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Posts Tagged ‘Doris Wild Helmering’

Let’s draw a trouble tree. Take out a piece of paper and draw a tree with three branches.

Put your name on one of the branches.

Put two other peoples’ names on the other two branches. You might choose one of your children, a close friend, a neighbor, or a relative.

Now write your troubles on one branch and the other peoples’ troubles on their branches.

For example, on Suzanne’s branch I would hang the following miseries:

  • Son has learning difficulties
  • Oldest daughter has weight problem
  • Husband left for another woman
  • Basement floods periodically
  • New car continues to break down.

Even people who seem to lead a charmed life like Oprah have problems.
Her misfortunes include:

  • born to a single teenage mother in poverty
  • was sexually abused
  • lost a son
  • fired from a reporting job
  • struggles with her weight

Every person experiences troubles in life. Some people seem to experience more than their share of miseries. Others seem to be blessed and appear to have fewer troubles throughout their life. But no one escapes physical and emotional pain.

The trouble tree can help you put your problems in perspective.

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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One day, I stopped to get a cup of coffee before taking my daughter to the dentist. When I returned to the car with the coffee, I gave it to my daughter to hold. As we were driving along, I noticed that she was holding the cup at a slant. Immediately I said, “You’re spilling my coffee!” What I didn’t add but certainly implied by my tone of voice was, “You dummy.”

She looked at me wide-eyed and said faintly, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Perhaps it was hearing my own tone of voice or perhaps it was her childlike apology, but something certainly caused me to rethink how I had talked to my daughter. I know if it had been a friend and not my daughter, I would have smiled and said in a friendly tone, “The coffee.” But because it was my daughter, I gave myself permission to be irritated and critical.

On the other hand, I often say to my children, “Don’t be sarcastic;” “That sounds critical, say it again;” and, “Change your tone of voice.” I’m determined that my children should be polite and respectful regardless of whether they are talking to me or to one another.

When I do therapy, I continually tell people to take out the sarcasm and putdowns in their voices, for I know what distance a nasty tone of voice can create between a husband and wife or a parent and child.

Here are a few comments you might make from time to time. Read them over and think how you might sound.

“No, you may not have another Popsicle.”

“I want you to clean your room.”

“It’s time to get your bath.”

“I think you’ve had enough screen time for the day. It’s time to go outside and play.”

“I’d like you home by 12:30 tonight.”

“Please get your towel and wet bathing suit off the sofa.”

“I would like the grass cut before you go play.”

“Whose mess is this on the counter?”

“Who’s got the Scotch tape?”

“It’s time to get off the phone.”

Parents, listen to yourselves and how you talk with your child.

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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Some years ago we moved into an old house that had huge windows in the kitchen. From the time my mother saw those windows she wanted me to hang curtains on them. I think our first conversation went something like, “What kind of curtains are you going to put on the windows?” I said, “I don’t plan to put curtains on the windows.”

Several weeks later Mom brought me an ad from the newspaper. Jackman’s was having a sale on curtain material. She would be happy to make curtains for me. “Mom, I don’t plan to cover the windows,” I said.

A few months later it was, “Curtains would sure finish this kitchen off nicely.”

I never did get curtains for that kitchen. I also don’t think my mother ever gave up hinting that I should.

One time, my husband, our daughter and I went out to dinner. Our oldest son was our waiter. He was also the waiter for the table next to ours. During the evening we heard the woman at the next table ask our son if he would wrap up the rest of her dinner, as she wanted to take it with her. He said, “Sure,” and disappeared with her food. A few minutes later we saw him serving salads at another table. My husband commented, “I wonder if he’s going to remember that woman’s food.” I said, “I don’t know. Do you think we should remind him?” My husband said no. Later when we saw our son place a Styrofoam container on the table next to us, we both breathed a sigh of relief.

I was telling my partner, who also has grown children, about this incident. She started laughing and then admitted that just the other day she was at her son’s apartment. When he left the room she casually poked her fingers in the flower pots, checking to see if the plants had been watered. In her head she kept saying, “Serra, stop it.” But she couldn’t resist checking and making sure that he was doing what he was supposed to.

This story reminded me of another friend whose son got a job on a riverboat. Before leaving for his first day on the job she gave him a hug, wished him well, and then added, “And be careful not to fall off the boat.” Before giving this advice she had told herself, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it.” But somehow she couldn’t resist saying it anyway.

Through the years we’ve all excused our children’s behavior with the saying, kids will be kids. Maybe we need a complementary saying — parents will be parents.

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 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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When my son rented a house in Philadelphia with several other students during his college days, he found himself the keeper of a mangy 13-year-old dog, Blackthorn.

The problem for Blackthorn was that one of the other students who was renting also had a dog. This dog’s name was Kaya. Kaya was young, energetic and certainly more attractive than Blackthorn. So he got almost all the attention.

To make matters worse for Blackthorn, he had a large patch of hair missing on his back. This, of course, discouraged people from petting him.

Come winter, Kaya and his owner moved out. How fortuitous for Blackthorn. Now he was the only dog in the house.

One day, my son bathed him. Another day, he took him for a walk in the woods. When the students had a barbecue, Blackthorn was invited to play Frisbee.

Suddenly, Blackthorn was receiving a lot of attention. He became more energetic and less docile. He wagged his tail more often. His hair grew back. It was almost as if he had returned to an earlier time in his life.

One time, I was sitting in a booth in a restaurant when several men in their 70’s passed by. The one man said to the other, “You know, Sam, I think that woman over there was flirting with you.” Sam half-laughed and said, “You think?” At which point Sam threw back his head, put his chest out, stood a little straighter and quickened his stride across the room.

Which brings me to my mother-in-law. Several years ago I took her to Harry, her eye doctor, for a minor operation. After the surgery Harry asked her if she would like a cup of coffee. Mother, then in her 80’s, said that sounded just wonderful. Harry himself went to get the coffee.

For three days Mother was more perky and more girlish and told everyone about Harry getting her a cup of coffee.

Woman, man or beast – we all need to be recognized.

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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She is absolutely unforgiving of her husband. She keeps a ledger in her head of all slights and perceived infractions of the last 22 years. She’s still angry at him for not sending her flowers when their first baby came. It doesn’t count that he gave her a necklace to welcome the birth of their child. No amount of “I’m sorrys” seems to soften her or make a difference. She lets nothing go. With every argument she brings up the same old issues.

Some years ago he made a five thousand dollar investment that turned sour. She never lets him forget. No matter that he’s since made a number of good investments.

She can’t stand his family and constantly puts down his relatives. She talks against them whenever an opportunity presents itself.

As they are leaving a party, she criticizes the other guests. If someone is doing well financially she says it’s because they probably inherited the money. If she hears about a child’s success, she quickly follows up with a negative comment about the family.

She has little tolerance for her children’s bad behavior. Every infraction is major and calls for a lecture and a punishment.

Perhaps her body language is most hurtful. When her husband talks, she rolls her eyes and tilts her head to indicate he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. She often has a look of displeasure on her face when he’s talking. He can’t remember the last time she smiled when he walked in the room or laughed at something he said.

Even though he’s fifty pounds heavier and eight inches taller than his wife, he’s a little afraid of her. She’s never come after him physically, but he’s afraid of what she’s going to say, the lectures that follow his behavior, the looks of disdain.

She’s nice to other people. She runs errands for an elderly woman who lives next door. She’s pleasant to anyone who calls on the telephone. She chats with the clerk at the grocery store. She’s responsible at work. She volunteers at her children’s schools. What he keeps looking for are signs that she loves him.

In the past few years he’s been making more of a life away from her. He’s gotten interested in tennis. He’s been running. He’s been seeing a therapist. He’s been working on changing some of his behaviors. He has made an effort to spend more time with her going to the movies and taking short vacations. He has consciously given her more strokes. He has been trying to gently point out when he thinks her negativism or anger at their children is too much. He’s done more around the house. He’s not interested in another woman. He’s been faithful. He believes in marriage. They have children and history. They are financially tied together.

But soon he’ll leave her.

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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