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Red Roses or Red Flags?

Unfortunately, this visual is humorous because many of us can relate and find truth in it. Many of us have had experiences where we do not recognize concerning behavior from a friend or partner for a variety of reasons. Much of this also comes from our own childhood trauma and/or attachment styles and an understanding of this is key.


As a parent of four children I’ve pondered what I can do to instill the appropriate skills in my children, to ensure red flags are seen as red flags and not roses. Fortunately, there are many conversations and skills we can build within our children if we are intentional with our intent and presence.

Here are a few conversations we can begin with our children to equip them with the awareness that is needed to identify the red flags instead of see them as red roses.

These questions can serve as conversation starters:


1) What is a relationship for?

This is a great topic to start with. Why do we have relationships? What are you seeking? Starting with a healthy understanding that relationships should support you. If someone is only focused on themselves or asking you to give up something for them, that is a red flag.


2) Go within, no external.

When you are with this person, go within yourself. How do you feel? Do you feel heard and valued? Be sure to check in with yourself often and not search for validation from external people or resources. Sometimes we are in relationships with people because it makes sense on paper, but how do you feel when you are around this person?


3) Pseudo self, are you limiting yourself?

A great self-check of yourself, is to watch your actions and feelings. Do you feel like you have to watch your responses, or limiting yourself? Are you acting as your true self around this person? Often, we have to go into our “pseudo self” in various scenarios for various reasons (i.e, family situations, work, friends that we are not authentic around). If you find yourself acting us such, this is a red flag.


4) Actions and words match

Does this person’s actions match their words. Watch. Observe. If not, this is a major red flag.


5) Conflict response

What is the response when you have conflict? Watch. Observe. If you want to know someone’s emotional maturity, observe carefully during conflicts. How do they interact with people around them? How do the speak? What stories do they tell you from the past about conflict? How do they treat their family? Strangers? Friends?


6) Boundary reaction

In a similar method, how does this person react when you put a boundary down? If you ask for a night to yourself, do they try to make you feel guilty? Do they accept your response and respect it? A simple no should always be respected. Put a boundary down and observe.


7) Feeding you?

Is the relationship feeding you or draining you? Does this person sink in the time equally in the relationship as you do? Do they try to get to know you and what speaks to you? Are they making efforts? The answers to these questions can indicate a red flag or a red rose.

Overall, there is not always a clear cut way to recognize red flags in the beginning of the relationship but often our gut is trying to tell us a message. Spend time in silence and mediate on these topics.


Teaching our sons and daughters this lifelong skill will undoubtedly teach them emotional intelligence and most of all the value of listening to themselves.

The Red Bow Project,

Amber Bradshaw Wooten is a practicing blended family life coach and has a PhD in Educational Psychology.


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