Tag Archives: balance

June ’19 Q&A – Control vs. Problem Solving and Balance

Q. I have a 16 yr. old daughter home from boarding school after 3 years. Since school started, she has been with “friends” every evening till 8 or 9 PM. On weekends, she has been out at least till 11 PM. She wants me to extend weeknight curfew to 9 PM and to midnight on weekends. I had said no, that she needed to be home by 6-7 PM at night and by 9 PM on weekends. She said that she does not have homework and gets bored at home with nothing to do. She brought home her first grades report — mostly As & Bs, except a D in Biology and an F in Language Arts. What are your thoughts on curfews?

A. My thoughts on curfews is that they stem from a reward and punishment system that depends on the parent holding all the power. Many parents think this is necessary. I don’t. What is necessary is to know when and how to use your parent authority and when not. But authority is not the same as control, which makes a connective approach harder and trickier — but once you get it, it makes complete sense, and your children will respond so much more cooperatively – because you are not trying to control them.

read more
The Power of Acceptance

All parents struggle with fears and worries about their children and many end up just getting in their own way. When you take your children’s behavior personally and use your authority to control them to do what you want, you may wind up creating the scenario you most fear.

The problem comes when we think it’s our children who need to change when indeed it is us. Whatever you need to do to get to acceptance is the answer.

The following is a story from one of my clients that I find truly inspiring. Her struggles to understand her son and ultimately herself have led to a wonderful relationship. I hope it motivates you to trust your children and let go of a small bit of your fears. You will always have fears and doubts — you wouldn’t be a conscientious parent without them. But in the moment, when your child needs your connection, you must be able to at least temporarily put those fears aside.

 

Reflections on my journey with my son – Mother of three

I am enjoying a playful moment in the kitchen with my 6’6, 17 year old son. He likes to get in my space and see if he can startle me with his big teenage energy. I get flustered and cry out, “You make me feel anxious when you do that!” He smiles with this gentle warmth and looking right in my eyes​ ​he says lovingly​, “​Mum, it’s not what I do​ that makes you feel anxious. It’s what you ​think​ about what I do.”

The wisdom of his insight seems far beyond his years and the truth of it shimmers in the moment. It has been a lot of inner and outer work for me to get here. I remember hearing years ago that I couldn’t worry and love at the same time. Given that choice I wanted to choose love as the energy that I was offering my children — also to myself as the worry felt utterly agonizing to live with. However, so often things happening on the outside seemed to justify worry and that “thought slide” became easy to glide down with ever repeated use.

We found Bonnie Harris when our child was in middle school. My husband and I consulted her, driven by our deep concerns that our son was developing a gaming addiction. Having been an incredibly active, outdoor-loving child, all of a sudden, he seemed willing to forego what we thought of as his “healthy” choices for spending hours on end in his room in front of a screen. We had entered into a pattern of trying to curb his screen time followed by endless arguing. We had majorly lost connection with our son.

I will not forget that late afternoon meeting in Bonnie’s office, me tearful, my husband and I feeling distant from each other because of our own fighting over how to parent our son, and both of us worried about him. After hearing what we had to say and a long, thoughtful pause, Bonnie gestured to the empty chair in our circle and asked gently, “What do you imagine your son would say if he were sitting here with us and could speak for himself?” Immediately I was drawn to my heart space that felt full of compassion and love for him and I said, “I think he would say, “You don’t understand me.’”

It was an instant, dramatic and powerful paradigm shift. I got out of my head which was very much about me and into my heart where I could truly be with ​him without my thoughts. And he really had spoken to me. At the end of that meeting, Bonnie suggested we make the shift to tell our son we trusted his inner guidance that would help him regulate his gaming. She prepared us that he might really go wild with this freedom for a time, but she suspected things would work out.

I wrote him a letter to express what we had learned and how we were shifting to a place of trust in him. It was greeted with a huge smile and relief. It was so clear that he wanted connection with us too and to feel that we had faith in him to make his own choices.

What a journey it has been in the last 7 years. I cannot count the number of times I have gotten buried in worry while my son smiled at me and said with his eyes, “Trust me.” The title of one of Bonnie’s books is, “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons”. I always used to focus on “When Your Kids Push…” but I had an Aha! moment recently and saw “​Your ​Buttons​” ​seemingly for the first time​.​ These are not our kids buttons, they are ours. And we can certainly do something about our own buttons.

Here is an example of how I have come to discover my own issue and address it. I have often fretted about seeing my son have an interest and then not have the discipline to develop it. He loved playing basketball in middle school, and I imagined he would play in high school but to my surprise he didn’t play any sports for the first three years. To get into a place of trust, I took a good hard look at the button that was being pushed. Where did I have an interest and no discipline? My contemplation led me to start taking voice lessons and practicing daily. It took enormous effort at first, but I felt so fulfilled when I honored my commitment! I saw how it also took my attention away from worrying about my son and it set an example of discipline that he could notice… or not!

To my absolute utter surprise, my son is now on the Varsity Basketball team in his senior year because he said he realized he missed it and wanted to play with his friends. When he tried out, the coach said, “Well son, this is unusual to be trying out in your senior year, but you don’t know what you can do if you don’t try!” He mostly doesn’t play in games but loves practicing, being on a great team and is often getting his teammates cups of water during a timeout. He’s happy and he did it his way. He also has even said that he can see how far he could have come if he had kept playing. And he feels comfortable saying that to us because he feels his parent’s detachment. I know I didn’t cause any of this but because I focused on myself, I feel so fulfilled with my own pursuits and I bring a more joyful, independent me to enjoy going to the team’s games.

In short, I’ve learned when someone pushes my buttons, the only thing I have control over is what I do with the opportunity to see and address my own stuff. That’s so empowering.

I have gotten very creative about my buttons too! I’ve looked for many ways to bring my attention back to myself and not wandering around into my son’s business. When my son got his license and I saw my mind going wild about the potential scenarios that might result from my thrill-seeking teen, I created an imaginary warm, loving and burly bodyguard that I would mentally see by my son’s side to look out for him. I would send them off in my mind with love. It puts my mind at rest in an outer situation where I had no control. It lessons my stress. The button was my own tendency toward anxiety.

After our first meeting with Bonnie, my husband and I jumped fully on the same page to make connection with our son the priority. Over the years we’ve consulted Bonnie when we felt we were parenting in a way that seemed so outside the “norm” of a “top down” approach that is so advocated in our culture. We were checking in with our intuition and having discussions with our son and arriving at solutions and compromises. It was so helpful to have a third party look at all of it and confirm that we were on the right track for our family because our connection and open communication was there. I remember during one of our discussions with our son, he said, “Mum, I know you really care about me, but I think what you don’t understand is that ​I ​really care about me too!”

I heard years ago that something so important to a human being is the ability to make choices. That a teen, when confronted with control from parents will do everything in their power to demonstrate that they have choice, even if it means that the way to do it is by doing something that may appear self-destructive. Whatever we resist persists, especially with regards to teens.

I have witnessed parents fighting to control their teenagers, and it appears that what they are really doing is teaching their teens to cultivate a habit of being really good at lying. What else are the children going to do when faced with a punishment if they tell the truth? And I have seen the heartache of a parent feeling disconnected from their child and at a loss for how to ever get that back with sincerely no understanding that perhaps the way to do it is to let go of their expectations of how things should be and sink into acceptance of what ​is​ with an open heart.

Byron Katie, in her book “A Thousand Names for Joy”, page 186, says it so exquisitely:

“It’s painful to think you know what’s best for your children. It’s hopeless. When you think that you need to protect them, you’re teaching anxiety and dependence. But when you question your mind and learn how not to be mentally in your children’s business, finally there’s an example in the house: someone who knows how to live a happy life. They notice that you have your act together and that you’re happy, so they start to follow. You have taught them everything they know about anxiety and dependence, and now they begin to learn something else, something about what freedom looks like…. If your happiness depends on your children being happy, that makes them your hostages. I think I’ll just skip them and be happy from here. That’s a lot saner. It’s called unconditional love…. If what they do brings them happiness, that’s what I want; if it brings them unhappiness, that’s what I want, because they learn from that what I could never teach them.”

So here I find myself, a woman and a mother who is continually growing and learning and living into new subtleties that are revealed on this journey with my son. There is part of me that wishes I could go back and tell my younger self that all that energy of worrying was for naught, but I had to learn it for myself just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz couldn’t know about her ruby red slippers and their power from the very beginning.

My son is in a wonderful place in his life, applying to colleges on his own terms, exploring all sorts of new hobbies, one of them being a passion for wall climbing. This young man who I wondered years ago if he would ever even stick it out through high school scored in the 98th percentile of the SAT. When I asked him how he got such a high verbal score he told me about how he is usually reading articles when he is on his phone. I never thought of that! He never had a book in his hand, so I thought…​

And all those hours of gaming? He still loves to game with his friends, and I imagine it will always be a hobby, but it doesn’t dominate his life. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he has a real knack for computer programming and plans to major in Computer Science. When I watch him program, I see that all those skills he was learning with his fingers in gaming are what he puts to use in programming.

I so look forward to having more of my assumptions dismantled. In fact, I find he has taught me that making assumptions about him, or anyone else for that matter, and judgement of any kind is a huge waste of energy and time. He has been and continues to be my greatest teacher and I am so grateful for it. After all, it is my immense love for my son that has been the force to guide me to continually choose connection with him and set aside my ego when required — to settle into the place of simply not knowing the answer of what is “right”. As I see it, that’s a win-win!      

read more

Mar. ’19 Q&A – Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent, Angry Behavior and When the Coach is a Bully

Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent

Q. I do welcome your advice and think you speak a lot of sense, but I am not sure about your advice to be your child’s friend in one of your articles. What is wrong with being a mum? I am the only person who can officially be regarded as mum in my daughter’s life and I feel very proud to be so. I am not sure being a friend is possible as the friendship is automatically unbalanced. I have a number of very good friends, some long term and we have quite balanced relationships, involving give and take. I do not regard my relationship with my daughter as balanced, and she does not seem to understand give and take. I would also say she is a very high maintenance friend, and therefore I would go out of my way not to be her friend if she wasn’t my daughter. I don’t think she is like that with her peers though – I think their relationship is balanced. When choosing activities, we try to pick nice things to do and see, and we get a lot of resistance from her until we get her there and then she loves it. We also get resistance around food and most things at the moment – she is quite selfish and does not seem to understand the notion of helping out, and she wants things from shops all the time, which is wearing.

read more

Jul. ’18 Q&A – Sleep Training, Common Frustrations, and Finding the Best Direction

Sleep Training

Q. I’m wondering if you have any advice on “sleep training”. My baby is almost 8 months and breastfed to sleep for naps and bed time. We also co-sleep. But my husband is ready for him to move to his room and everyone is trying to give me advice about how to achieve this. I do NOT want to do the cry it out method. I’m having a hard time accepting the entire idea. Plus he’s never slept in his crib.

I have tried the pacifier several times throughout the months, but he never has accepted it. It’s so hard because I hate to hear him cry, it will be torture not to pick him up or nurse him when he is resisting sleep without nursing.

read more

10 Ways to Get Respect from Your Child

Parent/child respect
We want our children to grow to be happy and successful, yes — but more specifically, to be responsible, respectful, grateful, honest, kind, empathic, helpful and giving to others. The irony is that traditional methods of parenting — varying degrees of reward and punishment, threats and criticizing — teaches exactly the opposite.

In my 30 years of working with parents on how to better connect with their children (ultimately resulting in better behavior), I have learned one thing over and over and over. It’s all about relationship. In order to get respect from our children, we need to be respectful of them. Nothing else needs to be taught about how to be a good person that consistent work on a gratifying and mutually respectful relationship doesn’t teach. But it’s not simple.

Developing a Respectful Relationship with Your Child Involves:

  1. Understanding the power of connection. Empathizing with and understanding your child’s agenda, instead of telling them what to do and expecting it to be done according to your agenda.
  2. This may be the hardest — stepping back and trusting your child to do the right thing and allowing many mistakes to get there. Trusting means letting go of nagging and hyper-vigilance.
  3. No blaming and criticizing. The message you intend isn’t the message that is received. A child who feels bad about himself, behaves badly.
  4. The ability to remain objective and observe what is happening right now rather than getting triggered by the past or fears of the future.
  5. Understanding and allowing all of your children’s desires and wishes — not fulfilling all of them, just acknowledging them.
  6. Finding balance through understanding that no family member’s rights and needs are any more or less important than another’s.
  7. Holding appropriate expectations for each child to insure they feel accepted. Accept the child you have, not the child you wish you had. If your expectations are too high for this moment, your child will think he can never be who you want.
  8. Maintaining respectful interaction with your children even when setting a limit or correcting behavior. There is never a need to be disrespectful. Firmness and clarity is all part of establishing mutual respect.
  9. Maintaining a respectful relationship with your spouse or partner to model the relationships you hope your children to have.
  10. Being the type of person you want your child to become.

A good relationship is like a mobile dancing in the breeze. It requires sacrifice, compromise, give and take, and respect for one another — balance. A good relationship is mutually satisfying and leaves you feeling better and stronger. Balance in the relationship comes through understanding and consideration of each other’s needs and agendas — very different for adults and children.

But this nuanced understanding comes with maturity. A young child wants what she wants when she wants it and cannot be expected to halt that want to consider another’s wants. Maturity is the process of gradually understanding that others also want what they want. With maturity comes compromise — necessary for relationships to work.

In the parent-child relationship the obvious difference is the disparity of age. The parent cannot expect a maturity level beyond the child’s stage of development. That’s why parent’s are necessary in a child’s life — to use authority when a child cannot be expected to.

  • So when a toddler runs away when called, it is to play a game, to be chased, not to be defiant. The toddler cannot be expected to consider the parent’s desire to get out the door.
  • So when a child doesn’t want to go to bed, it is because he wants to play or be with his parents, not because he is stubborn and refuses to listen. He cannot be expected to know how much sleep he needs.
  • So when a child is told she cannot do what she wants, she will react to feeling thwarted, fearing she will never get what she wants. Her reaction is not to “get you” or gain control, or manipulate you. It’s simply to get what she wants.
  • So when a teen wants to be left alone and make his own decisions about his life, it is because he longs for independence and to be treated like a grownup, not a child. It is not because he is being belligerent and oppositional.
  • read more

    To Give In or Let Go: That is the Question

    Power Struggles

    I was stuck in power struggles with my daughter because I didn’t want to give in. If I did, I feared she would have all the power. She would learn that anytime she wanted her way, she could just dig in until she outlasted me. I couldn’t have that. So I dug in too. Until I understood how “letting go” could change our relationship.

    My daughter was a won’t take no for an answer/won’t be told what to do kind of a kid. It’s hard to accept a child like this until you understand it as inborn personality rather than manipulative, oppositional behavior that must be eradicated. But that’s what I tried to do so I couldn’t give in, I couldn’t let her get away with it. As long as I believed I had to train her out of this opposition, I had to maintain control. Anything else felt like giving in.

    Contrary to my initial opinion, letting go was not the same as giving in. Letting go was actually in my control. It was my choice to engage or disengage from a power struggle, to make her wrong or understand where she was coming from.

    Letting go means being open minded enough to let go of your opinion and accept other points of view, even a child’s. You may get stuck in your own opinion about what is right for awhile, but when you’re willing to consider another viewpoint or understand new information, it may be just enough to allow you to rethink your stance, change your mind, and back down from what no longer seems important—to let go of your position, to let go of having to be right. People who can let go have an easy time saying, “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong about that.” That’s called appropriate social interaction and is important modeling.

    Giving in means handing over your power to your child usually because you are trying to avoid a meltdown, a disappointment, an argument. Giving in means letting your child win while you lose. It gives your child too much power.

    When you “stand on principle” because you’re stuck in the I’m the boss, I have to be right mode, you think that you are giving in whenever your child has a win. You do not allow another point of view, certainly not your child’s. You believe that you must win because you are right. So does your child. That’s called a power struggle. You’re both in it to make the other lose.

    When I was determined to make my daughter get dressed and ready quickly and cooperatively on school mornings so that my schedule could move along smoothly, she resisted with a stubborn attitude, protruding lower lip and refusal to get dressed or move quickly. Power struggles were a regular part of the morning routine.

    But once I realized that my assumptions about her motives were misguided, letting go was natural. Thinking she was out to get me and was determined to ruin my day, meant I had to hold my ground and undermine hers. Anything else would have felt like giving in. Once I saw that she was truly miserable, that she had a very difficult time getting going in the morning because she was dreading saying good bye to me and leaving home, my angry control switched to compassion and empathy. I learned that she couldn’t back down from her point of view and change how she felt—it wasn’t that she wouldn’t. This was her temperament, who she was. Stubborn, yes. Determined, absolutely. But she wasn’t trying to make me mad, she was in fact miserable when she felt forced to do something she hated, especially when I thought she was being obstinate. When I realized I couldn’t make her change and instead I could trust where she was coming form, I could let go of trying to control her. I could listen and empathize. I could let her be her. When she felt understood she relaxed. And in the letting go, I could connect and her behavior responded positively.

    To maintain important rules, to hang in there when you really do know what is best, to be the authority your children need, requires confidence that you are not losing ground if you let go, confidence that your child has a right to argue a point and sometimes does know what is best for himself, and confidence that you do not have to give in when you need to maintain appropriate limits or say “no”. Saying no with confidence sends a very different message than saying no with a power struggle. read more

    Entitlement: The By-Product of Indulgent Parenting

    “These kids today” are the words out of every older generation referring to the generation about to replace them. It’s hard to accept change. Every generation thinks they are better than the next and the youth are messing everything up and doing it all wrong.

    What do the following have in common?

    • Kids with no manners or courtesy
    • Lack of awareness of the consequences of behavior
    • Resistance to rules and dismissal of the law
    • Addictive video gaming

    Call me a member of the older generation, but here’s how I see it: Baby boomers were born and raised in post WWII during an economic recovery and unprecedented prosperity. They (we) got to do more of what we wanted than our parents did. We also learned to distrust government during the Nixon-Vietnam War years. We actively demonstrated, thumbed our noses at the establishment and were the first to step out of the footprints of our parents to set our own way. The establishment included our parents. Most of us didn’t like the way we were brought up to be obedient and were determined to do it differently.

    So here we were, in limbo, raising the next generation. We wanted to do it differently but didn’t know what that meant other than the opposite of strict obedience, remaining silent, doing for others and never for ourselves. After all, obedience backfired on our parents. They raised a whole generation who turned disobedient.

    We were scared when our kids were born. We had left hometowns and families to make our own way. We didn’t want our children to feel the way we did—powerless, voiceless, invisible and unimportant (girls, especially), raised on fear. So we tipped the scales and fell to the opposite end of the continuum. A lot of us became permissive, laissez-faire, and indulgent—all in the name of progressive parenting. Our babies would have the best, our toddlers would learn the most, our children would have a variety of opportunities, our kids would be the smartest yet—all because we were no longer squashing them under our thumbs. Until they voiced the voice we allowed them.

    Obviously I am indulging in gross generalizations. But most of us are black and white thinkers. If we reject one end of the continuum, we fly to the opposite ignoring the gray areas in between. We don’t like baby steps; we take giant steps. We miss out on the nuances—and often what’s truly important. So those who were strictly and punitively disciplined, who grew feeling powerless and unimportant, but who wanted a different experience for their children, became powerless parents in the face of their children’s natural energies and desires. They either give in and give up or scream with resentment and anger.

    A child’s job is to get what he wants when he wants it. That is normal development of the naturally egocentric child. The parents’ job is to accept and support this egocentricity while gently guiding it toward consideration of others. Previous generations hadn’t done a great job accepting egocentricity when children were beaten for not doing as they were told, and the new generation didn’t have the skills to gently guide children toward consideration of others. We thought that we had to allow our children all their desires, and we felt powerless in the face of their demands.

    This is the limbo generation. Parents today are trying to figure it out and often err on the side of unintended indulgence. They give in to their children’s demands to avoid their anger and disappointment—feelings never allowed in their families of origin—attempt to boost their self-esteem by giving trophies for everything, and do for their children what their children are capable of doing for themselves. Hence, the age of entitlement.

    Enter technology! “Faster than a speeding bullet” computers, cell phones, iPads, and video games gave today’s children and young adults the world in their pockets. What kid wouldn’t want that?

    We appear to be raising a generation or two that has learned to expect privileges and preferential treatment, that is consumed by the world of technology, and that appears oblivious to the needs of others and their communities. They have learned that they don’t have to do what they don’t want to if they scream loud enough, and they have disdain for the older generation who don’t seem to know how to stand up for themselves.

    Is this why today’s kids (again, gross generalization) seem to have no manners or consideration, think rules are for someone else, are stuck in egocentricity fighting with each other as toddlers do, are self-absorbed in their own worlds devised and designed by technology? And if so, what do we do about it? The pendulum will swing again. Where will it stop next?

    Finding the balance, the middle ground, eludes us. Taking baby steps, trying it out as we go, will get us to that balance point better than over stepping the middle with our giant, monster steps.

    Balance is the key. In the family, no ones needs or rights are any more or less important than anyone else’s. In other words, we don’t do things that aren’t considerate of the rights and needs of everyone. Balance is a hard point to find and an easy one to fall off of. read more

    The Gift of Letting Go

    A question and answer in my last newsletter resulted in the following responses from both parents with such an inspiring story, I had to share it. I think everyone, no matter how old your children are, can gain from this. Letting go can be the hardest job in parenting. I thank these parents for their responses to me and permission to share this with all of you.

    Q. My 18yo high schooler has been getting $10 a week since he was very little for spending money. I used to give his brother (12) and sister (9) the same, but now we are not doing well financially and they relinquished theirs last year. The 18yo has refused to give up his weekly $10. After he got his license, using our car (which we insure and pay gas for), he got a bank card and an account, and told me to direct deposit the $10. He started buying Starbucks coffees and snacks and told his dad that he had to pay for it. Which his dad did. His dad and I agreed to give him $5 more per week with the understanding he would by his snacks. Recently he overdrew his bank account and then came “crying” to us to help. I said I would advance his allowance once, and that I would not rescue him again. Now he has overdrawn again. I feel financially strapped not to mention he is never grateful but demands the money as his “right.” Giving him the money, when his sibs get nothing, and rescuing him makes me feel angry with him 24/7. He never helps around the house – says “maybe later” which never comes, says it’s my “job” to make him meals and is generally nasty to all of us. I feel guilty about not knowing what is “reasonable” to give him. Should we give him any money at all? Is that our “responsibility”? If so, how much? We already pay for his food, including special requests, gas, car (he uses our newest and safest car whenever he likes), car insurance, his clothes, heat bill, electric bill, phone bill, housing. Help!! This is just going to get worse this summer (he has no plans at all) and next year in college.

    A. It sounds your 18 yr. old has been given the power to call the shots for quite some time. Isn’t it your choice to stop the direct deposits as opposed to him refusing to give them up? For some reason—I’m sure there are many—you are afraid to make him mad even when you don’t have the money to give. He has taken but hasn’t learned to be considerate of others, so the balance has been off for a long time. He has come to depend on you to solve his problems and support his habit of getting what he wants. Unfortunately when this happens, we cannot blame our child for behaving in ways we have actually taught. His dependency served him for awhile but now he resents you for that dependency. It will be very important for you to support his attempts to find a way to make his own money. What it requires is for you to be strong in your conviction. I think allowances are very important for kids to learn the value money. Your younger two should be getting one but your 18 yr. old should being earning his own. I know the economy today makes it very difficult to find jobs, but if he needs money, he can find a way. I suggest that you and his father establish a deadline for ending his allowance and helping him transition to earning his own. He will hate it and hate you initially. That is the risk you need to take. It will serve him for the future. Make it clear that you will continue the $15 until that deadline. Colleges offer many opportunities to make money. I imagine you feel guilty when you don’t give him what he wants. That guilt is yours to examine, not to enable your son. Think clearly what you will and won’t do for him and then be consistent.

    From Mom:
    It’s now over two years since that letter. Thank goodness for your help. When I wrote this, I simply could not see it logically and rationally. Your response helped catalyze me to be able to do that. Our son is now 20yo and a sophomore in college. We did end his allowance back then just as you said (over time, with warning). I also told him we were not supporting him financially anymore very soon, and we made a date for that. It took us the rest of the school year to slowly withdraw everything. He had a lot of tantrums. I didn’t get caught up, but just kept reminding him that he better be looking for a summer job.

    As a result, he got a summer job and did amazingly well at it and earned a lot of money, and he went off to college with his own money knowing that we wouldn’t be paying him any extra the whole year. He got jobs at college and budgeted and even had enough money to finance a trip out west in the spring! WOW!!!!

    One of the things you had said was that what we had been doing was a disservice to him in terms of being independent and able and confident. After the summer, he told me that the last six months of high school had been the “worst of his life” because he was so scared about making it on his own, but that after that summer of working, he felt totally independent and free in the world and completely confident that he could do anything and go anywhere on his own.

    By the time he went off to college, because things were going so well, my husband and I were able to begin to do fun things for him as gifts and surprises instead of out of obligation.

    I can’t say we are perfect, and it’s certainly a process, but I have found that listening to the resentful, hurt voice inside me tells me that there is an issue that I must, and can, address. It’s always painful, but I believe now that I absolutely must honor that hurt feeling and act on it. That is my reliable signal that something is wrong and needs to change. Then I take some time to figure out what set of circumstances or arrangements would make that feeling go away and pursue those new arrangements with conviction and purpose!

    My two younger kids, now 10 and 14, certainly have benefitted from my work with the oldest. They are doing great!! I am doing great!! As the 20yo often says, “Mom, I was the experiment and the training ground.”

    The interesting thing is noticing how we as parents continue to struggle with how we look at the oldest one, even though we easily and without struggle look at the two younger ones totally differently. It’s like we snap into different parents when we are standing in front of different children. Whatever pattern we did with that particular child when they were five is what we keep inadvertently snapping back to. Interesting. I remember there was a nine year gap between my sister and me, and it was like we had totally different sets of parents. And they still treat us differently – the pattern and relationship they established when we were each five is the way they still treat us.

    From Dad:
    I wanted to chime in, after my wife sent the conversation to me. Everything she described is completely accurate. The difficult boundaries she made were absolutely terrifying to me – I was terrified that our teenager would stop loving us, or that he would distance himself, or that he would commit suicide – but in EVERY SINGLE CASE, while it at first was completely terrifying and often dramatic… he bounced back in close. And matured. This process, of disengaging with the behaviors that were obviously not helpful to him (though I thought they were critical to him loving me) were THE HARDEST so far as a parent. Your help was priceless and completely appropriate. Thank you.

      read more

    Pendulum Parenting-from “nice” to “Chinese”!

    How many parents find a balance in their parenting that works. We seem to go through cycles, fads as it were. We didn’t like the autocratic parenting many of us were brought up with so we reacted and swung the opposite way being nice to our children, giving them all they want at the same time interpreting what they wants as what they need. Hard to get those two straight! We were all about raising our children’s self-esteem and thought we would do that by telling them how wonderful they are at everything they do. Trophies for every kid on the team, praise stickers and prizes for “good” behavior, telling children how special they each are…. Well, that backfired big time, but we hadn’t quite figured out what to do instead when along came Amy Chau with her new memoir, Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother. Chau’s book shows us how Chinese mothering raises successful children (or that’s what she wants us to see), which is once again a swing in the far opposite direction. She chastises American parents for being soft and feeling-oriented and shows us how her harsh, autocratic style led to two very successful daughters – altho almost at the risk of losing one of them. By calling her daughter “garbage”, refusing the “lazy” efforts put into home-made birthday cards, threatening them with anything and everything to illicit perfect performances both academically and musically, she claims she boosted their self-esteem and takes full credit for their successes. As children’s failures are a shame on the family, she says that absolutely a child’s behavior is a reflection on mothering. Hmmm. Doesn’t that leave the child’s nature out of the picture. Indeed, her second daughter’s nature is what in the end broke Chau’s uncompromising severity-a little.

    What a reaction in the press!! All the New York Times respondents to this top-selling book have criticized it’s draconian methods. While disagreeing intensely with her methods, one piece I do think we should take from it is her unquestioning faith in her children’s capability—so capable she believed they would not be harmed by the harshness she used to keep them at their tasks and away from any down-time. That was where she went off track.

    I was left with the question: Why are we such pendulum thinkers and followers? We go with one extreme, find it doesn’t work, and swing to the other extreme in reaction. Where is the balance? Why is it so hard for us to be moderate in most anything we do. Chau did not mean to tell us Americans how we should raise our children, but she did make it quite clear that we are doing a poor job of it. I happen to agree. I also think she did a poor job with her extreme parenting. But can we not take the good with the bad? How about relishing in the cultural differences and learning from one another what might help, leaving what we think might hurt. Balance is what it is all about in my opinion. Balance of needs in the family means that everyone must understand that their needs are no more or no less important than anyone else’s. And that means that I demand that my needs get met along with the sacrifice I may need to make in order to meet my child’s needs. It’s a dance—a back and forth action, an understanding that we all matter—and every family must find their own dance. The first step is to know that we each deserve our own needs to be met. With that knowing we gain personal power. With personal power, we can maintain authority in our homes without the use of harsh measures that damage relationship. read more

    The Irony of Parenting

    My adult daughter was just home for three weeks in August before starting grad school in NYC. It was heaven for me. I relished every minute and spent too much time dreading the end of her stay. I’ve often thought, isn’t it crazy that we spend so many years in the trenches of parenting—and let me tell you she was not an easy child, those trenches were deep. She gave me a run for my money for soooo many years! But the learning I gained from parenting her—finding out what she needed and balancing it with what I needed, listening to her instead of reacting to her, allowing and trusting her to find her own way—has led to a very close, lovely adult relationship. It usually takes until kids are in their 20s before that kind of a relationship develops. Remember their brains aren’t fully developed until approx. 25! Anyway, if you really stick with your parenting, learning and growing with your child all along the way, finding out what their agenda is all about instead of only enforcing your agenda, you will raise children you love to live with (hmmm, sounds familiar – oh, yeah, that’s the subtitle of my second book!). And when you do, the irony is, they leave. They go off and find their own life, satisfy their needs in other ways than running to you for help and money. They actually grow into capable young adults who want to succeed on their own. It will slowly dawn on you that they have more knowledge now than you do. So here they are independent, strong, capable—all the things you wanted for them. The only problem is they don’t need you anymore. My children are now 32 and 28. I have often felt like a beloved old horse put out to pasture! read more