Archive for February, 2012

Effective Goal Setting: How To Make Your Goals More Attainable

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Effective goal setting is the key to success. However, we often make goals for ourselves that are counter-productive to what we truly wish to achieve. Setting goals ineffectively can lead to adverse outcomes and can sometimes cause more confusion than relief.  Here are some tips on how to successfully make goals.

1.)    Clearly define what you want to accomplish.

Don’t make goals that are ambiguous. Clearly define what it is that you are looking to do. If goals are too vague you won’t have a place to start, let alone know how to get there. By making goals that are easily defined you can then take the proper steps to understand how and where to go.

2.)    Make goals that are realistic and accomplishable.

Too often individuals make goals that are too idealistic and, quite frankly, hard to attain. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a goal of one day living in a 1.8 million dollar home with a fleet of high-end Mercedes in your driveway (if that is what is important to you). However, how about starting off small? How about we start off with goals that may include getting a job in a field you enjoy, gaining the proper education or skill set to gain proper experience, or simply, setting a priority list (which is the perfect segue into the next point).

3.)    Set priorities (Make To-Do lists!)

Although you may have a nice set of goals that you would like to accomplish, there may be too many to choose from. Why not set priorities to help you organize what exactly you would like to achieve? Try not to list, as your first priority, achieving your vision of an ideal family. Why not set a goal of having a family get-together at least once a week? Ask your family members to not schedule anything in their planners on one specific evening per week and have the family gather. Then, work from there. Make a tangible set of goals for your family to accomplish. Now that you have the family getting together once a week, try to focus on another aspect of your family functioning, such as the conversation in the home. Then maybe set a goal of having a weekly movie night. As you progress through the list of goals, it will help facilitate a new dynamic in the home, and may make your top priority an easier and more fluid transition.

4.)    Set timelines/deadlines

It is one thing to have qualitative goals to work towards (that is, observational goals that cannot be touched or gauged numerically), but being able to quantify portions of these goals (having goals that you can set a numerical value to) helps to set the pace and give you something to work for. Deadlines and timelines provide consistency and give the goal maker a sense of organization, predictability and consistency. If your attitudes towards goals are more “laissez faire” than “get me there,” it becomes harder to stay motivated and involved. Setting timelines and deadlines also helps you stay focused. For example, if you know that a school paper is due on a particular date, you are more likely to get that paper accomplished by or before that date. On the other hand, if a teacher states that you can pass in a paper at any point during the semester, how many people do you think will be writing their paper the night before the semester ends?   Setting timelines and deadlines to accomplish goals assists in helping the goal maker more properly organize and prioritize their ambitions.

5.)    Do not set goals that overlap or negate one another.

In other words, you should not set goals that may have a negative impact on one or more of your other goals. If your goal is to buy a house for $400,000, but you only make $50,000 a year, than the goal that you set does not align with the practicality of your life. It may be reasonable to set a goal of obtaining a $400,000 home, but if you are basing this goal solely off of an incomparable income, than your goal is missing a few steps. You need to realign your goals and set smaller steps in between.

6.)    Your goals should have a positive attitude.

Try and stay “strength based.” Focus on the positive side of the goals. Do not set goals with a negative connotation. Negative thinking leads to negative experience. If you feel dark emotionally, the day may feel a bit more cloudy than usual. However, the opposite works as well.  If you attack your goals sheet with a positive outlook, you will feel better and more motivated to accomplish these goals as you progress.

Goals are an important aspect in one’s life. Goals are what help us organize and achieve some equilibrium in our lives. Although these are not listed above, here are some other very important facets of getting goals accomplished. First, WRITE THEM DOWN. Write down goals so you can not only remember them, but you can also organize them into a more tangible list. USE SUPPORTS, if necessary. Although there are many goals that you may be privately working on, don’t be afraid to ask others for help or support in accomplishing some of them. You have friends and family in your life for a reason. Don’t forget they are there! REWARD YOURSELF. You’ve accomplished some goals, you deserve something special. Positive reinforcement is a great way of continuing positive behavior. However, don’t reward yourself with something that will, again, negate one of your goals. Just because you’ve obtained your goal of losing 10 pounds through proper eating and exercise does not mean you should reward yourself by binge eating because “you deserve it.” Find other ways to constructively reward yourself.

Use these techniques and you will find that setting and attaining your goals is easier than you thought.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Faceless Crime

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking scenarios for a parent to experience is the bullying of their child. Add the internet to the equation, and bullying becomes a formidable foe for any parent trying to protect their child’s happiness and innocence. With the advent of Myspace, Twitter and the almighty Facebook, the internet gave bullies an anonymous avenue in which to attack others. Cyber bullying can take the form of a fleeting post for others to see, or it can be tenuous ordeal which may lead to a heartbreaking outcome. There is a shocking growth in the consistency of national news stories where children are taking their own lives in reaction to bullying. The battle against online bullying is especially troubling to parents of the current generation as it is in an unfamiliar realm. Although there are a fair amount of parents who are literate in these online sites, there are many others who struggle. This article was written in hopes of educating parents both in the warning signs of cyber bullying and in ways to help their child deal with it.

1)      Be aware of your child’s mood – In many cases, the first indicator that can clue a parent into a bullying problem is a marked change in their behaviors and moods. Parents often dismiss child mood changes as just being another symptom of teenager-hood, but there could be a cause for the mood discrepancy that’s more concrete than teenage hormones. Have conversations with your kids, especially if you see changes in their mood.

2)      Keep an open line of communication – This is often an underrated aspect of identifying the issue at hand. Being available for your child to talk about what is bothering them will undoubtedly expedite the process in identifying bullying troubles. It goes without saying that teenagers are tough to talk to and can shut down easily, but reassurance that you are a sounding board for any issues they are having will help.

3)      Educate Yourself – One of the biggest issues parents face in dealing with cyber bullying is ignorance around social networking and other online aspects of a child’s life. This is not to say that parents must create a Facebook account and maintain it with the religious intensity that their teens do, but increasing awareness is always useful. Parents should be aware of how these websites work, and, if possible, have a way to keep tabs on their child’s activity. This point needs to be clarified: although parents have every right to monitor their child’s activity, it is a lesson in trust that makes it effective. Parents know best about their child, but if they prefer their privacy, be respectful of that and keep online interactions to a minimum. Keep the requests of bags of seed for you farm to your friends and let your child have their own space.

Now that you have identified that bullying is an issue for your teen, how are you going to help them through it?

1)      Always take the high road – Bullies are looking for a reaction, and when they get one, they will continue to exploit it. If you or your child is being bullied take what the bullying is saying with a grain of salt and ignore it. Like a hungry animal, once bullies realize they won’t get what they are looking for, they will usually move on.

2)      Never retaliate – It can be easy to think of a great dig for that short kid in chemistry class who posted that you smell like a bag of week old hot dogs, but it only hurts the situation. Responding to a bully not only keeps the cycle alive, but responding can easily turn from defense to bullying in return. Don’t stoop down to their level; remember that you are the victim.

3)      Always save incidences of bullying – The one good thing about cyber bullying is that it leaves a trail. It is important to make note and save the bullying incidents as they can be presented to authorities later on.

4)      Go to the authorities – With the recent increase in awareness of cyber bullying most schools and organizations have procedures in place to stop bullying. Let the teachers and authority figures utilize their training and put the ball in their court.

5)      Be thankful for what you have – In most cases cyber bullying is rooted in the insecurities of the bully. Bullies see what another kid has and attack them in order to make them feel better about themselves. It is important to not lose sight of what you have because it is often what causes you to be a victim. Bullies try to make strengths into weaknesses in order to brighten their outlook in their own mind. So the next time you have an issue with a bully, remember that it probably has way less to do with your 4.0 GPA and way more to do with their 1.3.

Categories: Uncategorized

I Swear I Will Turn This Car Around

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Undoubtedly if you are reading this, you are currently or once were a child; and possibly one of the lucky ones to have siblings. Now, while having siblings can be great in many aspects, it also has its downsides. You have to share with them, they have seen you at your worst, they usually know how to push your buttons and you have to share. All joking aside, those very same aspects of having siblings contribute to a very common and much more arduous aspect, fighting. There is not a parent in the world who hasn’t wished their children would stop fighting with each other. Fighting children is the quickest way to grate on parent’s nerves. It can be “he took that from me” or the ageless “she’s looking at me weird”, either way, Dad is screaming at the end. So what can a parent do to keep these arguments to a minimum? How can your children be more like “The Cleavers” and less like “The Simpsons?” Below are five tips to help limit the fighting and increase the sanity.

1) Penalty Box

I’m actually stealing this from a former client as it was very effective and ties in sports. When arguments broke out in the house, Dad, and hockey fan, would simply take the two offenders and place them in opposite corners. This eliminated the “he started it” argument and also provided a set in stone result: If you got into the fight, whether you started it or not, you were going to the box. Obviously this can be tweaked in many different ways, but the only alteration I would think to make would be an instigator penalty. If there is a definite instigator, or someone who went out of their way to start the fight, then add on an extra two minutes. This is an effective technique because it takes two to fight and this deals with both of them.

2) Daily affirmations

This is an effective technique that helps change the thinking. Daily Affirmations are written letters or verbal expressions to show an individual their value. When children fight, they get wrapped up in the moment and react, most of the time in a hurtful manner. By using daily affirmations, they have to think differently about that sibling and write or tell the sibling something they cherish about him or her. The key is parent proofreading. I worked with a family that tried daily affirmations, but Mom was not checking what was being written. After two weeks of the fighting only escalating, I asked to see the daily affirmations and found they were veiled insults such as “I guess you’re not that ugly” or “you smell slightly better than raw sewage.” Obviously, we tweaked the system and had Mom check the messages before they exchanged hands. After a week things started to improve.

3) Team Building

What better way to stop an argument between two kids than to put them on a task that requires teamwork? Chances are they will fight more at the start, but eventually they will figure out that they need to work together and the fighting becomes secondary…if they don’t kill each other first. The key is to make sure that the task is at least a two person job and it has to be carried out. If one is left doing all the work, then it will just make the fighting worse in the long run.

4) School is in session

This idea is rooted in a threat my father made to me and my siblings years ago. He never actually carried out with the punishment, but I have always been intrigued by its potential. When me and my siblings were fighting, my father told us we were each going to write him a 600 word paper entitled “How not to be an ass.” We never actually had to write the paper, but at the very least, it was an intriguing idea to me. Most children don’t like writing or anything that resembles school work, so it would act as a deterrent for future fights and it would also provide practice for children to help them become more proficient in writing. One of the necessities for this is a proactive parent that would read and possibly correct the papers. Parents will also have to be creative with new topics to write about, but that could put a funny spin on the punishment.

5) United Against a Common Enemy

If all else fails, you can always use the Herb Brooks approach. In 1980, Brooks was the coach of the US Men’s Olympic hockey team. The team was made up of college players who just months earlier were on opposite sides of storied rivalries. The team was in disarray and players were constantly fighting with each other as they were taught to do for their college. Brooks was struggling to find a way to unite his team. How could he get Boston College players to play effectively alongside Boston University players, or Minnesota players to play alongside North Dakota players? Brooks decided that the best way to unite his team is to unite them against a common enemy, himself. Brooks began to work his team to the bone. Frequent, hard hitting practices that would go on for hours. He would never compliment his players and would often criticize them. They eventually bonded together over his tyrannical reign and eventually won the gold medal, as portrayed by the movie “Miracle.”
This is an extreme measure for a parent to take, but it can be effective. If your children are fighting with each other, it is sometimes effective to take on the bad guy/girl role and exert your will. It ties into number three on the list nicely. If your children are fighting and the bad, evil parent makes them take on a large project, they can bond over how bad or evil the parent is. If it’s not done effectively, it could lead to more arguments than before, but at least your attic will be clean!
Christopher Curran M. A.

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The Art of Fighting: 7 Ways to Resolve Conflict

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As a family therapist, one of the major concerns families have is the amount of arguing that occurs in the home. Sessions tend to focus on how family members get into disagreements which then rapidly escalate into verbal fighting. Mainly, families report that a simple disagreement over either an idea or action tends to follow a particular path: disagreement à anger à shouting à complete disregard for finishing the conversation. I argue that this path leads to neither cooperation nor resolution. How then, do we express our difference of opinion without getting into shouting matches while at the same time getting our point across? Below is a list, with explanations, of how to handle the art of fighting.

1.)    Stay in control.

No matter how hot the issue gets, stay calm. Mindfulness, your ability to focus on the present and be in control of your actions, plays a key role here. You have very little, if any, control over other peoples actions, but you have complete control over your own. Understanding that concept will enable you to remain cool, calm, and collected. Do not allow emotions to take control of your actions, no matter how upset you become.

2.)    Be Respectful.

Whether or not you like, or even respect, the person you are in conflict with, be respectful. This is not only a good practice to maintain a level of civility and organization within the moment, but will also make you feel better about how you handled the situation later on. It is easy to say, “I said what I said because that person pushed me to it,” or, “I said it because I don’t respect the person, so why should I care.” This may make sense to you in the moment, but what about after? Telling someone off or degrading them simply because you are in conflict may appease the instinctive Id inside us all, but does little for our sense of morals and sense of self. If you treat the other person with respect, you will respect yourself later on for taking the high road.

3.)    Don’t Yell!!!

Easy to say, but difficult to accomplish. I begin this section by asking a question (a question I pose to all families I work with when discussing argument behaviors); why yell? Why is it that when we get into conflict we feel we need to yell at the other person? From a biological standpoint, yelling can release tension and excess energy. Yelling can also be a good stress reliever. When angry, sometimes we just want to scream. I’m not arguing against yelling, in fact, I believe it to be a good coping skill when used appropriately (maybe the topic of another article). However, when fighting with another person, yelling at that person has the adverse effect. If yelling to release stress, do it in an environment that is safe and give others fair warning (so as not to panic them). If yelling at someone, only one thing can happen, that person’s defenses go up. With defenses comes the opposition both intentional and unintentional and reciprocal yelling ensues. However, yelling from a behavioral standpoint suggests that the person is simply trying to be heard. We yell because we feel the other person is not listening to us. Therefore, subconsciously we feel that the louder we yell the more likely the person will be forced to listen to what we have to say; also a misconception.

Understanding why we yell is only a piece to the puzzle, however. Next is taking that knowledge and applying it to the art of fighting to understand why we SHOULD NOT yell. If we do not yell, we force ourselves to remain in control and mindful rather than be ruled by emotions. Second, if there is no yelling there is no reason for a person’s guards to go up, which then translates into more openness for discussion. Thirdly, if there is no yelling it forces you to listen to one another and be heard. If you feel your side is being listened to then you don’t have to get loud to make others hear you.

4.)    Listen to what the other person is saying.

If you are in conflict with someone, it’s probably because you disagree, at least somewhat, with what that other person is saying or doing. However, there is a reason behind why the other person feels or acts in a particular way. Listen to that “why.” Validate the person and where they are coming from, which may be difficult depending on the subject matter of the conflict. Staying strength based and looking for meaning within the language of their behavior is a healthier perspective to take. Perhaps there is an angle that you have overlooked that may put some sense to their thoughts or actions. Just because they think or act differently than you doesn’t mean they’re inherently wrong.

5.)    Keep the argument in the present

What you are arguing about is reflective of the current issue in the current moment. There is nothing worse than arguing about an issue just to have past conflicts thrown in your face, so why do it to the person you are fighting with? Making a reference to past issues is used as a means of one-upping a person to prove how right you are and how wrong the other person is, collectively. By using historical ammunition against the person you are fighting with you are simply trying to prove that you are overall “more right” than that person. This distracts from the current argument and blurs the conflict. Keep the argument focused on the current issue. If you find that you are using past arguments and conflicts as a means of proving your righteousness in the current conflict, maybe it’s because you have unresolved issues that need to be handled at a later time.


6.)    Do not use “YOU Statements”

“You Statements” are another way of throwing blame at another person and cause the person you are having conflict with to raise their defenses. “You Statements” equal blaming and make the person feel in the wrong. They are a way for the individual to not take any ownership of their part in the argument. As stated in a previous article, “5 Ways to Get Your Ideal Family,” every person in every argument has to take some type of responsibility for the argument. As a means of doing this drop the “You Statements” and replace them with “I Statements.” Instead of telling the person what they have done wrong, discuss how the incident or conflict makes YOU feel. Take out anything from the argument that even uses the word “You.” In doing so, the person you are in conflict with does not have their defenses raised because they are not feeling entirely blamed for the conflict.


7.)    Commit to resolve the issue

This final piece can be the hardest to commit to because sometimes it is harder to resolve a conflict when people feel strongly about their position. However, make a personal commitment to resolve the issue, and let the other person know this, both verbally and through your behaviors. This may mean that you win the debate, but it also may mean that you both agree to disagree. The key, however, is to not let the issue linger by not finishing and defining the end of the discussion or walking away. Walking away is easy because it provides a behavioral statement that says, “I’m done with this conversation,” but it also communicates that the other person is no longer worthy of your time. Also, by not finishing the conversation it adds to the historical ammunition for later arguments. Commit to resolve the conflict so both parties know where they stand and can move forward in a healthy manner.

In conclusion, fighting is something we all do. Fighting is inherent in relationships and at some point you will find yourself in a heated argument. If used properly, the points above can help you remain in control and ensure that a healthy relationship remains intact when all the smoke clears.

Categories: Uncategorized
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