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.
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.
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:
Baby Cues that Say "I'm Tired" (article with video)
Tired Signs in Infants and Toddlers (article with video)