This was first published on KSL.COM
This time of year, our attention returns to back to school and teaching children the skills they need to make it in the world. They obviously need math, reading, writing, history, science and technology, but there are also critical soft skills your child needs that are often overlooked.
Social skills help us create and maintain healthy relationships. These soft skills can greatly affect a person's happiness and success in life, which is why teaching them to children should be a priority.
Here are some signs that your child or teen is struggling with their soft social skills:
Social skills are best taught by example and by finding teaching moments all day, every day to model and point them out. But you can't give what you don't have, so many parents must work on these skills themselves first.
Essential soft skills and tips for teaching them
Self-trust and independence
This means using your own creativity instead of just following directions. Look for opportunities to not help your child accomplish something while supporting them in finding the answer themselves. Ask smart questions that prompt them to gather information, identify their options, and work through obstacles. Remind them they are smart and resourceful and they can do this on their own. Allow them to struggle a bit, so they learn to sit in frustration and learn to keep going anyway.
Handling unfairness, disappointment and mistreatment
Show this by example and make sure you handle these things with maturity, grace and grit yourself. Let them see you handle mistreatment maturely and think through whether this is something to bring up and resolve or let go. Children need to see you talk yourself through disappointment, the process of forgiveness, and having boundaries to care for yourself.
Don't respond positively to temper tantrums or fits. Make sure those behaviors are never rewarded. Instead, look for situations where your child feels unfairly treated or disappointed and talk them through the emotions that come up and what their options are in dealing with them.
Cooperation and compromise
This means learning to be flexible and not always getting your way.
Help your children understand there has to be give-and-take in every relationship. If you give to the other person, they want to give and compromise with you. Let them see you bending and giving up what you want on occasion and at other times asking for what you need.
When they get stubborn and insist on their way, help them to see the pros and cons of this behavior. If they choose to be demanding right now, what is the cost of that behavior? How does it affect the relationship? If they were flexible and giving, what would that create?
Healthy conversations and conflict resolution
This means asking questions to clarify what the other person is experiencing, wants and needs. You can teach this best by modeling the behavior with your children in every conversation you have with them, which will have the side benefit of making them feel valued, seen and important too.
Help them walk through validating conversations with siblings or friends when there is conflict. Show them how to speak their truth in a respectful way and work out a compromise. You can also role-play these kinds of problems or watch for situations in movies or TV shows, then pause the show and talk about a better what to solve the problem.
Processing of emotions and self-control
Show your children that it's OK to have feelings without stopping or stuffing them. It's OK to feel angry, but it's not OK to lash out and hurt others. It's OK to feel disappointed, but it's not OK to have a meltdown or fit. Instead, show them other ways to process their emotions, sit with them, and feel what they are saying.
When these big emotions come, it's important to ask: What could the emotions be here to teach me? Is there a better way to express the feelings, like drawing a picture, going for a bike ride, punching a pillow? What response would help create good relationships?
When a child struggles with self-control, it's usually because they are having emotions or energy that isn't being released. Help them find ways to release these and care for themselves in a healthy way.
Patience and being a good sport
Look for opportunities to make your children wait for things or practice losing a game with a positive attitude. Don't let your child win games or replace everything that gets broken; they need to experience loss and learn to deal with it. Allowing a child to go without even if they are really upset, prepares them for adulthood.
Insist that your child earns the money before they buy something and teach them to deal with cravings (the desire for things they don't have) and not be miserable. You can choose to be happy or you can be miserable. Either way, you don't have the thing. How do you want to live?
Look for examples in movies and TV of people being a good sport and handling loss, and point them out. Practicing patience and being a good sport are essential elements of emotional intelligence they must have to function as a healthy adult.
Teach them good manners
Make sure you say "please" and "thank you," open doors for others, give up your seat for an older person, and treat others with respect and compassion. Don't let them hear you judging, criticizing or gossiping about others. They learn kindness and respect from what you do, not what you say.
Think before you speak
This means before you make a comment ask yourself: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind?
Teach your children that some things are better left unsaid; and if you are uncertain if something is appropriate, err on the side of saying less. Teach them that words can hurt people and the way we speak to others determines the quality of our relationships. Kind, respectful communication can work through any issue.
Positivity about self and life
Teach your children that all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value and no one has more value or importance than any other. The world teaches them daily the opposite, so this is something you must talk about a lot. The world teaches them it's OK to look down on some people and even mistreat them. To counter this, you must constantly teach your children to be respectful and kind.
Also, teach them that their value can't change. No matter what they do, they have the same value as everyone else. Teach them that they are good enough right now and always because their value doesn't change and life is a classroom, not a test. This is probably the most important thing you can give them.
Hopefully, this article gets you started thinking about the relationship and social skills you and your children might need. Just start today looking for teaching moments. You can do this.
This was first published on KSl.COM
This week I want to share some interesting things about human behavior that will help you understand yourself and your loved ones and why we behave the ways we do. I have been teaching people skills and coaching people through relationship problems for over 25 years, and in that time I've come to realize that whatever bad behavior you are seeing in another person (or yourself) it is being driven by their (or your) fears.
If you read my column regularly you've heard that before, but today I am taking it a little deeper because there are some other important truths about human behavior and fear that might also help improve your relationships. Here they are:
Fear always wins
What I mean is you subconsciously make decisions from your fears, way more often than by love or values. Your need for safety is your most basic need. Maslow didn't agree with me on this when he created his hierarchy of needs though. Maslow put food and water as the most basic need and then safety after that, but I think he got it wrong.
This is because, if you are starving but at the same time you are being chased by a tiger, you wouldn't stop to eat. Your safety comes first. Once you were safe, then you would worry about food and water. This makes sense if you are being chased by a tiger, but it doesn't work well in your personal relationships, when you are choosing between fear and love.
When your spouse offends you, you will automatically react from fear and protect yourself before you will respond with love. It's your natural programming to do so. I wish this wasn't true, but your subconscious fears will almost always override your love, values and intentions, unless you consciously choose otherwise.
Behavior driven by fear is inherently selfish and void of love
This is because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. Fear-driven behavior is all about protecting yourself and seeking safety. It is not about the other person and what they need. All bad behavior is driven by fear for ourselves and this selfish, loveless behavior creates a divide in relationships.
When you show up in fear you trigger the other person's fears, too
When you show up in a relationship in fear (instead of love) you trigger fear in your partner. They can feel that you don't love them in that moment and that scares them. They feel unsafe and they automatically respond back in fear, to protect themselves. You will then feel this lack of love in their response and you will be triggered further.
This is the vicious cycle I see in almost all relationships. Can you see it in yours? One person gets scared and responds in fear and this triggers the other to respond in fear and soon, there is no love showing up?
We can change our fear-driven bad behavior and choose love
This fear-driven behavior is something we can work on and change, but it takes a great deal of mindfulness, awareness and practice. Everything I write and teach comes down to recognizing when fear is driving, choosing to feel safe in that moment, and choosing to show up in love not fear. I will be the first to say that it isn't easy, though, because we are subconsciously wired for fear. We do have the power to watch our behavior and thinking for fear reactions though, and consciously choose love-driven responses.
Here are some examples of how fear over love reactions happen:
Example 1: A child loves his parents and wants to make good choices for himself, but he also fears not being accepted by his peers. He might be fear of failure dominant, which means he needs acceptance and validation so badly, he might choose to follow his friends and make poor choices in order to feel safe and accepted. His fears around acceptance will drive his choice, and he will choose safety over love for himself.
The parent loves this child but also fears losing them and failing them. When the child makes a bad choice, the parent gets fear triggered. They react badly, yell, scream, ground the child for a year, or punish them in whatever way will make the parent feel safer again. They might become controlling, if this feels safer. Their parenting behavior is fear-driven though and it is all about them, not what the child needs right now. The parent will put safety before love, the same way the child did.
The answer here is to help the child build their self-esteem and have less fear of rejection, so they don't need approval from their friends so badly. He needs help making choices that are love driven for himself. The parent needs to learn to trust their child's journey and see life as a classroom, not a test. They need to have less fear and more trust in their value and journey. This will help them parent from love and wisdom, doing what's best for their child, not what feels safer for themselves.
Understanding each other's fear-driven behavior brings compassion for why they did what they did though. We understand it because we have the same fears and they drive our bad behavior too.
Example 2: A husband loves his wife, but he has a great deal of fear around losing or wasting money. When he sees the wife has spent money on food that didn't get eaten and went bad, he gets angry and upset with her, even treating her badly. He subconsciously thinks being angry and unkind to her will teach her to be more careful with money, which will make him feel safer. This is fear-driven bad behavior, and he is obviously choosing to act from fear not love.
The wife loves her husband but has a deep fear of failure and feeling attacked and criticized triggers her badly. She doesn't at this point feel safe with her husband. So she pulls back, gets silent and stays away from being close to him. This is also a fear-driven bad behavior that means she is choosing fear over love. She thinks she is safer pulling away.
The husband feels his wife pulling away from him and not wanting to be close to him. This fear-driven behavior of hers triggers more fear of loss and anger in him. Instead of showing up with love at this point, he gets more angry, because that subconsciously feels like it's protecting him. This further triggers her. This vicious cycle of choosing fear over love can continue until there is no love left in the relationship.
The real answer here is for the husband to get help around his fears of loss, waste and money. He most likely has fear issues around being mistreated and disregarded, and these are his fear issues to solve and manage. He must learn to see loss and recognize that acting from fear won't create what he wants in his marriage. He has to learn how to handle situations with love and respect, if he wants love and respect back.
The wife hopefully can see why her husband behaves the way he does and understands that when he lets fear dictate his behavior, it's not really about her, it's about his own fear of loss issues. She must learn to manage her fear of failure issues, so when she is criticized, she can see it's about his fear and not take it personally. She must learn to make herself feel safe so she can show up with love and forgiveness when he is scared.
Here are the core principles from all this:
This was first published on KSL.COM
I absolutely love your KSL articles. They are so real, helpful and interesting. I am married to an amazing man who is divorced, and I was widowed. We are very happy together. We each have three children. They are all married, some with children of their own. We get together probably once a month, but here's where I need help.
My husband gets lots of love, attention and affection from my kids, whose dad passed away when they were young. We were alone for 12 years, so my husband is a godsend in many ways. However, I feel poorly treated, unappreciated and mostly would rather not spend time with his kids. They ignore me, treat me like a second-class citizen, and at the end of the activity I get a hug and a very fake "love you" (at least it feels fake to me).
I feel like I try so hard but still feel rejected every time we are together. Even after all these years as their stepparent, they don't really know me or like me. I would love some insights on this subject and how to shift this so I can feel better. Can you help?
Blending families is complicated business because there are complex emotions in play for all involved. If you understand these dynamics, it can help you to take things less personally and have more compassion for each member of the family. I can't possibly explain every possible dynamic for every parent, stepparent and stepchild in this one article, but see if you can identify the dynamics in play with your blended family.
Here are a few common blended family dynamics.
Dynamics of stepchildren
Stepchildren dynamic 1
Some stepchildren view their stepparent as a wonderful person who is making their family whole again. When they lost their natural parent (to divorce or death), they were left with a gaping hole in their lives, which the stepparent has stepped in to fill. The stepparent won't ever really replace the loss, but he or she has made it less painful. Stepchildren who are experiencing this dynamic are easy to bond with and they make the stepparent feel safe and accepted.
Stepchildren dynamic 2
Some stepchildren see their stepparent as the symbol of all they have lost. The stepparent literally represents all the pain that has come from having their family ripped apart. Every time they see the stepparent, they are reminded that their family isn't whole and the way it "should be." The stepparent represents all that is wrong with their world. These stepchildren struggle to see their stepparent as a person with feelings. They feel resentful toward him or her, as he or she is standing where their real parent should be. They try to accept and appreciate the stepparent, but their subconscious mind is always screaming that he or she shouldn't be there.
It is important that you not take this personally. It really isn't about you at all; it is about the child's feelings of pain and loss. It isn't that they don't like you as a person, and you are right: they probably don't even know you, and that doesn't feel fair. Many of the dynamics in stepfamilies aren't fair, but they are what they are. These are real people processing painful emotions. The bad news is it can take them decades to work through these feelings and they have the right to be experiencing them for as long as it takes.
If your stepchildren are this dynamic, it's best to allow them to be here. You can choose to honor and respect their right to be triggered and experience pain and loss around you being in their lives. It's OK for them to feel that way. They lost the family they wanted. It's just what it is.
The more you resist this dynamic, wish it wasn't here, and push the children toward accepting and loving you, the more they will resist doing so. The best thing you can do is allow them to be where they are. Decide to treat them with love and respect anyway, and do it for you and your spouse — not because you are getting anything back.
If you consistently show up with love and compassion, allowing your stepchildren to be wherever they are, they will soften over time as their pain dissipates. But the older they were when you joined the family, the longer it takes to get here. Be patient and trust that the way things are is creating a perfect classroom experience for all involved.
Stepchildren dynamic 3
Some stepchildren are in such acute pain over the divorce, it causes them to act out, lash out and misbehave, even trying to destroy the relationship between their parent and new stepparent. They often get encouragement to do this from the other natural parent who is also vengeful about the new marriage. These kids are in a horrible position because if they like the stepparent at all, they are betraying their natural parent. They are forced to hate the stepparent, and all these emotions of unfairness, betrayal, conflict and confusion can create difficult situations for all involved.
These kids also deserve compassion and understanding for the difficult situation they are in. If you are the stepparent here, you have to get really thick skin and understand, again, this isn't about you. All the advice above applies here, but you may have to accept that they will never accept you and that's OK, too. You must know that your value isn't tied to what they think of you.
As long as your marriage is good, you can weather the storm and raise these kids, even with them not liking you for much of the time. Let go of your expectations and allow this situation to be what it is. This will make it less painful for you.
Dynamics of stepparents
Stepparent dynamic 1
Some stepparents are impatient in wanting their new family to look and feel like heaven on earth. They expect everyone involved to see how great this new family is and be excited about it. When this doesn't happen, they are disappointed and frustrated. They even feel mistreated, which means they can start resenting the family members who are resisting this union.
These stepparents can behave immaturely, get dramatic, emotional or upset whenever they aren't treated the way they think they should be. This makes it harder and harder for the natural parent, who feels stuck between wanting to support their children and their new spouse but can't do both and is often forced to choose, which never goes well. Most of these relationships don't make it.
Stepparent dynamic 2
Some stepparents understand that blending families takes time and patience. Everyone involved is processing a deep sense of loss and mourning the family they wanted to have. This means complex emotions are in play that require more understanding, allowance, compassion and maturity. These stepparents know it takes years, if not decades for some members of the family to work through their feelings of loss and accept this new situation.
This means the stepparent must have thick skin, not take mistreatment personally, and be extra patient and understanding when they are treated unfairly. This is not easy to do, but they keep trying. They know they must allow each member of the family to be where they are and not push or rush them.
These stepparents work hard to show up with kindness, respect, love and patience at every family gathering — no matter what they are getting back — and constantly remind themselves that their value isn't tied to being accepted. They are safe and fine even if their stepchildren can't love them yet. Of course, they can't maintain this perfectly all the time, but they keep reminding themselves that their sense of safety comes from knowing their value can't change and this family dynamic is providing perfect lessons for all involved. You can be this kind of stepparent by just deciding to be and working at it.
There are many wonderful books on stepparenting and blended families, and I honestly recommend you read them all. The divorce rate for second families is 66%, and 75% for third, according to The Stepfamily Foundation. So, the odds are basically against you. I only mention this to motivate you toward reading and learning every skill and tool you can for making it work.
I have found couples who are committed to this work, read books together, get outside help and keep learning and growing can thrive and create blended families that thrive. You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
My spouse and I read your article last week about understanding the fear behind our behavior, and it's really helping us see what's going on when we fight. But we both are prone to getting offended way too easily. People often disregard us or are disrespectful, and we both tend to be bothered and frustrated with a lot of people. This also means we are mad at each other a lot, too. I think maybe we need to learn how to let things go and not take things personally, but do you have any advice for doing that?
I have actually
Here are some common qualities of people who get offended too easily:
If this sounds like you, here are some things you can do to stop getting offended so often.
Trust the journey
Choose to see life as a classroom, and that the universe and you together are co-creating the perfect classroom journey for you every day.
This means the people who offend you today are perfect teachers, giving you a chance to grow, be more mature, or see your fears and work on them. When you trust your experiences are the perfect classroom for you, you aren't as offended by them. (Note: I am not talking about abuse here, just garden-variety slights that aren't degrading or abusive.)
You have probably married your perfect teacher, too. He or she will teach you by pushing all your buttons to bring your triggers to the surface so you can heal them. Trusting that your life is a classroom also makes you feel safer; it means life and the universe are on your side and their intention is to always serve you.
Trust your value
Choose to see all humans — including yourself — as having the same infinite value that isn't in question and doesn't change. This means we are all students in need of more education. When you see people this way, you can release the need for judgment and give them all permission to be a work in progress just like you.
Allow others to be different
Allow other people to react, behave, think and be wired differently than you are. They were raised differently and they haven't had your life experiences. Therefore, they have the right to function differently, too.
Give others the room to be the way they are without letting it take anything from you. You both have the same value no matter what, and you have the right to be where you are. Stop expecting everyone to think and act like you.
Learn something from this
If someone criticized you, could it be constructive and could you learn something from it? Life is a classroom and that is why you are here. What could you gain from this criticism if you chose not to take offense?
Flip the insult to see if it's still true
If someone has "disrespected you," write that on a piece of paper. Then write "I disrespect me" and ask yourself if it's still true.
If it is true, consider that your own disrespect of yourself might make you feel others are disrespecting you when they really aren't. Is there any chance the way you see yourself has been projected onto this other person? You do this more than you might think. If you don't like yourself, you will also project that and believe others don't like you either.
Double-check their intent
Ask yourself: Did this other person really intend to do me harm, insult or disregard me? Or is there any other meaning their actions could have? Usually, the other person was focused on their own issues and missed what they did or said completely.
If they didn't intend harm, is harm done that can't be let go? We hold onto intentional hurt because we believe it protects us, but unintentional hurt is best let go. Also, give the benefit of the doubt that that other person didn't mean to offend.
Let go of the need to be right
Sometimes it's OK to let another person think they are right even when they aren't. If it improves the relationship, why correct them? Choose your battles and try to allow others to do things their way as much as you can.
Forgiving is not pardoning bad behavior; it is changing the way you see the bad behavior so you can change the way you feel about it. It's about letting negative emotions and feelings go and trading them for peace and happiness. When you see an offense as a perfect classroom and the person as having the same value as you, and you choose to see growth and learning in it, it becomes much easier to forgive.
If this is hard for you, start a forgiveness practice journal and work on it daily. Choose an offense or a mistake you have made every day and process it to forgiveness. Choose the positive feelings you want to experience around this and practice choosing them.
Consider your options and possible outcomes
What is the outcome you will create if you choose to be offended or hurt by this? What kind of behavior will you exhibit in response? What will that create? Is this what you want?
What are some other options? What would you choose if you knew you were safe and good enough? What would a love-driven response look like? What would that create?
If you are still having trouble being offended often, consider working with a coach or counselor who can help you establish your own sense of safety in the world so you can feel more bulletproof. A professional who knows how to do this can help immensely.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.