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Archive for February, 2014

Planning to remarry this year? Before you book the caterer and the band, best have some straightforward talks about your future married life.

One man I know is ready to take the plunge. Two problems loom large however. He’s a neatnick and she’s a slob. He reports that she’s trying to be more tidy – hanging up clothes and shutting bureau drawers. But her nonchalant attitude over putting things away is going to be a stumbling block to closeness.

Another issue. He has a thriving business and is well off financially. She has little financial worth. Although ready to say “I do,” he’s not ready to share all his money. Should he have his business evaluated and work out a prenuptial agreement? Or should he just tie the knot and hope they live happily ever after?

Another couple face a different dilemma. She has a teenage daughter. When her boyfriend tries to tell this girl what to do, the mother finds herself feeling resentful. She wants to marry but doesn’t want her new husband involved with parenting. What will this man do when this child gives him trouble, leaves her messes around, demands to be driven somewhere?

Couple number three are trying to work out a different sort of problem. He has two children and a nice home that is almost paid for. She has two children and rents her home. When they marry and move into his home, she wants her name on the house title. He’s reluctant to put her name on the deed. His reasoning: the house is his children’s inheritance. If  he dies before they’re raised, the money has been ear -marked for their education. Because he has an ongoing medical problem, life insurance is out of the question.

When planning to remarry – if you really want the marriage to work – write down all concerns.

Here’s a list to get you started.

Where will you live? Is the type of house important? What about the school district? I’m working with a woman who is determined to live in a particular school district. Except her fiancee doesn’t feel comfortable in that area of town.

Who will do the cooking, grocery shopping, repairs? Just because your ex-wife did the cooking each night, it doesn’t mean your new wife enjoys the kitchen.

How will you budget your money? Will everything go into one account? How will you decide who gets to spend what? Even when couples decide to split expenses, resentments arise because one mate frequently has more spendable income.

If someone is coming into the marriage with a home and a savings account, are things to be shared from the get-go? Older men frequently marry younger women. The man has the money, the woman has the looks. The man wants her to sign off on his money, but he gets to enjoy a young wife. What’s fair?

If one of you has children, and 60% of couples who remarry do, consider the following:

– Who will physically take care of the children? I’ve seen too many couples in therapy where the wife is resentful because her husband expects her to do most of the work with his young children.

– Are your ideas of disciplining similar? If one of you is laid-back and the other somewhat demanding, problems will occur. Negotiate now.

– If your mate makes more money, do you expect him to foot the bill for your child’s education? Maybe his plan is to use his savings to retire early. Is he willing to forgo his plan to pay your child’s tuition bills?

– What about having a child? If only one of you has children, it’s likely that the childless individual will want an heir.

Other considerations before tying the knot a second or third time:

–   How do you want to spend your weekends? If one of you likes to stay home and the other likes to be out and about, there will be conflicts.

–   How about vacations and retirement? If one of you is expanding your career and the other is slowing down, how do you intend to handle differences in play time?

If you can take the issues in this column, thoroughly talk them through, and come up with specific agreements, you will have lessened or eliminated future marital problems.

 

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A stepmother went to pick up her stepson several weeks ago at school. When the stepson came out to get in the car, he wasn’t wearing a coat. At that time the temperature was 15 below zero with a wind chill factor of 35 below. It was the coldest day of the year.

As the child climbed into the car, the stepmother asked, “Where is your coat?” The stepson explained that his mother wouldn’t let him wear his coat because she was sure that he would leave it at his father’s and stepmother’s house, and she didn’t want that to happen.

With this piece of information, the stepmother started yelling about this kid’s crazy mother. She then got on the telephone and told the boy’s father what a jerk the mother was. As soon as the father got off the telephone with his wife, he called his lawyer and repeated the story. The lawyer responded, and I quote, “This borders on criminal neglect.” The lawyer then proposed to write threatening letters to this neglectful mother as well as to her lawyer.

That night while the stepmother was stewing about her stepson not having a coat, she decided to run out and buy him a new coat in his favorite colors. She certainly did not intend to be a neglectful parent.

The following morning was Satur­day. Dad took his son to the gym. And behold, the shivering boy just happened to be looking through the lost-and-found articles and found the coat that his mother was unwilling to let him take to his father’s and stepmother’s house.

Smartly the boy confided in his father that he had found his coat. The father now had to quickly call off the lawyer before he sent the letters proclaiming “criminal neglect.”

The moral of this story:

*   Look before you leap

*   Don’t jump to conclusions

*   Think before you act

*   Sleep on it

*   Everything is not always as it seems.

 

 

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I’m often struck by how many children don’t have the slightest idea of how to behave appropriately with others. They lack manners, they have poor communication skills, and they don’t respect their own or others’ property.

Here are a few things you can do as a parent to help your children develop into responsible people who relate well to others.

Teach your children manners.
They need to learn to say “please” and “thank-you.” “Please may I have Julie spend the night?” “Thank you for driving me to the store for poster board.” If your children do not phrase things this way, look to yourself to teach them.

If they ask you to do something and they don’t preface their request with a “please,” tell them to ask again using “please.” If they forget to say “thank you,” tell them to say it. Keep insisting until these words come automatically.

Children should be taught to write thank-you notes. “Thank you for taking me to the show, Grandma.” “Thank you for having me stay overnight at your home.” “Thank you for the birthday present.” Helping children gather paper, pencil, and addresses is a nuisance for parents, but a skill children need to learn.

Another skill you should be teaching your children is to say “hello” and “goodbye” They should greet people when they walk in the door, when they meet someone or when they get in someone’s car. If they fail to say “hello,” remind them: “Say ‘hello’ to Sue.” When they leave the house or someone else leaves, expect them to say “goodbye”. Hello and good-byes should also be said audibly. If they mumble the words, have them repeat them.

Teach your children to look at the person they are greeting. They should not look down at the floor. After all, they should be giving the other person the attention, rather than inviting the other person to make them the center of attention by not making eye contact.

Respect for property starts at home. If you allow your children to sit with their shoes on your sofa, they will do the same elsewhere. If you don’t expect them to wipe up their spills at your home they’re not going to wipe them up at a friend’s house. If they get by with not cleaning up their mess in the bathroom, you can bet they will leave towels on the floor when they stay overnight at someone else’s home.

It’s definitely easier to hang up your child’s coat than it is to hunt him down and have him take his coat to the closet. You may even have to call him back a second time because he failed to put it on the hanger properly. But if you persist, he’ll begrudgingly get the message.

Now, ask yourself the following:

Do my children say “please” when they want me to do something for them?

Do my children say “thank-you” when I do something for them?

Do my children say “hello” when they first come in contact with someone?

Do my children make a point of saying “good-bye”?

Do they send thank-you notes?

Do they treat our furniture and their clothes with respect?

How am I doing as a parent? Am I teaching my children to be responsible and considerate?

 

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When Mary walked into my office for her therapy appointment, she wasn’t a happy camper. When I asked her what was going on, she said she was furious at her daughter, Alice, who’s seven. In Mary’s evaluation, her daughter is extremely rebellious.

“How so?” I asked.

“If I try to hurry her up, she slows down.”

“If we tell her she can’t go outside to play, she runs out the door anyway. Or she’s supposed to stay in the backyard, but I find her at the neighbor’s down the street.”

“This morning I had a baby sitter lined up. But Alice didn’t want to stay with the sitter. So I decided to let her come along to this appointment, with the stipulation that she would have to sit quietly in the waiting room.”

“We were pulling out of the driveway when Alice realized she’d forgotten her book. I let her go back in the house but told her to hurry. Five minutes later I had to get out of the car and go get her. There she was in the kitchen fixing herself a glass of juice. I should have left her at home, but I didn’t.”

As Mary and I continued talking, we heard a little knock on my door and then it opened. There stood Alice. Mary looked at her daughter and said firmly, “You can’t come in here.” The daughter stepped back and it looked as though she was going to leave and close the door.

The mother then added, “I told you before we left the house that you’d have to wait for me in the waiting room.” With this comment, the little girl grinned ever so slightly and stepped into the room. It was evident to me that the power struggle was on.

As an observer, I suspect that if Mary hadn’t said anything more to her daughter after her first comment, but had immediately turned her attention back on the two of us talking, Alice would have closed the door and gone back into the waiting room. But when her mother gave her an additional warning, the little girl must have felt challenged and she reacted.

I saw a similar dynamic take place several days later when I was working with a mother and her adolescent daughter. They were seeing me because the mother was feeling more than annoyed at her daughter’s rebelliousness. The girl talks back, doesn’t come home on time, refuses to do her chores, and helps herself to her mother’s clothes whenever she wants.

During the session the daughter started twirling, lasso-style, a long chain she was wearing with a large polished stone attached to the end of it. The mother looked at her daughter and said, “Please stop that.” The daughter looked at her mother and continued to twirl the chain.

Again the mother said, “Stop,” but this time she said it with a little playful laugh.

At this point a noticeable grin came over the daughter’s face, she started swinging the necklace more vigorously, and the power struggle was on.

Children need to flex their rebellious muscle once in a while as a way to reach independence, and parents need to take on their children to teach them how to behave. Sometimes, however, we parents inadver­tently encourage our children to get into bigger power struggles than need be.

For example, it’s understandable why Mary told her daughter a second time not to come into my office. She already had to deal with several other issues that morning. Too, she was probably feeling anxious about how I perceived her as a parent, and she didn’t want her therapy time wasted.

But sometimes one firm no works better than two. If a parent says no and immediately turns her attention elsewhere, she closes off a power struggle by refusing to participate. One no doesn’t always work -rebellious children are tenacious – but sometimes it does.

In the second situation, the mother might have outsmarted her daughter and said nothing. I’m sure her daughter would have gotten tired of twirling. When children do something that is obviously designed to get them negative attention, sometimes it’s better not to give it to them.

Once the mother decided to confront her daughter, however, she needed to hang tough and stick with the confrontation. The Mother’s little laugh could certainly be interpreted as encouraging her daughter to be rebellious. Or it could signal her daughter that she wanted to stay friends with her. When you decide to take on a child’s rebelliousness, you must be willing to take the risk that a child is not going to like you.

If it seems that you’re struggling over every little issue with your child, it may help to keep the following in mind:

*One forceful no is sometimes better than two.

*Saying nothing, even when you don’t approve of what your child is doing, is sometimes the most effective response.

*When you find yourself in a power struggle, check to see if you’re doing anything to encourage it, like smiling or lecturing on and on.

Your child is not going to like you very much when you take her on. At the same time, her negativism toward you won’t last forever. And confronting bad behavior is a necessary part of child rearing.

 

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