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Volume 5 Number 17       May 17, 2000       Norman Bales, Editor


Just Visiting

We live in a critical, negative world. Negativism prevails in everything from sports to politics. The excesses of negativity have been brought to our attention recently in the case of Bobby Knight, basketball coach at the University of Indiana. While most journalists agree that he went too far when his coaching style and poor temper control led him to place his hand on the throat of a player, they also agreed that most sports coaches resort to profanity, obscenities, insults, ridicule and badgering. They even concluded that such behavior is necessary in order to get athletes to play better. The theory seems to be that an athlete will play harder if his coach treats him like dirt.

We question the theory. We are privileged to know a wonderful man, named Willard Tate. At one time Willard was a highly successful college basketball coach. He concentrated on building his players up, not tearing them down. As a matter of fact, these days he spends a lot of his time giving lectures on "Learning to Love." Willard is about as positive as it is possible to be. We enjoy being in Willard's presence. We wouldn't be terribly excited about an opportunity to share dinner with Bobby Knight.

The negativism of our culture creeps into our homes and families. To be sure, there are times when our children need to hear words of correction (not put downs, but words to help them improve). Even though words of correction need to be spoken, they need to hear affirmation every day. We hope you will appreciate our thoughts on the subject in our feature article.

Norman and Ann

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by Norman and Ann Bales

When our youngest son was about nine years old, he played on a baseball team known as the "Cubs." Their big league counterpart in Chicago had a history of being mathematically eliminated from pennant contention sometime in August (at least they were in the pre-Sammy Sosa era). Our son's team was appropriately named.

The unique thing about our experience with the nine-year-old Cubs team was their parental support. If one of the boys got a hit (a fairly rare occurrence), the parents went wild. The losers received more cheers than the winners.

Week after week, the parents kept showing up in growing numbers. Fathers took off from work to watch their boys play. They even talked about taking the boys to Chicago so they could watch the real Cubs play. Would you believe the boys actually won their last game? Constant encouragement transformed them from losers to winners.

Encouragement can make the difference between losing and winning in the family. According to Nick Stinnett, strong families consistently express appreciation for everyone in the family. We all have a need to be appreciated. Royce Money noted, " . . . this need is intensified when it is placed in the context of those who matter most to us - our very own family." (Building Stronger Families p. 16).

Paul once wrote, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, what ever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." - Philippians 4:8. If we could do less faultfinding and more praising, less criticizing and more encouraging, it might make a big difference in our families. It could transform losers into winners. That's what happened to our son's Cubs team. Surely our families deserve as much, if not more, encouragement than a losing baseball team

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by Mikal Frazier, LMFT, LPC

"The course of true love never did run smooth." -- Shakespeare

Though conflict is inevitable in a lasting relationship, the key to a successful marriage is in knowing how to manage that conflict. In mountains of recent research, the findings continue to identify the inability to manage conflict in a nondestructive manner as the one element most often present in a failing marriage.

The number one predictor of divorce is the avoidance of conflict. It is this avoidance of conflict which causes couples to do what is so often called "growing apart." In these couples conflict is considered to be a sure sign of failure and to be avoided at all cost.

Then when conflict does raise its dreaded head, the fearful couple uses one of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" as identified by John Gottman, Ph.D., in his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, to protect themselves from some imagined threat. This sets the stage for a downward spiral which brings about the disintegration of the relationship, the very outcome which was so feared in the first place.

These four disastrous approaches to managing conflict identified by Gottman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. A quick definition of these "horsemen" will be helpful before moving on to the rules of fair fighting. These are mentioned in order from the more benign to the most treacherous.

CRITICISM carries with it a statement of blame and an attack on the other's character or personality rather than a specific behavior. It is less specific than an "I" statement which was discussed in the All About Families Newsletter of a few weeks ago. Criticism is a more global statement.

CONTEMPT is a more concentrated and lethal form of criticism. Gottman says what differentiates contempt from criticism is that contempt has the "intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner." Gottman says, "With your words and body language, you're lobbing insults right into the heart of your partner's sense of self." Contempt is fueled by negative thoughts about your partner. Contempt is expressed in name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and body language. Respect for the partner is lost.

DEFENSIVENESS is a response to a perceived attack. Certainly defensiveness is quite likely to follow a statement of criticism or a message of contempt. One becomes defensive when he feels he is a victim. To respond from such a stance only causes a conflict to escalate.

STONEWALLING is fairly self-explanatory. When one partner begins stonewalling, the other will feel he cannot make contact or be validated at all. Gottman says, "it conveys disapproval, icy distance, and smugness." The habitual use of stonewalling indicates a marriage in severe trouble.

An interesting side note is that when women experience their husband's stonewalling, their heart rate rises significantly. But during confrontations a man's blood pressure and heart rate will rise, therefore he will stonewall in order to flee a difficult situation.

By my title, "Let the Bad Times Roll," I certainly do not intend to portray healthy conflict management as "no holds barred." But I do want to give the message that conflict is inevitable. It is the stuff from which growth occurs. Murray Bowen, author of family systems theory, taught his students to go to the animals. Watch as the young grow and observe the conflict which occurs between the parent and the offspring as growth into adulthood becomes a reality.

Yet, there are rules which have been identified to manage conflict in a nondestructive fashion. They are often referred to as "Fair Fight Rules." These will be the topic of my next article.

"Conflict creates the fire of affects and emotions; and like every fire it has two aspects: that of burning and that of giving light." - Carl Jung

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by Jerry Hodge

How many times have you looked at "Before" and "After" pictures in papers and magazines of people who are advertising one of the multiple weight loss products on the market? Our friend, Jerry Hodge, observed one recently and came up with some amazing (if not amusing) thoughts about such products and then made a remarkable comparison to the emphasis we put on outward appearance and then points out where our focus really needs to be. You may read Jerry's thoughts


If you have questions about marriage and family relationships, you can "ASK THE COUNSELOR." Address your questions to Mikal Frazier. Her address is

Norman's e-mail address:

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