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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

What happens if your adolescent or grown child starts dating someone you don’t like? As a parent, do you take the risk and say something? Or do you say nothing, hoping that the relationship will end?

If your child is in the throes of adolescence, it’s best to keep your negative remarks to a minimum. No matter how well founded or well meaning your comments are, they definitely will bring results that are directly opposite to what you want. This is known as the “Romeo and Juliet effect.” The harder parents try to keep their teen-ager from getting involved with a particular person, the more determined the child will be to get involved.

If your daughter is 17 and her new­found love is 22 and a loser, you certainly have every right and responsibility as a parent to discourage your daughter’s involvement. The best way to do this is to limit the time she spends with her boyfriend rather than repeatedly pointing out his flaws.

If your child is over 20, he or she may listen more to your objections. But it’s still risky business to lay out too many negatives. If the child proceeds with the relationship and winds up walking down the aisle, you can bet all those negatives will come back to haunt you.

I had one couple come to my office heartbroken. Their son was marrying a girl they were sure wasn’t good for him. In their eyes she was demanding, critical and controlling. They had warned their son of this woman’s flaws but he was refusing to listen. What were they to do?

The advice I gave was to start recognizing this woman’s good qualities. I also advised that they start building a relationship with her if they wanted to continue to see their son. They didn’t like my advice. Unfortunately, these parents continued to air their displeasure. The son married and moved away, the daughter-in-law is openly hostile, and the parents rarely see their son.

Another couple I saw for counseling faced a similar problem. Their 27-year-old son had fallen for a divorced woman of 34 who had three small children.

This certainly wasn’t their idea of happiness for their son. They worried about how he would be able to support the children and if he had what it took to step into a ready-made family. They were concerned that this woman was an opportunist who saw their son as a meal ticket. They also wondered if they would be able to accept her children as their grandchildren.

On the plus side, they liked the woman and the children and from what they had seen, they thought she was a good mother. So they decided to support their son and keep their objections to themselves.

I ran into this couple a few years later and learned that the marriage was working well. The factor that no one could have predicted: The son was sterile and couldn’t have children. So a built-in family was a gift to everyone.

It’s painful for parents when their child chooses someone that they wouldn’t choose. And it’s difficult to keep objections to oneself. At the same time, it’s a good idea for parents to soft-pedal their disapproval, switch the focus, and figure out what their child sees in the other person.

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 see a lot of couples for marriage counseling and although each couple has a unique set of problems, one thing stands out: Couples who are having problems often stop doing nice things for each other. It may be that when she went shopping she used to always buy him a little present – a tie, a travel coffee mug, a half-pound of English toffee. Now she goes and buys for the children and herself. But the treats for him have stopped.

He, on the other hand, used to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work and bring her strawberries. He also used to make a point of bringing home his company’s newsletter for her to read. Now he does neither.

Here’s one technique that I’ve been suggesting to couples which brings quick, positive results and good feelings.

Get a large note pad and draw a line down the middle of the page. Write your name on one side and your mate’s on the other. Every day each of you should do three nice things for the other and write them on the paper. Your list for several days may look like this:

Joan     11/1 Brought him coffee, picked up his cleaning, told him his haircut looked good

Jim       11/1 Got her popcorn at the show, told her “I love you”, helped her wash windows

Joan     11/2 Bought food for his hunting trip, bought him new wool socks, fixed him breakfast

Jim       11/2 Gave her a back rub, made a fire when she asked, made her coffee

Joan     11/3 Sent him a card, had a key made for his locker, made him a cherry pie

Jim       11/3 Made dinner and cleaned up, listened to her about a job problem, told her the house looked nice

Joan     11/4 Complimented him on his tie, said “I love you”, sewed a button on his shirt

Jim       11/4 Sent her a card, picked up milk, bought her doughnuts

The trick to this technique is to keep doing it even if you’re annoyed at your mate. And keep it in a place where you can both see it – on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table. If you have children, let them see your list. It’s good for them to know that Mom and Dad do nice things for each other.

Every couple who has used this technique has reported good results. Try it for a month. I guarantee, it works.

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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What do you do when your daughter is overweight?

One mother confessed that when she looks at her overweight daughter, she sees her as a failure. And then she translates her daughter’s failure into her own failure.

“I try to hide my disappointment and discontent with the way she looks,” said the mother,” but it’s always there. I also make subtle comments, which really aren’t so subtle. In the past I’ve said, “I heard about a great diet book. Should I buy it for you?

“I’ve also said, ‘It’s a great day; let’s go for a walk.’ What I’m really saying is, “You need some exercise.’ The worst comment was when I said, “Why, you have a double chin just like me.’

“When I look at her, I think she’s lazy. She has no pride. I wonder where I went wrong.”

Another woman said that it drives her crazy to watch her daughter eat. “I want to say, ‘Stop eating that roll and butter. Get control of yourself. Don’t you have any respect for yourself?’ I don’t dare say anything because in the past I have and it just makes her mad and not want to be with me.”

“I never stop bugging my daughter,” said another woman. “I’m always coming up with a plan. I take her articles and books on weight loss. Last year I enrolled her in a weight-loss program and she lost 50 pounds. Then she gained it all back. My next plan was humiliation. I told her I loved her, but the world hated fat people. This month I’ve offered to pay for her to enroll at a gym. Does all this do her any good? It doesn’t seem to help her, but it helps me.

“My daughter is 70 pounds overweight and seems to be on her way up,” moaned another mom. “She eats all the time. Her room is full of candy wrappers. I’m thin, and I just don’t get it. Nothing I say to her has an impact. She’s sweet and a successful high school student. She plays in the band and has lots of friends. I know she’s unhappy with her weight, but she can’t seem to get control of it.”

Yet another mother said, “The worst time for me is when I have to introduce my daughter, who is at least 90 pounds overweight, to someone she’s never met. I cringe. I think that the person must be thinking how ugly she is. I smile and am chatty and act like everything is fine, but on the inside I feel terrible and know it’s not fine. I feel bad for my daughter and bad for me.”

If you are a mother having bad feelings about an overweight daughter, you know that your daughter also is struggling with feelings about her weight. The best course of action is to ask her directly, “Is there anything I can do to help you with your weight? Or would you rather I said nothing?”

Some daughters will ask to be bugged a bit. They want their mothers to bring them diet programs and suggestions. This keeps the problem out in the open as opposed to pretending there isn’t a problem. Other daughters will ask that their mother not push food or tempt them with homemade cakes and cookies.

Some daughters do not want their mothers to say anything about their weight problem. They already know they have one, and they’ve already tried any number of diets and exercise programs.

If you truly want to be helpful to your overweight daughter, ask her what she wants from you. And then have the strength and courage to give her what she asks for.

To take care of your own feelings about her weight, confide in a favorite friend from time to time. Too, you might want to get a bit philosophical and ask yourself, “Why did I bring this child into the world?”

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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Dear Beth and Mat,

Happy Wedding Day! Since within a few hours the two of you will be taking your wedding vows, I decided that a little counsel might be in order. As you know, through my work I’ve watched a lot of happy couples interact with each other and I’ve worked with a lot of couples struggling to make their marriages better. Each couple has taught me a lesson about marriage. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

No two people are alike. Now you’ve probably heard that before. But sometimes when we hear something so often, we forget the essence. What this means is that the two of you will sometimes see some things differently. Beth, you may want to use your extra money to buy furniture. Mat, you may want to use it to go on vacation. One of you may want to get up early and get going while the other wants to sleep late and enjoy a quiet morning. One of you may be a talker and an analyzer, but the other may be more quiet. One of you may be acutely aware of your feelings. The other may not be aware of them at all. Remember, neither of you is right or wrong. You are simply different. Some differen­ces are genetic. Some you learned from your families as you were growing up. These differ­ences make each of you unique. Be aware of them, smile and laugh about them, work to accept them.

Be generous with your praise. Right now you are probably telling each other how attractive you are. The two of you are exchanging a lot of hugs and smiles and “I love yous.” These compliments helped you fall in love. If you give them daily, they will keep you in love.

Be cautious with your criticism. Married people sometimes begin to think they have a right to critique their partner or to make helpful suggestions. Keep it to one criticism every two weeks and your partner will feel safe and want to be in your presence.

Know your own flaws and correct them so they don’t interfere with your marriage. If you are always late, decide from now on to be on time. If you get too mad, work on your temper.

Listen. Listen. Listen to your partner talk without interrupting. Listen to his or her feelings. Listen when he’s happy, when she’s disappointed, when he’s scared.

Enjoy love making. Accept your partner’s approach and approach your partner. Have fun and be generous in bed.

If you step on your partner’s feelings, say you’re sorry. Recognize that you have erred. Remember, it’s easier to love someone who admits mistakes.

Play together. Continue to develop interests…back-packing, dancing, cards, tennis. Develop a group of friends that will bring additional energy to your marriage.

Be respectful. In marriage there is no room for screaming, or name calling, or refusing to talk, or threatening divorce.

Keep in touch with your families. Let them be of comfort to you and share your joys and sadnesses. But, remember, each of you now should come first with the other.

Both of you are very much in love today. Choose to live in such a way that your love will last forever.

YOUR FRIEND,

DORIS

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 my daughter was young she went on an all-day field trip. The buses picked the children up from school at 7:00 a.m. that morning and dropped them off promptly at 5:45 p.m. About 5:30 that evening parents started arriving at the parking lot awaiting the buses. As the first bus rolled in there were smiles and shouts of “Here they come!”

I don’t think there was a parent in the parking lot who didn’t feel a little relieved at the sight of the buses and a bit of a glow at seeing their little one jump off a bus.

As I was driving my daughter home I kept looking at her and thinking how much I loved her. Some hours later when she kept getting out of bed, long after her scheduled bedtime, I didn’t feel quite so in love.

As all parents have experienced, feelings for a child change, and change, and change. Sometimes love and tender feelings get replaced by feelings of frustration and disappointment. And then it’s back to the tender feelings again. Sometimes, however, parents get caught up in negative feelings toward a particular child. And no matter what the child does, the parent has trouble seeing anything good or feeling anything positive.

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 sluffed off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake. At the same time 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 cute smile. The trick 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 neat things his son did as a little boy. Although the father dutifully made his list he also couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.

His 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.”

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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She’s been married twice. Now she’s thinking about tying the knot a third time and she wants to know, “How can I tell if he’s Mr. Right? This time I want to be sure I can live happily ever after with him.”

Although there are no absolutes or guarantees to happiness, there are some very specific questions you should answer to help you see beyond that wonderful rush of feelings you get when falling in love.

One thing to assess is what kind of past this person has. If he admits to wild drinking or gambling, wait a few years before saying “I do.” Time will help you determine if he has cleaned up his behavior.

What kind of job history does he have? His eyes may be a gorgeous blue, but you’ll get very tired of looking at him if he isn’t a steady worker.

If he has been married before, why did his marriage break up? Was the breakup caused by cheating on his wife? Was it because he worked sixty hours a week and only focused on his career? People do change, but you’ll want to see the evidence.

Where does this man put the blame for the break up of former relationships? If he sees his former wife or girlfriend as the culprit and shows no awareness of his contributions to their unhappiness, taking responsibility for his mistakes will be difficult for him.

If he has children, look hard at how he relates to them and to their mother. Does he put their needs before his some of the time? Does he put you before his children on occasion? Do his wants come first some of the time? If you answered yes to all three of these questions, chances are he’s able to do a nice balancing act.

How does he handle his anger? If you have watched him fly into a rage behind the wheel or at a restaurant, at some point you, too, will be the target of his anger. Better pass up matrimony until he gets counseling and has his anger under control.

What do you have in common? Does he like to bicycle? Dance? Go to plays? Play board games? Go to movies?

What do you think of his friends? If most of them tend to be obnoxious or boring, look at him again. Is he a bit obnoxious or boring? If he has very few friends, think through why this is so. Maybe he isn’t willing to put out energy for people. If this is the case, it’s predictable that he won’t be putting out a lot of energy for you.

You’ll also want to have a good idea of how he handles money. Is he in debt? Does he overspend? Does he have savings? What financial assets and liabilities will he bring to the marriage? What are each of your expectations about how the money should be handled?

When it comes to paying the bill at a restaurant, do you squirm because you think he’s a bit cheap? If he’s a small tipper or expects you to always split the tab, money will become an issue in your future.

He may be very complimentary to you, but how does he treat his parents, his brothers and sisters, his co-workers? Does he praise or criticize? You don’t want someone who is stingy with compliments and generous with criticisms.

Don’t overlook personal habits. Does he have good manners? Does he pick up his clothes? How does his home look? Is he well groomed?

Name at least ten characteristics that other people would use to describe him.

List his two worst faults. Assuming that he will never change, can you live with these two faults?

If you answer these questions honestly, you’ll know if he’s Mr. Right.

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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“Let’s go to a movie tonight,” said Janet.

“That doesn’t sound good to me,” yawned Ralph.

As Janet was gathering up her coat and purse, Ralph suddenly clicked off the television set and announced he would be joining her.

Janet, already set to have a nice evening alone, asked, “Are you sure you want to go?”

Ralph assured her, and out the door they went.

As they drove into the parking lot, Ralph mumbled that the last movie must not have gotten out yet. So where did they expect everybody to park? Certainly the theatre could do a better job of scheduling.

As they waited in line to buy tickets, Ralph said that everybody and their brother must have decided to see this movie judging by the length of the line.

Janet, sensing Ralph’s annoyance, made small talk. She wanted this to be a good evening.

When they got into the lobby, Janet suggested that Ralph go with the crowd and find seats. She would get the popcorn.

Ralph replied, “You’re going to stand in that line just for popcorn?”

Janet shook her head yes, and in her head told Ralph he was acting like a jerk.

With popcorn in hand, Janet made her way to where Ralph was seated. His comment on seeing her: “You didn’t get anything to drink?”

“No,” she said. But she offered to go back after the movie started to get Ralph a drink.

“Never mind,” Ralph said.

“No, I’ll go back,” Janet replied. “I just didn’t think you’d want anything.”

“I don’t now,” said Ralph.

As they sat in silence waiting for the show to start, Janet struggled with feelings of guilt over the drink and irritation over Ralph’s negativism.

During the movie she couldn’t help checking on Ralph, trying to determine if he was having a good time. Every time he shifted his body, she felt a twinge of anxiety.

Once he commented that the popcorn tasted stale.

At the end of the movie he asked her what she thought. She said she loved it.

And what did he think, she asked. He said it was okay.

They rode home in silence.

The moral of this story: Good sportsmanship goes beyond the playing field.

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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