conversation encouragers and discouragers

In the process of googling something else, I stumbled upon a list of rather commonly used expressions that may come across as invalidating of someone's right to feel how they feel.

I'm sure many parents who say this type of thing have very good intentions. (Although some may be in such pain or confusion that they actually do intend to shut their kids down.) And since most of us are also very interested in having our children talk to us about their thoughts and feelings, I thought it might be helpful to know that even well-intentioned words can shut down the flow of communication.

If you want your teens to keep talking to you, try responding with statements that express your understanding of what they just said (empathy and reflection), or your willingness to hear more, rather than trying to shift their perspective or hand them a solution.

Here are some examples of conversation encouragers:

Wow, that sounds tough.
How is that for you?
What's your take on that?

I'm sorry you are hurting.
Sounds like you really didn't like that.

That felt really out of line to you.
Sounds like you wish that had never happened.

Silent nod with eye contact.
Move closer and hug them or rub their shoulders.

Here are some examples of conversation discouragers:

Cheer up. Lighten up. Get over it.
Don't cry. Don't worry. Don't be sad.

Stop whining. Deal with it. Forget about it.
Stop complaining. Don't be so dramatic.
Don't be so sensitive. Don't take it so personally.

You've got it all wrong.
That is ridiculous.
I was only kidding.
That's not the way things are.

Well, I tried to help you.
You are making everyone else miserable.
It doesn't bother anyone else, why should it bother you?

It can't be that bad.
It's not worth getting that upset over.
You are over-reacting.

Can't you take a joke?
How can you let a little thing like that bother you?
Do you really think that crying about it is going to help anything?

You should be excited.
You should feel guilty.
You should feel thankful that ____.

You shouldn't let it bother you.
You should just forget about it.
You should feel ashamed of yourself.

You shouldn't say that.
You know that isn't true.
You don't mean that.

Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself?
What about my feelings?

Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

When you are older you will understand.
You are just going through a phase.

Although I don't endorse this guy's site, I do want to give him credit for the unedited version of the second list:

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talking to your teen about romantic relationships

Not that I believe the subtleties of love or relationship need to be reduced to a magic formula, but I when I discovered this checklist in The Tao of Negotiation: How to Resolve Conflict in All Areas of Your Life, which I found on the business shelf of my local used bookstore, it struck me as both pithy and succinct wisdom that I'd like to pass on to my kids.

According to the authors, "the overriding difference between those relationships that work over a long period of time and those that don't has to do with the presence or absence of the following characteristics." I've put the explanations into my own words, so if you want to read the original version, you'll find it on page 186 of the book.

1) The Spark. That hard-to-pin-down-in-words magic called chemistry. Strong attraction with a sense of comfort and compatibility that is not easily explained by how long we have known each other, how much time we have spent together, logic, or reason. They don't mention it in the book, but I'd also include truly enjoying each other's company, and easily having fun together in this category.

2) The intention and the willingness to be aware of and process everything of significance. I think of this as open minds and open hearts. Each is actively curious about the other's experience, as well as willing to take a close look at their own individual contribution to the couple's dynamic. Honest, intimate communication about thoughts and feelings is one of the cornerstones of the relationship.

3) Commonality of purpose, values, and interests. Without this one, the relationship is not likely to be sustainable in the long term. You can have great chemistry and honest communication, but if your individual lives are not on somewhat parallel trajectories in terms of direction and purpose, it might be challenging to stay together. It can and has been been done, of course, most easily by couples who are very committed to #2 above, which would therefore mean they share intention and willingness to process as a common value, and thus they meet this criteria!

Good stuff, eh? I am looking forward to sharing this with my kids as they go forth into the world. And of course, they may still need to figure it out for themselves the hard way, just like I am still doing. :) But at least they will have heard these concepts, and can reference them when and if they should choose to.

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night weaning while co-sleeping

If you are a co-sleeping family that wants your older baby or toddler to stop nursing at night, I highly recommend the sensible and compassionate approach described in this article by Dr. Jay Gordon:

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