What is the Goal of Parenting?

What is the outcome we hope to achieve as we raise our children? Some may answer that they want their children “to grow up and live a happy and fulfilling life”. What does that mean exactly and how does that happen? We may say we want them to have a job they enjoy and support themselves and develop relationships with others, maybe get married and have a family. I know that these are not the only goals we have for our children but it is a start, let’s break these goals down even more.

The first goal is to have a job that they enjoy. How does this happen? Well they won’t get their dream job from the start, they have to work up to it. In order for our children to be able to do this they have to know how to persevere though some hard challenges, maybe schooling or some less desirable jobs and work up to the dream job.

So as a parent we have to teach them how to work through things that are tough to get to their goal. This means letting them struggle and possibly fail. Allowing them to experience a struggle teaches them coping skills. Don’t do everything for them, don’t make the road too easy and don’t bail them out when hardship comes and or give them everything they need so they are unmotivated to work. As a parent this may be hard, living through their challenges with them and teaching them as they go is one way that they will learn to persevere.

The second goal would be for our children to learn to have healthy relationships. In terms of a job our child needs to learn to take instruction and respect authority. Taking instruction without feeling like a failure or getting defensive can be learned. When we instruct or correct our children it is an opportunity to help them cope with frustration and imperfection. We also need to teach our children to respect authority and listen well. One way to teach this is by requiring them to respect you as the authority and to listen.

Inter-personal relationships are also important. Your son or daughter will not attract healthy friends or a spouse unless they know how to treat others. How to show others respect and care. How to be compassionate and communicate with understanding. One way you can teach this is through role modeling. How do you as a parent treat others? Are you respectful and compassionate? Do you treat your child in that way? Do they know what it feels like to be heard, validated and shown respect? Being a clear, caring communicator is a skill that will help them develop positive relationships.

Parenting is too important of a job to “just wing it”, in order to achieve your goal of raising children “to grow up and live a happy and fulfilling life” it will take thought and effort.

Written by Lisa Strong

 

The Secret Every Parent Needs to Know

Here’s the one thing every parent of every child needs to know.  Are you ready for it?  Your kid wants to be validated.  That’s it.  

Validating the feelings of your children helps them to feel understood. To help your child feel understood, it means you keeping your ego and desire to lecture in check. Validating your child’s feelings also means that you don’t judge him or her. Instead, you simply acknowledge his or her feelings. This takes focus and discipline as parents. As I share with my clients, the best discipline you can give your child is having the self-discipline to be patient, empathetic, and loving—especially when he or she is not acting lovable. Contrary to what many frustrated parents may think, particularly during those stressful times of conflicts, validating feelings is not condoning bad choices or giving in to defiant behavior.

“Validating” means giving your child or teen that all important, and seemingly elusive, message that “Your feelings make sense. I not only am giving you permission to feel what you feel but I am also welcoming and accepting your feelings in a non-judgmental way.” Validating your child coveys deep empathy. This will help build your child’s self-esteem and reduce his or her defiant behavior, which is often the languange choice of children who do not feel understood.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein lists the following three most effective ways to validate your kids.

-Communicate your intent to listen without judging or blaming or shaming and calling yourself out if you stray from this empathetic stance.

-Be sensitive to, and acknowledge how difficult and even embarrassing it is to be “different” when he/she wants to be like everyone else.

Acknowledge the problems in his/her life and that they matter. Many children and teens I counsel repeatedly share that their parents minimize or dismiss their struggles.

To do these things you must be intentional.  You must want to grow closer to your kids.  You must have a desire to build them up.  No matter what age.  Start now, be consistent and observe the change.

Written by Lisa Smith

5 Things Your Kids Don’t Need in 2018

It’s likely our kids aren’t pondering the direction of their life and what it should and should not entail in this new year.  To some degree, it’s our job to do it for them.  Instead of focusing on what more to give them, I encourage you to focus on not giving them these 5 things with the guarantee that it will change their life for the better.  And, full disclosure, I borrowed some of this from blogger, Jenny Rapson.

Your kids do not need…
1. A personal servant: your job is not to raise children but to raise adults.  Most adults do not have someone following them around picking up their stuff, doing all their laundry and magically making meals appear.  Most adults, even the really busy ones, do these things for themselves.  It’s your job to teach your kids time management so they can take care of their stuff and become independent.

2. A Participation Trophy: your kids don’t need a ribbon or a trophy for showing up. They deserve a ribbon or a trophy for preparing and working hard.  Giving our young ones awards for just being somewhere, no matter the amount of work they do or don’t put in encourages entitlement and takes away motivation to do their best.  They are thinking, after all, no matter what they will get an award, right?  Hopefully, not!

3. An Overloaded Schedule: I know as adults you are busy and your days are full and at times you can barely manage it all.  News flash… your kids might feel the same way and they haven’t even finished high school.  Kids need to learn how to incorporate down-time and self-care in to their schedules.  So many of them have anxiety and it’s no surprise because they are going from one event to another, almost seven days a week on top of school.  This takes away from family time and rest.

4. Custom-made Meals: brace yourself because for some of you this is going to be a tough one.  Your kids need to eat what you make for dinner or go hungry.  Back to the point of them not needing a personal servant.  No more making different meals for each different family member.

5. More Real-World Knowledge Than They Are Ready For: there is a danger in sheltering our kids too much.  There is also a danger in telling them too much about our harsh world too soon.  As much as is possible, allow knowledge of the world to come in age-appropriate waves.  A healthy way to expose them to the “real world” is through community service to those less fortunate than themselves.  It’s good for them to know that there are people who need help and are suffering and that, even as kids, they can make a difference.  But they don’t need to know about the atrocities, tragedies and heartaches happening in the world because they don’t have the emotional skills to cope with that information yet.

So, there you have it.  Your kids will have happier, healthier and less stressful lives without these 5 things.  Don’t give your kids too much, too soon.  Even with the best of intentions, it’s not good for them now or for their future.  

Written by Lisa Smith

5 Reasons to Improve Family Communication

When you get home after a long day of work is your home a place of rest, where you feel comfortable to be yourself and you can relax? This is not always the case.  It can feel like a place where you have to put walls up to protect yourself, you don’t feel understood, and there is no peace. You can’t figure out how to change that. It could be that you and your loved ones are not communicating in a way that works. If you could communicate in a healthy way then you would see benefits. Here are 5 benefits to healthy family communication.

1. If you can learn to communicate your needs and feelings in a way that is received then you will minimize resentment in yourself. Resentment is a feeling of indignation and displeasure because you feel like you are being mistreated, misunderstood or wronged. This is not how you should feel with your loved ones. They should be your teammates, the people who are on your side. It can be an environment of cooperation, not competition.

2. When you learn to listen to those that you care about then they will feel cared for and validated by you. This will improve your relationship and minimize their anger and frustration with you.

3. When you learn to communicate in a nonthreatening way then you will minimize defensiveness. By minimizing their defensiveness then you create an environment where you can be heard and they will feel safe, they can take their walls down. You will be building trust and a feeling of security in your home.

4. Respectful communication is a good role model for your children. They learn how a marriage functions by watching you and your spouse. Do they see you showing care and compassion or is it more of a competition to get your way? Is the communication demanding or does your child see each of you listening and working together to find a solution to a conflict?

5. You will be able to resolve conflict without feeling like you are in a battle. With healthy communication you will feel heard and you will be able to understand your partners view and then move to brainstorming a solution that would be acceptable to each of you.

These communication skills can be learned and practiced. It may be hard for you to change bad habits.  Possibly because you were not raised in a home with this type of an environment. You can change the repetitive cycle of bad communication, be the one in your family to change what your children are exposed to and how they will interact with their future friends, colleague or spouses. This ripple effect will benefit your whole family.

By Lisa Strong

What is due Respect from Your Teenager?

While disrespect from a teenager can be demeaning and confusing to parents, it actually brings more harm to the child by tearing at the very fabric of their future. It may be rooted in an authority figure showing disrespect to the child. Or, the child could be imitating the disrespect they see exhibited by their peers or other family members – including their parents.

I’d never say that you can force your child to respect you. But treating someone respectfully is altogether different. It is a controllable choice regardless of one’s opinion of that person. In other words, I may not agree with someone who holds a high office, or has an idea that I don’t like, but I can still treat them respectfully. Yes, it is easier and better for your teen to treat you respectfully if they actually feel respect for you. But, in fact, showing respect should have nothing to do with how they feel about you at the moment.

Often, disrespect flows from a demanding attitude for the parents’ time, money, privacy, feelings or property, and it usually starts out in insignificant ways. But even small expressions of disrespect are never acceptable. If a parent doesn’t intervene when the issues are small, disrespect can become part of your child’s permanent mindset, with behavior that gets worse over time.

Why is respect so important? It’s because respect is the cornerstone for discipline and relationships in the home. All else fails or gets short-circuited in teaching a child about maturity and responsibility when they don’t understand the concept of respect. When parents require respectful behavior, it helps the teen to be more respectful of others, and that’s a cornerstone for success in his/her life.

The longer a parent waits to address disrespect in their teenager, the more entrenched the problem becomes. If your teen is disrespectful to you, one good place to begin is to communicate that it is time for things in your home to change; “Honey, I love you – nothing you do or don’t do will ever take away my love for you– but we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Tell your teenager that even if they don’t have feelings of respect for you personally, or even when they are mad at you, they will still treat you with all due respect in the way they act, speak, and engage with you and your possessions.

Respect is a pivotal expectation in your home, so make it clear to your children that you are serious about it by backing up your words with stiff consequences for any form of disrespect. Then, be sure to follow through on those consequences, since they will undoubtedly be tested.

Written by Lisa Smith

Make the Holidays Great Again

The holidays are here again and I think we need to revisit last years newsletter about this topic and see how we are doing. Are you stressed out? Worried about family gatherings? Fretting about how much money you are spending? Are family members pressuring you? This is not the holiday spirit. Maybe some of this can be avoided.

Let’s be proactive, parents and couples can avoid some of these pitfalls by pre-planning and communicating. As a couple each of you might have different expectations and this can be challenging so talking about what is to come can avoid the conflict. This needs to be done in a way that is nonjudgmental so your partner does not feel attacked and get defensive. Remember there are a lot of emotions tied up in the holidays. Here are some areas that should be discussed.

Family: How are we going to handle family? Where will we be on the holiday? Who will talk to the family and tell mother or mother-in-law that we may not be able to make it this year? Make sure that you listen to each other and come to a solution that you can both live with, remember you are on the same team and there needs to be compromise. And what about your immediate family, your children, will they get to celebrate at home? Are they the focus? Hopefully they are not seeing the holidays as a time of stress and anger.

Making it special: Talk about how to make it special for your family. You may want to start your own special traditions. What makes the holiday time unique for your family? It can be a magical time for children, you may want to look at lights or pick out your own tree. Make a special meal or dessert. What ever your special thing is you can make it your own.

Finances: What about the money? How much can we spend? It is easy to get carried away but it isn’t worth the stress and strife that comes in January. Can we make some baked goods or something more personal to lesson the cost and avoid the mall? Talking about this ahead of time and sticking to the plan can avoid conflict.

Busyness: There are so many events to go to. Holiday parties of friends or at work. The children might be in a school performance, church activities, so many things to do that we get overwhelmed. You and your family need to decide what you will agree to and what you will say “No” to. It is alright to say “No”.

It is better to experience this time of year as a team, united and in agreement. Taking the pressure off and knowing your partner is with you. Talking about what you want and expect ahead of time can avoid conflict and stress this holiday. Let’s get back to the true spirit of the season and make the holidays great again.

By Lisa Strong

Who is the enemy? It may be your past.

When in a relationship you may find at some point that either you or your partner has some event in their past that is effecting how you interact and communicate with each other. The way we behave and react to current life events is effected by our past events. Were we raised in a stable home or did we grow up in a tumultuous home or the foster system? Were we exposed to a traumatic event like a rape or military service? Did we grow up in a home with an alcoholic or drug addict or an abusive parent? We may have survived all these events but now we are in a relationship with another person and the way we respond to them may not be a healthy response and you are both struggling with how to fix this conflict.

You may have learned that the best way to deal with a conflict is to avoid it, shut down, don’t address it but this is not working in your adult relationship. Or you may have learned to put up an emotional wall, don’t even acknowledge the feelings. Or you choose to fight anything that appears to interfere with the plan that you have. The past events which are now affecting your behavior were no fault of your own but now you are an adult and you are responsible for the choices you are making.

If the history and behavior is yours you may not understand why your partner is unhappy with you and you can’t make them happy. They say you are not listening or you have to always have things your way or you are too quick to anger. I know this can be very frustrating to both parties. But I hope that if you have made a commitment to the relationship then it is time to work together to find more healthy solutions.

This is not time to go to war with each other, to shut yourself off from each other or to resent each other. This is time to pull together and fight the enemy as teammates. The enemy is the dysfunctional childhood, the trauma of rape or war, or the unhealthy people that taught these unhealthy coping styles. Those are the enemy not the person you love. Those things were not their fault but now as an adult this is when it is time to look at how the history is playing out today. It will take effort to learn new skills and communicate in a healthy way. To learn to listen to your partner, to communicate in a way that doesn’t feel like an attack to the other person. To understand that how you communicate now is not working.

This is all possible but we need to understand who our enemy is. It is not your partner who went through the trauma. If you both are ready to acknowledge that what was learned or experienced is affecting your relationship and it is not healthy to continue to respond to current life in a way that may have worked before but is not working now. Then team up with your partner and fight together to change for a healthy future.

Written by Lisa Strong

Does your life reflect what you say you value?

Most people would say that the people in their life, spouse, close friends and family members are very important to them. That they really value these relationships. But what I often see is that little energy and time is being put into the healthy preservation of these relationships. Where do we invest our time and what does that focus tell others?

Social media and social pressures are a huge enemy of the family. It is a distraction. Sometimes we use distractions as a coping mechanism for the stress in our lives. Why are we avoiding the real interactions with the ones we say we care about? Why are we allowing this distraction to pull us away from family? We must get something from it, something that feels more comfortable and validating than a true human interaction.

Real interactions can be uncomfortable, we sometimes don’t know how to respond or what to do and especially with the people we say are most important to us. The interactions can be stressful. Even time with our children playing a game may seem stressful and more demanding than what we get from social media. We can even use social media to avoid being alone with our thoughts, this social media distraction is much more comfortable.

What do the people in your life see you valuing. You may say that your relationship is important but do you take the time to talk about your day and to listen to them share there lives with you? Do you show concern? Do you take time to go on a “date” and spend time focusing on this person who you say you value?

What do your kids see? Do your kids get more than 30 min. in the evening with you? Do you spend more time scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching cute puppy videos on Youtube than you do with your own child. And when you are with your child are you so busy taking pictures of them and posting them that the child is not getting your full attention?
Your child wants to be important to you, not the social media world, they want your attention. Can you spend time playing a board game with them, or cheering them on at their activity and not have them see you checking your phone.

If you say that you value your family or those people in your life that you call family then show them. People watch what you do not just what you say. Children are looking at your actions. Let’s show them that you value them by giving them a call, spending time, making these people a priority and this will be the first step to Save Your Family. Don’t wait for the crisis where your spouse feels like you don’t care or your child is rebellious, depressed or overwhelmed with stress . This is what we see each day in our business. Take care of the things you value. Save Your Family Today and we won’t have to be called tomorrow.

Written by Lisa Strong

Is Suicide an Option?

There are 121 suicides per day.  Per day!  Many wouldn’t consider suicide as an option but clearly some do.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the States.  One in 25 suicide attempts results in death.  This means 3, 025 people a day attempt suicide. Due to these alarming numbers the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has deemed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  

As a professional in the mental health industry and having lost my cousin to suicide four years ago I know first hand that suicide is an option to some and the rest of us need to inform ourselves on how to help.
Here are some warning signs and practical ways to support.

Warning signs 
If a person talks about:
• Being a burden to others
• Feeling trapped or stuck
• Experiencing unbearable pain or overwhelming emotions
• Having no reason to live or believing they have no hopeful future
• Killing themselves
If behaviors include:
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
• Experimenting with ways to kill themselves
• Acting recklessly
• Withdrawing from activities
• Not planning for the future
• Isolating from family and friends
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Giving away prized possessions or sentimental gifts
• Previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide attempt

If a person exhibits:
• Depression
• Loss of interest
• Rage
• Irritability
• Humiliation
• Anxiety
What you can do:
• Take suicidal comments seriously
• Validate the person’s feelings by acknowledging and accepting their feelings instead of rationalizing them away
• Be compassionate and gentle as the person is already feeling extremely sensitive and is trusting you by being vulnerable
• Let the person know you are concerned
• Remove all means of self harm
• If the person appears to be an immediate risk to hurting themselves do not leave them alone and if necessary call 911 for help
• If they are not already doing so, encourage the person to talk to others about their feelings and to see a professional
• Be available to talk, to listen, to comfort and, when appropriate, to “distract” them by doing something together that may give them a sense of peace
*above information from National Institute for Mental Health and
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Two Things to Keep In Mind:
• Most people who are depressed and suffering want things to change and to be better even more than you do.  If it’s difficult for you, imagine how difficult it is for them.
• If a person attempts suicide but isn’t able to complete the act be careful not to minimize the severity of the attempt. Be sure to take the attempt seriously.
There is no single cause or “cure” for depression and suicidal ideation.  It’s different for everyone.  Chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, living with a mental illness, experiencing prolonged stress are all risk factors.  But with support a person can overcome, learn to cope, survive and even thrive.  

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness month.  Spread the information!

The Four Things Your Child Needs

School is not only about academics, there is much more to learn. It’s no longer the 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Parenting expert Dr. Bob Barns talks about a different set of R’s, the 4 R’s including Recreation, Routine, Responsibility and Relationships. Teaching these areas will help a parent guide their child to be a more well balanced person.
Recreation may be thought of as a sport like soccer or baseball and these are healthy for the body as well as teaching teamwork and how to win or loose. All are good lessons but there are other recreations that might also be considered like music, art, model airplanes, cooking, these other activities that may be more appealing to your child. These activities can help a child learn to use their free time in ways that challenge and entertain. We can teach them how to fill the void with things other than computer games, T.V. or social media.
Routine refers to teaching our children time management. Children may not seem to appreciate a routine but it does give them structure and security as well as teaching them self discipline. There is a time to get up in the morning and go to bed, a time to get homework done or do chores. You tell them what is expected and then make sure you follow through and enforce the routine. As they take on more of the responsibility on their own then you can become more flexible.
Responsibility includes school assignments but there are also responsibilities at home. We have dumbed down our children and do not require much of them in the home. The family is a team and we need to all work together so the home runs smoothly. That means giving each child an age appropriate responsibility in helping. It is for the sake of the family and the child. It is a training opportunity.  Don’t forget to celebrate the victories, the affirmations will encourage and support the idea.
Relationships include the family and others. But in terms of the family we need to be proactive and schedule time with each of our children and our spouse. If this is not done then these important times get pushed to the side. Some parents tell me they don’t know what to talk about alone with their child so I suggest providing  a distraction, meet over a meal, do a puzzle or build something. This provides an opportunity for conversation and we need to listen. Doing this allows us to disconnect from the pressures of our world and social media and allows an opportunity to relate to each other.
The 4 R’s will create a family that works together and can enjoy each other. This is something worth the effort.
Written by Lisa Strong