Right or Wrong?

Related imageI see many parents that are in conflict, and some that can’t even be in the same room as each other.

People ask me how I remain neutral in those instances, that there must be one that is right and one that is wrong. Truth is, when in conflict, both are right and both are wrong.

I had a parent in tears once, begging me to believe their side of the story.

Reality is that it doesn’t matter to me who is right and who is wrong. We all have our own perception and that perception will drive our behaviour. Since I am here to assist resolve a conflict, I come from the position that to any problem  there is a solution. If a conflict sees no resolution, the problem is not the problem, the problem is the person’s attitude towards the problem.

You see, we always play a role in situation where we find ourselves involved in. As long as we play a role in the conflict, we are neither right nor wrong, we are contributing to the problem.

There are 3 distinct roles we play when we are part of a conflict. We are either the “blameless one”, the “good one” or the “right one”.

As long as we remain in either of these roles, we remain part of the problem and somehow are thriving to make a point.

So, yes, some people do behave wrongly, but the behaviour usually indicates how capable or incapable an individual is equipped to deal with a situation and it is here that the support is necessary to 1) reassure the fear which motivates our defensive behaviour and 2) redirect the need to be right which is translated with an inefficient or irresponsible behaviour. It is here that lies the opportunity to grow and do something different.

The end of the conflict will take place when we own our part in that conflict and move forward with the intention to make a difference. No law can achieve this. You, and you alone, hold the key to make that choice.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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Is Mediation right for us?

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I often hear people tell me that Mediation is not right for them, to what I always answer: “What are you trying to accomplish that cannot be done in Mediation?

It is true that there are some exceptions to this rule where mediation may not be appropriate like in cases of domestic violence, for example.

The aim of mediation is to assist parties in resolving their disputes amicably through a negotiated settlement, without going to court. One of the motivations behind this is that the courts are over-flowing with cases as numerous disputes are brought before the courts daily and it can be months before your matter can be heard. Secondly, proceedings through the courts involve asking a judge to deliver a judgment on the dispute. Mediation removes this risk as the parties try to find a solution.

In facilitating discussion between the parties, the main objective of mediation is to assists the parties in identifying issues, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise and generating options in an effort to resolve the dispute and ultimately preserve the relationship between the parties and promote healing, something which is not possible through the adversarial nature of our court system.

That being said, it is true that not all mediation are successful and can sometimes bring out emotions that are not always manageable at the time. When mediation is unsuccessful because of emotional turmoil it is not a logic outcome to move to litigation. Instead, parties ought to be encouraged to seek emotional support and coaching in moving forward and then return to mediation when emotions have been made sense of. You’ll be surprised what can be achieved with a clear head.

So if you are facing doubts about your mediation ask yourself first:

Why has mediation failed? Then,

  1. Write down each person’s argument.
  2. Find out what each person wants.
  3. Negotiate or reason with the other side until you reach an agreement.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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Discipline

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I so often hear parents complain of their relationship with their children and the reason being because they are the “disciplinarian” in the family.

My first question to them is: What does discipline mean to you?

The answers range from being strict, setting up rules, punishing, keeping them on a straight path through rigid means … but reality is, in order to better our relationships with our children and teach them what we believe are good values to hold growing up, we need to re-frame what discipline actually means.

The word “discipline” originates from the Latin word disciplina which means “instruction” and derives from the root discere which means “to learn.” The word discipulus which means “disciple or pupil“ also stems from this word.

Re-framing our understanding of discipline is key to better disciplining our children and is best described, and ought to be understood, as an external practice designed to bring about an internal change. 

As per the definition above, learning and giving or receiving instructions are best achieved when we are able to connect and motivate the person we are seeking to “inform”.

What is true of the feedback of the many parents I meet is that wrongfully understood discipline as being controlling, does not work, in the long run anyway.

While it may work for a short while, parents who use controlling discipline will eventually be at the receiving end of the sad outcome of being disconnected from their children and loosing much hope of teaching them valuable information.

The best way to achieve positive results with your children, regardless of their age, is to understand that:

  • You cannot control your children, but you have the ability to influence them in making better choices.
  • You cannot accomplish to teach them well if you resort to making them feel bad in the process.
  • Behaviour = Communication. Instead of punishing, blaming, criticising, complaining, nagging, threatening or bribing to control, connect with your child to address the behaviour and teach them better behaviours by supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences.

The solution when facing having to “correct” your children is to ask yourself: Is what I’m about to do or say going to bring me closer or push me further apart from my child.

Happy Disciplining and remember to have Fun doing it.

If you would like to learn more about managing your children and the challenges of parenthood, contact us to enquire about our REALity Parenting programme which we can bring to your school.

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Co-Parenting Etiquette

Related imageAs per the children’s ACT, BOTH parents have equal rights and responsibilities unless otherwise stated by a Court of Law.

When separating/divorcing from your children’s other parent, a lot has to be reconsidered. While living under one roof does not make a family perfect. Living under two roofs certainly will bring its shares of challenges.

Many things will have to be re-thought and although the best interest of the children must always come first, parents have to agree on a suitable arrangement which will fit with their new schedule.

Co-Parenting as such is a wonderful concept but not everyone is able to dive right into it.

Many emotions are at stake and co-parenting with someone who is no longer a person you trust or love or even like, can bring in a whole other level of emotions. So how can co-parenting work and be in the best interest of the children, when you really don’t see eye to eye.

Moving on requires time to emotionally come to terms with the meaning of this life transition. This can take time and should not interfere with your role and responsibilities of being a parent. Moving forward, on the other hand, is about consciously applying behaviours which are going to benefit the adjustments necessary for transitioning from one household to two household and to allow the children to feel safe adjusting to the same while being able to love and be loved by both parents.
  1. Co-parenting, at its best, is 2 parents parenting in harmony for the best interest of their children.
  2. Co-parenting, at its most challenging, is 2 parents demonstrating that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.

Here are a few #TIPS to manage this transition and access some Co-Parenting Etiquette.

  • It’s not about you, it’s about the children
    • Remind yourselves that this is not the time to bring back the past, your issues, your grown up problems or your hurt and anger. It is about the children and giving them permission to feel safe loving and being loved by both of you.
  • Keep communication business like and refrain from making things personal
    • In a business relationship, we seldom share personal information. It is no longer your business what is happening in your co-parent personal life as long as each parent is confident that they conduct their personal lives with the best interest of the children in mind. Your only business is your children.
  •  Don’t inform. Discuss
    • Co-Parents who just inform after the facts lay a ground for potential conflict. It translates little respect towards the other parent’s opinion and forces a “My way or the highway” attitude. When you choose to discuss issues or decision-making with your co-parent, you open the door for valuing the other parent’s opinion and properly consider what is in the best of the children.
  • Share information, not feelings
    • When you allow your emotions to do the talking it’s likely going to be messy. Emotions, even though normal, and necessary, are seldom ground for good communication. Whether face to face, by email or messages, stick to sharing information. Emotions will trick you into bringing up the past, blaming, criticising, threatening and even punishing your co-parent, and will drive you to make a point rather than make a difference.
  • Every problem has its solution
    • Sometimes things may seem far from being solvable, yet every problem has its solution. Instead, ask yourself: “Is focusing on the problem helping me get what I want?.” Be a problem solver.
  • Be nice to each other
    • As parents we are affected when our children are mean to one another. Just imagine what watching their parents being ugly to each other does to them. It is not what we want for them and we most likely put efforts in teaching them to be nice to one another. We are their role models, first and foremost, so let’s be a good example to them and be nice to your co-parent.

In applying these principles, you will improve the quality of your co-parenting and uplift the environment for your children.

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I’m Stuck

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While a divorce/separation is painful, now and again, I meet someone who is really struggling to move on with their life.

The first thing to understand is that healing isn’t a linear process. To experience ups and downs are normal. You have been married/together for a certain period of time and a divorce/separation shakes what you know your life to be. It is new and like many changes, it is scary.

But while it is natural for this life changing event to take time to sink in, to accept it, even to regret it, it should not consume you and keep you from moving on.

If you are finding yourself stuck. That months and sometimes even years later you are still affected by this life transition, it is time to take back control over your life and self.

When the end of a relationship has such a devastating impact on your life, it really explains that you are nurturing being a victim of your circumstances. We are all victims, at times, to life’s challenges and difficulties. Feeling like a victim of life, is not easy and it is painful. We believe we are the victims of a feeling which we have no control over, but it is also a choice.

Being a victim means something happened to us. We are its victim, and we have no control over it. We truly believe that we can do nothing for ourselves…but you can choose something different, something better.

If you have a choice, it follows that you are responsible for making those choices. You are either the recipient of your good choices or the victim of your bad choices.

Owning your choices can be daunting, but you cannot escape responsibility for what you are doing.

Here are 4 tips to break free from the victim mentality:

  1. Take ownership and responsibility for your own needs and behaviour.
  2. Understand that you are the only person you can control. You cannot control someone else or a circumstance.
  3. Clarify what you want and what you should do to get it.
  4. The solution is in the present and the future. We are products of the past but we do not have to go on being its victims. It is our present perceptions that influence our present behaviour and so it is these perceptions that we need to work through.

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Pointing Finger

Many people that I meet for counselling or mediation have a finger to point at the other party.

I like to begin with establishing that no one is ever blameless. Sure, some people are downright wrong and even bad, but that doesn’t mean that the other person is blameless.

Finger Pointing is defined as casting blame or assigning the blame for something to someone else. If a person feels they are the victim of someone else’s behaviour, pointing the finger at that person will not provide a sustainable solution.

If you look at the other person, or situation, with a sense of right and wrong according to your value system and perception, then it is easy to find blame. If you hold the belief that you are blameless then naturally it is easy to find fault in the other person.

While there are many different situations to refer to and at times situations which need to be reported for one’s or someone else’s safety, pointing fingers usually is not about safety but about getting someone to take all the blame.

In co-parenting issues, there are unfortunately many scenarios and yes, some parents are totally wrong when it comes to evading financial responsibility towards their child or is withholding access of the child to their other parent, but unfortunately, pointing fingers at the other parent is often less about the children than it is about your own responsibility in the matter. Instead, focus on the things you have control over and how you choose to respond to the situation. This will provide better solutions, in the long run, than just pointing fingers.

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Moving On

Related imageAll I hear from people going through a divorce is how they want to move on, yet, so many have been battling their divorce for an ongoing 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years.

The conflict they are experiencing is sinking them further in a position that feels more like being a hostage to their divorce than a battle to just get a better agreement.

The anger that has settled between two people who once shared a life together is so intense, that the wish to move on has been replaced by a wish to destroy the other person.

By the time people have been back and forth in court and have most likely spent a large amount of money, if not all and even got into debt for it, the Judge will summon them to mandatory mediation to now be adult about their conflict and start taking responsibility to finalise their agreement to divorce.

If anything, a divorce ought to be viewed as a solution.

While not all divorces are clear cut, no divorce should become a reason for ongoing conflicts, destruction, and a battle for the rest of your life.

People need to approach divorce with the understanding that there are in fact three divorces:

  1. The Emotional Divorce
  2. The Financial Divorce &
  3. The Legal Divorce

And they should be approached in this order, because if your emotional divorce is not given the priority and importance it deserves, the financial and legal divorce will be dragged by unresolved emotions.

Then there is the matter of Litigation vs Mediation.

Yes, you may have reached the end of your relationship due to some wrong doings by either or both partners, but truth is, litigating a divorce is no better than deciding to not find a solution.

Whatever you do, you have a choice, and if you lack having a choice in some matters, you still have a choice in how you react to it.

High conflict divorces can still be mediated with the approach of individual caucus sessions. Parties do not have to be in the same room, but as long as the motivation is to not waste money, not waste time and reach a responsible and mindful agreement, then you will soon be on your way to move on.

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What is Choice Theory?

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By William Glasser, M.D.

Choice theory is a new psychology developed by Dr. William Glasser when he realized that all his psychiatric work was based on people choosing what they do so he decided to call what he practices choice theory.

By learning to put choice theory to work in your life, you can improve your relationships with all the people who are important to you. You can also teach choice theory to someone else who then can use it to improve his or her important relationships. Since we are social beings, the need for satisfying relationships is encoded into our genetic structure. The more our genes are satisfied, the healthier we are. Therefore, improving our relationships is improving our mental health.

What he calls a psychology is a usual way of dealing with other people in certain situations. For example a car sales person will use a sales psychology when approaching people who come into the showroom. A mother will use a bedtime psychology when she has difficulty putting her children to bed.

Right now all over the world, people rich or poor, of all races, religions and political persuasion use an ancient world psychology which he calls external control when they have difficulty getting along with other people, especially people they want to get along well with, usually spouses, family, friends, teachers, fellow students, fellow workers and bosses. This occurs because we live in an external control world. Almost all of what is now wrongly called mental illness can easily be traced back to too much external control.

Even though people who use external control believe it will help them to get along better with the people they use it with, it actually does the opposite. External control will always increase the difficulty between the disagreeing parties. If it is continued it can destroy the relationship it was intended to help. Almost all people who divorce have no idea where their initial, strong, positive feeling for each other has gone. Choice theory teaches this early love was destroyed by one or usually both using external control as the marriage progressed.

External control is destructive because one or both parties will attempt to control the other so the other does what the controlling person wants. If it is used in a marriage, the partners use it on each and other and as they do the marriage goes rapidly downhill. If one partner gets control he or she may be happy but the other will be more miserable and increase his or her resistance. The actual resistance usually starts with anger but most often the anger is changed into depression, anxiety or any of the four hundred plus symptoms that are wrongly diagnosed as mental illness in a book called the DSM-IV. A better title for that book is the big red book of unhappiness. These unhappy people need each other but don’t know how to get along.

Choice theory is the opposite of external control: It is a self-control psychology. Those who practice it have learned that they choose everything they do. They learn they can control their own choices but they can’t control what anyone else chooses. Basically, choice theory explains that whenever we deal with any person we want to get along well with, we should be careful to replace any external control with choice theory.

Specifically, external control leads all who use it to practice the Seven Deadly Habitsthat destroy relationships. These are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing or bribing or rewarding to control. Remember once the sentence is out of your mouth you can’t reach out and put it back in. Nor can you erase a look on your face or an upward out-ward roll of your eyes. Choice theory urges all of us to replace the deadly habits with the Seven Caring Habits: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences.

Keep in mind that the unhappiness caused by our not being able to get along with the people we want to get along with is the basic problem. But unhappiness is not mental illness. Our normal brains are perfectly capable of using external control to the point of suffering any symptom in the DSM-IV. While we may not be mentally healthy, we are not mentally ill. There is nothing wrong with the structure or chemistry of our brains. Learning to put choice theory to work in our lives can bring back happiness or mental health.   

For more info, If you would like to know more about Choice Theory, or take part in one of the workshops held by ACT SA | Association for Choice Theory South Africa, or take part in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy & Lead Management Training, you can CONTACT us with your query.

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Adjustments

Image result for adjustmentsI recently met a young couple on their honeymoon and who also were 3 months pregnant.

Having had 2 children myself, my first comment, after congratulating them of course, was: “And how are you doing?”

What followed were giggles and sighs in reporting morning sickness, nausea, not able to do wine tasting, and needing a lot of naps! Something that was not planned when going on an extensive trip in Southern Africa for your honeymoon. The future dad went on to add: We have learned to make adjustments. – And this is the one word which actually defines what life with a child is about. “Learning to make adjustments”.

Becoming a parent, especially for the first time, is a life-changing event which involves inevitable changes.

A child changes everything and  without adjustments, life would become somewhat challenging.

Adjustments are required from a health perspective of the carrying mom, as she will now need to take care of herself differently with a child inside her. Better eating habits are recommended and of course, if the mom used to smoke or drink, for example, she will need to stop, as another life needs to be considered when making choices which were originally just for herself.

So even when a child isn’t born yet, adjustments are necessary at a very early stage, and ought to be considerate of the child’s needs, at all times.

When parents separate/divorce, adjustments will remain a priority.

While in most cases, there will be a parenting plan drawn, parents must never let go of the need to be able to adjust.

It is not uncommon for separating/divorcing parents to become less flexible and even become rigid in following their parenting plan, but parents need to understand that, for children to grow up healthy and happy, adjustments need to be considered and allowed.

Just like the day you welcomed the news of becoming a parent and exploring the unknown of many required adjustments, a separation/divorce will again change your daily life. Your normal routine will once again require the process to adpat or becoming used to a new situation and with the need to adjust you may find yourself feeling sad, confused, lonely, desperate and even angry. These feelings may motivate you to resist adjusting to a new routine, but reality is, without adjustments, you will face a guaranteed struggle.

Adjusting to your new life and the needs of the children, as well as your own, will take some time and must be welcomed and not seen as a threat.

Here are 3 things you can do to welcome adjustments:

  1. Realise change is normal, even if the event leading to change is stressful.
  2. Acknowledge that your future is going to be different. Understanding that change brings about a different future will help you avoid being anxious while you are making adjustments.  How you adjust and perceive the change is key to how well you will move forward.
  3. Know when to seek help. If making adjustments are mostly a source of conflicts, explore getting help to manage your emotions. Running to an Attorney or going to court every time a change is required will bear more stress on you and your children then the actual required adjustment.

The Law doesn’t raise children. Parents do!

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#MeToo

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In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement started by Alyssa Milano has opened the door to many women to come forth with their tragic abuse experiences, which, for a long time, they felt they had no choice but to keep quiet about it.

Ellen Degeneres said: “This is not a male thing or a female thing. It is not a Hollywood thing or a political thing. This is a human thing. And it happens in the workplace, it happens in families, it happens all over the world, and we are all the same. We all want the same thing—we want respect and love and kindness.” 

In my line of work, I see many women (although men are not excluded) who have been abused within their marriage/relationship, and who fail to acknowledge that abuse is not just about being raped or abused by someone they barely know or a complete stranger. It also happens with people we are extremely close to. People we trust and people we ultimately believe we are safe with.

While rape is a most tragic experience, abuse comes in many forms and it is equally tragic to whomever goes through it.

The important point here is that we must understand that we always have a choice. We may not have a choice to avoid the abuse at the time, but we have a choice to take a stand and come forward. We have a choice to voice and claim our rights. We have a choice to not be confined to feeling shame and be silenced by a belief that the abuser has control over us.

For the many victims of abuse, coming forward is not so much about putting their perpetrator away, as it is to come clean with the fact that it is not shameful to have been subjected to it, because one recurring opinion of victims who have kept silent, is that they felt shame and lacked support.

Thank goodness this is now changing.

When abused, we are often left doubting as to what we may have done to cause it, or, if in a relationship, we need to bite the bullet. After all, we did say “for better or worse” …

Now while some people will argue that there are different levels of abuse and if moderate, we must just let it go, abuse is abuse. There is no line to be drawn. If something makes you feel uncomfortable in your relationship, If a partner does not respect what makes you uncomfortable and does not take into consideration that your discomfort is valuable, then it is abuse.

Abuse is ugly. Abuse is degrading. Abuse is manipulative. Abuse is not OK!

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