When Grandparents Interfere With Parenting

Ettie could not believe her eyes or her ears. As she walked into her eight-year old daughter’s room, her mother was telling Beth, her daughter, “You don’t have to listen to mommy; you can stay up because I’m visiting.” Beth was a good girl who would not have thought of defying her mother on such a major issue. Luckily, mommy came to the rescue. Ettie only had to raise her eyebrows in question; Grammy knew she was caught. Grammy decided that the best thing to do to save face AND get her way was to be confrontational. “Isn’t that right, mommy?” Grammy went on, “Since I am your mommy and you have to listen to me, Beth can stay up late tonight?” Now, Ettie was in a pickle. If she was defiant, what would she be teaching her daughter? If she agreed with her mother, Beth would be having a hard time getting up in the morning. But a light bulb went off in Ettie’s head and she replied: “Ah, mom,” Ettie said, “I think that is a great idea. And you can wake Beth and get her off to school in the morning, too!” She chuckled so that it was clear to everyone that she was joking. However, her mom was not to be easily outdone. “Nonsense!” said Grammy. “She doesn’t have to go to school tomorrow. I’m visiting, after all. How often do I come in anyway? She can learn her subjects later on, but she only gets this moment to connect with her Grammy.” Ettie started to remember why she moved to the other side of...

Do We Have To Be Honest With Children?

My school-age grandson was filled with the importance of the story he was telling me. He paused as someone flew a paper airplane over our heads and their mother had to put a stop to that. She made a remark; I made another one back, and before you knew it, my grandson’s conversation got derailed. “Gram!” He said, with a note of irritation in his voice, “you aren’t listening to me!” It is right here that we all have a choice to make. Do we protect our egos or take a hit? “You are right!” I replied, “I am so sorry. Go on with what you were saying.” Here are some wrong choices: “Can’t you see I’m talking to mommy?” “Oh, all right. What did you want?” (irritated tone) The worst choice, of course, is to not even hear him, to not notice his existence and just go on as if he weren’t there. How many of you are guilty of any of those? What these last three options all do is de-value the person in his own eyes. You see, to a child, your view of the world, is like God’s view. They don’t have a concept of questioning and critical thinking yet. They certainly may – and will – object to mistreatment, but they don’t know why they’re objecting. They don’t realize that YOU have actually done something wrong and that they have been ignored, dismissed, invalidated, and minimized. So instead of realizing YOU mistreated them, your response holds up to them a mirror of who they are. That’s not good because in this case the mirror...

What To Do With Your Child’s Anger

I was rereading a therapy magazine from 1999 — so the problems were full-blown even back then– and it related the following: In a difference of opinion between a child and her mother who wanted the TV shut off, as the mother’s demand became stronger, the child finally used a swear word on her mother, something like, “F-you, mommy.” That child was eight years old. And this is not an inner-city family. It is a socio-economically privileged family whose mother spends time toting her daughter to after-school activities and the like. This young girl also does well in school and is liked by her peers. What’s going on? Why the language? The article was filled with similar stories including those of kids who hit and kicked their parents when they didn’t get their way and another young child who didn’t like anticipating the arrival of a new baby and smashed a baseball bat into her mother’s belly. The author, Ron Taffel, was compelled to interview parents to try to find out what was missing in their approach. It turns out that parents — who may have suffered harsh discipline themselves growing up — are afraid to do the same to their children. So they do nothing. Maybe their child needs to “get out” their anger, they’re thinking. If so, then letting them vent should be a good thing. No, it isn’t good. First, because the venting never ends. But this is only the beginning of the problem. What Taffel found is that these same parents who are afraid to injure their children by punishing them also don’t like their...

5 Tips to Get Kids to Do Homework

Here are my 5 tips for parents to get kids not only to do their homework but get into the homework-doing mood. Tip #1: Homework Should Fit The Goldilocks Principle Goldilocks had it right: whether it’s porridge or homework, the best is the one that is not at either extreme, but somewhere in the middle. If the homework is too easy, your child will get an unrealistic idea of what life has in store. Think about it: Imagine the kid who slid through school and now goes out for a first job – and is actually expected to put in time working! Kids who end up at Harvard find the same thing. They had it easy all the years in school and suddenly they’re faced with other children who also did: They’re meeting their match. Uh-oh, they have to work! And if it’s too hard, well, they might just quit on you. Where do you draw the line? How do you find the perfect sweet spot? Parents have to not only use their judgment on that, but they have to be really honest with themselves when they do. They have to be sure that they are not drawing the line at either the “too easy” or the “too hard” extreme because of their own emotional needs. Parents can get into doing that. They want to be the child’s “friend” so they complain to the school that the homework is “too” hard. Maybe it’s a wee bit too hard, but not so hard that it can’t be done. Or parents want to push their kids excessively so they call anything...

4 Strategies to Get Kids to Listen

Eli is quite clear that he is a pretty important person. At six and the youngest of four, he’s used to those around him just stopping short of bowing down to him. Answering his every wish goes without saying. When he was two and oh-so-cute, he was irresistible. Now that four years have passed and he’s a normal school-boy with homework and schedules, cuteness has to take a back seat to responsibility, sharing, and kindness. He may be a child of the King, but he is definitely not the King. The problem is, he doesn’t know that – yet. How can his kindly and loving parents get this kid to listen and cooperate while maintaining their sanity? As my children were growing up, I tried four strategies that worked very well and I am happy to share them with you. Strategy #1: Have a sense of humor. You can tell me that certain people are born with a sense of humor and others are a bit more serious. Listen, I get that. I was always the serious one and that’s because I came from such a serious family that they didn’t even see the value in having newspapers with comics. They bought the Sunday Times and when I complained that there were no comics, they kind of waved me off. In spite of this, there is an easy solution to learning to take everything more lightly. Just look around you at people you know – people with children who are challenged medically or mentally, people who have lost a loved one, people with deficits they can’t overcome – and...

Work-Life Balance: Dr Deb Has a New Problem

My youngest son, when he was still living with us, shocked me by saying that there were no family dinners during the week in the years he was growing up. Here I was, the mommy-cook to end all mommy-cooks, the person who would experiment with various recipes multiple times in her single years just to prepare for that wonderful day when she would get married, being told that she didn’t have family dinners. I was in school and juggling that work with my family obligations. The Importance of Family Dinners I checked with my husband who reminded me that the children stayed for after-school when I was in graduate school so that already took care of one or two meals during the week. But this wasn’t good enough for me. Suddenly, all those years that I had spent working so assiduously on my dissertation came into focus. For me, it had been all about my progress toward my personal goal, but what about being there for my children? When I started my doctorate, my youngest was only five. Worse yet, my husband didn’t know how to cook, wasn’t about to learn, and could live on pizza. Furthermore, he was a marshmallow when it came to discipline and didn’t keep the same watchful eye on homework that I would have had. “Don’t worry, ma,” my son told me that eventful day, “I’m okay!” Well, that’s very nice to hear now that he is an adult, but still. . . . Did I do the right thing? Nursing Creates a Bond that Pushes away Work This point was brought home to me when...

Don’t Send Your Teen to the Missing Persons List

Regarding the horrible revelation in Cleveland in May, 2013 when 3 women who had been held captive for ten years were rescued, several news outlets reviewed how the missing-persons list works. “Hundreds of thousands of people are reported missing each year,” the Wall Street Journal stated, “the vast majority of whom turn out to have run away, FBI data show.” Those numbers are misleading. Millions of children run away every year Actually, the data is worse. According to the National Runaway Safeline which obtained statistics from peer-reviewed journals, “between 1.6 and 2.8 million (that’s not a typo) youth run away in a year. 47% of runaway / homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem.” “Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care.” “32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.” Why do they run away? Why do they get into drugs, sex, and cutting? Is there a connection among all these youth problems? To get an idea of the answer, let’s look a little closer at the history of two of the three girls who were held captive for a decade and how they came to be kidnapped. First, let’s look at Amanda Berry, the brave girl who orchestrated their escape. According to news reports, she had piercings in her ears and eyebrows and liked Eminem’s music. What do runaway children want? For those who wouldn’t know Eminem from an Oreo, Wikipedia explains...

How to Build Healthy Self Esteem in Children

Research shows that low self-esteem is associated with depression in adolescents and lower achievement in school.  How can parents help their children to build healthy self esteem? High self-esteem can be dangerous One would think that it is obvious that children should have high self-esteem, but research shows otherwise. For example, a child told he is “so smart” when his ability is only average could, conceivably develop an unrealistically high opinion of his abilities. He could then be in for quite a shock when he performs below what he expected. Another outcome could be that he stops making an effort to do well because he falsely assumes he doesn’t need to put effort out since he’s so smart. Being told he’s smarter or better than others can lead to arrogance and callousness as well. Going to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, John Rosemond, an author in this area, recommended breaking down children’s self-esteem so that it does not become artificially inflated. That’s really bad advice. The result of that tactic can also be a child giving up trying: He figures that his parents are telling him he’s not so smart after all, so why make an effort to reach for the impossible? The same conclusion came from research reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2007. Investigators attempted to encourage failing children to make more effort in school by sending them emails that said, “Students who have high self-esteem not only get better grades, but they remain self-confident and assured.” Therefore, each one needed to “hold your head-and your self-esteem-high.” That plan backfired; those...

How to Explain Tragedy to Children

On September 11, 2001, I got a call from my daughter, concerned about a plane that seemed to have gone astray into the World Trade Center. Within a short while we all learned that the news was about a planned attack. The inexplicable. How do we explain this to our children? The news was frightening, tragic, disturbing, and traumatizing. Worst of all, I later heard that people, including young children, had witnessed the replay of the video on the news numerous times. That was a mistake. How Trauma Starts Research shows that, of the five senses, people are predominantly visual. For example, babies born visually handicapped, if not given special training, have a lower statistical probability of coping in life than those born deaf. The right hemisphere of the brain is available from birth to receive information and it includes receiving visual images. The left hemisphere kicks in at about 12 months and begins to learn how to explain in words the meanings gleaned from those visual images. Trauma is predominantly a visual problem although as any war veteran will tell you, the other senses most certainly are involved. Even without seeing the image of the planes going into the towers, humans will automatically create mental images to fit the words and those images can be traumatic. That is the essence of childhood nightmares, especially repeating nightmares: The child creates the images and is now afraid of them. The images carry some meaning for the child that he may or may not be able to explain. We are now faced with a new tragedy that took place in Connecticut...
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