Kindness Begins With Me

I was recently reading a famous study about marriage by John Gottman a psychologist that has studied marriage since the 1970s.  He set up what is known as "The Love Lab" with his colleague Robert Levenson. They brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for their partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss 50 percent of the positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of  evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

This afternoon, my mom came over to chat. I was tired and grumpy, from a long day and I was really unkind.  After she left, my daughter told me I had been rude, and that it felt a little uncomfortable. My first thought was to get defensive, but I listened and was silent. My daughter was right. I felt bad, and quickly walked over to my moms to apologize. She was gracious and kind. She said she came home, and told her husband I was so rude she didn't bother to invite us to dinner.

When I was a little girl I learned this little song in church.

I want to be kind to ev'ryone,

For that is right, you see.

So I say to myself, "Remember this:

Kindness begins with me."

So let us all begin this week with kindness. It has the power to heal broken marriages, broken hearts, and change the world.

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I Love To Watch You Play Soccer!

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My daughter started playing soccer when she was six. Her very first team was called purple puppy power. I have spent a lot of nights and weekends on a soccer field. Soccer has been a big part of our lives.

At some point I started getting a little overly invested in how Brianna performed on the field. Let me be clear I have never been that parent that runs up and down the field yelling at my daughter or the parent that gets asked to leave the field. You know that parent. However, I have said and done a few things that maybe I shouldn't have.

I realized there was a problem when I saw the look on my daughter's face after a game. I just couldn't get the game out of my head and I went on and on about what should have, could have or  would have happened had she played better. Do you get what I mean? So I did what all amazing parents do I turned to the internet for help. I wish I would have saved the article.  The writer said that the only thing you should say to your children about a sporting event they participate in is, "I love to watch you play".  That's it!

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When it comes to talking to our children about the game, they should be the ones doing the talking and if they don't feel like talking after the game then we should honor the silence. After all it is just a game and within weeks we won't remember the outcome of that game but our children will remember the way we made them feel. In all the games my daughter has played over the years, from the big wins to the big losses, I don't remember the exact details of most of them. I on the other hand can remember the times I acted like an idiot and the times my comments, coaching, questioning or judgement hurt my daughters feelings.

In the past month while sitting on the soccer field I watched the referee stop two different games and ask parents to leave because they wouldn't keep quiet about the game. My daughters coach and the team captains had to walk to the sideline and tell several parents to be quiet at the last game we were losing. Of course it wasn't our teams fault at all, it was the referees bad calls. Imagine the irony of what we are teaching our children about life by the way we as parents act on the sidelines. If you don't like a call, yell and scream at the referee. Can you imagine what might happen if we yelled and screamed at our bosses about something we don't like at work the way we yell at a referee when we don't like the call he has made.

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The drive to become or achieve something comes from inside. Our job as parents is to help our children find the things they are passionate about and support them. We are not here to make them great at soccer because of what it does for us. This is not about us. It is about them. It is about fun. It is about the things that they learn from being a part of a team. It is about learning to be a good loser and a good winner. It is about the courage it gives them to try something and fail, or try something and succeed. It is about the life skills they learn. It is about the friends they make. It is about so many things that will help them in life. What it is not about, is us. We are there because we love them. We are there to support them.

Today my daughters team lost to a team they should have easily beat. Before todays game we were in first  place but I'm sure we aren't anymore.  It was raining and my daughter slipped and a ball got past her and they scored. We had no subs because of an injury. One of the girls slept in and was late. A lot of things to be upset about. There were a lot of things that could have been said but all I said was, "I love to watch you play soccer."