John Gottman, BBH’s chief researcher and developer, is a mathematician turned psychologist. When he poses research questions, he is looking for variables: What is the x that leads to the y? How does b effect a? And he has looked at so many couples, families, babies, and parents, and watched them grow over time, so that he is actually getting real answers. So when you come to BBH classes, you are learning those variables. Concrete actions you can use that usually lead to good outcomes.
For instance, one of Gottman’s most famous findings is that in successful marriages, couples have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions even during conflict; 20:1 when they are at peace. A positive interaction can be as small as a touch on the hand, a smile, cleaning up the other’s spill…a negative could be as small as a snide remark. Gottman finds that these interactions act as a sort of bank account in the relationship, and the fuller the account, the more stress the relationship can handle.
So simple, so possible to implement. And it holds true not just in couplehood, but in parenthood as well. If we have a full bank account of positive interactions with our kids, the relationship is stronger, and can handle more stress. Kids listen better, too, when they feel that positive, close connection with their parents. They want to return the love.
These are only tiny things you have to do. Pour coffee for your partner when you get your own and bring it to her, gently stroke your baby’s tummy and look into his eyes, sit with your toddler and listen as he cries out his frustration. There are a million ways to work in positive interactions, and it is also possible to be more conscious of not bringing in negative ones.
That’s just one of the many, many simple and practical ways to make your relationship and parenting smoother and stronger that we talk about in BBH. It’s like a recipe for success, which you can improvise on as you like–add more chocolate, cut out the gluten, put in whole wheat. Whatever works for your family. Just follow the basic recipe, and things should turn out just fine.