Archive for April, 2015

Want To Be A Better Parent? Avoid These Mistakes!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Part of what I do as a Therapist is work with families with regard to parenting skills. I have taught classes on the subject and assist parents on a regular basis in counseling sessions. Most parents know very little about parenting so they tend to do what their parents did – or drastically different if they did not like the model they grew up with. In a two parent family there can be, and often is, disagreement between the parents on how parenting should be done. In stepfamilies the disagreements usually are more pronounced. Even if divorced both parents can cooperate and co-parent in raising their child(ren). Not easy, but necessary!

Parental “mistakes” are over and above certain desired prerequisites.  The most basic needs of a child growing up in a family are: 1) Two parents who love each other and demonstrate it consistently. 2) Two parents who love their child, are able to demonstrate it consistently, and want to be the best parents possible. 3) Two parents who have a clear united understanding of their expectations of their child, state them clearly, and are consistent in rewarding or punishing the child dependent on the behavior of the child in meeting such expectations.

Unfortunately, these “prerequisites” are not present in every marriage. To the extent that they exist then the probability of raising a successful well adjusted child is high. Beyond these desired “prerequisites” are other important factors for being a good parent. However, these “mistakes” hinder.

  1. Protect, but don’t overprotect. You need to keep your child safe but as s/he grows older the opportunity for exploration needs to expand.  The overprotected child will have low self esteem and will either be unassertive and meek or at some point rebel in a destructive manner.
  2. Always be the parent, not your child’s best friend. When your children become an adult the friendship factor can be added. Being the parent does not mean to be overbearing, harsh, or demanding. It does mean that you are in charge, giving and receiving respect, while mentoring your child.
  3. Help your child see the many positive possibilities ahead. Do not use fear as a motivator or tell them that they cannot do or be such and such. Age appropriate, let them make their choices and find out for themselves if it is good for them or not.
  4. You are to be a role model for your child. Do not be a hypocrite. Do not be that parent that tells a child not to do something and then do it yourself. Abuse of food, alcohol, or drugs, lying and stealing, would be some of the salient examples.
  5. Always be present to your child, but not invasive. Being present will vary according to the age and stage of your child. Kids need to know that you are there for them-forever. The parent-child bond is unique and so special.

This writing is a basic “starter Kit” for being a good parent. Certainly there are many other facets for being the best parent possible. It is both an exhausting and rewarding vocation, never to be taken lightly. May you, Respected Reader, make a responsible choice to be a parent and do your best to put into practice the things that your child needs to thrive. There is not greater role in life!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

When To Shut Up!

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Most of the time when I work with individuals or couples I am trying to help them to communicate better by talking more.  I help them get in touch with what they are feeling, thinking, and wanting.  Then I assist them to express themselves in a manner that maximizes their expression and the opportunity to be heard and ultimately to get what they want.

But sometimes silence is the best approach.  You do not need to speak, or scream  everything in your mind.  Speaking personally, this has always been a challenge.  For the most part I am an emotional expressive.  I tend to speak out and say what is going on in my brain. There are times when what is not said is valuable.  That is because what is said is not a positive contribution to a conversation, confrontation, or congregation.

What comes out of your mouth either is constructive or destructive to the communication process.  People often say wrong, hurtful, or unnecessary words, especially when emotional overload is present.  You can’t take words back.

Most people have a very good memory about what is said to or about them.  People particularly remember the hurtful or spiteful things said.  There is enough pain and sorrow in this world without someone adding to it by speaking words that add nothing to a relationship or a situation.  There is occasional value in the old expression “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.”

That being said, there is a place where a constructive comment or feedback is warranted.  If you have been hurt by someone, there is a place to respectfully say something like this:  “When you said/ did this it hurt my feelings”.  Hopefully the other person will respond with something along this line: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you”.  In some cases the communicators can respectfully agree to disagree.

Too often, however, an individual that has been hurt gets angry and blasts the other person.  The receiver of the blast then also gets angry and the rhetoric escalates.  It is important to remember that anger is the defense mechanism protecting the hurt.  If a person can be vulnerable enough to say that s/he has been hurt the odds increase that the offending person will apologize for his or her insensitivity.

If you are a person who needs to say anything and everything that is on your precious mind, perhaps you might pause in the future and ask yourself whether the person or situation is better because of your comment. If so, speak your piece.  If not, remember and heed the proverb that reminds you that “Silence is golden”!

Are You A Celebrator? If So, Of What? If Not, Why Not?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”Thomas J. Peters

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”  Oprah Winfrey

Recently Sherry and I celebrated our thirty fifth wedding anniversary (we married when we reached puberty!). We went to a wonderful ocean get away where we enjoyed the beach, golfing, and quality cuisine. We exchanged romantic cards and words and hoisted a glass of champagne. Our love was joyfully celebrated!

Having experienced this wonderful celebration got me to thinking about how important it is to   CELEBRATE for a full participation in life. Such an act is a joyful and connecting experience.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “celebrate” this way. 1. To do something special, enjoyable for an important event, occasion, holiday, etc… . 2. To praise someone or something.

As I reflected on what opportunities exist to celebrate, many came to mind. I will list a few.

  1. A birthday. 2. A wedding anniversary. 3. Birth of a child. 4. The life of a deceased. 5. A good sale, career promotion or salary increase. 6. Overcoming a health problem. 7. A success in a hobby or sporting activity. 8. A religious service. 9. Retirement. 10. Getting a new home/car/boat. 11. Making it through a challenging day!

I’m sure there are many other occasions to celebrate. These come to mind as I write this. Which ones, Respected Reader, do you celebrate? Are there others worthy of such an endeavor?

Perhaps a more profound question is whether you are a celebrative person? Do you look for opportunities to celebrate?  If not, why not?

When we celebrate we smile, we reach out to another, we invite others to join in. (Who doesn’t smile when a person is blowing out the candles on the birthday cake? Who doesn’t clap on the occasion when a server sings “happy birthday” to a patron in the restaurant?).

In summary, the reason for this writing is to raise your awareness to the possibility of celebrating occasions in your life and sending celebrative congratulations to others who have reason to celebrate. A phone call, card, Facebook all are ways to say “I celebrate personally and with you on this occasion”!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Is Anybody Guilt-Tripping You? Are You One?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Guilt tripping is a form of emotional manipulation which uses verbal and non verbal means to make a person feel bad (guilty) about or even change a decision. The guilt tripper does not respect or honor choices or decisions made by another.

  1. A child is told by his/her parents that s/he cannot do something.  The child lashes back saying, “ I hate you. You are the worst mom/dad in the world.”
  2. A child disobeys a parent and the parent replies, “I am SO disappointed in you.  I thought you were a good little boy/girl.”
  3. A husband continually mentions how another man’s wife gives her husband frequent massages.
  4. A husband forgot their anniversary and his wife keeps bringing it up over and over.
  5. A person asks you to do something that you do not want to do and s/he says, “after all I do for you and you can’t do this little thing for me?”

Guilt trippers use these guilt inducing methods to gain control of a situation and get the outcome they desire when reasonable and direct requests fail.  It also is a passive aggressive way to express anger and make the other person feel bad. Guilt tripping often works because it plays on the insecurity and self doubt of the other. The method works best on individuals who are “people pleasers”, those that need to be liked, and can’t stand anyone being mad or disappointed in them.

While guilt trippers may “succeed” in getting the outcome they want from others, they pay a price.  People who have been guiltified, manipulated, in this manner usually feel angry at such a person. They lose respect because their feelings are not honored.  They tend to pull away and create emotional distance from the guilt tripper. Guilt trips poison relationships.

If you are typically a victim of a guilt tripper, follow these guidelines:

  1. Know the people and areas where you may be vulnerable. Know the issues and persons that you may have unresolved potential guilt issues.
  2. Ask yourself as objectively as possible if you really did anything wrong.  Do I have the right in this instance to make my own decisions which may be different than what the guilt tripper may want.
  3. When you do not accede to a request realize you are only causing disappointment in the other person. This is not a major injury.  The person’s expectations were out of line.
  4. Don’t get caught up in debate with a guilt tripper. Assert yourself without apology.

Guy Winch, Ph.D. offers some excellent advice on how to set limits with Guilt Trippers:

  1. Tell the person that you do understand how important it is for them that you do the thing they are trying to guilt you into doing.
  2. Explain that their using a guilt trip to make you conform to their wishes makes you feel resentful, even if you do end up complying.
  3. Tell them that when they do this guilt tripping you want to distance yourself from them.
  4. Ask them to express their wishes directly and to respect the decisions you make.

Guilt is an insidious emotion that makes a person feel bad about him/her self. Do not be led into it’s ugly domain by an emotional manipulator.  If you have truly done something wrong, ask forgiveness of the person you have hurt and forgive yourself. Being guilt free allows one to be fully alive, present, and capable of making wise and loving choices, while respecting yourself!

Stop Blaming: It Doesn’t Work!!

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

In the course of therapy sessions in my office with couples I hear many arguments.  They replicate, often with the same intensity, what takes place at home.  Mean, really mean, things are said.  The harsh tones are hurtful.  The “blame game” is played out in its various forms and intensity.

The arguments vary but usually they are about who said or did this or that.  Both persons think they are “right” in their perspective.   Power struggles emerge.  Neither will admit defeat.  As the tension rises, the “blame game” reaches feverish pitch as each person says that the reason s/he did whatever was because the other person did or said something.  Any inappropriate behavior was the other’s person’s fault.

I try to intervene as soon as possible. Once they reluctantly quiet down, I tell them that I am not particularly concerned with who is right or who is wrong – especially since neither one brought the video tape as evidence of proof of position.

Since the past cannot be changed, but hopefully can be learned from, I then try to have each person speak in a more respectful tone to each other as we try to create better communication and resolution of the issues that divide them.

I try to encourage couples to raise their awareness as tension builds and conflict emerges.  I ask each person to be competitive with the other in a different kind of way.  Who can be the first person, in the midst of rising tension, to be able to say “I’m not saying this very well”?  If one person can say this with sincerity usually the other person backs off and admits that s/he is not handling this dysfunctional discussion very well either.

“I statements” are better than “you statements”.  When one person starts a sentence with “you…” the other person immediately gets defensive and is ready to respond with another accusing “you statement”. And the escalation begins!

Instead of pointing the finger at the other person I ask each individual to look in the mirror and point the finger at his or her self.  It is easy to blame your inappropriate comments or behavior on the other person – the “blame game” – than it is to own your own disrespectful behavior. Each person needs to “own” his or her inappropriate manner, regardless of the other’s style.

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is a statement meant to help each person to see the bigger picture.  Can you definitively say the answer?  No you cannot.  Therefore quit trying to blame the other person for the argument.

It is amazing to me to see how hurtful people can be to somebody s/he professes to love.  Mean words cannot be taken back; they tend to live in one’s memory for a long time. I doubt there is any one in the universe that is married who has not said mean things to his or her spouse and played the “blame game”.  Hopefully all of us can work harder to not get caught up in that trap.

May this article raise your awareness so that communication with your special person will be less damaging as you work through areas of disagreement.  Try not to get your ego over involved in power struggles to prove you are right and the other person is wrong. Blaming is for the weak.  “Wiggle room”, apologies, and better efforts to find “win-win” solutions can facilitate compromising agreements.