Family is a Give and Take

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A family functions best when everyone contributes. We all can play a part. It is clear that mom and dad have bigger parts when the child is young but even a toddler can learn to contribute to the function of the family. As a child gets older they can be responsible to contribute more and more. This is how we avoid raising teenagers who feel entitled. 

There are many families where entitlement is a major problem in the home. Parents call for help frustrated with the demands of their teenager. When a teenager expects their parents to do everything for them and they don’t contribute to the well being of the family then this is a behavior that frustrates those around them and a belief that will not serve them well out in the “real world”. 

When a child is young, this is the time to start training them, giving them small jobs to do. Young children don’t complain about helping, they like to contribute and feel important. At dinner time you can ask them to put the napkins on the table or when you are cleaning, give them a small broom and ask them to sweep up. I know they may not do a good job, and honestly it would probably just be easier to do it yourself but you are teaching them to contribute and the payoff will come later and you will be glad you didn’t just do it all yourself.

They need to learn that there is a balance between their own needs and wishes and those of others in the home and ultimately in society. If your teenager asks you to drive them to the movies and expects you to hand them $20 that may be fine if they have learned to be helpful at home but why are we handing our children money and driving them all over when they complain about washing their dishes or feeding the dog? Make sure they understand that there needs to be a give and take in a family. It is not all take. If they expect you to be understanding of what they want then teach them to be understanding of the needs of the family, too. 

If your teen is not used to this concept then you will need to be strong as you teach them. They will understand this new idea and may even agree as you are taking them to the movies and giving them the $20. But when you later ask them to do the dishes after dinner that is when the challenge begins. Stand strong. If they choose not to do the dishes it doesn’t have to be a fight just remind them of this the next time they need something. You need to stop giving if they are not giving. They will soon see what they need to do. Your job is to be consistent and clear. This is how a family works and truthfully this is how the world works. There is always a give and take. 

Written by Lisa Strong


Our 7 Day Challenge

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We’ve all done it and it’s been done to all of us.  It goes something like this: you’re talking with a friend or family member and you tell them about something that is stressful, disappointing or upsetting.  They respond by telling you how equally, or more so, they are stressed, disappointed or upset about something in their life.  You might say “I am feeling overwhelmed and have a lot of anxiety right now.  Life just feels really hard.”  They might respond “Oh, I know what you mean.  My life has never been as stressful as it is now…..”  It’s like they never even heard you but continue on with their own narrative which says their situation is at least as difficult as yours so don’t feel so bad.  It has become a pet peeve of mine.  And truth be told, I am as guilty of doing it as anyone else.  But I sure do hate when it’s done to me!
As I’ve reflected on this over the past week I decided to challenge all of us to make a change, including myself.  For the next 7 days when someone, anyone, tells you about what’s bothering them, about their stressful day, their broken heart, their anxiety or some bad news they received… pause.  During that pause separate yourself and your own circumstances from theirs.  Then only… and I do mean only… acknowledge what they shared and validate it.  Don’t try to relate their situation to one of your own.  Don’t enter into a who is more stressed and overwhelmed contest.  Don’t talk about yourself at all!  Simply acknowledge their feelings and encourage them with some positive (but not dismissive) words.  You might say something like “Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I’m here to listen any time.”  Or “That sounds really hard, I can see why you are overwhelmed.  We can’t lose hope because you will make it through this and I am here to support you.”  You get the idea.  
You will be amazed at how this kind of response will impact those around you.  And you will be equally amazed at how good it feels when those around you respond to you like this when you share something that’s weighing on you.  
It’s 7 day challenge.  We will do it together.  Start now and tell me how it goes!

By Lisa Smith

SMFT Lisa #1 (1)

Parenting Exaggerated

Lisa Smith is the expert guest on Answers for the Family.  She discusses the growing challenge of overprotective parents, the disservice it is to teens and children and how to take a more balanced approach within the family.

Growing Pains at 39

Growing Pains at 39

I remember being around 10 years old and my legs were aching like nothing I had ever experienced before.  As I cried from the pain my parents explained to me that I was enduring something called growing pains.  It was excruciating.  Thankfully, the pains subsided pretty quickly… and as you can tell by my height, so did my growing.

Now, at 39 years old, I’m experiencing growing pains of a whole new kind.  Lately I have found myself awake most nights wondering and worrying about my life.  The ironic thing is that nothing bad is happening.  In fact, life is pretty good.  But it feels like a lot of things are changing and I’m needing to make big decisions about important issues.  But I don’t feel ready!  Personally, professionally, spiritually and physically I am being stretched and prodded to grow.  When you have physical growing pains you take some Advil and take it easy.  But growing pains of the metaphorical kind are a bit harder to manage.  So what can we do?

1.  Identify your emotions.  Are you scared, worried, excited, uncertain…?  

2.  Allow yourself to embrace and experience these emotions.  The capacity to experience feeling is synonymous with the capacity to give and receive happiness. To the degree you shy away from any kind of emotional experience, to that extent you also close the door to the experience of happiness.

3.  Recognize that this is a season of growth and that good will come from it if we allow it.  No season ever lasts forever whether we want it to or not.  

It’s important that we never stop growing.  So it is important that we recognize that with the growth may come a certain degree of pain.  And that’s ok.  

Written by Lisa Smith