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When your moodiness is beginning to affect your marriage and family, it’s time to do something about it.

Are you a moody person? Do you have to deal with someone who’s moody? A mate? A boss? A child? A co-worker?

In a marriage counseling session, a husband complained that the past weekend had not been good. His wife had been in one of her moods.

I asked the wife what the husband meant. She shrugged and looked at him. He said, “Just what she’s doing now. She won’t talk; she refuses to comment on what you say; she acts like the kids and I don’t exist. And it doesn’t matter what we do to try to be nice.” He explained that the family can clean the house, cook the meals, and buy her a present, and she still won’t snap out of it. In fact, last year their eleven-year-old gave her a coffee mug that said, “Snap Out of It.”

I asked Marilyn if what her husband was describing about her was accurate. She shrugged and said yes. Then she said, “It’s just the way I am.” When she gets in one of those moods, she said, she wants people to leave her alone. Not talk to her, not try to cheer her up.

I asked how often her moodiness struck. She said a few times a month. Her husband said about once a week.

How long do her moods last? They both agreed — two or three days.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as a problem. She was noncommittal but added that all her family was like this and her husband had known she was moody before he married her.

He said he had thought her moodiness was because of the stress of the wedding and her dad being sick at the time. He never dreamed it would be something he’d have to live with for the rest of their married life.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as something she wanted to work on to make things better at home with her husband and children.

She said, “Not particularly.”

I asked if she understood how destructive her moods were to her marriage, her children, and herself.

She wanted to know how.

I said that each time she gets in one of her moods, she emotionally leaves the family. She’s not available for anyone. She closes everyone out. She discounts everyone’s existence. She sucks up the family’s energy as all wait for her to be in a better mood. And I said I suspect during her moodiness she can’t possibly enjoy life or feel close to anyone.

She asked what she could do about her moods. I said she’d have to want to make a change. And I wasn’t so sure she was ready. She agreed.

I said my usual routine would be to quickly review her childhood and see who she learned this behavior from and how it served her as a child. This would take no more than a half session. I’d also send her to her doctor to make sure she was okay physically. I’d have her make a list of the advantages she saw in being moody.

She said, “Such as?”

I said, “Well, when you’re moody, everyone is watching you, trying to please you. Maybe you get out of cooking, doing housework. Maybe you get to take a nap, guilt free. People don’t keep a behavior around unless they get a payoff. Sometimes understanding the payoff helps people give up the behavior.”

Another thing — when a bad mood starts, I want her to do some things immediately to help herself shake it off. Research shows that if you get a project going such as cleaning the garage, or if you do something for someone else such as running an errand, your bad mood will dissipate. Also, no television or alcohol when she’s in a bad mood, as both of these things exacerbate the bad feelings.

She said, “You feel pretty strongly about getting me to be in a better mood.”

I said, “I do because it’s miserable for your family and ultimately miserable for 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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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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Whether you are the married child, in-law or parent, it’s important to have a close relationship with all family members. This may include visiting each other at your homes. People tend to feel taken care of when included.
A friend asked, “What’s the matter with children today? Our son doesn’t invite us to dinner. He was married four years in July, and we’ve been invited to his house twice. And that’s because both times I said I wanted an invitation for my birthday.

“He and his wife are good to us in every other way. They’ve taken us out several times to dinner and invited us to several plays. But it’s hard when we don’t know about their house, and how it’s decorated, or what they’re doing in their garden. As far as I know, they like us. And neither his dad nor I have been critical when we’ve been to their home. It’s a nice house. It’s neat and tidy. I don’t understand the problem. Should I just call and say, ‘How about if I stop by today with some lunch?’ Or should I say something more directly?”

I said, “Well, let’s think of why they aren’t inviting you over. Has there been a riff or bad feelings about something in the past?

“No,” said my friend, “not anything I’m aware of. And when we get together, or when they come to our house, we genuinely have a good time.”

“Is it possible they’re too busy,” I asked. I know they both have demanding jobs. And he’s taking some night courses, and she has a large family. “Right,” my friend said, “but they can’t be so busy that they never invite us over.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe her parents never entertained and she’s not used to it.”

“That may be,” said my friend, “but our son comes from a family where we always had family and friends for dinner. Another thing, they have a well equipped kitchen and beautiful crystal and china. Why don’t they use it?”

“Do they entertain other people?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” my friend replied.

“Well, it takes a lot of work,” I said, “especially when you’re new at entertaining. With cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, it can take all day to get ready for guests.”

My friend agreed.

“It seems to me you ought to talk with your son.” I suggested, “Tell him that you would like to be invited over to his house for a meal, or just a visit. Would he and his wife be willing to start inviting you every few months?

“If your son hesitates, you can ask if there’s something wrong, something you’re not aware of. Have you or your husband offended him or his wife in some way? Does his wife feel uncomfortable with the two of you? Is there anything you might do to get invited more often? Then be sure to listen to what your son has to say.”

When children first get married, they need time to set up their own house and to decide how much they want to see their parents, and how much entertaining they will do. Also, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law may feel anxious about fitting into a new family.

Parents, too, find it difficult to let go and adjust to a different type of relationship with their married child.

If you’re newly married, make sure you let your folks know how important they are to you. You can do this with a weekly telephone call and an invitation once or twice a month for dinner or an outing. Also, stay interested in their lives. Find out about them as people, what’s going on with their jobs, their social life, their dreams and disappointments.

If you’re a parent with newly married children, respect their privacy. Don’t pop in on them unannounced or ask them about their money or when they plan to have children. Also understand that they may have different standards of housekeeping from yours and different values about their life-style. Above all, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. And then be careful how you give it.

Chances are great that if you had a good relationship before your child got married, you’ll have a good one after he or she has said, “I do.” Often, however, both parent and child go through a period of adjustment.

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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If someone tells you about a problem they are facing, think about your response before responding.
Your husband tells you he is disgusted with his job. The people he works with are idiots. You immediately respond, “Why don’t you tell the boss what you’re up against; how they don’t pull their weight?”

Now your husband has two problems. He still is disenchanted with his job. And he has to fend off your knee-jerk suggestion of talking to the boss.

——-

Your wife says, “What a great day. Let’s pack a picnic basket and take the girls to the park.”

Your knee-jerk response: “I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound good to me.”

Your wife says, “Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.”

You again say no.

To this second turn-down your wife shrugs and says okay.

About 20 minutes later, after some thought on your part, you go back to your wife and say, “Okay, let’s go to the park.”

——-

You leave a meeting hopping mad. You meet your friend and tell her you are furious at the way your co-worker Jim behaved at the meeting. He acted as though your committee had done nothing constructive. He cut you off when you were talking. He made one sarcastic response after another.

The friend you are spilling your guts to says, “Maybe he’s just had a bad day. Maybe he had a fight with one of his kids. Don’t be so hard on him.”

Why is your friend taking Jim’s side? You wonder. This woman is supposed to be your friend. In fact, she doesn’t even know Jim, so why would she be defending him?

——-

You decide to join a gym. You tell your mother you’re working out three mornings a week. Your mother says, “That’s ridiculous. You need your rest. You don’t need to be getting up at the crack of dawn three mornings a week to go to some silly gym.”

You feel deflated and annoyed. You told your mother because you wanted to share your new endeavor and you wanted her support.

——-

I have just presented four typical knee-jerk responses.

First I described the wife who jumps in and tries to solve her husband’s problem instead of simply listening to him complain. This is the problem-solving knee-jerk response.

In the next story, the husband immediately says no to his wife’s suggestion of going to the park. His is the “no” knee-jerk response.

In the third scenario, your friend defends Jim and starts making all kinds of excuses for him. This is the “let’s make it better” knee-jerk response.

In the fourth incident, Mom is unsupportive and critical of your early morning workouts. Hers is a “devil’s advocate” knee-jerk response.

Unfortunately, all these responses are inappropriate. The person who started each conversation wanted only to be listened to, to get some sympathy, and to get some approval.

Ask yourself, Which knee-jerk response do I usually have? Do I need to do anything differently?

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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Having happy children may take some extra work, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Are your children happy?

Even though happiness is genetically linked, only about 50 percent of happiness is driven by genes. The other 50 percent is driven by what happens to a child on a daily basis.

One of the most important contributors to a child’s happiness is doing things as a family. Nothing feels so good as when a family goes biking or hiking or spends part of the day at the zoo.

I know one family who has designated Wednesday nights as family night. This is the night nothing interferes. They have dinner and then play board games. Even the 17-year old participates. “Once you set a night and stick to it month after month, year after year, it becomes the expectation,” says the mother, “and our children look forward to it.”

Another happiness ingredient is working together. Spending four hours cleaning the backyard, the basement, and the house each Saturday morning, encourages a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of being part of the team. We’re a family. We’re in this together. “One for all and all for one.”

Research shows that children tend to be happier when parents set expectations and rules. Children do better when they have a set bedtime and when they are expected to do certain chores each week, pick up after themselves, control their language, and show respect for other family members. When parents have expectations, it conveys to a child that he has worth. And meeting these expectations helps a child feel more in control of his own destiny.

Feeling happy and content is also a by-product of feeling loved. Pats on the back from parents and “I love yous” sprinkled throughout the week are essential. And applause for a job well done recognizes a child’s accomplishments.

Happiness involves living in the present. Everyday should be a time to build family relationships. This means: “Let’s talk as we do dishes.” “Let’s put on a CD and dance.” “Let’s watch a movie and enjoy each other’s company.” Too often parents put happiness till later, saying, “Next weekend when go to your cousins…” or when we go on vacation….”

Children feel happier if they have God in their life. God is someone to talk to when they feel anxious and stressed. Or when no matter how good they try to be, they can’t change something in their lives.

Children are happier if family members get along and are respectful of each other. This means no screaming matches, no name-calling, no constant criticisms. Nor should a parent use a child as a confidante, telling him the other parent is not okay. It also means an older or younger sibling is not allowed to tyrannize the family.

If you want to raise a happy child, ask yourself if you are following these guidelines. And if you’re lacking in some areas, now’s the time to make changes. Most parents want to raise and live with a happy child. Following these guidelines, spells success.

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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Here are some solutions to problems that may arise when stepchildren are staying for any long period of time.
His children, ages 5, 7 and 10, are coming for six weeks this summer. His present wife works outside the home. He works outside the home. Whose job is it to take care of the children?

He says his 10-year old is very responsible. She can babysit.

The wife says, “No, she’s too young. I will not put that responsibility on her.”

He says, “If you don’t like my plan, you figure it out.”

She says, “They’re your children.”

He says, “You knew I had children before I married you. It was a package deal.”

The wife got quiet and then suggested she find a baby sitter.

Fourteen telephone calls and two weeks later the wife found a sitter and a day camp for the children to attend part-time. Neither husband nor wife is happy with the additional expected financial outlay. But both have agreed not to fight about how much money they are spending on the children. Other issues they still had to deal with:

Whose job will it be to cook, keep the house picked up, and do the extra laundry? Who will take responsibility to tell the children what chores they must do, when to shower, when to go to bed, when to stop jumping on the sofa?

Slowly we worked out a plan whereby she would take responsibility for directing the children regarding showers and eating and helping clean up after dinner. Additionally, she would arrange some family activities, including a week’s vacation at the lake.

He would take charge of everything else — making carpool arrangements, doing laundry, writing up a list of chores for the children with his wife’s input, and then monitoring who was doing what. He further agreed that if his wife wanted him to deal with a particular issue with one of the children, he would handle it as she wished. He would acquiesce.

She agreed to shrug a lot, say “whatever,” understand that the house would frequently be messy, and get away by herself two evenings a week. The two of them would get a sitter so they could be alone on Saturday nights. Over the course of the summer, she would write a list of 100 things she liked about the children and give it to me.

He agreed to give his wife 100 compliments for helping care for the children. He would give me a list of his compliments. He further agreed to do more than his usual share of housework while the children were in town.

I would act as the moderator, with a few phone consults if things got sticky.

I then gave this couple my standard spiel: “The children are not responsible for the divorce or for having a stepmother. It’s something they must adjust to through no fault of their own.”

• Stepchildren are a lot of work and are often ungrateful. In this regard, however, they are no different than children generally.

• It is the responsibility of the parent, not the stepparent, to do the lion’s share of the work involved in caring for the children.

• When a stepparent takes too hard a line with her stepchildren, the marital relationship suffers because the natural parent will not look kindly on such behavior and his feelings will be adversely affected.

• Lead with your brains, not your emotions. Accept that you will sometimes have to give in or take responsibility when you don’t really believe you should have to. Be generous with forgiveness and be determined that you’ll respect each other and the children.

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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Women frequently complain to their husbands and children about how much they do around the house vs. how much everyone else does. In turn, husbands and children defend by pointing out that they vacuum, do dishes, grocery shop, pay bills, and even scrub the floor.

So why does Mom keep complaining?

The reason so many women complain about all they do is that every home has numerous hidden chores that never make it onto someone’s chore list. But still, they must be done.

Here is a list of hidden chores. Next to each one write the initial of the person or people who most often do the task.

  1. Sorts through the mail and recycles all the junk mail.
  2. Periodically straightens the linen closet.
  3. Makes rags out of old clothing, cutting buttons off and tearing the clothes into
    rag size.
  4. Disposes of bad food, moldy cheese and rotten fruit from the refrigerator.
  5. Keeps the ice trays filled.
  6. Refills the toilet-paper holder.
  7. Picks up trash in the yard.
  8. Stops to pull a few big weeds that have sprung up among the shrubs.
  9. Replaces the light bulbs.
  10. Writes “light bulbs” and “dish detergent” on a shopping list.
  11. Stops by the grocery store for milk or bread.
  12. Bags up unused clothing and sees that it is passed on to the appropriate relative or organization.
  13. Collects and gives away old hangers that have accumulated.
  14. Sorts through old magazines and sees that they are recycled properly.
  15. Organizes the family games and puzzles and DVDs.
  16. Puts the photos in albums or boxes.
  17. Runs to the post office for stamps.
  18. Goes to the pet shop for fish filters, a dog chain or cat food.
  19. Waters and repots the house plants.
  20. Makes a run to the recycling center.
  21. Takes the family pet to the veterinarian and groomer.
  22. Picks up the dry cleaning.
  23. Sharpens the pencils around the house.
  24. Replaces empty tissue boxes in various rooms.
  25. Periodically sorts through the paper and plastic bags and telephone books and disposes of extras.
  26. Sorts and stores out-of-season clothes.
  27. Wipes smudges and heel marks off the doors.
  28. Sets up appointments with repair people and various contractors.
  29. Plants spring flowers and fall bulbs.
  30. Washes out the wastepaper baskets and trash cans.

If one of you has initialed more than your fair share, pass some of these chores on. When everyone shares household duties, family members appreciate each other more.

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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