Posts Tagged ‘argument’

Triangulation Part 3: Why Kids Fight.

triangulation 3

Children fight for many reasons.  One of the major reasons they fight is to engage parent(s).

Years ago I can remember being busy in the kitchen.  My two boys, around ages 3 and 5, were playing in the living room.  Then they started fighting. Without saying a word, I stopped what I was doing and went into the bathroom.  Within seconds, they had joined forces and were banging on the bathroom door trying to get me to come out.

Children like to have their parents involved with them. Before children start to misbehave or fight with each other, they usually ask parents to play with them, read to them, or just go for a walk or bike ride. Often they offer to help.  Lots of time children will play well together waiting for the parents to  finish their work. If none of these positive ways to get attention work, they will find negative ways.  Mostly, I don’t think children do it consciously.  I believe, for them, any kind of involvement is better than no involvement.  They need the adult contact.

Often parents are legitimately busy since there is so much to do.  Other times, parents just don’t want to engage for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’ve already spent a good chunk of time with the children.  Maybe they are tired, sick or distracted with other things. If children keep getting put off, then they start to do things that will bug the parents until they get involved.

A parent will usually get involved in their children’s fighting by “rescuing” the more vulnerable child. Usually, it’s the youngest, but not always.  Some younger children are more vibrant and determined than their older siblings.  Some older siblings are passive.  Rescuing one sibling from the other can create a dynamic of VICTIM-BULLY-ARBITRATOR.  The weaker child learns he or she can get the parent’s attention  by being a victim. The stronger child learns that he or she  can get the parent’s attention by being a bully.  The parent feels needed as the rescuer/arbitrator. Children mistakenly think they have to have parents to settle disputes and parents, lacking faith in their children,  believe they are not able to get along.

Most of the time weaker children do need to be protected from stronger siblings.  HOW parents do that is a key to maintaining good relationships between the siblings and between the parent and each child.

When parents are aware of the dynamics of triangulation they have more options in handling it. In any case, without judging treat both children the same. 

Choose to be a part of the triangle:

  • Remove from both children what they are fighting over, e.g. a game, activity or toy.
  • Help the children negotiate and brainstorm with each other. Make sure each child has a turn to speak.
  • Ignore the fighting and suggest that you all do an activity together – work or play.

Decline to be a part of the triangle:

  • Send both children to their rooms or to different parts of the home for a specified time.
  • Send both children outside. Children’s play usually improves when they are sent outside.
  • Express your faith in your children that they can work things out for themselves.
  • Remove yourself from the situation.

Of course, all of the above suggestions depend on the situation.  Some will work in some situations, but not in all.  Parents need to consider the circumstances and choose the best option.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Communication Skill 6: Turn your questions into statements.

question mark

People often ask questions when they are really making statements.

Sometimes this is intentional, but mostly people don’t even realize they are communicating in this way. At face value a question is a request for information or clarification. A statement disguised as a question is about the dynamics between the sender and the receiver.

Examples:

  • a) Do you feel like seeing a movie tonight?

May actually mean:

I want to see a movie tonight, and I want someone to go with me.

Or

I want to do something, but I’m reluctant to ask you directly because you might reject me.

  • b) Are you leaving now?

May actually mean:

I don’t want you to leave now, but I am shy about saying so.

  • c) Don’t you have to be somewhere at 8:00?

May actually mean:

I want you to leave now so I can get back to what I was doing.

  • d) Did you take out the garbage?

May actually mean:

I want you to take out the garbage.

  • e) Are you coming to bed soon?

May actually mean:

I’m feeling randy, and I’m hoping I can entice you into making love.

  • f) Have you done your homework?

May actually mean:

If you have not done your homework, you’re going to be in trouble, because I need you to do well in school.

  • g) What are you doing?

Usually means:

I don’t like what you’re doing!

But depending on the tone, it could mean:

I really like what you are doing!

Usually the person being asked this kind of question takes it at face value, as a request for information, and answers accordingly.  This may develop into an argument that neither want to have on a topic that is not the real issue.

If a husband asks his wife “Do you have to go out tonight?” she may explain that she has made a commitment and needs to keep it. “I promised Janie I’d have coffee with her.” or “ I need to get groceries.” The conversation may escalate into an argument about whether or not she really has to go or that she is going out too much. Perhaps the husband feels neglected and perhaps she feels he’s trying to control her.

What the husband is may be saying is “We’ve both been really busy lately, and I would like to spend some time with you.”  If he had made this statement, his wife would know what is really going on with him and be able to respond to the real issue.  She could generate options. She could set up a time to be together soon.  She could come home early.  She could put off what she was going to do to another time.  Depending on the situation, she could invite him to go with her.  Now the couple is communicating clearly with each other.  Each feels cared about rather than frustrated.

 

All too often the person asking the questions already knows the answer.

  • a)   Did you eat a cookie? (In a harsh tone to a child with cookie crumbs on her face.)

The child, sensing the parent is angry, denies it. This sets the child up to lie. Now the issue shifts from cookie eating to lying – harmful to the relationship.

It is better to make a statement:  I see cookie crumbs on your face.  This sets children up to tell the truth and maintain good relations between adult and child.

 

  • b)   Were you in my workshop? (In an accusing tone knowing spouse had rearranged things.)

A question asked this way means: The workshop is my domain, and I do not want you to do anything to it.

Better to make a clear statement: You cleaned up my workshop.  I appreciate the intent, but I want you to leave that to me.  I like to organize it the way that I want.

 

Usually a question is just a question – a request for information. But many questions are really disguised statements with the sender’s real message hidden within them. When that happens people can feel interrogated, manipulated, attacked or put on the spot. When questions are disguised statements a person can feel set up and get defensive. These kinds of questions create resentment which leads to lots of arguments and poor communication. After awhile others become wary of any questions. Before long relationships deteriorate.

By making statements instead of asking questions communication remains clear. The real issues are more likely to get addressed in a friendly, respectful and even caring manner.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

What to do When Your Partner doesn’t Listen to Reason.

reasoning - unreasonable person - strategies

 

Partners who are both reasonable are likely to get along well. They are not likely to need couples counseling, or if they do, it may be their mutual reasoning that guides them to seek counseling. They collaborate and feel good about each other as a result.

However, there are many couples in which one partner is reasonable and the other is not. I see them in my practice. The reasonable one continues to reason even though reasoning does not work. The unreasonable one continues to do (or not do) what they want. The relationship deteriorates. Intimacy suffers.

But it does not mean that the couple should not be together. It means they need to work differently.

Scenario 1) Barbara noticed the railing was loose on the balcony of their home. She brought it to the attention of her husband, Drew. He was busy with work and said it was OK. Barbara knew he was busy and gave him some time. She was concerned though that someone could get hurt if the railing gave way. She kept bringing it to his attention, reasoning with him that someone could get hurt and they could be liable. Barbara had to be vigilant that the children and visitors stayed away from the railing. Drew said she was overreacting.

Scenario 2) Brian kept track of the finances. He noticed that his wife’s spending was exceeding their budget and he complained to her about it. He reasoned with her that if overspending continued, they would get into serious financial difficulties. Cindy heard his words yet continued to overspend, justifying her purchases or hiding them from Brian. He felt out of control about their debt and pulled away from Cindy, spending more time with his family.

Couples tend to do the same thing over and over with each other even though it does not work. If they did the same thing at work they would get seriously reprimanded or even fired. But many couples frustrate each other by playing out the same dynamic repeatedly.

What is the function of unreasonableness? Why would a spouse be unreasonable?

To be reasonable is to be open to change. Unreasonable people do not want to change. By not being open to reason they can continue to do what they want and not do what they do not want to do. Also, to be reasonable increases intimacy, which some people have difficulty handling even though they want it.

When reasoning does not work, shift to strategies.

Reasoning is a good way to start out addressing an issue with your partner. If they respond positively, great, you can work through the problem. If they respond in the same old way, then shift to strategies.

Consequences effect change. How to achieve change is to figure out a strategy that has consequences built into it.

Scenario 1) Without anger and in a matter-of-fact tone Barbara told Brian that she was going to give him until the end of the month to fix the railing. If it was not done by then she was going to hire someone to repair it. When the end of the month came and the railing was still not fixed, Barbara got a couple of estimates to have the railing repaired. She showed the estimates to Drew. She told him she was going to choose one of them and get the railing fixed. When Drew realized that she was serious about getting the railing repaired, he found time to fix it himself. He wanted to do it himself to be sure it was done right. Barbara offered her help and did what she could to make it happen. They had fun doing it together and each was please once it was done. They felt warm toward each other.

Scenario 2) Brian realized that reasoning with Cindy was having no effect. He consulted with someone at the bank about possible changes he could make. Without anger and in a matter-of-fact manner he told her that he was concerned about their financial situation and because he cared about their relationship, he was going to take steps to bring the finances under control. He gave her a time frame of two months and said if she continued to over spend he would put all of their credit cards in the bank safety deposit box and they would operate with cash only. After two months it was clear that Cindy still was overspending so Brian followed through and put the cards away. This forced Cindy to deal with the reality of the situation. When talking it through, an underlying problem came to light – Cindy was resentful of all the time Brian spent with his family. They then addressed directly the issue of spending time together.

HOW you handle the shift from reasoning to planning and carrying out strategies is critical to making the change successful and relationship enhancing. If you want to show your spouse who is in control or you want teach your spouse a lesson, then expect a negative response to even the best strategy you could offer. Resentful spouses tend to sabotage even when they know they will hurt themselves.

If you proceed with good will and with the intent to make life for all better, strategies have a very good chance of working. Because your partner knows your doing it out of caring for him or her (and the family), they tend to cooperate and collaborate. Intimacy grows.

With Care and Concern,

Dr. Bea