I think about you when we are apart

How can we let our families know that we think about them when we are apart?  This week let's do something for our partner and children that tell them that they are worth thinking about when we are not together.  It might be:

  • a little, inexpensive gift (their favorite gum or candy, a flower that was pretty, or anything that they would enjoy)
  • a text message that just says "I'm thinking of you" and "I'm looking forward to seeing you soon"

Purposeful hellos

What does a great "hello" look like to your family members?  A warm hug?  A kiss?  Words of affirmation?  What says to them "You are special to me. I missed you. You matter."? Do they need a few minutes to unwind or do they need to connect right away?  

Great goodbyes

The challenge this month is to share greetings and goodbyes that show our family members how important they are to us.  Our goal this week is to say goodbye with an "I love you. Have a great day! I will be thinking about you, and I am looking forward to being together again."  A few great goodbye resources:

  • The song "My Mama Comes Back" by Lou Gallo
  • The (kids) book "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn, and the song "A Kiss In My Pocket" by David Kisor
  • The (parenting) book "I Love You Rituals" by Dr. Becky Bailey
  • Transition rituals

Greetings from Seattle

I am so thankful to be here and part of this amazing training. I’m a Bringing Baby Home Training Specialist in training!! I taught my sections and it was great! Thanks and congratulations to this new group of Bringing Baby Home educators! 

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Greetings & Goodbyes: the 6 second kiss

The challenge this month is to share rituals of connection within our families.  

We start by sharing greetings and goodbyes that show our family members how important they are to us.  So this week, when you say hello or goodbye to your partner, make the kiss a good one!  Aim for a 6 second kiss!  Check out this video for inspiration.  Although I don't know this lady, her video is inspiring!  

Open Ended Questions: What if...

Our goal this month is to improve our skills at asking open ended questions, so that we can get to know one another over time.  This week we are getting to know the things that our partner hopes and imagines (the "what if's".  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • If you could live one other person’s life, whose life would you choose and why?  
  • If you could live during any other time period in history, when would you choose to live and why?  
  • What do you imagine your life would be like if you lived 100 years from now?
  • If you could design the perfect house for us, what would it look like?
  • If you could choose any other career or vocation other than what you do now, what would you choose and why?  
  • If you could wake up tomorrow with three new skills in which you excelled, what would they be and why?  
  • If you could change into any animal for 24 hours, what would it be and why?  
  • If you could live in any other country but your home country, which would you pick and why?  
  • If you could experience being any other person for 24 hours, who would you pick and why?  

Check out the Gottman Card Decks app for more.

Or improve your skills at Bringing Baby Home on October 13-14.

Open Ended Questions: The Future

Our goal this month is to improve our skills at asking open ended questions, so that we can get to know one another over time.  This week we are getting to know each other's hopes for the future.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What do you want your life to be like in, say, three years from now?
  • How do you see your work changing in the future?
  • How do you feel about our physical home? Any architectural changes you’d like to make?
  • What kind of person do you think our child(rent) will become? Any fears? Any hopes?
  • What are your biggest worries about the future?
  • What goals do you have for our family?
  • What goals do you have just for yourself right now?
  • Where would you like to travel? 
  • What adventures would you like to have before you die?

Check out the Gottman Card Decks app for more.

Or improve your skills at a Bringing Baby Home class, including a new class posted for October 13-14, 2018.  

Open Ended Questions: The Present

Our goal this month is to improve our skills at asking open ended questions, so that we can get to know one another over time.  This week we are getting to know each other's daily experience in the present.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Is our child like anyone in your family? Who?
  • How do you think we could have more fun in our life?
  • Who are your best allies and close friends right now? How have they or you changed?
  • How have your friendships changed lately? Have you grown closer to some friends? More distant from others?
  • Who in your life is most stressful for you? Why?
  • What do you need right now in a friend?
  • What things are missing in your life?
  • Have your goals in life changed recently?
  • What are some of your life dreams now?
  • What would you change about our finances right now?
  • What kind of year has this been for you? Tell me the story of your proudest moment.
  • How do you feel about your family right now? Have these feelings changed lately?
  • How do you feel about work right now?
  • How are you feeling about being a mother/father?
  • What do you find exciting in life right now?
  • What is one way you would like to change?  

Check out the Gottman Card Decks app for more.

Or improve your skills at a Bringing Baby Home class.  (Now available: October 13-14, 2018 class in San Jose, CA)

Open Ended Questions: The past

Our goal this month is to improve our skills at asking open ended questions, so that we can get to know one another over time.  This week we are getting to know each other's past.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How would you compare yourself as a mother/father to your own mother/father?
  • How have you changed in the last year?
  • What legacy do you want our family to take from your family? From your culture? 
  • What are some unfulfilled things in your life?
  • How has your outlook in life changed in the past 2 years?
  • What were the highlights and low-lights of your adolescence?
  • If you could re-do any decade of your life, which decade would you choose and why?  
  • How have you changed as a daughter or son?  
  • How have you changed as a brother or sister?  
  • What relatives have you felt closest to and why?  
  • Who has been the most difficult person in your life (other than a partner or spouse) and why?  
  • Who was your childhood hero or heroine and why?  

Check out the Gottman Card Decks app for more.

Or improve your skills at a Bringing Baby Home class.  

Are we partners? Or enemies?

When we need something, it is easy to look at our partner as the enemy instead of as a teammate.  How can we work together as one team fighting against the issues that come up this week?  How can we give our partner the benefit of the doubt?  How can we look for ways to find compromise when our needs are in conflict?  How can we use conflict as an opportunity to better understand who we are and what we need?  Are there ways that we can take responsibility for our part of the problem?  In the Bringing Baby Home curriculum, John Gottman says that these questions can  reduce our partner's potential defensiveness because we are kicking the problem around together.  We are working together as a team instead of against one another. 

Gentle start-up: a key to expressing needs respectfully

According to the Gottmans' research, the way a conversation starts is likely the way that it will end.  So if we start with criticism or contempt, we are likely to end with defensiveness or stonewalling.  But if we start gently, we are more likely to have a productive conversation.  Some keys to a gentle start-up include:  expressing appreciation; making statements that start with "I", such as "I'm upset" or "I'm angry"; describing the facts of the situation; and clearly describing what we need.  Check out this video from Julie Gottman to hear more.  

Appreciation: a key to being heard

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, the masters of relationship had 20 times more positive interactions than negative interactions during everyday interactions, and five times more positive than negative interactions during times of conflict.  Our ratio of positive to negative interactions is strong when our relationships are full of fondness, affection, gratitude and humor.  When we create rituals that build gratitude and affection for one another, we are putting our relationship in what Dr. Gottman calls “the positive perspective”. When our relationships are in the positive perspective, we are more able to hear our partner’s needs. 

When expressing our needs, it can be helpful to include what we appreciate and what we admire about the other person. When we express that, we can help our partner be able to hear us.  

When we are deeply entrenched in the negative perspective, or when our needs have been building up, it can be hard to stop and express appreciation. In his book Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs describes this pattern as “the crazy cycle.” He says that when a man feels disrespected, he responds without love. When a woman feels unloved, she responds without respect.  He says that the one who considers him/herself more mature should be the one who takes the first step towards expressing love and respect. 

 

Expressing needs: calm down first

 

I wanted to start our expressing needs challenge with a quick reminder that it’s really hard to think clearly or have empathy for our families when we are physically upset (Dr. Gottman calls it “flooded”). If we notice that our heart rates are high and our bodies are tense,  we may need to start off by taking a good break. What is the nature of a good break? It is at least 20 minutes long. It is thinking about something else besides the argument. By the time the break is over, our bodies are physically relaxed, and our hearts and minds are calm.  

Obstacles to filling emotional bank accounts: distraction

As adults, many conflicts begin when our needs go unmet. Maybe we express our need when our partner is busy doing something else. Or perhaps we feel scared that our partner won't be willing or able to meet our need, so we don't express it or we use hints to "test the waters." A key strategy of the Gottman Bringing Baby Home program is to express our needs clearly and regularly so that they don't build up or escape our mouths as criticism or contempt.  (Dr. Gottman calls this a negative bid - expressing our bid, or request, in a negative way).

Interestingly, babies have similar strategies that they use when their bids are not met.  Check out the videos below to see how babies act when they make a bid (express a need) and their parent does not respond.   

So there are 3 things to consider here:  

  • to slow down and become more aware of the ways that our partners and our babies express their needs,
  • to express our own needs clearly and with appreciation,
  • and to make an effort to turn off our cell phones when we are spending time with those that we love so that we can be present in the moment.  

See also:  The dangers of distracted parenting

Baby Cues

This month we are exploring how to build our family’s emotional bank account by responding to each other’s needs. We are working to become more aware of how we each express our needs (bids). This week we are exploring the ways that infants and toddlers express their needs. We know that in the early stages of language development, parents have to be the detective to figure out what the cries, sounds, and movements mean. Over time, babies figure out that they can use their cries, sounds, and movements to have an impact on the people in their world. “They don’t realize that these sounds and actions have any meaning until their caregivers consistently respond to them. In this way, children gradually learn that the messages they send without words have an effect on other people, and they start to send these messages intentionally.” (http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Why-Interaction-Must-Come-Before-Language.aspx) So as we respond to our children’s sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and movements, we are filling their emotional bank accounts, teaching them that the world is a safe place, and also laying the foundation for future communication development.

 

Here are some additional resources to help us to improve our skills at reading our children’s cues:

Newborn Cues (YouTube video) 

Understanding Your Baby's Cues (YouTube video)

Baby Cues that Say "I'm Tired" (article with video)

Tired Signs in Infants and Toddlers (article with video)

 

The Empathy Reflex

As we work together to read each other‘s words and body language to figure out each other‘s needs, it can be useful to think about what Dr. John Medina calls the empathy reflex. In his book Brain Rules for Baby, he describes what he calls the empathy reflex. The empathy reflex is a habit that we can build to identify how the other person feels and make a guess about why they might feel that way. This can help us to bridge the gap between the behaviors that we can see in the other person and the intentions that we can’t see. According to Dr. Medina, this gap is one of the most common causes of conflict in relationships. We know our own intentions but we don’t always know the intentions of others.

 

So the next time you find yourself in an emotional situation, try these two steps: 1)  use the other person’s body language to guess (out loud) how you think they are feeling, and 2) make a statement about why they might be feeling that way. 

 

 Try it and let me know how it goes!  

Source: http://brain-rules-for-baby-practical-tips...

Step 2: Respond to bids mindfully

The next step in this challenge is to slow down, breathe, recognize bids, and RESPOND MINDFULLY.

In the Bringing Baby Home class, Dr. Gottman talks about the importance of recognizing bids and responding to them intentionally.  The motto of the workshop is "small things often."  

When we notice that our partner or our child is making a bid for connection, we have several ways that we can respond.

1.  We can turn towards. This means that we respond to their request for connection by connecting with them.  If our partner asks "Do we have any more laundry detergent?" we respond by putting some laundry detergent in the cart or add it to the shopping list.  If our baby is crying for attention, we respond by looking at them, talking or singing to them, and maybe by picking them up.  If the bid was that the person looked at us, we might simply smile at them.  Turning towards adds deposits to our emotional bank account.  

2.  We can turn away. This means that the bid is ignored.  Maybe we are too busy with our work at the moment.  Maybe we are focused on something else or on "automatic pilot."  Maybe we are busy on our phone. Usually we aren't intentionally being mean, but we are deep in thought or preoccupied with something else.  Turning away has a negative effect on our relationship's emotional bank account. It is a withdrawal from our emotional bank account. 

3.  We can turn against. This means that the other person responds to the bid in a negative way.  The response might be critical or contemptuous.  It is being intentionally negative to the other person.  Turning against is a withdrawal from our emotional bank account. It leads to increased conflict and puts emotional distance between you. 

In order to put deposits into our emotional bank account, we need to be mindful.  We need to slow down and breathe.  We need to recognize the other person's bid, and we need to be intentional to make the other person to feel heard and respected and important.  "Mindful responses increase the positive perspective in the relationship, and over time, increase relationship satisfaction... These small acts will add points to your emotional bank account (deposits) and over time will have a significant impact on your relationship" (Bringing Baby Home workbook, p. 77).

For more information:

 

Step 1: Recognizing bids

The first step in this challenge is to slow down, breathe, and then RECOGNIZE BIDS.

As I mentioned in this month's newsletter, a bid is defined as the way that a person expresses what they need at the moment.  

Some examples of bids that our partner might make include:
- A bid for our attention, such as calling our name or saying "Look at this"
- A bid for conversation: "How was your day today?"
- A bid for relief: "I'm so tired. Could you take care of the baby for a while so that I can take a nap?"
- A bid for humor: "I just heard a new joke"
- A bid for affection: "Can I have a hug?"
- A bid for sex: "You are really turning me on right now"
- A bid for dreaming: "What would you like your life to be like in 10 years?"
- A bid for play: Playfully tickling, dancing, wrestling, or a gentle bump or shove.
- A bid for excitement: "At the party the other day, I was talking to a neighbor about a cool trip that would be awesome to take together."
- A bid for emotional support or empathy: "I feel sad" or "I had a hard day at work today"
- A bid for discussing shared meaning, goals, or purpose in life: "What is the most important legacy that you want to give to the baby?"

Some examples of bids that our child might make include:
- A bid for our attention, such as making sounds or gestures or crying for attention
- A bid to show us something, such as pointing or looking at the object and then looking at us
- A bid for a nap: a yawn; slow motion blinks; drowsiness; hyperactivity; staring off into space; rubbing eyes, ears or hair; losing interest in play; interest in sucking
- A bid for laughter: starting a game of peekaboo
- A bid for affection: rubbing up against us or giving a hug or kiss
- A bid for play: Playfully tickling, dancing, wrestling, or a gentle bump or shove.
- A bid for excitement: initiating an exciting game
- A bid for emotional support or empathy: a pouty face or cry

Next Monday we will look at different ways that we respond to other people's bids.  

More resources: