Monday, October 28, 2013

Self Esteem or Self Compassion

It is generally accepted that a negative self esteem and self concept gets in the way of a person dealing with setbacks and failure, but the research shows that also high self esteem does not buy very much and can be very problematic. Despite the  Self Esteem research    the belief in ' self esteem ' is so engrained. Teachers and parents are told to praise and compliment kids and help their   ' self –esteem ' by reflecting on all their positive attributes. So why is ' self esteem ' problematic and what can be done instead to foster success?

The problem with fostering self esteem with praise is not because kids are over –praised or don't deserve praise – it is praise itself. Praise is a way of getting kids to experience success as a reward and esteeming of the self. Instead kids should experience success and failure as information they need to make changes or   become even   more successful. The problem with self esteem is the focus on the ' self'.

The SDT  Self Determination theory talks about 2 types of self esteem. Contingent self esteem is experienced by people who are preoccupied with questions of worth and self esteem and are strongly motivated by the desire to appear worthy to self and others. Their worth is seen as dependent on ' achievement ' and appearing in certain ways. Whether such individuals come away with positive or negative conclusions, the very fact that one's self esteem is in question, suggests a psychological vulnerability. Non- contingent self esteem characterizes people for whom self-esteem is not a concern or issue. Success and failure is experienced as information and does not implicate self –worth, even when they lead to a reevaluation of their actions and efforts. These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love.

The psychologist Eric Fromm talks about 2 types of people -   the ' To have '  people whose self worth and esteem depends on their 'having' .It leads to people being overly attached to possessions, achievements , and relationships. ' To be '  people focus on how they experience the world rather than on having.

'To have '  people view the ' self ' as an 'object' which needs to be appraised , judged and evaluated, and the more positive , the better. In contrast SDT and religion see the Self as a process where a person makes meaning of experiences and integrates and assimilates them into his personality.

The research shared by Kelly Mcgonigal  
describes what helps people to deal with setbacks and change and what gets in the way.

The first experiment she shares deals with people who are dieting and are invited to participate in an experiment testing the effects of food on mood. Each person chooses their favorite donut, eats the whole donut and is given a big glass of water which leaves them with a full and uncomfortable feeling. This triggered feeling of guilt amongst the dieters. The question was would the feelings of guilt help dieters resist subsequent temptations?   In order to test this, the dieters were given a ' taste experiment '  - to choose their favorite candy and eat as much as they needed to in order to evaluate the taste of the candy. One of the test groups was exposed to the following message. In a very by the way fashion , they were given a 3 point message -  they were made aware of their guilt feelings of previously indulging in the donuts , they were told that it is human to error , it does not say  that there is something wrong with you , everybody indulgences here and there and thirdly – so don't be hard on yourself. The group that was exposed to the   message calling for self-compassion ate 40% of what the group who were not exposed   to the self- compassion message ate. People who are hard on themselves and have guilt feelings end up despairing, saying I can never change and what the heck and then indulgence even more.

In another study shared by  Heidi Grant Halvorson  participants who failed an initial test were given a chance to improve their scores. One group were encouraged to boost their self –esteem by affirming and validating positive qualities. Another group was encouraged to exercise self –compassion and not to be hard on  themselves. Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25% longer and scored higher on a second test, than the participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self compassion is effective because it is non-evaluative. It allows people to look at their mistakes and flaws with kindness and understanding. People then focus on the self as a process and not as an object. You don't judge   yourself harshly nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your positive qualities in order to protect your self-esteem. Setbacks and mistakes are part of being human and essential to the learning process. When the focus is on the process, rather than achievement, the journey rather than the destination you are more likely to be more accurate in assessing your abilities and coming up with a better plan which will help you reach your destination.

People who view the self as an object react by saying ' How could "I"  ( capital I )  do that ?  have feelings of guilt and shame which get in the way, while people who said '  How could I do THAT, did not focus on the self but on their  actions and were successful in changing.

The problem with sin is not the sin itself  but what happens afterwards – not getting up and repenting. The evil inclination encourages guilt feelings as a person feels that this is the beginning of the repentance process. But these feelings end up causing despair and hopelessness which gets in the way of recovery. The verse proverbs 24:15 says that   7 times a saint falls and then he gets up. The failure is not in the falling , but not getting up.

Self compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness less anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness and promoting the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness help people and kids focus on the self as process.

 Mindfulness is an open non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. Self esteeming and the focus on ME are just   mental constructions of the mind. In mindfulness and SDT there is no fixed concept of the self to protect or enhance, all facts are friendly and inform one's experiences and behaviors.

According to SDT, people with low self esteem are lacking in supports for and satisfactions of one or more of the basic needs of autonomy (= self direction not independence), competence and relatedness. They don't feel worthy as they are missing a sense of love, authenticity, or effectiveness. People with high contingent self esteem seek behaviors that support and reassure them that they are worthy in their eyes and others.

The paradox of self esteem of self –esteem ' If you need it , you don't have it and if you have it , you don't need it .


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Toldot/Vayeirah - True Education and Intrinsic Motivation

 Toldot begins with Yitzchak=Isaac and Rivkah = Rebecca praying in separate corners in their home asking G-d to bless them with a child. Verse 25:21 tells us that G-d answered Yitzchak's prayers rather than Rivkah's. The reason given is that there is no comparison between the prayers of righteous child – Isaac who is a son of righteous parents and of a righteous child- Rebecca   of wicked parents.

 Rabbi Dessler explains that Rivkah's efforts of rejecting her evil family's ways and becoming a righteous person are   praiseworthy and meritorious. Yet Isaac's challenge was much more difficult. Isaac could have easily become a carbon copy of his father and carried on his tradition of serving G-d through doing chesed and loving kindness. Isaac did not content himself with that. He forged a new and unique path of serving G-d through holding himself to the highest standards of observance, self discipline, courage and strength= ge'vu'rah.

Rabbi Dessler explains that the education we receive from our parents, teachers, friends  and  from the different environments is very much a passive form of education. Even if kids study hard, the motivation is external and the product of this learning and exposure is more about acquiring good habits that are done in a rote manner - 'mitzvat anshim me'lumada 'and imitating role models than changing from the inside. Real education and personal development   takes place when the child is internally motivated and overcomes personal challenges and struggles.

We see this principle also in how G-d relates to Abraham's nephew, Lot. G-d sends angels to destroy the city of Sodom and to rescue Lot who was residing there. What did Lot do to merit him being   saved ?. The Medrash explains that Abraham and his wife Sarah went to Egypt with Lot because there was a   drought in the land of Canaan. In order to protect himself, Abraham said that Sarah was his sister. If he would have said that she was his wife he would have been killed and Sarah would have been taken to be the wife of someone else, most probably Pharaoh. Lot was sensitive enough to the situation and kept his mouth shut. He did not, even by mistake reveal the true situation. Lot was thus rewarded for his silence.

The Saba from Slabodkah is surprised that from all the positive actions that Lot did, it was his ' silence' that merited him being saved. Lot displayed lots of courage, commitment and  even risked his life when he invited the angels to be guests in his home. Is  this not a more meritorious act than just keeping quiet and not handing his uncle over to be killed?. The Saba from Slabodkah explains that Lot was challenged in the area of money. He had separated from Abraham in order to settle in the rich and fertile area of Sodom. Inadvertently revealing or hinting that Abraham was Sarah's husband would have made him very wealthy. Abraham would have been killed and Lot would have been given presents from the Egyptians as he was now   Sarah's only relative. Lot's   display of chesed in inviting the angels to his home was due to the education he received in Abraham's home and not a product of his own struggles in this area. Keeping quiet was about dealing with a personal challenge.

Education does not have to be just  about kids meeting parents and teachers expectations for good behavior and great grades. Education can be also  about meeting kids concerns and hopes and becoming life long learners. When kids needs for autonomy  , competence and relatedness are being met , kids become self determined and intrinsically motivated. Autonomy is not about independence but interdependence and  being self directed. Kids become and  feel competent when they aquire  real life and learning skills, assessment is feedback and a conversation and not just  a spreadsheet with test scores and grades. When learning is about cooperation and building a community of learners,  kids feel they are related, have  a sense of belonging where they can support others and feel supported.

 Discipline and behavior problems are solved through discussion using collaborative problem solving and helping kids reflect on how their behavior impacts on others. With poor and challenging kids – both   academically    or behaviorally   problems are solved by punishing bad behavior or rewarding obedience and using incentives or level systems to motivate kids to do better. They also   get a different type of education.

Deborah Meier says that rich kids are “expected to have opinions,” and poor kids, who are expected to do what they’re told.   Schools for the well-off are about inquiry and choices; schools for the poor are about drills and compliance.''

 The education that all our children deserve ' starts with students’ interests and questions; learning is organized around real-life problems and projects.  Exploration is both active and interactive, reflecting the simple truth that kids learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.  Finally, success is judged by authentic indicators of thinking and motivation, not by multiple-choice tests. ' – Alfie Kohn

Parents and teachers always ask how they can motivate kids to do better.  The mantra of the Collaborative problem solving approach CPS is' kids do well if they can and not kids do well if they want to '. Kids would rather do better and be successful , if not it means that in the past  their concerns have not been heard , and that they have been pushed back and been rejected so often .In any case adults can't motivate kids , we can only provide the conditions which help kids to motivate themselves.

Constructivist and CPS academic and   socio-moral learning principles which rich kids are getting are needed even more so for challenging kids because they are lacking so many skills.

These approaches promote real education based on intrinsic motivation. The child has a say in his education , something that matters to him more than anybody else. Kids are thus given the opportunity to explore their personal interests and challenges and make real changes to their lives.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chayei Sarah-74 Self Esteem or Self Compassion


In our Parasha Chayei  Sarah , Abraham buys a field and the cave below to bury his wife. Rashi quoting the Medrash on  verse 23:20 -  the field stood up-  literal translation - when it became the part of Abraham's estate as a burial site says that the field acquired a new status as it previously belonged to an ordinary man and now it belonged to a king. Rabbi David Lapin says' that great people give status to their possessions   while ordinary people derive their status   from their possessions.' It is not only status which is affected by possessions but often peoples' self worth and self esteem.

 In the last of his 10 trials – the A'kei'dat Yitzchak – the binding of Isaac on the altar, Abraham had not only to sacrifice his emotions for his son but also his cherished values in order to display his complete obedience and attachment to the divine will. There was a complete negation of the ' self' in order to attach to something higher and bigger than the 'himself'. This seems to contradict the popular notion that we should nurture our ' self esteem and 'self concept'

It is generally accepted that a negative self esteem and self concept gets in the way of a person dealing with setbacks and failure, but the research shows that also  high self esteem does not buy very much and can be very problematic. Despite the research the belief in ' self esteem ' is so engrained. Teachers and parents are told to praise and compliment kids and help their   ' self –esteem ' by reflecting on all their positive attributes. So why is ' self esteem ' problematic and what can be done instead to foster success?

The problem with fostering self esteem with praise is not because kids are over –praised or don't deserve praise – it is praise itself. Praise is a way of getting kids to experience success as a reward and esteeming of the self. Instead kids should experience success and failure as information they need to make changes or  become even  more successful. The problem with self esteem is the focus on the ' self'.

The SDT – Self Determination theory  talks about 2 types of self esteem. Contingent self esteem is experienced by people who are preoccupied with questions of worth and self esteem and are strongly motivated by the desire to appear worthy to self and others. Their worth is seen as dependent on ' achievement ' and appearing in certain ways. Whether such individuals come away with positive or negative conclusions, the very fact that one's self esteem is in question suggests a psychological vulnerability. Non- contingent self esteem characterizes people for whom self-esteem is not a concern or issue. Success and failure is experienced as information and does not implicate self –worth ,even when they lead to a reevaluation of their actions and efforts. These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love.

The psychologist Eric Fromm talks about 2 types of people -   the ' To have '  people whose self worth and esteem depends on their 'having' .It leads to people being overly attached to possessions, achievements , and relationships. ' To be '  people focus on how they experience the world rather than on having.

'To have '  people view the ' self ' as an 'object' which needs to be appraised , judged and evaluated, the more positive , the better. In contrast SDT and religion see the Self as a process where a person makes meaning of experiences and integrates and assimilates them into his personality.

The research shared by Kelly Mcgonigal  
describes what helps people to deal with setbacks and change and what gets in the way.

The first experiment she shares deals with people who are dieting and are invited to participate in an experiment testing the effects of food on mood. Each person chooses their favorite donut, eats the whole donut and is given a big glass of water which leaves a full and uncomfortable feeling. This triggered feeling of guilt amongst the dieters. The question was would the feelings of guilt help dieters resist subsequent temptations.?  In order to test this , the dieters were given a ' taste experiment '  - to eat as much as they needed to,  from a  wide choice of candy  (so everyone had something they liked) in order to evaluate the taste of the candy. One of the test groups was exposed to the following message. In a very by the way fashion , they were given a 3 point message -  they were made aware of their guilt feelings of indulging in the donuts , they were told that it is human to error , it does not so that there is something wrong with you , everybody indulgences here and there and thirdly – so don't be hard on yourself. The group that was exposed to the   message calling for self-compassion ate 40% of what the group not to exposed   to the self- compassion message ate. People who are hard on themselves and have guilt feelings end up despairing, saying can never change and what the heck and then indulgence even more .

In another study shared by  Heidi Grant Halvorson  participants who failed an initial test were given a chance to improve their scores. One group were encouraged to boost their self –esteem by affirming and validating positive qualities. Another group was encouraged to exercise self –compassion and not to be hard on themselves. Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25% longer and scored higher on a second test, than the participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self compassion is effective because it is non-evaluative. It allows people to look at their mistakes and flaws with kindness and understanding. People then focus on the self as a process and not as an object. You don't judge   yourself harshly nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your positive qualities in order to protect your self-esteem. Setbacks and mistakes are part of being human and essential to the learning process. When the focus is on the process, rather than achievement, the journey rather than the destination you are more likely to be more accurate in assessing your abilities and coming up with a better plan which will help you reach your destination.

People who view the self as an object react by saying ' How could "I"  ( capital I )  do that ?  have feelings of guilt and shame which get in the way, while people who said '  How could I do THAT, did not focus on the self but on their  actions and were successful in changing.

The problem with sin, falling or failing is not in the sin, falling or failure but what happens afterwards – not getting up. Guilt feelings get in the way of recovery and getting up. The verse proverbs 24:15 says that   7 times a saint falls and then he gets up.

Self compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness less anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness and promoting the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness help people and kids focus on the self as process.

 Mindfulness is an open non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. Self esteeming and the focus on ME are just   mental constructions of the mind. In mindfulness and SDT there is no fixed concept of the self to protect or enhance, all facts are friendly and inform one's experiences and behaviors.

According to SDT , people with low self esteem are lacking in supports for and satisfactions of one or more of the basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. They don't feel worthy as they are missing a sense of love, authenticity, or effectiveness. People with high contingent self esteem seek behaviors that support and reassure them that they are worthy in their eyes and others.

The paradox of self esteem of self –esteem ' If you need it , you don't have it and if you have it , you don't need it .

See my blog post on  Motivation and Bob the builder 
on the effectiveness of different types of self talk. A statement -  I can or will do it as opposed to asking a question will or can I do it ?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Vayera 74 -The Art of Hospitality is in the ' Escorting'


Parashat Va'yeira opens up with Abraham being confined to his home after undergoing surgery – brit milah = circumcision. He still wants to have guests in his home, so he sits at the entrance of his tent despite the intense heat in the hope of inviting travelers passing by into his home. Abraham served God by being kind to people, inviting them into his home and drawing them into his orbit so he could inspire them with his example to learn about and serve God. Further on in the Parasha – chapter 21:33, the verse says that Abraham planted an 'Eshel' in Be'eir Sheva and proclaimed the name of God. The Sages talk about Abraham building an inn or planting an orchard for the benefit of his guests.

The word ' eshel ' is made up of the 3 Hebrew letters - Alef, shin and  lamed. This is an acrostic for the 3 basic services a host should provide for his guests. The Alef stands for a'chilah = eating   , shin = shti'yah = drinking and lamed = li'viyah = escorting.

A man once came to the Vilna Ga'on and said that his home had been destroyed by fire. He wanted to know on what he should repent and do Te'shuvah. The Vilna Ga'on said that the man was not particular about ' escorting his guests ', the 3rd element of hospitality. He gave his guests food and drink, so there was the eating and drinking -  the first 2 letters of 'eshel'.  The first 2 letters – alef and shin produce the word ' esh' which means fire. So eshel without the lamed is esh= fire. This is the reason why the home was destroyed by fire.

So if you entertain guests, give them food and drink but you don't escort them, you are playing with fire. The obvious conclusion is that it is better and safer not to have guests in your home than to have guests whom you provide food and drink but don't escort.

Rabbi David Lapin offers the following explanation. If we want to have a party we need food, drink and most important guests. So the guests actually serve the host. Without guests there is no party. The same goes for the food and the drink – their presence serves the host. When the guests leave the home, they no longer serve any function in the party for the hosts. When the host honors and 'escorts' the guests - who now no longer serve a purpose- , the true intentions of the host are revealed. This tells us that the food and drink were not for the host and his party but there to provide and serve the guests.

I am sure that most of us have experienced what it feels like to escort oneself out of the host's home or function. I can understand the host who is occupied with attending to other guests apologizing for not be able to escort me a ' couple of meters'. But when that does not happen one feels used, like a tradesman being invited to serve the host and then let himself out. One feels that the only reason you were invited was to fill the hall and make sure that there are guests for the party- without guests there is no party.
The quality of the hospitality therefore is dependent and hinges on the 3rd element – 'escorting the guests.'                                                                                                                                         
The Rambam in the laws Of Avel chapter 14 gives a lists of mitzvoth – good deeds that a person does to others as an expression of loving one's neighbor as oneself. He talks about visiting the sick, comforting the mourners, burying the dead, making weddings and ' escorting guests'.
We usually talk about the mitzvah of hospitality = hach'na'sat or'chim, why does the Rambam call the mitvah as escorting guests, and not use the language that we use. ? People talk about the importance of inviting guests and not ' escorting guests'.

From the story about the Vilna Ga'on we learn that inviting guests without escorting them is destructive and not a mitzvah. It is playing with fire- eshel without the lamed is esh=fire. The mitzvah of inviting guests – hachna'sat orchim is dependent and hinges on the quality of the escorting of the guests. This explains why the Rambam defines the mitzvah as escorting guests and not inviting guests.

As parents we should not only model hospitality , but allow kids to participate in the decison making, generating choices and solutions. Responsibility is learned by making decisions not by following instructions. We should reflect with our kids  on the importance making guests feel comfortable , showing an interest in them , putting food and drink on the table and also reflect how a guest would feel if he has to show himself out of the home.








Monday, October 7, 2013

Lech Lecha 74 – Abraham and Lot – a Collaborative Problem Solving perspective

Parashat Lech Lecha speaks about Abraham's initiative to separate from Lot. This decision was sparked by the dishonest behavior of Lot's shepherds who grazed their flocks on other peoples' pastures. They were rebuked by Abraham's shepherds and a quarrel ensued. Lot's shepherds justified their actions by claiming   that the land was theirs. It was given by God to Abraham and since he was childless, Lot was his heir. The association with Lot meant that Abraham's family was involved in robbery and theft and this situation could not be tolerated. It would not be the first or last time that business partners or family members would decide to go each their own way. In this case, business ethics and morality demanded this separation.

The Medrash commentary however thinks differently and says that God was very critical of Abraham's decision to separate from Lot.

Rabbi Dessler suggests 2 answers.

Man is judged and made accountable to God on two levels. We are judged for our actions and we are judged for the 'level' on which we operate. So on Abraham's level, his action of ' separation ' was not only legitimate but in a sense the only option available for him to maintain his honesty and integrity. Separation was also something that Lot was thinking about for some time as he had his eyes on the more prosperous areas of Sodom. But if Abraham was on a higher and greater level he could have influenced Lot and his men to act differently. The claim against Abraham is not for the action he did – the act of separation- but for the 'level ' he operated on.

This is an important concept to internalize. People can carry on and do the right things in the context of where they are holding or in the context of their communities and think that they doing OK .  No'ach and Lot were considered righteous within their respective communities, but very ordinary in a community where people were working on themselves. We need to reflect on where we are holding, on what levels we are operating, on who we are and not simply reflect on our actions.

Abraham's shepherds and so indirectly Abraham also have a certain responsibility for the separation. The Sifri commentary on Ki Teitze says that no peace can come out of quarrels and conflict. The way Abraham's shepherds approached the Lot's men was very antagonistic and involved a top-down rebuke. Rav Dessler says that Abraham's shepherds should not have started a quarrel and conflict. If Abraham's shepherds would have done acts of chesed and loving kindness towards the shepherds of Lot, they would have had a bigger impact and influence on Lot's shepherds because of the good relationship. Abraham had to take responsibility for not educating his shepherds to be attractive personalities who build relationships.

People who are in good relationships sometimes also quarrel and have conflicts. Being able to solve problems in a collaborative way and find realistic and mutually satisfying solutions is important. I want to suggest that if Abraham's shepherds would have attempted CPS – collaborative problem solving, things might have played out differently and there would not have been a separation.

In CPS we don't start with our concerns or expectations. We start with the child's or the other parties concerns. Once they feel heard and understood we have a much better chance of our concerns and expectations being heard. Once we have a clear understanding of  their  concerns we can look for various alternative solutions. People often present their concerns as solutions. We have to take a step back and ask 'what is the concern that this solution is addressing. We can't assume that we know the concerns and so we need to rely on the other party or child to give us this information.

Abraham's shepherds = As - we have noticed that your flocks graze on other peoples' lands, what's up!
Lot's shepherds=LS-  It is too costly to graze the flocks on ownerless land and in any case the land belongs to Lot as he is Abraham's heir and God gave the land to Abraham.
AS-   We understand that your concerns are financial - the cost of feeding your flocks
LS- yes, we are also concerned about the time and effort involved in grazing on ownerless land.
AS- Our concerns are that the locals – the Canaanites and Prezites are very much in control of the land and they rightly consider your actions as theft and robbery. And we by association are party to your actions.

As – let's brainstorm a solution to think of a way which addresses your concerns = the cost of grazing the flocks and our concerns that grazing on other peoples' lands is problematic.

Abraham can give Lot financial assistance or offer a profitable joint venture in order to address Lot's shepherds concerns. They could also decide to move on together to a more user-friendly economic environment. The process is also helpful in getting Lot's shepherds to 'hear' Abraham's concerns.

Sometimes the best solution is to separate. However we should still try to find some common ground where we can still cooperate.  Despite the separation Abraham did promise his commitment to Lot's well being and in fact went to war to free him from captivity. However they did not decide on what matters they could cooperate.


The Sages criticism of Abraham's action to separate from Lot  is a reminder to us that our actions might seem legitimate in the context of where we are holding. But if we were on a higher level, display more chesed, loving kindness  and better collaborative problem solving skills we could become more powerful people and influence people to the better and help  create a better and caring society.








Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No'ach 74 – Robbing a thief of his dignity



Parashat Noach describes the corruption and degeneration of mankind, God's decision to destroy his world by the flood and then   give Man a second chance through Noach.

The verse from Genesis /Be're'shit  6:11 says that 'the earth had become filled with theft and robbery'- va'ti'mlei ha'aretz cha'mas. There was a breakdown of law and order, no respect for someone else's property and a willingness to kill in order to steal. The Medrash commentary asks the following question. It is understandable that the criminals and robbers should be accountable for what they did, but what about the helpless victims, what did they do wrong?. The Medrash answers that they stole with their words- cha'mas de'varim. After the victims helplessly watched the robbers clear their homes and leave, their 'good bye wishes  ' went too far. One has the right to defend one's property, and when it is apparent that the robbers are prepared to kill, you can kill them first, or you can call the police. But if there is nothing to do, you have to keep quiet and not say anything disrespectful to the robbers. If you curse them, you are guilty of ' robbing them of their dignity'. Even a thief or a robber has the right to a basic human dignity. Rav Avraham Grodgensky explains that these high standards of interpersonal behavior are the obvious conclusions that Man and his God given mind and intelligence should come to.

Now in real life we might be lucky not to encounter the robber described above, but there are countless situations where our buttons get pushed. Our spouse was not careful, burnt the food, destroyed the pot and the house is now full of smoke. Kids turned your kitchen into a pig style after you had cleaned the kitchen before you left for work. So you express your anger and frustration with plenty of ' compliments' and put-downs. You feel fully justified and self righteous and now a little better for responding to inappropriate behavior and setting limits.

If one is lucky to able to reflect in an honest way about what had happened, one will express remorse and regret for the outburst and apologize to one's spouse or children. Your kids and spouse most likely were not in the 'thinking mode' and it was just not on their minds to be more careful or focus on preventing a mess. They certainly weren't trying to deliberately mess up the kitchen in order to anger you. It is not the same as the robber who deliberately stole from you. The over-kill reaction is far worse than what your kids or spouse have done. And you are now guilty of stealing – robbing them of their dignity. If we have to respect the dignity of a thief how much more so the members of our family and our students.

So how do we deal with these situations?

1 We should throw out the euphemisms for anger – he pushed or pressed my buttons. Instead say – I got angry and think of a plan or a solution to deal with these situations.

2. Take cues from your body and be more aware of how ' weak ' your position is. When we are offended, buttons pushed, angered, feel betrayed and disappointed we are in a weak position to deal with situations. The fight-flight mode initiated by the animal-limbic brain and the adrenal and cortisol hormones puts one in an emotional state, shuts down the ' thinking brain' and lets the ' garbage' flow.

3. So take a personal time-out or chill time to cool down and find the appropriate time to engage in solving problems, addressing concerns in a collaborative way

4The more we use extrinsic motivation such as anger, put-downs , threats or even positive reinforcement, there is less internalization of the real message and no chance of real change. People become defensive and see you as having a problem.

5 besides all the negativity of criticism – no such thing as positive criticism, so solve problems instead- , you have just made your relationship with your kid or spouse worse. The only way we can impact on family and others is through good relationships. So ask yourself - is this worth jeopardizing my relationship with my kids or spouse.


6 The bottom line – put your relationship first.