Emotional Credit Line

Old piggy bankNow, perhaps more than ever in our lifetime, things are tough. Money is tight, prices are up, revenues are down, globalization, the Internet and mobile technology change almost everything we know. As a result, pressure is mounting and many parents struggle to cope with it.

In the past week, two things happened that made me think of using buffers or “lines of credit” as a strategy for reducing pressure, both financial and emotional, and keeping ourselves sane, while being better parents for our kids.

The first thing was Eden’s presentation of her research on corporal punishment. You may remember we invited our readers to participate in this research, which examined the links between parents’ disciplinary methods and things like the number of children in the family, age differences, financial situation and more.

When she analyzed parents’ and children’s’ responses to her survey, it occurred to Eden that stress may be a mediator between the various characteristics of each family and the amount of physical punishment used by the parents. Turns out, it is. She found that when parents experience more stress in their life, due to having more kids, having them close together and/or not having enough money to support them, they used less positive reinforcement with their children and were more abusive towards them, both verbally and physically.

Read more about how to reduce financial stress

Attention is Golden

Couple at cocktail partyAs parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.

But it is worth the trouble.

When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…

At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.

Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.

Read more about how to be a good listener

My School Horror: Untouchable

Girl looking sadSchool was not one of the best periods in my life. I have become a teacher in hope of making a different in the lives of the many children like I was who are not very good in their studies, have few or no friends and struggle.

It is hard for people to imagine this, but for some kids, school is a big struggle for survival. This struggle is carried with them for years to come, even when those kids become parents themselves. When I talk to my clients about the negative beliefs they have about themselves, I discover that many of them were formed in school, when other kids said nasty things that they had no way of overcoming. I understand this very well, because I was the same. It took me a long time get over it and what really helped me was moving from primary school to middle school.

In 1st Grade, I was not a very popular girl. If there was a hierarchy in class, I was at the bottom of it, with 2 other kids that had their own problems. I loved going to school, because my teacher was the angel for me. She was soft and understanding and always treated me nicely, but the other kids never wanted to play with me.

When I did not come to school, it was very hard for my teacher to get one of the kids to come over and give me the homework (although some kids lived in my neighborhood). In the morning, when we had to stand in pairs in front of the classroom door, I was always left at the end and the child that had to give me his hand did this it in disgust. Although my teacher was very kind to me, I was always alone. Every year, until the end of primary school, when the end of year came and my class gave a performance, I stood at the back, holding a sign or something, by myself.

Was I maybe just not a friendly girl?

Read more about my school horror

Slumber Party: Sleepover Reloaded

Girls at a slumber partyLast week, our 11-year-old daughter Noff had a slumber party for her birthday. Since she has a birthday party every year (most of her friends do not), we decided we would try to do something different this year. She had already had one or two friends for a sleepover, but never a whole slumber party. At first, I asked her how many girls she would invite and she said 5, but when the invitation went out, I discovered she had invited 12 girls.

Hmmm… I wondered how that would work.

While I was worried if we would be able to fit 12 girls into our living room as the invitation went out, I realized that a slumber party required more than just a big living room. It comes with lots of other challenges. Some people also questioned our choice to allow this mass sleepover to take place, but I thought it was a great opportunity to give our daughter a chance to learn things about herself and others that no amount of talking could.

Challenge 1: The number of kids

The first challenge was to reduce the number of people from 24 that usually come to her parties to 7, which we thought would be a good number. Obviously, this did not work for us, because with a lot of effort, Noff only brought it down to 12. She struggled so much that we comforted each other, “We’ll manage. We always do”.

Eventually, 7 girls confirmed, we put mattresses on the floor, and as the girls came with their small suitcases, we discovered there were 9 girls there, 10 including Noff.

Oops.

Read more about Noff’s slumber party

I See You

Piano player on dark stagePressure is an isolating feeling. People under pressure see themselves as if they were under attach and their top priority is to survive, if only emotionally. So they focus on their own feelings, regard most interactions with suspicion and withdraw into a “safe space” as much as they can.

The problem with pressure is that it also damages our ability to reason and function severely. It interferes with remembering things, with being creating and with our perception of what goes on around us. We see the world through narrow slits in a thick armor, we see everything tinted bright red, we hear everything pitchy and sharp and very little makes sense.

Intense pressure can even make us feel like there is no hope and nobody to help us. It is as if we are invisible.

A long time ago, I saw a movie, I think it was Ordinary People, where a mother walked over to her teenage son, touched him gently and said, “I see you”. That line stuck with me and I have used the idea in it many times with the people I love.

I think the “I see you” method works well because the other person is using an invisible shield that is very effective at blocking direct methods, like advice, jokes and uninvited help. It works especially well with teenagers, who see many things as threats to their identity and independence.

Read more about how to support your kids

How to Manage Difficult People: A Holistic Approach

Man crouching and holding his headWe all have “need tanks” and they are full or empty due to the circumstances in our life. We can direct some of the events that influence us, but we cannot direct all of them. We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can control what we do about it and learn to keep our balance.

If you lose your job, your certainty tank is emptied all of a sudden. If you divorce, your love and connection tank goes down so quickly your life will be hard for a while. If you have a new job and you need to work exactly at the same times of the day and you need to accumulate lots of working days until you can have a holiday, then your variety level is at risk. If you have just joined a sewing club, where everyone there is so advanced you need to catch up, then your significance may suffer.

Personal development is a very good way to learn to fill our tanks. We learn to balance ourselves by discovering who we are, how we think, how we function and what makes us happy and successful. It is very important to know that the balance is different from one person to another. What one sees balance might feel out of balance for another. When we consider needs, they also contradict each other sometimes.

Conflicting needs

Our four needs are in constant conflict with each other and require each person to balance them based on his or her definition of balance.

Read more about how to help a difficult person

How to Manage Difficult People Using "Why?" and "What?"

clip_image008_thumbDifficult behavior is always a sign that there is an unfulfilled need. Most of the time, everybody focuses on the desires the difficult people express and not on their needs, while the difficult people are so stuck on what they want that they are not at all in a position to fulfill their own needs.

That can be changed by you helping them find what they need and by helping them get it.

The following technique was developed by observing 2- and 3-year-old kids. At the age of 2, they start with the question phase. Here is a typical discussion I have had with my own children and many kids I have worked with.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a card game?”

“What’s a card game?”

“It’s a pack of cards with things printed on them that we use to play a matching game”.

“What’s a matching game?”

“It’s a game where you have two cards that look exactly the same and you have to find them out of all the cards”.

“Why do we have to play a matching game?”

“It’s good for our brain. We learn to recognize things that are the same and others that are different”.

“Why is it good for our brain?”

And this conversation can go on forever if I could manage answering questions forever. The trick is always to answer calmly. It is a game, a very healthy game, and children learn a lot from it. You could say that this type of questioning is difficult behavior, but I think it is your reaction that makes it a learning experience or a difficult behavior. If you answer calmly, it is a learning experience. If you answer with anger, it becomes a difficult behavior.

Read more about how to manage difficult behavior

How to Manage Difficult People: Helping a Difficult Person

Alphabet of emotionsAs you have seen in the previous post, every difficult behavior can be mapped to an unfulfilled need that the “difficult person” cannot find other ways to fulfill. Each need is a strong belief that they must have something, they cannot live without it and they can only get it by “being difficult”.

Now that you understand the missing feeling that difficult people are searching for, you are probably asking yourself, “What do I do to give it to them?”

One of the biggest challenges of helping and supporting difficult people is the fear that giving them what they want will make them think their obnoxious behavior is a good strategy of getting what they want and it will only make things worse. I have heard this claim millions of times when working with children – “If a child is behaving in a bad way and you give him what he wants, he learns that this is a legitimate way to get what he wants”.

Well, that is not the case.

Focus on needs, not desires

There is a big difference between giving children what they say they want and giving them what they need. Much like difficult people, children do not know that they behave the way the do to fulfill a need. If they knew, they would give themselves that thing without the difficult behavior.

If you focus on giving them what they need, then after a while, when the need is fulfilled, they will calm down and ease their demands. I am not saying, “Give them what they want”, I am saying, “Give them what they really need”. Give them what they are missing, because they do not know how to give it to themselves and may not even know what it is.

Read more about how to help difficult people

How to Manage Difficult People: What They Really Need

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human NeedsLet’s say you are willing to make the effort to manage the difficult people in your life and help them get the feeling they are missing, the feeling that causes them to behave the way they do. How can you tell what is the feeling they really need?

Needs are a complex issue. They are feelings that are so strong that you believe you cannot live without them. Each person’s needs are very individual, but they definitely get them out of control. If you can control a need, it is no longer a need but more of a preference.

Many people confuse wishes, desires, preferences, values and needs. Although they all have something in common, they differ in intensity.

If you have a discussion or an interaction with a difficult person and you feel their demands are a bit too strong and that they are having a little panic about their request, ask them, “What will happen if you don’t get it?” or “What will happen if things don’t happen the way you want them?” or “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

This question creates a loop in their brain and the answer does not matter. Their subconscious will answer itself and lower the difficult person’s tension from “I absolutely must have it” to “OK, well, I won’t die without it, so maybe it’s not the end of the world after all”.

Read more about how to deal with difficult people

How to Manage Difficult People: What are They Missing?

clip_image003_thumb[3]People who are energy consumers do not have an easy life, not only because others keep away from them or that they do not get what they want, but because it is a cycle. A never-ending cycle. What they are missing is a feeling.

While they behave in a way that aims to achieve this feeling, others feel uncomfortable and awkward around them, stay away from them or react in an aggressive way towards them, so they feel bad and miss that feeling even more. The problem is not with them missing a feeling but that they try to get that feeling in a way that others do not like. Sometimes, their behavior seems like they are unable to read social cues or they do not follow the unwritten rules of normality.

Rules of normality

Personally, I have an allergy to the concept of normality. I believe it is overrated and sometimes confused with majority or average. However, I still think there are socially acceptable rules in every group and that following them will give you an advantage, while not following them will make you a social outcast.

As a special education professional who works with lots of social outcasts that are not normal/average/the majority, I wish our society would be more tolerant towards different people. Yet, while helping them, I spend most of my energy teaching them the “rules of the game”, instead of protesting the closed mindedness of society.

Yes, we need to create a more accepting society, but when we need to face the day-to-day challenges of living with a difficult loved one, changing a whole society is way more challenging than changing one person.

Read more about how to deal with difficult people