Stay in or Leave a Relationship

 I was talking to a woman that has been with her boyfriend for seven years, is fairly unhappy and does not know if she should stay or go. She is uncomfortable in the relationship, but fears not being able to find anyone else if she moves on. They have gone back and forth on several key issues for many years, but she has never had the strength to cut ties. She knows in her heart that this is not the man she is meant to spend her life with, but she is also torn because, generally speaking, he is a good guy. I need to start by saying there is no magic formula for whether you should stay or go. Whether you are unhappily married, or in a committed relationship that is less than stellar, it is an individual decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You never want to base a decision out of fear. By this, I mean, you shouldn’t stay in something only because you are afraid of being on your own. Or, you shouldn’t commit to someone because you are afraid you’ll never find anyone else. You want to be with someone for the right reasons. You want to be compatible, you need to generally like the person, you want to have similar values and visions for what your future will look like, and you need to respect and honor your relationship. Every relationship is going to have its ups and downs, so you can’t expect to always get along and be engaging with each other. If you are in a similar situation, it is important to take a step back and look at your relationship with a new set of eyes. Remember, that if two people are committed to making things work, and they still love each other as partners and friends, then they have a great chance of growing as a couple. Also know that there may be a time when, as a couple, you have exhausted your efforts and may be ready to part ways.  Here are some tips to help you re-evaluate where you are in your own relationship.

1. Happy or not?

Are you or are you not currently happy in your relationship? Is your partner also dissatisfied or is it just you? Are you constantly looking to your partner to make you happy and fulfilled? That is a huge request to ask of one person. Remember that just because you are not happy, this does not mean there is anything critically wrong in your relationship. You may need to focus on getting involved in activities that bring more joy to your life. Maybe you are blaming your partner for your unhappiness, where you need to take responsibility for creating your own happiness. Or, there may be fundamental problems that need to be addressed. Take some time to clarify this for yourself.

2. Be proactive and ask for help

If there are fundamental problems in your relationship, have you sought out help? I commend couples that reach out for help when they do not know where to turn. This means you still have the fight in you to make things work. Sometimes it is helpful for each partner to talk with someone individually first, in order to completely share their thoughts and feelings on the relationship. If you still care for your partner, don’t throw in the towel before you give it your all. You will then at least feel peace with whatever outcome comes your way. You will know that you tried and made an effort to work things out.

3. Don’t let fear be your decision maker

If you are extremely unhappy in a relationship and you have tried several methods of reconciliation, then, it may be time to take a break. So many people think it is a black or white issue, meaning you either stay together or you completely break up. There is always some gray area to explore first. You can physically take a break from each other to re-think your options, see how it feels to be alone, and determine the steps that you may need to take. Again, don’t let fear decide what path you are going to take. Know that you are much stronger than you may give yourself credit for, and you will always be o.k.

4.  Acknowledge and heed any red flags

Is there anything that appears to be or feels different than usual, anything that feels uncomfortable or just not right……spouse’s behavior, how both of you interact with each other, inability to communicate openly, honestly and effectively about your feelings, the situation at hand, where you both stand in the relationship and where you want it to go?  Is there a lack of mutual respect for and trust in each other, any controlling behavior in either partner, any form of abuse or infidelity in the relationship?  If any of this rings true for you, it’s important to view these as red flags that there are issues that need to be addressed and resolved through efforts on both of your parts before moving forward with a decision about whether or not to leave the relationship.  If either of you is unwilling to work at resolving the issues that are causing conflict in the relationship, that is a good indicator or factor to assist in making the best decision.

Losing Your Temper with Your Child? 8 Steps to Help You Stay in Control

Do you ever struggle with temper tantrums at your house? You know what they involve: yelling, screaming, bad-language, and all-out loss of control until you almost can’t take it anymore and you just want to….put yourself in time out. Yes, I’m talking about our own parental “temper tantrums,” which we’ve all been known to experience at one point or another as we raise our kids. Read on for tips on how to stay in control.

The first step to look at is why you lose your temper. Understanding your triggers as an adult is just as important as trying to figure out what sets your kids off.

Children are notorious for bringing out the best in us as parents. There are moments when we find we are better people because of them; we may model better behavior, be more honest, forgiving, caring, and kind. And, then there are those moments when our kids bring out the very worst in us. These are the times when we are exhausted, overworked, stressed to levels we never knew existed — and the next thing we know we are no calmer than a toddler, yelling and screaming, red-faced and enraged. Here’s the truth: losing your temper is a fact of life, one that is very normal, although upsetting, when it happens. But, there are solutions that can help you stay calm and regain control. Follow these eight steps and you should be able to see a change in your approach very soon.

Step 1: Recognize your triggers.
The first step to look at is why you lose your temper. Understanding our triggers as adults is just as important as trying to figure out what sets our kids off so that we can help them control themselves. Sometimes a bad attitude can trigger you.  When a child begins with negativity or backtalk, it’s important to take a step back and really focus on how you are feeling at the moment: does your neck tense up, your cheeks feel flushed, and, or do you have a hot temper yourself? By recognizing emotional triggers as well as the physical sensations in your body that are associated with them, you are better-equipped to say, “Okay, I know that I’m not going down a good path. Stop.”  Some triggers at your house might include your toddler saying “No!” for the one-hundredth time that day, your middle school child rolling her eyes at you, or your high schooler failing to do their chores……again. When you are able to recognize what frustrates you the most, you are on the path to stopping your temper from boiling over.

Step 2: Find new ways to communicate.
For most parents, what we feel the worst about after we lose it, is how we’ve talked to our child. Too often parents fall into bad communication habits we learned from our own parents when we were growing up. These can include giving our kids the silent treatment, withdrawing from the family, giving overly harsh punishments in the heat of the moment, yelling, saying snide or sarcastic remarks, swearing and name calling. It’s very easy to fall into this pattern, especially when you have a toddler screaming at you or a teenager swearing and getting in your face. But again, it’s important to remember that you are modeling how to deal with anger and frustration for your child, not just in their childhood and adolescence, but, for when they are adults as well. This is not to say that you can’t express anger, disappointment, or frustration with your child. Sometimes it’s important that our kids know we aren’t happy, but we have to find ways to express our feelings in an appropriate manner. When you are feeling overwhelmed and afraid, you might resort to less-than-helpful ways to communicate your frustration, finding a way to stay calm is key.

Step 3: Find your strategies to calm.
Finding a calming strategy that works for you can stop you from losing your temper.  Some ideas are:

  •  Walk away (literally): When you find you are about to lose it, walk away from your child.  Not only does this prevent you from starting down the wrong path, it models for your child an appropriate response when they are feeling overwhelmed themselves. For older kids, feel free to say, “You know, I’m not ready to talk to you about this right now so I’m going to be alone for a few moments until I can calm down.”
  •  Practice deep breathing: There were many times when I stopped mid-sentence, sat down and used deep breathing to calm myself. This makes teenagers nuts, but it really works. While sitting upright, place both feet on the floor. Place one hand on your abdomen beneath your rib cage. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the bottom of your lungs, sending the air as low down as you can.  Make sure you are breathing from your abdomen instead of shallow breathing from your chest. If you are breathing from your abdomen, your hand should actually rise and your chest should move only slightly while your abdomen expands. When you’ve taken in a full breath, make sure to pause momentarily and then slowly exhale through your nose or mouth, whichever is most comfortable, making sure you exhale fully. Practice doing ten full abdominal breaths until you are calm again.
  •  Count backwards: Before opening your mouth to respond, consider counting backwards towards calmness, until you are in a different place. Whether you’re driving, making dinner or trying to relax at the end of a hard day, a perfect way to stay calm and stop your anger dead in its tracks is to begin with a number that’s higher than your stress level. For some people this can be 100, for others it might be as simple as going from 10-0. Whatever number you choose, this exercise buys you time before doing or saying something you’ll regret.
  •  Long-term strategies: For longer-term calming practices, integrate physical exercise into your weekly routine.  We are all busy, overworked, and short on time, but one way to be the best parent possible is to practice self-care. This can come in the form of yoga, meditation, praying, running, biking or simply walking.

Step 4: Communicate calmly.
Healthy communication relies on both you and your child being calm, so do not approach them if they are still raging at you or you are still too angry to talk. For both young children, as well as adolescents, keep your comments brief and to the point.

“I really don’t appreciate it when I come home from work and you haven’t done any of your chores. Please do them now.”

“I don’t like it when you take your brother’s toys and make him cry. The consequence for that is that your train now is in time-out for 20 minutes, while you practice better behavior.”

“You know the rule in our house is completing homework before television. No more TV for the night.”

When you are finished, move on to something else. Don’t dwell on what just happened.

Step 5: Choose Your Battles.
Too often our own tantrums are born out of parents feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s important to not put yourself in a position of feeling chronically overwhelmed by getting upset over every little annoying thing your child does. One way to combat this is to really think hard about what is important to try to enforce and what you can just let go of in regards to your child. For younger kids, there are a lot of daily behaviors that can be frustrating: at this age, kids are messy, they cry easily, they have meltdowns, and they can be grouchy. Middle school and high school-age kids are messy, can be moody, irresponsible and unfocused. Pinpoint what your family values are and decide what to tackle. Is it important that your child completes chores, has a semi-clean room, and is respectful? If so, then make it clear what your expectations are and let the rest (the occasional mess, the roll of the eyes, the moody/grouchy behavior) roll off your back.

Step 6: Apologize when you are wrong.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is knowing when to admit you’ve done something wrong and apologizing. Some parents struggle with this, thinking that if they do this, they are giving up their power or showing weakness. But, ask yourself what it is you want to teach your child about grown-up relationships. Surely, we want our kids to know when they’ve wronged someone and teach them the importance of an apology. There’s nothing more powerful than a parent admitting their faults and offering a sincere apology. Modeling this type of humility shows a child that we are all human and that even parents make mistakes.

Step 7: Find Support.
Pick trusted friends or family members who will support you through your parenting years. Find like-minded parents who you feel safe confiding in when you’ve exploded and feel ashamed or guilty. Make sure you nurture these relationships so you have a sounding board (and can return the favor) when you are at your wit’s end.  Important:  Do not divulge your worst parenting moments to other parents or family members who are judgmental, or who express shock or dismay at your momentary lapse in parenting judgment. These people will only make you feel worse about yourself and will suck the energy out of you.

Step 8: Be Kind to Yourself.
And last of all, practice self-care by being kind and forgiving toward yourself. Parents are harder on themselves than any other group of individuals. This is born out of intense feelings of love and concern for our kids, as well as the desire to get it all right all the time. But, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent who does it all right, all the time. Most of us are lucky if we can get through the day being a “good enough” parent. Whether you lose your temper once or twenty times, acknowledge to yourself that you’ve made mistakes, and commit to doing better in the future. Acknowledge that you aren’t perfect, that you may have future tantrums, but that you are human and fallible. Forgive yourself for past indiscretions and move forward with the goal that you will start each day aiming to try your best, forgiving yourself if you weren’t great, and praising yourself when you find you are parenting at your best.

Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.”

How to Choose a Therapist for You

(Picking the Right Therapist for You)

Finding the right therapist is critical in order to achieve your therapy goals and have a successful experience.  Just as you would make sure that your car mechanic, doctor or business consultant understands your needs and respects your personality, so too – and even more so – should your therapist.

You can get recommendations of therapists from friends, family members or your insurance provider, or by doing a quick Google search for therapists in your area.  However, no matter what the therapist is, whether it’s a new graduate from social work school or a seasoned professional with a boatload of clients, the most important thing to determine is if he or she is a good fit for you.

Different strokes for different folks ——–

Some people are looking for a therapist to primarily listen and offer them a supportive ear.  Others want a proactive therapist to give feedback and offer insight on their situation.  Perhaps you want a Freudian-type therapist to do deep psychoanalysis, or you like the more standard cognitive or behavioral therapies.  Take some time to figure out what exactly you are looking for in a therapist so you can better evaluate whether this is a good match.  If you aren’t familiar with different therapy styles or modes of therapy, that’s fine. You can ask your therapist about the different styles, and pros and cons of each.

You should also evaluate more general factors such as cultural background, language and personality.  Studies show that the more similar you are to your therapist with regard to speaking the same language and coming from the same cultural background, the better your chances of therapy being successful.

Trust is another huge factor —- you must absolutely feel that you trust your therapist to respect your boundaries and protect your confidentiality.

Interview your therapist ———-

It’s best to take some time to interview your therapist and ask them what sort of therapy they practice.  Tell him or her straight out: “this is my issue – how would you deal with it?”  If the response makes sense and sounds appealing to you, this is probably a good match.  If it raises concerns, talk about the concerns with your therapist and see if you can come to an agreement.   If not, you may need to look for someone else.  Make sure you’re clear about what you need help with and what your expectations are from therapy BEFORE (you get involved in a counseling schedule) your first session, so you can properly evaluate whether this is the right therapist for you.

It can take two to three sessions before making a decision about whether it’s a good match or not, and the clearer and more upfront you are about your goals and expectations, the quicker you’ll be able to evaluate the therapist and see if he or she is right for you.  If after three full sessions you still feel like your therapist doesn’t understand you, it’s time to find someone else.  And if you’re connecting and feel a real rapport, then go for it!

Trust Your Gut

1. Learn from the past

Take some time to review your past. When, in your past, did you listen to your gut feelings? Did listening to your gut feelings validate what you were supposed to do? Are there also times that you wish you had followed your first instinct? Did you learn the hard way, that had you tapped into your gut feelings, you might have saved yourself time and heartache? Use this week to learn from the past and change future behaviors.

2. Current struggles

What are you currently struggling with in your life? Are you looking outside yourself for the answers and validation? Write down the questions and answers you are seeking.  Some examples could be whether you should stay at your current career or seek out something else. Possibly you are stuck in whether you should stay in a relationship or move on. Writing your questions out is the first step in finding the answers.

3. Keep an intuition journal

You may or may not think this is a bit out there. You have absolutely nothing to lose by starting an intuition journal, but you have everything to gain. You may find a deeper clarity that you did not see prior to writing experiences down. Write down every gut feeling, every hunch, and every positive and supportive statement that plays in your head. This journal will help validate whatever it is you are seeking, but you have to be open to what you receive.

ABC’s of a Richer Life

Many individuals are living their lives on autopilot, going from place to place, but not enjoying the ride. We get so caught up in the details of life that we don’t really stop long enough to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Going from work, to your blackberry, to your cell phone and back again, becomes a bad habit that will rob you of being in the moment. Getting back to the basics is critical if you want to live a rich and prosperous life. Even some of the busiest people know the value of stopping every now and then in order to refuel and re-evaluate how their life is going. Otherwise, you become a hamster in a cage, running endlessly around the wheel, but getting nowhere. Here are some tips to focus on:

A. Awake and engaged

Many people go through life asleep, not really awake and aware of what is going on. They may go through the motions, but they are not fully present and engaged in the daily activities and joys. The first step in living a rich life is to become more engaged in your life. Put away the cell phone, the blackberry, the laptop or television. Remind yourself to be more aware during times that you should be enjoying the moment for what it is. Just the act of being more aware will act as a catalyst to ground you and open your eyes.

An exercise for being more aware and awake in your life is to set aside 30 minutes a day to be fully present in whatever you are doing. If you are washing dishes, try thinking about nothing else other than the feel of the water and the sound of dishes. If you are watching a soccer game, really be involved in the game. Watch the players, talk with the kids, be aware of the weather. Get sticky notes and write a statement.  Be in the moment.  Put these notes everywhere in your home, in your car, on your computer. This will act as a visual reminder to focus on what you are doing right then, not thinking about the million other things you need or want to get done.

B. Be true to your values

Your values will guide you and act as a compass in your life. What you value will keep you grounded on what really matters. It is when we get so caught up in the fast pace and craziness of life’s details, that we get further from our truths. When you disengage from your values, you ultimately end up dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Take some time to clarify for yourself what you value, above all else. Then, commit to only engaging in activities that honor these values.

Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you value in life……family, freedom, creativity, travel, health, spontaneity, children, and so on. Now, narrow this list to your Top 5 values. This is what you are saying is more important to you than anything else. Without these things, your life has little meaning. Now, take a step back and look at how you are living your life.  Are the commitments you make, honoring these values? If you value your health, are you living a healthy and active lifestyle? This activity will be a wake-up call to the changes that need to be made.

C. Create a social/support group

Being part of a strong social/support group will dramatically impact your ability to face life’s challenges. Taking the time to nurture this group of individuals will greatly improve your satisfaction in life. Friends will make your celebrations more meaningful and they will get you through the difficult times with comfort. If you do not make the time to nurture your friendships, over time, you will feel lost and alone.
Do you feel supported and surrounded by good friends? Do you make an effort to nurture these relationships? What simple steps can you take to make these people more of a priority in your life? Can you commit to calling a couple friends every week to touch base? Can you pencil in a lunch or coffee once a week? Can you schedule a get-away once a year? Jot down ideas, and then, begin to implement them.

Applying these tips can make a world of difference in how much richer you experience life.

Overcoming Fear

When my brother came to visit me last year, I wanted to do something fun and exciting with him, something that would alleviate the stress of being a caregiver to his wife, and to help us bond with each other.  So, I made plans to go zip-lining with him. I was already stressed from not being able to find the location for this activity for hours on end. In addition, I suffered from a fear of heights, but I felt the only way to overcome that fear was to face it head on. After all, I should be practicing what I encourage my clients to do. We finally reached the meeting point for this zip-lining event. Once each of us in the group got strapped into our gear and hiked to our destination, I made the mistake of looking down from where we were to begin zip-lining, which was 300 feet above the ground, even though it looked like an infinite distance. Of course, I was secured to a harness, but this gave little to no comfort at the time. I was petrified with fear, and my legs felt like complete Jello. It would have been easy to give up at that point, but I was being cheered on by the others waiting in line behind me. And, I wasn’t one to throw in the towel just quite yet. I literally felt like I was about to die, and part of me would have given my life to turn back right then and there. But, guess what?  I calmed myself down, took a deep breath, said to myself, “I can do this,” and jumped. Somehow, I managed to thrust my body off the cliff I was standing on, and the cable I was attached to, slid forward till I finally got to the next mountain peak (which seemed like 1/2 mile away). I managed to find the strength somewhere deep down and continued right past the fear. This taught me invaluable lessons on trust, finding inner strength, and most importantly, to never give up. I suggest that you realize the power of pushing through your fears, the power you give yourself when you do so.  Fear will only hold you back if you allow it to, remember that breaking through your fears will build your strength and increase your belief in yourself and your abilities.

 1. Name your fears

We all have fears that we have avoided for some time. Maybe you have avoided certain situations your whole life. Maybe this is a newfound fear. Whatever the case, these fears have guided your decisions, your life choices, and the path you’ve taken. These fears are not going to go away on their own. Ignoring them is the easy way out!  So, write them down where you can read them and vocalize them. This will make them real. “I fear being alone”, or “I fear commitment”, or “I fear speaking up for myself.”

2. Prioritize them

Now that you have your list, highlight the ones that seem to be all-consuming. These are the fears that take up a majority of your time and energy. You may have been in avoidance mode when facing these fears. The highlighted fears are the ones that you want to break through. You are tired of living your life in the shadows of these fears. You are ready to take the necessary steps to move past them.

3. Time to take action

Now is the scary part. You need to take action. List ways that would stretch your comfort zone. What risks can you take in regards to your fear? If you stretched yourself a little each and every day, how would your life be different?  Make a list of small, medium and large risks that you can work up to. Commit to taking action every day until the fear is conquered. I guarantee the act of facing the fears head on will decrease your anxiety over time.

Human Trafficking

In 2013, the horrific act of human trafficking has become more prevalent than ever before.  It could very well be happening in your own neighborhood, even next door.  It is a heinous violation of human rights and of the human spirit, in addition to being a gross violation of a woman’s (and more often than not, a child’s) body.  It doesn’t occur just in other countries.  It is now widespread within our own United States of America.  The only way to eradicate or abolish this inhumane treatment of women and children is to report any incident you witness or are privy to, to the proper authorities.  Let’s take a stand for these helpless victims. Take action and do your part to stop human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Indicators

While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

Questions to Ask

Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

Where to Get Help

If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. If, however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below.

911 Emergency
For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to alert the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below so that they can ensure response by law enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.

1-888-373-7888 National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. The Center is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including, but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.

1-888-428-7581 U.S. Department of Justice Worker Exploitation Complaint Line
Call the U.S. Department of Justice’s dedicated human trafficking toll-free complaint line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9 AM – 5 PM EST) to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you .This call is toll-free and offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin.

The Seven Tools for Purposeful Parenting

 Tool 1: Parenting with Purpose

One of the most important and exciting decisions you can make as a parent is to define success goals for your child. Choosing, communicating and pursuing clear and age-appropriate goals for your child will give them a sense of purpose that brings them the experience of mastering their world as they achieve the designated benchmarks in their lives. Your definition of success for your child must reflect your child’s interests, skills and abilities and not just yours.

Two possible goals to consider are socialization and authenticity. Socialization means helping your child to become a responsible citizen, learning how to work in harmony with other people and to develop intimate and trusting relationships. Authenticity is fostered when you set goals suited to your child’s interests, abilities and talents. One of the great responsibilities you have as a parent — and one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children — is to teach them to develop their gifts fully to build their lives around whatever it is that fulfills them.

Tool 2: Parenting with Clarity

This tool is based on the principle that communication between parents and their children is essential for building and maintaining a loving and productive relationship. Children need to feel that they have certain power and influence within the framework of the boundaries that you’ve created in your family. The primary way to promote that feeling is to give them your full, undivided attention and weigh very carefully what they’re seeking to convey. Listening is the key.

Too often, the only communication that takes place between you and your child is when a crisis has erupted. It’s important to talk about critical issues outside of stress-packed situations. The time to discuss curfew, for example, is not when the child comes home 30 minutes late. The rules should be established before the kid goes out at night. If he breaks curfew, save the discussions of consequences until the calm of the next morning when you both have clear heads. Yelling and screaming in the heat of the moment is the poorest form of communication you can practice. Sometimes when it comes to communication, timing is everything.

Children want to be heard and know that their feelings are being considered. They want to know that they can earn certain rights and privileges if they do what is expected of them. They want to have a perception of some power, some ability to create what they want.

Tool #3: Parenting by Negotiation

As parents, you can negotiate with many different styles. The first step is to assess the kind of personalities and types you’re dealing with. That will tell you what type of negotiation approach to take. If you’ve got a highly rebellious kid, you don’t necessarily want to approach the negotiations in a heavy-handed way.

One of the first steps in teaching your child negotiation basics is to make sure he or she can predict the consequences of their actions so they have a sense of responsibility for the outcomes generated. Five critical steps to successful negotiation are:

– Narrow the area of dispute.
– Find out what it is they really want.
– Work to find a middle ground.
– Be specific in your agreement and the negotiation’s outcome.
– Make negotiated agreements, shorter term in the beginning.

 Tool #4: Parenting with Currency

If you want your child to behave appropriately, you have to set the standards for the behaviors you want. Too often, parents look only at undesirable behaviors and their parenting styles dissolve into complaining and reacting. If you focus on developing the positive behaviors in your child, then the negative behaviors won’t be so overwhelming. You also have to determine your child’s currency. Currency is anything that when presented during or immediately after a target behavior will increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again. Figure out a way for them to get as much of what they want through appropriate behavior.

There are a number of different currencies that can vary with your child’s age. This can be stuffed animals, DVDs, television and computer privileges and stereos. Once you understand what is valuable in your child’s life, then you can mold and shape his or her behavior.

It is also effective to put in writing what you expect of your child, and what the consequences will be if he or she does not go with the program. These are called contingency contracts or behavioral contracts.

Tool #5: Parenting Through Change

You must be willing to adopt a commando commitment. This is having a whatever-it-takes mentality. This may mean that you may have to take two weeks off from your job and stay home with the children. You might have to drive a less expensive car, live in a smaller house, cut down on eating out or vacationing closer to home. The future of you and your children is at stake. Drastic problems call for drastic solutions. It’s called creating “disequilibrium,” because it results in a redefinition of roles and a major shift of power that can be temporarily unsettling to those who were running the show and having their way. Shaking up a family requires thoughtful planning.

Some ways to create disequilibrium are writing an expression of commitment, developing a communication system, holding a support system and anticipating resistance.

Tool #6: Parenting in Harmony

You do not have to compete with distractions like TV, cell phones, video games or Instant Messaging. The best way to accomplish your mission for family control is to insist on an environmental cleanup. The sooner you start this process and the younger your children are when you change the rhythm of your life, the easier it will be and more profound will be the impact.

You can start by listing your family’s top ten priorities. Then list the top ten things that waste time in your household. Once you compare the two lists, determine whether or not the way your family is living and investing their time is congruent. If you find the priorities and values at the top of your first list reside at the bottom of your time allocation list, you must consciously start reordering your time and energy commitments in such a way as to put what you know to be important back on center stage.

 Tool #7: Parenting By Example

The most powerful role model in any child’s life is the same-sex parent. It’s a fact that children learn vicariously by observing the behavior of others and noting the consequences of their actions. They watch what happens to family members when they succeed or fail and those experiences become a reference for how they live. This is known as modeling.

Through your actions, words, behavior and love, you can direct your children to where you want them to go. Show them how to be happy, well-balanced and fulfilled adults. Shed any negative attitudes. Dump self-destructive behavior patterns. Turn up the positive attitude.

Red Flags to Look for in a Relationship

If you notice any of the following signs in a partner, be seriously concerned that the relationship may become violent:

• Quick involvement

• Jealousy

• Isolation

• Controlling behavior

• Verbal abuse

• Emotional abuse

• Hypersensitivity

• Victim of abuse as a child

• Jekyll-Hyde behavior

• Blaming others for his problems

• Blaming others for his feelings

• Using force during an argument

• Threats of violence

• Rigid sex roles

• Sexual abuse (including forced sex in marriage)

• Breaking or striking objects

• Cruelty to animals or children

• Past battering

If your partner exhibits three or more of these characteristics, he or she may be abusive!!!

Coping Skills for the Holidays

1.  Three slow, deep belly breaths can work wonders to calm your nerves.

2.  Focus on experiences rather than material things.

3.  Take care of yourself first (think of the airplane oxygen mask analogy). It is o.k. to say no.

4.  Minimize your time with people who stress you out.

5.  Nutrition is important.

6.  Exercise is too! Research shows exercise is as effective as antidepressant medications.

7.  Getting a massage or taking a hot bath are great stress-relievers.

8.  Recognize what you do and don’t have control over.

9.  Avoid or minimize alcohol, especially in situations where you are not with people

you trust and feel safe with. And remember that alcohol is a depressant.

10. Get support – from friends, family, or maybe a counselor or support group.