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Archive for the ‘Behaviors’ Category

Sometimes I’ll ask a couple I’m seeing in therapy to do the following exercise.

  1. The husband and wife stand about six feet apart.
  2. The husband walks slowly toward his wife until he reaches a point where he no longer feels comfortable. Some men stop about three feet from their wives. Others stop at 30 inches and still others at 27.
  3. The wife now moves toward her husband or steps back from him, depending on how much space she feels she needs between the two of them.

The purpose of the exercise is to help a couple understand that each has an invisible boundary line. If the husband moves into the wife’s space, she’ll immediately step back to reestablish her boundary. Everyone has a different physical comfort level.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon to observe in yourself as well as others. Walk up to anyone and generally you’ll see the person step back from you or move toward you. If the person steps back, you may move closer. If the person steps forward, you may move back. Usually the two of you will move around until you establish a comfortable space between you.

Just as people have invisible physical boundaries, they also have unspoken psychological ones. When these are crossed, there is discomfort and sometimes even an argument.

One psychological boundary people have is their tolerance for talking. Some people like to talk. Others like quiet.

If a wife likes to talk and her husband likes quiet, her talking may create a sense of uneasiness in him. His psychological space is being invaded. He may address his discomfort by walking out of the room or tuning out.

The wife, on the other hand, may feel anxious when her mate doesn’t talk. One might say her psychological space has been invaded by his silence. She may address her uneasiness by picking a fight to get the verbal energy flowing.

Household noises often cross people’s psychological boundaries. One spouse may like the TV volume higher than the other. When the volume is up, one person feels intruded upon, but when it’s down, the other is uncomfortable.

One couple has trouble when the husband watches sporting events, particularly football. His wife becomes anxious and distressed. The continual talking of the announcer and the roar of the crowd impinge so much on her psychological boundary that she feels a need to run away and leave the house.

Another psychological boundary involves how much information spouses believe they should share with others about their relationship. The husband may see no problem with telling his best friend that they’re having financial difficulties. But the wife may think that discussing their problems with others is a betrayal of the relationship.

A couple may have different psychological boundaries when it comes to the number of things they like to have around the house. Some people feel most comfortable with many collectibles sitting around. Others want absolutely clean surfaces and a lot of knick-knacks create a sense of discomfort.

Think of yourself and your mate. How far apart are your psychological boundaries for talking? Noise level? Sharing information with others? Items around the house?

Conflict frequently results when couples fail to respect each other’s psychological boundaries. Understanding your boundaries as well as your mate’s will make you more tolerant and reduce stress between the two of you.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”.
Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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I walked into the kitchen the other morning and there was my husband’s dirty cereal bowl, a few toast crumbs, and a half cup of leftover coffee sitting on the table. “No big deal,” I thought.

I picked up the coffee cup and bowl, carried them to the sink, rinsed them out, and put them in the dishwasher. I also wiped off the table and wiped up some coffee grounds that my husband had obviously spilled while making coffee.

When I saw the milk sitting on the counter, I felt a slight twinge of annoyance. I hate it when people leave milk unrefrigerated. But when I found that the milk was still cold, I thought, “no big deal,” and put it in the refrigerator.

I prepared breakfast for our daughter, packed her lunch, grabbed a cup of coffee for myself, and went upstairs and got dressed for work. As we were about ready to leave the house, I did a final check. I turned off the light in my daughter’s room, “no big deal,” I unplugged her curling iron, which she had forgotten to turn off, “no big deal.”

We jumped in the car and I remembered it was Tuesday. My husband had forgotten to put out the trash. I jumped out of the car and instructed my daughter to do the same. The two of us lugged the trash cans out of the garage and to the street. The one I was carrying spilled and I got something icky on my hand. No big deal.

I went to the car, got the keys, unlocked the house, washed off my hands, remembered that I hadn’t defrosted anything for dinner, pulled out a package of hamburger, got back in the car, closed the garage door, and we were off.

Half way to school my daughter told me she had to have four dollars. I looked in my wallet and all I had was a twenty. I needed the twenty because I was going out for lunch. “Oh well,” I said, “Take the twenty. I’ll work it out, no big deal, I’ll stop by the bank.”

That night I found the cat didn’t have food in his bowl, poor kitty, so I got out the bag and filled his bowl. The cat is not my responsibility, but no big deal. While I was at it, I washed out his water bowl, gave him fresh water, and cleaned his litter box.

The week rolled by with a lot of “no big deals.”

On Friday I went to the garage to get my car and there sat the trash. That day I was running very late so I let the trash sit.

That night as I drove in the garage, I saw the trash. I walked in the house and gave everyone a loud lecture on what being responsible means…turning out lights, putting your dishes in the dishwasher, making sure the cat has food, putting out the trash.

My family looked at me like I’d lost my mind. My husband said quizzically, “What’s the big deal?”

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”.
Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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My Mom wanted to take a turn having her friends over for dinner and cards,” said Mary Jane. But she’s no longer able to entertain by herself. Physically, it’s too tiring. And mentally, she’s having trouble remembering all there is to coordinate for a dinner. Because she couldn’t take her turn, she was going to quit the group. I told her not to quit her group. I’d help with the party.”

Several days before the party, Mary Jane and her mother worked out the menu. Mary Jane went grocery shopping. She ran to the bakery for dessert. Her husband picked up the wine. Mary Jane partly cooked the meal at her house, got dressed, packed up the food, took it to her mom’s and finished cooking it.

When the guests arrived, Mary Jane’s mother was able to sit and talk with her friends. Mary Jane served the dinner. She then cleared the table, washed the dishes and put everything away.

Serra took her 5-year-old granddaughter, Leah, to Union Station. When it was time to leave, Serra knelt down to fasten little Leah’s coat. As she was buttoning the coat, Leah kissed her on the forehead.

When my dad was growing up, no one taught him to say, “I love you.” It wasn’t something people did. Through the years, I’ve bugged Dad to give me hugs and say “I love you,” which he now does quite often.

Recently, my dad has become a little hard of hearing. This past spring he was helping me with my roses and I said something to him about mulching them. He looked up, smiled at me and said, “I love you too.”

Bill was busy with work. He knew from talking with his mother, who lives in another state, that she was feeling lonely and needed a visit. Bill, unable to go, telephoned his sister and offered to pay her plane fare so she could go visit their mom.

I was having a cup of coffee on the second floor of the Galleria and watching all the shoppers walking around below. I noticed a mother holding her child and repeatedly kissing him on the cheek. I saw a father stop, put his packages on the floor, bend over and tie his little boy’s shoe. I saw two young girls walking hand-in-hand.

I also saw a couple, who probably were in their late 70’s, standing by one of the fountains. Both were wearing suits and both had berets on their heads. Suddenly, they looked up and saw me looking at them. I waved, pointed to their berets, nodded my head up and down in approval and smiled. They each blew me a kiss. I blew them one back.

You can give a valentine each day of the year.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”.
Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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A man I see in therapy explained.

I had an affair two years ago and my wife won’t get off of it. She constantly brings up the affair. She says I don’t understand how hurt she is. I say, “Hey I gave up the affair. I apologized. I’m here. Get over it.” What can I do to get her to stop thinking about the past?

Man, you don’t get it. It takes about 5 years to get over an affair, and then rarely does trust come back 100%. Each time your wife brings up the affair, something has triggered her bad feelings. And I bet there are plenty of times when your wife doesn’t bring up your affair even though she’s had thought of it and felt the hurt.

Instead of telling your wife to get over it, which is incredibly insensitive, apologize again and again for the hurt you have caused her. For example, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I love you. I care about you. You’re the best. And again, I am really sorry.”

After several thousand sincere apologies, yes, several thousand, such as the one above, your wife will be more able to move on in her life without being reminded on a daily basis.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.
Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

 

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Shockingly, half of all kids are bullied. And at least half of all kids should bear the name “Bully.” We know that bullying goes on all the time among students, thanks to the media, but what’s happening on the home front? A far bigger story is to be told.

For example, the child who refuses to get ready in the morning and constantly makes her siblings anxious and late for school is involved in bullying behavior. Likewise is the child who goes into her sister’s room and simply helps herself to whatever article of clothing she chooses, despite the fact that she’s been told repeatedly to stop.

Then there’s 11-year-old Dan, who hides his sister’s hair dryer and toothbrush to get a reaction out of her. And whenever he walks by his younger brother, he gives him a punch in the arm. And he forever is grabbing the remote and switching channels on his siblings.

Parents may be annoyed regarding these behaviors because of the ruckus they create in the family. Rarely however do parents think of these behaviors as bullying. But they are!

What I tell parents: if one child constantly reacts negatively to another child’s actions, instead of focusing your attention on the child who is reacting, take a look at what she’s reacting to. She may be prey to a bully as opposed to falling into the category of, “kids will be kids” or “he’s just kidding” or “he’s younger than you.” These statements rescue the bully and are excuses for bad behavior. Worse, such excuses contribute to encouraging one of your children to bully another.

Parents also fall prey to children who bully. A child who simply can’t accept the answer “No” and keeps pushing and nagging, twenty, thirty, forty times until the parent caves is a bully.

If 14-year-old Jessica is reprimanded for anything, she punishes her parents by refusing to talk with them. She’s been known to carry on this behavior for several days. She also decides when she’s ready for bed. No amount of telling her to go to bed has an effect. You might say, “This kid does what she damn well pleases.” Once when told she couldn’t go out with friends, she jumped out of the second story window and joined them.

Anytime a child repeatedly intimidates, threatens, scares, frightens, browbeats, coerces, terrorizes, or tries to lord their power over another family member, be it a parent or a younger or older sibling, they are bullying. Or calling like it is, that child is a bully. Other bullying behaviors in families: name-calling, hitting, pushing, refusing to let another pass, purposely embarrassing, making faces, and taking and breaking other family members’ things.

So how do you get a bullying child to stop?

The first step is to name it. Call it like it is. Most kids do not think of themselves or their behavior as bullying. Example, “You are being a bully. Stop.” (Don’t tell him he is acting like a bully. This sugar coats his behavior. He is a bully).

The second step is to isolate the bully from the rest of the family. For example, if at a restaurant and your 9-year old keeps kicking his sister under the table after you’ve told him to cease, tell him he is a bully and take him to the car. No offering dinner afterward. Bummer for a parent but it’s imperative that parents protect all of their children. You protect the child who is being kicked and you help the bully to stop this behavior.

If you have a child that constantly badgers you, never ever give in because if you do you reinforce this behavior. You as a parent have to show more grit than your child. I once had one of our boys stand in the corner. I think he was about 9 at the time. He told me he was going to stand all night. In my head I thought, Well, I will sit at the table all night knowing that he would get more tired standing than me sitting. In the end he caved and apologized. Translated: we were both winners.

Do keep in mind. Bullies are not born. Bullies are made because their behavior is not checked. Some kids are more difficult than others (heaven help those parents) but no child should be permitted to intimidate or be allowed to grow into a bully.

Doris Wild Helmering is a clinical social worker, nationally known author, television and radio personality, has appeared on Oprah three times, and has written eight self-help books, numerous booklets, and a weekly syndicated newspaper column for twenty-four years. Her most recent books are The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World and The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide. (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/07/prweb14530687.htm).  She is in private practice where she does marriage and family therapy as well as counseling parents and kids. She has served as a consultant to a number of Fortune 500 companies as well as several school districts.  See: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.

 

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Teenage Blues? Find out how this father re-connected with his teenage son.

Recently I spoke with one father who confessed to having difficulty liking his son. Clearly his son was rebellious and had some behaviors that most parents would find offensive. The son rarely did what he had promised. He blew off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake.

When I pushed the father to tell me something he liked about his son, he reluctantly admitted that the boy was a pretty good student, didn’t get in trouble at school, had a great sense of humor and a rather endearing smile. The trick for me was to get the father to focus on his son’s attributes at least some of the time. This would allow the father to feel good about his son as opposed to always feeling negative.

The first thing I did was to ask the father to bring me a list of fifty things he liked about his son even if he had to go back in history and remember some of the incidences from his son’s childhood. Although the father dutifully made his list he couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.

The father’s next assignment was to only comment on the positive things his son did. The idea was to get the father to change his focus from looking at the negative to looking at the positive. This assignment did not work either.

I then came up with the idea that every time the son messed up the father would say in his head, “At least he’s alive.” When I told the father this he said, “You do have a point.”

The following week when I saw this man he said that the assignment had worked. For the first time in almost three years he felt some genuine closeness toward his son. He no longer saw his son as an incompetent. What he saw was a boy struggling, sometimes inappropriately, for his own identity. As this father left my office that day, he grinned a little and said, “You know, I really do love that kid.”

If you’re having trouble loving your kid because of his hard-to-deal with behaviors, why not experiment with one on the previous homework assignments?

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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My boss overheard me making critical comments about her behind her back. What should I do to repair the relationship, or should I just quit my job?

If you know for sure that she overheard you, go to her and say, “The other day I realize I was out of line. You can expect that I’ll never do that again. I’m sorry.” Chances are if you’re a good worker, and you don’t repeat your behavior, she’ll eventually get over it.

Another piece of advice: Don’t talk about your boss or co-workers to anyone at work. You never know when your comments will be overheard or carried back to that person. Save those comments instead for your mate and closest of friends.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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