For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. So they worshiped the Lord there (1 Samuel 1:27-28).
A faithful Christian mother will seek to carry her children in at least three places:
1. In her womb
2. In her heart
3. In her prayers - faithfully...more
Kathleen Notes: A happy and blessed Mother`s Day!
Validation is not about compromising your own point of view. It’s not about giving in. It’s not about manipulation, or agreeing, or even resolving. Validation is something that can happen in one sentence, in one moment. It’s a blip that occurs in a conversation that can make all the difference in where that conversation goes.
“As I already explained multiple times, I cannot stand being around your brother that long,” Tim explained. “He is the most boorish, obnoxious, unpleasant person I have ever met. He will ruin the holidays for me, and I don’t want our children around him,” Tim repeated with exasperation.
Keep reading, because validation has not happened yet. Barbie is, however, listening intently to Tim’s words, looking directly into his eyes as he talks. This is something she did not do for the entire hour of their previous conversation.
“I get it,” Barbie said. “I totally understand why you feel that way.”
This was the moment of validation. If you were watching this conversation happen between Barbie and Tim, you would see Tim’s angry posture slightly relax as he took in Barbie’s words. At that moment, he feels unexpectedly heard and understood. He feels validated....more
Kathleen Notes: Validation is a superpower that is often overlooked and under used. Develop yours and watch stuff change!
At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure” again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends.
It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021....more
Kathleen Notes: Sometimes what helps the most is to make sense of what you`re experiencing.
A few months ago, I had a huge unglued moment....
....Without me knowing it, these two things said to me would be the catalyst for my unglued moment to come. I can’t help but think now in hindsight how most unglued moments start like this. Bits of information swirling around in our minds stirring up doubts. Stirring up fear. Rousing up anxiety and making us teeter totter on the irrational ledge. It’s like how my mind can be filled with the assurance of Jesus and hope and all things working for my good, until a huge thunderstorm is presumed to land on the exact day I’ve scheduled a child’s outdoor birthday party.
Or both of our vehicles experience one breakdown after the other and we go from enjoying the life of no car payments to realizing we’re going to have two in the very near future. But that’s how storms and unglued moments start don’t they? Everything is clear skies and sunny…until it’s not. A darkness starts off in the far distance and the moment we become aware of it, panic ensues. We take our eyes off our hope and security, the one found in Jesus, and we become fixated on the darkness looming ever closer. Maybe it’s the subtle but hurtful words of a friend or stranger. Maybe it’s someone’s sharp tone or some kind of misunderstanding. Whatever it is or however it starts, what seems minor or small can quickly become the catalyst that turns our sunny day into a thunderstorm....more
Kathleen Notes: This article really speaks to me as I am currently in a season of physical healing and emotional uncertainty. So easy to take my eyes off of Jesus and back onto the storm...
We all want what’s best for our children. But our idea of what is best for them might not always jibe with theirs. Often parents will give a nudge towards the decision they think is correct, trying to find that delicate balance between encouraging and pushing too hard.
But what is pushing too hard? At its best, getting kids to do things that are challenging for them will teach them grit and flexibility while also widening their world view — whether it’s participating in sports, trying out for a play or engaging in a new social situation. But at its worst, pushing children too far can cause them to retreat inward, become resentful or develop even greater anxiety about trying new things. It can be difficult to determine how much parental pressure on children is healthy and when you should back off....more
Kathleen Notes: Sometimes kids must be pushed in order to learn necessary life skills. Sometimes this is all about the agenda of the adult, knowing the difference is vital. After that, finding the sweet spot can often involve trial and error while attuning to the response of the child.
Having a high IQ sets you up for success in life, right?
Well, sure, it certainly helps.
But, over the last decade, research has shown that there’s a kind of intelligence that’s even more important than the Intelligence Quotient traditionally measured by IQ tests. People who have this other kind of intelligence have better leadership qualities, are more productive, more satisfied, and are more successful at work and home. They are overall happier in their lives.
Here’s the real truth: Studies show that the higher your Emotional Quotient the better you are set up for success in life.
Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence (also called EI) consists of 5 skills. As you read the 5 skills below think about yourself and your own abilities in each of these areas....more
Kathleen Notes: 5 skills....skills are learned behaviors...I can do this!!!
We all feel at times like we aren`t good enough. Sometimes it`s because we`re in an impossible situation where there simply isn`t enough of us to go around. (Anybody out there the parent of multiples, or very closely spaced children, or really, any two children?)
But often -- regardless of the objective situation -- we get stuck in negative thought habits. We beat ourselves down, which makes a bad situation worse. If we could only support ourselves to feel like we were more than enough, we might be able to make peace with our situation. That`s the first step toward making it better.
The bad news is, the mind`s negativity bias is constantly “on.” The mind`s job is to spot potential problems and set off alarms, so it`s constantly scanning for threat, including our own imperfections. The mission of the mind is survival, so it’s motivated mostly by fear. Happiness is barely in its job description.
Worse yet, the mind`s tendency toward negativity is often reinforced by the messages we received in childhood. As Peggy O`Mara famously said, our parents` tone of voice with us becomes our inner voice....more
Kathleen Notes: A helpful habit to get into is to 1. Gain better awareness of what you say to yourself and 2. Ask: how is this helpful? No one is really motivated by criticism.
"More often than not, fear doesn’t emerge as nail-biting, cold-feet terror. It surfaces instead as anger, perfectionism, pessimism, low-level anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. It poisons each moment it touches." -- Dan Baker, Ph.D.
You may think your moods just come out of nowhere. But scientists now believe that moods are usually a response to what we think, often without even noticing.
Here`s how it works.
Kathleen Notes: This article is about parenting but the "just because you think it doesn`t make it true" mantra is valid if you happen to be human. We are experts at cognitive distortions.
This year my wife, Teresa, and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage. Forty years! Add to that five years of friendship before we married, and I’ve had a soul mate for 45 years.
Over those years, we’ve supported U-Haul on 17 occasions. We’ve raised two sons, tolerated three cats, and experienced three careers.
Looking back, only God could have scripted the story of us so beautifully. No one can claim to have the perfect marriage—we certainly don’t. But we can claim to strive daily to walk closely with God to have a marriage that’s not perfect, but God glorifying.
Here are some of the ways we’ve sought to glorify God and say, “I still do,” in our 40 years together.
10 ways to say ‘I still do’:
Kathleen Notes: GREAT article, no matter how many years you`ve been together. Read on....
Want to improve your mental finesse? Playing a puzzle game like Cut the Rope could just be the thing you need.
A recent study by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. Executive function is important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment -- better known as thinking on your feet.
Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson and PhD student Adam Oei
tested four different games for the mobile platform, as their previous
research had shown that different games trained different skills. The
games varied in their genres, which included a first person shooter
(Modern Combat); arcade (Fruit Ninja); real-time strategy (StarFront
Collision); and a complex puzzle (Cut the Rope). NTU undergraduates, who
were non-gamers, were then selected to play an hour a day, 5 days a
week on their iPhone or iPod Touch. This video game training lasted for 4
weeks, a total of 20 hours.
Kathleen Notes: For kids and adults...the brain continues to amaze me...
Since this type of parental failure (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) causes significant harm to the child, people naturally assume that emotionally neglectful parents must also be abusive or mean in some way. And it is true that many are.
But one of the most surprising things about Childhood Emotional Neglect is that emotionally neglectful parents are usually not bad people or unloving parents. Many are indeed trying their best to raise their children well.
3 Categories of Emotionally Neglectful Parents
Type 1: Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves Parents
Type 2: Struggling Parents
Type 3: Self-Involved Parents
Kathleen Notes: Awareness and treatment for CEN is never about "throwing parents under the bus." However, you can`t heal what you`re not aware of.
Here is Mr. Gray’s discovery of “the common denominator of success,” in his own words:
“The common denominator of success–the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful–lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”
In my role as psychologist and therapist, I have had the honor of working with many very bright, capable people who struggle with self-discipline. It is painful when a person who has tremendous potential is held back by their own ability to realize it. I have found that the very thing that gets in many such people’s way in fulfilling the potential that they clearly know they have, is an inability to make themselves do what they don’t want to do. Often these folks call themselves lazy. They get angry at themselves for not carrying through the promises they make themselves to do important things. The anger at themselves drains them and eats away at their self-esteem. Gradually, slowly, they start to give up because they are being taken down by a negative cycle of anger at themselves, frustration, and feelings of failure....more
Kathleen Notes: For some people with CEN, their parents didn`t help them to develop the ability to work through tough stuff. For others, they take on everything to be "worth it." Amazing how the brain takes in and makes sense of the unspoken.
It’s no surprise that mental health problems are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what may be surprising to some people is that research shows older populations seem to be faring the best in terms of psychological health and younger people are experiencing the most emotional distress.1 We decided to dig a little deeper to learn about the types of mental health concerns parents have about their kids..
....Parents also report they are growing increasingly concerned about their kids as the pandemic lingers on. Over half of parents say they’re more concerned about their kids’ mental health now than they were at the start of the pandemic.
A whopping 75% of parents have noticed that their kids between the ages of 4 and 18 have started displaying troubling behavior since the start of the pandemic.
The most common symptoms/issues to have emerged during the pandemic are:...more
Kathleen Notes: So important that we adults pay attention to this and respond, NOW!!!
Exactly what is narcissism?
Narcissism is characterized by the presence of these personality traits:
Only the people who embody the majority of the traits would be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). For reasons we don’t fully understand, men are (statistically speaking) more vulnerable to developing these traits.
While this list of descriptive
behaviors is helpful in identifying people we may know who exhibit these
traits, it does not help us better understand the emotional and
psychological workings of the narcissistic person. This list does
nothing to advance our understanding of the developmental fractures that
leave one vulnerable to manifesting this type of pathology in
Kathleen Notes: True narcissism is fairly rare but as you will read, avoidable. Overcoming it is possible but very tough going.
Early in our marriage, I set out to win the “Best Wife in the World” award. I was certain if such an award existed, I would not only be a top finalist; I would take home the gold for sure. I would be the kind of wife that other women would dream about being. I would be the kind of wife who would make any husband happy. I would model what a perfect wife looked like.
A few years into this game of trying to win the award, I conceded to the fact that the award was indeed fake. I had been its sole originator, judge, presenter, and smiling recipient. For years I thought to myself, “You will not find a better wife on the planet,” and I made it my mission to keep living up to this self-proclaimed standard year after year.
There were many problems, however, with what I was doing, as I’m sure you can figure out on your own. On the plus side, I WAS A REALLY GOOD WIFE. Couldn’t argue that. But on the negative side, I was forcing myself to keep winning this make-believe award every single year.
Or else what? you might ask.
Or else Aaron would leave me.
All parents want to raise children who are generous, good people. We find kids` frequent fights over toys wearing and a bit ridiculous. After all, your son hasn`t looked at that toy in over a year, but as soon as his little brother (or visiting friend) unearths it, he has to assert immediate ownership.
And if we`re honest, there`s another reason we get annoyed when kids fight over toys. When our children seem to be failing at generosity, we feel like we`re failing at our job of civilizing those grabby childish instincts into a good person....more
So in most families, the unwritten policy is that children are expected to share, or at least take turns, with most toys. The parent decides when one child has had a toy long enough, usually based on how loud the protest is from the sibling or friend. While that seems expedient, it reinforces competition between siblings, dis-empowers both children, and teaches children that if they fuss, they get their way. And it certainly isn`t pleasant for the parent to constantly have to step in.
You`ll be relieved to learn that there are other ways to handle the whole concept of sharing, that teach more constructive lessons, and that get you out of the role of judge, jury and police officer.
Kathleen Notes: As a society we like to believe that we`re born inherently good, but we have to teach children to share not how to be selfish. We are sinners who are raising sinners. Fortunately we can foster empathy and demonstrate Grace as teaching tools.
It is so frustrating when you have a strong-willed child who just will not cooperate. And it is even more upsetting when you read parenting books and the "experts" suggest contradictory strategies!
Most parenting books are based on the punishment model. You tell the child to correct their behavior, hopefully you reward them if they do it, and of course you punish them if they don`t do it, to convince them to "do right" in the future. So if your child goes against your rules -- or in your words, "crosses the line" -- you punish them.
So, for example, if your child does not respond to your verbal limits and continues to throw his food around, the conventional approach is that you take the food away. Then, if he gets mad in response and hits you, you give him a timeout. Then, if that creates a power struggle (which it usually does because your child is emotionally worked up and resists the timeout), you add punishments like more time in timeout, or "consequences" -- meaning removal of privileges. If that doesn`t work, you keep adding consequences until your child loses all his toys etc. If that doesn`t work, ultimately, you have no way to assert your domination over your child except physical punishment. Of course, that might cow a 5 year old, but by the time they`re eight, physical punishment no longer works, because your child can physically resist you.
That`s when we see many families bring their child to therapy, because the child has become impossible, now that physical punishment no longer works. These kids think of themselves as bad people. They know they can`t control themselves, because they really can`t. They have never had the help they needed to regulate their emotions, and they are always angry. Their brain and nervous system are always ready to fight and don`t calm down well....more
Kathleen Notes: Punishment doesn`t work, it just creates anger and resentment. Plus, we tend to "ignore" our kids when they are behaving, so acting out gets our attention, something every child needs. What if we switched that around?...Hmmmmm
Are you comfortable praying out loud? Out loud, alone with your spouse? Voicing prayer with and for your spouse can produce anxiety because it requires a bit of spiritual nakedness. Praying makes us vulnerable, placing our hearts before another person, not to mention God. But praying together also opens a door of spiritual intimacy and is vital to having a strong faith-centered relationship. So how do we move past the vulnerability?
Just do it
This may seem a trite slogan, but it carries some wisdom. Praying out loud is a learned skill, and practice makes perfect. It is better just to get started, to try imperfectly, learning and growing along the way, than it is to avoid the challenge all together. The effort will not be lost on your spouse as they see you reach out and attempt to bring spiritual intimacy to your relationship....more
Kathleen Notes: For and with your spouse: few things are quite as intimate.
We’ve all heard the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but new research from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh finds that it isn’t all about repetition. Rather, internal states -- such as arousal, attention, motivation, and engagement -- can also have an impact on learning.
The collaborative research, published in Nature Neuroscience, examined how changes in internal states can affect the learning process using brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. Findings suggest that changes in internal states can systematically influence how behavior improves with learning, thus paving the way for more effective methods to teach people skills quickly, and to a higher level of mastery....more
Kathleen Notes: Learning can certainly happen by repetition but it happens better by finding the personal application and meaning.
The tension I face is that the ancients teach sacrifice and idealism in virtue as necessary elements of spiritual formation, reminiscent of the teachings of the apostle Paul. But when addressing contemporary marriage, it’s irresponsible not to include caveats about abuse.
The line between patience, service, and forgiveness as a Christian discipline, and enabling abuse, isn’t always clear cut. Physical violence is clear cut—there should be a zero-tolerance policy in the church for domestic violence. But where do verbal attacks, selfishness, and narcissism fall? (I’m not speaking about the clinical kind of narcissism, but rather the way the word is used more popularly to describe the sinful self-absorption that many of us fall into.) There is certainly a point where emotional abuse is equally untenable...
......Both things can be true: high, idealistic marriage books can be appropriately convicting for many marriages, hopefully the vast majority of marriages, but shouldn’t be recommended to those who are in abusive or even near-abusive marriages. I don’t take offense at this: I applaud it and commend it....more
Kathleen Notes: Many Christian spouses (both men and women) believe they must stay in abusive (physically/emotionally) marriages in order to be God pleasing. However, that belief isn`t necessarily Biblical. If the purpose of marriage is to Glorify God, then we must not condone sinful behaviors. Only God can convict and change a heart, as people of God we are called to protect the vulnerable.
Prayers for Marriage
God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, even if we are asking for good things like the softening of a spouse’s heart. So in addition to my story of seeing God answer prayers for marriage, I’d like to give two quick reminders of why prayer is so important, regardless of the outcome.
First, prayer isn’t a cosmic “Instacart” where we fill it up with everything we want and hope it’ll be in stock. Prayer is so much more than just giving God our requests—though He does want that, too. In prayer, we orient ourselves to God. We remember He is God, our Heavenly Father, and we are dependent on Him for all things spiritual and physical. Without this realization, we will be crushed under the weight of relying only on ourselves and other fallen beings.
At the same time, God uses our prayers to make things happen. In the same way you might take an aspirin as a means to relieve a headache, our prayers are often among the means God uses to accomplish His will in this world. He can intervene in our lives through many means—a counselor, a marriage getaway, a tragedy, and/or through the prayers of His children.
God may or may not choose to heal your marriage, but it’s safe to say He wants you to pray for it. If your marriage is struggling, here are six prayers for marriage you can offer to God today....more
Kathleen Notes: Prayer brings the problem to Him who can do far more than we can imagine or ask for...
Did you grow up as I did, climbing trees, building dams in the stream, and chasing fireflies as the evening darkened? If you did, you`ll agree with me that all children deserve those experiences.
Nowadays, though, many of us don`t have yards. Even if we do, when we try to send our kids outside, there`s often no one to play with. And most parents worry that we have to stay outside with them to keep them safe -- but we have to make dinner!
So most kids spend most of their time inside. As a result, the average fifth grader, given a choice, prefers to stay inside, close to electrical sockets and all the entertainment sources they power.
But your grandmother was right: Kids need fresh air and exercise. We all do. Families who find ways to be outdoors together nurture not only their bodies, but their connection to all of life -- and to each other. Kids who spend time outside in nature, research shows, are:
Kathleen Notes: I`m a big advocate for Free Range Kids to begin with. Since the pandemic, time and play outdoors have become even more vital!
Not too long ago my mother gave me a copy of a poem that I had written as a child. For some reason, she kept it tucked inside her dresser drawer for decades:
Today, as a mother and grandmother myself, I understand why my scribblings meant so much to Mom … why she saved my poem for so many years. I now understand that in my childish way, I had called my mother blessed (Proverbs 31:28).
I asked some friends about special ways they have been remembered as mothers and ways they’ve honored their own moms on Mothers’ Day. The scope and creativity of their ideas were amazing!
I trust that the following ideas will help you honor the special moms in your life:...more
Kathleen Notes: A wonderful list of ideas in time to pull it off!!
Since he doesn`t have a hard time every night, that means that some nights he can tolerate the stimuli because he is more relaxed. It is also possible that he may have other sensitivities, like food issues, that only occur sometimes and are keeping him awake. Or maybe on those nights when he has a hard time sleeping, he`s been exposed to screens too late in the day, and his body hasn`t made the melatonin he needs to fall asleep. Or, he may have some pent up feelings -- what I call a full emotional backpack -- that he needs your help to empty. Some days are just more stressful than others, so it`s harder to fall asleep. And of course, there are those bigger stresses that you say he`s been feeling. Those include a baby in the family and the beginning of his body and brain changing as he enters the preteen years.
The fact that he has a meltdown means that he has a lot of feelings
stored up that he needs your help to let out. After he has a chance to
those feelings evaporate. So I am betting that after he cries, he
can fall asleep pretty easily, right? But until he cries, he feels tense
up, and anything sets him off and keeps him awake. Since he`s very
sensitive to sensory stimuli, naturally sound and light will bother him
when he`s already tense.
So the first thing for you and your husband to remember is that if you get tense, your son`s tension will escalate and it will be even harder for him to relax and sleep. Try to see it from his point of view -- he`s all wound up and can`t relax but he`s exhausted! -- and try to keep yourself calm.
And, it`s fine for him to have that meltdown. In fact, it`s probably good for him to have a chance to show those tears and fears to a compassionate witness, so he can experience them and let them go. So if you can just stay very compassionate, he will hopefully feel safe enough to have the meltdown and show you all that stress. He will relax in general, be happier and more cooperative-- and he will start falling asleep more easily, not just the night he cries but every night....more
Kathleen Notes: The brain is designed to weed out sensory stimulation but some people struggle with that. They need someone to help find solutions who will respond with empathy and non-judgement.
Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.
I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!