Some friends of ours have started a coworking space in Berlin hat includes childcare. The space looks great and I think that flexible solutions like this could alleviate a lot of the burden on parents right now.
Despite the popular idea that we need to “express” our anger so that it doesn’t eat away at us, research shows that expressing anger while we are angry actually makes us more angry. This in turn makes the other person hurt, afraid, or angry, and causes a rift in the relationship. Rehashing the situation in our mind always proves to us that we’re right and the other person is wrong, which again makes us more angry as we stew. What works is to calm down, and then find a constructive way to address whatever is making us angry so that the situation is resolved, and our anger stops being triggered.
The real job is keeping your cup full so you have plenty of joy and presence to share with your child.
Parenting is about nurturing your child, which means noticing what she needs and trying to make sure she gets it. You are, after all, the grown-up. But we can be peaceful parents only to the degree that we “parent” ourselves.
Children freely, even enthusiastically, cooperate when they believe that we’re on their side. When they don’t have that belief deep in their bones, our standards of behavior seem unfair, contradicting what they perceive as their own best interests, whether that’s taking the biggest piece of cake or lying to us.
The happy news is that as you come to terms with your own childhood story, you subtly change your emotional availability to your child, and your child blossoms accordingly, whether she’s an infant or a nine-year-old.
In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with friends, screens, or the sitter. So as hard as it is with the pressures of jobs and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our children, we have to free up the time—daily—to make closeness happen.
Every child benefits from Special Time to reconnect with each parent often, if possible every day. Think of it as preventive maintenance to keep things on track in your family. And if you’re having issues with your
Every difficulty is an opportunity to get closer, as you extend understanding and your child feels truly seen, heard, and accepted.
Children need to know deep in their bones that their parents adore them and take delight in their company.
Remember, getting dressed is your priority, not his. Your presence is what motivates him.
To parents, bedtime is the time they finally get to separate from their children and have a little time to themselves. To children, bedtime is the time they’re forced to separate from their parents and lie in the dark by themselves. On top of that, children are exhausted and wound up, and parents are exhausted and fed up.
This isn’t about you right now, and your being upset won’t help. In fact, no matter what your child is talking about, you can process it later.
It may seem impossible, but if we feel the slightest glimmer of desire to turn things around, we can grab it. We don’t even have to know how. We can just choose love. We can always find a way to reach out to our child and reconnect. We can always find a way to heal things, even when we’re in a cycle of negativity that’s gone too far.
By contrast, when we think of ourselves as coaches, we know that all we have is influence—so we work hard to stay respected and connected, so our child wants to “follow” us.
What Empathy Isn’t
But before you can correct, you have to connect.
To know that their parents adore them, love to care for them, and care about their happiness. (Worthiness, security, self-esteem) To feel truly seen, known, accepted, and appreciated—even the “shameful” parts like anger, jealousy, pettiness, and greed. (Unconditional love) To stay connected with each parent through regular relaxed, playful, unstructured, affirming time together. (Intimacy, belonging) To work through challenging daily emotions. (Emotional wholeness, self-acceptance) To master new skills. (Mastery, independence, confidence) To act from one’s own motivations to impact the world. (Self-determination, power) To make a contribution. (Value, meaning)
Acknowledge your child’s perspective and empathize.
Allow expression of emotion, even while limiting actions.
Respond to the needs and feelings behind problem behavior.
When a desire can’t be granted, acknowledge it and grant it through “wish fulfillment.”
Tell the story so your child understands his emotional experience.
Teach problem solving.
Play it out.
Look him in the eye. Stay calm. He will either go blank (numbing himself), look away in shame, or look straight at you in defiance. Regardless, reach out for him.
We’ve absorbed the misguided view that children will be disobedient and manipulative unless we force them to “behave.”
Authoritarian parenting keeps children in a state of stress, worried about the next punishment (which may explain why kids who are spanked have lower IQs5).
But it does mean that babyproofing is better than trying to teach limits at this age.
Until your child has a chance to be heard, those feelings will be looking to spill out, disconnecting her, driving misbehavior and keeping her from being her usual sunny self. That’s why the single best thing you can do for your preschooler is to prioritize reconnecting with her when you’re reunited at the end of the day.
This parenting approach tends to raise kids who are self-centered, anxious, and not very resilient.
Authoritative. The final parenting style is the one that Baumrind’s research showed raises the best-adjusted kids. Her authoritative—as opposed to authoritarian—parents offer their children lots of love and support, like the permissive parents. But they also hold high expectations, like the authoritarian parents. Age-appropriate expectations, of course—they aren’t expecting a three-year-old to clean up her room by herself. But they may well be working with that three-year-old to help her clean up, over and over and over, so that by six she really can clean up her room herself. These parents are involved—even demanding. They expect family dinners, lots of discussion straight through high school, good grades, responsible behavior. But they also offer their children complete support to learn how to achieve these expectations. Importantly, these parents aren’t controlling like the authoritarian parents. They listen to the child’s side of things, they make compromises, and they cede control where possible. Their kids, not surprisingly, stay close to them—they often describe one of their parents as the person they would most trust to talk to about a problem. These kids usually do well in school, and they’re also the ones that teachers describe as responsible and well liked, simply nice kids who are a pleasure to have around.
Every child who has a sibling needs daily private time to bond with each parent.
We’re inviting him in, so that he’s part of the solution. He may have done a monstrous thing, but we’re communicating to him that he isn’t a monster. This is the foundation of his being able to face that he did something that crossed a line—and to forgive himself. It starts with our forgiving him.
Mastery isn’t a one-time feeling. It’s a way of approaching experience that through repetition becomes an acquired trait, a way of living life. It describes a person who loves to explore, learn, grow, apply himself, practice, master something, take joy in the whole creative process whether he “succeeds” or “fails” in the eyes of others, and move on to his next goal.
Every child is born with latent talent. Any child who enjoys the process of mastery has the internal motivation to polish his natural abilities to achieve—as long as the achievement he’s aiming for matters to him.
What might we say? “You really like doing that puzzle. . . . It’s the first one you took out again today.” (Empathize with his feelings.) “You’re trying all the different pieces to see what fits in that spot.” (Notice what he’s doing, which helps him feel seen and valued. In this case, we’re also articulating the strategy we see him using, which helps him be more conscious of what he’s doing, so he can evaluate whether this particular strategy is effective.) “I love doing puzzles with you!” (Communicate your enjoyment of sharing a task or project with him.) “It’s frustrating, isn’t it? But you’ve almost got it!” (Effective encouragement. By contrast, if we show him, we imply that he can’t figure it out for himself, which lessens his self-confidence.) “You did it! You got all the pieces to fit! You must be so proud of yourself!” (We’re mirroring his joy in his accomplishment, but notice we’re not telling him we’re proud of him, which implies that pride in him is something we can also withhold. Instead, we empower him by acknowledging that pride in himself is his, something he can take action to create.)
Blame is simply anger looking for a target, and it never helps us toward a solution.
The truth is, we always have more responsibility than we’d like to admit. And the more responsibility you take, the less defensive your child feels, so the more responsibility she’s likely to take in her own mind and, eventually, aloud.
An incredibly sad and beautiful story of a father’s last days.
I’ve been a part of the Berlin Dad’s Slack for a while now which is proving to be an essential resource for dads who want to live a balanced life.
I would very much suggest you join if you’re a dad as well.
One of the biggest regrets I have is that we couldn’t arrange it so that I had parental leave by myself. In large part, this was because you don’t get twice the duration (28 months) when you birth twice the kids and I could only take three full months.
“But we don’t need a secret police to turn us into atomized, isolated souls. All it takes is for us to stand by while unbridled capitalism rips apart the temporal preserves that used to let us cultivate the seeds of civil society and nurture the sadly fragile shoots of affection, affinity, and solidarity.”
A roaring end to a lament on the fragmentation of work hours and as such also of society as it took place in America.
Germany still resists this trend by for instance not allowing shops to open on Sundays. I found this tremendously annoying, but I’m now starting to see the use and charm of quiet Sundays. (And now that I have kids, I manage to buy our groceries on Saturday.)
“Sometimes when he walks, I swear I can hear it, the depression. It’s a liquid sound. I can hear the cortisol sloshing around in his veins. I can hear the adrenaline drip-drip-dripping down the twisted cord of his spine.”
I’m afraid this piece has disappeared behind the Medium paywall, but The Weather by Aubrey Hirsch is one of the rare things I have ever read about post-partum depression in men and it is written like a punch in the gut.
Fisher says there is brain evidence that when women are under stress (say, a new baby has colic), they are inclined to “tend and befriend” (become more empathetic and social), while men under stress are apt to withdraw.
A study of heterosexual couples led by Shiri Cohen, a couples therapist and psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, revealed that women reported feeling much happier when their male partners understood that they were angry or upset. “This research bore out what I see every day with couples,” Cohen tells me. “When the man can register his wife’s negative feelings, and communicate that on some level, the wife feels better, because she knows that ‘Oh, he gets how I’m feeling.’” She points out that, conversely, men do not derive the same satisfaction in knowing that their wives are upset. “Research shows that men tend to retreat from what feels like conflict to them, because they tend to physiologically get much more negatively aroused,” she said, “so conflict feels way more intense for them.”
so women have better memory and social cognition skills, making them better equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that can work within a group.
Brené Brown calls this tendency to project a motive onto someone without actually knowing the facts “the story I’m making up.”
No surprise there—but the mind-boiling part is that men’s stress levels fell if they kicked back with some sort of leisure activity—but only if their wives kept busy doing household tasks at the same time
meanwhile, found that married couples’ wounds actually healed more slowly when they had hostile arguments compared with so-called low-hostile couples. The stress from a fallout, they discovered, drove up blood levels of hormones that interfere with the delivery of proteins called cytokines, which aid the immune system during injuries.
“Tom, what you’re not getting, and this is true for most men I see, is that it is in your interest to move beyond your knee-jerk selfishness and entitlement and to take good care of your wife, so she isn’t such a raving lunatic all the time.”
“But the idea that you can haul off and be abusive to your partner and somehow get a pass, that you can’t control it, or whatever you tell yourself to rationalize it, is nuts. Also, your whole ‘angry victim’ role is going to get worse. You are extremely comfortable with your self-righteous indignation.”
We construct a plan for his phone to issue a spate of reminders before all school pickups.
A week later, Tom’s crisis negotiation skills are required yet again. It is a school morning, and he is sleeping in after a late night of binge-watching a Swedish crime series. I am up at 6 a.m. with our daughter, making her breakfast and lunch, supervising her homework, ordering a replacement water bottle after she somehow lost hers at school, filling out a form for a class trip, and baking carrot muffins for Tom.
“Men often do best if they know exactly what to do.” Do not use moralistic or shaming language, he continues, which only brings on defensiveness.
Tell your spouse that changing his behavior will directly benefit him because you will be happier and more relaxed.
I’ve learned to be protective of my time, just as my husband is.
“Both boys and girls learn that mothers have needs, too, which is also very important if they have children of their own,”
Those drained respondents negotiated their responsibilities anew every day, starting from scratch—as Tom and I had been doing. This cracked system trapped the participants in an exhausting cycle of “requests and avoidance of these requests.” Conversely, spouses who knew exactly what to do around the house didn’t spend as much time negotiating responsibilities and didn’t tend to monitor and criticize each other. Not surprisingly, “their daily lives seemed to flow more smoothly.”
“So my question to you is, if he waits that long, what does it cost you, other than your obsessive need to not have it pile up? What’s it actually costing you?”
Please, snorts couples therapist Esther Perel. “One important intervention for my clients who are mothers that overmanage—who are overwrought not by difficult life circumstances but by the culture of perfection that has captured parenthood—is that I tell them to go away for the weekend,” she says. I admit to her that I am that over-managing mother. “Then go away alone, go with your friends, go away with someone you haven’t seen in ages!” she says.
The Gottmans categorize couples as masters and disasters. Masters look purposefully for things they can appreciate and respect about their partner; disasters monitor their mates for what they are doing wrong so they can criticize them. Intent on being a relationship master, I order a stack of their books.
This means voicing what the Gottmans call the “three As”: affection, appreciation, and admiration.
When Tom is reading the paper, for example, he occasionally comments, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” This is a “bid,” a sometimes-subtle appeal for attention. If I reply, “Oh, what are you reading?” this response is what Gottman calls “turning toward” my partner—I have given him the encouragement he’s seeking. If I ignore his bid, I am “turning away” from Tom.
My friend Jenny, mother of two, tells her husband that saying “thank you” is the ultimate cheap buy-in. “The average mom does a hell of a lot,” she says. “And unlike at work or school, at home, rarely is anyone saying, ‘Good job.’
Of course, I am still “household manager,” constantly reminding Tom to do fundamental things such as feed the kid breakfast—but he does it.
Sometimes he even says, “Need a hand?”
Oh, that must feel bad. I can see why you feel like that. What can I say or do right now to make you feel better? It’s calculated, but who cares?
One girl mentioned that every morning when she left for school, her father would say, “You go, tiger—you go get them.”
Father-initiated playdates are fairly rare, but they’re important, particularly for daughters.
Research shows that doing chores makes children thrive in countless ways, and is a proven predictor of success,
She found that having children take an active role in the household, starting at age three or four, directly influenced their ability to become well-adjusted young adults.
Those who began chores at three or four were more likely to have solid relationships with their families and friends, to be self-sufficient, and to achieve academic and early professional success.
three-quarters of the garages they studied were so crammed with junk, the homeowners couldn’t store cars
He laughs and says he understands. He explains that he isn’t suggesting that women should pump up the male ego—rather, that the need to feel appreciated is universal. Who among us does not love praise and kindness?
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When she was unhappy about making the lengthy commute to her daughter Jennifer’s preschool, her husband, then the chief executive of Microsoft, said he would drive Jennifer two days a week.
If a fight is brewing, start with “I” statements.
Say “Thank you,” and say it often.
All of those gestures—and I’m aware they were mostly gestures—took a total of a few hours, but she was thrilled, it deepened their relationship, and the goodwill he received from me lasted for weeks.
Especially, I would add here, if you can find a therapist who yells at your husband, “Stop with your entitled attitude, get off your ass, and help her out!”
The FBI’s methods of paraphrasing and emotion labeling are remarkably effective.
We do our own flavor of attachment parenting and this is still one of my favorite pieces about motherhood.
The dropping arises from the combination of the laissez-faire attitude of Dutch parents along with the incredible safety of the Netherlands. I have been dropped as a child and I never considered that this was a uniquely local experience.