Friday, September 26, 2014

Announcing The Gottman Relationship Checkup

Announcing The Gottman Relationship Checkup
By Michael Fulwiler

After years of planning, writing, coding, and troubleshooting, we are excited to announce that The Gottman Relationship Checkup will launch to the general public on Monday, October 6, 2014. Created by Drs. John & Julie Gottman in collaboration with The Gottman Institute, The Gottman Relationship Checkup supports couples and clinicians by providing in-depth, scientific evaluations of a relationship's strengths and challenges.

Fully HIPAA compliant with 480 questions in 5 unique sections, our assessment not only accurately evaluates a relationship's strengths and challenges, but also provides personalized feedback. Here’s how it works:

Clinicians must first apply to become a member of The Gottman Relationship Checkup. Once approved, they can invite their couples to complete the questionnaire. Before the couple can start the assessment, each partner must create a personal profile that requires them to have a unique login and password. This password is specific to their information and responses. Neither partner can access the other’s information at any time, and we encourage that they not share their information with each other. 

When both partners have completed their individual assessments, a notification will be sent to the clinician that the scores, areas of concern in the relationship, and suggested treatment options are available on the clinician's dashboard. This information is not shared with The Gottman Institute. After receiving the scores, the therapist will be able to review the analysis with the couple and discuss any suggested steps for improving their relationship.

If you are a clinician and have used or are currently using the standard Gottman Assessments, this online tool has been adapted from the paper version and has been revised with the addition of new questionnaires for the online format. The online version provides you, the clinician, with a comprehensive assessment, automatic scoring, and a recommended comprehensive treatment plan for your clients, saving you time and effort while improving accuracy.

We will continue to share more information about The Gottman Relationship Checkup as it becomes closer to launch on October 6th. Until then, be sure to “Like” The Gottman Institute on Facebook for updates and announcements.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reflections on Doing Gottman Method Couples Therapy with a Native American Population

              Via Matika Wilbur

Reflections on Doing Gottman Method Couples Therapy with a 
Native American Population
By Michael Brown, Certified Gottman Therapist 

I have often been asked by colleagues and peers: Is Gottman Method Couples Therapy culturally-appropriate for Native Americans? Does it fit the experience and reality of Native American couples? Having done Gottman Method Couples Therapy on the White Mountain Apache Reservation for almost five years, I believe that it is culturally-appropriate and effective with White Mountain Apache clients. In order to demonstrate this, I will first briefly describe the White Mountain Apache Reservation, my professional experience there, and Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I will then give specific examples of why I think that Gottman Method Couples Therapy works well with the White Mountain Apache population and, in the end, I will provide a caveat.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe

The White Mountain Apache Reservation is located in east-central Arizona, consisting of 1.67 million acres (over 2,600 square miles). There are approximately 15,000 tribal members living on and off the Reservation. The majority of the population lives in Whiteriver, the seat of the Tribal government. Culturally, there is a clan system and extended families are extremely important and tend to be matrilineal. Like in other parts of Native America, there are very high indices of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, substance abuse (primarily alcohol), suicide attempts and completions, juvenile delinquency, and violent crime.

My Professional Experience With the White Mountain Apache Tribe

I have worked with and for the White Mountain Apache Tribe for the past five years: three in suicide prevention and intervention with Apache Behavioral Health Services, and almost two with Rainbow Treatment Center, where I coordinate family-centered substance abuse treatment programs. I came here shortly after earning my Masters of Science in Counseling in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and obtaining my associate license. I obtained my independent license here and earned my certification as a Certified Gottman Therapist here.

Between single-couple therapy and multi-couple therapy, I have probably done more than 400 hours of Gottman Method Couples Therapy with White Mountain Apache tribal members. In addition to my job-specific duties in suicide prevention and intervention, I did over 60 hours of Gottman Method Couples Therapy with couples while at Apache Behavioral Health Services. Many of these couples were in acute distress and identified intimate partner conflict as a precipitating factor in their suicidal ideation or attempt. At Rainbow Treatment Center, I helped organize and facilitate the first-ever couples (6-week) day treatment cycle using Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Twice a day we did couples therapy with the group: an hour in the morning on building friendship and intimacy and an hour and a half in the afternoon on managing conflict. I also designed and facilitate a multi-couple outpatient treatment program for substance abuse and domestic violence using Domestic Violence-Focused Couples Therapy (Stith, McCollum, & Rosen, 2007) and Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I also presented on Gottman Method Couples Therapy at the 2012 Rainbow Treatment Center Couples Retreat (as a guest speaker), facilitated Gottman Method Couples Therapy at the 2013 Couples Retreat, and coordinated with Dr. Bob Navarra to launch the maiden voyage of “A Roadmap for the Journey: A Gottman Workshop for Couples Embracing Recovery” at the 2014 Couples Retreat.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Gottman Method Couples Therapy is based on the 40 years of breakthrough research of John Gottman, Ph.D., on marriage and relationships with more than 3000 couples, including one group for more than 20 years. John Gottman’s research has focused on relationship stability and divorce communication and involved the study of emotions, physiology, and communication.

In the process, John Gottman observed what he came to call the Masters and Disasters of Relationship. He defines Masters of Relationship as two people who stay together, who report high relational satisfaction, and who like and enjoy one another. These relationships are suffused with a much higher percentage of positive interaction, even when discussing a conflict, than a couple in distress (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013, p. 2).

Through multi-dimensional, thorough, and extensive research, John Gottman was able to decipher what strengthens relationships; that is, what keeps a relationship stable and vibrant. He learned that couples who stay happily married have everyday interactions with one another that are very positive. Secondly, the couples who stay happily married are far less negative and more gentle in the ways they handle conflict. Through intervention studies, he learned that these were not only the effect of happy relationships, but also the causes (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013, p. 2).

The results of John Gottman’s studies form the basis of Gottman Method Couples Therapy and the workshops.

The basic assumptions of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are as follows:

1.  Couples therapy is primarily dyadic. In this therapy it is the goal to move the therapeutic context to a dyadic context in which the therapist acts as a coach.
2.  Couples need to be in emotional states to learn how to cope with and change them. Much of the emotional learning in marital therapy may be state-dependent. This means, unless we allow individuals to become as emotional in therapy as they do at home, they may not have access to important learning we have offered once they leave the therapy session.
3.  The therapist should not do the soothing. Partners should learn how to self-soothe and even to soothe one another.
4.  Interventions should seem easy to do. Interventions should not seem costly psychologically or appear foreign to people.
5.  Marital therapy should be primarily a positive affective experience.
6.  I [John Gottman] am not idealistic about marriage and it’s potential. The goal is fostering a “good enough marriage.” (Gottman, 1999, pp. 179-185)

Why I Think That Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a Good Fit

Based on my experience, I think that Gottman Method Couples Therapy works well with White Mountain Apache clients because of the assumptions behind it, the metaphors used in Gottman Method Couples Therapy are easily accessible and have resonance, and the interventions respond to the particular relational needs and dynamics of White Mountain Apache couples.

First, in my experience, Gottman Method Couples Therapy fits well when working with White Mountain Apaches because of the assumptions above. The dyadic focus gives the clients the skills that they need to improve their friendship and intimacy and manage conflict on their own. Since most therapy here is very brief and the more concrete the better, the focus on skills and on the dyad is very instrumental. The assumption of state-dependent learning is also very helpful since, in my experience, many of my clients have poor emotion regulation skills. Allowing them to experience emotional states in session and teaching them how to cope with and change them at the same time, helps them to better access their learning while under stress outside the therapeutic context. Helping partners to self-soothe and to soothe one another is critical, since flooding and diffuse physiological arousal (DPA) are very common, in my experience.

The assumptions that the interventions should be easy to do and that marital therapy should primarily be a positive affective experience are equally important because, in my experience, many clients are afraid of and reluctant to participate in marital or couples therapy. In order for them to stay engaged in and benefit from marital therapy, the interventions need to relatively easy and the affective experience positive. Finally, the goal of fostering a “good enough marriage” is a worthwhile and achievable goal. Expecting a “perfect” marriage would be unrealistic and, very possibly, harmful.

Second, in my experience, the metaphors of Gottman Method Couples Therapy, particularly the Sound Relationship House and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (I.e. Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling) are easily accessible to and resonate with my White Mountain Apache clients. Everyone understands about building a solid house. My clients easily grasp the Four Horsemen and become quite adept at identifying when they are occurring.

Third, the interventions of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are very helpful for my White Mountain Apache clients, particularly the Gottman Love Map Exercise, the Aftermath of a Fight Questionnaire, teaching Softened Startup, Self-Soothing, and the Dreams Within Conflict Intervention.

Many of the couples that I see had a very brief courtship period before “getting together” and that period was often dominated by the mutual abuse of alcohol. As a result, they did not build Love Maps (I.e. a cognitive map of their partner’s inner psychological world, his or her worries, stresses, joys, and dreams). However, if there is just a speck of fondness and admiration between them, Love Maps can still be built. The Love Map Cards provide couples with a structured and enjoyable format for building Love Maps. We have used the Love Map Cards at the annual couples retreat, in the couples day treatment cycle, and in the multi-couple treatment program and it has been a pleasure to see how much our couples enjoy the exercise.

The Aftermath of a Fight or Regrettable Incident Questionnaire is probably the intervention that I have used most with couples. The purpose of the Aftermath of a Fight Intervention is to help couples process their last fight without entering back into the fight. The couple that I worked the longest with worked primarily on this skill. When they completed therapy, they told me: “We still fight, but not like we used to and we come back together sooner and process the fight on our own.” This is a couple that used to stonewall each other and go their separate ways for days; now they process their fights the same day, usually within a matter of an hour or two. That, in my book, is progress and, for them, is a “good enough marriage.”

Teaching softened startup is critical for my clients. Startup, the way a topic of disagreement is broached, is critically important in predicting marital outcomes. How a conflict discussion begins usually determines how it ends. If it starts harshly, it will end harshly. If it starts softly, it is more likely to end better. Harsh startup by the female partner is associated with relational or marital instability and divorce or separation (Gottman, 1999, p. 41). Women are consistently more likely to initiate conflict discussions and to use harsh startup. In my experience, startup in the couples that I have worked with is very harsh, so teaching couples how to initiate conflict discussions with softened startup is very helpful and effective for them in terms of managing conflict.

Teaching clients to soothe themselves and their partner is equally important. I have observed that when emotions and conflict are involved, my clients become quickly flooded and experience diffuse physiological arousal (DPA), which is to say that the body’s general alarm mechanism is activated and individuals experience physiological changes which make it harder to problem solve. Individuals in DPA only hear and see signals of danger; nothing else. They are more likely to attack or be defensive verbally. Empathy and creative thinking fly out the window; along with positive communications skills (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013, p. 37). With my clients, this usually results in domestic violence, a drinking binge, and/or a partner leaving for days or weeks. Therefore, it is important to teach couples to recognize when they are getting flooded and how to take a break and soothe themselves. A pulse rate above 95 beats per minute is a good indicator that someone is flooded. I once had a client that got up to 140 bpm in session. After doing a relaxation exercise with him, his pulse rate was 55, below the average rate of 60. He now uses the relaxation exercise to soothe himself when he is becoming flooded.

Finally, the Dreams Within Conflict Intervention is most useful in helping couples move from gridlock to dialogue on perpetual issues. The idea behind the intervention is that most gridlocked, perpetual conflict results from life dreams in conflict and the goal is to help couples dialogue about the conflict without getting back into gridlock. I have found that once couples understand the life dreams behind their partner’s position, there is a great softening that occurs. For example, I worked with one couple that, whenever they would argue, he would try to leave and she would try to retain him, and that is where the domestic violence would often begin. He grew up in a home where he witnessed his father brutally beat his mother and swore that he would not be like his father. Therefore, when he and his wife start to fight, he immediately starts to leave to avoid violence. She grew up in a home where her father abandoned her and her mother frequently and, eventually, all together, so she would try to retain her husband because his wanting to leave triggered her abandonment issues. Once they understood each other’s experience, they were able to soften their approach to each other in conflict and to take a negotiated time out instead of one wanting to leave and the other trying to retain the other.

One Caveat: The Uninvited-Invited Guest

There is one caveat or reservation to the effectiveness of Gottman Method Couples Therapy with a Native American population: the uninvited-invited guest of substance abuse (a concept that I will explore in a future essay). Any couples therapy approach with a Native American population has to take in account and address the high rates of substance abuse and the high correlation between substance abuse and intimate partner conflict on most reservations. In truth, most of our couples do okay as long as they are sober, but intimate partner violence on the Reservation almost always occurs in the context of substance abuse. I once asked our first responders what percentage of domestic violence calls involved substance abuse. Unofficially, they told me that substance use is involved in 90 to 95 percent of the domestic violence calls that they receive.

When people are intoxicated or under the influence of a substance, they cannot use the conflict management skills that they learn in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Sobriety is a pre-condition for the effectiveness of Gottman Method Couples Therapy. However, I believe that sobriety and the relationship can be worked on simultaneously and that the triggers and skills (I.e. stress reduction, managing conflict, creating a sober-supportive environment, etc.) for both overlap.


Gottman, J.M. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Gottman, J., & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2013). The Art & Science of Love: A Weekend Workshop for Couples. Seattle: The Gottman Institute.

Stith, S.M., McCollum, E.E., & Rosen, K.H. (2007). Domestic Violence Focused Couples Treatment: Multi-Couples Treatment Manual. Falls Church, VA: Virginia Tech.


This article originally appeared on the Happy Couples Happy Communities blog here. With 10 years of experience working with couples and families in community mental health and substance abuse treatment, Michael's mission is to bring quality, research-based couples workshops to non-profit organizations and communities with high needs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet Jeremy Cowart, the Most Influential Photographer on the Web

Meet Jeremy Cowart, the Most Influential Photographer on the Web
By Michael Fulwiler 

Jeremy Cowart is having a good year. Recently named the most influential photographer on the web by Huffington Post, he launched a new social network/community called OKDOTHIS in June and celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary with his wife Shannon in August. We caught up with Jeremy and asked him about his first date with Shannon, the secret to his happy marriage, and his favorite part about being married. Learn more about Jeremy on his website here

Q. We loved your photos that you shared on your 15-year wedding anniversary, especially the one of you and Shannon on your first date in 1996. What do you remember about that first date, nearly 20 years later? What stands out to you? 

A. I just remember that I loved being with her. It wasn't a typical teenage love thing. It felt more like a best friend for life kind of thing. Two weeks after that date, I started telling friends and family that I'd marry her. 2 years later, I did. I had good instincts! I also remember noticing how she cared for others and had a big heart for the homeless. She was very different from all the other girls.

Q. You say that a secret to the success of your marriage has been that you and your wife have "never taken ourselves or life in general too seriously." Can you talk about that? What role has humor played in your marriage? 

A. Yeah, we have a very funny, goofy marriage. If you've ever seen Anchorman where Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone talk smack back and forth, then you've seen my wife and I talking smack. We do it all the time. And strangely enough, it works in terms of ending conflict. Not all the time but a lot of the time. She can be genuinely mad at me for something and threaten me by saying, "I will hit this eject button and eject you out of the car." I'll respond with, "Oh yeah? I'll eject your face." We basically start one-upping each other and the serious moment changes to us dying laughing. So that's a good example of how we don't take things too seriously. And we're just dead honest with each other. Yesterday, she was telling me that I'm getting a little thick and need to hit the treadmill (laughs). We can have those honest conversations without getting too offended.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to a couple getting married tomorrow? This can be something you've learned in your own marriage, or advice that was once given to you. 

A. Gosh, this is a long list, but I'd say let go of expectations. There's going to be an endless list of faults in your spouse that you didn't see coming. Then another endless list of faults with the spouse’s family (laughs). So, keep your expectations low and let everything be a pleasant surprise. Also, in this day and age, unplug from social media and the internet as often as possible. Don't let your phone time be your marriage. Don't take your phones to dinner. Keep technology out of the bedroom and just get to know each other. My wife and I spend a lot of time on our phones, but we didn't have them 15 years ago obviously and I'm really thankful for that. They can be a massive distraction from each other.

Q. What has your career as a photographer taught you about how to have a good marriage? 

A. I'd say it's taught me about trust. My wife has an immense trust in me. Not every wife would allow their husbands to photograph beautiful people and beautiful women for a living, or go on tour for 3 months with Britney Spears. In fact, it would really be hard for most women to allow that of their husbands. But she trusts me. And the funny thing is, that trust only makes me want to further that trust. It's the most attractive thing in the world. Trust is beautiful and jealousy is ugly. It's as simple as that.

Q. With such a busy schedule, what strategies do you have to make time for your marriage? Do you schedule regular rituals of connection? 

A. I think it's pretty simple. You just choose family every chance you get. When I fly to an event in another city to speak on Friday, I don't hang out all weekend. I fly back home as soon as I can to spend the rest of the weekend with my wife and kids. I go home at 5:00 every day and take my kids to school in the mornings. I'm just there every chance I can be and I know my wife appreciates that.

Q. What's your favorite part about being married to your wife? 

A. It goes back to the friendship I felt on day one. We're still best friends after 18 years of knowing each other. She gets me, I get her. We've never had "the bad year" and never really fought either. As my wife once said, "Our lives are not perfect but they're perfect for us."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Relationship Alphabet: S is for Sex

S is for Sex
By Zach Brittle, LMHC

The idea of me writing about sex is kind of comical. My wife will be the first to tell you that I don’t possess any kind of particular expertise. It’s not a criticism. It’s just part of the simple truth that despite seventeenish years of practice, we simply haven’t mastered what Drs. John and Julie Gottman have dubbed The Art and Science of Lovemaking.

In their Gott Sex? Series, the Gottmans have suggested that the best sex tends to be a result of the strongest friendships. In preparing to write And Baby Makes Three, Dr. John Gottman and his research team interviewed couples about sex and intimacy shortly after they had their first baby. I was fortunate enough to be part of this team which ultimately confirmed the hypothesis that good sex is very much interrelated with intimate trust, friendship, and conversations that create emotional connection.

This doesn’t seem like earth shattering information, but it also doesn’t necessarily line up with the thousands of contrary messages we are receiving about sex each day. I don’t know about you, but my sex life doesn’t look anything like the stuff I see on HBO or even the commercials during the Seahawks game. I call that “sexy sex” and it’s too simple. Most of the actual sex I’m familiar with is complicated. It’s risky. But, ultimately, it’s more rewarding than anything on TV.

With apologies to any of you looking for advice about how to have more "sexy sex," here are some thoughts on actual, real life lovemaking.

Talking about sex is more intimate than having sex.

Turns out, the most important part of cultivating a healthy sex life is talking about a healthy sex life. Only 9% of couples who can’t comfortably talk about sex with one another say that they’re satisfied sexually.

But have you ever tried talking about your sexual preferences, your fears, your hopes? Have you ever told your partner your sexual story? Do you know your sexual story? Not the story of your triumphs. Rather, the story of how you learned about sex, how you became aware of your sexuality, how you experienced the pain and shame, but also the joy and beauty of sex.

It’s tough. It’s not typical dinner table conversation, especially if your kids are around. And it’s not something you can check off the list while running errands. I don’t recommend texting or instant messaging about these most intimate details. However, probably the worst time to attempt this kind of conversation is during sex. Talking about sex deserves an intimate time and space. 

And it should be a priority. The Gottmans recommend creating Love Maps of your partner’s sexuality. If you’re new to this concept, start simple. You don’t have to go straight to questions of technique. Try this one:

There is an old saying that some partners want sex to feel close, but others only want sex when they already feel close. Does that fit us in any way? Do you think that’s true? Is it true of us? Is that a problem? If so, how can we make that better?

Do the work of cultivating intimacy in order to increase the quality of your intercourse. That said…

Intimacy is more important than intercourse.

We’ve somehow been conditioned to think about sex in terms of quantity and quality of intercourse. At the micro level, we’re primed to think about quantity and quality of orgasm. This emphasis misses the mark in both cases. Sex isn’t about the act. Or rather, sex isn’t only about the act. It is also and primarily about the connection.

There are seasons of life when capacity and tolerance for sex fluctuates. The mark of a healthy sex life cannot be measured by a number. If it were, then post-partum moms and men with erectile dysfunction (to name just two categories) would be in big trouble. Not to mention the depressed, the distracted, the deployed, etc. Even when sex (or orgasm) is impossible, intimacy is critical. 

This is where talking about sex comes in handy. But not just that, hugging, holding hands, snuggling, kissing all foster intimacy. So does conflict and resolution. So does growing old together. A commitment to intimacy can yield more frequent and more satisfying sex, but even when it doesn’t, intimacy remains and ultimately trumps intercourse. 

Impersonal sex is more fun than personal sex.

Wait. What did he say? I said, impersonal sex is more fun, but only in the way that a roller coaster is more fun than a hot-air balloon ride around the globe. (The latter may not seem like fun to you, but you get my meaning, I’m sure.) Impersonal sex, or, “erotic activity not founded on emotional connection and adoration of the partner” is always more fun. But, only because it doesn’t involve the hard work of intimacy building.

Much has been said about the perils of pornography, perhaps the most accessible example of impersonal sex. And there are no shortage of arguments against it: It promotes objectification of and violence towards women. It causes changes in the brain that lead to addiction. It’s immoral. It’s illegal. It’s pervasive. Whatever your objection, it seems to me that the biggest problem with pornography is that it has convinced men and women around the globe that sex is easy. That it’s “fun.” 

By now you know, I don’t think fun is the point. The point - in committed relationships - is sharing both the body and the mind and, I dare say, the soul. That’s not fun. It’s difficult and risky and also better. Personal sex isn’t easy. It’s hard work. Learning how to initiate (and refuse) sex is work. Getting to know your partner’s dreams, preferences, and body is work. Overcoming resistance, fear, and shame is work. Improving your technique is work.

Personal sex is work. It’s harder. It’s messier. It’s riskier. But it’s better. And couples who are committed to improving their intimate, passionate, romantic, and sexual lives with one another don’t have to settle for fun sex. 

So, back to the idea of me writing about sex. Believe it or not, it was pretty risky for me. I really wanted to write about Stonewalling, but I know that my ongoing sexual journey requires me to continue to do the work of leaning into intimacy and making personal sex a priority. Sometime this week, my wife will read this and shortly thereafter, I suspect we’ll be having a talk. But I’m ready, and looking forward to reaping the benefits of our hard work together.


This is Zach's 19th posting of his Relationship Alphabet column on The Gottman Relationship Blog. If you missed a posting or are reading for the first time, you can catch up on his column here. Zach is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Gottman Therapist in Seattle, WA specializing in couples therapy. You can learn more about Zach and inquire about availability at Follow Zach on Twitter @kzbrittle.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What Style of Parent are You?

What Style of Parent are You? 
By Michael Fulwiler

As promised on Wednesday, today on The Gottman Relationship Blog we provide a self-assessment to determine your parenting style. Are you a Disapproving parent? A Dismissing parent? An Emotion Coach? 

This self-assessment written by Dr. Gottman comes from Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. It asks questions about your feelings regarding sadness, fear, and anger – both in yourself and in your children. For each item, please select the choice that best fits how you feel. If you’re not sure, go with the answer that seems the closest. While this test requires you to answer a lot of questions, try to stick with it. The lengthy design ensures that we cover most aspects of each parenting style. 

1. Children really have very little to be sad about. T F

2. I think that anger is okay as long as it’s under control. T F

3. Children acting sad are usually just trying to get adults to feel sorry for them. T F

4. A child’s anger deserves a time-out. T F

5. When my child is acting sad, he turns into a real brat. T F

6. When my child is sad, I am expected to fix the world and make it perfect. T F

7. I really have no time for sadness in my own life. T F 

8. Anger is a dangerous state. T F

9. If you ignore a child’s sadness it tends to go away and take care of itself. T F

10. Anger usually means aggression. T F

11. Children often act sad to get their way. T F

12. I think sadness is okay as long as it’s under control. T F

13. Sadness is something one has to get over, to ride out, not to dwell on. T F 

14. I don’t mind dealing with a child’s sadness, as long as it doesn’t last long. T F 

15. I prefer a happy child to a child who is overly emotional. T F 

16. When my child is sad, it’s a time to problem-solve. T F

17. I help my children get over sadness quickly so they can move on to better things. T F 

18. I don’t see a child’s being sad as any kind of opportunity to teach the child much. T F

19. I think when kids are sad they have overemphasized the negative in life. T F

20. When my child is acting angry, she turns into a real brat. T F

21. I set limits on my child’s anger. T F

22. When my child acts sad, it’s to get attention. T F

23. Anger is an emotion worth exploring. T F

24. A lot of child’s anger comes from the child’s lack of understanding and immaturity. T F

25. I try to change my child’s angry moods into cheerful ones. T F

26. You should express the angel you feel. T F

27. When my child is sad, it’s a chance to get close. T F

28. Children really have very little to be angry about. T F

29. When my child is sad, I try to help the child explore what is making him sad. T F

30. When my child is sad, I show my child that I understand. T F

31. I want my child to experience sadness. T F 

32. The important thing is to find out why a child is feeling sad. T F

33. Childhood is a happy-go-lucky time, not a time for feeling sad or angry. T F

34. When my child is sad, we sit down to talk over the sadness. T F

35. When my child is sad, I try to help him figure out why the feeling is there. T F

36. When my child is angry, it’s an opportunity for getting close. T F

37. When my child is angry, I take some time to try to experience this feeling with my child. T F

38. I want my child to experience anger. T F

39. I think it’s good for kids to feel angry sometimes. T F

40. The important thing is to find out why the child is feeling angry. T F

41. When she gets sad, I warn her about not developing a bad character. T F

42. When my child is sad I’m worried he will develop a negative personality. T F

43. I’m not really trying to teach my child anything in particular about sadness. T F

44. If there’s a lesson I have about sadness it’s that it’s okay to express it. T F

45. I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done to change sadness. T F

46. There’s not much you can do for a sad child beyond offering him comfort. T F

47. When my child is sad, I try to let him know that I love him no matter what. T F

48. When my child is sad, I’m not quite sure what she wants me to do. T F

49. I’m not really trying to teach my child anything in particular about anger. T F

50. If there’s a lesson I have about anger it’s that it’s okay to express it. T F

51. When my child is angry, I try to be understanding of his mood. T F

52. When my child is angry, I try to let her know that I love her no matter what. T F

53. When my child is angry, I’m not quite sure what he wants me to do. T F 

54. My child has a bad temper and I worry about it. T F

55. I don’t think it is right for a child to show anger. T F

56. Angry people are out of control. T F

57. A child’s expressing anger amounts to a temper tantrum. T F

58. Kids get angry to get their own way. T F

59. When my child gets angry, I worry about his destructive tendencies. T F

60. If you let kids get angry, they will think they can get their way all the time. T F

61. Angry children are being disrespectful. T F 

62. Kids are pretty funny when they’re angry. T F

63. Anger tends to cloud my judgment and I do things I regret. T F

64. When my child is angry, it’s time to solve a problem. T F

65. When my child gets angry, I think it’s time for a spanking. T F

66. When my child gets angry, my goal is to get him to stop. T F

67. I don’t make a big deal of a child’s anger. T F

68. When my child is angry, I usually don’t take it all that seriously. T F

69. When I’m angry, I feel like I’m going to explode. T F

70. Anger accomplishes nothing. T F

71. Anger is exciting for a child to express. T F

72. A child’s anger is important. T F

73. Children have a right to feel angry. T F

74. When my child is mad, I just find out what is making her mad. T F

75. It’s important to help the child find out what cause the child’s anger. T F

76. When my child gets angry with me I think, “I don’t want to hear this.” T F

77. When my child is angry I think, “If only he could just learn to roll with the punches.” T F

78. When my child is angry I think, “Why can’t she accept things as they are?” T F

79. I want my child to get angry, to stand up for himself. T F

80. I don’t make a big deal out of my child’s sadness. T F

81. When my child is angry I want to know what she is thinking. T F


Dismissing: Add up the number of times you said “true” for the following items: 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 28, 33, 43, 62, 66, 67, 68, 76, 77, 78, 80. Divide the total by 25. This is your Dismissing score.

Disapproving: Add up the number of times you said “true” for the following items: 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 20, 21, 22, 41, 42, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 65, 69, 70. Divide the total by 23. This is your Disapproving score. 

Laissez-Faire: Add up the number of times you said “true” for the following items: 26, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53. Divide the total by 10. This is your Laissez-Faire score. 

Emotion Coaching: Add up the number of times you said “true” for the following items: 16, 23, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 51, 64, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 79, 81. Divide the total by 23. This is your Emotion Coaching score.

Compare your four scores. The higher you scored in any one area, the more you tend toward that style of parenting. Then look back at the bulleted lists from Wednesday’s posting, which summarizes behaviors typical of each parenting style and explain how each style affects children.

If, after reading about the different styles of parenting, you identify aspects of your relationship with your child that you’d like to change, you’ll find the Emotion Coaching: The Heart of Parenting video program helpful. It offers detailed information and exercises about the five steps that constitute Emotion Coaching.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Four Parenting Styles

The Four Parenting Styles 
By Michael Fulwiler

With school starting up again, we would like to turn our attention to the relationship between parent and child. As Dr. Gottman explains in Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, "good parenting involves emotion." Dating back to the 1990s, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships. For parents, this quality of “emotional intelligence” means being aware of your child’s feelings, and being able to empathize, soothe, and guide them.

When it comes to raising children, what parental behaviors make the difference? As a research-psychologist studying parent-child interactions, Dr. Gottman has spent much of the past forty years looking for the answer to this question. Working with research teams at the University of Illinois and the University of Washington, his studies involved lengthy interviews with parents, talking about their marriages, their reactions to their children’s emotional experiences, and their own awareness of the role emotion plays in their lives.

The results tell a simple, yet compelling story. We have found that most parents fall into one of two broad categories: those who give their children guidance about the world of emotion and those who don’t. We call parents who get involved with their children’s feelings “Emotion Coaches.” 

We have identified four types of parents and the effects of this parenting style on their children: 

The Dismissing Parent 
  • Treats child’s feelings as unimportant, trivial 
  • Disengages from or ignores the child’s feelings
  • Wants the child’s negative emotions to disappear quickly
  • Sees the child’s emotions as a demand to fix things
  • Minimizes the child’s feelings, downplaying the events that led to the emotion
  • Does not problem-solve with the child, believes that the passage of time will resolve most problems 

Effects of this style on children: They learn that their feelings are wrong, inappropriate, not valid. They may learn that there is something inherently wrong with them because of the way they feel. They may have difficulty regulating their own emotions.

The Disapproving Parent 
  • Displays many of the Dismissing Parent’s behaviors, but in a more negative way 
  • Judges and criticizes the child’s emotional expression
  • Emphasizes conformity to good standards of behavior 
  • Believes negative emotions need to be controlled 
  • Believes emotions make people weak; children must be emotionally tough for survival 
  • Believes negative emotions are unproductive, a waste of time

Effects of this style on children: Same as the Dissaproving style.

The Laissez-Faire Parent
  • Freely accepts all emotional expression from the child 
  • Offers little guidance on behavior
  • Does not set limits
  • Believes there is little you can do about negative emotions other than ride them out
  • Does not help child solve problems 
  • Believes that managing negative emotions is a matter of hydraulics, release the emotion and the work is done 

Effects of this style on children: They don’t learn to regulate their emotions. They have trouble concentrating, forming friendships, and getting along with other children.

The Emotion Coach
  • Values the child’s negative emotions as an opportunity for intimacy
  • Is aware of and values her or her own emotions
  • Sees the world of negative emotions as an important arena for parenting 
  • Does not poke fun at or make light of the child’s negative feelings
  • Does not say how the child should feel 
  • Uses emotional moments as a time to listen to the child, empathize with soothing words and affection, help the child label the emotion he or she is feeling, offer guidance on regulating emotions, set limits and teach acceptable expression of emotions, and teach problem-solving skills 

Effects of this style on children: They learn to trust their feelings, regulate their own emotions, and solve problems. They have a high self-esteem, learn well, and get alone well with others. 

The concept of Emotion Coaching is a simple one that’s rooted in our deepest feelings of love and empathy for our children. Unfortunately, however, Emotion Coaching doesn’t come naturally to all parents. Rather, Emotion Coaching is an art that requires emotional awareness and a specific set of listening and problem-solving behaviors – behaviors Dr. Gottman and his colleagues identified and analyzed in their observation of healthy, well-functioning families. The path to becoming a better parent, like almost every road to personal growth, begins with self-examination. On Friday, we will share an assessment to help you determine what style of parent you are.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Weekend Homework Assignment: Repair Attempts

Weekend Homework Assignment: Repair Attempts 
By Michael Fulwiler 

As Zach Brittle explained in his “R is for Repair” column on Tuesday, in relational terms, repair is less about fixing what is broken and more about getting back on track. Dr. Gottman refers to repair attempts as “the secret weapon” of emotionally intelligent couples, even though many of these couples aren’t aware that they are doing something so powerful. Are you effectively utilizing repair attempts in your relationship? 

Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we provide a questionnaire to assess the effectiveness of your repair attempts. Take some time this weekend to complete it with your partner. 

Repair Attempts Questionnaire: 
Read each statement below and choose T for “true” or F for “false.”

During our attempts to resolve conflict: 

1.  We are good at taking breaks when we need them. T F
2.  My partner usually accepts my apologies. T F
3.  I can say that I am wrong. T F
4.  I am pretty good at calming myself down. T F
5.  We can maintain a sense of humor. T F 
6.  When my partner says we should talk to each other in a different way, it usually makes a lot of sense. T F
7.  My attempts to repair our discussions when they get negative are usually effective. T F
8.  We are pretty good listeners even when we have different positions on things. T F
9.  If things get heated, we can usually pull out of it and change things. T F
10.  My partner is good at soothing me when I get upset. T F
11.  I feel confident that we can resolve most issues between us. T F
12.  When I comment on how we could communicate better my spouse listens to me. T F 
13.  Even if things get hard at times I know we can get past our differences. T F
14.  We can be affectionate even when we are disagreeing. T F
15.  Teasing and humor usually work to get my partner over negativity. T F
16.  We can start all over again and improve our discussion when we need to. T F
17.  When emotions run hot, expressing how upset I feel makes a real difference. T F
18.  We can discuss even big differences between us. T F
19.  My partner expresses appreciation for nice things I do. T F
20.  If I keep trying to communicate it will eventually work. T F 

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each “true” answer
6 or Above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. When conflict discussions are at risk of getting out of hand, you are able to put on the brakes and effectively calm each other down.
Below 6: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. By learning how to repair your interactions when negativity engulfs you, you can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your problem solving and develop a more positive perspective of each other and your relationship.

What separates stable, emotionally intelligent couples from others is not that their repair attempts are necessarily more skillful or better thought out, but that their repair attempts get through to their partner. Because repair attempts can be difficult to hear if your relationship is engulfed in negativity, the best strategy is to make your attempts more formal and deliberate in order to emphasize them. Talk to your partner this weekend about repair attempts. If you need a place to start, check out the Gottman Repair Checklist here. What works for you? What doesn't? Don't be afraid to get creative.