Tag Archive for discipline

What Did I Just Do?

My daughters were upstairs…arguing…loudly. I hate arguing. And I hate loud. Still, I waited in hopes they would resolve their disagreement without my intervention.  But they continued to argue and yell. The longer they yelled, the more my irritation grew. After what seemed like an eternity (probably only 1-2 minutes in reality), I stomped to the bottom of the stairs and yelled, “Stop the yelling. We don’t yell in this house!” As soon as I heard the words leave my mouth, I shook my head. Did I just yell at my children to stop yelling? That’s just wrong on so many levels.

  • Yelling didn’t model the behavior I wanted them to see. What else can I say about this? Yelling is bad modeling…unless you want children that yell to get their point across.
  • Yelling prevents learning. Our children, like people in general, enter into the “fight or flight” mode when someone yell at them, even if that someone is a parent. In the “fight or flight” mode, a person focuses on self-protection and, as a result, really can’t learn. Their learning is frozen in fear and all their internal resources are mobilized for self-protection. There is no learning or rational thought, only the buzz and frazzle of confused self-protection.
  • Yelling sabotages our parent-child relationship. It severs the connection between you and your child and replaces it with fearful self-protection. It scrambles your child’s brain, interfering with their ability to relate. Remember, the parent-child relationship forms the foundation of effective parenting. After all, rules without relationship leads to rebellion.
  • Yelling plugs up our children’s ears. It teaches them that they don’t really have to listen until we yell. A simple, quiet request goes unheeded when yelling is our general practice. They have learned to not listen until they hear you yell. 
  • Yelling models disrespect and we want our children to learn respect. Children, like all people, deserve our respect, even during discipline.

It’s true. I yelled at my children to stop yelling. Not one of my finer parenting moments. Fortunately, I caught my discrepancy and my children, like all children, are extremely gracious. They allowed room for “do-over.” I walked up the stairs and went into the room where they argued. We took a moment to talk about their argument, my yelling, and the fact that we really “don’t want to yell in this house.” Another moment to resolve their disagreement, at least to my satisfaction, and life returned to normal. Next time I opened my mouth to yell up the stairs at my children, I remembered that day and smiled. Then I walked up the stairs. Even before I got to the top of the stairs, my children started arguing more quietly and with greater civility. I smiled. Maybe we were all learning after all.

The Best Response to Your Child’s Ingratitude

I’ve heard many parents express frustration over their child’s lack of gratitude. Maybe you have done it yourself. It seems even grateful children go through times in which they become ungrateful, demanding, and even presumption. They stop expressing thanks and expect to receive anything they want from their parents. Or, they expect their parent to do anything they want for them…as if we, their parents, were put on this earth to serve their every whim. They express frustration or anger because they don’t get something they want, even though we just spent an afternoon doing nice things for them. Or maybe they bemoan that the other kids “have it better” because their “parents understand.” You’ve probably encountered a time like this. Most of us have experienced our children doing at least one of these things. I know I have. When it happens, we ask ourselves: “What’s the best way to respond so my children will become more grateful as they mature?”

That’s the question Andrea Hussong (from the University of North Carolina) and colleagues sought to answer in 3 -year study involving over 100 parents and children. They considered 6 parental responses to ingratitude: self-blame, letting it go as a “phase” the child will outgrow, becoming frustrated or distressed, punishing, giving in, or teaching/instructing.

They discovered several details about gratitude between parent and child, but I want to focus on what responses parents and children in the study thought fostered gratitude. Parents believed their children showed more gratitude after 3 years when they responded to ingratitude with negative consequences, for instance, putting a toy left out where someone might trip over it into time out or taking away an opportunity for dessert because the child expressed ingratitude for supper.

Children, on the other hand, reported increased gratitude when their parents “got upset or frustrated by their ingratitude.” In other words, when parents express their authentic emotions about their children’s ingratitude, their children listen… and learn.

So, if you get frustrated by your child’s ingratitude and the expectations that accompany that ingratitude, let them know.  Stay calm, take a breath, look them in the eye, and tell them: “I get upset when you don’t appreciate the food I give you and my effort in preparing it.” “It’s very frustrating that I spent all evening playing a game you wanted to play and now you demand to stay up late.” “I really get angry when you leave your toys where someone could trip over them when you know how to put them away when you’re done playing.”

Then, if the ingratitude continues, a negative consequence may also help. “No dessert” due to ingratitude over dinner. An “earlier bedtime” in response to demanding behavior in the evening. A toy “put in time out” for the day because a child did not put it away when asked to. The important thing is to make sure the consequence is associated with the area of ingratitude.

And just as important, when your child expresses gratitude, show a little gratitude in return. Your gratitude will reinforce the behavior you desire, the behavior of showing gratitude. Children learn from their parent’s example. Your gratitude will set a good example. It will “rub off on them.” In fact, your children will rarely become more grateful than you. The more gratitude you show, the more gratitude they will show.

Parents, Don’t Sabotage Your Children’s Ears

Parents want their children to listen. We want them to listen so we can teach them and keep them safe. But sometimes we sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen.

We sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by lecturing. Children stop listening when parents go on and on. Instead of listening and learning, they shut their parents out and focus on how their parent could do things differently (AKA— “is crazy). Instead of lecturing, keep it clear and concise, to the point. In fact, you can often boil down what you want to say to one, two, or three words. For example: “Nice words, please.” “Brush your teeth.” “Please help me.”

We sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by giving commands without any education. Children like to “exercise their free will.” (Don’t we all. But when adults do this, we call it “standing up for ourselves.” When children do it, we call it rebellion.) Many times, a little education goes a long way in getting children to listen and learn. So tell your children the reason behind the directive. For instance, “Milk spoils when it’s left out, so we better put it away.” “Glasses break easily.” “Unflushed toilets start to smell.” Statements like these offer the reasons behind our directives and communicate a trust that our children will do the right thing when they have all the information.

We also sabotage our efforts at getting children to listen by neglecting to be polite. We constantly tell our children to say “thank you” and “please” but neglect to give them the same courtesy. Remember, our children learn from our actions. They are more likely to listen when we remain polite. Our children also deserve our respect. When we treat our children with respect, they know they are valued. They are more likely to listen to a parent who has expressed respect and value toward them. So don’t forget the “thank-you’s” and “pleases” when speaking with your children.  “Can you help clear the table please?” “Thank you for watching your sister.”

We sabotage our efforts to get our children to listen by cajoling and persuading rather than giving choices. Cajoling and persuading gives your power to your children. Your children become the ones in control when a parent resorts to cajoling, demanding, and persuading. Many times, parents will then threaten punishment in an effort to re-exert control. Unfortunately, threatening punishment results in a power struggle. Your child digs in their heels and accepts “the challenge.” They “call their parent’s bluff” to see who is really in control. You might avoid this whole power struggle by offering a simple choice. Rather than cajole, persuade, and threaten, calmly offer a choice. This choice may involve a consequence, or it may not. If it does involve a consequence, use a natural consequence—a consequence directly related to the behavior. “Please put on your coat to go out or we can stay in.” “Put your toys away please or they will go into time out for a day.” If the choice involves a natural consequence, state it calmly AND make sure you are willing to allow the natural consequence to occur. If you save your child from the consequences of their actions, you rob them of the opportunity to learn.

These four suggestions may not work every time (nothing does). But they will work much of the time. And you will no longer find yourself sabotaging your efforts at getting your children to listen.

Shouting Into a Void & Staring Into an Abyss

It wasn’t the only time I saw it, but it was definitely one of the most blatant and extreme examples. It happened while I was visiting the home of a single mother and her two sons. She complained that her sons “did not listen” to her. On my first visit she provided a hint about why they were “not listening.” One of her sons had neglected to complete a chore. His mother asked why he had not done it. He simply said, “I forgot.” His mother then began to expound upon his irresponsibility, how he always forgot, and was never to be trusted. Thirty seconds… forty-five seconds…a minute…and she was still lecturing. I watched her son respond to her barrage of instruction & anger. He quit listening after her first one or two sentences. He looked away. Then he checked his watch. His eyes drifted to the ceiling and then to the window. Finally, he simply stared into the abyss as his mother shouted into the void.

This exchange offered several examples of the wrong thing to do, things that resulted in her son not listening. Consider the alternatives we suggested to her.

  1. Address behavior not character. This mother labeled her son irresponsible, forgetful, and untrustworthy. Our children internalize the labels we use of them, especially the ones we shout at them in anger or frustration. Eventually, they will believe those labels true and begin to live them out. Their expectations of themselves will match the self-concept based on the labels we’ve used to describe them. So, no name-calling. Beware your assumptions. Do not label your children’s character. Instead, address their behavior, their actions. Objectively describes the behavior you do not like rather than make a subjective judgment about their person. Explain the consequences of the behavior. Talk about how the behavior impacts those around them. Address the behavior, not their character.
  2. Avoid permanent markers of frequency like “always” and “never.”  For one thing, they are not true. There are often (dare I say, “always”) exceptions. Additionally, permanent markers of frequency limit the possibility of change. After all, if it “always” happens, it will “never” change. Instead, use temporary markers of frequency like “sometimes,” “this time,” “at this moment,” “occasionally,” maybe even “often.” Your child will more readily listen to you when you stop using permanent markers of frequency. And you indirectly acknowledge that there are exceptions to the problem behavior as well. Finally, and most importantly, you leave the possibility of change open.
  3. Keep it clear and concise. Don’t lecture or nag. Your child will stop listening. Say what you have to say in a clear, understandable way. Keep it short. Say it concisely and with brevity. Then stop. Your child can hear and understand. The more you talk, the less they listen. The more you lecture, the more likely they go away talking about your behavior rather than thinking about their own behavior.

These three simple communication actions can change the way your child hears and responds to you. They will put an end to you shouting into the void and your child staring into the abyss. Instead, you will speak to your child and your child will more likely listen.

Clues Learned During the Pandemic for Future Parenting

I remember when the pandemic started. I thought it would last 6-12 months. Boy was I wrong. The longer it drags on, the greater impact it seems to have on our mental health and the mental health of our children. A study published in PLOS ONE, 2021, however, offers some wonderful wisdom for promoting our children’s resilience and mental health during this time. This study recruited 224 participants between the ages of 7 and 15 years from two longitudinal studies of children and adolescents in the Greater Seattle area. They gave these youth and their parents a battery of questionnaires assessing social behaviors, psychopathology, and pandemic-related stresses in November of 2020. They gave them a follow-up battery of questionnaires in January or 2021. Because the youth were participants in a larger longitudinal study, the researchers also had access to their social behaviors, psychopathology, and related stresses prior to the pandemic.

In short, the research suggested:

  • The number of pandemic-related stresses they experienced (serious illness or death of a friend or family as well as quarantine, exposures, significant financial changes, social isolation, changes in community involvement, etc.) was positively associated with mental health symptoms and behavioral difficulties.
  • Youth who spent less time on digital devices and consumed less than two hours of news per day exhibited fewer mental health symptoms. In fact, “the strong association between pandemic-related stressors and psychopathology was absent among children with lower amounts of screen time and news media consumption.”
  • Youth who got the recommended amount of sleep and those who had a more structured daily routine during stay-at-home orders had lower levels of behavioral symptoms.
  • Those youth who spent greater amounts of time in nature exhibited a somewhat lower level of mental health symptoms.

This offers parents some excellent advice about how to help our children navigate the unpredictability created by the pandemic. First, develop a positive daily routine for your family and children. This routine might include a family meal, homework time, play time, various community activities, a regular bedtime and bedtime routine.

Second, limit screen time. Our children (and many of us) can easily find themselves sucked into video games, social media interactions, simply scrolling social media platforms, or binging Netflix. Unfortunately, social media platforms become stressful when we do not limit our involvement. Video games can rob us of other stress reducing activities like face-to-face interactions with family and friends. In fact, studies suggest the more screen time a teen engages in the less happy they become.

Third, limit your children’s exposure to news media about the pandemic. It’s good to get some news about the pandemic, other “world happenings,” and politics. However, it can easily become overwhelming, and our children may not have developed the emotional resources to manage the stress of the overwhelming, nonstop, 24-hour a day barrage of news. Really, how many of us have chosen to limit news intake for the same reason? Teach your children to be wise consumers of news and social media just as you teach them to be a wise consumer of food.

Fourth, get outside. Spend some time in nature. Nature promotes health. It helps to reduce stress and increases happiness.

Finally, establish healthy sleep hygiene. Sleep is crucial to our mental health, especially during times of increased stress.

These five suggestions will help you and your children navigate the times of this pandemic while maintaining emotional health and further developing resilience. Ironically, these five suggestions will also serve to nurture healthy children when the pandemic ends. So, start practicing them now and keep them up when we finally navigate our way to the other side of this troubled time. Even then, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well these five suggestions help your children live happier, healthier lives.

Becoming an Expert Parent

Experts work on basics all the time. Expert hockey players practice the basics of puck control; soccer players the basic of ball and foot control; instrumentalists the basics of scales and arpeggios…you get the idea. Experts never stop practicing the basics of their skills. The same applies to parents. To become expert parents, we need to keep practicing the basic parenting skills. With that in mind, let’s review 5 basics of raising healthy children.

  1. Expert parents provide a safe environment for their children. A safe environment includes providing healthy nutrition, regular sleep routines, and good hygiene. A safe environment also includes loving touch and predictable routines. Discipline, when needed, is carried out in a loving manner. Overall, a safe environment provides children with a sense of security from which they can explore the world.
  2. Expert parents are consistently available to their children. Or course, they are not present with their children 24/7. However, their children know that their parents are available to them when they need them. Remember, children spell love T.I.M.E. (Here is a great way to spend time with your child to let them know you are available.)
  3. Expert parents maintain reasonable expectations for their children. These expectations can include expectations around household chores, how to communicate their emotions, and what activities they will complete independently among other things. The reasonable expectations vary from child to child and developmental level to developmental level. As a result, to maintain reasonable expectations for your children requires you to become a student of your children. Get to know them. Learn about development in general and their level of development specifically. Make your expectations for behavior and communication match their developmental abilities.
  4. Expert parents discipline wisely. Wise discipline involves proactive measures in an effort to limit inappropriate behavior in the first place. Proactive disciplinary measures include routines, talking about expectations and situations that might potentially challenge those expectations, and teaching skills like emotional management and time management. Bedtime routines, morning routines, and routines around transitions from school to home go a long way in reducing negative behaviors. When responding to an inappropriate behavior, wise discipline addresses the inappropriate behavior directly. For instance, if a child makes a mess have them clean the mess up rather than “ground them.” Let them address the difficulty they have created through their misbehavior. Teaching children to put voice to their emotions of anger, disappointment, sorrow, and happiness also represents a strong discipline tool. Wise discipline helps children understand how behavior impacts others and teaches them appropriate behaviors.
  5. Expert parents accept their children. This sounds obvious, but it bears repeating. Expert parents accept their children even when their children have different interests than them. In fact, they learn about their children’s interests and encourage those interests. Expert parents accept their children’s growing independence and allow them the space to grow in that independence…even though it’s difficult to let go. Expert parents communicate acceptance of their children even when they have to discipline an unacceptable behavior. They differentiate between the behavior and their child, assuring their child realizes they are accepted even if their behavior is not.

Experts practice the basics. These points represent 5 of the basics that parents need to practice consistently…from the time their children are born. Practice. Practice. Practice.

The Grace of a Parent Who Disciplines

We often think a show of grace means giving someone a special favor or showing them kindness even when they don’t deserve it. This is true, but grace goes even further. Grace sacrifices. Grace gives of itself, even gives up the self, to pave the way for another person to become healthier and more mature. As any parent discovers, becoming a parent is a practice in the grace of giving up their selves for their children, sometimes in subtle & often in difficult ways. For instance, discipline is an act of grace. No one likes to see their child uncomfortable. But in grace a parent gives up their own comfort and allows their child to sit in the discomfort of their poor choice. In a way, parents give up their own comfort to sit in discomfort like their child for the sake of their child’s long-term growth.

Sometimes a parent has to actively set a limit or enforce a rule. In anger, their child may look at them with hatred. They may even say, “I hate you.” When this happens, a parent gives up their desire to be understood and loved so their child can grow more mature. They have shown grace in an effort to help their child become a more mature person.

Other similarly gracious moments arise every day, moments of giving “hard grace” by giving up the desire to be liked 100% of the time, understood and appreciated for difficult decisions, and free to observe our children’s joy at all times. These “little moments” of grace occur daily in limits like:

  • “Save your snack for after dinner so you don’t ruin your appetite.”
  • “Leave your phone in the kitchen to charge overnight. That way it will get a full charge and you can get a good night’s sleep.”
  • “Please use polite, respectful language…even when you’re angry.”
  • “Finish your homework, then you can meet your friends.”
  • “Be kind to that kid at school, even if everyone else is mean to him/her. If you were in his/her place, wouldn’t you want a friend?”

The list goes on. Grace, giving ourselves up for our children’s maturity, may be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. But the long-term dividends are amazing—an adult child who is kind, loving, compassionate…and full of grace themselves.

Parents: A United Front or A Strong Foundation?

I often hear people say that parents need to present a united front when disciplining their children. I agree…in a way, sort of. True, it is detrimental for children to see their parents constantly argue about the rules or methods of discipline. It interferes with effective discipline when children see one parent consistently step in to correct the other parent during discipline. In fact, the child who sees that will learn to use one parent against the other. Worse, they will feel less secure and, as a result, have less energy to invest in growing and maturing. So yes, parents need to be on the same page when it comes to discipline.

On the other hand, parents are people, and no two people are exactly the same, not even parents. They have different personalities and different experiences that may lead to differences in what they consider an appropriate limit or an effective style of discipline.  Besides, the term “united front” makes me think of allies uniting on the front line to wage battle against a common enemy. But our child is not the enemy, they are family. Rather than a united front, I think parents need a strong foundation from which to parent effectively.

Developing a strong parental foundation takes some work that begins even before any discipline is needed. Here are three ways to begin building a strong parental foundation that will help you effectively discipline your children as a team.

First, before any disciplinary issues arise, sit down with your child’s other parent to discuss discipline (3 Simple Steps to Discipline Children). Here are just a few questions to consider:

  • What behaviors do you want to encourage? How will you encourage those behaviors?
  • What behaviors will you absolutely not tolerate? How will you consequence those behaviors?
  • How will you teach and model the behaviors you want your children to do more often? 
  • You may discover you and your child’s other parent have some differences of opinion. That’s OK. Now is the time to talk about those differences. That discussion will include talking about how your childhood experiences shape your ideas about discipline. What experiences did you have as an adult and as a child that influenced your ideas about discipline?

Overall, this discussion begins to develop a foundation for how you will discipline together. Develop an agreed upon approach to your discipline style as a couple. This may require some compromise along the way. (Learn more in Compromise: My Way or the Highway.)

Second, address issues that arise during discipline…but not in the moment. No matter how much you prepare ahead of time, you will experiment moments in which you disagree with your spouse about a boundary or a method used to discipline. In the immediate moment, do your best to support your spouse and their intent to raise a healthy mature person. Because you have taken time to agree on basic parenting goals and discipline style (the first step above), you can support your spouse and their intent in this moment.

Then, talk to your spouse in private about your concern. Begin the private discussion by acknowledging your spouse as a good parent who loves your children and wants the best for them. Ask them to help you understand their thoughts and feelings around the situation. As they do, you may find you have greater agreement than you initially thought. Finally, discuss your concerns. Then you can work together to develop a plan for future incidents, a plan you are both comfortable with.

Third, at all times (except in cases of abuse) support your child’s other parent. One way to do this involves promoting mutual respect within the family. Moments to do so arise throughout the day as well as during times of discipline. For instance, “Please turn the TV down while your father is resting” encourages your children to consider how their actions impact others.

Don’t be surprised though if your child says, “Please turn the TV down while I’m studying.” After all, we are seeking mutual respect and teaching our child to politely speak up for their needs.

These ideas are not exhaustive. They merely help you begin a process of building a strong foundation…a process that will continue throughout your time of raising children. And, most important, these ideas will help you and your spouse enjoy parenting your child together.

Take Time to Reflect

In her book Hunt, Gather, Parent, Michaeleen Doucleff, PHD, describes “three steps [a parent can use] to transmit any value they want to a child.” These three steps include modeling, acknowledging, and practicing. And it’s true. Parents use these three powerful actions to transmit values to their children whether they know it or not, even whether they intend to or not. If we don’t reflect on what we model, acknowledge, and practice, we may pass on values that we never wanted our children to learn. As an example, consider children and teen technology use.

Practice: Many parents give their children lots of practice in the unhealthy use of technology. For instance, we hand our toddlers our cell phone or iPad to keep them calm, busy, and out of our hair. We may also give children and teens technology to counter their boredom during a long drive. In other words, we encourage them to use technology to deal with frustrations or boredom and, in the process, discourage them from learning other methods of dealing with frustrations and boredom (like reading, playing a game, or conversing with other people). In fact, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry notes that we let 8-12-year-old children practice using technology 4-6 hours a day. Teens practice using technology up to 9 hours a day. Imagine if they practiced math, a sport, or an instrument that many hours a day.

Acknowledge: We acknowledge our children’s behavior by attending to it. Negative attention and positive attention both reinforce behavior.  The more energetic our attention (positive or negative), the greater the reinforcement. When we yell at our child to “get off the phone” we are providing energetic attention to a behavior we don’t like. When we constantly complaining about them playing video games, we are giving attention to a behavior we find frustrating. In both cases, our acknowledgment simply reinforces their continued technology usage. Sure, they may turn it off in the moment, but they will return to it the first chance they get. After all, our energetic acknowledgment has helped to build and reinforce their self-concept as someone who “always uses technology…” just like we told them. Instead of acknowledging their use of technology in energetic, frustrated tones, invest your energy in engaging them in more valued activities. Energetically acknowledge their involvement with friends, their progress in academics, their kindness to others, their active participation in sports, or other activities you want your children to learn to value. I’m sure your child has a much broader life than one of simple technology use. Acknowledge those other areas. Acknowledge when they use technology in appropriate ways and at appropriate times as well. This can help them learn the appropriate use of technology in their lives.

Model: Too often we—the parents—model the kind of technology usage we hate in our children. It’s true. Consider these statistics. Over 70% of married couples report cell phones frequently interfere with their relationships. In one study, 40 of the 55 parents observed with children in a fast-food restaurant used their cell phone. The more they used their cell phone the more their children either withdrew from them or engaged in limit testing behaviors to gain their attention. When we allow our technology use to interfere with our interactions with our children, we model a level of technology use we want our children to avoid. Unfortunately, our children learn to do what we model. They do as we do much more often than they do as we say.

Practicing, acknowledging, and modeling are powerful ways in which we teach our children and teens about behaviors we value. Unfortunately, if we don’t practice, acknowledge, and model thoughtfully, we may pass on values we don’t agree with and never wanted our children to learn. Take time to reflect. It may prove one of the most effective parenting tools we have. 

Avoiding the Family Flush of Criticism

Criticism is toxic. It creates a toxic environment that threatens to flush your happy family right down the tubes. It’s true. It never helps and it always hurts. Consider the cycle of criticism. Criticism causes the person criticized to retreat behind walls of protection and toss out bombs of defensiveness against the one criticizing them. Criticism also captures the one criticizing in a cycle that focuses on the negative and, as a result, perceive an unending list of reasons to remain unhappy and angry. Unhappy, angry criticism leads to more unhappy, angry criticism, eliciting and swirling around with a protective distancing and defensiveness, both reinforcing the other as your happy marriage and family are flushed away in the toxic environment of criticism. Criticism never helps. It always hurts.

But what if you have a genuine concern, an unmet need that you must express? How can we offer a concern, even a complaint, without falling into the flushing cycle of criticism? After all, our children, our spouses, even our parents will do things that we will rub us the wrong way, pushing us to criticize their choices or requiring some form of correction. How do we address these legitimate concerns without criticism?

First, become aware of our feelings and take time to understand those feelings. Why does my spouse’s behavior or words arouse my anger? Why do my child’s actions make me feel so helpless? Why do my parents get on my last nerve? What priority are they touching upon? What thoughts are their words and actions arousing in me? Are these thoughts rational or extreme? Answering these questions will help us understand and respond to our feelings more accurately and calmly.

Second, take responsibility for our feelings. Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our feelings, and how we act on those feelings, are our responsibility. We cannot blame our spouse, our child, or our parent. Instead, we can take ownership of the way we respond to our feelings. Accept your power. Manage your emotions. Don’t give the power away by blaming the other person.

Third, take a “criticism fast” (Much of this information is taken from The Marriage Vaccine, the idea of a “criticism fast” in particular). For the next 30 days, do not criticize. Remember, criticism never helps. It always hurts. Focus on complimenting, encouraging, thanking, and admiring the good you see in the other person and the good in what you see them doing.

Fourth, if you have a genuine concern that you need to address, do it with kindness. (Join the Kindness Challenge with Shaunti Feldhahn.) Here is a process to help you express your concern with kindness rather than criticism.

  1. Nurture your compassion toward them before you speak. Consider how the action or words you want to address may impact that person in a negative way. When you can feel some level of compassion for the other person (the person you want to criticize) move on to step two.
  2. When you address the concern, begin with a gentle start up. Remember, your discussion will end like it begins [blog]. Use a neutral tone. Avoid “you-statements” as they
    are easily interpreted as blaming. Objectively describe a specific situation that epitomizes your complaint [Turn your Argument Into the Best…].
  3. Offer a simple, positive action the other person can take in the future to remedy any similar situation. Offering this type of solution invites your partner to relate in a new way, a way that can build deeper intimacy. It invites your spouse into a deeper relationship.

These four tips can help you avoid the flush of criticism that will send your happy family swirling down the tubes and, instead, develop a more intimate, loving family.

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