Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to Stop Nagging, Blaming, and Other Vicious Cycles

(Feel free to print out any of these chapter excerpts)

This is the second excerpt from Chapter 6 of Stressed Family, Strong Family
Chapter Title: Reduce Stress--Recycle Your Family!


You first need to realize you’ve gotten caught in a cycle. This can be hard to see when you are in the middle of an argument or are busy nagging.
Remember that neither of the people in a true cycle causes it. THE CYCLE CAUSES ITSELF.
Pick a time when you’re not blaming, arguing or fighting with the other person. If you never have any peace between the two of you, get help from a counselor. You need to be able to talk calmly to each other once in a while for my ideas to work. If you are seeing a counselor, he or she may use some of these same ideas.

1. Practice what you’re going to say to the other person about the cycle you see the two of you stuck in. Try saying it out loud, when you are alone, or say it to a friend. This will help you feel less tense when you bring it up with the person you argue with. In your own words explain that you have read about cycles and nagging or blaming. For ideas about what to say, see Step 5.

2. What if you two never talk? If you and this person don’t usually talk together, tell them that you want to try. See if you can get the other to agree to practice talking together. Tell them something like: “This book shows some ways for people to talk to each other. I’d like to try the ideas.”
You could start by talking about something easy--things you each like. Or you can talk about a TV program, maybe while you watch. What you are doing is practicing for the time when you can begin to talk about more serious matters.
Don’t be too upset if this feels strange. When people haven’t been talking, it can take many tries to get used to it. Keep trying. You can even say something like: “Talking like this feels weird.”
But be careful not to blame the other person for never talking! You can say something like, “I guess we’ve gotten out of the habit of talking.” (If you once had a habit of talking.)

3. After you get the habit of talking, go on to step 5. Try talking about one of the blame topics--the things you can’t talk about without blaming each other. And remember, most couples have some things they just can’t discuss. Pick one of the things you can talk about, not one of those impossible topics.

4. If you just can’t talk about anything, even pleasant things, see a counselor, member of the clergy, or other trained person who can help.

5. If you are able to talk together say something like this (use your own words): “You know those times when we get into arguments about ____________? (You fill in with whatever you usually argue about.) Well, this book calls it a blame (or nag)
cycle. You know how we go back and forth, back and forth, same old arguments? Until I blow up (or cry, or whatever you do.) “
You go on in this talk to say something like this:
“This book says that these cycles get going and after a while it’s nobody‘s fault. We just get stuck in it and keep going around and around. One wrong word or look, and we’re off. Either of us might start it or keep it going.
“You know: when I say you’re ___________ (whatever you say), and you get mad and tell me _____________ (whatever the other person tells you.) I’d like to try to stop doing that. Do you want to try to stop?”

6. If you just can’t talk about the cycle without getting into blaming, ask a counselor or someone you both trust to help you talk about it.

7. If the other person is willing to try changing, agree that either one of you can say, “I think we’re getting into a blame cycle again. Let’s back off and try to relax.” There are more suggestions about changing the cycle in the next section.

8. Even if the other person doesn’t think you’re starting into the cycle, can they agree to stop and relax when you ask?

9. If you can each back off, find something else to do. You’re not shutting the person out. You can each do something separately, or maybe there’s something you both feel like doing together. Anything as long as you don’t get into blaming.

10. Then you can talk later about whatever it was that you started blaming or nagging about. Suggest something you can do to handle the problem. You can use the ideas in the next section.

11. Remember: both of you will be changing the way you see yourself and the other person. This is a hard job, and will take those qualities mentioned before:
Time: You will need time to try the changes.
Patience: You need patience when you slip back
Courage: Courage to keep on trying
Hope: Hope will give you that courage
Compassion: Compassion helps forgive yourself or the other person when you slip back into the old patterns.

Does that sound like a tough list to live up to? It is. But those five things, time, patience, courage, hope, and compassion will help you along the hard road of change.
Don't be Discouraged if You Backslide

Most people find that they slide back into a cycle, maybe several times, when they are learning a new way to look at cycles. The next steps help to keep up your hope and courage by stopping the cycle when you get caught up in it.

And keep in mind that some kids will take advantage of the splits and arguments between parents. Kids will go to the softer one to get what they want. Then they tell the other one that they got permission.

Don’t ride those negative cycles into a brick wall. Find some positive ones, (such as praise, encouragement, humor) with help from a counselor if your need it. Tell us what you learned, and how to improve this section on cycles.


1. I've described some ideas about changing the nag-shirk and blame cycles in the previous section. But those ideas may not prevent the cycle from breaking out between the two of you. Habits are hard to break. The you risk getting into a new round of the cycle.

Clues to Trouble:
Accusing one another with words like "You always," or "You never," can be a clue that a blame cycle might be lurking.

What to do: When one of you realizes you’re starting on a blame or nag cycle again, remind the other of your plan above. Don’t do this in a way that accuses them. Keep your tone calm. Say something like, “seems like we’re starting in on that cycle again.” Or you could even say, “Here comes that blame cycle again.” (Or nag cycle, or whatever you’re about to get caught up in.)
Remember, by saying “we” you are reminding both of you that it’s no one’s fault.

2. Don’t make the other person feel stupid or bad because the two of you have slipped into a cycle again.

3. Don’t accuse the other of causing it. You agree to cool off, stop arguing, or whatever your part of the cycle is.

4. Ask if they feel like you’re blaming or nagging them, etc. If they feel that way, apologize and tell them again that you’d really like to stay out of the cycle. If you’re feeling nagged or blamed, say so in a neutral tone. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt like you were nagging me just then. Did I take what you said the wrong way?”

5. Use this escape route.
First, each one listen while the other says what they would like to do to make things better. (See “What you can do instead of the cycle” below.)
Listen to the other person's plan.
Don’t interrupt them.
Don’t disagree, or tell them the plan won't work.
Then say what you would like to do to make things better. The other adult or kid listens, does not interrupt, does not say your plan won't work.

6. You don’t need to agree on one plan. If each of you can try your idea, go ahead. Ask each other how you’re doing in a day or whenever you have had a chance to try the plan.
7. What you can do instead of the cycle

First, tell the other person you are not going to blame them, remind them, nag, or whatever. (Unless they ask you to remind them. If they want you to remind them, go ahead. At least they have realized they need reminding.)
Second, tell the person you are going to take a break, stop this conversation, and do something else for a while. Tell them you are not running away from the problem.

8. If you are a kid, change your part in the cycle. Quit blaming your parent or teacher for your problems. Start doing your chores, your homework, whatever you are supposed to do.
Don’t blame others, fix your own part of the cycle.

Most important: do those chores or homework without being reminded. Even if you still get reminded once in a while, keep on doing the chores or homework before you get reminded.

Don’t start blaming your parent for reminding you. When you get reminded, you can say, “Mom, I already did it. See?” Say that in a calm voice. Don’t yell.

Do the best job you can. If you need help with homework after trying your best, ask for help. If your parent can’t help, ask someone else who can. That might be another kid, or a teacher, a tutor, or a family friend.
And if you really did forget to do it, say this so a calm way. “Sorry, I forgot to do it. I’ll do it right now.”
If you want to be reminded for the first few times, ask your parent to remind you. You’re taking at least some responsibility by admitting you forget and asking for help. Later on you can take the whole responsibility by doing it without reminding. Then tell your parent, “I think I can do it without reminding. Let me try.”

9. Kids may need a reward after doing the chores. They can watch a TV program, play a video game, go out and play, whatever works. This is not a bribe, this is a way to teach them to do their work before they play.

10. If you need help finding strengths in an arguing child, you can look on arguing as a type of assertiveness. In the next chapter, see Number 5, ASSERTIVENESS, DRIVE, SELF-DEFENSE, SELF CONFIDENCE. (Note: this will appear in a future post.) Those abilities can often harness the same energy as arguing, but in a more constructive way.

11. As an adult, try to take a break from the cycle by doing something else instead of nagging or arguing. Explain that you’re not mad, not walking out on the problem. You just need a break and you want to stay out of the cycle. Take your mind off the problem. Do a chore of your own. Take a walk if you have time and your neighborhood is safe.

12. Offer to tackle the chore together with a youth. Team up instead of arguing about it. Dividing up the chore will require teamwork. You may have different ideas about how to do it. See if you can try the other person’s way. Or see if they can try yours. (Suppose the problem is homework, and the kid has tried and needs help. You can go over it with him or her, if you know how to do it. If not, write a note to the teacher saying that your child tried and needs help with this homework.

That's the end of this second part of Chapater 6

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