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Your donation is much appreciated, and much needed. Feminists have warned about the dangers of Got a question about dildos? Want to explore fun, sexy sex outside of the realm of p-and-v intercourse? That advice just further encourages a victim of abuse to stay married and keep trying when the evidence that further abuse will happen is clear as day. If you are being emotionally neglected, it is damaging to hear advice that encourages you to ask for less from your partner. Often people who are emotionally neglected in their marriage ask for too little from their partner and would benefit from fighting harder for their needs.
For someone who has an avoidant attachment style, it is not helpful to hear that the only love worth fighting for is one where you feel deeply connected and alive. That would lead you down the unfulfilling path of serial monogamy.
Sleeping on it and taking space may actually lead to better discussion the next day. That feeling fades over time and the one that can sustain the test of time is the feeling of being known. The partner that feels known is the partner that will fight for the marriage every time. So our goal must be to figure out how to be truly us and vulnerably allow that self to be seen. We must also figure out how to hear our partner's truth without taking it personally or being reactive or trying to fix it all.
I believe that, for most of us, deep individual therapy work is the key to a thriving marriage. Do you know what it means for you to feel alive? What gives you those feelings in life? We must feel alive or we are likely to seek out that feeling somewhere outside of the marriage—whether it be an emotional affair where someone stimulates our mind and connects with our dreams or a physical affair where someone stimulates our bodies and activates our libido.
For a marriage to thrive, we need to fight for that feeling of being alive and be creative in finding ways that we can feel alive together or in complimentary ways. Radical honesty is key to a truly thriving marriage.
While our goal must always be to speak our truth without blame or judgment— our goal cannot be to avoid hurting our spouse. Many of us never learn how to speak our truth without blame and judgment, which is why I believe so strongly in individual therapy. You can say it with all the anger and blame and shame and judgment you want in therapy and then find the core truth that can be heard by your partner. It can be too easy to get stuck in how we feel right now about our marriage.
We do ourselves a great disservice by reacting only to the here and now feelings. This goes for both ends of the emotional spectrum. If you are feeling very connected right now, but the trajectory has been a predictable roller coaster of ups and downs know that it will stay that way until deeper knowing of the self happens in BOTH partners.
If your partner rages then apologizes then soothes with connection and then starts the whole thing over again it is not wise to focus on the moments of soothing and connection only.
The pattern is important and it will happen again no matter how connecting and enlightening your make-up conversation was. Knowing the self is an evolving process over the lifetime and it never stops and it will inevitably bring with it new challenges and needs. Sometimes we realize that the ways we feel alive in the world are not compatible with our partner—making the marriage a tomb.
Sometimes the most important growth in front of us must be done outside of relationship. Sometimes our wounding is so deep that a relationship is too much for us to manage without further hurt to our partner and ourselves.
Success in life is not always to set goals and meet them. As long as we continue to know ourselves deeper we are succeeding at the most important life task of all. Unfortunately, for many of us it is often just a wish. And to give those feelings so much power is often a very big mistake. In her case, that meant that her body knew that they were destined to a marriage without emotional or physical intimacy. I have a great deal of empathy for this writer because she came to this conclusion as a result of the very same information we are all given.
Unfortunately, she was probably wrong. The brain is trained to release all of those love chemicals when it recognizes patterns in others that remind us of our original attachment figures. So someone may not appear to be anything like your narcissistic father or your smothering mother… but the part of your brain that primarily manages emotion has seen your mother and father before the rational part ever will.
For those folks, your brain is likely to recognize love in all the right places. And, you will respond to love in many of the right ways. He may still give you butterflies every once in a while when he walks in the room. Unfortunately, not many folks had ideal attachment experiences as infants and children.
Sometimes this is true even when we feel we had amazing parents. But today, I want to give a different perspective for those of you who fall into and out of love again and again over the life span—and make decisions based on that. If this is you, it is very likely that you may feel utterly underwhelmed when you meet a person you can truly spend your life in healthy partnership with. Of course, you should be interested in the person.
You should be compatible in values and dreams. You should trust them and respect them and have fun with them. You should feel loyalty and joy in thinking about them. You should be able to talk to them about hard things and feel as if all of you is welcome in the relationship. But you may not feel the butterflies. And if you feel like you and your partner are great partners in life, but it feels like you are more like roommates… know that deeper intimacy can happen if both folks are willing to do their own therapeutic work.
If this feels resonant to you, I strongly suggest that you learn more. The book Attached is a great and accessible resource for this information.
It will allow you to learn about your attachment style and have more information on yourself. And this, in turn, may allow for a real and sustainable love: Whether you're going through a break-up, grieving a loved one, feeling shame over an action you took or furiously angry at someone, intense emotions can bring the most resilient of us to our knees. Because we live in a culture that assumes that intense emotions are pathological and unmanageable, we are rarely taught how to properly ride these emotions and get through on the other side.
Here are seven tools I like to suggest to my clients to get through the most intense emotional moments of our life. Many of my clients struggle with the same dilemma. But they have found that there is just no getting rid of these emotions and it feels inauthentic not to share them. Many of them have been shamed for their strong emotions and are no longer willing to shove them down. How can we be authentic with ourselves without burning every relationship bridge we have?
I wrote up this step-by-step for a client last week and thought it may be helpful to others as well. Notice when your body is telling you something is wrong. Tight chest, blushed cheeks, rapid heart rate, fidgeting etc. Walk away or politely excuse yourself if it will go unnoticed OR. Decide what boundaries you need to set in the moment so that you are protected by your boundaries—not your rage.
I think I need to go home. Once you are out of the situation, process through with words language helps us metabolize an event in your journal, with your therapist or with a trusted friend.
Give yourself permission for all of the feelings and then decide how you can best protect yourself from whatever was so upsetting.
Reducing emotional vulnerability with that person. Setting boundaries around behavior vs. If not, it is only worth it to share emotions with that person if it will help create boundaries to keep you safe. Is the person likely to receive it openly if you share it without blame or judgment? If so, and you care about the relationship, you should share your emotions in a non-judgmental way. Prepare and practice what you are going to say. If not, you must weigh the therapeutic benefit of telling them against the likely emotional and possibly logistical consequences that will arise.
Is it likely to help you set a boundary, increase connection or feel some type of therapeutic relief to say so? If so, share your emotions but be ready for all potential responses.
If not you may choose to let it go. Stick to talking about it with your therapist or friends. My first position in the field was in a group home. These were the days when we still had group home facilities for children in the foster care system. We had year-old boys and girls living with us who had been there since the age of 8 with a never-ending revolving door of adults. I adored these kids. No matter how hard they pushed me away, it was always worth it when they returned and tried to connect.
It was the most stunningly beautiful thing I had ever experienced and I knew I would want to help these kids feel good for the rest of my life. But this thing happened. Our helping world changed dramatically and quickly. Long-term therapy became something we frowned upon. We had bad boundaries if we wanted to maintain therapeutic mentorship relationships outside of the facility. While I was experiencing first hand the immense healing power of relationship for these kids, I was learning about evidence-based, solution focused, time limited therapeutic approaches.
These kids start to heal because they finally feel seen, heard and safe and their reward is to loose the people who get them. I spent the next 13 years being indoctrinated into a philosophy that said that brief solution focused therapy was the gold standard. I did the training, I practiced the skills and I used the ideas to heal my own wounding.
I found some value in these ideas. I found temporary relief of my own symptoms. I decided that maybe I had been wrong all along. So, when I started my practice I saw myself as a solution focused therapist and advertised myself as such.
They would make a plan in therapy and go out into the world and do the opposite. They would leave therapy after a couple of months and not come back.
I knew I had to go back to the drawing board. I was luckily smart enough to have decided that, after 13 years of training and supervision through agencies, I might want to seek out a clinical supervisor who would challenge those ideas and make me think differently.
And it changed everything. I realized, in that moment, that a solution focused approach was not at all what I believed in. This was the beginning of a tide shift in me.
I am now completely convinced that a commitment to a long-term therapeutic relationship is the gold standard of treatment. The neuroscience of attachment and the buzz about that research has been booming as of late. The cliff note version of the research is as follows: We attach to a primary attachment figure usually mom and if that attachment figure is aware and responsive to our physical and emotional needs we grow to be secure in our world and in our sense of self.
This leads to mostly adaptive and normative behavior in life and relationships. We might self-soothe in unhealthy ways, cling to attachment options in unhealthy ways, push people away to stay safe etc.
That wiring is so entrenched that we struggle to get out of those ruts even when we cognitively and rationally understand the ruts. That means that they can change throughout the lifespan. Research demonstrates that the primary way that our brains begin to re-wire is through new experiences. I have found that most adults have some level of attachment wounding—even when they believe their parents were amazing. My parents were raised by a generation that believed that children should be seen and not heard—a generation struck with fear about a lack of resources.
We have generation upon generation of parenting ideas that were detrimental to our attachment needs as infants, toddlers and children. So, what type of experience could possibly help us re-wire our brains when we are trying to get at this attachment dynamic? You got it… relationship. Sure, and I do talk about that with clients.
But for many of us that is easier said than done. Because our brains are wired to respond to attachment figures in a certain way, we keep doing that no matter how hard we try until the wiring changes. For example, a woman may have a new partner who asks for some alone time. Even if she knows rationally that this is a fully acceptable request, her brain will panic because she was left untended by her parents when she felt scared and unable to care for herself.
Her brain is trained for a panic response to this. Then she will feel shame at her child like behavior and spiral. When we do those things over and over again in our relationships we get a similar response of rejection or punishment that we got from our parents. This is where therapy comes into play. A long-term therapeutic relationship with a therapist who is skilled at joining with your defense mechanisms instead of tearing them down and who is able to hold space for your attachment patterns without rejecting you can provide you with just the relationship you need to begin re-wiring.
In this way, therapy is less about giving advice or identifying solutions and more about the process of being seen, heard and held safe consistently and over time as you explore all parts of your inner world. This becomes a safe haven and a place where you are seen—even when everything in your world is wonderful and you feel perfectly happy.
It is the consistency of the relationship that makes the difference, not the solutions you find while you are there.
I hear some version of this statement from many of my clients in their first session. My brain still holds it all. My body still holds it all. I knew, for sure, that I was convinced of long-term therapy when I found myself driving to my therapists office thinking about how truly screwed up I actually was. I realized I thought I had tricked her into believing I was actually a good person. I decided I would finally tell her how horrible I was deep down inside—I was going to risk her rejection and disgust.
After two years with her, I finally felt that maybe I could put voice to these fears I had about my own brokenness. And she did not reject me. She was not disgusted. It made sense to her and that allowed it to make sense to me. She saw my shadow side as human, natural and completely justified.
That allowed some small piece of me to be soothed and healed. That healing allows me to walk in this world without having my damage do damage to others most of the time. I now look forward to many years of knowing that I can bring in my ugliest self and be seen as human—every week on Wednesdays at I can bring in my ugliest self and be unafraid that she will judge me, talk poorly about me to her peers or get rid of me in her life.
My brain is re-wiring. I have the good luck of having enough new client calls each week that I could discharge 5 clients a week and still stay full. Do it for you. Give yourself the gift of being seen and heard. Give yourself the gift of taking up space. Give yourself the gift of being your ugliest self and not being rejected. When times are good and when times are bad. It works if you allow yourself to commit to it and believe in it. They make sense to me. They are an inspiration.
They are so very strong- so very real. They believe that it is something within them that is faulty and must be fixed—and that it has always been that way. While each of my clients is truly unique, the core of their stories is hauntingly similar.
And these stories can teach us a great deal, not just about parenting, but about how we view emotional needs in our society. These phrases we said when our kids were two are now so much a part of their identity that they live in shame every time they try to get their needs met.
We all want for connection in a meaningful way with those we love. We all want to feel like our world makes sense and that we have some control over how it goes. We all want to have access to things that bring us pleasure. These needs are real, indisputable and totally normal and healthy.
So why is it a manipulation to try to get these needs met? Think about the last time someone questioned your motives or assumed they knew your intentions without asking. For most people, this is one of the most triggering experiences they have. That feeling is so intense that just remembering a time when it happened can cause a visceral reaction. And yet, we do this to our kids every day.
Probably because it was done to us our whole life. In our society, we are taught that needs are a sign of weakness. If we need for consistency, we are rigid. If we need for recognition, we are egocentric.
If we need to feel seen and heard we are unstable. We are taught that the ideal is to be completely independent. We are wired for connection and interdependence.
From an evolutionary standpoint, a sense of belonging is almost as important as food and water. There was a time, not so long ago in human history, when not belonging was a death sentence. And in some situations, this is still the case. We need each other and our bodies and psyche respond accordingly. When we feel shame, we act out or we self-punish. When we are young, that looks like tantrums, defiance or isolation. When we are adults, it sometimes looks like extreme mood swings or high anxiety.
Sometimes it looks like hurting or even killing others. Sometimes it looks like self-harm or having an affair. Sometimes it looks passive aggressive. Sometimes it looks abusive. From there, we can begin to figure out a healthy way to get those needs met.
Because our parents often wired us for shame around our needs, it is often helpful to do this work in therapy. Notice when we are questioning the motives of others and stop.
Validation of feelings and needs is not the same as condoning the behavior. I like to peruse the parenting blogs I see on Facebook. This way I can know what flavor of parenting shame my clients have been faced with today. Parenting experts seem to forget the barrier that most parents have to implementing these ideas.
We are asking parents who are already completely maxed out to do things that they believe will take more time, will add more to their to-do list and will be totally ineffective at disciplining their kids. This is no good. Believe it or not, connecting with your child when they come to you for connection will save you a TON of time overall. How long does it take to de-escalate, re-direct and give consequences for the misbehavior?
I also believe that a good portion of sibling rivalry comes from kids not getting their connection "tank" filled by their parents. This leads them to feel that their sibling is the enemy-- the one stealing all of the attention. Being present decreases sibling rivalry significantly. I approach this skill by imagining myself as a Launchpad. I start the day sitting on the floor with my toddlers and not doing any chores or activities at all.
Most often I pick one spot bean bags are great for this to be and let them come to me if they need connection or help. For little ones, being present often means being down on their level.
I do this also when I return home from work at the end of the day. Transition times are important moments for this. I sit in one place and let them flit away to their own activity.
I trust that they will come back to their Launchpad as they need to re-fuel with connection. Typically after minutes when they are busy entertaining themselves I get up and go to do a chore.
If they come to interrupt, I give them a bit of fuel by getting down on their level, showing genuine interest in whatever it is that they want and sometimes even putting my chores down to go play for a minute. When they flit away again, I go back to my chore. I have to finish the dishes, would you like to help me finish up faster? So the chores still get done, but I do them when I know the kids have re-fueled. Again, this is sold to you in terms of how good it is for kids.
We know what resistance looks like—tantrums and defiance. And we know that we hate tantrums and defiance and we know that they take up an enormous amount of time. So, in fact, I suggest saying it differently. Negotiating takes a lot of time. It may seem a bit sarcastic, but it actually works when you attempt to avoid the sarcasm.
In that pause, ask yourself four questions:. When folks sell you on this one, they forget to explain the difference between punishment and consequences. Of course we need to give consequences—life is full of them and our kids need to learn how to deal with them. But Punishment is something we truly want to avoid as parents. Punishment is an attempt to pair an unpleasant experience with an unwanted behavior.
A consequence is something that happens as a natural result of the behavior. Your goal is to teach with a consequence, while your goal is to inflict emotional or physical pain with a punishment. Sometimes a consequence can be quite enjoyable—as long as it teaches something Because you and your brother are struggling to get along, you two are on the same team for game night tonight. The problem with punishment is that the worse our kids feel about themselves and their relationship with us and inflicting pain on our kids is a sure fire way for them to feel crappy about our relationship the more they act up and resist our teaching.
Research is finally getting around to proving that punishment increases defiance and poor behavior. So all the effort and pain of punishing actually moves you in the opposite direction. Dealing with defiance can be incredibly time consuming. We humans are built for independent thought and action and we fight against anything that tries to keep us down.
Parents DO control the environment and the consequences. This is where you have power—not in the immediate ability to control the behavior, but in the long-term ability to shape, teach to and prevent unwanted behaviors. In that space ask yourself these questions:. Is there a natural consequence that will teach this to my child better than anything I can implement? If a natural consequence is not forthcoming, what are typical life consequences of this type of behavior?
It is developmentally normal for my two year olds to push each other out of the way when they are on a mission. We used cartoons on our drive to the beach. I even use TV when my kids are super cranky after a nap so that I can get them changed and out the door without so much drama.
But, it's absolutely true that it's not great for kids in large doses. It's also true that kids behave better when we limit tech time. So, while the time with the TV may be a blessing, the time away from it may be harder on you. With little ones, I suggest deciding on some clear limits with your partner.
Allow some flexibility for when a show will come to an end 5 minutes later than planned or a game will be done in 5 minutes. And, give them time to prepare to say goodbye to their beloved technology. Over time, they will get it that saying goodbye means saying goodbye no matter what their feelings are about it. So, when they start wanting a tablet, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to negotiate and petition for their wants.
Work together with them to develop a technology contract before they get their own shiny new thing. It is far easier to get investment from kids on rules and limitations when they want something than it is to enforce a technology contract as a result of their poor technology behavior. There will be random searches of your technology. We will be looking for any illegal activity or bullying behavior.
You only get use of your technology once your chores and homework are done. I suggest a laminated chore checklist that they hand in to you with dry erase check marks in trade for their technology. Technology goes in the basket for dinner time of course this includes parent technology. A power struggle is when one person is trying to assert their independence physical, emotional, intellectual, values etc. I want you to think back and try to remember any time when yelling or having a power struggle actually resulted in your goal.
And, if you still have some times in mind, I want you to ask if you think your relationship with your child improved as a result. Power struggles take far more time than other options and tend to set us up as the enemy of our kids.
When we are the enemy, they pick more battles than they do when we are allies. This boy is very physically active. I like to say that he gets his whole body involved in his emotions. He likes to go for long walks through the neighborhood instead of playing at the park. Unfortunately, he also gets halfway through the walk and wants to be carried. I have twins and they are heavy. I often have to say no when he starts pulling at my finger to go on the walk.
Most parents I see handle this by scolding, raising their voice, demanding and sometimes spanking for defiance. When I first started doing this, he would throw himself on the ground, scream and cry. Then he would run up to me, grab my hand and start pulling me in the proper direction again. Then we would repeat. He would eventually get it that we were not going his way and most of the time he would join us at the park there were a few never ending tantrums that likely had more to do with food or teething than the event.
Now we have gotten to the point where he will sit down and sulk but pretty quickly gets up and joins us. So, let me break down the steps to avoid a power struggle. Listen and Empathize with the emotions they have about that boundary. Enforce the boundary without shame, blame, condescension or yelling. In this example, I walked away. Or you can turn off the TV or you can give them the food you are willing to have them eat.
No need for a lot of talk when enforcing a boundary. Be Present and Re-connect when they calm down from not getting what they wanted. Engage Them In Consequence Development if necessary. So if they broke something when you walked away to avoid engaging, let them come up with a good way to make it better. When I was pregnant with my boys my mother bought me a book that would change everything for me as a parent.
That was saying something. I hate self-help books. I hate how-to books. I expected it would be a pretty doorstop, but not much else. But then something happened. My cuddly sleeping, pooping, eating, napping 1 week old babies became screaming, unpredictable, inconsolable 4 week old monsters that I wanted to throw out the window.
It explains a lot. They found that children had these incredible shifts in behavior and mood at pretty predictable times in their development and that these shifts were followed by enormous leaps in ability. For example, after one of these leaps my boys started to smile, after another they started to walk and the most recent one gifted us with a huge increase in vocabulary. Unfortunately the Wonder Weeks book stopped telling us when the next leaps come.
Now they catch me by surprise unless I pay close attention to when other moms start complaining about behavior and reaching out—then I put it on my calendar.
We need to understand what they are, notice when our kids are in one and have guidance on how to handle them. I believe that if we know these things and understand their life long impact on each of us, we can handle them with a bit more sanity and grace and make things easier instead of harder for us. A developmental leap is basically a huge brain growth spurt that is directly linked to age.
When we yes, we—these happen throughout the lifespan are going through a developmental leap, our brain is experiencing shifts and changes that actually change the way we think and feel and process information. It may be a leap if:. The brain is too busy reconstructing itself to learn what you want it to learn. For toddlers, that means any teaching you are doing around following instructions, being gentle or putting things away is probably an act of futility. For adolescents, that means rational conversation is unlikely to get you anywhere.
Not only is it futile to expect to teach or guide or mold behavior during this time—it will likely backfire on you. I know I was. Luckily I knew better and ignored those folks. Instead of cracking down on the behavior by adding time-outs, raising my voice, and increasing power struggles, I decided to sit my rear end down on the bean bag and hold space for my struggling, very angry little guy.
I dropped all teaching goals to get him to hold my hand when out and about, for example and just focused on getting through the storm. Once the storm passed, I was able to start teaching. He still threw a fit, but he was able to self-soothe and recover quickly.
We begin to think there is something physically or emotionally wrong with our child. This increases our anxiety and the likelihood that our child will begin to internalize this message. We begin to think there is something wrong with our parenting and become inconsistent and unpredictable as we try to change what we are doing to get some sense of control.
This typically leads to troubling behaviors that last past the leap. This typically leads to punitive behavior that erodes our bond. Make sure you and your partner understand what it is.
Misdiagnosis is very problematic. Make plans for lots of self-care. Take turns with your partner a lot, ask for help from grandparents or other supports, get a massage, take some Kava Kava, exercise. Give in to the parenting shortcuts.
If they do better out and about, be proactive and plan gazillion activities out and about. Let them have the pacifier.
Try to imagine if someone drugged your drink and you started hallucinating and had no idea why. Remember that they are overwhelmed and have very little ability to self-soothe during this time.
Sit your butt down on their level for regular and predictable periods of time and let them come to you and venture away as they need. Connection is key for them to pop out of it on the other end stronger and more independent. Whatever goals you have to teach your child, put them on hold.
Name it for your kid too. They need a predictable safe landing pad and the better you are at being consistent the safer they will feel. If the behavior goes on longer than that, you get to crack down again. For adolescents and teens, these leaps can feel like they go on for years.
Keep your current limits in place, but make sure you give large doses of empathy. If you have questions, get support. Parenting is hard and we can all use a good counselor to get through it.
I work hard in my practice and in my writing to avoid gender stereotypes. In fact, research done by the Gottman Institute supports my experience, showing that men tend to be less likely to accept influence listen, absorb and take action from their wives than women are to accept influence from their husbands Gay and Lesbian couples do much better at accepting influence from their partners.
This same research indicates that accepting influence from your partner is predictive of a strong and lasting marriage. But my goal is not to share the research with you—you can look that up on your own. My goal is to warn you. He says something like: How could you wonder if I love and appreciate you? I'm here aren't I?
We finally arrive at a willingness to face the fear and speak the truth. She asks for ways to begin the conversation and tries new communication techniques. She invites him to a session and he says he hates counselors. There was a time in our history when marriage was a legal arrangement that allowed for procreation and child rearing. It was not expected to be more than that and often was less.
These marriages were often very unhappy and rampant with physical abuse, emotional abuse, rape, adultery, depression, anxiety etc. As time went on two things happened. First and most obviously, women joined the workforce and realized that they could quite successfully support themselves and their family without a man.
Second probably as a result of the first , men realized that they could raise children pretty darned well without a woman involved. Now marriage was expected to offer more. It was expected to be about love and friendship and partnership. And yet, men and women were still being socialized in very similar ways. Men were socialized not to express emotions or vulnerability and women were socialized not to express their needs lest they overwhelm everyone and scare the men away.
Both of these things: Without knowing it, we wound up playing the same old tune and expecting a totally different song just because we actually liked and chose this person. We Americans have a strong mythology around marriage.
If we pick the person we love and they love us than we will never fall out of love and live happily ever after. It's turning towards each other when everything in us wants to turn away. It can be when we do it. So we get defensive, we stonewall, we become contemptuous and we criticize. And since we anticipate those responses from our partner typically because those are the responses we saw in our youth , we avoid being honest and true with each other.
If it matters to them enough to say, it matters. If you struggle with active listening get help. If you've heard it before, committed to change and have struggled to make the change, consider that there is a deeper issue at play and please consider counseling. If you have an unmet need- speak it. I truly enjoy helping clients build their relationship from the ground up. Brenee Brown has many good books , Podcasts and training courses on this topic. Counseling is another great way to figure this out.
Brenee Brown is another great resource for this information. Counseling is a better resource if this is a struggle for you. Learn To Express Your Emotions.
Dan Siegel has great resources on how the brain actually manages all of these emotions Mind is his most recent and the book Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin is also a good resource. Counseling is better because we get to explore what is so scary and hard about expressing our emotions. These folks have identified the things that couples do that predict divorce with almost perfect accuracy. When a child becomes escalated, we often feel like we need to fix or stop the escalation, but Neuroscience tells us that there is a point at which there is not much we can do but wait it out.
So everything you say will actually go in one ear and out the other until our bodies calm down. Unfortunately, when a child is least likely to take intervention is typically when we are most upset and wanting to control their escalation. While it's tempting to engage in a power struggle, it will likely make things worse and damage the relationship. Here is a step by step guide on how to handle a child's escalation.
If you are consistent with following these steps, you will see a decrease in frequency and intensity of escalations unless there are underlying emotional safety needs that are not being addressed. When I first entered the field of mental health I was taught to believe that Personality Disorders were the mental health equivalent of terminal Cancer. The message was that all we could do was manage these clients.
I was told that they would exhaust me and disappoint me and manipulate me and never ever get better. It made me furious. The more I got to know these children and adults who were diagnosed with Personality Disorders or budding Personality Disorders , the more I questioned these diagnoses at all. I began to see common themes in these clients. Their responses to their histories and current situations made perfect sense to me. It seemed to me that if these clients heard that their actions made perfect sense, they might actually get better.
It seemed to me that if we could treat attachment issues, we could treat Personality Disorders. Turns out, I was right because I have successfully treated folks that others have diagnosed with Personality Disorders and I will happily continue to do so.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of therapists I meet still believe what I was taught all those years ago. They avoid treating folks who demonstrate behaviors that would fit criteria for a Personality Disorder. When they do treat them, they take a maintenance approach, assuming the client will never really be well. They condescend and are cold in order to keep healthy boundaries. When they treat their partners or family members they tell them to never expect their loved one to get better.
Then they decide to go ahead and informally diagnose someone in their lives and then write them off—the opposite of what is really needed to treat attachment issues.
I have never and will never use a Personality Disorder diagnosis. Because it has been so associated with folks never getting well, it stops the momentum to get well and stigmatizes clients. I will sometimes talk to partners or family members about Personality Disorder behaviors in their loved ones, but only if they are clear that it is not appropriate to label their loved one and only if they hear my whole spiel on how these behaviors come to be.
It is quite normal for folks to act pretty erratically during this time. This erratic behavior is diagnosed when it may be quite normal. In essence, every one of the Personality Disorders can easily be lined up with one of the attachment styles identified through attachment theory.
Our brains learn how to get the most connection and the least rejection as we interact with our primary attachment figures as infants. Over time, our brains tell us to do the same thing in all relationships to get the most connection and the least rejection. Unless we have lots of new secure attachment experiences, we will just keep doing the dysfunctional thing to get what we need.
So every behavior, from behaving as if you are too good for everyone else NPD to moving between idealization to demonization of loved ones BPD , is an effort to protect the self from rejection while still obtaining connection. A long-term relationship with a therapist can begin to support clients in believing a different story about relationships and self-worth.
Folks who struggle with attachment and identity issues benefit greatly from consistency, clear boundaries, compassion and non-judgment. Others are not to be trusted to stick around. Others are not to be trusted to love them as they are. Others are unpredictable and unkind and selfish. The belief that they are not worthy of real love is confirmed when people push them away or judge their behavior. A skilled therapist who does not reject, but also does not rescue can support someone in the process of learning how to do relationships well.
It is also incredibly important for these folks to be educated on the reason behind the behavior so that they can have hope for their ability to do it differently. Loved Ones Need Therapy Too: If you are in a relationship with someone who demonstrates these behaviors, you need a therapist too. To have relationships with folks who struggle with connection and attachment you must have good boundaries. Not many people do, in my experience. Having a therapist will help you to set appropriate boundaries to protect yourself while also not adding to the attachment issues that your loved one has.
Empathy Goes A Long Way: Try to imagine what it must be like to be so uncertain of your own worthiness of love that you push people away as soon as they get close. Or imagine being so unclear on who you are separate from how you can please others that you can only protect yourself by believing you are better than everyone else.
Try to imagine that every time you get close to someone you are so terrified of losing them that you wind up in a panic. All of these difficult behaviors are a result of something. These behaviors are hard to deal with.
They are hard for friends and family, they are hard for the therapists that want to support and they are excruciating for those who are ashamed that these are their behaviors. But they need not be forever and these clients need not be alone in this world.
So, my husband and I are about to be in the thick of it with two almost two year olds. And, inevitably those other lucky new parents who had kids around the same time as we did are beginning to get that deer in a headlight look about them.
Holy cow—now that they can move! How in the world do we get some sense of control? I hope they can be helpful to you. Kids begin to understand praise, acceptance and even language far before they can speak in full sentences. So pay attention to the following things and praise like crazy:.
Maybe even make a habit of giving a hi-five or a hug. Toddlers can learn simple signs as soon as they learn to wave hello and goodbye. Begin expecting that your toddlers use this sign when they need help with something or when you might typically expect a child to say please. Then praise, hug, hi-five! When this happens praise, hug, hi-five. Make a big deal out of it.
Then praise every time they touch something in a gentle way. Nine times out of ten when parents tell me their child has begun to act up more than normal even though expectations remain clear and consequences are consistent it can be resolved by consistent focused quality time.
For toddlers, this means that every day you spend focused quality time on the floor following their lead on play. I like to sit in the beanbag chair and let them bring toys or books to me. Then I let them grab my hand if they want to show me something. No phone, no ipad, no laptop just sit there and be present. The more you do this and the more consistently you do this the less they will throw tantrums just to get attention.
Then we can be more assured that a tantrum is really because they are upset. Then we can be less worried that attending to them during a tantrum will increase tantrum behavior. Tantrums are part of toddler life. Some folks will tell you just to ignore during tantrums, but I suggest a different approach.
In fact, it will calm the situation down enough to give them space to find new ways to say what they need. Would you like a cuddle? If they escalate or refuse a cuddle or there is clearly no solution that will help them out, then:.
When calm, give a cuddle and re-connect. This is a great time to start the old Love and Logic trick of giving choices. Kids are calmer when they know what to expect. For example, when we wake up, we do the same thing each time. We take a bath before bed. We only watch TV in the evening and we always turn it off an hour before bed.
These routines avoid power struggles and give structure to their day. We keep doing it because we feel like we need to set limits and this is the only way we know how. Time outs are only truly helpful if they give the child space to get their logical brains involved. Here are some ways to wisely use time outs when you do:. Cuddly toys, music, dim lights, calming scents.
Free from overwhelming stimulus. So, a time out chair in the kitchen is not going to do the trick. Use this time to deeply breathe. Hold their hands if they will let you. Cuddle if they will let you. When your child does something that you would typically punish them with time outs for, instead ask them to make it better.
This is where you set limits. Sit in that room together with them. Reading a book with the other child is a great plan also.
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