April 4, 2014

How to Balance Technology in the Home

Contributed by Eva Fleming

kids and technologyEach generation of parents has their own unique challenges and ours is clearly the excess of technology our children are being bombarded with. The problem is so new that the wisdom of the past generation has little to add when this highly addictive behavior is exhibited in their presence. What can we do with this monster that swallows our children’s time, creativity and energy? Instead of falling into despair or admitting defeat, let’s try to find solutions to improve our possibilities of raising healthy children that live in this reality without having to rely on cyber space to find happiness or peace.

To curve our children’s insatiable appetite for technology consumption the first thing we should do is clarify our purpose for their future. What type of people do we want our children to be as adults? My desire is that my children learn how to live a balanced life. I would like them to actively seek to develop all aspects of life: that they would have friends, that their bodies would be well taken cared of, that they would be outstanding students, that they would develop love and empathy for those around them. But a child that doesn’t know his or her world because he/she lives in an alternate reality, cannot achieve these goals. If this your problem, I suggest you become more involved in your children’s daily activities.

It’s important in our technologically driven society that children get opportunities for exercise. This can be achieved through organized sports, spontaneous play between siblings, or activities deliberately planned by a parent. A child’s body needs physical movement, no matter what season of the year it is. In my house I keep a BOSU ball so the children can jump while they watch TV. This ball comes in especially handy those days we can’t get to the park due to bad weather or difficulty in the day’s schedule. During those days, you can also help a child exercise by making them a list of items they can bring from one side of the house to the other. You can say, for example, run and get your laundry basket and bring it to the laundry room in less than two minutes.

In addition to physical activity, children should spend time doing school work and chores. During homework time, don’t allow your children to get distracted with TV or radio. Of course this is easier to achieve if they are younger in age because once they are teens, their habits have been formed and they are difficult to challenge. But while they are still young and you have control of their electronic devices, you can easily put them away during homework time. During the long summer months, or any other special vacation days when they don’t have homework, insist that they spend time reading or practicing an instrument so they don’t neglect the habit of feeding their mind. Chores should have the same importance. There’s a variety of things children can do to help them in their growth, like setting the table, picking up clothes from the floor, putting toys away, helping with gardening, etc.  I give my seven-year old a couple dollars every time he fills up a bag of weeds during the summer months. So I’m not only introducing him to gardening but also I’m teaching him the connection between work and money.

After children have gotten exercise and you know their homework and chores have been completed, then you can allow them to use their electronic devices using your judgment.

Don’t forget to include social activities in your children’s week.  Social activities can be limited to a family dinner where everyone has the opportunity to interact, table games like Monopoly, building LEGOS or playing dolls with friends, as long as the games are supervised. Social interaction is important to teach social-emotional skills. They create an emotional connection that bring personal satisfaction.

In regards to electronic games it is important that you don’t buy your children all the video games they want. You can, for example, buy them an electronic game in the summer, one during spring break, and maybe one during winter break. Limiting them to three games per year will ensure that once they have finished the cycle of each game, they are left with free time to develop other interest. The logic is to do everything with moderation; since excess is never healthy.

As parents, we should always keep in mind that we are raising adults. What kind of adults would we be raising if we allow our children to live only in a cyber world? Begin to train your children in the way they should go so when they are old they don’t depart from it. Begin to take control of the technology your children consume so they don’t become slaves of it. Think that one day they will be somebody’s husbands and wives and that a balanced life is the best gift that you can give his or her future family.

March 31, 2014

Listen With Your Heart

Contributed by Omaira Gonzalez

listen-with-your-heartI remember a time when my daughter and I were getting ready to attend a women’s conference. She had been asked to perform a dance that day. As we were getting ready, I spent moments earlier holding her in my arms consoling her from a heartbreak she had experienced, drying her tears. I didn’t know what to say that would make things better or make the pain feel any less. I remember mumbling words hoping something I would say would stick or would work like Tylenol and ease some of the pain. It felt like a hopeless attempt every time. We arrived at the conference and she put on her strongest face, smiling though you could still see pain piercing through her eyes. I smiled and chatted away, trying to distract everybody from the obvious question everyone wanted to ask. The moment finally came when my daughter had to perform… but how do you do it? How do you give it your all when you are hurting, your mind is foggy and you feel like a part of you is crushed? She stood there and with all of what was left, she gave it her all. It was one of her most memorable and best performances ever. She took the pain inside and used it to fuel her to dance while tears rolled down her face.

This experience brought me to an important realization… When your kids have a  cold, you give them cold medicine; if they struggle with school, you help them with more tutoring; if they fall, you place a band-aid on them. However, what do you do when your child has had a traumatic experience in his or her life? How do you help? No band-aid can fix it, no tutoring or cold medicines can give pain relief. You may even feel a bit frustrated because you don’t have the skills, insight or resources to deal with it at the moment.

Today teens are dealing with more than a heart break. They are dealing with suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, sexual identity, divorce, loss of a friend or loved one, and substance abuse, just to name a few. How we respond to this is as important as knowing when to get professional help when necessary. As a parent, our influence is very important. We need to be prepared to talk to them and walk them through their crisis with wisdom, compassion and the tools to help them heal. A friend once shared with me this advice: “Listen with your heart.” That was one of the best advice she could’ve given me when dealing with my teens and some of the crises I came across. I was so used to always using my head in dealing with their issues that many times I left out the most important part – my heart! I forgot that when you listen with your heart then you begin to connect with them emotionally, instead of trying to figure out the problem and search for quick solutions. I realized that once I started listening with my heart, I had better results. We connected better, because I understood them more and started to see where they were coming from and what they really needed.

Hopeless times may come when your teens face some of the most difficult moments in their lives. Remember that wisdom, compassion and most important— to “listen with your heart”—will help you get through those hard times.

March 17, 2014

Husbands, learn to say “Yes Honey” and renew the romance in your relationship

Contributed by Alicia La Hoz, PsyD

YESHONEYOne of the recurring complaints that I hear from men about their wives is that they nag them to the point where they feel like they’re one of the kids.

If you’re a husband, have you ever asked yourself why it is that your wife asks you to do the same thing over and over again? Nagging you constantly until you comply with her request? Usually when a woman repeats herself over and over again, it’s because she feels like she’s not being heard. And when a woman feels like she’s not being listened to, she feels ignored. Your silence and what she perceives as a lack of action can produce frustration within her. Before this anxiety and frustration kick in, she will try to plead, demand, repeat and nag her request repeatedly. However, this nagging results in being counter productive because it will only lead husbands to become more distant as they will feel disrespected. This redundant cycle is one of marriage’s biggest enemy, as well as a serious buzz kill for romance. As one individual pleads, the other ignores. And the more the one ignores, the more demanding and unbearable the other one becomes.

So, how do you break this cycle? Husbands, learn to say, “yes honey”. When husbands do things out of their own initiative, wives feel supported. When a father gets home from work, plays with his kids and makes sure their homework is complete, this endears his wife. When a husband takes out the trash on a regular basis without being reminded, this endears his wife. When a husband takes on the responsibility to make sure that bills are being paid on time, this endears his wife.

Your wife will feel loved when you – man, father and husband – take the initiative to share the responsibilities of the home. In so doing, you will show your wife that she is loved. And when she feels loved, you will feel loved. Anxiety and frustration will be replaced with peace and happiness, and in turn you will receive sweet words and tender loving care. Redefine your actions; be generous with your time and with your words.

Say, “yes honey” and endear your wife over and over again.

March 10, 2014

Poor Jack: forgot to ask

Contributed by Charles Woehr

You still can’t believe it – how could people be so careless? What were they thinking? Or better: why weren’t they thinking? And now, the damage is done…too late to change their minds, too late to make last minute adjustments, the only thing left is their posthumous cry: “OH, NO!!”

It didn’t have to happen that way. A little more planning, a bit more investigating …things would have turned out differently. We have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of others, without having to go through their pain or loss. Let’s take a closer look at one of those stories and see what we can learn that will make us wiser (than them) in the choices we make.

Poor Jack. It all started with a live pine tree from a Christmas long ago, which had later been replanted in the space between the house and the swing set in the backyard. Now, years later, it was taller than the house and no longer appreciated. Jack decided to cut it down. He could have called for tree removal service but preferred to save money and do it himself; after all, he thought, he had a chain saw, a pair of gloves, and a good head on his shoulders. What more could he need? The day for action came, and he stood by the tree going over his plan: goggles, gloves, chainsaw, a couple of nicely placed cuts, and one tree down (should drop right between the house and the swing set). Everything was going just fine until he noticed that the tree was starting to fall in the wrong direction… against the house! End result: broken roof, wall, windows, and having to call the tree service anyway (not to mention his neighbor who caught it on video and posted it on the internet). What went wrong? Jack made a wrong guess about where to place the cut that would cause the tree to fall in the right place. He could have consulted an expert, over this detail, and saved himself a lot of trouble.

That kind of thinking carries over into other areas of our lives. For example: you want to have a strong and healthy family. You may think you have all the elements to make it happen: a husband, a wife, and three little children. But do you have all the knowledge you need to make this family nucleus into a strong and healthy one? Are you ready to be a good role model? Do you know how to meet the needs of your spouse? What about disciplining children? What are the most important things to teach your children? What boundaries should a healthy family have? How do you know if you are being successful?

Remember poor Jack: he forgot to seek out an expert in tree cutting. So, if your goal is to have a strong and healthy family, you need to seek an expert on the subject. Family Bridges is a great choice for getting sound and practical advice for making your family a strong and healthy one. With a wide variety of workshops, trainings and lots of helpful materials, Family Bridges has been successfully educating couples and families for years. Remember, you are not alone in your project – you don’t have to guess what to do to get things to fall into place. Contact Family Bridges and let these family experts give you great advice on how to get the job done.

March 3, 2014

10 Love Challenges

Contributed by Sarah Pichardo

lovechallengeI’m from a family of six girls. As you can imagine, getting a word in can be a little difficult, especially since all six of us are pretty opinionated. If there’s one thing, however, that all six of us have in common, aside from being stubborn, is that we are all do-ers. Our parents taught us, mostly by example, that in order to make a difference in the world, you have to show love not just simply speak about it.

What we do speaks volumes about who we are. What do your actions say about you?

Put your love into action this month and take the Love Challenge. Do all 10 of these challenges and you’ll see that it will not only make a difference in the life of another person, but will also make a difference in your own life.

Love Challenge 1: Do something nice

You’ve heard the saying a million times, “actions speak louder than words.” Do something out of the ordinary today for someone you love. Wash their car, bring them a cup of coffee, clean the kitchen, buy their favorite dessert, fold the laundry, cook them their favorite dinner – whatever it is, do it with love.

Love Challenge 2: Say something nice

How much do you appreciate your spouse, parent, child, friend? How often do you tell them? Take time today to say a simple “thank you for…” or “you make me happy because…” and make their day.

Love Challenge 3: Spend time with someone

Make a simple sacrifice to spend time with someone. Take a chunk of your free time, and devote it to a friend or family. Don’t just physically be there but be there emotionally and mentally. Pay attention to that person. Really be there, in that moment. Because that’s a moment you’ll never get back. And life is all about moments.

Love Challenge 4: Buy a thoughtful gift

I don’t know one single person that doesn’t like to receive a gift every now and then. An unexpected gift can light up someone’s day very quickly. Pick up a book you think they’ll like, their favorite flowers, a gift card to a restaurant, etc. You don’t have to get them something big – just something thoughtful.

Love Challenge 5: Give ‘em a hug

Have you hugged someone recently? A hug is a great way to let someone know you care about them and brighten their day. Plus, did you know research shows that hugs lower pressure, improves your immune system and relieves stress? Who doesn’t want that?

Love Challenge 6: Help someone

Life is hard sometimes and we can all use a helping hand. Is someone moving? Have they just welcomed a baby into the world? Are they having a financial difficulty? What can you do to help them out during this time? Again, it doesn’t have to be huge – just the smallest action can make a big difference.

Love Challenge 7: Decide to forgive

This one can be a doozy. Forgiving is hard but worth it. Forgiveness is a process and not an immediate, one-time act and may take time for the heart and mind to follow along. Start with making the decision to forgive. Doing so will release a burden and release more of your inner beauty.

For more in depth information on how to forgive, download the gloo mobile app and check out our “FORGIVE” program.

Love Challenge 8: Volunteer

Find ways to assist those living in your neighborhood or community. Practice conscious acts of kindness and giving. It’s good for you and good for others. Just do it.

Love Challenge 9: Listen

Listening is underrated. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who just listened to you vent – no interruptions, no judgments? Wasn’t it wonderful? Make an effort to give someone your undivided, fully concentrated attention. Showing understanding of the other person’s feelings and thoughts is all that’s needed to ease their burden and do them a world of good.

Love Challenge 10: Be kind to yourself

So you have shortcomings – we all do. Learn to accept yourself. Focus on your many positive traits, on your strengths and your abilities. Let go of harsh judgments, comparisons to others, and self-hatred. See yourself as the divinely inspired person you are. Love yourself.

February 16, 2014

Hold on to Love

Contributed by Eva Fleming

EVERLASTINGLOVEChildren are full of hope. Every day I hear mine talk about how great their future houses, families, and careers will be. In turn, I kindle their hope by telling them that they have the power to make it so. I encourage them because I know that hope is a life sustaining force. It is like oxygen; essential to a good life. Unbeknownst to them, I cherish a big hope for them too: I hope they have everlasting love.

As a child, you were probably like my kids believing that tomorrow held a great promise. We start out with such great hopes but life hits us hard so we begin to write off love and lose hope in marriage and relationships altogether. If you’ve had a relationship that ended in a break up, or you saw how your parents ended up getting a divorce after 20 years of marriage, you may have become a skeptic. It isn’t hard to lose hope in love, when in addition to your own past failures, all you hear are your friends constantly talking about their unhappy relationships. You start piling up the reasons why it could never be and end up envisioning a society without love; children who survive without the support of their parents; life without people that bring you support. If this is how you have been feeling lately, I ask you to go back to the hopes of your youth and imagine a world where family units continue to keep the fiber of society strong; a society where children can count on their parents, and where husbands and wives love and respect each other. Imagine a society where your talents and virtues are appreciated and wanted and envision what would happen if all your friends got infused with that much hope!

 “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane,” Said Red from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Red was right, hope is dangerous, but it is also wonderful. It is better to be insane than to be bitter and full of regret because we refuse to pursue love. When I talk about hope and the power of love, I’m not talking about wishing upon a star or the exercise of positive thinking. I’m talking about the kind of hope that fuels our daily living so we can change the course of our lives.  Since my children’s minds go so easily to the future, I use that as fuel to encourage them to study hard, never miss school, practice their instruments, and exercise.  I tell them that hope has legs and getting through all these small, menial and daily tasks is how their wonderful future will begin to unfold. What about you? What small, menial, daily tasks can you incorporate in your daily routine to nourish hope? Is it physical exercise and healthy eating for a healthier you? Is it having a studying and reading time for a well-educated you? Is it service time for a more generous you? Do what you must but don’t give up on love, friendship, and family only because you don’t want to be driven insane by the winds of hope.

Love and hope are not tied up to a romantic relationship. You can be single and still cherish life, love and family. It is possible to be single without being alone. Hopeful singles don’t poison their emotional well being with crushed hopes and dashed dreams.  Hopeful singles are not stuck in the failures of their past. Hopeful and happy singles have taken charge of their reality and given up all envy to pursue optimism while still holding on to love. They have learned to be good stewards and refuse to live selfishly to fulfill only their own desires. They foster meaningful friendships and become part of a community. And when they are ready for a relationship, they engage in it with hope.

So whether you are a single person with many past hurts or a married person that has lost hope in their relationship, learn to rise above the failures of your past. Stop dwelling. Dwelling is the absolute opposite of hoping. Hope is rooted in your relationship with the future; dwelling focuses your thoughts in the past. Thinking about past things that could have been good or bad, rarely, if ever, compel one to act. Instead, continue to develop strategies that will help you move forward, learn to plan for difficulties, setbacks, and disappointments and give love, friendship and family another try. You can become part of the group of dreamers that work to rebuild a society that still holds on to hope. Hope has renewed my relationship with my husband during the last 22 years over and over again and hope is what I give to my children so they too can pursue everlasting love.

February 6, 2014

Perfect For Me

Contributed by Josie Cardona

couple_laughingThis story happened many years ago:

We had been married for a year, after dating for 2 years. Like all newlyweds, we were going through a period of adjustment. We didn’t argue constantly but we did have a few differences and it was difficult to understand each other. Once I became annoyed, I would carry that frustration for a few days. Even though I didn’t like feeling this way, I didn’t want to make up too easily-I wanted to make him feel guilty.

One Saturday morning we had gone shopping because we had a commitment in the evening. Excited and happy, we arrived home and began to get ready; me with my new dress, I was six months pregnant, and him with his coat and tie. Just as we were about to leave I noticed the light in the kitchen ceiling was still on. I took a few steps to turn it off when my husband stopped me. “No, my love, I’ll do it,” he said as he gently pushed me out of the way, adjusted the knot on his tie and went to solve the problem. Before I continue, let me remind you that this happened many years ago. The kitchen light had a cord you needed to pull, there were no switches on the wall. When he pulled the cord, the lampshade came loose and fell on his head. I started laughing immediately after hearing his “ay” and watching him rubbing his head. I wanted to tell him to be still as the shade had shattered and there was glass all over the floor but I couldn’t because I was laughing so hard…until he turned towards me. I froze! The blood was running down his face all over his clothes and he was swaying from side to side. I started trembling and running around in circles like crazy not knowing what to do. A thousand thoughts went through my mind. ‘It could have been me. My baby!  Oh, God, what should I do? Where’s the phone? Will the ambulance get here in time? He’s got to be alright!’  I ran towards him to see how I could help. I ran to get a towel to see how I could stop the bleeding. He grabbed the towel from me and began to wipe his head and face. When he was done wiping his face we noticed that, thank God, it was nothing serious, just a few scratches from the glass as the shade had shattered on his head. But what a fright!!!

We didn’t get to go to our commitment. If I remember correctly, after cleaning up all the mess, we spent the evening laughing at the unexpected event. Reflecting back, I think that after seeing him injured, my heart had stopped, believing that it was something serious. I realized how tender he would always be with me; how he would take care of me; how he worried about me; how he would protect me. You know what? After this, I don’t think that we had silly little spats. There were times when we would argue about insignificant, petty little things. But I saw how valuable life is and to have someone that loves you and takes care of you the way he cared for me. I saw the wonderful and positive in him rather than seeing his faults. Today, 37 years later, he still has faults, but how nice it feels to have him close to me, taking care of me, protecting me and loving me-in spite of my own faults. He’s perfect for me!

Many times we are so disoriented that we have to get bumped on the head to see what we have right in front of us. But then it all depends on how we receive and react to these bumps. Through life’s bumps we learn to value what we have. Let’s not focus on our spouses’ faults or negative points.  This impedes growth in the relationship. Don’t waste your time in petty little things and take advantage of all that you can share together. Consider the love you have for each other, the tenderness, the delicate moments, the care, attention, security, and the value of your commitment. That is a champion marriage. That is everlasting love in a relationship.

January 29, 2014

The War on Poverty

Contributed by Alicia E. La Hoz, Psy.D.

IStock_HispanicFamily22When I grow up, I will meet a girl I want, get married and have three children.”  Our four-year old child has a clear picture of what marriage is and already envisions that he too will be married.  Unfortunately this is not the case for many other Hispanic children born today. According to Child Trends, among women under 30, 53% of births occur outside of marriage, of which 65% are born to Hispanic mothers.  Thus, many of the children born today will not have a schema or internal framework of what marriage is. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, much attention has been drawn to marriage as one of the social indicators that holds promise for addressing poverty. Social science studies have clearly demonstrated that two-parent family homes lead to more economic stability and mobility while single parent family homes are more at risk for poverty.

Since the 1970s, the Hispanic community has grown 300%, now comprising 21% of the U.S. population under the age of 25. The impact of this expansion is reflected in the marketplace as Hispanics controlled $978 billion in spending power during 2009[1] and are expected to account for 74 percent of the increase in the nation’s labor force from 2010 to 2020.[2]   Nevertheless, this exponential growth is not without challenges to the family, education, poverty, mental health and immigration. For example, of the 6.1 million U.S. children living in poverty in 2010, 37.3 percent were Hispanic, as compared to 30.5 percent  white, and 26.6 black. [3] While the percentage of births outside of marriage increased for all ethnic groups, there is variability by race and ethnicity. Latinos and Whites account for the highest proportion of births outside of marriage, 65% Latinos and 61% Whites in comparison to 30% Blacks. In 1990, according to Child Trends, 37% of births to Latino women were non-marital in comparison to 53% in 2009.[4] Thus, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among Hispanics remains among the highest of all population groups.

 The trend is troubling since Hispanics have historically held a positive outlook on marriage and family life, emphasizing values within the traditional family. Economic strains, social isolation, immigration stress, barriers to marriage, and shifts to cultural norms have challenged the traditional family structure held closely by Hispanics. Hispanics have overcome the challenges faced through a strong work ethic, dependence on faith, and reliance on strong family values. The strong family values leading to the formation and sustenance of intact families that would otherwise protect children and their families from the ills of poverty are eroding.

 It is essential for the economic wellbeing of the country that anti-poverty policies be promoted not only by government-led initiatives but they encompass a community based approach that leverages the private sector, collaborates with the faith-based leaders, and is embraced by the community.  The problem is multi-faceted and the answers also need to be comprehensive in nature.  Promoting healthy marriage and fatherhood education programs, along with other social service programs such as job readiness and asset development, holds some promise as an effective intervention in reversing the current trends.  The Supporting Healthy Marriage Program Evaluation study of the Healthy Marriage Programs criticized by opponents of marriage and fatherhood programs had stronger effects for Hispanic and for more distressed couples.  These findings align with the local outcome studies of comprehensive programs implemented across the nation.  For example, Family Bridges, one of the largest federally-sponsored programs in the Midwest serving approximately 10,000 low-income (<100% of the federal poverty level) individuals, couples and families annually, of which 68% are Hispanics, has found in follow-up studies of low-income couples who engaged in the marriage education workshops large gains in parenting skills and a dramatic reduction in stress. In addition, follow-up outcomes conducted of those participants indicated that one-third of those relying on public aid when they took the workshops no longer needed that help two years after they completed the program.

Why have these programs worked for the Hispanic participants served by Family Bridges? Qualitative studies of interviews conducted with graduates of healthy marriage programs suggest at least three dynamics that influence change: (1) self-awareness brought about in the context of a trusting relationship; (2) a decision to change; (3) available resources that provide the needed guidance for the change process to occur. Participants served by Family Bridges either are dealing with generational or situational poverty. Generational poverty defined as having been in poverty for two generations or more is perpetuated by a cycle of hopelessness due to educational, parental and spiritual poverty. Without the hope and belief that life can be better, the motivation and energy to break the cycle is very low.  Couples and participants attending our programs gain a sense of hope as they witness others in similar distressful circumstances pull out and move forward. A renewed sense of hope, coupled with social and community supports and the needed resources, propels couples and individuals towards entering the change process.

Unless the marriage trend changes, our four-year-old will most likely enter into the school system with other Hispanic children who will not be raised with the benefits of a two-parent household. Other Hispanic children he befriends will most likely be at risk to be high school dropouts, to be teen parents, or to enter the juvenile system. These are the trajectories leading to poverty. Indeed, the marriage agenda is one of many interventions that, when implemented within a comprehensive community model, provides needed wrap-around and supportive services such as job skill development and is a promising practice for minorities as it draws on inherent cultural values that are appreciated and endorsed by many Hispanics.

[1] Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, July 2009.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[3] Pew Hispanic Center, Childhood Poverty Among Hispanics Sets Record, September 2011.

[4] CDC/National Center for Health Statistics.
January 20, 2014

Woodpecker Syndrome: How Not To Talk To Your Spouse

by Nadia Persun, Ph.D.

urlRemember the saying “Don’t go to bed angry”? Well, yesterday I did just that. While he did not come to bed at all. Falling asleep was an effort. My body was charged by adrenaline and my brain busily counted reasons why during our argument I was right. I was determined to regroup overnight and progress our wicked discussion until his proclamation of defeat. Letting go felt like a sign of neglect.

In the morning I woke up hollow eyed and drained. My anger was no longer intense but wobbly. But it did not go away completely, making it tempting to give him another run on the ways he had wronged me the day before. Just one more time, with greater resolve and firmness. But then again, he had a different take on things, was not ready to listen, shutting down and tuning me out. Charged with frustration, we did not speak for a few more hours. Lots of steam and fire and no resolve. Should I just try again? Maybe to make my point well requires just a tad more tenacity.

One partner keeps lecturing and persevering on his or her point, while the other one feels increasingly wary and disconnected. It is a toxic cycle that I see in many couples I counsel. So common that I named it: “Woodpecker Syndrome”. One partner is just not willing to give up, continuing toxic conversations and repeating rash lectures. It does not lead to any constructive dialogue, but a partner affected by the woodpecker syndrome perseveres, as if seeing some invisible “keep going” sign. She becomes a diligent and insensitive lecturer, making forceful monologues that drown in defensive silence. Nothing gets resolved, relationship deteriorates further. Both partners get exhausted and wary. This is a communication pattern of ever diminishing returns. Soon just the mentioning of “lets talk” makes one want to run or hide. A pattern of talking at someone, not to someone. It breeds disconnect and widens the relational rift. It does not matter how well intended the comments are, once they are delivered as a bullet point list of suggestions, as a stern monotone monologue with no intermissions. Such a way is doomed to just sink in silence and can’t serve any good purpose.

Loving well means telling it all and being persistent, if necessary, right? Not always. Sometimes you are wrong. And being wrong, angry, and stubborn is an annoying combination that never lets you to get through to anyone. A scavenger hunt of accusations will never lead to dialogue or connecting. Or sometimes it may be good advice delivered with bad timing. Person is not ready or capable of change at the moment. They need more support and empathy and less instructions. As said by Theodore Roosevelt, “Nobody knows how much you know, until they know how much you care.” For a change to take place, it has to be a good advice, delivered in an appropriate time, in a sensible manner.

A mixture of warped good intentions and self righteousness, charged by anger and repetition will never produce a way to communicate in a connecting way. Woodpeckers are persistent, critical and insistent on their point of view. Woodpeckers are prone to blame, don’t listen, keenly repeating things over, because someone’s reality dared to disagree with theirs. Their goal is not to communicate but to win at all costs, leading to compromised trust and loss of any hope of connecting and really hearing each other.

Once you turn into a woodpecker, you obsessively peck into someone’s skull, driving a pathway to their brain, insensibly ignoring the agony you may inflict. The other person gets pained, frustrated and defensive, trying to insulate themselves with silence. In turn, you feel like a tired driver wanting to get home but caught in thick traffic. You say more things, repeat them over, hoping for at least something to stick. But it feels like pressing the “scan” button on the car radio, trying to find some nice tunes but catching only static. With stress cells fully activated in both people, the situation only feels increasingly hopeless and agonizing.

Just stop talking. Take a hike, have a date with your TV friends, or take a bath and go to bed early. Rest, regroup, and then strategize. Try to seek a different approach, but please don’t quadruple your effort when something is not working. May be you are not going to get your way. Maybe not this time, or may be not ever on this specific matter. But then, perhaps you can love each other anyway? Or you may get through at some point, but not by pursuing things in such a destructive manner. If you recognize some patterns described here, just stop prodding and pecking. Or your heads will hurt and your relationship will get hollow.

January 13, 2014

You can do it: Just look into my eyes

Contributed by Dr. Charles Woehr

I-believe-you-can-do-itTwo civilian maintenance men working at an air force base were backstage peering through an opening in a curtain as a hypnotist entertained an audience of airmen and their families. Three volunteers from the audience were being hypnotized and made to believe they were fighter pilots. To begin and end the hypnotic state, two key words would be used: “Attention” and “Roger.” As the three volunteers began to fly their imaginary airplanes, the two maintenance men, accidentally hypnotized along with them, left the building, walked over to a fighter plane and flew off into the sky. In the ensuing conversations, both between each other and with the control tower, each time a “key word” came up they became either smooth talking fighter pilots or desperate maintenance men begging for help. When all was said and done, they landed safely and disaster was averted… it was only a movie, after all.

What is interesting about hypnosis is that people are suddenly able to believe they are capable of doing things they previously did not think possible for them. The prevalent type of hypnosis, in entertainment venues, shows a hypnotist using a watch swinging back and forth on a chain or some other mesmerizing gadget, often ending with the hypnotist uttering the proverbial words: look into my eyes. Have you ever asked yourself, what do those people see in the hypnotist’s eyes? While there are many possibilities – from the power of convincing to the willingness of the subject to be convinced – the end result is the same: the hypnotized person is convinced to believe something and then acts with confidence on that belief.

What is it that you would like to achieve in life, but lack the belief to accomplish? Have you really reached the limit of your abilities, strength, or creativity? Or are there untapped resources within you that you are not yet aware of?

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston recorded a faith stirring duet entitled: When You Believe. In spite of personal fears and a sense of hopelessness, the chorus proclaims with a growing sense of conviction: “There can be miracles when you believe; though hope is frail it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracle you can achieve when you believe, somehow you will. You will when you believe.”

Just look into the eyes of someone you trust — a parent, spouse, teacher, or friend — who also knows you and your potential: they believe in what you can accomplish. Then look into your own self, and start to believe in what more you can do, if you will believe. You can and will become a better friend, spouse, parent, or whatever you set your heart to do. It will take work, and there are those who are interesting in helping you get there. Check out the Family Bridges website for more ways to reach your full potential.


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