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Archive for the ‘Making Strong Families’ Category

What Makes a GOOD Apology?

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Apologies and forgiveness are two terms we (humans) tend to throw around quite a bit. What makes a good apology? Most of us know how it feels when we receive a sincere one, but it can be tough to explain to another person (especially if they have offended us) what a good apology is. Luckily, like most things I write about, there are three steps to understanding what makes a good apology:

  1. Divide the scene into ‘actor,’ and ‘receiver;’
  2. Validate your own feelings
  3. Ask/Act.

An offense usually involves an ‘actor’ and a ‘receiver.’

  • A car swerved on the freeway and your car received a dent.
  • Your wife had sex with your best friend and your marriage received a dent.
  • Your sister took a swing and your bicep received a dent.

Even if we know the driver was on the way to a hospital emergency, your wife was lonely, or your sister was mad because you called her ugly, we can still identify the person who ‘acted’ (did the thing), and the person who ‘received’ (was impacted by the thing). Dividing the scene not only allows us to identify the ‘actor’ and the ‘receiver,’ it allows us to have empathy with the actor without excusing his or her actions. For example, we can all empathize with a father who is driving erratically because his son is in the hospital, the wife who is lonely, or the sister who is angry. This empathy won’t pay for a damaged fender, repair a marriage, or heal an arm though. Furthermore, hospital emergencies don’t cause dents; loneliness doesn’t cause cheating; and teasing your sister doesn’t cause assault. Rule number one, filed under “things I was supposed to learn in Kindergarten,” is I am responsible for my own actions. This means we can have empathy for the actor AND expect her to exhibit self-control.

Validate your own feelings.

Empathy will help you forgive the actor in time, but for now we’ll put it aside so you can focus on how you feel. This can be tricky because so many of us get locked into the role of empathizer. We can all empathize with a parent who is out of sorts because he just found out his child had an accident. We’ve all been lonely in a relationship. We even know teasing is verbal abuse and recognize our sister’s anger when she pulls her fist back to hit us in the arm. Feelings don’t predict actions (for example, just because I feel hungry doesn’t mean I will go rob a bank to get the money to buy food). Rather, feelings help us tune in to what we need. When we feel hungry, we eat. When we feel the need to go to the bathroom, we excuse ourselves and try to locate the facilities. It’s vitally important as the ‘receiver’ that, for a time, you put aside empathy and recognize any feelings you have in this moment. You may feel scared after a car accident, betrayed after an affair is discovered, or shocked after getting hit in the arm. Take a moment and validate those feelings. Think about what you need, and decide what you might ask the actor to do or say in order to repair the relationship.

Act/Ask

First and foremost, you may ask the actor to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Then, you may ask the actor to take responsibility for his or her actions without blaming, justifying, or minimizing the behavior. Finally, you may ask the actor to make a special effort to repair the relationship (often referred to as rebuilding or making amends). Put all of those together and voila! You have the makings of a great apology.

Let’s look at an example.

I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, lots of empty space, or the traffic is free to move, it is not uncommon for me to speed. Yes, I will put the pedal to the metal and push my little Jeep over the posted speed limit. I don’t feel like I am being dangerous, I only do it once in a while, and usually it is because even though I planned ahead, there is a wreck so I am running late. But yes, I speed. And I am sorry.

Is this a good apology or a bad apology? After all, I admitted my actions, (I broke the law) and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’

It was terrible!

  • I justified my actions by explaining, “I’m not dangerous”
  • I blamed a wreck for my actions
  • I minimized my actions by saying, “I only do it once in a while” (justifying, minimizing, and blaming are relationship killers by the way).

I could have made it even worse by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you just drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

On the other hand, a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker:

  • Is quiet. She apologizes and stops talking. She won’t justify, minimize, or blame and she will leave lots of empty conversation space.
  • Is busy. She is willing to go to therapy (or in my example, defensive driving), meet with healthy peers, read books, and generally work on herself, without pressure from the receiver.
  • Is humble. She won’t fight for her rights in an argument and she allows the receiver to feel (be sad or angry) after her actions.

If you find that the person who ‘acted’ is not able to make a good apology and rebuild, then you may need to act. If it’s a relationship you don’t care to maintain, then you may need to just walk away. If it’s a relationship that is important to you, then you may need a mediator to help you work on what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if you need to make some apologies and amends too, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Divide the scene and validate your feelings. Your important relationships will thrive from this model because old wounds will finally have a chance to heal.

 

Overcoming Defiant Behavior: Keys to Parenting Defiant Teens

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Blog post by Achievebalance.org therapist Jason Davis MA, LPC (read post on Jason’s website here)

After a long day at work or running errands, you finally are able to come home. Is your teen an expert at pressing your buttons? Do you feel like each day is a battle? It doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, it is possible for you and your adolescent child to coexist peacefully.

Developmentally, your adolescent’s brain development is not complete. They are very egocentric. Don’t worry, this is normal. Their thoughts are still in the phase of concrete thinking; they see the world in black and white, a strong and idealistic sense of what is right and what is wrong. “How does the world apply to me?” or “How do I fit in this world?” These are the questions that your adolescent has which guides their behavior each and every day.

As a part of this development, their friends and peers will become a significant part of your teenager’s life for the next few years. Do not take this personally. This is part of the process of their development, socially. Unfortunately, defiance can become part of this process of development. So what can a parent do?

  1. Create a Parenting Manifesto. What is your family about? What does your family stand for? Let this family philosophy guide your expectations for your children, and especially your teenager. When defiance comes, this Parenting Manifesto helps reduce conflict and arguing.
  2. Have effective Communication with your Teenager. Do not argue with your adolescent. This includes, yelling, making threats, and blame. Remember, they are learning from your examples. Arguing with your teen will only creates more conflict and resistance. When resistance comes, give them a choice for the outcome. Offer choice A or Choice B and let them make the choice. The more a parent argues with a teenager, the more frustrating it becomes, and the greater the chance that your teen will get their way.
  3. Set boundaries and stick with them. Children and Teens like structure. It gives them a foundation to grow and act upon. Setting boundaries helps them understand that their decisions have consequences.
  4. Spend time quality time with them. Have fun. Have casual conversations with them. Ask their opinions about topics that interest them. Have lunch with them or a cup of coffee. Your chats can be about school, life, social media, spirituality, games etc. The better relationship you have with your teenager, the less resistance you will experience.

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

The Very Best You

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Everyone has buddies and relatives whom we love. Not only do we care deeply about them, we think a lot about what we will be able to give them. These emotions and thoughts are crucial! There’s a point, nevertheless, when giving might be negative.

The best thing you can give your loved ones is the very best you. What does that suggest? It means that you learn about yourself, how you are feeling in different situations, how your family of origin affected you for good (or not so good), how you deal with conflict, and what your wishes are. When you find out about yourself you begin to change. You can discover you are becoming as important as your mother or father. Maybe you never learned to request what you need and now you’re getting depressed due to resentment. You might even discover your intense wrath is a cover-up for your hurt. The result is that you may be good at going through the motions of giving, but the internal attitude is not so charitable because it consequently diminishes the value of your good works, thus leaving you feeling sad and alone inside. But it does not have to stay that way.

Consider Wayne* and Sandy*. Wayne and Sandy came to see me because Sandy was depressed and Wayne didn’t think he could handle it any more. As we conversed, Sandy discovered that in 27 years of marriage, she never asked for what she needed. She thought that her role as wife and mom was to only do for others!

Wayne spotted that, while he was fond of having Sandy take care of him and the children, he had become self-absorbed and disconnected from Sandy. As they gained understanding of themselves and one another, Sandy started listening to her feelings and wishes and Wayne started listening and responding. Sandy’s depression lifted and Wayne found out he was married to an interesting woman!

This is what I mean by becoming the very best you. Start today: invest in yourself, learn to love yourself, and begin making the changes you need so you can love yourself more. When you learn to love yourself more and love yourself first, everything falls into place. So the gift you can give is the gift of loving yourself. Everybody will be happy with that as a gift!

 

* Wayne and Sandy are pseudonyms and represent a host of couples who have received solutions in their marriage for matters surrounding this kind of issue.

Sue Watkins is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Sue can be found at www.SueWatkins.net.

 

Mothers Who Work

Friday, September 14th, 2012

From PTO boardrooms to corporate boardrooms everywhere, the debate rages on. What is better for kids, a mom who works full time outside the home or a stay at home mom who works as a full time parent and homemaker? Just as important, what is better for the mom? First we must be clear that both types of moms are working moms and there is no such thing as a mom who doesn’t work.

If we look back in history we find mothers who work in fields while older and younger women in the village worked to nurse and care for the children. During the industrial revolution we saw both moms and children working to earn money for the family. Children with working mothers in this instance were likely to accompany their mom to work.

Today in third-world cultures women work from dusk till dawn securing sustenance for the family. There is no such thing as a mom who doesn’t work, and moms that get enough sleep may be hard to come by too!

Today, it appears deciding to work outside the home versus inside may affect a mother’s health. A recent Akron University study found that mothers who worked full time steadily before and after the birth of their first child had better mental and physical health. The study by Dr. Frech and her co-author, Sarah Demaske considered nearly 30 years of data provided by 2,540 mothers as participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth.

Far from being a ‘call to work’ for stay at home mothers or a condemnation of personal choices made by women based on advantages and disadvantages, the study hopes to illuminate that choosing to work full time outside the home as a mom is not a bad thing. Those mothers dealing with the guilt of leaving children with caregivers to work outside the home can perhaps feel a little better knowing first, mothers have been doing the same thing for millennia, and second, they may be doing something positive for their own health and wellbeing. The best careers for moms are the ones that they choose be it staying home going to work or a balance of both.

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT  has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management.

 

Electronic Media Boundaries with Teens

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Summer is ending and it’s time to develop some good back to school habits. Your child’s school is developing policies regarding the use of cell phones, electronic readers, and smart pads during the school day. Take a cue from them and start now devising your own rules about your child’s use of electronics at home. Call it a ‘family social media policy’, or give it the bravado of calling it an Electronic Manifesto: putting reigns on gaming, texting and facebooking is a smart thing to do. Some important things to consider are bedtime use, and social networking.

Recently researchers at Columbia University concluded that “adolescents and teens with strict bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier were less likely to be depressed and to have suicidal thoughts than classmates whose parents allowed them to stay up until midnight or even later.” If your teen likes to use his phone or ipad to play games, text, or use social media in bed, he may be staying up later than you think. Eliminating bedtime use by creating a ‘electronics parking spot’ in a central location in the home could help your teen not only get to sleep earlier, but also improve sleep quality.

It is absolutely normal for teens to try on different personalities (jocks, Goths, Emo, etc.) and sites like Facebook, and Instagram allow teens to portray their different selves through words and pictures. Not all teens know how to share appropriately, however, and what they share on social media sites can have lasting effects. Raising teenagers in the electronics age means holding them accountable for how they are accessing the online realm. Insisting your teen share passwords to social networking sites will not be popular but it is a must for parents who want to keep their teens safe while they explore.

Addressing bedtime electronics use and social media passwords is a great way to start designing your ‘Electronics Manifesto’ for your home. Remember that half of setting boundaries with kids is to take into account their thoughts and concerns. So listen to your teen, don’t use the manifesto to be controlling, and as always, practice what you preach.

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of achievebalance.org found in The Woodlands TX.

Getting Ready for School

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

About this time of year the talk amongst parents of school age children turns to bedtime rituals, earth-friendly lunch containers, and shopping for school supplies. Not to be outdone, we at achievebalance.org decided to dedicate an article to the top 10 ways parents can smooth the transition from summer to fall. Supporting your child from a youth mental health standpoint is all about making sure your child is equipped with knowing the ropes Here is the top ten countdown for mentally getting ready for school this fall:

10. If you are transitioning your child to a new school, take time to visit the campus and ask for a tour.

9. Find out what kind of food is served in the cafeteria and allowed for snacks. Many schools have a policy against nuts and foods of minimal value (FMV).

8. Call the bus facility if your child is a bus rider to see what the commute time is in the morning and afternoon. Help your child prepare if the commute is long and the weather is extreme.

7. Create your list of emergency contacts. Schools always ask for them and its good for your child to know who may pick them up if you can’t. Teach your child never to go with anyone who is not on this list.

6. Donate to the local backpack/school supply drive while you are picking up your own supplies.

5. Talk to other parents about age-appropriate bedtimes. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same but it will be much easier to get your kids to go to bed on time if everyone in their group of friends has close to the same bedtime.

4. Check the school handbook before you go clothes shopping. Most schools without uniforms have rules about school clothes.

3. Get your child’s input on school lunch ideas.

2. If your child is having anxiety about the start of school or has trouble separating from you, check your own attitude and make sure you don’t seem fearful too.

1. Celebrate the end of summer and the start of school by doing something fun! Make it a new tradition you and your child can look forward to.

Parent, child, school…success!

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of achievebalance.org found in The Woodlands TX.

“Just a stage?” Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children, and Defiant Disorder Treatment

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

As every parent knows, kids love to use the word “no.”  It gives them a sense of power and it allows them to perceive they have some control over their endlessly rule laden lives.  While unpleasant, this is a normal part of child maturation and testing boundaries, and it is a normal part of parenthood to continue to be the boundary enforcer. But what happens when a child surpasses normal non-compliance efforts, and their unruliness becomes so severe and so consistent that the parent is unable to regain authoritative control? It may be the child’s behavior is a diagnosable condition.

So how do you know when those refusals to comply have become more than just a little stage?  There is a little known but increasingly diagnosed disorder called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  If your child is exhibiting the signs below it may be a signal that something more serious is going on and it’s time to contact a mental health professional about a possible ODD diagnosis.

The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in childeren is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that is “deliberate, spiteful, and argumentative.”  This is not the preschooler who tells mom “no” to bath time or the school age kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.  This is a child or teen who, over a six month period or longer, repeatedly refuses to follow rules, argues with adults, and is easily angered.

The result is often serious disruptions at school or other social settings. ODD is usually recognized by about age 8 and can be diagnosed by early adolescence.  If not addressed, symptoms may become more confrontational and more persistent as the child enters middle school and high school. Treatments include impulse control therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, and behavioral therapies.

So the next time your child exercises his “no” muscle, have no fear.  It is a normal part of growth and helps him mature, develop decision making skills, and become independent.  If, however, your child’s “no” has become constant, results in discipline problems at school, or appears overly intentional or directed at adults, check with your school or community counselor for a referral.  There are defiant disorder treatment options, and licensed family and parenting counselors will be able to help.

The “Normal Family” – What Makes a Strong Family

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

As a counselor for over 15 years, I often hear the need for a normal family. Normal is defined as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. The thought of a conforming teenager may appear humorous, yet the need for stability and normalcy is not. With such clients, I assess their perception of a normal family. Answers vary, but I find that strong and productive families share similar characteristics including the enforcement of rules, clear communication, and acceptance of change.

Vigorous yet happy and strong families have rules that are specific, respected by all members, and consistently enforced. Rules in the home help family members develop clear expectations, support a stable environment, and decrease the frequency of control and power struggles. What makes a strong family is when family members know where authority lies and respect the opinions of all members while also acknowledging the opportunity to negotiate and discuss any problems or family issues.

Clear communication is another contributor to strong families. Members take responsibility for their statements and respectfully communicate with others. Even though expressing thoughts and feelings involves facing certain risks – one may encounter opposition, disagreement, and hurt – these expressions are validated and welcomed in healthy families.

A third characteristic of strong families is the realization and understanding of change. Although it is human nature to resist change, strong families have a tendency to accept change and members understand the ever-present concept of change. These families have a clear understanding of developmental stages and are thus able to successfully assimilate and accommodate when change is necessary. Family members understand life stages and accept each member’s individual growth.

In conclusion, while no perfect recipe produces perfect families, a “normal family” is achieved when these important ingredients are considered and implemented. Incorporating the above characteristics is a great way to start strengthening your family relationships.

 

Tia Parsley, MEd, LPC, LCDC has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management. Lear more about TIa Parsley the these websites: www.achievebalance.org and www.tiaparsley.com.


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