Teaching respect

Family Concept 2, photo by Lynne Lancaster, UKChildren can get bored easily unless there are games to occupy them or they have the full attention of those they are with. However, it is important that they learn how to participate politely so that they get the attention of everyone instead of monopolising the attention of one person, usually a parent. In this way teaching respect helps them to learn how to entertain themselves. It’s a socialisation skill they need to learn as early as possible.

usually when her mother becomes involved
in a conversation with a friend? then
6 year old Angela would whisper in her ear
it was her first attempt at holding her mother’s attention
but Julie knew the dance well and she would
look at Angela in her eyes and remind her
that if she had something important to say she
would need to say excuse me and wait
otherwise she could do something else until
her mother was free to talk to her
I could see that Julie’s parenting skills
were teaching respect and in the long run
would help Angela develop good life strategies
instead of demanding that others make her happy

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Sulking is such a waste

677811_beyond_the_sea.jpgMany people resort to sulking when they are not pleased with someone’s behaviour. It is aimed at getting attention in the hope that the other person asks “what’s up” and then the sulker says “nothing”. The dance goes on until finally the sulker is convinced to share their hurt. Surely it is far healthier to learn how to be up front and honest about how you feel than doing this attention dance which can be such a waste and it causes resentments in relationships. We need to teach our children too how to communicate their needs openly to spare them resorting to sulking to get their way which in the end costs them.

the little girl was 8 and her mother had deserted them
so the father compensated by taking his daughter
to the movies 3 times a week for a while
it was an escape and took his mind off the pain
then he decided to stop overdosing on movies
but his daughter had her heart set on going that night
so she stood at the window looking out and sulking
after about one hour he asked her what was the matter?
in a good sulking pose she said “nothing”
so he went about cooking for the next day
another hour passed and she got tired of the act
and jumped at the opportunity to stop sulking when
he told her it was late and to get ready for bed!
it was a lesson not easily forgotten because
it served her no purpose

Beyond the sea, photo by Tolga KOSTAK, Izmir, Turkey, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/677811

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Setting limits with children

53523_hotel.jpgAn important part of childrearing is setting limits, especially when children are very young. The hard part is making sure that setting limits is done through education – letting the child know why we are saying “no” to something, not just refusing. Another vital part of this education process is that we keep our voices factual rather than critical or shaming, otherwise the lesson is lost and the child just feels oppressed. It is hard for us to remember this when children are young, because usually the pace of living is stressful for everybody and being relaxed and calm seems impossible. Also we are in denial at that time about our behaviour and how uptight we are. Children feel the full brunt of harsh, unexplained limit-setting and it affects their self esteem badly. This can result in serious rebellious behaviour in childhood and all the way through to adult relationships.

at four years of age she is the cutest
and she is very aware of ‘living the good life’
as I babysat my granddaughter in the hotel suite
she declared that she wanted stuff from the mini bar
I had to be very careful how I refused her
tonight we were going to eat
in the restaurant downstairs which
my nine year old grandson had been
given the honour to escort us to
I began with “no, darling”
the disappointment in her eyes showed
that there was anger bubbling deep inside
so I sat down near her and pointed out that
using the mini bar costs too much
her eyes mellowed and this showed that
the information made sense, so she seemed at peace
after the delicious meal downstairs
we enjoyed watching the movie Happy Feet, in the suite

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Birthday celebration

Circle of Love, photo by Lioness 65, Frankfurt, Germany, family meetingWhen a family meets for the birthday celebration of another family member it is, indeed, a special day. The food is familiar, the presents are enjoyable and everyone enjoys touching base with family. In this day and age everyone is so busy and it is days like this that brings everyone together. For a few hours there is a circle of love, usually, together with laughter and fun.

today was my 13 year old granddaughter’s birthday
and Gaby had requested that it be a
birthday celebration with her extended family
so there were 20 people present and
there was laughter and fun and delicious food
on another day she will celebrate with her friends
how enjoyable it was today as we all came together
and spent a lighthearted celebration with her
she loved opening her gifts and especially
playing with her cousins all at once

Circle of Love, photo by Lioness 65, Frankfurt, Germany, family meeting

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Children are not pets

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate loveThe love we feel for our children needs to be different from the love we feel for our pets, because children are not pets. When we want to hold our children non stop we teach them to be clingy and they get serious abandonment issues. This slows the child’s ability to develop good ego boundaries and affects their relationships later on in life. When I see that type of behaviour I, as a family therapist, suggest that the parent(s) get a pet in order to balance out their need to cling onto their child. Pets thrive on cooing and playful love, and humans benefit from showing them that. Children thrive on appropriate parental love and parents benefit from having their children develop healthily.

Zelma was totally focused on her disabled daughter Elli
and took great pride that she was a loving mother but
hadn’t noticed that she was treating Elli like a pet
hugging her, cooing to her and using baby talk
even until she was an adult and
didn’t see how it annoyed Elli
then one day Zelma became embarrassed
when her daughter barked at her!
so she got a dog and a cat so that
they could coo over them and kept
appropriate love for her daughter which
made a huge difference to Elli’s development

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate love

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Children need love, so parents chill out

Anger, photo by Ivar van Bussel, Groningen, Netherlands, abusive tantrumsFathers and mothers, with small children, are usually at a Life Stage when stresses affect their behaviour, making them intolerant. It’s vital that we don’t psychologise abusive behaviour exhibited by stressed parents. In other words, avoid excusing abusive actions just because parents are stressed – there’s no excuse good enough for abuse. So parents, remember that although you’re having a hard time, when you over-react about your children’s mistakes this negatively impacts on their self-esteem. Also your behaviour is seen as inappropriate and abusive by children and everyone around too! What’s more if the ‘punishment is too severe then the lesson is lost’. When you’re finding it difficult to keep your cool, then maybe you need to see a therapist so that you can let off steam before it becomes abusive for everyone concerned. Children need love to grow healthily, not fear. Childrearing specialists claim that prisoners didn’t get there from too much parental love as children.

she was almost hysterical as she told me
how her family was driving her crazy
her husband was in the same state!
you may say “no wonder” when they
are in stressful jobs and trying to
make a decent lifestyle for their family!
then as the story unfolded they realised that
their lives had become unmanageable due to
hard work, lots of bills and not enough rest
everything had become so serious and
children have no way of knowing how
to deal with their parents’ stress, therefore,
they chose to do things as a family that
would bring them fun and relaxation
as well as putting their home in order
instead of just excusing the dysfunctionality

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Loving and caring at Christmas

Christmas ornament, photo by Kinki Chew, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, cc.1asphost/mydreamsland, Chrismas timeChristmas time can be exciting or upsetting or both. When there is enough money to pay the bills and to spend on presents and holiday activities most people find it exciting. On the other hand, a shortage of money to do those things can be somewhat depressing. Yet, regardless of their circumstances, people generally have managed to enjoy themselves at this time of the year. A deciding factor is also how a person experienced Christmas in their childhood. Some families with limited finances had a wonderful time at Christmas and learnt to laugh and enjoy the festivities which created happy memories for them. Others who were fortunate enough to have the money to shop and to perhaps go on holidays too, also have good memories. Then again those people who were unhappy as children remember the pain at Christmas, so for them it is an unhappy time which hopefully they try to grow out of in time. It’s heartening though to remember that there are many people who work together to make life better at Christmas for those who are not as fortunate as others and who need all the loving and caring they can get – financially and emotionally.

she remembered how sad her childhood was
as her family was so poor that they ate
bread and dripping as a treat but
at Christmas time it was a happy time
no matter how little money they had
although her father gambled his pension away
there was always some sort of presents
for her and her brother and sister
as she got older she realised that
her mother created that miracle
it was so important to them having
something to look forward to every year
they even got to go on holidays to the
town her father came from where they visited
their grandparents who gave them more presents
no wonder it is so important to her
that her children enjoy Christmas time

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Male influence in the family

Walking the trunk, photo by Janet Burgess, Geneva, Switzerland,  paternal  guidanceAs a family therapist and as a woman, I am pleased to see the growing nurturing role of men in family relationships. A man nowadays does more than provide financial security and play with his children. Usually he takes more of an interest in the child’s choices in life and is more supportive of their achievements, apart from sport. A man is not ashamed to take on a more nurturing role which was once only attributable to a woman. Likewise, a woman has more of an active role in what was once considered only that of a man’s, so the sharing of responsibilities is both effective and welcomed for the progress of humanity. Therefore, male influence in the family can provide a more balanced foundation for childrearing.

he remembered that as a child his father was
emotionally unavailable to him
sure, he played with him and showed some
interest in his son’s sporting activities but
if they were lesser talents than that of his father’s
then the criticism and insults were extreme
what’s more his father did not show pride in his son’s
academic and chess playing achievements
fortunately, it can be said that the son is
a better father, more responsible and caring
and this sometimes happens in opposition to the
inappropriate behaviour of a dysfunctional parent

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Dedicated parents

Empty Nest, photo by Luis Alves, Barreiro, Portugal, adult childrenThose people who are dedicated parents provide a nurturing, caring environment for their children. They teach how to live a full life by being responsible and yet funloving.? ? Such parents are also aware of the need for their children to be independent and some day move away from home to make their own way in life.? Although the ’empty nest’ syndrome is known by the majority of society, we do not fully understand the extent of that experience. It’s not just your children leaving home and experiencing the loss of their presence, it is more than that. It is a case of truly letting go as you watch your adult children take care of business the way they wish and sometimes that can mean that parents disapprove of the choices their offspring make and/or feel somewhat abandoned by them. It is far better for parents to remember how they behaved at the same life stages as their adult children and then it is easier to understand.

I loved my cousin Chris very much, he was my mentor
after my dear father died I became engaged at 18
life was so full of fun and happiness
so when I experience empty nest with my adult children
I remember that whenever we visited Chris, we would
enjoy ourselves as he was ever so wise
and he would ask us to visit more often
which we never did because we were too busy
some years later Chris died and I miss him too
by then I was married and had two children
to this day I wonder if he knew that the
only reason we didn’t see him more often
was because life was so jam packed and
not that we didn’t love him and his family?

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Touch to stay alive

Danny and Me, photo by Joe DeCarlo, Sparksville, United States,  love therapyWithout touch babies have been known to die, that’s why attachment in the early years of childhood is so important. We need touch to stay alive. To touch and be touched is the necessity of life. That’s why one of the methods of torture or punishment has been isolation, it can make a person go crazy. It is important to teach children from a young age that sulking (withdrawal) is counter-productive to having their needs and wants met. Communicating what they are feeling is vital to their own wellbeing and future relationship development.

they argued constantly
from early morning and then
when he came home from work
late into the night
sometimes they wouldn’t talk for days
sulking so badly that you could
cut the air with a knife, so to speak
I often wondered how they managed
to get through the day in such an
atmosphere of bitterness and misery
with no touching
then after 13 years they divorced
and took their dysfunctional behaviour
to their new separate relationships
which did not last long either
we need touch to stay alive
in more ways than one

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