Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, PsyD | 2013
Criticism, being judgmental and fault finding are all too often what prevails in the snippets of communication that occurs in many homes. Parents are often preoccupied with what should happen, what should have been said or on how much better things could have been done. This type of every day nagging tends to be awfully sour and demanding. It is human nature, after all, to find the speck in another’s eye, than to see what is on our own eye. We are consumed by the never ending demands of life, the ever-growing to-do-lists, the unfulfilled obligations waiting our attention – that there seems to be no room for being grateful for the responsibilities that are being fulfilled, for relationships that are thriving and for things that are generally going well. In a home, where parents are too busy with self-righteousness and where conversations have a critical and nagging tone, is it any wonder that children also assume an attitude of ingratitude? Could it be that children adopt an attitude that merely mirrors what they see day in and day out? If 365 days a year, parents are critical towards one another, forgetting to be thankful for even the small graces, should it really be surprising that our children often come across as entitled, that their words are often sprinkled with an air of self-righteousness?
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday which makes all of us to stop in our consumerism-driven journey to evaluate what we do have and simply express our gratitude. Part of the tradition is for us to pass on the holiday-inspired gratefulness to our children. How do we teach our children to be thankful, to count all of their blessings and to trade in the otherwise attitude of entitlement or self-righteousness tends to hover over them? Of course, we can list several ideas to teach children gratitude. For example, we can encourage them to name one thing they are thankful a day from now till thanksgiving before they go to bed. That simple gesture would certainly help in steering them away from self to helping them focus on others and how richly blessed they are.
Instead of teaching your kids to be thankful this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge. The gratitude challenge is more than a one-time action, but an attitude shift. Show grace to your spouse and to your child. Be less critical and judgmental of them and of others. Be less demanding and more accepting of them. Verbally recognize the little things they do for you. Praise and appreciate who they are and what they mean to you. By adopting an attitude of grace and thanksgiving in your own life, you will be modeling what thanksgiving really means. And in so doing, you can transform your life and that of your children so that you can have a lifestyle of thanksgiving that is beyond the one-day holiday.
Contributed by Eva Fleming | 2013
The Olsen twins are the most famous siblings I know. When I see them I make two observations: They like high-end fashion and complement one another like fudge on ice cream. I don’t know if this is the reality behind the camera but it is the impression that I and most outsiders get. However, not all siblings share the same genetic origin, and unfortunately for mom and dad, not all siblings have synchronized needs and wants.
After a day of school, the children under my roof are never in agreement. Fighting constantly out of jealousy and competition, they require the services of a referee to help them resolve their conflicts. As summer arrives, I will be among the many parents bracing themselves for the 24/7 squabbling and bickering that children engage in to fill their newfound free time.
There are many different opinions about what to do with sibling rivalry. The opinion that tickles me the most is the ‘don’t get involved unless there’s physical harm’ theory. I think NOT! My suggestion is exactly the opposite: Get involved! Children don’t know anything about relationships and have no idea how to compromise, communicate, negotiate, and consolidate.
The best way to approach sibling conflict is to get involved in the lives of your kids. Being present helps eliminate a sense of competition if your kids are in fact vying for YOUR attention. Your presence helps model peaceful behavior, gives your kids the parental attention they crave, and fulfills you as a parent because you know you’ve done your job. If you are busy when a conflict arises and can’t play referee at that very moment, keep one of the children next to you. I tell my 6-year old when he comes to recount an offense and I can’t deal with it at the moment: “Stay with mommy, she would never be mean to you.” He stays with me for 20 seconds before deciding that what I am doing is too boring for him, and goes back to play with his brother with the mindset that if they don’t get along he will be forced to sit with a loving but boring mommy all day. Somehow learning to get along gets exciting for him fast.
Here are two things you should never do when your children quibble:
- Assign blame! It takes two to tango.
- Remove your love and attention from your children.
Sibling rivalry is an element of life. Learn to deal with it rather than dread it. Just remember to engage with your kids, play and spend as much time with them as your schedule allows. You don’t play children’s games? You don’t have time for all that nonsense? Well, in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” So go ahead, bring out your inner parent and love your children through their sibling rivalry.
Contributed by Brittany Mershon, MA
One of the questions I am frequently asked as a therapist is, “How can I help my child to be more confident?” Confidence is a multifaceted concept to address. First, confidence is not a feeling, it’s a commitment. Confidence is not the absence of fear, but rather a commitment to seeing a decision through in spite of fear. Raising confident children can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Here is a list of tips to help you through the process:
- Model Confidence. Children mimic behavior they observe from those around them, especially their parents. Parents who show confidence, even in the face of fear, will help their children learn to do the same.
- Embrace Failures. It sounds counter-intuitive, but children who fear failure are more likely to fail. Children and adults alike who are successful learn to overcome failure early in life. They learn that fearing failure causes one to act more cautiously and fear taking risks that might cause unsuccessful results. Celebrating their best effort and modeling mistakes can be learning experiences that will help confidence to grow.
- Embrace Success. Fear of success is a common fear that can cause children to focus on the negative aspects of doing well. Success could mean more responsibility or increased expectations. It is important to share with children the benefits of success.
- Embrace Change. Many children are creatures of habit. Much like many adults, the threat of change can be intimidating. Even if the ‘change’ is positive, children often fear the unknown. Seek to understand what it is that is ultimately holding your child back from embracing change, and then work to help them overcome or work around it.
Children and adolescents are the ones who bare the brunt of unhealthy marital relationships. Fathers, in particular, who are in supportive relationships tend to be more sensitive and attentive and less hostile and negative with their children. (Click here to see Responsible Father Spotlike Facts).
While at one time or another you may parent an adolescent who slams the door at you and screams with passion “I hate you” when you enforce a rule or deny them a privilige, if this is not a one-time occurrance but a sentiment that is felt on a continual basis, it may be worthwhile to explore how the father-mother relationship is faring. If you feel isolated from your children and can’t seem to connect with them, don’t just assume that it’s an adolescent hormonal stage, evaluate your marital relationship. Children and adolescents have an uncanny ability to pick up on parents’ distress and may resort to assuming passive aggressive attitudes and acting out behaviors that can test your patience and all of your established boundaries. They feel the tension in the home and this spills over to their school work, social relationships and coping skills.
It’s interesting from the statistics noted that it’s not only adolescents and children that may feel like responding in a rebellious way, but fathers as well. When fathers do not feel connected with their partners, the tendency is for them to pull away from their children. So now you have fathers who alienate themselves from their children and children who respond aggressively and in negative ways. Why do you think that fathers do this? That when their marital relationships suffer – commonly they also pull away from their children’s lives? Why is that even though, children are not at fault, they are the ones that pay the penalty for unhealthy marital relationships? Whatever the reasons, what we do know is that fathers who have healthy relationships are more responsive to their children. This is a HUGE reason for why we need to invest in healthy relationships – ultimately we are investing in the lives of our children.