Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Reconciling the gap between the inner and the outer societal rules and values

When our “outside societal rules and values” are different to our “inner rules and values”, it creates stress and tension. This is a real challenge for us. Often, we may not even know what those inner rules and values are, but when it’s different to the “outer world rules and values”, it simply doesn’t feel right or make sense to us. 

This gap will general create a lot of stress and tension for us as we try to reconcile our “outer world perception” with our inner ones. The bigger the gap, the bigger the stress. The stress and tension will then spread to many other areas of our lives, if we are not aware. Counseling is to help us reconcile this gap. It’s a bit like updating our Windows or firmware.

So how do we do that?

1. Firstly, we need to identify what those inner rules and values are.

2. Find, or upskill and change the outer world so that it’s more in line with our inner rules and values.

3. We need to defuse, change, update or refine our inner rules and values to reconcile with our outer world.

4. Or a combination of the above to find that “sweet spot”, although it may be very elusive and ever changing.

So have you updated your windows recently?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

5 simple tips on how to improve our relationship and connection with our children

In parenting, sometimes we can be so focused on the behavioral management, that we can forget to work on the connection and relationship with our children. There are a number of simple ways to improve the connection with our children as described in TripleP (Positive Parenting Program), and the 5 Love Languages. There are significant overlaps. 

1. Provide frequent quality time for our children. The principle here is frequent and shorter duration is better than rare and longer duration. Quality is about being present for the child. So when our children show us something, we then fully engage with them, and be present with them. This is of course not easy in this day and age. If this is done frequently, even for a short one or two minutes, it’s probably better than that once in a while beach holiday or overseas trip.

2. Show frequent physical affection for our children. A simple hug, high five, or a pat on the shoulder. We acknowledge that some kids are less physical than others.

3. Help and support our children, and be mindful of frequent opportunities to teach and encourage learning.

4. Using words of acknowledgement, and descriptive praises to encourage certain values that they want to cultivate in their family. A simple example is, thank you for being so kind and considerate to your sister, instead of simply, good boy.

5. Appropriate gifts and rewards are effective to connect and initiate wanted behaviours, but in order for the behaviour to be more sustainable, it must be done intermittently.

Improving the connection with our children, will reduce stress and the “fight or flight” responses, which will in turn reduce the need for behavioral management.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How to be aware and shift our dialogue to improve our relationships

In couple counseling and conflict resolution, it’s often to see the following dialogue examples between person A with “Filter A”, and person B with “Filter B”. “Filters” represent our values, beliefs, and past experiences in the diagram above. 

Person A says, “It’s a square”.

Person B says, “It’s a rectangle”.

Person A says, “I don’t know why you keep saying it’s a rectangle when it’s a clearly a square.”

Person A says, “I can see why you say it’s a rectangle, but you are wrong. It’s a square.”

In couple counseling and conflict resolution, we try to shift the above dialogue to....

“Okay, so you see it as a rectangle. Can you tell me more so that I can understand?”

“I can see why it seems like a rectangle to you, AND at the same time, I see it as a square. I wonder how we can move forward with that?”

“Ahh, it’s a prism, and we are both correct in our own way.”

“Okay, so in this context, which way of seeing is the most helpful?”

Coaching couples to be more defuse, present, and more acknowledging of the other person’s perspective, rather than being critical/defensive/avoidant, is key in conflict resolution. It’s not easy of course, with our strong fight or flight response. It’s only human. Awareness, patience, and practice, will help our relationships move towards positive change.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Beware of the escalation trap in parenting

One of the most common pitfall for all parents is the “escalation trap”.

We ask the child to do something. They ignore or refuse. We escalate. They escalate. We escalate. They escalate. At the end, we may give in with an “accidental reward”, or they may give in this time.

The question is, what are they learning from this, and what are we as parents, learning from this.

They are learning that we are not serious until we escalate.

We are learning that they are not going to listen until we escalate.

So if that is what we are learning, and that’s what they are learning, it’s probably not going to get better.

Part of parenting skill training is to equip parents with strategies to prevent this escalation trap.

So what principles and strategies can we use to help parents with this?

1. Start with simply being aware of the above. Awareness is the first step to change.

2. Work on connection/relationship because this is foundational in parenting. When the relationship, connection and attachment are good, boundary setting is going to be much more effective and easier to implement.

3. Consider shaping behaviour by rewarding and giving attention to the behaviours we want, and active ignoring of the behaviours that we don’t want (as long as they are not dangerous). If not careful, we tend to do the reverse. Part of reward can be a simple “descriptive” praise for behaviors and values that you want to cultivate in our family. For example, good boy for being so patient and kind to your sister, rather than simply, “good boy”. Be mindful of what they are doing well and acknowledge those, rather than just pointing out the “bad stuff”.

4. Consider using behavioral strategies from TripleP like quiet time and time out, or the 1,2,3, and consequence from 123Magic may assist, although the delivery must be done correctly.

5. Or cultivate more “mindful” parenting in line with the theme of Circle of Security. Provide them with their needs for safety, stability, unconditional love/connection, and the opportunities for growth/learning. Use “time out” for both parent and child if required for defusion/reflection, but remember to go back to “time in” to empathize, teach, coach, accept/own our mistakes, make things right, and most importantly, rebuild the connection.

Parenting is definitely one of hardest job in the world, and at the same time, can be most rewarding as well.  Please consider speaking to your Family Doctor or Mental Health Professionals, if you have struggles in this area.