Thursday, November 20, 2008

Enforcing with understanding

She is ten years old and definitely getting to the age where she fights with mom. "You never listen to me. You're always telling me what to do. I hate you!" and she disappeared. Where is she? She has run off. Mom is in a panic and finally finds her a half mile from home, back at school. "Just wait till your dad gets home. He's going to be so angry." Mom had been worried sick! Where was she! So, she wanted to put the fear into their daughter to prevent this from happening again, but now dad has to be the judge and the bad-guy and figure out how to deal with this situation.

There are several "lessons" in this. What do we want this child to learn? Be afraid of mom and dad and what they will do? or Remember to let mom and dad know where you are so they know you are safe? I think it's the second one. Children need to know they can get angry at us and we won't reject them. We just want to make sure they are safe. So when dad gets home, what is he to do? First, he can tell her that he and mom were worried when they didn't know where she was. Sometimes bad things can happen (no need to go into the gory details), and they want to make sure she was safe. Then, acknowledge her feelings, "Mom told me you were mad about having to do your homework right away after school. I know you get frustrated, but just please stay safe!"

When they were fighting, mom could have responded differently instead of invoking the potential wrath of dad, calmly saying something like, "I know you're mad it me. You don't like having to do your homework. But it's important. You can take some time to relax and then we'll talk some more." We can respond to kids in ways that acknowledge their feelings and prevent a situation from blowing up into a fight.

It's frustrating for dad to feel like he has to come home and be the enforcer. When he has a chance to talk with his daughter, he can ask her what she was feeling and thinking. Try to see the situation from her perspective AND let her know that moms and dads get scared and worried. We can also ask her, "How do you think we should deal with this. It was not safe to go off without saying where you are and we don't want this to happen again." Often, children have some workable ideas for consequences. Sometimes their ideas are even more strict than we would impose. Probably her worries about what would happen, before dad came home, and this conversation offer the major learning experiences. A brief consequence might also reinforce the lesson, but she doesn't need to be grounded for a long period.

In most situations, after the talk and the immediate consequence, it is important to do our best to restore good feelings.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Healing the Past

Family - these are the people who are supposed to meet our needs when we are young and love us - no matter what. They care for us when we’re sick and offer help when we need a hand. Not everyone has grown up with this kind of supportive family relationships. Some of us did not get our needs met. We didn’t feel loved or respected. So, because of childhood experiences, one thing some of us know for sure is that family is not the place to ask for help.

Once we enter into adulthood, there are times when our “family of origin” issues surface. We may carry hurt and disappointment from the past into the present. Sometimes a child’s behavior triggers an old memory or a feeling. If we are not careful, our reaction may be unintentionally hurtful.

In order to relate to children in healthy ways, we must make sure that we are doing the recovery work needed to heal the past. We don’t always have the opportunity to do this directly with the people involved. But we can work hard to separate ourselves from those times so that our relationship with children is not affected by our family history.

In addition to doing our own healing work, we can learn how to communicate effectively with children. We can learn about their needs and set reasonable expectations for them. We can also create a network of supportive friends who are there to help. Even when we have not had positive role models during our growing up years, we can do our best to be supportive adults for children today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For all the Saints

Yesterday was Nov. 1st, a day that to some is celebrated as All Saints Day. This is a day to remember the saints in our lives, those who are still with us, and those who have gone before. Saints are those wonderful people who have supported us, given us hope, helped us during tough times. They have been role models who loved us unconditionally. In our religious traditions, they are people of faith who have done amazing acts of kindness and compassion. Their strong faiths guided their daily decisions.

So I want to thank some of the saints in my life. I am very grateful for my ancestors, most of whom were long gone before I was born. Many of our ancestors experienced unbelievable hardships and challenges to make it through life. They had none of the comforts and conveniences that we have today. From dawn until sunset, they worked hard to maintain a life, and raise their children. Many of my ancestors were people of faith who believed God would provide for them and reward them with abundance. Their courage and persistence carried them through and cleared a path for me, for us.

I am also very grateful for the saints in my life today. I am blessed with family members and friends who are examples to me today. Even though I am a mid-life woman, I continue to learn, especially from the wisdom shared by others.

We have landed where we are today because of the many who have passed before us. We rest on their shoulders. And our children and grandchildren and the children of the future will be supported on ours. What are we doing to pass on a world of faith, hope, and love to the today's children? What is our legacy? What will we leave for them?