Q: On the fairly rare occasions when my wife and I get into an argument, it feels like we actually become enemies. That really bothers both of us, but we don’t know what to do. Can you offer any advice?
Jim: Most of us who have been married for any length of time can probably relate. What starts with a simple (and probably unimportant) disagreement ends with the couple bitterly locked in a “me vs. you” mentality. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The key is to remind yourselves that you’re on the same team. If you’ve played sports, you and your teammates may have had your differences — but your “enemy” was the opposing team, not each other. You and your wife won’t agree on everything … no couple does. Instead, commit to directing your energy toward solving the mutual problems you need to work through. Attack the issue, not each other.
To achieve that in your marriage, talk honestly about the conflict that has driven a wedge between you. Own up to hurtful words or choices, forgive each other, and learn how to pursue a common solution. These matters will take time and energy to unpack and may well require the help of a trained counselor. But it’s a critical first step. Unresolved conflict leads to resentment and bitterness, keeping couples from getting on the same page.
So, work on embracing the differences in your relationship and learning to work together as a couple. Make your spouse your teammate, not your adversary. Our staff counselors can help; feel free to call them at 855-771-HELP (4357) or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I get easily stressed and end up yelling or screaming at my kids. How can I be a more adaptable parent?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Parenting is challenging, so hopefully it’s reassuring to know you aren’t alone in feeling overwhelmed. The reality is that about 70% of parents experience burnout, with six out of 10 wishing for more patience with their children.
The keys to becoming a more adaptable parent are fostering self-awareness, being attuned to others, and prioritizing self-care. Adaptable parents can assess their surroundings and adjust their responses rather than allowing external factors to dictate their behavior.
Here are four essential adjustments you can make to be more consistently adaptable in your parenting:
— Look for invitations to connect. Generally, children want to please and aren’t intentionally doing things just to push your buttons — they’re bidding for connection. So, view these situations as invitations rather than inconveniences. Explore your child’s motives so you can help guide them toward better and healthier ways of achieving what they need and want.
— Ask questions and be curious. Every child is unique, so understanding their perspective helps you connect more deeply by exploring their thoughts, emotions and beliefs. For example, when your child has made a poor choice, you might ask, “What were you hoping to get when you decided to do that?”
— Take time-outs and breathe. Incorporate regular pauses in your day to “see” others and the world around you. I recommend giving yourself three to five time-outs per day. Modeling this practice for your children emphasizes that time-outs are not punishments, but opportunities to gain focus and perspective.
— Be thankful. A mind filled with gratitude provides clarity and opens the door to empathy, compassion and humility. Begin each day with a mindset of abundance, and you’ll find that your responses throughout the day are more positive.
Ultimately, developing adaptability requires a flexible mindset. “Stretching” your mind each day prevents relational strain. Growing adaptability enhances your awareness of your child’s unique qualities and strengthens the connection between you.
For more practical parenting tips, visit FocusOnParenting.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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