Monthly Archives

June 2011

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Want a Fight – Or A Solution? 


A Great Idea …

“Discussions invariably end on the same note they begin…If you start an argument harshly-meaning you attack your spouse verbally-you’ll end up with at least as much tension as you began. But if you use a softened startup-meaning you complain but don’t criticize or otherwise attack your spouse the discussion is likely to be more productive.” (Marriage researcher, John Gottman, in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Your Marriage Work, p. 161)

In Other Words …

When we start discussions with an attack, our partners naturally defend themselves. They  become defensive. Rather than getting what we want, we get hurt feelings and damaged relationships. Instead of attacking our partners, we can make requests. Rather than say, “I am so tired of your laziness!” we can say, “I need your help with taking out the trash.”

How This Applies to You…

The next time your partner is irritating you, use your creativity to turn a criticism into a request. Think about the approach that wins cooperation-and use it.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For an excellent book focused on marriage, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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Bouncing Back From Trouble


A Great Idea …

“People who make permanent and universal explanations for good events, as well as temporary and specific explanations for bad events, bounce back from troubles briskly and get on a roll easily when they succeed once.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 93)

In Other Words …

We all fail from time to time. But people who think they fail because of factors they can’t change, get discouraged-and fail lots more. In contrast, people who fail at something and recognize that they can change-that they will have better days or learn important lessons-are likely to fail less and succeed more.

When good things happen, we can make more good things likely by thinking:  “I’m lucky,” or “Things work out for me.” Such optimism leads to more success.

How this Applies to You …

When something goes wrong, look for things you can change. When things go well, look for the good things in your life that keep bringing you success.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For in-depth reading, we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman or Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

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Comfort In The Familiar


A Great Idea …

“Children benefit from a family life that has an expected rhythm and routine to it… Children derive comfort from familiarity. . . It helps them feel more control of their lives.” (Laurence Steinberg, psychologist, in his book, The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, p. 44)

In Other Words …

Routines and traditions help children feel safe. Children look forward to predictable activities. Reading books together, taking walks in the evening, visiting with relatives, eating dinner together-these give children things to anticipate gladly. Of course, occasional surprises have their place as well as they add zest to their safe-feeling lives.

How This Applies to You …

Look at your rituals and traditions. What might you add that would bring more tradition and closeness to your life with your children? Maybe you want to go to the library every Wednesday. Maybe you want to set a couple of days per week to go to the park. Maybe you want to create a time every week to listen to music and dance together. Build pleasant traditions into your life together.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend Between Parent and Childby Haim G. Ginott or The Secure Child by Stanley Greenspan.

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Two Sources of Criticism


A Great Idea …

“What causes a spouse to be chronically critical?  We have discovered that there are two sources.  The first is an emotionally unresponsive partner…The other source of criticism in marriage comes from within.  It is connected to self-doubt that has developed over the course of one’s life, particularly during childhood. In other words, it begins as criticism of oneself.” (John Gottman, Ph.D., leading marriage researcher, in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. p. 264)

In Other Words …

Relationships are hard for imperfect humans. When any two people criticize themselves and their partners, a cycle of negativity can grow, getting stronger and harsher as time goes on. The solution is clear: We must forgive both ourselves and our partners for being human.

How This Applies to You…

It is only a matter of time that you are going to get mad at yourself or your partner. When it happens, try laughing at yourself for expecting either of you to be perfect. As harsh judgments enter your mind, Imagine them being said by an enemy and find ways to defend yourself or your partner.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For an excellent book focused on marriage, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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Joy in the Midst of Misery


A Great Idea …

“Contrary to popular belief, having more than your share of misery does not mean you cannot have a lot of joy as well.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 56)

In Other Words …

Many people believe that you can be either stressed OR happy. Yet many people have a boatload of misery while remaining cheery. The key is the way we think about our lives and troubles. Finding positive meaning from difficult circumstances will help us to experience joy even during difficult times.

How this Applies to You …

The next time a difficult situation arises, look for the positive meaning you can place on it. As a result of difficulties or trauma, you may change your priorities. You may set aside what is unimportant (like things) and care more about what is important(like the people in your life). You can turn your lump of coal experiences into diamonds by the way you think about them.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For more information on improving your strengths, we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman or Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.

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Make Your Child A Partner in Problem-Solving


A Great Idea …

“In most homes children present problems, but parents find the solutions. If children are to mature they must be given many opportunities to solve their own problems.” (Haim Ginott, child psychologist, in his book, Between Parent and Child, p. 88)

In Other Words …

Coaching children toward solutions can take more wisdom and patience than telling them what to do, but we can see the benefit: children learn to be problem-solvers. For example, when a child is having trouble with another child, we could ladle out advice or we could wisely invite:, “What have you tried? How did it work? What else could you try?”

Of course there are many times when we suggest possibilities and define limits. But the more we get our children involved in solving their problems, the more we equip them with skills that will last for a lifetime.

How This Applies to You …

The next time your child comes to you with a problem, do not automatically suggest an answer. Talk to them about the situation. Ask them to come up with possible solutions. Discuss likely outcomes. Make the solving of the problem a cooperative effort.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott or Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

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Breaking Free of Negativity


A Great Idea …

“What exactly were these stable couples doing with each other to maintain a positive balance for their negative emotions? For one thing…they were far less negative than the couples who eventually split up. When they brought up disagreements, they were less extreme in expressing feelings like anger or frustration. They complained and got angry, to be sure, but they were less critical of their spouse, less defensive, less contemptuous, and they were engaged-not disapproving-listeners. (Marriage researcher, John Gottman, in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, p. 58)

In Other Words …

When conflict comes in a relationship-as it inevitably does-the couples that survive are those who remember the positives and manage their anger.

We often assume that if we have as many positives as negatives in our marriages, we’re in good shape. That’s not true. When there are as many negatives as positives, the relationship is in serious trouble. For a relationship to be stable, it needs lots and lots of positives-in fact five positives for every negative. Relationships thrive in positivity.

How This Applies to You…

Your mind has great power. You can dwell on the problems and disappointments in your relationship. You can talk endlessly about the negative. Or you can set your mind to be grateful. You can choose to notice and appreciate the good times in your relationship. Instead of making a sarcastic remark, try to remember your partner’s good qualities. Instead of making a smart-aleck comment, try to understand your partner’s point of view. This small effort is likely to be rewarded with greater love and closeness.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For an excellent books focused on marriage, read Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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Moving From Happiness to Well-Being


A Great Idea …

“The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort, and ecstasy, rather than be entitled to these feelings by the exercise of personal strengths and virtues, leads to legions of people who in the middle of great wealth are starving spiritually. Positive emotions alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, to inauthenticity, to depression, and, as we age, to the gnawing realization that we are fidgeting until we die.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 8 )

In Other Words …

It is great to build a good mood by appreciating the good things in your life. But there is more. It is not enough to feel good; we must do good. Seligman identified two ways to add meaningful accomplishment on top of good mood: use our strengths to complete a task and practice virtue. According to Seligman, the six major virtues are wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, and spirituality and transcendence.

How this Applies to You …

Look for opportunities to use your strengths and practice your virtues. Look around you. Do you see a task that is begging for your unique strengths? Do you see challenges that might be tamed by appropriate use of the virtues? More information about your strengths can be found at www.authentichappiness.org.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For more information, we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman.

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Walking In Their World


A Great Idea …

“Any attempt to talk about [a problem] while you [and your partner] are disconnected will make it worse. The trick to achieving the kind of connection you want is to develop the advanced relationship skill of binocular vision, the artful ability to see your partner’s perspective as well as your own.” (Marriage experts, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, in their book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 124)

In Other Words …

Most of us fight poorly. We push harder and argue louder for our own positions. We all know the results: we and our partners end up angry and disconnected.

There is a better way. At the first hint of a disagreement, we can step out of our own positions and walk around in our partners’ worlds. We can work to understand their points-of-view. When we do, we get better ideas for solutions because we understand their points better. In addition, taking time to understand opens up our partner to more collaboration.

How This Applies to You…

The next time you face a problem in your relationship, try setting aside your views and arguments. Look at your partner. Make a real effort to understand his or her point of view. Think about what your partner is arguing for. Why is it important to him or her? One key to solving problems is understanding your partner’s point of view.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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Getting Over Ourselves


A Great Idea …

“Happy people [are] more likely to demonstrate more empathy and are willing to donate more money to others in need. When we are happy, we are less self-focused. Looking out for number one is more characteristic of sadness than of well-being.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 43)

In Other Words …

There are always difficulties for us to fret about. Dwelling on them will make us sad. We can choose to change our focus from our discontents to the needs of others. Actively helping others is one of the best ways to lift our own spirits. We find ourselves by losing ourselves in helping others.

How this Applies to You …

Next time you are fretting about something in your life or are bothered by sadness, try turning your thoughts and actions to helping the people around you. Can you offer a kind word to a co-worker? Can you help a family member with a task?

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For more in-depth reading we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligmanor The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky.