Three Can Be Too Many

by Maxine
Posted August 19 2010 12:37pm
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One Mom to another…
"Martha, you will never guess what Sally just told me about her little Jason…but keep it to yourself, okay?"

Dad says to his friend…
"I want to see my father this weekend, but I know Jane is tired. I know, I'll tell Jane my mom wants to see her grandchild."

One child to another…
"I told Mom that you won't let me play Lego with you and your friend."


Mom to child…
"Honey, you should tell your father how much you enjoyed the dinner he bought us…and after that, maybe I'll gently mention the little fender bender we had on the way home."

These are examples of daily conversations that take place among millions of people. However, they all have something in common: They’re examples of what communications experts call triangulation. Triangulation happens when an issue exists between two people and one of them involves a third person. This is done in an attempt to control the conflict, achieve a desired goal or to prevent someone from getting angry. Triangulation is frequently used to maintain closeness or become closer to someone, to avoid conflict with or transfer conflict to someone else. Typically, one of the parties is not aware of what is happening.

Message Triangles

Usually, triangulation occurs to give a message in an indirect way or to share information that is personal and private. This happens because, for whatever the reason, the person sending the message is not comfortable to do it directly. For example, a husband who wants to have some time alone might triangulate a message to his wife by saying, "Do you know what I heard on the news last night, Mary? Men who spend time on hobbies tend to have stronger marriages," rather than saying, "I need more time for myself."

Are you now wondering if you're guilty of triangulation? Don't worry. We all use triangulation and we all become triangulated: it's commonplace in how we deal with issues. Pay attention to how often triangulation happens around you. Most soap operas and sitcoms are based on it—you know…Mom, Dad and in-laws. As you become more aware of triangulation, you'll be fascinated at just how common it is.

During the Victorian era in European and North American high society, triangulation was the preferred way of communicating. It was almost an art form! Some cultures around the world still value triangulation as the preferred way to communicate about interpersonal problems. In some families today, it's simply unacceptable to speak directly to a person about feelings—especially when it's likely to have an unhappy or angry impact, or when it concerns an intimate topic, such as sex or health issues.

The Impact

Although triangulation is common, it can have a negative impact on your family.
Triangulation doesn't allow couples to resolve the issue between them. If you're only talking secretly to your parents or your best friends about an issue with your partner, there's no chance for your partner to give you the real facts. Unless you speak to your partner, there's no way for the two of you to deal with the issue in a constructive way. The problem can become a thorn in your relationship—especially if it's a recurring issue.

Triangulation interferes with building trust in a relationship. In intimate relationships, it's difficult to keep issues a secret for long. When one partner—Mom, for example—discovers that Dad has been discussing aspects of their relationship with his friends, it can move his partner relationship to disappointment and even distrust. This is especially likely if as a result of those conversations, Dad tries to manipulate Mom indirectly.

Triangulation can make it easy to misrepresent a person's actions or motives, or to exaggerate them—even if it's unintentional.
In the example above, when the triangulation comes to light, not only will Mom be hurt because her husband didn't trust her, but now she feels like she looks bad to the friends her partner confided in.

Children will attempt to triangulate very early in life. One of the most common ways is to maneuver between Moms and Dads to get what they want.
Here's a simple example: Bradley toddles over to his Dad to see if he can have a piece of candy. Dad permits it. However, after Bradley has the candy in his mouth, Dad finds out that his son asked Mom first and she said "no". While Brad is enjoying his candy, Mom and Dad are in a heated argument.

In these situations, parents need to quickly learn to band together for their own sake, as well for their children's sake.

Another way children learn to triangulate is when parents say something like, "Don't tell Mommy." or "Don't tell Daddy…it's our secret." Fortunately, there's a natural stop for this type of triangulation—children can't keep secrets until they are 3 to 4 years old. They can't knowingly lie either. So, don't encourage your child to hide anything. Your child needs to be able to speak freely to each of you.

Stopping Triangulation

As parents, you will be triangulated—by your child and by each other—not to mention family, friends and coworkers. Here are the three key strategies to stop triangulation:

Make sure everyone knows what is being said.
For example, if Granddad tells Dad that he believes Mom shouldn't be working, Dad should encourage Granddad to speak directly to Mom. Dad could say something like, "I think the two of you need to talk about this together. Why don't you tell her what you think, but do it in a way that makes it easy for her to say why working is important to her?"

Discuss touchy subjects.
For instance, in the example above, Dad may have to work hard to find the right time and place to get Granddad to talk honestly about his views with his daughter-in-law. If emotions are running high, it won't be an easy conversation. But having everyone's views out in the open—especially when they are deeply felt views—is more constructive for long-term relationships than triangulating or keeping issues a secret.

Keep a united parenting front.

This can make a huge difference! It doesn't mean that you have to agree with each other on everything, but it does mean that you have to make sure you respect each other's decisions and deal with issues when all those involved are present. Statements like, "Wait until your Dad gets home," or "I don't agree with your Mom, but you know how she is," give the wrong messages to your child.

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Temperament Trait Strategies: Adaptability

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 04:26pm
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Adaptability: On The Temperament Wheel, is your child high or low? 

Low Adaptability – this child finds it hard to move from one part of their day to the next.


  • Acknowledge his successes in adapting to change, such as going from supper to the bath.  This helps your child feel good about his day.


  • Use play to take small steps toward big changes that are on the horizon.  For example, if your baby is very attached to eating from a blue plate—and you know that this can't last—make a game out of eating from different coloured plates. This helps your child learn to adapt to changes that cannot be avoided. This will make her social and emotional life much easier.


  • Use the "small steps" approach to help your child adapt to unavoidable changes. When you break down big changes into small steps, it makes them less traumatic.  This also helps your child learn to trust you to guide him through life's big challenges.


High Adaptability These children transition from one activity to the next with no problem.  They accept your leadership and easily go from sleep to wake, from house to car or from playtime to bathtime.


  • Show your baby that you are thrilled when she makes a choice for herself.


  • Provide your baby with play opportunities where he is the leader. For example, let him decide what to play and where to play.  This helps your child learn to be a leader—even though he more naturally accommodates to others wishes.


  • Teach her who to trust and who not to trust.  This helps her learn to evaluate people, and not just go along with whoever is around.


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Unhealthy Competition Over Parenting

by Maxine
Posted August 19 2010 12:40pm
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All babies are unique and each parent’s relationship with their child is unique.

As parents, you both want and need to have a special role in parenting your baby. So, what happens if you feel an unhealthy competition with each other? This can happen if you attempt to control things like:

  • How much time each of you spends with your baby
  • How and when your baby is cared for
  • How you each play with and stimulate your baby
  • How each of you parent your baby

“Whatever the reason for competition between parents, children who see their parents arguing are more likely to develop problems as they get older,” warns Palmina Ioannone, a Child Development expert at Hincks Dellcrest. “They may relate poorly to others and become overly aggressive. As parents, you each want to have a special role with your baby, but make sure you don’t fall into an unhealthy competition with each other.”

Avoiding Competition
So, how can parents avoid unhealthy competition when it comes to parenting your baby? Our experts suggest the following:

Recognize that no two parents have identical parenting styles—and this is good.
When it comes to Comfort, Play & Teach, you don't have to be equally good at all three. One of you may be better at Comfort and Teach, the other at Play.
When it comes to Positive Parenting, one of you may be more flexible; the other—more consistent and predictable. No parent can be perfect. An important part of Positive Parenting is to know yourself—and by extension, your partner—and to value what each of you brings to the parenting of your child. Link to Positive Parenting articles.

Take time together to plan parenting strategies.

Avoid making assumptions about the way your child should be parented without first discussing the issue with each other. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that your partner agrees with your approach. And guess what? They might not. Unhealthy competition can rear its ugly head when you barge ahead without discussing your parenting strategies with one another.

Be willing to compromise.
Yes, differences of opinion are natural. However, when you try to see your partner's point of view, it can go a long way towards avoiding unhealthy competition.

Divide your parenting according to your strengths, time and energy.
Another strategy of Positive Parenting is to know each of your strengths and limitations and to then build your parenting strategies around them. Many of you will move toward a family style where one of you will spend the most time and energy with your young baby. But both of you have strengths! The parent who spends less time is still a critical member of the parenting team. Build on each other's strengths, regardless of how much time either has to spend with your baby.

For even more tips check out our article on Avoiding Competition.

Do you and your partner ever find yourself competing? How do you manage? What strategies have you developed? Leave a comment and share your story below.


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Temperament Trait Strategies: Approach

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 04:29pm
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Approach : On The Temperament Wheel, is your child high or low? 

Low Approach this child is shy – very tentative in new situations.


  • Comfort and support your baby when he attempts to reach out to other people. "Blow Grandma a kiss."  Little by little, this helps your child learn to trust other people.


  • Allow your child to play with other children. Support his efforts when he approaches other children. Find one or two other children to play with regularly. This helps your child learn to enjoy time spent with other children.


  • Use the "small steps" approach to help your baby learn how to overcome her shyness. Break down the challenge into very small steps. Reward each one. For example, start by just waving at a new person. This gradually helps your child learn to approach other people by herself.


High Approach – these children are very enthusiastic about new people and new situations.  They seem bold!


  • Support your child’s outgoing nature with lots of encouragement. This helps him learn to work well with other people.


  • Keep an eye on your baby during play because she likes people and things that are new. She cannot yet judge whether these are safe or dangerous. This helps her learn how to judge whether new situations are safe or not.


  • Acknowledge your child for avoiding risky behaviour. This helps your child be safer.


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One of our temperament traits, our innate reaction to the world, is First Reaction. Some people love novelty and change while others react with caution to new situations.
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You can use a variety of Comfort, Play & Teach strategies that are tailored to different temperament traits.
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What comes to mind when you hear the phrase Positive Parenting? Positive Parenting is the approach to parenting that we believe best supports all aspects of healthy child development.
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