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Posts Tagged ‘parent child issues’

A stepmother went to pick up her stepson several weeks ago at school. When the stepson came out to get in the car, he wasn’t wearing a coat. At that time the temperature was 15 below zero with a wind chill factor of 35 below. It was the coldest day of the year.

As the child climbed into the car, the stepmother asked, “Where is your coat?” The stepson explained that his mother wouldn’t let him wear his coat because she was sure that he would leave it at his father’s and stepmother’s house, and she didn’t want that to happen.

With this piece of information, the stepmother started yelling about this kid’s crazy mother. She then got on the telephone and told the boy’s father what a jerk the mother was. As soon as the father got off the telephone with his wife, he called his lawyer and repeated the story. The lawyer responded, and I quote, “This borders on criminal neglect.” The lawyer then proposed to write threatening letters to this neglectful mother as well as to her lawyer.

That night while the stepmother was stewing about her stepson not having a coat, she decided to run out and buy him a new coat in his favorite colors. She certainly did not intend to be a neglectful parent.

The following morning was Satur­day. Dad took his son to the gym. And behold, the shivering boy just happened to be looking through the lost-and-found articles and found the coat that his mother was unwilling to let him take to his father’s and stepmother’s house.

Smartly the boy confided in his father that he had found his coat. The father now had to quickly call off the lawyer before he sent the letters proclaiming “criminal neglect.”

The moral of this story:

*   Look before you leap

*   Don’t jump to conclusions

*   Think before you act

*   Sleep on it

*   Everything is not always as it seems.

 

 

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I’m often struck by how many children don’t have the slightest idea of how to behave appropriately with others. They lack manners, they have poor communication skills, and they don’t respect their own or others’ property.

Here are a few things you can do as a parent to help your children develop into responsible people who relate well to others.

Teach your children manners.
They need to learn to say “please” and “thank-you.” “Please may I have Julie spend the night?” “Thank you for driving me to the store for poster board.” If your children do not phrase things this way, look to yourself to teach them.

If they ask you to do something and they don’t preface their request with a “please,” tell them to ask again using “please.” If they forget to say “thank you,” tell them to say it. Keep insisting until these words come automatically.

Children should be taught to write thank-you notes. “Thank you for taking me to the show, Grandma.” “Thank you for having me stay overnight at your home.” “Thank you for the birthday present.” Helping children gather paper, pencil, and addresses is a nuisance for parents, but a skill children need to learn.

Another skill you should be teaching your children is to say “hello” and “goodbye” They should greet people when they walk in the door, when they meet someone or when they get in someone’s car. If they fail to say “hello,” remind them: “Say ‘hello’ to Sue.” When they leave the house or someone else leaves, expect them to say “goodbye”. Hello and good-byes should also be said audibly. If they mumble the words, have them repeat them.

Teach your children to look at the person they are greeting. They should not look down at the floor. After all, they should be giving the other person the attention, rather than inviting the other person to make them the center of attention by not making eye contact.

Respect for property starts at home. If you allow your children to sit with their shoes on your sofa, they will do the same elsewhere. If you don’t expect them to wipe up their spills at your home they’re not going to wipe them up at a friend’s house. If they get by with not cleaning up their mess in the bathroom, you can bet they will leave towels on the floor when they stay overnight at someone else’s home.

It’s definitely easier to hang up your child’s coat than it is to hunt him down and have him take his coat to the closet. You may even have to call him back a second time because he failed to put it on the hanger properly. But if you persist, he’ll begrudgingly get the message.

Now, ask yourself the following:

Do my children say “please” when they want me to do something for them?

Do my children say “thank-you” when I do something for them?

Do my children say “hello” when they first come in contact with someone?

Do my children make a point of saying “good-bye”?

Do they send thank-you notes?

Do they treat our furniture and their clothes with respect?

How am I doing as a parent? Am I teaching my children to be responsible and considerate?

 

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When Mary walked into my office for her therapy appointment, she wasn’t a happy camper. When I asked her what was going on, she said she was furious at her daughter, Alice, who’s seven. In Mary’s evaluation, her daughter is extremely rebellious.

“How so?” I asked.

“If I try to hurry her up, she slows down.”

“If we tell her she can’t go outside to play, she runs out the door anyway. Or she’s supposed to stay in the backyard, but I find her at the neighbor’s down the street.”

“This morning I had a baby sitter lined up. But Alice didn’t want to stay with the sitter. So I decided to let her come along to this appointment, with the stipulation that she would have to sit quietly in the waiting room.”

“We were pulling out of the driveway when Alice realized she’d forgotten her book. I let her go back in the house but told her to hurry. Five minutes later I had to get out of the car and go get her. There she was in the kitchen fixing herself a glass of juice. I should have left her at home, but I didn’t.”

As Mary and I continued talking, we heard a little knock on my door and then it opened. There stood Alice. Mary looked at her daughter and said firmly, “You can’t come in here.” The daughter stepped back and it looked as though she was going to leave and close the door.

The mother then added, “I told you before we left the house that you’d have to wait for me in the waiting room.” With this comment, the little girl grinned ever so slightly and stepped into the room. It was evident to me that the power struggle was on.

As an observer, I suspect that if Mary hadn’t said anything more to her daughter after her first comment, but had immediately turned her attention back on the two of us talking, Alice would have closed the door and gone back into the waiting room. But when her mother gave her an additional warning, the little girl must have felt challenged and she reacted.

I saw a similar dynamic take place several days later when I was working with a mother and her adolescent daughter. They were seeing me because the mother was feeling more than annoyed at her daughter’s rebelliousness. The girl talks back, doesn’t come home on time, refuses to do her chores, and helps herself to her mother’s clothes whenever she wants.

During the session the daughter started twirling, lasso-style, a long chain she was wearing with a large polished stone attached to the end of it. The mother looked at her daughter and said, “Please stop that.” The daughter looked at her mother and continued to twirl the chain.

Again the mother said, “Stop,” but this time she said it with a little playful laugh.

At this point a noticeable grin came over the daughter’s face, she started swinging the necklace more vigorously, and the power struggle was on.

Children need to flex their rebellious muscle once in a while as a way to reach independence, and parents need to take on their children to teach them how to behave. Sometimes, however, we parents inadver­tently encourage our children to get into bigger power struggles than need be.

For example, it’s understandable why Mary told her daughter a second time not to come into my office. She already had to deal with several other issues that morning. Too, she was probably feeling anxious about how I perceived her as a parent, and she didn’t want her therapy time wasted.

But sometimes one firm no works better than two. If a parent says no and immediately turns her attention elsewhere, she closes off a power struggle by refusing to participate. One no doesn’t always work -rebellious children are tenacious – but sometimes it does.

In the second situation, the mother might have outsmarted her daughter and said nothing. I’m sure her daughter would have gotten tired of twirling. When children do something that is obviously designed to get them negative attention, sometimes it’s better not to give it to them.

Once the mother decided to confront her daughter, however, she needed to hang tough and stick with the confrontation. The Mother’s little laugh could certainly be interpreted as encouraging her daughter to be rebellious. Or it could signal her daughter that she wanted to stay friends with her. When you decide to take on a child’s rebelliousness, you must be willing to take the risk that a child is not going to like you.

If it seems that you’re struggling over every little issue with your child, it may help to keep the following in mind:

*One forceful no is sometimes better than two.

*Saying nothing, even when you don’t approve of what your child is doing, is sometimes the most effective response.

*When you find yourself in a power struggle, check to see if you’re doing anything to encourage it, like smiling or lecturing on and on.

Your child is not going to like you very much when you take her on. At the same time, her negativism toward you won’t last forever. And confronting bad behavior is a necessary part of child rearing.

 

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I remember one day when 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 watched enough television 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.

 

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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. A local fabric store 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.

A while back 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 river boat. 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.

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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 teenager 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.

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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?”

 

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