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Relationship Blues
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Photo: Gokhan Okur
Every one of us has experienced a situation where another human being, especially a child, has “pushed our buttons”. Sometimes these negative interactions are momentary; sometimes they last for days.

Have you ever felt stuck in such a situation? Take courage.You are not alone and you can take steps to dissipate what I like to call the relationship blues.Try this.

Vent your feelings by listing words that describe how you are viewing the child/person of your frustration. Don’t stop to analyze your responses, just identify them. Be specific. The only rule here is that you must write what you feel the person is, not what you feel the person ought to be. For example:

Lillian is stubborn!!!!

Lillian is touchy!!

Lillian is too fussy.

Lillian is a dreamer.  (Notice I can’t say inattentive, that tells what she is not.)

Now ask yourself, “How does this make me feel?” List your responses:

I feel frustrated, mad, angry, depressed, like giving up. . .

Having identified exactly what is bothering you, let out a breath, relax your clenched jaw, and consider two very important facts. First, feelings are never wrong. Feelings are. The way they are handled may need improvement, but the feelings themselves are not wrong. We and our children need to understand the critical role healthy feelings play in helping us to make judgments about our own behavior as well as the role they play in helping us to set sensible boundaries between ourselves and others.1  And second, did you know that you can find something to be happy about in this list of “awful” traits?

Look for the Positive

Go back, and as you look, identify something positive within each negative trait. Like this:

Lillian is stubborn.  -  She may be very determined or persuasive. That would help her encourage others to stick with something or help her finish when others have given up.

Lillian is touchy.  -  She may be very sensitive. She will sense needs that others aren’t aware of. . .

Lillian is too fussy.  -  She may be very careful or attentive to detail. . .

Lillian is a dreamer.  -  She may be very creative and imaginative. . .

Lillian is messy.  -  She may be very easy going, not likely to get stressed. . .

I hope this exercise will both lift your spirits and give you something to be thankful for.

And next time, before feelings begin to build, first try diffusing the situation with a bit of positive praise. Instead of reacting with, “Don’t be so fussy!” Try, “I’m really glad that I have a son/daughter who pays so much attention to detail. That trait could help you be a really good research reporter, doctor. . . .  Let’s see what we can work out here.” The praise will help everyone involved feel positive and open the path toward resolution of your conflict.

And if feelings still build... you know what you can do.

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By C. Rene Ammundsen. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 Carol Cannon discusses this topic in depth in her book, "Never Good Enough", 1993.



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