Jun 23, 2009

Praise is a good thing...right?

“I think you did exactly the right thing!"
“You did such a good job!"
"What a nice friend you are."

We often think that a positive evaluation or agreement will help others feel better, keep talking and get over their problems. Contrary to the common belief that such support is always beneficial, it often has very negative effects on a person with negative feelings and problems. A positive evaluation that does not fit the other’s self-image may also evoke denial. People also infer that if we can judge them positively, we can just as easily judge them negatively some other time. Also, if praise is frequent, its absence may be interpreted as criticism. Praise is often felt to be manipulative, a subtle way of influencing others to do what you want them to do. And if you praise a lot, you run the risk of making people so dependent on your praise that they cannot function without constant approval from you.

Jun 10, 2009

Is Your Primary Relationship With Your Spouse?

Is your primary relationship with your spouse? Take a look at the following excerpt from P.E.T. to see why putting your spouse first can be important for your children:

"Many American parents look to their children for their primary relationship, rather than to their spouse. Mothers, particularly, rely heavily on their children to give them satisfactions and pleasure that more appropriately should come from the marriage relationship. Frequently this leads to “putting the children first,” “sacrificing for the children,” or counting heavily on the children “turning out well,” because of the parents’ heavy investment in the parent-child relationship. Their children’s behavior means far too much to these parents. How the kids behave is too crucial. These parents feel that children must be constantly watched, directed, guided, monitored, judged, evaluated. It is very difficult for such parents to allow their children to make mistakes or stumble in their lives. They feel their children must be protected against failure experiences, shielded against all possible danger.

Effective parents are able to have a more casual relationship with their children. Their marriage relationship is primary. Their children have a significant place in their lives, but it is almost a secondary place—if not secondary, at least no more important than the place of the spouse. Such parents seem to allow their children much more freedom and independence. These parents enjoy being with their children but only for limited times; they also like to spend time alone with their marriage partner. Their investment is not solely in their children; it is also in their marriage. How their children behave or how much they achieve, therefore, is not so critical to them. They are more apt to feel that the children have their own lives to live and should be given more freedom to shape themselves. Such parents seem to correct their children less frequently and monitor their activities less intensely. They can be there when the children need them, but they do not feel strong needs to intervene or push into the lives of the children without being asked. They generally do not neglect their children. They certainly are concerned about them but not anxious. They are interested, but not smothering. “Children are children” is their attitude, so they can be more accepting of what they are—children. Effective parents more often feel amused at their children’s immaturity or their foibles, rather than devastated.

The parents in this latter group obviously are inclined to be much more accepting—fewer behaviors will upset them. They will have less need to control, limit, direct, restrict, admonish, preach. They can allow their children more freedom—more separateness. Parents in the first group are inclined to be less accepting. They need to control, limit, direct, restrict, and so on. Because their relationship with the children is the primary one, these parents have strong needs to monitor their behavior and program their lives.

I have come to see more clearly why parents who have an unsatisfactory relationship with their spouse find it so difficult to be accepting of their children: They are too needful of their children bringing them the joys and satisfactions that are missing in the marital relationship."

Jun 1, 2009

Active Listening Quiz Answers Explained

Last week, we had an Active Listening quiz up featuring the two questions discussed in this blog post. Here are the questions, the answers, and explanations behind the answers!

Child: I wish I could get a cold once in a while, like Katie. She's lucky.


A. You feel you're sort of left out.
B.  Oh! Don't wish you were sick!
C.  You're jealous of Katie.

The correct answer is: C. You're jealous of Katie. Of the three choices, this is the most congruent, accurate response. It reflects back what the feeling that the child expresses in his/her statmement, and allows the child to run with his feeling and solve his own problem.

The first choice, A. "You feel you're sort of left out" does not directly address the underlying feeling in the child's statement. While the child's jealousy may lead to feeling left out, jealousy is the most underlying, immediate feeling.

The second choice, B. "Oh! Don't wish you were sick!" does not reflect anything back. This is the ordering/directing roadblock. This communicates unacceptance of the child, takes responsibility away from the child, and can even cause resistance.

Child: Yes. She gets to stay out of school and I never do.


A. You wish you could stay out of school more too.
B. You should want to be in school.
C. You never get anything you want.

The correct answer here is: A. You wish you could stay out of school more too. This statement again most accurately reflects the child's feelings. 

Answer B, "You should want to be in school," is another Roadblock. This is the moralizing/preaching Roadblock. This response can create guilty feelings in the child, can cause the child to "dig in" and defend his or her position even more, and it can also lead to withdrawal or alienation.

Answer C, "You never get anything you want," lacks congruency. This statement reflects feelings that are far more extreme than what the child is expressing. When the degree of feeling is understated or overdone in Active Listening, you risk coming off as fake or phoney to the child/other.

Please feel free to post your comments, questions, or feedback about Active Listening and the Active Listening quiz below! Thanks!