Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
Couples in counseling learn that the four most destructive ways to treat their spouse in conflict are:
Criticize the other personally
Show contempt/disgust for the other
React defensively without taking any responsibility
Withdraw and shut down communication
Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychologist, researcher, and clinician has identified these behaviors as sure predictors of divorce if not addressed and changed. He found that couples who begin conversations with respect and nurture a friendship in the relationship have healthier conflict resolution and happier marriages.
Some parents talk to their children with the same four destructive behaviors which is equally devastating for kids. Dr. Gottman says that contempt is the killer of relationships because it conveys, “I am superior and you are an idiot.” Children retreat from or respond in anger to a parent who repeatedly criticizes and condemns. According to Dr. Gottman, the antidote to contempt is affirmation. If we encourage and affirm our children, they will feel valued by us. The more we look for the positives in our children and nurture mutual respect, the less likely both parents and children will be to attack and demean in conflict.
Hopefully parents, you will see this as reaping what you sow. If you tend to find fault daily and are not open to owning your mistakes, you will shut down communication and the relationship. If you speak with kind words and do not overreact with harshness, you will reap a closer, more respectful relationship with your child.