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|Creating a Climate for Consensual Living
Consensual living is a process, a philosophy, a mindset by which we seek to live in harmony with our families and community. It involves finding mutually agreed upon solutions, where the needs of both parties are not only considered but addressed. Everyone’s wants and needs are equally valid, regardless of age. Conflicting wants or needs are discussed and mutually agreeable solutions are created or negotiated which meet the underlying needs of all parties.
There are several key factors that help create an environment where consensual living can thrive. First, there needs to be a climate of respect and trust. Trust in a child’s ability to know their body and know their mind. Respect for their feelings as true, valid and important. If a child feels safe and comfortable they can explore their feelings and are more interested in understanding the feelings of those around them. There is no room for punishments or rewards in this environment. Punishments and rewards are really just tools of manipulation and when you are working together as a team for shared solutions there is no need to manipulate.
It is critical to have the belief that there really are solutions. In fact, the reality is that there are often many solutions. It is just a matter of hitting on the one that works for everyone. That process can be broken down into a few steps but will become more fluid and simple the more it is practiced. The first step is to identify the underlying needs. Often there is a stated need or desire. When in conflict, it helps to go deeper. It may just be that the two stated needs are in conflict on the surface. When you get to the underlying needs, typically there are several ways they can be met. When you have the underlying needs on the table then new alternative solutions are more apparent.
For children and adults both, understanding how biological needs play into problem solving is critical as well. The short cut for this is the much talked about HALT theory – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. When we are hungry or tired it is hard to see beyond our immediate needs, our head is not clear to be creative, this goes for kids too. When we are angry about something, that anger can become misdirected and interfere with communication. The same for loneliness, our behavior can really be a call for attention, which is often a need for engagement. So when we keep in mind that the underlying need may be biological it helps us find solutions more quickly. Sometimes stopping to address the biological need is all that is required to get us back on track.
At times, conflicts can be heated. There can be a lot of emotion behind requests. In those situations, it is often helpful to begin with some basic communication skills like validation and reflective listening. Both of these tools help us to explore the underlying needs. Validation is the simple process of acknowledging what someone is saying with no judgment, “you really wish that ...”, with no “buts” attached. Often times after a few minutes of validation the person feels free to move forward to more in depth communication, but sometimes validation is all that is required to resolve a situation. Reflective listening is similar but it used more for clarification, “what I hear you saying is that you don’t want to be here now”. This allows the person to hear how what they are saying is being received. At that point, they can agree and feel validated/heard or can restate to make their point more clear.
Once everyone feels heard and validated you can move to “I” messages to state your own needs for a given situation. That gives the person you are talking to a chance to hear your feelings. Sometimes it is easy to fall into “you” mode: “you make me. . .”; but if you can stay with the “I” statements the lines of communication remain open.
Another helpful tool is to assign positive intent. When we look at someone with whom we are in conflict, sometimes we feel they are deliberately trying to thwart us. If you can shift that paradigm and begin to apply positive intent, it again leads to more open communication. This involves believing that everyone is doing the best they can right now, that they want to be a part of a solution and that they aren’t attempting to stop your needs from being met. Everyone wants harmony to return.
After everyone involved is feeling heard and understood, you can move on to the creative problem solving step. This can look different each time. Often it is a series of ideas being thrown out by each party. Each idea is accepted, rejected or modified to fit the underlying needs which have been communicated. This often requires “thinking outside the box” always keeping in mind the underlying needs. At times, we enter this step with preconceived notions about how it should turn out. When we can release this, we are able to access the full range of possible solutions. Children have an amazing gift for problem solving and tend not to fall into that trap. Let them lead the way when you are feeling stumped.
While, on paper, the process seems a bit laborious, once a commitment is made to live consensually, the fun begins. When your energy is used to work together as a team to meet everyone’s needs, you create an environment of mutual respect, consideration and joy. The skills gained by daily practice transfers to all kinds of situations where people come together and reach an impasse. Each time, it becomes easier and easier, the tools become habit and over time for 99% of situations solutions will be found quickly. For the 1% of occasions where it takes a while, the time will be spent in positive connection with the other person, not locked in a negative, adversarial exchange. As everyone becomes secure in the fact that their needs will indeed be met and honored, they are able to branch out and enjoy engaging in the process of helping others meet their needs. It becomes a fluid partnership, a beautiful dance of connection.
Originally Posted by Emmom
I'd just like to ask, who else here had a process that went like this:
1)These consensual living people are totally nuts
2) That CL life must be nice for them, but it's just not realistic in my life
3) I'm getting some great ideas from consensual living. What a great tool to have in my toolbox! (ever-present parenting toolbox analogy. wouldn't toolbelt make more sense... at least for those of us chasing toddlers?)
4) I really aspire to incorporate consensual living into my life as much as possible. It's a nice voice to have in my head, but I'm not patient enough to actually try it.
5) OK. I give up. I'm going to try to live in a consensual household, even I don't always succeed.
6) You know, this isn't harder. It's easier...
Thanks Pat and Anna for changing my life!!!! :
Originally Posted by aira
Sometimes DH beats me over the head with the "being heard" thing. (I mean that totally figuratively!) But he sets up complex requirements that he says are the only way to make him feel heard, and to me they are just tangential demands of a tantruming child. I get that, and I want to help the tantruming child. But the dominant actions really speak to my victim self, and I lose all ability to actually form words or verablize at all. Ironically, what he wants most to feel safe is excessive verbiage. So we set each other off.
One solution we have found is that if I can remember in the moment, I make a sign and hold it up. Doesn't always happen, and even then, doesn't always dissipate the tension. But it's a start.
Oh well, sorry to go so far OT...
Originally Posted by sledg
Ah, that's tough. Communication is so simple yet it's definitely not easy. It's especially hard when a person's actions or demands trigger older issues.
I feel really vulnerable and stupid saying this, but it's my kids who trigger my older issues. That is what makes parenting so difficult for me. I actually worked out a hand signal with my kids, similar to what you do with your dh-for their safety and for all our peace (now skulking off feeling pathetic in the presence of such wonderful moms....).
I guess we all have our easy things and our issues, eh?
Originally Posted by irinam
I totally agree that communication is the key, and if you hear our convesations you will think that "this couple communicates wonderfully", but sometimes (often) I see/hear DH passionately saying something and I agree and believe and go with it and then... he does exactly opposite to what he spoke so passionately about. Then he can just as passionately apologize and I again believe and "buy" it. Or he can claim he does not remember the conversation.
So I do not know how to classify this - "fruitless comminucation" may be?
I am trying and trying to implement CL in our relationship and yes, I am *somewhat* successfull. May be I want (need? ) too much?
Originally Posted by aira
I usually feel like a completely inferior and incompetent wife. :
And daughter... : :
I generally find myself thinking that everyone I don't see arguing on TV has a more peaceful and harmonious marriage than I do.
Originally Posted by sledg
, aira. I simply cannot imagine you being an inferior anything-you just don't come across that way.
Yk, I woke up thinking about this in the middle of the night. I was thinking of how things my kids do trigger issues buried within myself, and how this is so common to relationships. To illustrate, I have this adult male relative who does things that I find rather obnoxious. For a long time I was really bothered by him, really disturbed and defensive and angry and uneasy. It took about 10 years for me to figure out that my reaction to him had more to do with my own internal stuff (memories of a particular abusive person and relationship) than it did with this actual person and the things he was actually doing. Once I saw that, I could be free from it-sort of recognize it and set it aside so I could see him more clearly. This is what I have to do as a parent, too. We see others and what they do through the lens of our history, assumptions, point of view, etc. And sometimes that's helpful, and often it gets in the way. To really begin to become the parent I want to be, I've had to learn to get out of my own way-to recognize the things triggered within that have more to do with my past than my present, and to let them go so I can be present and see clearly. That's really, really hard to do in the moment when emotions are running high.
Irina, I think sometimes communication is just ineffective despite how effective we think we're being. That's part of being human. And what you described again makes me think of something to which I can relate, which is how as a parent I can be heard passionately speaking about what I believe about parenting and then I could be seen doing the exact opposite. And it's not that I'm inconsistent in my beliefs, it's that I'm human and have difficulty sometimes living up to the ideals I have. And then again, sometimes people feel differently about things in different moments. And again, how I perceive someone's behavior sometimes says more about me than about them. And also, attacment to outcome is something that hampers my ability to communicate as well and sometimes I'm not fully aware of how attached to outcome I am-again a huge problem for me in parenting, but at times a problem in my interactions with adults as well. (Believe it or not, I actually do think about a lot of these things when there's a conflict, which dh thinks of as odd because he doesn't. For him self-awareness, effective communication, and effective listening just happen (at least I perceive his communication and listening as effective), he says he doesn't think about it much.)
Has this gone way OT? Sorry for that.
Originally Posted by irinam
Sledg, your whole post made sense to me, but one little phrase made (yet another) click... "Attachment to the Outcome" I AM like that with DH.
Man, it's going way OT, shall we take it to the Consensual Living Tribe? Aira, Sledg, do you mind if I cut and paste the last few posts dealing with DH's to CLT?
|I struggle with this too, from the other end. It's what I was getting at before. Needs and what we think we need. It's harder for me with DH...
...but DS wants to play (you guessed it) TRAINS!!!
I'll be back...
OK. I'm kinda useless mentally right now, but I'll attempt to express what I'm getting at.
DS's history is intertwined with mine. I know him - all that he's experienced, though not all the depth and thought he's had. I'm even largely responsible for the bad times. So I can relate to him without feeling victimized. Also perhaps he's not threatening to me because he's smaller, I held him in my body and cared for him when he was incapable of even holding his head up. I'm not sure what other factors might contribute to my ability to more easily view his underlying needs more immediately, but for whatever reason DS doesn't dredge up my childhood issues.
DH, on the other hand, well... we push each other's buttons all the time. He's a wonderful man and husband. Sometimes though he seems to interpret his "needs" in a way that I think are not needs, but demands that I find hurtful to me to accommodate. He feels the same about some of my issues. We really project our parents on each other. Learning to communicate what's going on inside in non-threatening ways is the only way through this. It's far from easy to accomplish, but we're trying.
I just don't know how to trust another's account of their needs, when I feel that their "needs" are for me to placate them to avoid the fallout if I don't. OTOH, circumventing what an adult claims is their need in the moment, and addressing what I think it the real deal can be a little patronizing and often gets interpreted as a "know-it-all" attitude. This is very hard for me to negotiate.
Originally Posted by Yooper
Count me in
I post very sporatically because I work a lot some weeks so forgive me if I am here then gone on a regular basis.
We have hit some pretty challenging times with my 3 yo lately. We seem to be coming out of it but my conviction to CL has been tested. Dh and I goofed up a bit and it showed Everyone chalked it up to the "terrible 3's" but it is clear that family stress brought it on. Has anyone else had to go through a healing time with regards to CL? We are working to regain dd's trust.
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