Working with Toddlers: Scene One

This morning my almost three year old found the “pupcake” pan.

Well, it was empty and therefore needing filling, and what better way to complete that task than to find a bunch of little things to sort into the empty cups!

We decided on rocks, as we have a large amount of them currently in what we are calling our backyard (that is all rock).

Bugs and I went out on a hunt for the most interesting, most lovely, most colorable rocks.  A few minutes later, she had a basket (actually it was Kevin’s nest – Kevin is her most favorite bird) full of “interesting treasure” to sort into the 18 or so cups awaiting her attention.

Two hours later, still interested in this activity, she decided to put all the rocks on the floor and declare the pan’s need to be empty, from there on, and for the rest of the day.  “It’s tired of the treasure rocks”, she explained.

Another 30 minutes or so, and about 1/2 dozen “oh!”, “ouch!”, and “yeeeawww’s!” later, I asked Bugs to clean up the rocks and told her that I’d help, and that my feet and knees just couldn’t take it anymore.  She was watching Oswald (the blue octopus) and sorta half way acknowledged me.

I muted the tv and asked her to tell me what she’d heard me communicate.  “Your knees and my treasure don’t have enough room for each other in this spot.”

A moment or two later, I knelt down next to where she was standing and started to pick up a few of the rocks. As I began, I said, “Bugs, are you going to help me pick up these rocks?”

“Yep!”, she chirped, while dropping to the floor to begin gathering.

We made it a game of “Bugs has amazing spy eyes that can see little, teeny rocks MUCH better than Mama;s eyes can”, and she found quite a few I missed, in fact.

Through this experience, she was able to become aware of the value of cleaning up after scattering the rocks everywhere.  She learned she has a great eye for noticing little things.  She also remembered that when she focuses on something, she succeeds at what she intends to accomplish.

She was happy to see the rocks had returned to their homes and felt no disappointment at the dismantling of her collection (is this encouraging a respect for the environment, at a very early and simple level?).

Win, Win, and Win. Can’t beat that.

The pan survived, and that’s a light house rock, by the way.

Instead of “Timeouts”, Try a “Hold Everything”

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Never punitive.  Never diminutive.


Purpose: Re-establish Calm, Cooperation, Harmony

For everyone.

Please go read this and this (you’ll see how they align)

In our house, we do not spank, nor do we incorporate isolation, refusal, ignoring, or “timeouts”.

Our daughter doesn’t just do whatever she wants either; when her preferences are damaging, interfering, or otherwise not in her best interest, we intercept.

If behaviors, attitudes, or actions become a concern, the first thing we use is assessment of why (what is the cause) they became a concern.  Then we employ understanding, followed by patience and compassion.  If necessary, we use a Hold Everything (this means the grownups too), and then we activate our resolution and/or solution superpowers.

 

I want to introduce you to what our house calls PAWS.

  • (Pause – to recreate harmony and re-establish calm and cooperation.  Pause to remember to respect, to honor, to approve, to admire… Pause to stop anger response, frustration, impatience, aggravation. Pause to remember the most important thing in whatever has caused the need to pause in the first place – the life on center stage – child, adult, dog, turtle.)

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Perspective (a spontaneous shift in viewing portal, not only in complexity and understanding, but in physical height and life experience)

Attention (purposed focus)

Wait (observe. reflect. observe)

Solve (resolve and grow)

Think on that for a few.

Natural Consequence, Example One

Unedited – my kiddo woke up before I could… I will later tonight if I can.

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Sometimes a natural consequence is one that occurs beyond our control, due to physics.

Sometimes, in my opinion, a natural consequence is one that I effect for my child, but that is wholly associated with the cause of the resulting effect.

In a previous post, I discussed a child’s actions that were concerning his father -> Read Here
These two particular incidents, and my suggestion of a parental response, fit into the Parent Derived Natural Consequence category.

Here’s an example of physics at play:  Joseph, if you carelessly put the dishes away, you may discover what will happen.  Joseph continues to haphazardly put the dishes away and he drops a plate.  Lucky for him, the floor is only wood instead of tile, but the unfortunate thing is that on its way to the floor (physics-gravity), it somehow twists just enough that instead of landing in a manner that just ends in a thud, it triggers a release of energy known as a bang, that results in the splitting in two (or four) of the material that once was a single piece, otherwise referred to as a plate.

Sucks to be Joseph… jeez, he probably could have thrown the plate on the grown and it would have landed just fine, but nooooo, it accidentally “mishandled” it just so that instead, there is now a huge mess and no longer useful plate to put away.

ENTER MOM

Scenario one:  Mom is irritated, starts telling Joseph that if he’d listened to her in the first place, which he already knows, that this wouldn’t have happened.  So, now he feels dumb for letting it happen, knows he’s going to be further demeaned by some sort of punishment for not being more careful in the first place, and he’s gained his mother’s disapproval yet again.

Some children will cry because they are grieved at both the loss of the approval, but also the failure they perceive is theirs.

Some children will laugh and defy as a response to the disapproval and impressed failure to “do as told” to “prevent problems”.

Some children will be compelled to make reparations.  This is guilt.  The concern here is how far the parent decides to let the guilt be used – in other words, they see a way to manipulate, er… that’s more politically correctly termed “teach a lesson”.

Scenario two: Mom hears the crash.  Waits.  Child either begins to clean up or starts calling for mom.  This depends on how the same situation has been handled before, and on the child’s personality.

Mom enters the kitchen a moment or two after the crash (a younger child will need you sooner to prevent injury).  But she comes quietly, not in judgement or disapproval, but understanding.  She knows what the law of gravity is. She knows that we, as a human race on planet earth, are stuck with this reality.

If child is already attempting to clean up, mom must ascertain the safety of this.  If it’s not safe, mom must intervene.  If child is capable of cleaning up the mess, mom just allows it and makes a note to come after the child is finished and make sure no shards of glass are left anywhere.  – This, by the way, is either the child who is terrified of the parent’s response, or, hopefully, the child who is wholly valued and respected, and is therefore confident enough to reason that he wasn’t quite attentive enough, which resulted in gravity winning, and well, now there is a mess and so to prevent anyone from getting hurt, it needs to be tended to.  No guilt, though there might be some grief, especially if the broken item was of special meaning to someone and the child is aware of it.  No disapproval imposed… by outside forces.  And hopefully, the child is whole and confident, so while they may tell themselves to be more careful next time, they don’t take a hit to their “value”, nor do they hit it themselves.  No humiliation.  No failure.  Just physics.

Now, if the child is, for whatever reason, not attempting to clean up the mess himself, the mother can initiate the process as follows:

“Hum… Looks like we better get to work cleaning this up before someone gets hurt.  I will pick up the pieces if you will go get the broom.”  The glass might hurt the child, so the parent is preventing injury, but the child is still actively involved in assisting.

Child returns with broom, mom encourages “Joseph” to start sweeping in an area that is safe, as she continues to work on removing potential harm.  Child is contributing, and building his confidence in his ability to resolve the concern he allowed gravity to cause.

Once everything is cleaned up – Mom tells child, “Great! Looks like it’s all clean.”  AND THEN LEAVES the area and says nothing more about the incident. Period. Like as in doesn’t ever mention, unless the child brings it up in the future.  If there are still more dishes to be put away, the mother also doesn’t mention this to the child.  She waits.. gives the child the credit that he is intelligent enough to see that there are more dishes to finish.   – Now let’s say he goes ahead on his own and finishes the task.  Great.  Nothing more is said, except if the mother knows he needs reinforcement.  If so, she still waits and unless he initiates, the most she says is something like, “Thanks for taking care of the dishes.  I appreciate you.”

However, if the child is shaken, or perhaps not entirely driven to be responsible without encouragement (like how I said that??), then the mother is put into the position of refocusing.  Again, she waits.  She observes.  Wait = Observe.

Child abandons task and goes to play.  Mother notices.  An hour later, mother reminds child, “Joseph, I noticed there are still dishes in the dishwasher waiting for your attention.”

Joseph’s reply will range all across the board.  Mother simply affirms his response with, “ok”.

That looks like this –

Joseph:  “I know, but I don’t want to do them anymore.”
Mother: “Ok.” – Now wait, don’t walk away, just stay silent.  Give Joseph a chance to explain himself.  Pretend you are having this conversation with another adult.  If he doesn’t begin explaining, prod, a little, but with respect. “Joseph, you don’t want to do any more?”  Keep the look on your face neutral but inquisitive. Don’t lace your words with a tone and motive.  He knows.

Joseph: “Yeah, I don’t want to.”
Mother: “Can you help me understand why you don’t want to?”
Joseph: “I’m worried I will drop more.”  (This is what a confident child will say.  A child who knows he is respected and treated as a valuable member of the family.  A child who doesn’t know he holds his mother’s respect will be defiant and simply state that he has better stuff to do, or insist it’s just a preference.)

If the child is concerned over a repeat failure, the mother can offer her approval and encouragement by stating that if it happens again, we’ll just clean it up again.  If appropriate and beneficial for the CHILD, the mother might also offer a little advice in the form of a trick… NEVER stating that if the child were just “more careful” (or whatever other version of that concept) that it won’t happen again.  Why never state this?  Because no matter how careful you, as an adult, are, eventually gravity will get the better of even you!  Don’t pretend it won’t, and don’t expect your kid to agree to be bound by that double standard either.

Advice in the form of a trick:  “You know Joseph, when I put the dishes away, I’m worried I might drop them too.  So, I give each one a name as I pick them up.  Then, I keep my eye on it from the moment my finger first touches the plate until it’s safely where it belongs.  Then, when I’m all done, I try to remember the names so that next time I see that same plate, I won’t have to wonder what I named it.”

Result

Child is upheld, child is respected, child is approved of
Dishes get done, even if it takes the rest of the day
Child has a new game, and it keeps him focused on his task, which hopefully decreases the chance of gravity winning

Now, there is only one additional note to make here.  In the event that you have a kiddo that hasn’t had the luxury of the high level of your respect and admiration, and doesn’t thrive in his autonomy and self worth…. OR you have a kiddo that is just not into the task for his own purposes (that being it’s boring, he has other stuff that he enjoys more, etc), you’re going to need to use a bit of parental control to make sure the task is completed and the child respects the value of his contribution.

Here’s my suggestion… and it requires patience, tolerance, foresight, and effort on the part of the parent.
Let’s say the child just outright opposes and does not finish the task of emptying the dishwasher.
Ok, this isn’t a problem.  Yes, it annoys you (mom/dad) because it means you will have to do it and the child won’t gain the good from completing it.  But that’s not all that’s going on…

Mother:  “Joseph, I noticed there are some dishes still waiting for you in the dishwasher.”
Joseph: “I don’t want to do anymore.”  – Go through the reasoning and get to just that – kid doesn’t want to comply.
Mother: “Ok Joseph, I’ll take care of them now then.”  Say nothing more, walk away and go do the dishes right then.  It will take you 2 minutes.  Just do it.  Be quiet.  Wait. Observe.  Don’t pass judgement and don’t resent or become annoyed at your kid.

If Joseph shows up to finish before you complete the task, simply thank him for his willingness to take care of the task (don’t go into helping you out, chipping in, whatever else, just focus on the task, as if it is itself worth valuing), walk away and let him.

If Joseph shows up too late and you’ve already finished, simply tell him as much.  “Joseph, I have completed it.”  Say nothing more.  He gets the point.  Trust me.  He’s not stupid.  You don’t need to add insult. He needs your respect.  He gets the point.  (Keep reading – don’t tell me that well yeah, he gets the point, that being that if he doesn’t want to do something he can just refuse and mom will do it for him.)

If Joseph doesn’t show at all, fine.  Complete the task yourself.  Say nothing to him.  Don’t resent, don’t reject, and don’t allow him to feel your disapproval at any point.

Make plans for that night’s dinner to be something Joseph really, really likes.  Include courses in the meal that go together, but omit one of them.  For instance, make macaroni and cheese with ham and apples on the side.  Omit the cheese (use butter so it’s palatable, but don’t make it as “good” as normal).

DINNER TIME

Everyone sits down, your partner knows what’s going on, but other children do not.  Everyone, including Joseph begins eating.  Someone states that the macaroni tastes different, like it doesn’t have enough cheese.

Mother:  “Well, it doesn’t actually have enough cheese because I didn’t have enough time left after taking care of emptying the dishwasher today to give to cutting up enough cheese for our dinner tonight.”  Older kid, “Oh come on, it only takes three minutes to empty the dishwasher!”  Mother, “Well, yes I know, and Joseph started it and so today it only took me two minutes.  It also only takes two minutes to cut up the appropriate amount of cheese, but I allocated those two minutes to the dishwasher instead.”  (NOT I had to allocate, I ‘did’ – chose to – simple fact.. NO DIGS at the kid that caused all this – don’t point fingers, ever. And don’t omit so that the opportunity for someone else to opens up. No passive retaliation here.)

Say nothing more about it.  If the kids complain about the taste, agree with them.  Don’t apologize, don’t lay blame, just agree.

Takes a lot of work… I know. But by doing that work, you’ll grow a whole, confident, capable, and responsible child into an adult that will hopefully continue the work in is own life.

 

Either the consequences of the act will be enough, or they won’t be- and then a parent’s job becomes to modify the environment or provide supervision until the fascination with the forbidden thing ends.

A Letter – Mr. Pearl, Don’t Contaminate Kids Needing a Forever Family WITH YOU

Initially, as with so many of his verbal poop sessions, Mr. Pearl says something semi-useful.
“Never adopt children even close to the age of your own”.

There is a good amount of information and experience that discusses the intelligence of not fostering children near the age of your existing minor family members. Why is this? Simple logic. One must intelligently assess what effects there will be on the home’s existing children by including other children. The incoming children each have their life story, and all that comes with it.  If you think the incoming children will not affect the existing family, as well as individual dynamics in the home, you are incorrect.

Notice how I have stopped explaining this thought. The omission is intentional.  I hope it will cause you to think.

If you are only now contemplating evil, danger, negative, possibly harmful concerns… fostering & adoption is not a good option for you.

S O U R C E

“Never adopt children even close to the age of your own. You should be past child bearing age, and your children should be at least 10-15 years older than the adopted kids. I don’t think there is any such thing as an orphanage raised child who has not been a participant in sexual perversion. If you are older and your kids are grown, it is a wonderful, full time ministry to adopt foreign kids. You will experience heartache, possibly failure, but you may just save a soul from sure destruction. But if there is failure, at least your kids will not go down with them.”
“Foster parenting is for people whose children are grown or for families with older children who take in the very young.”   Comments written by Michael Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries.

I am nauseated by these words.  Sick.  I had a prospective adoptive family contact me in fear after they read this article.  I preached my opinion, based upon God’s Word and my personal experience, to this sweet mom.  Then I went to the site that ignited her fears, and I felt sad, sick, and frustrated beyond words.

I left a comment on Mr. Pearl’s sight in response to his advice for families.  Below are my thoughts to Mr. Pearl and the other parents who have left comments on Mr. Pearl’s article, the very parents who may be timid toward adoption due to fears that man has set in their hearts.  I don’t know if Mr. Pearl will post my comments on his site, but I do not want any of you to read his words of caution and be turned away from the very heart of God with His command to care for orphans and widows in their distress.  Here’s a copied/pasted version of the comment I left for Mr. Pearl and his readers:

I am so sad to see such a negative viewpoint toward adoption and fostering with so many parameters being set up by man with regards to orphan care and fostering. It is God’s command to care for orphans and widows in their distress. This, according to Scripture, is pure and undefiled religion. Nowhere in the Bible does it set parameters on WHO should care for orphans (older couples past child-bearing years, etc.), nor does it set parameters on the value of the life of an orphan (regardless of the child’s history or being raised in an orphanage). All children are precious in His sight, regardless of what country they live in or whether they were orphaned or have lived in an orphanage or have suffered abuse. They are valued by God and He asks us to care for them. No child ever asks to be hurt/molested (including our bio kids), and all children (and adults) are valued and redeemable. His blood is our redemption. There is no sin too great for redemption, but if we all turn our backs on the orphans who God calls us to care for, they may never know redemption.

There’s more.  Click the source link at the top and go read.. and cross reference with his article here.

What this comes down to is whether you, as an individual, can function as one.  Whether you, individually, can think for yourself, choose your path and values, and in your own mind make the distinction between what is going to improve life for yourself and others, and what will improve the life of others you interact with.

Oh how I wish Mr. Roddenberry had lived longer.

I will work on my thoughts.

Peace-Centered Parenting, Non-Violent Children

S O U R C E

I came across this site today in search of an image that depicts my hope to gain the attention of those who skim over the front page of this blog.  You’ll see I added a pic from the page, and have linked it back to the page.   But I also wanted to take a minute to commend and outwardly appreciate the efforts of those who have created this work of art.

People always say that children should come with an instruction manual, well that is part of the problem. There are tens of thousands of manuals out there and all of them say different things.

Even in the new millennium the experts can’t quite agree on the “right” way to raise a child.

The problem is, each of us has our own idea of what defines successful parenting. Sometimes those ideas change from day to day. Experts can’t agree, and we can’t agree.

For me, my parenting philosophy came from many sources. My own childhood was a huge factor but so was my fascination with psychology, with finding out what makes the human mind tick.

When I realized how easily we can damage our children for life, how careful we must be with their fragile minds I actually scared myself. As parents, we have one of the most important jobs on earth, shaping a future generation.

… What we do in our home can affect society for many years to come. That sort of puts your parenting goals in perceptive doesn’t it? …

… All I really intended to do in the beginning was remove the hypocrisy from my parenting. I refused to ask something of my children that I was not willing to demand from myself. I didn’t realize I had become an advocate of non-violent parenting until well after the decision had been made. I just began wondering why people hit their children and then tell them not to hit. Why they are disrespectful of their children yet demand respect from them.

We are our children’s first and best models of expected behavior. Our children are going to do what we do, not do what we say. When we lie to someone saying we aren’t feeling well so we can’t attend that birthday party, our children are watching us. The person on the other end of the phone might not know we are lying but our children do. They are learning from us even then. –

… I had to work very hard with my own children to help them understand that being disrespectful of another person, even if we don’t like them or what they are doing, is always wrong.

I didn’t do it just to protect the teacher, I did it to protect myself in the future as well.

If I am going to demand respect from my children, I must demand it in all situations, not just situations of my choosing –

I am in complete agreement.  I have witnessed the carelessness with which some parents behave in the presence of children and am appalled by their complete lack of respect for themselves, the entity in question, and their children.  However, I am then not at all surprised when I see the poor behavior and attitudes of their children displayed either when the parent is not present, or often in direct confrontation of the parent.

… What goes on behind closed doors often transfers to public. Respect is important in public, but even more so in private. When parents are openly disrespectful to their children, or even towards one another they are encouraging the cycle of disrespect to continue.

Such a crucial understanding to accept and adopt, religiously.  Seriously.  If the masses would do just this one thing, many of the world’s conflict and sorrow would cease.  Just think, in a single generation, if enough of us chose this path, what difference could be made in our communities and society of the future!

Beautifully Read

Why African Babies Don’t Cry:
An African Perspective
by Claire Niala

S O U R C E

I was born and grew up in Kenya & Cote d’Ivoire. Then from the age of fifteen I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman with two university degrees and I am a fourth generation working woman – but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing it would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house / country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do – I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by the Searses – the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books – and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

I (Angie) read very little while pregnant, mostly because I would simply fall asleep.  However, I share this woman’s thought pattern.  All the books, information, science in the world can only help you to understand your little one better, and make better decisions for her growth IF, and ONLY IF, you understand her in the first place.  To do this, you must slow down, get out of the way, and listen.  Observe, pay attention to everything, it will connect itself if you do.  She will tell you exactly what she needs, how  to help, how to nurture, and how to grow her into the strongest, most intelligent and capable woman she can be, if you’ll just listen.  See the world through her eyes, come along side her, be the wind, let her open her sail as she sees fit.

Educating oneself is crucial, but if the subject matter for which all the education is obtained is unknown and not understood, it is all for nothing but to create aggravation and dissatisfaction.

See her world as she sees it.  Listen.  She’ll tell you, and your job is to make sense of it for her until she can do it for herself.

From Your Partner’s Point of View

This is an excellently written article, and a concept well worth contemplating.  It is something I think a lot of our parents attempted to teach us as children, but likely often failed at modeling themselves.

What does this have to do with gentle parenting and respect of our children?  Everything.  If we can teach ourselves to live in harmony with one another, seeing the other first, each in turn, than our children will learn the same. Furthermore, we are then also able to see our children’s world through their viewing portals, instead of our own or that of our expected and imposed view of their world.

One who has this skill and routinely and consistently employs the practice makes harmony automatically around them and in their home.  This “being able to walk in another’s shoes”, or “see through the lens of another”,  decreases frustration instantly, especially in either an intimate relationship or a parent/child relationship.  With children, this way of being fosters a natural and mutual respect, an appreciation, an admiration (and it will be bidirectional, by the way), and has the tendency to calm them, encourage and build them up, decrease power struggles and childhood related aggravations, and generally keeps daily life more peaceful.

If you consistently allow yourself to see through your partner’s and child’s view of their world, truth and trust is also a natural byproduct.  In cases where one individual is struggling, those struggles can become apparent and support can be given.  In the case where one individual harbors negative feelings toward the other, those feelings can be explored safely, together.  And in the case where one individual is not being cared for in the manner which he or she needs to thrive, this lacking can be acknowledged and through awareness, compassion, and attentiveness, love can begin to flow freely.

Ultimately, we will enhance our marriages and friendships, and in so doing, our children will not only flourish in the love and harmony of their homes, but they will go on to have a stable emotional self that can regenerate and recreate itself in their futures, and the futures of their own children and relationships.

S O U R C E

Remember when you first fell in love with your partner and how the world was so rosy and your partner was simply wonderful? And how you felt deeply connected and understood? Ahhh, the joys of the early part of relationship.
What we really want is to be truly understood. And to be really seen by the person we care about. To find someone who can read our minds and meet our needs. To find true love and intimacy that lasts a lifetime. To be loved unconditionally by our partner. We want love especially when we are angry and wounded by our partner. We want to stay in that euphoric space of new love. To get the ‘Happy Ever After’ promised by fairy tales.
But despite our deep longing to be connected with the one we choose to be with, Happy Ever After rarely happens. Most often, when one partner is angry, the other person becomes angry back or shuts down. During conflict, the two partners disconnect from each other. The relationship suffers as people become disillusioned with their partner. The two people may even secretly start to look for exits from the relationship. Common exits are addictions, silence and withdrawal, increased fighting, self-blame and depression, anxiety and threatening to leave the relationship.
The main purpose of a committed love relationship is to become a responsible loving adult and complete unresolved childhood issues says Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want–a Guide for Couples and Keeping the Love You Get–a Guide for Singles. Hendrix’s approach, more than any other current marriage-counseling model, helps couples move their union towards a Conscious Relationship.
Hendrix fashioned the name Imago Therapy to illustrate how we fall in love with the image that we put on another person. Imago is a Greek word for illusion. We get caught up in those euphoric brain chemicals that the rush of new love brings. You have heard that love is blind? It is true. We don t see the real person, imperfections and all, but we put our illusion of what we expect in a romantic relationship on the other person.
Later, when the bloom goes off the romance, we have to deal with what the person is really like. And often we try to exit the relationship. Energy that is needed for the relationship building is put elsewhere. Ask yourself, ‘Where do I put my energy when I am upset with my partner?’ What exits do you leave open to deal with your pain?
Imago Therapy teaches major tools of communication and connection to bond couples together.’The job of each partner is to create a Conscious Relationship where you learn to hang on and reparent your partner. Blaming, criticizing, withdrawing and pouting are the common distancing defenses in relationships. The big challenge for a happy relationship is to stop using these destructive defenses! We can replace these negative defenses with actions that keep us in partnership even when time get rough.
‘We all got wounded in relationship as children with our parents and siblings,’ Bonnie Brinkman, Imago Therapist, explains.’The healing can only come in relationship. We need our partners for this. The old mom and dad stuff becomes the template for selecting a partner. We choose people to be in relationship with that represents the best and worst of our parents. The psyche holds an unconscious agenda to select the right person who can help us heal. Our partner, with all of their frustration about us. has the blueprint for our healing.’
The heart of Imago Therapy is to use the relationship to mend the pain of being hurt and disappointed in childhood. Brinkman continues,’ We are the walking wounded. Our partner holds the blueprint for our healing and growth. The elegance of this process is that we heart flutter over only a few people in the entire world. We fall in like with some of them and then find a person to fall in love with and hook up with. We unconsciously pick the perfect partner to help us do the growing up work. God, the Universe, Fate or whatever you call it, helps us zero in on that perfect partner who will push our buttons so we can get on with our work. There are no accidents why we get together with the person we choose out of all the millions of potential partners. The one we choose is someone who is familiar to us–we have met aspects of him or her before in our mother and father. That sets the stage for doing the work of growing past our present defenses.’
Chemical Soup Equals Love?
We are chemical beings as well as psychological beings. The peptides–that feel-good stuff that goes on in the brain that we call euphoria happens when we fall in love. The chemistry goes off when we find a person who can help us heal our childhood pain. That s why love is blind, we are so infatuated with the high emotional chemical soup that we are in that we overlook the warts of the partner. We fall in illusion!
Falling in love creates the Symbiotic Stage of relationship where the people are joined at the hip symbolized by ‘You and I are One.’ Too often this turns into and ‘I m the One and you need to do what I say, resulting in big time anger and pain.’ Too often this stage turns into in self absorption by one or both of the partner with ‘If you are don t see things the way I do, then I must punish you so I can avoid re-wounding myself.’
The high of the peptides wears off after about six months–we are not meant to remain in this chemical rush forever. The romantic stage lasts about six months in most relationships then wears off to settle down. As the high runs its course, then the Power Struggle stage kicks in. The Power Struggle Stage is illusion also. Our illusion is that we are the nice guy. Our partner, that wonderful one in the Symbiotic Stage, is now the enemy. Suddenly the partner s warts start to look REALLY warty! Things that used to be cute in their partner now grate on our nerves. The couple loses their feelings of being connected. Each feel hurt. Conflict happens. Big time Power Struggle! Distancing sets in.
The war of wills hits big time. Insistence on having one s own way and struggle becomes the order of the day. When the stuff really hits the fan, each partner runs to their arsenal of fighting tools–anger, distancing, domination and submission. Oh yes, those dysfunctional ways of dealing with threat that we learned from our parents! Criticism, blaming, sarcasm, withdrawal, and giving in with silent martyrdom are the defenses of vying for control. We do the grownup stuff that was modeled to us in childhood from those people who raised us.
Sound familiar? In the Power Struggle stage, the partners become stuck in trying to tell the other what to do and gathering data to make the other person wrong, at least in their own eyes. Conflict sends grownups, back into the defenses of their little child. There can be symmetrical wounding as each person knows the trigger points of the other and goes for them pulling forth the defenses they learned as a child. In power struggles, nobody wins. But as the saying goes from The Course in Miracles, ‘Would you rather be right or happy?’
So Imago Therapy tells you to hang in and learn about yourself. You can put your energy into distancing or you can put it into building intimacy. Keep your energy for the really important things in life–deep connection and growth. Close the Exits. Use your energy to transform your relationship! The ‘No Exit’ policy makes you become creative in working things out. According to Brinkman, there are four options that happen in relationships where there are unresolved power struggles:
1. Adios! Start the cycle over. Find someone new with whom to move through chemical soup into power struggles.
2. Have a silent divorce. Stay together for religious or financial reasons or fear of being alone and become roommates with passion for life atrophying.
3. Become the Bickersons and fight over everything, constantly injuring each other emotionally.
4. Start to cooperate with the unconscious agenda and use the volatile situations for growth. Learn techniques to stay connected during conflict and practice reconnection. This is the ‘becoming a grownup stage’ called The Reality Love Stage.
Making Your Relationship Conscious
Everyone wants a Conscious Relationship, but few couples achieve this high level of connection. So what is real in Conscious Relationships? How do we get there? We have to move on to the next stage–The Reality Love Stage of relationship. In this stage, we are presented with many challenging opportunities to use each other to put the childhood pain to rest. Like everything we have a fight–there is another growth opportunity. But of course it is an opportunity only if we choose to make it one. Some couples never reach this stage, switching partners when fighting get too toxic.
A new set of relationship skills and tools are needed to get the Reality Love Stage. Moving past the Power Struggle stage, the couples begins to realize that not only is their job to grow up but their other job is to help their partner grow up. Imago Therapy presents safe ways of relating to each other that help both partners feel heard and understood by the other. It provides a process to travel the path of creating a spiritually conscious union.
Intentional Dialogue–A Way to Keep Connected During Arguments
What creates intimacy? What we really want is to be heard and feel safe with our partner. Hendrix s technique of Intentional Dialogue is a way of relating to your partner when he or she is upset by something that you did. It is a process that keeps the contact going even in times of feeling threat and stress–IT KEEPS THE COUPLE CONNECTED EVEN WHEN THEY DISAGREE! Intentional Dialogue gives the partner the love and attention they need when they most need it.
Intentional Dialogue is a process of communication that you and your partner can learn to create an atmosphere of safety. At times, it can be exasperating. But using this tool of communication with your partner really helps him or her feel safe and listened too. It works if it is done right to recreate that sense of connection that you felt when you first fell in love. Intentional Dialogue gives you a process of obtaining The Five Freedoms that Virginia Satir, pioneer in family therapy talked about:
The FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was, or will be.
The FREEDOM to say what you feel and think, instead of what you should.
The FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of what you ought.
The FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
The FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not rock the boat.
Sound good? Well you can get it! You and your partner can find the Happy Ever After, after all.
But . . . it takes learning a process of active listening and hard work. It takes resolution from both partners to do Intentional Dialogue when friction starts to build up. It takes being able to be vulnerable and stomach some uncomfortable feelings. It takes you out of your comfort zone into really being REAL! Ouch! It requires listening and talking from the open heart; now that is scary stuff. The pay off is that you and your partner become a team actively working though the rough spots in your relationship. It makes you conscious in your relationship. You can actually feel closer with your partner after an argument when you stick to the dialogue.
And the technique works in all relationships, not only in romantic relationships. It even works with adolescents! Hendrix and his wife recently wrote a book on parenting, Giving the Love That Heals.
What we all really want is to be understood and accepted for who we are. To really live in Conscious Relationship, in my opinion, Intentional Dialogue is the best tool for keeping love alive. Having someone really listen to you is as close to unconditional love we can get in our lifetime. Empathy is the greatest gift you can give your partner when he or she is hurting. It helps a person be seen and feel totally understood. The childhood wounds no longer are so deep when we are truly heard and understood.
A recipe for having a Conscious Relationship equals commitment, learning powerful, how-to-stay -connected techniques during times of stress and darn hard work. This formula is doable for those determined to be happy in relationship. The Imago Therapy Tools help you keep the love you want and become a responsible, loving adult secure in the knowledge that you are truly seen and heard.
For more information read the books, Getting the Love you Want: A Guide for Couples and Keeping the Love you Get: A Guide for Singles by Harville Hendrix. To find a therapist trained in Imago Therapy, do a web search.

Resources: Understanding Ostracism, Timeouts

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/805746/positive-discipline-why-timeouts-dont-work

http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Ostracism

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/04/social.aspx

http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781572306899

http://www.mothering.com/discussions/archive/index.php/t-922731.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=M0flM4dgpDUC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=timeouts+ostracism&source=bl&ots=NNNExUmWFw&sig=CqcXM8QwYW_Em3HQSdQbxsmn_-8&hl=en&ei=Se-OTL6JLYSdlgfovZm0Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

List goes on… I’ll add more as we go.