Archive of ‘Relationships’ category

Parenting your Toddler

The toddler years are exhilarating and exhausting. Your little one’s budding personality, interest and excitement for all they are learning, as well as their neediness and desire for independence are bound to make for both amazing and trying times. Following are a few tips about development and how to best raise a capable and confident child based on Positive Discipline, The First Three Years.

Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

Feeling a sense of belonging and significance is a basic need.

  • Engage your toddler by giving them helpful tasks that are age appropriate (holding the clean diaper while being changed, helping put toys into the bath tub, etc). Welcome and encourage their innate desire to be helpful.

We all have mirror neurons that fire when we see an action performed.

  • If you want a kind, compassionate, thoughtful child, you must demonstrate this in your own behavior by being patient, loving, and caring toward your child and others.

Your child will have feelings. Your job is to help them develop their emotional intelligence.

  • Help your child understand emotions by using words to label the feeling(s) they are experiencing. Validate their feelings (there is no such thing as a wrong emotion, only actions that are not), and then provide appropriate ways for them to express their feelings (ie. scribble with markers or run around the backyard, cry, etc).

Use positive time outs for children over the age of three and a half.

  • Little children are not capable of recognizing and managing their emotions so sitting in time out to think about what they have done wrong isn’t fair or helpful. A positive time out, however, can be a great way to teach your child to calm down when s/he is angry or upset. Click here to learn more about positive time outs.

Children do better (and will be more cooperative) when they understand what is expected of them and what will happen.

  • Even if your child is preverbal, take time to explain what will happen or what is expected from them. This is particularly important if you need to do something quickly or if things will be out of the norm for the child.

Say no with actions instead of words.

  • Instead of telling your child no, ask yourself what you do want to have happen and then tell your child what you want. If you must say no, use distraction and redirection (it is helpful to remember that “no” is an abstract idea that little ones don’t really get until they are about four). Toddlers aren’t trying to be disobedient- they are exploring their world and following their developmental intuitions to do so.

Be firm and kind while focusing on love and relationships.

  • Provide opportunities for your toddler to explore their world by creating safe places for play. Use distraction and redirection instead of yelling, slapping, or spanking. Repair with hugs, kisses, and apologies when things don’t go so well

Remember that your child is working toward autonomy.

  • Remind yourself of your child’s developmental abilities and calm yourself before responding. Make time to enjoy the process of raising your little one. Avoid power struggles by offering limited choices (all of which are acceptable to you) and giving them opportunities to say no when appropriate. Teach by doing and being kind and firm.

Remember in moments when there are impossible messes, tantrums and meltdowns, you are shaping little hearts and minds, and with a little patience and grace, there is sure to be a heartwarming, sweet and tender moment right around the corner.

A Word on Domestic Violence

Sitting on a plane last week, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation happening right next to me. The man was describing a female friend whose ex-boyfriend keeps showing up and driving by her house, while contacting her repeatedly. My fellow plane passenger said, “I just know he’s doing it because of how she broke up with him. She wasn’t clear enough in how she broke things off with him.” His friend on the plane replied with thoughts about how she should carry a gun or a knife with her. Hearing this all-too-common view of blaming the victim/making them responsible for stopping the violence and with recent news focused on the NFL and Baltimore Raven’s Ray Rice, I felt compelled to write this week on domestic violence.

Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

Because it is so often misunderstood and minimized, I think it is important to look at some stats. First, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Sadly, it is often unreported due to fear of further violence or concerns about being blamed for the violence (s/he is often already blaming herself). An estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year. About 85% of victims are women, and one-third of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partner. Another important statistic indicates that 81% of women stalked by a current or former partner are also physically assaulted by that partner. Click here to see the above statistics as well as additional stats and resources.

If you think it isn’t happening in your neighborhood or in your community, think again. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner, and is prevalent regardless of race, socioeconomic status, beliefs, education, gender, or sexual orientation. Battering is a pattern of control that includes a number of tactics including intimidation, isolation, threats, psychological, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as financial control. And while it is true that everyone makes mistakes in their relationships, no one deserves to be abused. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser.

Part of victim blaming stems from the mistaken belief that if we understand what that person (the victim in this case) did wrong, we can keep ourselves safe. It is true that we can learn from other people’s experiences, but it is unfair to judge other people’s situations when we rarely understand the complexity of the feelings and fears involved. A common myth is that the victim would leave if she doesn’t like the abuse. However, there are many reasons women may not leave, including fear for herself or for her children. It is important to remember that the most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she attempts to leave the relationship.

Following are some reminders about domestic violence (information adapted from and

  • The victim of violence is never to blame for the other person’s choice to use violence against them.
  • Violence is rarely a one-time occurrence and usually escalates in frequency and severity. Even verbal abuse by itself can negatively affect the victim’s well-being and health.
  • Ending a relationship is difficult. Emotional ties (including believing the abuser when s/he says the violence will end), fears for safety, economic concerns, or lack of resources may all contribute to making leaving really difficult. Victims of violence are much more likely to reach out for help if they are approached with a nonjudgmental, caring attitude.
  • The abuser is probably not always abusive (see cycle of abuse below) and may show regret afterward, promising to change, leading to the victim’s hopefulness that the relationship will get better.
  • Violence is not a private matter- speak up in a caring, supportive way if you have concerns about a loved one’s relationship. Be supportive of the victim and offer to listen or help should they need it.
  • Abusers tend to only be violent in specific relationships and can be charming in social situations.
  • Substance abuse may intensify violent behavior, but it does not cause abuse.
  • Witnessing violence in the home is the strongest risk factor for continuing the cycle of violence across generations.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
  • 30-60% of intimate partner abusers also abuse children in the home.

Following are some great resources about violence. I find that many of my clients who are/were in abusive relationships really hadn’t even identified their partner as an abuser until receiving education about what power, control, and abuse looks like. Too often, the abuser uses manipulation, minimizing, and blaming tactics, making the victim feel responsible for the violence. The best thing you can do for someone you love in abusive relationship is to be caring, supportive, nonjudgmental, and patient, believing them and building them up while respecting their autonomy and choices.

The Cycle of Abuse

Helping a friend in an abusive relationship

What not to say and what to say to someone in an abusive relationship

Power and Control Wheel

Red flags

Making a Safety Plan

The SafePlace hotline is 512-276-7233. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 1

With the recent events involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, the epidemic of domestic violence has been in the spotlight of America. Various parties throughout the past few months have given many opinions and beliefs about domestic violence, more so in the past few weeks since a video of Ray Rice brutally attacking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. Having spent most of my counseling career working with women and children who have experienced domestic violence, this has certainly stirred up a lot for me. There are several myths about domestic violence that are perpetuated by in the media and I think it is important to identify these are myths that many Americans believe to be true.

Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

So, lets take a look at these myths about domestic violence and set some things straight. This conversation will be split into 3 parts, as there are over a dozen myths to be discussed. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that for the purposes of this discussion, I will be referring to the abusive party as a man and the victim as a woman. This is because the vast majority of abusers are men and their victims are women. However, it is also important to note that abuse also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. The information for these blogs is taken from the book, “Why Does He Do That: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” by Lundy Bancroft. This is one of the most widely used texts utilized by experts in the field of domestic violence. To learn more about Mr. Bancroft and his extensive work with abusive men, please click on this link:

Now onto the myths:

Myth #1: He was abused as a child.

Research has shown there to be a weak connection between childhood abuse and later abusive behavior. The fact is that experiencing abuse in childhood does not cause a man to later become abusive towards his partners. The only influence of child abuse on later abusive behaviors is that men who are already abusive have a propensity to be more violently abusive if they experienced abuse in childhood. It is not uncommon for abusive men to use negative and often traumatic experiences in their childhood to explain their abusive behaviors, but this is actually a way to escape taking responsibility for their actions. Non-abusive men do not use their past as an excuse to mistreat their partners.

Myth #2: His previous partner hurt him.

As discussed previously, in that abusive men often use past incidents or relationships as excuses for their current abusive behaviors. Someone who was genuinely mistreated in a previous relationship would not be using that experience to get away with hurting others. An important point to remember about abuse, if it is an excuse for mistreatment, it’s a distortion.

Myth #3: He abuses alcohol or drugs.

Many individuals wish to believe that alcohol or drugs cause a person to become abusive. I completely understand why this myth would be so prevalent – “If he can get sober, then the abuse will stop.” It would be so much easier to accept it is something outside of the abuser, controlling him, such as alcoholism or drug addiction, to explain his behaviors. And this myth can provide hope that an abuser really can change if this aspect of his life is changed. However, it is simply not true. The fact of the matter is that alcohol and drugs cannot make an abuser, and thus sobriety cannot cure one. An abusive man must deal with his abusiveness in order to overcome his abusiveness.

I hope this introduction to the myths about domestic violence has sparked piqued interest in the readers at home into the true nature of domestic violence. Next week we will look at more myths about domestic violence. If you or someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Following are some links for resources in the Austin area and you are also encouraged to contact us at Austin Family Counseling.


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