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When parents stand their ground, children may not be happy.
“This week I developed a backbone,” a mother told me.

She decided to get tough when she looked at her daughter’s pay stub and discovered that she had earned less than $60 during an entire semester of college. Why? Because her daughter chose to work only a few hours a week. “And she only takes four courses,” said the mother in disbelief.

“Her father and I are working hard to pay bills and scrape by and give her spending money”

After seeing how little her daughter was working, the mother vowed that she no longer would give her money to go out with friends for lunch, or go to the movies, or pay her cell phone bill. “My daughter has money in the bank,” said the mother, “so she can spend her own money. And if she runs out, she can work more.”

Here are two more stories of mothers who found their backbone. “Last week school was canceled because of snow. My house was full of boys ranging in age from nine to fifteen,” said Julie. “I made snacks, dried their wet clothes in my dryer, repeatedly cleaned up the wet floor, and kept some sense of order. One little boy stayed for dinner and then watched a movie with us.”

The next day when this mother announced she was going shopping with her friend for a few hours, she took all kinds of grief from her 10-year old son. Where was she going, he wanted to know. “Why can’t I go too? What am I supposed to do all day? When will you be home?” he whined. The kicker came when he asked, “Well, will you at least take me to the mall tonight?”

When these tactics didn’t get him the results he wanted, he confronted his mother about her spending. He said, “You told me I couldn’t buy anything for a month, but you’re going to.”

The mother said nothing.

Another mother had a similar experience. “The first day it snowed, a friend of my daughter’s came over,” said the mother. “They baked cookies. Then four other teenagers came by the house, and they all went sledding. When the six of them came back, my husband and I were watching a mystery on television. The kids wanted to watch a football game, so my husband and I gave up our mystery and the kids watched the game in the family room. We went upstairs to read because we don’t have cable upstairs and the mystery was on cable.” The daughter’s friend also spent the night.

The following day, this mother announced that she would be taking her car. She had to work that morning and was going shopping with her friend in the afternoon. The daughter had a fit. “What about me?” the daughter wanted to know. “I need the car. We were planning on going to lunch and shopping.”

“I’ll drop you off at the mall,” the mother suggested. The daughter declined.

“Can’t you take your friend’s car?” the daughter begged. “She can drive her car.”

The mother said no. She wanted to drive her own car because it had four-wheel drive. The mother found her backbone.

One thing to keep uppermost in mind when parenting: Do not expect your children to be happy when you put yourself first or take care of yourself instead of them. Don’t expect your children to be happy when you say no. Don’t expect your children to say, “I’ve had enough fun, Mom; now it’s your turn”.

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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Sometimes when we asked others for help or their opinion we must be open to suggestions.

I wrote a letter the other day outlining a business plan. I gave it to my husband for proofing, something I do when I want his input or I think I’ve written an exceptional letter and I want his “Atagirl.”

After reading the letter, my husband said, “I don’t think this is up to your usual standards.”

I asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

He said he wasn’t sure, but it didn’t work for him.

I said, “I need more information. What doesn’t work?”

He said he wasn’t sure.

I then took the letter and reread it. Since I couldn’t see what he could, I asked if he would go over it line by line. He countered with, “How about if I look at it again and make margin notes.” I said, “Fine.”

A half hour later I looked at his notes and told him he didn’t understand the situation. He shrugged and said okay. I took the letter and went back to my computer and again revised. As I was writing, I could see my letter improving based on his suggestions. When I finished, I proudly handed the letter back to my husband. He read it for the third time and said, “It’s still not right.”

When I asked what was not right, he said he couldn’t exactly say.

Unfortunately, I then told him I was the writer in the family and I had seen some goofy letters he sent out. With that I picked up my letter and went back to the computer.

After an hour of revisions, I contritely went back to my husband with letter in hand. I told him I was sorry for what I’d said and asked if he would please read the letter again because I did value his input. And further, no matter what he said, I would be good.

Being a very patient and kind-hearted fellow, he once again read my letter and proclaimed that it was fine.

One day a woman telephoned all in a stew. She had received a bad performance review after working at her company for 25 years. She was afraid this review was the beginning of the end. She had written a letter in response to her review and wanted to know if I would look at the letter. I said, “Sure, what’s your time frame?”

She said she thought she should respond by tomorrow. I said, “Fine, email it to me.” She said her email was down. She asked if she could just read the letter over the telephone.

As she got into the letter, it was obvious that it needed a good deal of work. I gave her a number of suggestions. I could hear that she was becoming annoyed with my suggestions, since each suggestion meant more work for her. I said I had to leave but I would call her later and we could work on it again. She said she would try again to email the letter.

I asked that she make the changes we had discussed. She agreed. Four hours later when I looked at the email, I found the changes had not been made. She had not worked on the letter. I could see that the letter was becoming my responsibility.

This all leads me to the following:

When you ask for feedback on a project, be appreciative. Understand that the feedback you get may be negative. Understand that it may mean more work for you. And keep in mind that the ultimate responsibility for the project is still yours. Don’t try to get the other person to do your work simply because he or she has noted some problems.

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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Deciding if you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Victim of circumstance or victim by design?

Mike lost his second-biggest account three months ago. Several weeks later, his 17-year-old son was involved in a serious car accident which resulted in two surgeries, a three-week stay in the hospital, and ongoing physical therapy. One morning on his way to the hospital, Mike’s car died in the middle of the highway. Adding stress to stress, the part the dealer ordered got lost in the mail. That same week a skunk made her home under his house and the pest people couldn’t seem to do much about it despite repeated tries. A few days later, Mike received a letter informing him that his septic tank is located on his neighbor’s property.

On listening to what befell Mike, one of his religious friends proposed that he was being tested. Another friend said, “What’s new? Everyone has chaos, and on a regular basis.” Someone else theorized that people often cause their own crises because they are bored or need an energy boost. Or they may make a crisis to avoid dealing with a more significant issue.

I’m not so sure about being tested. I tend to think catastrophes are random. It’s true, however, that we all seem to have one problem after another. And sometimes we subconsciously make ourselves into victims.

Take, for example, the guy who knows his roof has been leaking for a few years but does nothing until the water starts pouring in one rainy night. Or how about the woman who knows she has a tooth problem but does nothing until one day she finds herself in excruciating pain?

Mike certainly had nothing to do with his son’s accident. I can’t imagine how he might have invited the skunk problem. And the title search when he bought his house didn’t cover the septic tank. I do wonder what kind of warning Mike had that his car was about to give out, but the part being lost in the mail was out of his control.

Moving from Mike to yourself, what troubles, misfortunes, or disasters have befallen you recently? Name three or four.

Did you have any idea they were coming?

Are any of them partly of your own doing?

To avoid becoming a victim, run through the following list of actions. These forecast trouble. Check off any that you are guilty of.

-Driving too fast

-Not having savings to supply extra cash for emergencies

-Trying to provide too much for your children by buying them a car you really can’t afford, loaning them money when you yourself are strapped or signing up for too big a wedding

-Overspending on recreation, clothes, jewelry, home improvements

-Starting a house project when your life is already on fast-forward

-Not paying your quarterly taxes

-Stopping your blood pressure medicine because you feel fine and you don’t like taking it

-Not looking for another job when you know your present one is ending

-Ignoring your child’s poor school performance and his lack of respect for curfew

-Entertaining the idea of having an affair or actually having one

-Trying to wing a presentation or failing to study for a test

If you find yourself heading for trouble, change lanes, put on the brake, take a different route. Not all disasters can be avoided. But don’t be a victim by design.

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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Being critical with your mate may not be the wisest course of action for your relationship. Sometimes Silence Is Golden.

She and he are drying dishes. She clangs the dishes together and he says nothing. He clangs the dishes and she says, “Can’t you be a little noisier?”

She spills some milk on the counter and immediately takes a dishrag and wipes it up. He spills milk on the counter and she says, “Having a little trouble today?”

She sits and reads the newspaper by a dim overhead light. Later as he reads by the same light, she clicks on the lamp and asks, “Are you trying to ruin your eyes?”

She takes a second helping of potatoes and he says nothing. He takes a second helping and she pipes up with, “I thought you were watching your weight.”

She jams the milk carton into the refrigerator and he says nothing. He jams the carton into the refrigerator and she says, “Here, let me do it.”

She turns the radio on in the car and they ride along listening to the basketball game. He turns the basketball game on in the car and she says, “Are you trying to avoid talking to me?”

The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and she sits down to watch television. Two days later, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and he sits down to watch television. She asks, “You’re not going to take advantage of this beautiful weather?”

She runs out of money and says, “I have to stop at the ATM.” He says nothing. When he says, “I have to stop at the ATM,” she says, “When are you going to start planning ahead?”

Incidentally, in these examples, “he” could be “she” and “she” could be “he.”

However, in my clinical experience, more women than men are critical and judgmental. Perhaps it’s because they have been primarily responsible for whipping the children into shape, so it comes naturally. Perhaps it’s because males have more behaviors that demand correcting, and soon the woman is correcting everything.

Perhaps it’s because more women are outer-focused, focusing their attention outward on others rather than inward on themselves. When their mate does something annoying, they immediately feel a need to address the issue. But if they do the same thing, they are not as focused on it.

Regardless of the whys and becauses, sometimes — in fact most of the time — it’s better to be quiet than critical.

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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When you let little irritations become a big issue, best rethink how to deal with them.

Some years ago a woman came to me because of her mother-in-law. She and her husband had been married for four years and had two small babies. The problem was that when her mother-in-law came for a visit, she would go through her daughter-in-law’s dresser drawers and medicine cabinet.

When the woman talked with her husband about what to do, he had shrugged and said his mom was just nosy and because his wife had nothing to hide, what did it matter?

Instead of confronting the mother-in-law head on, the wife had a lock put on her bedroom door. When the mother-in-law came over on Sundays, as she often did, the wife would simply lock the door.

Recently this daughter-in-law contacted me to help her deal with one of her teenaged daughters. During the session I asked, “Whatever happened with you and your mother-in-law, who used to rummage through your drawers?” The woman was surprised I remembered. I said her story was a bit unusual. She laughed, shrugged, and said everything was fine. Over the years her mother- in-law turned out to be a big help to the family, and as far as she knew, she had stopped going through the woman’s dresser drawers. In fact, she hadn’t used the lock in years.

Several hours later I got a telephone call from a friend who had a question. Apparently his friend is ready to give up a job he likes because of the engineer in the next cubicle. It seems that this engineer has a rather tumultuous relationship with his wife and argues on and off with her throughout the day. This same engineer kicks his wastecan rhythmically all day long. His fights and repetitive tapping are so irritating that my friend’s friend is seriously thinking about throwing in the towel.

My friend wanted to know if I had any solutions besides talking to the man, who was impossible to talk to, and going to his boss, who would think the problem petty.

I said I thought the friend had gotten himself sensitized to the man’s noises and he was attending to them instead of ignoring them. What he could do was to decide to focus on his work and learn to ignore the man in the next cubicle. It would take about six weeks of determined concentration, but it was possible.

Another option was for him to buy a white noise machine or humming fan which would help dull the racket. A third option would be to get earbuds and start listening to music as he worked.

My friend thanked me for the advice and said he’d pass it on.

The session with the woman followed by my friend’s telephone call got me to thinking. There are so many nuisance problems that come into our lives. Instead of making a big deal out of a problem and rushing to confront someone, often an adjustment in our own behavior would solve the problem.

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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Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal
with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back timeframe.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

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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Learn to put limitations on your whining. Whining can be acceptable in some situations, but your friends and family don’t want to listen to it forever.
We’re told we’re a nation of whiners. True. But is it good to whine? Does whining have any value?

Yes, some of the time. Suppose you’re overwhelmed at work and then your boss asks you to attend a meeting for him. A little whining to a co-worker may be all you need to dissipate your irritation before you gear up for the meeting.

If you lose a job or find your mate has been having an affair, initially you’ll cry, squeal and yelp. It hurts! As the weeks go by, you’ll probably settle into a steady whine. Eventually you’ll move to an on-again, off-again whine.

Whining phrases include: “I can’t believe he did this to me.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I can’t stand it.” “People are stupid.” “Doesn’t anyone give a darn?” “Nobody’s trustworthy.” “I could lie down and die and nobody would notice.” “Life’s crummy.” “I’m so tired of this whole thing.”

Note that most of these phrases place the whiner in a victim position. The whiner feels at that moment in time that he has little control over his life and what other people are doing.

If you have a mate or friend who’s a whiner, here are some tips. Start by listening. Listen for 5 minutes and make a few sympathetic comments such as, “That’s awful…I can see why you’re upset…It’s frustrating.”

After 10 minutes, you might make a suggestion as to what the person could do differently. Or ask if there is anything you can do. If you get nowhere, try switching to another topic. For example, to your friend you might say, “Well, how are your other children doing?” Or, “How do other people in your department cope?” To your mate you might suggest, “Let’s have a nice dinner in spite of….” Or, “Let’s have a nice evening. Why don’t we start by going for a walk.”

How much whining should you allow yourself? It depends on the situation. With a major problem such as a layoff or a cheating spouse, feel free to whine an hour a day. But do it in your head. If you’re whining aloud to a family member or friend, a half-hour goes a long way. If the problem is ongoing, for example, you have a difficult boss or difficult child, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of whining. After 10 minutes, make yourself change the focus of the conversation. Ask the other person what’s going on in her life. What happened with her today?

Another suggestion: Get up and do something physical. Sweeping a floor, taking out the trash, or sorting mail will change your focus of attention.

Everyone who whines, and most of us do from time to time, should keep track. If your whining is on the increase, perhaps there is something you need to change in your life. Also, play a game with yourself. Decide that Wednesdays and Saturdays are no whine days.

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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