Choosing Connections to Meet our Needs

 

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In a previous post, I wrote that behavior is communication. Whatever behaviors we choose, it seems to us to be the best way to get our needs met. Psychologist William Glasser came up with a list of 6 basic needs that every human seeks to have met. I know every philosopher and psychologist has their own list, so bear with me, you may have your own list, this is the one I like.

These basic needs are:

Survival

Power

Belonging

Love

Freedom

Fun

 

If you are not getting your basic physical needs met, then your need for survival will surpass all the other needs and they will not matter until your need for survival is met.

 

So, assuming the need for survival is met, then each person has varying degrees of how much of the other needs they require to have a fulfilled life. The amount of each need we require will fluctuate according to our age and circumstances and personality. You may find at some point in your life you have a high need for power, and at other times you may find that you need freedom more than power.

 

Look at that list and think about which of those needs are most important to you. You should be able to recognize that one or two of those needs are very important to you, and you may even be willing to give up some of one need in order to get more of another need.

 

Look again at that list and think about your child. What needs do you think are important to him?

 

Think about your relationship with your child through the lens of your needs and his needs. Each one of you is trying to get your own needs met. Your behaviors are a way to meet those needs. Most likely when there is friction in the relationship, one or both of you are trying to meet those needs through external control. External control means you are using controlling behaviors like criticizing, blaming, complaining and nagging to try to get the other person to meet your needs. The friction happens when that controlling behavior contradicts what the other person needs.

 

It is so important as parents to pause and look past the behaviors and see what your child needs right now. When we understand that we are making choices to meet a need, we can understand that the other person in a relationship is also trying to meet a need. To get along in a relationship, whether it is parent/child or any other close relationship, the external control has to stop, and you must find a way to negotiate your needs. That may sound rational in an adult relationship, but hard to conceive in a parent/child relationship. But it can be done when a parent keeps in mind that what he wants out of his relationship with the child is ultimately a connection and he can negotiate his own power when possible to help the child meet his own needs of power, or freedom or fun. When we are able to stop controlling someone else, the amazing thing is that we gain control and we have a stronger connection with that person.

 

Practically speaking, negotiating your needs and your child’s needs could look like this:

 

Parent of teen: “You want to go to this party (fun, belonging, freedom), and I want to make sure you are safe (love and power). How can we both get our needs met here?”

 

Only bring to the discussion things that you are willing to negotiate, don’t say anything that the child should do. This brings the child to your side to help you solve the problem together without any judgement from either of you.

 

Parent of younger child: “You want to watch TV (fun) and I want these chores done (power), what can we do to solve this so that we are both happy?”

 

It will take a lot of creativity and negotiation on both sides, but ultimately, you are bonding with your child, keeping communication open and you are also teaching him great self-honoring decision-making skills that will benefit him throughout his life.

 

References: Glasser, William (1998). Choice Theory. Harper Collins, New York, NY.

The Gottman Institute: https://www.gottman.com/parents/

5 Ways to Build Resiliency as a Family

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Over the holiday weekend, you may have experienced some big behaviors from your children as you step out of routine and do some fun activities with your family. This might be a good time to talk about building resiliency as a family.

 

My family more or less has a routine every night before bedtime. I read a story out loud to the kids, we try some sort of relaxation or mindfulness exercise together and then we pray and hand out hugs and kisses and the kids go to bed. I found that we weren’t getting very far asking each kid to try some coping skills on their own when they were upset, so we do them all together now. We can all try them and find out which ones we like, and we don’t like. The goal is to build resiliency, togetherness as a family and to get comfortable with a few coping skills that we will be able to use in times of stress. Try some and find out which ones work for you.

 

Deep breathing. This is the most basic and most essential coping skill. It helps your body physically calm, relaxes your muscles and helps your thinking brain come back online. Just take a big breath in and inflate your belly, hold for 3 seconds and then breath out through your nose. Do this for at least 5 times and think about relaxing your muscles as you exhale.

 

Mindfulness exercise: You can find podcasts, cds, books and online mindfulness exercises that you can listen to or read out loud to your kids that walks you through deep breathing and relaxation exercises to again help you relax your body and slow down your runaway thoughts that lead to stress.

 

Family back rubs: This is fun right? Most of my kids love it and it’s the one they most often ask for. It physically relaxes your muscles, helps regulate children with sensory issues and it is bonding and connecting by safe touches. Now I do have a child that is very uncomfortable with being touched at all, so we do what she is comfortable with, sometimes just my still hand on her head. Know your child’s comfort zone.

 

What went well today? I can’t remember where I got this idea from or I would give them credit. At the dinner table or at bedtime, we all take turns and name three things that went well today. This helps reframe what may seem like a bad day and focus on positivity. This builds resilience and happiness to help us and our children look for the good even in what seems to be a bad day. By asking what went well and not what was good, the bar is set low to build positivity. It doesn’t have to be something good, just something that went well, like doing routine things.  Sometimes my kids say, “I got dressed” or “I didn’t die,” and we all celebrate that that went well.

 

What do you love? This one doesn’t take as long as “what went well today?” Ask each family member to say something small that they love. Each person says something like they love the smell of jasmine, spaghetti, sleeping in bed when it’s raining outside or cooking and listening to their favorite album. It’s like a mini show and tell that gives the family a chance to get to know something small they might not have known about each other. It builds connection and safety in the family.

 

There are so many other ideas for coping skills and building resiliency, you can find whole books on the subject. Find what works for you, and find a way to incorporate peace and connection into your family life. It will help your family find ways to reconnect and regulate on those hectic stressful days and help each member of your family build inner strength and resiliency skills.