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.
Can you remember the moment when you realized that you and your spouse had different financial spending habits? My husband and I were cruising along in financial bliss for five years until we bought our home. This is when I discovered that our differences were going to tear us emotionally apart. He was all about long-term goals and I did better with short-term ones. Our mismatched goals made me feel trapped and dissatisfied. Normally the female in a relationship is less risk seeking than her male partner, but in our case my husband was the ultra-cautious one and it drove me crazy! I should tell you that after 22 years of marriage we have learned to merge our strategies and compromise on our goals, but the first few years of adjustment were very painful.
Have you heard people say: “He who marries for love without money has good nights and sorry days?” Well, those people were right. Those early days were sorry days until I learned to give up 95% of my rights. It was this uncompromising devotion that created an atmosphere of togetherness that eventually took care of all my wants and needs. Over time, I noticed that my husband was also giving up more and more of his rights; yes, dare I say, even 95% of them! The ways you spend your money reflects what you value the most. When your partner starts noticing they are number one on your list, above things, vacations, and expensive houses, your marriage strengthens and the ground where it stands begins to solidify. No more sinkholes.
I also learned that even though money doesn’t buy happiness, following a set of values when making financial decisions does. Your marriage is your most valued relationship and it should keep you honest, disciplined and gentle. Money plays an enormous role in marriage, so you have to learn to manage your desires to be able to correctly manage your marriage. Your marriage is more precious than all the gold in the world. Letting money take the place of the love and respect a couple should have for each other is a trap that like many, I almost fell into. That love and respect must be guarded above all things and that requires a big dose of self-denial. If you want to learn more about how my husband and I learned to deal with it, download the mobile gloo app here and check out Deal with It-Money (use invitation code 742c).
Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, Family Bridges’ Program Director
You are upset and bothered. You decide that it’s better to simply ignore your partner and hope he/she gets the point. The silence game is your last resort because you are officially over it and you figure this is the best way to get back at them.
There is no limit to the amount of time that this silent treatment can last – it can be for a day, two days, a week, a month. There are no rules except to ignore the person. That is why it’s so tempting to rely on the silent treatment. And it’s effective…in all the wrong ways. The silent treatment will effectively:
succeed to create unbearable tension in the home - so much that everyone can feel it;
help you continue to imagine all the possible ways you were right and they were wrong – creating quite a defense case;
create more and more distance between you and your partner/or those who you are giving the treatment to; and
help keep your anger alive.
We resort to giving the silent treatment out of pure frustration. While it seems to provide a way out from what seems like and unsolvable problem – it tends to only leave a bitter aftertaste for everyone. Sure it works to keep anger alive and to break down relationships…but, if you are at all interested in actually restoring your relationship, then resorting to a healthier option is a better answer. And yes, a healthier option does exist, it’s called communication. Working on active communication skills help clear frustration and anger and will in turn lead to problem solving. It’s also quite the opposite of giving someone the silent treatment and therefore much more effective.
Because we tend not to listen, because we weren’t all born with the innate ability to communicate clearly and effectively – conflict is bound to occur in relationships. Most of us have to learn and/or need coaching on how to communicate so we don’t resort to known and tried silent treatments or other negative types of communication when we feel frustrated. This is why we really like what the Family Bridges program is about. Helping people break the silence.