Do you live in the ‘conflict avoidance’ zone?

You know what needs to be said and done… but it is neither said nor done.  You are in the ‘conflict avoidance’ zone.

Nobody wants to fight with their kids or spouse.  A little peace and quiet seems like a good thing, a desirable state of affairs.  Who doesn’t want a hassle-free morning, an argument-free vacation, a quiet dinner, or a compliant child?  We all do; however, avoiding our inner wisdom and going for harmony often leads to bigger conflicts and problems later on.  Gratification in the short term can derail our long-term vision and results. Let’s get to the heart of the matter, so we can change it.

 

three monkeys

This phenomenon of avoiding conflict is definitely in my top five list of what not to do.  I see it as a volunteer, as a coach, in the business world, and in my own life.  I am no stranger to conflict avoidance.  As a child, I got the message not to  share my (differing) opinions and my feelings.  Of course, I took this message into adulthood, marriage and parenting.  It did not serve me well, and it takes a conscious effort to overcome it, and speak my mind in ways that can be heard.
 
We are master problem-solvers.  Like all good problem-solvers, though, we must first identify obstacles that hold us back. Why do more people than not avoid conflict?  Why do you do what has the potential to backfire on you, your children and your relationships?
 
As always, fear is the biggest motivator.  More specifically, it’s fear of speaking the truth as you see it.  What are the outcomes you’re trying to avoid?
 
* being rejected
* feeling unloved or unwanted
* making a mistake or being wrong (in other words, not being perfect)
* not getting your way
* others being angry at you
* your children saying they hate you and giving you the silent treatment
* jeopardizing a friendship
* having to act on that truth, and feeling unable to follow through
 
That’s just a sampling.  Hopefully, it will start you thinking about why you spend time in the ‘conflict avoidance zone.’  Once you figure it out, here are some tips for stepping out and living in a more honest way.
 

1) STOP.   You know when you’re going there.  You can feel it in your breathing or in the flutter or tightness that settles somewhere in your body.  When you become aware of it, stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re saying. Breathe.

 2) LISTEN to yourself, to the inner voice of wisdom that is bubbling up to be heard.

 3)  UNDERSTAND the real message.  It’s the voice of truth, not of avoidance and conciliation.  The truth may be difficult to say and to hear, but ultimately it does set you free.  It will clear the way for understanding, connection, and the next right step.
 
4)  SHARE your truth.  If you continue to run from it, it will smother you and your relationships.  The key is in how you express it.  There are ways to say what you mean with love and integrity, and without judgment and anger.

 

Reflection/Action:

1)  What is an issue that you shy away from discussing, and what is the fear?
2)  How does avoiding this issue affect you and your family later on?
3)  What are your children learning about how to resolve differences when you react this way?
4)  Consider discussing the issue of ‘conflict avoidance’ with family members.
5)  Script out what you’d like to say so you can remain calm and stay on topic.

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Goldfish Crackers: Confessions of a Health-Conscious Mom

You have everything all set for success and, surprise! The unexpected happens. So it was for Holistic Health Coach, Erica Danziger, this month’s guest expert. On a typical trip to the supermarket, her seven-year old son used the facts this health-conscious mom taught him, and made a food choice that took her by surprise.

Read her article, How a Naturally-Minded Mom Chose to Buy Goldfish Crackers. Aside from the nutrition lesson, you’ll sweetly remember that young children have logic that will surprise you, and sometimes you just can’t argue with it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

How a Naturally-Minded Mom Chose to Buy Goldfish Crackers
by Erica Danziger, Holistic Health Coach

 

I can’t believe I did it. I teach this stuff. I live these lessons.
How could I have bought my kids Goldfish crackers today?

 

How it Came to Pass
There we were, in the market, and my almost seven-year old son asked if he could buy a certain (junky) cereal. After offering my standard reply like a drone, “We don’t eat those foods in this family” over and over again, I suddenly realized he needed to know more.

He needed to know WHY.  So I decided to coach my son like I would any client – and he loved it.

I taught him first how to find the Nutritional Facts on the side of the cereal box.mom_kid_shopping

Next, I taught him how to find the number of grams of sugar, as a part of the food’s total carbohydrates and, for correct comparison to other cereals, realize the serving size (9 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving is less than 9 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving).

Finally, I taught him how to identify where sugar was in the order of ingredients (closer to the “first in the order” means there’s “more of it” relative to the other ingredients).

Kids need easy-to-follow and logical directions.  He was happy and proud of his choices. I was happy and proud of his choices.

And then it happened. We came to the Goldfish cracker aisle.

 

Clearly, I was Stunned into Submission.
We were on a roll dismissing products that clearly had “bad ingredients” in them (namely, white sugar as one of the first three ingredients).

“Sure, go ahead. Let’s explore the Rainbow Goldfish”, I said confidently. I just knew they didn’t have a chance with my now fully enlightened child.

First three ingredients: enriched wheat, cheddar cheese and oils.  While they weren’t great, I couldn’t reject them outright.  Next came a bunch of ingredients we didn’t know too much about – two types of yeast and some leavening – nothing too alarming.

I thought, “Wait for it…. wait for it….” fully expecting the list to end with artificial food coloring – an ingredient that is not allowed in our house.

But there it was — watermelon juice, turmeric powder and beet juice. WHAT?!  Naturally colored Goldfish?!

All the wind went out of my sails and it was nearly impossible to say, “No” to his little inquiring face.  Those little fish made it through our family’s checklist:

  1. No artificial food coloring
  2. Refined sugar wasn’t one of the first three ingredients.
  3. Most foods were recognizable by name.

I secretly looked over my shoulder to be sure we weren’t on candid camera and then agreed to put them in our shopping cart. No alarm bells went off, no sirens sounded. So far, so good.

 

rainbowfishHow I Made it Work for Us
Realizing saying, “yes” to this purchase could lead to future expectations, I created a few easily understandable boundaries.

1.  I said “no” to the gigantic party-size box.
2.  I explained this was a “one-time” purchase.


I offered my kids tiny serving sizes portioned out into Dixie-sized cups that I “borrowed” from the coffee stand in the market. My kids – with huge smiles on their faces – chowed down on their brightly colored snack.

“Just like we have in school!”, my four-year old daughter exclaimed excitedly.

I smacked my forehead. What had I done?

 

What’s Really Wrong with Goldfish?
Here are four reasons Goldfish are not a healthy snack choice:

  1. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) – Ingredients like canola oil and soy are typically genetically modified ingredients in this country. GMO crops, while outlawed in many European countries, are allowed by our government – without labeling. There is a strong debate about the health risks to humans, environmental impact on the planet and ethical implications to small farmers of GMO crops. They are still relatively new and their long-term effects on human health is still unknown. What we do know is GMO foods — like corn, soy and canola — are present in nearly every conventionally packaged food, making “moderation” nearly impossible.
  2. Conventional dairy - The cheese in Goldfish crackers is real cheese…mostly. It’s mixed with some oils but its main source is the actual stuff that comes from cows. Cows, in this case, that are pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics and live in overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions. Another hotly debated issue, many naturally-minded consumers choose organic meat and dairy sources to feed their families because of concerns about early onset puberty, infertility and higher rates of cancer, not to mention conscious connection to another animal’s suffering in poor conditions.
  3. High sodium content – My son and I had been so busy avoiding sugar in the cereal aisle that I hadn’t bothered to explain to him the dangers of high sodium in packaged products. When it comes to typical packaged kids’ food, I find there is usually one of two culprits – sugar or sodium. In this case, it was the high sodium content that should make you gasp. High sodium in children’s diets has been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. 
  4. MSG (monosodium glutamate) - The ingredient, autolyzed yeast, is a form of glutamates. Whether they are naturally occurring and much lower than the infamous “MSG” is up for some debate. While “MSG is blamed by some groups for a range of serious neurological and physiological disorders. Some studies have identified both MSG … as excitotoxins, substances that overstimulate [neurons] to the point of cell damage.”1 (Think: Alzheimer’s) However, others say, “Autolyzed yeasts… are completely natural ingredients that happen to be have substantial amounts of glutamates, but nowhere near the concentration found in MSG.”2

But… are they okay in moderation?
This is a typical question I hear from my clients when I educate them about the potential dangers in our food.  Dangerous additives and ingredients are in so many foods that it can be completely overwhelming to a busy parent.

  • You have all the right intentions in mind.
  • You’re not trying to break your children with the food you feed to them.
  • But you also know you can’t be all the way perfect all of the time – it’s just not realistic for your lifestyle.

Is MSG, conventional dairy or GMOs okay sometimes and in moderation?
That’s a very personal question that you have to answer for yourself and your family.

Armed with balanced education and realistic strategies, I can help my clients achieve the health through food that they, busy parents like you, want so badly you can almost taste it.

 

Healthier Snack Choices
Of course, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are always healthier choices over pre-packaged snacks. But, sometimes, your kid really wants the same snack as the other children and you just want to make the best choice possible in the cracker aisle.

Here are a few of my kids’ favorite packaged salty snacks:

  • Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies
  • Suzie’s Organic Saltines
  • Beigel Beigel Whole Wheat Pretzels

The good news is, there are plenty of natural snacks on the market these days so making smart and healthy choices is super easy. With support and guidance, you’ll be unstoppable in the market!

* Caveat: I am not an investigative journalist and this information is not to be construed in any way as medical advice or scientific statements. This is simply the story of one Mom’s decision to buy a product — one time.

Footnotes

  1. 2008 Times article
  2. Whole Foods

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From Market to Table (March Interview)

If you’re like most people who do the family food shopping, you’d like fewer visits to the market, to be in and out more quickly, and to know that your family is eating healthy, nourishing foods. This month’s tip for families and interview is “From Market to Table:  Simple Supermarket Strategies to Improve Your Family’s Health.”

My guest expert is Erica Danziger, a Holistic Health Coach and owner of Nature Girl Wellness, LLC.  Erica is going to share quick and easy strategies to better understand nutrition labels, to have a plan before you step foot in the supermarket, and to find healthy food alternatives that even your kids will like.  Join us on Thursday, March 19 at 11:00am Eastern Time. Details and registration are in the flier and sign-up box below.

More about Erica…  Erica teaches families how to get excited in the kitchen and learn to use foods – not just to eat – but to improve their health, increase their energy and decrease their stress.  Parents receive creative solutions, realistic techniques and simple strategies that are grounded in the reality of what’s truly possible for busy families.  Nature Girl Wellness offers both private and group coaching to parents who care about their family’s health and are committed to breaking with their food patterns to create a healthier future for their children.


 

Family Food Choices-blog


 

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Why you need rules AND principles to parent well

We parents tend to want to control our children’s behaviors and attitudes. Over time we develop a long list of rules. Rather than complying, our kids often push back and rebel. We end up arguing and making more rules, and cooperation becomes something we only dream about.

This is where your values and principles come into play. It is possible to have more peace and cooperation at home, even with rebellious teenagers. “Why you need rules AND principles to parent well” will show you how to do just that.

There are days when parenting a teenager seems like an endless series of confrontations over enforcing the rules. Our focus is often on maintaining some control. When we feel as if we are losing control, we may add another rule, and then another. We end up with a list of rules, and unhappy, uncooperative kids. Knowing what your principles are can make it easier to parent and decide on more effective rules. So what are rules and principles, and how are they different?

Rules are all about how we want things done, or not done, in the course of our day. They help establish order, and make things predictable. For example, you may have a rule that says “Don’t leave dishes in the family room” or “Homework must be finished before you post on Instagram.”

Principles are your values. They guide how you live your life. What is on your list of values to live by – respect, cleanliness, positive attitude, honesty, compassion, persistence?

list of rules

The biggest difference between rules and principles is this: rules change, principles don’t. If we are having a bad day, or our kids are having a bad day, we may change a rule or two. Our principles, our values, do not change.  And you need them both.

The first step is to determine what your values are.  What are the guiding principles of your life? This is a great opportunity to have a discussion with your children about what is important to you and to them. You can make separate lists and then see where your principles match up, or brainstorm the list together. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out how much you have in common, and to see that they really do understand some of the things you’ve tried to teach them. As teens, they are often in a state of confusion; however, underneath all that angst, they have taken in more than you realize… you just may not see it for a while.

The next step (not necessarily in the same sitting) is to make a list of the rules you believe are necessary to keep your family and home running smoothly. Ask yourself, “Why have I chosen these particular rules?” Now here is the part that will take some thought – What are the principles or values behind those rules? If it’s about not leaving dishes around the house, that may be because you value cleanliness and don’t want bugs feasting in your living room. If it’s about doing homework first, it might be that education is a priority, and that we act responsibly by completing required work first.

Did you notice that first you establish what your values are?  They are the true underpinning of your life. Now add the rules.  Once you are clear about your rules-principles equation, your foundation is set. No, your children will not necessarily buy into it.  They are kids, after all.  There are other things they’d rather do, and they want to do them now; however, it will make parenting, decision-making, and sticking to your decisions easier on you.

When you are clear about your principles, you can opt out of the discussions that teens are so good at drawing us into, discussions that go nowhere and leave you scratching your head about not making any progress. Or maybe you find yourself giving in, because kids are so good at outlasting us when they really want something.

Remember that first step where you and your kids found common ground on what you value?  Gently remind them that they identified with some shared beliefs.  Keep coming back to your principles and quietly end the discussion.

When you are committed to your principles, decision-making is clear, too. You don’t have to wonder if your decision or rule is right for the occasion. If it is aligned with your principles, you’re set.  This is the consistency that both parents and teens need in order to navigate through the days, and through life.

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The best way to pay a compliment

“Of course you’re good-looking.”  “You’re the best friend ever.”  “Who wouldn’t want you on their team?”  Is there a parent out there (including me) who hasn’t praised a child in order to make him or her feel better?  Sometimes it’s true, and sometimes we say it because we just can’t stand to see them hurt.  Our kids usually know the difference.  We’ve missed the mark and they tell us so. 

This kind of well-intentioned compliment doesn’t work. Read on to learn how to pay a compliment that will contribute to your child’s healthy self-esteem.

How well do you receive a compliment?  Are you able to say thank you, take it in and bask in the praise?  Or do you feel uncomfortable, rejecting it and the person who complimented you?  If you’ve ever done the latter, it shouldn’t be surprising that your kids do this, too.  After all, most of what they learn about life and relationships they learn from you, their parents.There really is a way to pay a compliment that leaves everyone feeling great about it.

Your kids are your babies, your pride and joy, and you want them to feel confident and recognize their positive qualities.  So why is it that they squirm, deny, and reject you and your positive words? How can you help them recognize and accept their wonderful character traits?

pay a compliment
Every parent has heard their child say, “You’re just saying that because you’re my mom/dad/grandpa/aunt.”  Sometimes they’re right. We don’t want them to be sad or disappointed. And of course we insist that’s not true, that they really are beautiful, gifted, talented, athletic and more.  It ends up in a stalemate and we wonder where we’ve gone wrong.

So here’s the thing:  they reject the compliment because they don’t believe they are what we say they are.  They don’t believe they can live up to what feel like high expectations.  Here’s a true story from 20-something Lisa.  Her sister was struggling with depression and low self-esteem, and Lisa was desperately trying to help her feel better about herself.  One day she simply (and sincerely) told her, “Karen, you look beautiful.”  She meant it, but Karen never saw herself as attractive, so the compliment came off sounding insincere to her.  (So much for good intentions.)  “No, I’m not,” she replied.  “You’re just saying that to make me feel good, but it’s not true.”  She was focused on her flaws and imperfections, instead of her goodness and potential.

You know you can’t change others and how they see themselves.  You can’t give them positive self-esteem; only they can do that by putting forward their best effort and attitudes.  What you can change is how you speak to them and acknowledge what you see.  How do you do that?  How do you pay a compliment that is heard and accepted and helps build self-esteem?  It’s easier than you think.  You talk about what you see. In Lisa’s case, it might sound like this:

          Lisa:          “Karen, that scarf and sweater go together really well.”  OR
                            “You put together a nice outfit.”

          Karen:        “I did?  Oh, I did!  Thanks.”

That’s not about Karen’s beliefs about herself; it’s about the effort she made and what she accomplished.  It’s much easier for her to accept that the items of clothing look nice together.  She made that happen.  It’s a world away from telling her she is beautiful, which is purely subjective.

Here’s a scenario between a parent and child:  After a game you say, “Mike, you’re a great basketball player.”  He says, “No, I’m not.  There are lots of guys who play better than I do.”  He’s focusing on the negative and making comparisons.   Here’s another way to approach it:

          Dad:           “Mike, I noticed how focused you were, looking for chances
                             to pass the ball to your teammates.  Well done.”

          Mike:         “Yeah, Dad.  I’ve been working on that.”

This is not an evaluation of Mike’s performance or ability.  It is an observation of his effort, an acknowledgement of what his dad saw him do.  Mike did it.  He made it happen. No judgment, no comparison, no expectations.  Just the facts Compliment received.

You do realize this works with everyone, not just our kids, right?   Friends, co-workers, the supermarket cashier, even our own parents will appreciate it.  (Include yourself in there.) It would be nice if people could always be aware of the good things they do and the positive qualities they have… but they aren’t.

Remember that people feel good about themselves when they do good things. The reality is that sometimes they need others to point out or remind them of what they’ve done.  Let’s say it so they can really hear it.

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