Friday, June 24, 2016

Parenting to Prepare

We all want our children to grow up healthy, happy, and have a good future. We all want our children to feel loved and secure and cared for.  We want to protect them and help them to know that they can count on us to help them.

I have been noticing a trend for the past few years that I find disturbing:  Parents who literally do not allow their children to:
  • feel any pain
  • deal with consequences of their choices
  • feel sad or disappointed
  • fail
The list could go on and on.

Dealing with the Sad

Truth is, none of us like to see our child in pain or sad or disappointed.  But life is full of feelings, and they're not always happy ones.  In their lives, children will feel pain and childhood is the time to learn how to get through experiences that are hard and develop the thinking patterns that will help them later in life.

For example, maybe your child comes home from school and says that he was not invited to a birthday party.  How do you handle it?  Call the other child's parent and complain?  Tell your child that the other child is just mean?  Go buy your child that expensive toy he's been asking for to make him feel better?  No, I don't think so.

Far better, I think, to talk with your child and let him tell you about what he's feeling.  Love and comfort him, and tell him you feel sad about it too.  Remind him that other people were not invited too,  they probably feel sad too, and he can work to be a good friend to those people.  Those things are much better options.

If he goes through life experiencing the sad and weathers through it, he learns much from that.  1)  He learns that those sad feelings don't last forever.  2)  He learns (over time) how to manage those sad feelings.  3)  He learns that those experiences don't have to define him, and he can find still find joy.

 Dealing with Failure or Disappointment

Failure is also part of life.  Your child is not always going to win.  She's not always going to get the lead in the class play.  She's not always going to get the highest grade.  She's not always going to get to be a starter on her soccer team.

Let it be!  It's not a good idea to spend your time negotiating with teachers and coaches, but rather helping your child deal with the failure.  Remind her that the important thing is to do her best and be happy that she tried.  Remind her that you are proud of her and love her, and she'll have other opportunities to do the things she loves.

That does a couple of things.  It helps her to feel secure at home, and it helps her to learn to cope with  things that don't go as planned.  She will not be the girl that has no ability to handle a disappointment or failure and as a college student or adult finds herself needing to self-medicate.

Of course, if the failure is because of lack of effort, then the conversation needs to happen about what happened, what they did well, what they could do differently, and what they will do in the future.

Remember that you are not always going to be around to stand up for, rescue, or comfort your child.  Help them to develop those internal coping skills that will help them maneuver through the trials of life that they surely will face!

Saturday, March 30, 2013


 I work with a lot of people who ask for help with communication skills.  Communication issues often interfere with happiness or contentment in couples' relationships.  When you think about communication skills, what comes to mind? 

Of course, it's important to be able to express yourself well and say what you mean, but it is equally important to become a good listener.  Good listening is at least half of communication.

What I find is that very often people don't really do a great job of listening.  This is true for a variety of reasons:
  • They are thinking about what they will say next instead of what the other person is saying.
  • They are reacting internally and their feelings are interfering with their ability to listen.
  • They are so focused on "winning" that they, quite honestly, don't really care what the other person thinks, feels, or needs.
Solving a problem often starts with good listening.

In order to solve a problem with your partner, it is important to sit down and have a discussion about the problem.  Listen intently to each other in order to see the problem through your partner's eyes.  Once you each see through the other person's eyes, you can very often understand why the problem exists in the first place and you can work to resolve the issue. 

Good listening is a gift to your partner and to your relationship.  It communicates respect and an openness to change.  It leads to deeper understanding, and it can lead to greater intimacy over time. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


One of the things that increases our stress is any kind of change or transition. Be it a happy one (having a baby or getting promoted) or a difficult one (divorce or financial loss), changes will produce stress. There are lots of tests out there (you can find them on the internet) but to test your stress level, try this test to help you see where you are.

If you look back on this blog, you will notice that I haven't blogged for a couple of months. I was definitely in a period of transition in my life, and setting aside blogging was one way of coping.

Dealing with transitions can be stressful because often there are a lot of things "up in the air" and undecided, and sometimes one decision depends on another decision. You can literally feel like your head is whirling which, of course, adds to the stress.

Here are some pointers:

1) Simplify as much as possible. Set aside for a time the things that don't have to be done or dealt with.

2) At the same time, try to keep as much continuity in your life as seems helpful to you.

3) Focus on today and try not to worry about decisions that you can't make today. (There is a difference between thinking about decisions and worrying. You get that, right?)

4) Continue healthy habits of eating right, sleeping, and exercising.

5) Remind yourself that there are likely no decisions or moves to be made that are earth shattering or can't be altered if needed. You don't have to navigate this transition perfectly.

Transitions go better if we take one day at a time and envision a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it is difficult to see that, but keep in mind that you have made other transitions in your life and come out okay. Chances are you will this time as well!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wishing, Hoping, Dreaming

Remember that old Dusty Springfield song, "Wishing and Hoping." Part of it went like this:

Show him that you care just for him.
Do the things that he likes to do.
Wear your hair just for him,
cause you won't get him, thinking and praying,
wishing and hoping.
Hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him.
Just do it and after you do, you will be his

Really? Seriously? If only it was that easy!

Sometimes clients are in a relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend who doesn't want to commit to marriage or who isn't ready. They often ask me how they know if they should wait it out or move on.

It's hard to answer that question, because just as there are a million different relationships, there are an equal number of factors that can enter into such a decision.

In general, though, here are some things to consider.

1) Is this person worth waiting for? Ask yourself, in general, if this person has all the qualities you want in a partner. Consider employment, character, personality, family relationship, desire for children, habits, legal issues, etc. If you are waiting for a person who has major issues that you hope will be changed by marriage, you need to realize that marriage will not change who they are.

2) How long have you been in this relationship? If you have been in a relationship for over two years and there is still no long-term commitment from your partner, then the relationship needs to be examined. I generally feel that after one year you should both know if this relationship will work or not.

3) Do you find yourself arguing over the lack of long-term commitment? Be careful of that. If you end up engaged because of pressure you have put on your partner, you may find yourself in one of two situations. First, you may have an angry partner who will (later on) complain that he/she was forced to marry you. Second, you may find yourself engaged for a very long time and the argument will no longer be about becoming engaged but rather about setting a wedding date.

Decisions to leave a relationship are painful for both people, but sometimes it is better to give yourselves a chance to start over with someone who will make a commitment rather than spend time and energy trying to talk someone into marrying you.

Monday, April 11, 2011


One of the things I hear very often is parents telling me how their children are kind of a mixed bag when it comes to personality and behavior.

One day ten year old Jessica is being stubborn and uncooperative and the next day is helpful and kind. Eight year old Derek is selfish and angry at times and suddenly asks you if he can give his weekly allowance to a kid in his class who has no lunch. Fifteen year old Brittany is withdrawn and cranky, and the next thing you know she is out front helping the elderly neighbor next door carry in her groceries.

Parents are often confused by this as they worry about what their children are becoming. Of course, they want to see the helpful, kind, giving part of them be the default behavior in their children, but worry that the negative part will choke out the positive.

I often explain to parents that when we see those positive behaviors and attitudes in our children, they are like snapshots of who they may become. Those little moments demonstrate that the positive qualities you are trying to instill "are in there" but just well hidden at times.

Let those snapshots serve as a reminder to you that the seeds you are planting in your child are taking root, and they need to be tended to. How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:

1) Talk respectfully to your child, even when he/she doesn't earn it. That doesn't mean that you need to accept bad behavior, but don't resort to name calling or labeling.

2) Along with that, try to remember to label the behavior and not your child. Say, "that was wrong to hit your sister" rather than "you are bad."

3) Always affirm good behavior. Let your child know that you notice when he/she behaves in a way that pleases you.

4) Label your child in positive ways whenever possible. Say, "You are such a loving big brother," or "I see you being so helpful to your friends." Your child will be encouraged by those words.

Whatever you do, keep those snapshots of the good in your heart and your mind. Refer to those when you are frustrated with your child. Use them to encourage you to keep going, knowing that eventually the little seedlings you've planted will grow into strong trees with deep roots that produce good fruit.

Monday, March 28, 2011

People Who Aren't Like Me

We often are in relationships with people who are different from us. This is true in our family relationships or relationships at work or with friends and neighbors. That can be a source of both frustration and growth. If we see ourselves or our way as "right" and the other person or their way as "wrong," then we miss out on a great opportunity to benefit from what they bring to the table.

For the follower of Christ, if we keep in mind that God wants us to be more like Him, we will remember that we are constantly being molded into His image. We are growing in love, grace, compassion, gentleness, kindness, peacefulness, patience and much more.

That's the good news! The bad news is that He accomplishes that by putting us in situations where we have an opportunity to learn something or to fight against whatever "it" is.

God uses others in our lives to expose parts of ourselves that need to change. Sometimes He exposes boundaries that are missing or sagging. Sometimes He exposes selfishness, jealousy, narcissism, inflated egos, pride, arrogance, and other things that are in need of being rooted out and replaced with love, kindness, compassion, giving, self-control and much more.

Whatever it is He wants to accomplish in us, we need to keep in mind that it is for our ultimate good.

What if everything in the world was blue? Instead of our eyes feasting on the wonderful colors in nature, we would be all subjected to a view that would be decidedly boring! Without different colors, I doubt if artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, or James McNeill Whistler would have been inspired to create their beautiful works of art. It takes the blues, greens, yellows, reds, and purples to give contrast that makes it all beautiful!

What if everything we ate tasted like chocolate? As much as I really love dark chocolate, I have to admit that after awhile I would be really tired of it. We need sweet, salty, and savory. We need smooth and crunchy. We need different flavors and textures to make food interesting. Chefs such as Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis, or Michael Symon would not be inspired to create their yummy dishes if all foods were the same!

It is the same with people! God made us all different for a reason. If we were all the same, we would be like cardboard cutouts or clones and our relationships would be, well...boring at best!

In relationship difficulty where there are differences of style or opinion, here are some tips:

1) Remember that this is probably not "life and death." Develop a healthy sense of humor about your differences with the other person. Learn to laugh at yourself as well!

2) Remember that it is very possible that this other person is not wrong, but just different.

3) See what you can learn about the situation and seek compromise.

4) Learn to communicate to see how they view whatever the situation is.

5) Develop an interest in figuring out "what makes this person tick." He/she sees the world differently than you do. What makes no sense to you makes perfect sense to him/her.

6) Ask yourself if there are unhealthy or sinful attitudes in you that are being exposed and take steps to turn that around.

Variety is good and we can really learn from one another if we approach it with a healthy attitude! When we learn to see others who are different from ourselves as persons of value who bring something valuable to the table, we can begin to function together in ways that are beneficial.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Busy Kids

One of the things I notice more and more these days is how busy people are. Parents have their children involved in lots of extra-curricular activities--dance, football, piano lessons, Brownies, soccer, gymnastics, 4-H, Boy Scouts--the list is endless it would seem. There are so many wonderful things to choose from that afford your children with opportunities to learn teamwork, character, responsibility, work ethic, etc.

I think that all of this is very good. The concern I often have is the lack of balance in these kids' lives.

Kids often talk to me about how stressed they are. They talk about not having a lot of time to just relax between school, homework, and other activities. When I ask them what they would like to change, they say that they don't want to change anything. They really like all of the after school things they are doing. That is where parents come in.

Parents need to set limits on schedule and activities. Don't expect your child to find him/her own limits. They have lots of energy and literally want to do everything that comes along! Don't sign your kids up for something just because they "really want to do it!" Kids don't have the ability to predict the stress they will feel being so busy.

When you think about adding a new activity to your child's schedule, consider these things:

1) What does the overall schedule look like currently?
2) How will this new activity change the schedule?
3) What affect will this activity have on the family? How will it coordinate with other family member's activities?
4) Will the child have sufficient "down time" to just play and be a kid?
5) How will my child benefit from this activity?

I believe that kids need to be exploring different activities, but not all at one time. They are kids. Let them have time to just rest, play, and be kids. Teach them balance early, and it will be something that will go with them into adulthood.