Category Archives: Parenting

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns: We are possessed

Possessive adjectives and pronouns

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.” -Epictetus

How often do you use either a possessive adjective or pronoun in your daily communication at home or at work? Does their pervasive use bring about happiness by showing true possession of something or someone? Or do they harbor seeds of unhappiness and disappointment by having us irrationally believe that we possessive objects or people when we, in fact, do not?

Material possessions

We commonly use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show ownership of things. “This is my car.” Is it? You pay for it, you insure it and drive it, but is it really yours? What if it is stolen. Whose is it now? More importantly, how does your perceived possession help you deal with the loss? “I can’t believe my car was stolen! Who would steal my car?” This an extreme example but even a scratch on your car can trigger strong emotions due to your perceived possession.

Think of all the hurt and conflict that results from things done to people’s perceived possessions. Possessions end up possessing us. At any time, any object you possess can be damaged, destroyed, stolen, or lost.  Your belief about the possession ails you, not what happens to it. The stolen car itself does not cause your grief, rather it is your perception of the car you once used! Having a less possessive attachment to an object results in a less reactive response when something goes awry. Your happiness also benefits when you truly see objects for what they are–things.

Personal relationships

We often use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show possession in relationships. “This is my son.” “My spouse is waiting for me.” Showing possession in relationships is equally misleading. You cannot possess a person. Rationally we know this, however, deceptive possessive language clouds our ability to make this distinction clear. “There is no way my son would ever steal, but some other thirteen-year-old would!” My spouse would never leave me!”

In both cases, the idea of possession blurs the ability to see the son or spouse as individuals. The misconception of possessiveness in relationships leads to hurt and pain when expectations in the relationship are not satisfied. Parents, partners, and coworkers personalize behaviors that belong to the other person when they fail to see the child, partner, or colleague as a person who also exists outside of the relationship.

What do we really possess?

Feelings and thoughts may not always be in our immediate control, but we are always responsible for our words and actions. Use possessive adjectives and pronouns when talking about your verbal and physical actions.  No one can make you say anything or behave in a certain way. All that we utter and do are truly all that we possess.

Everything else we claim to possess is just an illusion. Using possessive adjectives and pronouns in any other context can easily mislead someone into believing he or she actually possesses an object or person. Believing these untruths can bring more unhappiness to a person when suddenly there is something wrong with the object or person or if the object or person is no longer with you.

The solution

Be mindful when using possessive adjectives and pronouns and find other ways to express yourself when describing objects or people in your life. For example, instead of saying, “This is Anne, she is my wife” say, “This is Anne, we are  married/partners/a couple.” If someone asks, “Can I borrow your car?” answer with, “Yes, you can use the car.” and not “Yes, you can use my car.”

Happiness is not about the objects and people you believe are in your possession. Happiness is about how you treat them with your words and actions. It is about taking ownership and being mindful when you speak and act. No one can take that away from you—unlike your car—nor can you blame others. The world would benefit tremendously if we all spent more time and energy taking responsibility for our words and behaviors instead of trying to possess objects and people that truly do not belong to us or anyone.

The benefit

Managing family, relationships, and work is about how well you interact with others and  respond to life events. Understanding and accepting what is in your control—namely your thoughts, words, and behaviors—is paramount in improving your ability to cope. Knowing that you only have control over your response empowers you to focus your energy on that.

Minimize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns to describe objects and people. Focus and internalize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns when referring to your thoughts and feelings, and most importantly to your words and behaviors. Doing so will improve your well-being. Family, friends, colleagues, as well as strangers, will benefit from your efforts as well!

About the author
Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. Jean-Pierre has dedicated 18 years of work to youth and families in both the United States and Austria. He is the author of “What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.”

Why are teens drawn to ISIS?

How the public perceives teens after having joined ISIS gives invaluable clues as to why they may have joined in the first place.

The media and the world are asking why teens of the western world would leave their cozy homes to join the ranks of ISIS and aid them. This phenomenon is occurring in numerous westernized countries: United States, Norway, Australia, France, and Austria. I am examining the case of two female teens from Austria, Samra (left) and Sabina (right), who both left Austria in April 2014 to join ISIS.

Samra and Sabina both left Austria in April 2014 to join ISIS

According to media sources, Samra and Sabina are children of Bosnian immigrants raised in Vienna. Stories of teens fleeing westernized countries to assist ISIS are mainly immigrants or children of immigrant families of Muslim faith. Some also convert to Islam prior to going. Considering the extensive and prolonged war between US-led coalitions and the Middle East, how accepted and integrated are youth and families of Muslim faith living as expats, refugees, and asylees in westernizing countries?

Having worked with teens in conflict with the law for more than a decade, I am naturally drawn to media attention given to teens. Unfortunately, the press teens receive is usually negative, perpetuating harmful teen stereotypes. Here is yet another example of how public criticism on teens choosing to aid ISIS further alienates marginalized youth.

Articles on teens joining ISIS had little insight into my first question. I then became curious about the comments readers were making about teens joining ISIS and particularly about Samra and Sabina. Would the comments be of concern and understanding or hatred and retribution? To my dismay, I was saddened, shocked, and even disturbed by what I read. Some words and expressions are explicit and I apologize, however, I wanted you to read what could be the underlying issue at hand.

Samra and Sabina were described as “weak minded, creatures, dim-witted, unsophisticated, stupid little girls, stupid cows, little Evil/nasty bitches, and dirty little whores”. One female commentator went as far as calling them a “stupid pair of TWATS and brain dead whores.” Another commentator hoped “they returned to Austria in body bags”, while another posted, “kill them and their offspring.” Some blamed the parents and even wanted them prosecuted for aiding terrorists. The hatred in these comments was palpable.

After reading about a hundred or so such comments, I began to feel disenchanted until I saw this post that confirmed my belief about the first question and reconfirmed my sanity and belief in humankind.

“What was happening in their lives before they left their homes? How could they have become so disenchanted with their lives at such a young age, that leaving all and everyone they know was seen as a better life? Questions must be raised at how no one noticed such a change in them. Was there no one talking or taking notice of them. It seems that the only time they felt special to anyone was when fed the ISIS way of thoughts. How very sad for society today. There are probably many young people who are easy meat ready to be converted with empty promises because they have nothing else in their lives to live for.”

This reader was able—with compassion and care— to see root causes of their decisions and trying to take ownership, versus being a detached judge, angry jury, and at times stone-cold executioner. She was looking for a proactive social answer, not a reactive and punitive one. She raises several pertinent questions and the question I had was:  Were these girls and other teens who joined ISIS already disenchanted beforehand, feeling the same and being treated the same as the comments made about them after they joined ISIS? Before engaging with ISIS who was:

Reaching out to them?

Talking to them?

Noticing them?

Making them feel like they belonged?

Making them feel valued and worthy?

Only others (i.e. family, peers, neighborhoods, communities, schools, agencies, and businesses) can answer these fundamental questions. Was society’s response sufficient enough in addressing these existential needs? That is uncertain, however, ISIS was there to fill this void for them.

Extreme groups take advantage of those who feel extremely unaccepted, unloved, and misunderstood because they are desperately seeking extreme ways to satisfy prolonged unmet basic needs. The basic needs of belonging and power (feeling worthwhile to self and others) are very much present in adolescents. If teens cannot find socially responsible outlets to have their basic needs met, then they are vulnerable to extreme and radical groups. ISIS is not the only radical group out there looking for people who are desperately finding a place and purpose.

This happened regularly with the young men I worked with who were either gang involved or seeking gang involvement. They looked to these groups to belong, to feel loved, and purposeful. Some did it for survival (selling drugs and stealing). Many were minorities, immigrants, or children of immigrants living in less than desirable neighborhoods.

Being a “somebody” regardless of how it manifests, is far more desirable than being a “nobody”. Similarly, negative attention is better than no attention. Being neglected, dehumanized, discriminated against, and degraded is severely damaging to one’s sense of self and can have equally damaging repercussions, which brings us back to the public’s comments about Samra and Sabina.

Presuming both are alive and reasonably well (there are rumors of one being dead), how do these comments help marginalized teens— who only later see the gravity of their decision—feel included, wanted, and purposeful? They don’t.

Social workers and Austrian Muslims have joined together to “dereadicalize” young people who have been to Syria, or having thoughts of fighting with ISIS. The goal is to connect them and their families with community agencies and resources to discourage them from extremism. You can read more at www.thelocal.at.

This is a good first step, however, the real impact in helping teens like Samra and Sabina starts with us. What kind of daily interactions are marginalized youth having with you, neighbors, teachers, law enforcement, passersby, peers, and store clerks? Are we, as a community, adequately addressing the 5 questions above, or are we passively and actively inviting and letting extremists do so?

We blame ISIS or other radical and harmful groups consisting of hundreds and even thousands of brainwashing youth, but when a young person decides to join the ranks of any anti-social group we are quick to punish the individual—even the parents—but no one else. If a community of extremists can be blamed for taking advantage of impressionable and alienated youth, why are the communities from which these young people come also not blamed in part for creating an environment that pushes them to seek out, engage with, and ultimately join radical groups?
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Values Speak Louder Than Words

Values speak louder than words
Image courtesy of clconroy / morgueFile

Values influence how we behave

Actions speak louder than words. Yes and no. Although we do communicate much information through our behaviors, our actions are a physical representation of our values. Our value system determines how we go about fulfilling our needs. Before looking at the values being expressed in the picture, let’s first see what needs are being met.

Power: The young men feel worthwhile to self in their ability to perform a handstand. Others are most likely watching so they are also contributing to the well-being of the group through physical feats and entertainment.

Belonging: At least one other person is watching (the photographer) and quite possibly others too. Maybe they are part of a group of friends hanging out at the beach. Similar to power, belonging is a basic need that encourages us to behave for the sake of being part of a group.

Freedom: To be oneself and act freely and responsibly—behaving in a way that does not deprive others of their ability to fulfill their needs.

Fun: Looks like they are enjoying themselves. Who doesn’t want to have fun!

What values are being expressed as the two young men satisfy these basic needs?
Achievement, athleticism, challenge, competition, cooperation, confidence, determination, enthusiasm, fitness, mastery, perseverance, recognition, self-control, self expression, and strength to name a few.

There is more going on than two young men performing a handstand. What you are really seeing are these values in action. How is this insight helpful?

Understanding the values being expressed by your teenager, partner, coworker, neighbor, or stranger will help you better understand how they go about fulfilling their needs. Understanding needs and values helps depersonalize one’s behaviors. This is useful when dealing with others whose behaviors you do not understand or disagree with.

Looking at someone’s values helps you see that they are trying to satisfy a need for themselves and not do something against you. This helps you become accountable with your response when you feel mistreated by someone’s actions. No matter what someone does “to you”, you always have a choice in how to respond. What needs and values are being challenged? What values are driving your behaviors?

If you find yourself in repeated conflict situations or see unhealthy patterns in your encounter with others, it may be time to have a look at your values. The good news is there are many to choose from. Like clothes, values can be changed at any time if they no longer fit.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

 

Basic Needs Drive Teen Behavior

Teens satisfying basic needs
Image courtesy of Taliesin / morguefile.com

Teens behave to satisfy their basic needs—just like we all do.

If teens are doing what everyone else does, why are their behaviors judged and scrutinized? Four out of five basic needs are being met with this group of teens rafting (the behavior). The five basic needs are:

Survival: food, clothing, shelter, and overall safety

Belonging: being part of a group and having an identity greater than oneself

Power: having self-worth and feeling worthwhile to others

Freedom: having the liberty to live as you want while respecting common laws and the rights of others

Fun: being able to enjoy the pleasures of life

Look at the picture. Clearly the group is having fun. All other needs, except survival, are being met too. The more an activity satisfies other basic needs, the more significant that activity becomes. The young people feel a sense of freedom as they carelessly and playfully float. Since they are in a group, they belong to the rafting activity. One cannot tell how long they have known each other. They could be long-term friends or could be part of a summer youth camp and have only known each other for several days.. As individuals in a group, having purpose and meaning, the need for power is being fulfilled as well. In sum, 4 of the 5 basic needs are being met, making the activity rather important.

What is typically bothersome to adults is not that teenagers are trying to satisfy their basic needs. Rather, what adults have issues with is how teens go about satisfying those needs by scrutinizing the details. Is there anything worth complaining about in the picture? No. Imagine four highly excited young people now coming out of the water. Maybe they are laughing loudly, joking,  swearing, kicking up sand as they walk by, and dripping water on blankets as the rafts pass over sunbathers.

Here are some possible thoughts or responses.
“Teenagers are inconsiderate.”

“Teenagers are rude.”

Teenagers are obnoxious.”

Everything they had been doing to satisfy their basic needs is now forgotten and reduced to a five-second interaction and judgment. Could the teens have been quieter, respected the personal space of others, or apologized had sand or water fallen on blankets? Yes. Maybe then their complete behavior would have been more appreciated and less scrutinized.

Teens, like adults, behave to satisfy their basic needs. Keep that in mind when you are momentarily bothered by what a teen does.

Adults don’t always do it right from start to finish either. Parents behave in ways that bother teens too! Teens have the courage to go all the way and push their limits, whereas adults may hold back, shortchanging the experience and the benefits they could have reaped had they tested their boundaries a bit more.

If the teens had bothered some sunbathers, it most likely wasn’t their intent. They were most likely so wrapped up in what they were doing that they were unaware of anything or anyone else outside the scope of their activity. Don’t be so quick to judge. Adults and parents could benefit by copying how teenagers satisfy their basic needs with passion and intent.

For information on my parenting and self help book “What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth” please visit: http://www.whatyoucanlearn.com

Conflict Resolution — A fresh look

Approach conflict resolution like you would crossing a river
Image courtesy of Yodod / flickr.com

Why do you encounter the same conflict over and over? Probably because you are using the same strategy you have been using many times before. Conflict resolution is not achieved because for you it is. Conflict resolution works best when those involved can identify the particulars that make this situation different from the last.

Successful problem solving requires you to look at all situations with a fresh perspective no matter how similar they look. The hiker above may have crossed the stream from the same point a hundred times, but he has never crossed it the same way twice. Why?

Water flow and levels are in constant flux due to rainfall. Water temperature varies with the weather. The stones on which the hiker steps on are weathered or not in the same place. These are but a few of the changes that exist each time the hiker crosses the stream even if it is at the same point.

It is futile to imagine crossing the river in exactly the same manner. Similarly, there is no point in looking at the same student, child, or employee sitting before you in the same regard as the last time you were in a conflict resolution situation with them. No matter how familiar a conflict feels, there is always something different about it.

What is different this time? How can this difference play a key role in resolving the issue? How can you get those involved in the conflict — possibly you — to see how these key nuances could get you to a resolution, just like the hiker has to roll up his pant leg higher because the water level is a bit higher than the last time he crossed due to the excessive rainfall the day before.

For more tips check out Conflict Resolution Strategies

Negotiation is like a spinning coin

A spinning coin represents a successful negotiation
Spinning coin represents a successful negotiation

Negotiation is a process used often at work or at home and can be solved by spinning rather than flipping it. Flipping a coin when an agreement cannot be reached is not always an option, nor is it the preferred way to resolve an issue. Furthermore, the outcome of only one winning is not sustainable if both parties are bound to abide by the resolution. The long-term impact of a successful negotiation will increase if both sides come out feeling they have gained from the agreement.

Fortunately a coin has three sides and not two! It is the edge that connects both sides and actually allows both parties to see all interests when it is spun on its edge. The edge is usually not as ornate as the sides but its purpose is not to be showy. What does the edge of your coin represent in your particular negotiation?

Focus on the edge of the coin and spend less time wishing for heads and not wanting tails or vice versa. You will only be disillusioned and disappointed if you are hoping to be the sole winner. A sustainable negotiation has neither a winner nor a loser. Although both sides are hoping to gain something, the aim is to keep the relationship in balance to prevent the coin from falling on one side.

When a coin is spun on its edge, one has the impression that the coin is in a perpetual state of heads and tails, with no predominant side showing. The end of a successful negotiation will feel the same. A spinning coin means both sides are equally represented at all times. A spinning coin, however, requires constant attention or else it will fall to a favored side. What will it take for you and the other stakeholder to keep the coin spinning so that the outcome from the negotiation may last?

Changing Your Focus Creates New Possibilities

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.01.36 PMIt is not what we look at that bothers us, rather it is what we choose to focus on. The young woman has an object of interest in her sights and is now focusing more closely on a particular aspect of the subject. What she focuses on will determine the outcome of the impression she makes. Another photographer may focus on another part of the subject giving it a new perspective and new meaning.

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus stated that people are not disturbed by things but by the view they have of them. So is the case when leaders are confronted with organizational issues with subordinates or when a parent is working out a problem with a child. Contention arises when we neither make an attempt to focus on mutual interests nor seek to understand other perspectives.

When this occurs with organizations that service young people or in the parent/child case, the young people feel the brunt of the stalemate or battle. In the former, a worker’s strike or contemptuous attitude to spite administration or workers could adversely impact services causing quality to diminish. An organization’s mission could be compromised. In the latter case, a parent may use punishment or restrictions until the child concedes or the child may become defiant and obstinate if needs are not heard or met.

Those effective at problem-solving have a knack for looking at something from all perspectives, broadening his or her level of understanding, therefore allowing greater possibilities to find a resolution where all parties are satisfied. My upcoming book, What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth, offers parents the possibility to minimize these setbacks and negative impact on the parent/child relationship by changing how they look at their teenager. The book gives parents an opportunity to focus on all aspects of their adolescent, resulting in a more balanced and healthy relationship. And as a bonus, the parent may even learn something about themselves in the process.