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Many arguments between parents and children could be avoided if parents were more conscious of the way they communicated with their children.

Here’s a communication tip you can start using today.

The Broken Record Routine
If Bobby asks you to drop him at the mall and you don’t want him to go, tell him, “No, I don’t want you at the mall.”

If he responds, “But Mom, all my friends are going,” don’t say, If everybody jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump off too?

Instead, go for solution and simply state, “I don’t want you at the mall.”

If Bobby tells you you’re the meanest person in the world, don’t respond. He’s simply venting his frustration. If he keeps nagging, keep your voice even and repeat, “I don’t want you at the mall.” Then walk away if possible.

At some point, Bobby will get the message and you’ll save yourself and family needless arguing.

Observations only
If your 12-year daughter has left her dirty dishes sitting in the family room, simply make an observation: “Your dirty dishes are in the family room.”

If her room is a mess, make an observation: “You have a lot of things lying around in your room.”
If you think she’s been on the phone too long, you might say, “You’ve been on the telephone for quite awhile now.”

Simply making an observation keeps you from being critical and invites your child to develop her own conscious.

Will stating the obvious get you the results you want? Not always, but sometimes.

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 make long distance telephone calls. “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.

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Lots of tools for raising a healthy, happy child. Family time is important.
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, 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. 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 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. If you follow these guidelines, you can succeed.

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Stepchildren!

Over the years I’ve seen many marriages fractured because the husband and wife have few skills for dealing with the problems that arise with having stepchildren.

Julie and Jim have been married for seven years. They have no children together but Jim has two children, ages 12 and 14, by his former wife. Jim complains to me that nothing his children do is right in the eyes of his wife. He thinks Julie is too demanding and critical.

Julie fights back by saying that the boys are disrespectful to her. They never say hello, goodbye, or thank-you. They rarely share information about their lives and when she asks a question they either don’t answer or give a minimal response. They leave their clothes and shoes all over the place, make messes in the kitchen, and resist even the simplest chores, like emptying out the dishwasher or helping to cut the grass.

For seven years the boys have stayed with Julie and Jim every other weekend. Julie has cooked for them, entertained them, picked up after them, shopped for them, and made a big deal out of their birthdays, but rarely does she get a thank-you from them or from Jim.

Julie thinks her husband is too passive with his ex-wife. She often calls on Jim to take the boys when she leaves town for a weekend. Because Jim wants to be with his children he almost always says yes. The problem – he rarely checks with Julie first. This has led to numerous fights and bad feelings.

Julie is also angry because she feels Jim is a soft touch when it comes to buying extras for his sons. Because she and Jim put their earnings together, she feels it’s not fair that part of the money she earns is spent on the boys. And Julie also senses that Jim wants to keep the boys to himself and doesn’t want her to have too close a relationship with them.

Lately the boys have resisted coming over on Jim’s designated weekends. Jim blames Julie because of the unfriendly atmosphere in the house.

When it comes to the children, Jim sees Julie as the persecutor and his sons as the victims. Julie, on the other hand, sees the boys and Jim as persecutors and herself as the victim. I, as the therapist, see Jim, Julie, and the boys as both persecutors and victims.

The boys are persecutors when they ignore Julie and don’t pick up after themselves. They are victims because they must live in a hostile environment which is only partly due to their behavior.

Jim is a persecutor when he makes plans with his ex-wife without consulting Julie. He’s also a persecutor when he doesn’t discipline his children and insist they show respect for his wife. On the other hand, Jim’s a victim because when he gets the parental urge to treat his boys Julie puts him through the third degree. He’s also a victim because Julie frequently expects him to side with her against his sons.

Julie is a persecutor when she refuses to understand that parents sometimes want to buy things for their children without having to account for the money. She’s also a persecutor when she fails to acknowledge that Jim’s boys are children and children are going to make messes and resist doing chores. At the same time, she’s a victim of their messiness and rude behavior. She’s also a victim when Jim plans her weekend without consulting her.

Here are some solutions for these far too common problems with step-children:

1. Sit down with your mate and agree on what you both expect of the children
when they’re at your house. Should they make their own beds? Clean up dirty dishes? Put away their clothes? Establish standards. Then both of you enforce the rules.

2. Decide how much money you will spend on the children each month in addition to child support payments.  Stick to the agreement.

3. Always check with your spouse before making plans regarding your children- no matter what.

4. Compliment your spouse in front of your children. You might say, “Great meal you prepared for us” or “Thanks for getting the hockey tickets.”

5. Encourage your children to thank your spouse for cleaning their room, taking them swimming or making their favorite dessert.

6. Make the children aware that their stepparent is also contributing to pay for their camp or swimming lessons.

7. Always make sure that your chil­dren remember your spouse on his or her birthday, as well as Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. All stepparents deserve this kind of recognition for the many hours of their lives they give because they are stepparents.

8. Examine how you feel when your spouse becomes emotionally close to your children. If you start to feel jealous, don’t act on the jealousy.  Understand that a good relationship between your children and your mate is a gift to your children.

9. Be respectful of your spouse in front of your children and they, too, will learn to be respectful.  And when they’re not, confront them.

The very problems that plague natural parents as they are raising their children plague a parent and stepparent. But the parent and stepparent run a greater risk of becoming polarized. They often wind up fighting each other instead of seeing that they can solve their problems – if they pull together as a team.

 

 

 

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When my daughter was in grade school the class 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.”

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I met a woman at a bridal shower the other day, that knew of my blog. She said that the one thing she regrets in her life…that she didn’t go back to work after her children were raised. After all, she had a college degree, she said.

I said, “Go back to work now.” She laughed and said that she was in her seventies and it was too late.

She then said that a regret her husband had is that he didn’t go to medical school. He was offered a scholarship but opted to sell suits at a local department store for nine dollars a week.

Another woman said that she regrets not going back to school and finishing her education. When she was in her thirties she regretted this; when she was in her forties she regretted it; and now she is in her mid-sixties and she still regrets it.

Then this woman asked me if I had any regrets. I said that actually I had been thinking about this very thing recently, and one thing I regret is that I have baked about 2000 pies since I’ve been married. Everyone laughed when they heard my regret, but I think of all the cholesterol and sugar I have consumed and all the time I could have spent reading novels and being with my children.

Another regret I have thought of since is that I yelled too much at our first child when he forgot his lunch, which was almost daily.

I’d be driving him and his brother to school when he would inform me that he had forgotten his lunch. Since the school didn’t have a cafeteria, I was always faced with deciding whether to go back home for his lunch and be late for work, or take him to school and hope that a hungry stomach would teach him to be more responsible.

Thinking back, I could have gotten around this whole ugly scene, in which I would lecture, he would feel miserable, and then I’d feel guilty. I could have taken it upon myself to bring his lunch. I could have found other ways to teach responsibility besides insisting that he remember his lunch bag.

My daughter forgot her lunch one morning. I asked her what she was going to do. She assured me that one of her friends would share her lunch. I said that was nice.

I drove away from her school with no regrets.

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Adolescence isn’t all fun and games.

When we adults see teenagers goofing off at the mall or jumping around in a car to the latest beat, we often think they don’t have anything to worry about. It’s one carefree, fun-filled adventure after another.

Recently a woman told me about a prayer service that took place at a local Catholic High School. The theme of the service was a time of remembrance. At church the adolescents were invited to ask the Lord to remember a person dear to them who had died.

Here are some of the remembrances offered by teenagers.

Matt: My mother died when I was a freshman. I wish she was still alive.

Neil: My sister died when I was an infant. I wish I could have known her.

Chrissy: My brother would have celebrated his twelfth birthday. I would have enjoyed celebrating it with him.

Pete: My brother died when I was thirteen. I wish I would have had more time to get to know him better.

Regina: My father passed away five years ago. I wish he was here to share special moments in my life. I miss him very much.

Ellen: My grandma was a wonderful person. She has many who loved her and miss her.

Mark: Last spring my friend’s father died in a car accident. I had gotten to become good friends with him.

Alisyn: My grandmother died the day after my fourteenth birthday. I am told I am just like her at this age, but how do I know? I wish her well.

Jeff: My uncle died last year. I miss playing sports with him.

Libbi: My dad died when I was two. I should have been a Daddy’s girl. I miss him.

Jason: My brother died on May 12th two years ago. I am thankful for the time I spent with him. It was the most memorable six years of my life.

Tommy: A friend of mine, Allen, died last April. I miss him a lot and wish he was still here.

Erin: My grandmothers died six months apart during my sophomore year. I miss the good times with them.

Josh: My brother was killed when he was seven. I wish he was here so we could talk. I miss him.

Ann: My brother died 5 months ago. He was a good brother and a good person. I miss him.

Ana: A close friend, Sharna, died on December 28th from a drunk driver. Please pray for her and her family.

Andy: My grandfather died before I was born. I wish I could have met him just once.

When you see teenagers messing around at the mall and yelling louder than they should, soften your gaze a little. And remember, their lives are not as carefree as you might think.

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