kind! You may see hyperactivity in an effort to stimulate the brain. You might experience that glorious state called whining where your child will say “I’m bored.” in that grating whiny tone that all parents love so much (NOT)

In other words, being under stimulated is likely to cause trouble with a capital “T” and that is no fun for anybody.

Stop the world I want to get off!

By the same token, over stimulation leads to overwhelm, anxiety, and defiance. When there is too much stimulation, a child’s nervous system begins to send a signal to slow things down. This will often result in a child who says “No!” to any request or will perseverate about a particular detail in an effort to feel more in control. Too much over stimulation can lead to other problems like depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and oppositional defiant disorder.

So what do I do?

If your child is out of balance in one or more area either with a basic need or with his level of stimulation, then it is time to make a shift that will put your child back into balance. The tricky part is often figuring out the problem. So this is a good time to put on your detective hat and start asking some questions. Are you hungry? Did you sleep well last night? Are you feeling lonely? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you bored right now?

These types of questions will help to get down to the basic needs and to the stimulation factors. Another way is to make it very open ended and just say, “I notice that you are (insert annoying behavior here.) What’s up with that?” This leaves it wide open for your child to talk about anything that is going on for him or her in the moment.

Once you have an idea about what the need is, then the real work begins—problem solving to get the need met. Sometimes you will only be able to take the edge off due to time constraints or other obstacles, but that may be enough to nudge your child back into the Golden Triangle where he or she is able to behave well again.

Here is a Golden Triangle worksheet in PDF format that will guide you to better understand what needs your child has right now.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes on the blog!

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

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Your Child is like a thermometer

By Karen DeBolt | 6th Oct 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, Self Care

Have you ever noticed that on days that you are the most stressed out that is usually the day that your child is driving you the most crazy? She may be in slow motion getting ready for school, or he might be more defiant than usual. Just when you really need a little peace that is when you are often the least likely to get it.

What the heck?!

While it may seem like the world is conspiring to drive you nuts and sometimes it really does feel like that. In truth, we as parents sometimes allow ourselves to get depleted on our energy reserves. I am as guilty of this as anyone, and I see it all the time in the parents that I work with. Whenever you get depleted, your child will also get depleted because you are not able to give as much as you normally do when you have more energy in reserve.

In other words, your child can be like a thermometer for how you feel. So if you start noticing that your child is more needy than usual, you might want to take a look in a mirror and see how needy you are.

What me needy?

You may have life stressors involving grown up problems like finances, job stress, relationship problems. Not only that, but you don’t give yourself the time for self care so you end up running on empty. That good old puritan ethic that we were all taught as children that work must be done before we can play had a place, but in the end sometimes that advice actually makes things worse for us.

If we are depleted, then we go and do more depleting activities (cleaning the house, paying bills) then we will continue to go down into negativity. What would happen if instead you did something that would bring you up and make you feel nourished and energized? Then when you do the depleting activities it doesn’t feel so bad because you were in a higher spot to begin with.

But if I play first, then I’ll feel guilty

You might at first because all those years of programming are not going to just suddenly disappear. You will still hear those voices saying things like: “You are being so irresponsible right now!” “I can’t believe you did do XXX before going to have fun!” “Who do you think you are?”

I encouraged you to remember that when you do choose to do those things that nurture you that you will:

• Have more patience
• Yell less
• Be better able to problem solve
• Enjoy your child more

That ought to quiet those voices down quite a bit!

Now if you are not sure what you should do, I would recommend sitting down writing a list of all the activities that nourish and energize you. What helps you to feel good–body, mind, and soul? When you have even 15 minutes to spare, you can pull out your list and do something on it or at least plan something on it. Sometimes it helps to just know that something is planned.

I KNOW this is hard for a lot of you as it is hard for me, but it is SO important for your health, your child’s health, and the health of your relationship.

If you need ideas, email me!

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Autumn is the time to put on the teflon suit

By Karen DeBolt | 15th Sep 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, Techniques

Autumn is in the air. This is one of my favorite times of the year. I grew up in an area where we only had two seasons, so I really treasure this time of year. The crisp air, the smell of burning leaves, and the gorgeous foliage put a smile on my face. Of course, this is also the beginning of a new school year which brings with it many hopes that things will go better this year and worries that the phone will ring with the school’s number on my caller ID. I know many of you have those same hopes and fears.

Luckily for me, my son has the same teachers this year for the most part, so I know what to expect and have a good working relationship with them which is a relief. One of the things that I have had to learn over the years is that I cannot allow myself or other people to put my son’s challenging behaviors on me. I have had to put on my teflon suit and deal with frustrated teachers, scolding principals, and  well meaning school counselors that don’t understand what I have been through with my son or how much effort I put into parenting him. How could they know?

So how can you put on your teflon suit?

Here are some ideas to help you to communicate with the other people in your child’s life who
are also struggling with his behavior.

  1. Avoid getting defensive, remind yourself that they do not know you well, so take their comments with a grain of salt.
  2. Provide them with some empathy for their frustrations. I find that this will completely disarm a lot of difficult conversations.
  3. Ask the other person what they would recommend that you do. (I did this one time and found out that the teacher did not know that we were in counseling even though I was sure that we had talked about it in the IEP. Once she knew, she understood better how hard we were working on things and became very helpful.)

Of course, none of this will work, if you are also blaming yourself for your child’s behavior. This will make those judgmental comments more likely to stick. Your child’s behavior is not your fault! That is not to say that there is nothing left to learn–there’s always more to learn.

If you feel confident about yourself, it will be easier to let those jabs slide right off.

Have you felt the need for a Teflon suit? Found a good tip for coping? Please comment below!

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Social Skills: Harder to do at the speed of life

By Karen DeBolt | 31st Jul 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Social Skills

 I have been very busy doing social skills assessments this summer, and I am learning so much! The assessment that I’m using is a modified version of the one detailed in Michelle Garcia Winner’s book “Thinking about you thinking about me. 2nd edition” The assessment covers skills such as the ability to: 

  1. ask for help
  2. manage mild frustration.
  3. read social situations from photos
  4. sequence events to tell a story
  5. understand the main idea of a story
  6. maintain appropriate eye contact
  7. answer questions fully and on topic
  8. make inferences about relationships observed
  9. do the social fake (i.e. seem interested when you really are not)
  10. show curiosity by asking questions of another person
  11. understand the concept that where someone is looking gives us clues as to what they are thinking about.

 Every child that I assessed so far was able to do somethings well and struggled with others. Some kids appeared to be able to do most of the activities well, but their parents stated that they were not able to read social cues well at all. When I was able to observe these children at camp, I found that they were not able to to do this in real time even though they did well during the assessment. This really drove home the importance of observation in a natural setting. Social situations happen so fast that a child who struggles may completely miss something if there is a lot of input going on all at once.

 For example, if a child is telling the same story for the fifth or sixth time and another child rolls his eyes. The teller of the story may completely miss that very subtle, but meaningful, gesture especially if there is a lot of background noise, if the story is particularly engrossing to the storyteller, or if the storyteller’s eyes are roaming around rather than using appropriate eye contact. Yet this same storyteller may have been able to look at a scenario on a card and correctly read the situations in my quiet office with few distractions.

 I believe that by teaching these skills in various situations that children can begin to improve on their social skills over time even under trying, real life situations—like summer day camp! It will take patience and persistence over time, but I believe that it is so worth it.

Explorer’s Day Camp – See the new dates!

We still have two slots available for day  camp for 5 to 6 year old children.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to cancel our original dates and rescheduled it for the very end of summer. This is a great opportunity to get your little ones some basic social skills in time for school to start again. All the details are on the website . Check it out then fill out the form at the bottom, and I’ll call you to set up the assessment.

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Defiance: What causes it and what to do about it.

By Karen DeBolt | 10th May 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Techniques

 Videogame versus Homework

So, 10 year old John is sitting in front of the video game as usual. He’s making those frustrated sounds he makes when things are not going his way in the game. Mom realizes that it’s time for him to start his homework, so she says, “Hey, time to start your homework.”

Mom hears no response. It is as though she never said a word. So, she says, louder this time, “Homework time! Save your game.” This time he says “Wait a minute! I can’t stop now until I beat this boss, mom!”

Mom is reasonable so she says, “Okay five minutes, then you need to come do homework.” He says with some attitude “Whatever!” Now mom is starting to lose her patience. “Hey, I said five minutes. No attitude or the game goes off now!” He is silent this time.

In five minutes or maybe more if mom got distracted doing something else, she goes back to see that he is still playing, and now he is obviously doing something else—in other words he’s finished with the boss and is now doing something else. This time Mom says quite loudly lest he doesn’t “hear” her again. “John Michael turn that off now! Right this minute young man!” He says “No! Mom you are so mean all the time! Why are you yelling at me?”

By this time, mom has completely lost her own temper. . . Eventually, the video game is turned off and the homework gets done, but mom is angry, John is angry, and mom is wondering what the heck is wrong that she can’t get her child to do anything without have a battle royale.

What the heck?

There are some very specific reasons why some children are more likely to be defiant than others. These things have very little to do with a specific diagnosis although there are a few that seem to pop up frequently—ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mood Disorders, but there are plenty of kids who would not fit a particular diagnostic category yet are extremely hard to parent due to almost constant defiance. These particular challenges involve a set of skills called Executive Functions which are delayed or completely missing.

Executive Functions

Executive Functions are a series of skills that help a person to organize their lives. This includes things like time management, prioritizing tasks, organizing, transitions, and impulse control. So what do these skills have to do with your child being defiant? Basically, if a task is needing one or more of these skills then that task is going to be more challenging for your child which may cause him to refuse rather than make the huge effort necessary to accomplish this task that seems easy to you and me.

Let’s go back to our video gamer who is refusing to do his homework. There are several Executive Functions in play here.

Time management – John doesn’t realize how long 5 minutes is, and he may be under estimating how long it will take to do his homework so he doesn’t understand his mom’s urgency.
Prioritization – John doesn’t prioritize his mother’s feelings, his homework, and his winning of the game he is playing in a way that works well for his life. The game will be there the next day and the day after that, but the homework is due tomorrow.
Transitions – John has a very hard time transitioning from a very pleasurable activity to a not so pleasurable activity like homework.
Impulse Control – John allowed himself to say to his mom “Whatever!” when she made a request of him. Most people have thoughts like these all the time, but John has a hard time not saying them out loud. It’s like a filter is missing.

All of these functions are necessary just to get from game play to homework. Actually, completing homework takes all of these and even more!

So how do I help my child?

While these challenges may be life long, it is possible with some specific interventions to help children to learn ways to cope with their challenges so that they are not so difficult. In the above example here are some ways that mom could have set things up differently that would have made things quite a bit easier.

  • Rather than call out from another room – go and touch him on the shoulder, use his name and in a calm voice say exactly what you expect him to do and when. For example, “John, I want you to finish with this boss, then turn off your game and come to the table to start homework.”
  • Using a timer – by using a timer, your child doesn’t need any reminders from you—when the alarm goes off that’s it. It takes you out of the loop and puts the control back on him.
  • When he begins to move in the right direction, then use a specific praise statement to acknowledge that he is doing what you asked him to do. “John! You turned off your game! Way to go! (Give a high five)
  • If this is still not completely resolving the problem, then have a heart to heart discussion when you are both calm about your concerns and encourage him to talk to you about his concerns, and then see if you can come to an agreement. “John, I expected you to do A, B, and C, but that did not happen. What’s up with that?”

Staying calm

The hardest part, but one of the most important parts is to remain calm. Remember that your child is doing his best right now even if that best is not what you would hope for at this point. By remaining calm, you will send a message to your child that you are in control, that you care about him, and most importantly you will be creating a better relationship with your child.

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Holiday Wishes

By Karen DeBolt | 18th Dec 2009 | Filed under Family Rituals, Relationships, Self Care

Here is wishing you and yours a happy holiday season filled with love and laughter.
 
Well, I don’t know about you, but we are in full swing around here. I have attended 4 out of 5 choir concerts (All three of my kiddos are in choir!)  this season and have been trying to organize the special meals and celebrations to come. I was beginning to feel frazzeled already!I got this message from Rena Hatch who is a Life Coach and truly a maven of self care that really helped me get back into focus on what is important.Check out her message about how her cat inspired her thoughts on self care for the holiday season.  Cats really are pretty wise! :) All the best,

Karen DeBolt, MA
Parent Coach and Family Therapist
http://www.counselingformoms.com
503-459-2073

Helping families struggling with chaos at home to raise happy, successful children.

placeholder image

Okay the hat has got to go!

Photo by Delina on Flickr

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Fighting Fair

By Karen DeBolt | 8th Nov 2009 | Filed under Relationships

As miserable as fighting with your partner/spouse can be at times, it is not necessarily a red flag for your relationship. Everyone fights from time to time, but if the fights are very intense or very frequent or never seem to come to a resolution, then it might be time to take a look at the way you fight rather than on just what you are fighting about. There are several ways that the way you fight can actually cause even more problems that the original disagreement.

Here are a few:

Kitchen sink fighting

Do you find that when you are in an argument that one or both of you bring up past mistakes, past hurts, or other unresolved conflicts? I call this Kitchen Sink fighting because you are bringing in everything but the kitchen sink—heck I think my ex-husband did bring up the kitchen sink in one of our fights long ago, but I digress.

Hostage taking

Another way of fighting that is counter productive to resolution is to hold your partner hostage. Many times one partner will need to take a break to calm down and to collect his or her thoughts before continuing with an argument. However, the other partner will insist that the fight needs to happen right now and will not allow the other partner to leave or take a break. This will often cause either an escalation of the fight at hand or it will cause the partner who needs the break to agree to anything to just get out of the situation. Either scenario means that true resolution is not going to happen and not only that resentment is going to build up. The hostage taker will win every battle, but ultimately will often lose the war. . .

So what do we do?

The key to good fighting is to set up some ground rules ahead of time when things are calm. Here are some ideas for good rules to put in place before your next disagreement.

  1. Take turns talking and listening—use an object to let the other person who when you are done talking and are ready to start listening. This will eliminate interrupting each other and will hopefully encourage calm listening by both parties.
  2. Keep to the topic at hand—don’t bring in that kitchen sink!
  3. Avoid absolutes—using words like “always” and “never” are a sure sign that you may be bringing in old wounds rather than keeping to the topic at hand in the here and now. Old wounds mean more intense emotions that may not fit with what is happening right now.
  4. Take a break—if one partner asks for a break, then the other partner will honor that. This doesn’t mean that the fight is over and that everything is fine now. This means one partner needs some time and will say when he or she is ready to continue. The partner who is ready to go now needs to have a back up plan for how to cope with waiting like calling a friend, journal writing, or doing spiritual practice.
  5. Give each other the benefit of the doubt—If you just met your partner, you would probably give him or her the benefit of the doubt. By staying as calm as possible and asking clarifying questions you may find that there is nothing to fight about after all.

By using rules like these in your fights, you may find that your arguments are shorter, less intense, and best of all come to a resolution. Don’t be limited by these rules either, come up with rules that work for the two of you are your particular situation. Remember if you are still having trouble that talking to a counselor can be very helpful.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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