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It’s All About You


Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

I was raised to think that my first thought should be, “What will other people think?” when I did something.  I grew up thinking that “other people” were more important than me.  Yes, my parents were included in that important group of people that I should always defer to; but even my parents were not as important as “other people” were.

This continued on into my adult life as long as my parents were alive.  This was the main consideration my mother had when I told her that I was going to get a divorce.  She was more concerned with the stigma that being divorced would give me among her friends and family than she was with my well being.

Back when I was first married, I remember coming home to visit my parents by myself and I was wearing a brand new bright red maxi coat which I dearly loved and when it became time to go to church the next day, my mother said, “You are not going to wear that,” and she actually expected me to wear instead one of my old coats that I had left at her house.  I stood up for myself and I told her that I was not going to church if I couldn’t wear my new coat.

When I remarried and had children and we were visiting my mother and the other grandchildren were coming to visit too, my mother would become critical of my children and not the others.  We were glad when we could leave and escape being found wanting when compared to the rest of the family.  Oh, believe it or not, later after she died, my cousins told me that she secretly bragged on my children when we weren’t there.  I know she was raised to think that way and her growing up experience was not easy as my grandmother (her mother) was often sick and withdrawn from the family leaving her and her sister with the help of their father who had to work to  fend for themselves.  I am sure she didn’t know what to tell other people when they asked what was wrong.

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How To Be A Good Parent


Sunflower (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

How to be a good parent.  Unfortunately most people become parents when they are young (and dumb?).  Please excuse the should’s.  I couldn’t think of another word.

Ideally a parent should love all children equally and show no favoritism.  They should shower them with unconditional love.  Not if you do this, then and only then I will love you for it.

Children are not born to be slaves (but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have increasing responsibilities as they get older).  Children should not have to be parents either to their own parents or to their brothers and sisters.  A child should also not be a substitute spouse for their parent.  Parents should not demand from children something that appropriately only should be gotten from the spouse.

Parents should not predict what their children should be based on similarities to other family members or acquaintances.  Predictions like this usually pressure the child and/or are negative.   Children often are what they are no matter what one might expect them to be.  Children might not follow their parents into business or a profession.  For example, my daughter-in-law is red-headed and so are her mother, sister, and father, but both of her kids are blondes.  I didn’t expect that.

I have always said that having a child is like planting a flower seed when you don’t know into what it will bloom so you plant it and you don’t know what you are going to get except that it will be a flower.  It may take a special kind of soil, a maximum or minimum amount of water and a maximum or minimum amount of sunshine.   You have to pay attention to how the plant is doing and change what you do for it based on what works.    You also have to be satisfied with what you get because a sunflower is not a rose and a rose is not a sunflower.  There may be different standards for sunflowers as compared to those for roses.

As children get older they become increasingly independent and do more and more things for themselves.  Parents cannot hold on to their children forever.  Children become parents themselves and they have responsibilities to fulfill with their own families.  Parents often have done their  job when they no longer have anything that they have to do for their children and their children no longer have to do anything for their parents.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t help each other out in a pinch or unforeseen circumstances.  They’re still family.

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Interacting with Children

Children from a village in Bihar, India

Children from a village in Bihar, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The earlier you start interacting with the children, the better.  It is amazing what can happen if you just pay attention.  Little children are eager to learn and gobble up all the information that is presented to them.  It can not start too soon.  Babies should be out where the action is unless it is time for a nap.  When awake, they need to be stimulated and included in what is going on.  Give them a good start and avoid problems later on.

Children play games in which they interact with adults.  Children respond to the facial expressions and vocal inflections of adults.  They love to cuddle, wrestle, and be tickled.  Yes, sometimes they can be over stimulated but things can easily be toned down when this happens.  Children also play games with each other.  When certain patterns of behavior are repeated and shared with another child, it can be seen that they are stimulating each other.  Older children can interact with younger children by “teaching” them things.  Just don’t say things like, “Big boys don’t play with babies.”  Also they should be where a caregiver can watch them as sometimes older children can be too rough with younger children even when they aren’t being mean.

If you raise children this way and let them have a lot of interaction with other children and adults, they can develop self-confidence and also self-control.  Don’t have children if you don’t want to spend any time with them or if you plan to leave them for other adults to raise.


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Creative Drawing

Drawings reveal what is on a child’s mind especially before they become a teenager.  Until then they don’t realize everything they are communicating even though sometimes they will tell you what they are drawing and perhaps even why they are drawing it.  In therapy with children, drawing (by both the child and the therapist) can be a way of resolving an issue.  There is nothing really sophisticated about, it requires no artistic talent on either the child’s or the therapist’s part.  The materials are easy to find and they probably are in your home already if you have children.  You can recycle computer printouts by using the plain back sides.  Most children have crayons and/or colored pencils and the more colors the better.  Also you can use markers or paints if the child is old enough.  The colors used, the actions portrayed, the placement and inclusion of figures all tell the therapist something.  A child can be asked to draw something traumatic or scarey (like a trip to the emergency room).  If the child appears reluctant, then the therapist might draw first asking the child to tell him or her what to draw in the picture.

Little girl drawing with a blue pencil.

Little girl drawing with a blue pencil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Keep the Children Out of It

Children of Divorce

Children of Divorce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you fight parents keep the children out of it.  I don’t mean you shouldn’t settle your differences.  The worse thing that could happen is divorce and then the children have to become involved and asking them to take sides then is the worst thing that could happen to them.

It is called triangulating.  Taking a problem that two people are having between themselves and dragging in a third and asking him or her to take sides.  There usually are two sides to every argument or disagreement.  Without knowing both sides, how can you take a side and/or should you even take a side?  Is it worse losing a friend over?

This frequently happens in divorce and it is especially bad when children are asked to do this.  It can lead to lying to the child about what actually is going wrong with the marriage and who, if anybody, is at fault.  The child is always the one who has to deal with both sides in such a conflict.  The spouses may no longer be related to each other; but the children still are.

Have you ever said to a child that he or she is just like her or his mother or father and you don’t mean it kindly?  Is it the child’s fault that he or she has so and so for a father or mother?  No!



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What Happened to Your Potential?

self-esteem, groups and hate

self-esteem, groups and hate (Photo credit: Will Lion)

Did you ignore it or did others ignore it?  The best thing you can do for a child is encourage them, to see the potential in them.  Who saw the potential in you?  Did you imagine that you were someone important?  Did you design dresses, play major league ball, preach a fiery sermon, save a person‘s life?  What, if any, limits did you put on your imagination?  You were only playing, but in fact you were practicing for real life.  Maybe there wasn’t anything you thought you couldn’t do.  Where are you now?  Are you always saying to yourself, “I can’t do this,” “I can’t do that.”  “I’m a failure in life.”  Have you lost your self-respect or others’ self-respect?

Whose comments limited you?  Your own or someone else’s? A person’s self-esteem can be fragile and may make it difficult when it comes to supporting and acknowledging other peoples’ strengths.  Parents can actually be jealous of their own children and not recognize their accomplishments.  They may be threatened by what their child can potentially do that they think they can’t do or they may feel ignorant and unable to even comprehend what it is that the child wants to do or can do.  The same can be true of teachers in school and later in a child’s life, it can be true of bosses, supervisors, competitors, coworkers, friends or spouses.

Lack of support can be in the form of nonrecognition of accomplishments or “friendly” “humorous” putdowns.  People say, “You can’t take a joke,” when you don’t think something said about you is funny and/or your feelings are hurt by something said about you.  When you do do something successfully, it doesn’t seem to count.  The person or persons involved might indicate that doing something well in that particular area is useless and not worthwhile.  How many men want their sons to be good at some sport or to enter a certain profession and are unhappy with them if they don’t do these things even if they can do something else of importance in the world.  Often the unfulfilled expectations of a parent when they were growing up are expected to be filled by their children.  Parents may decide knowingly or unknowingly to live their lives through their children.

Children are sometimes not at all like their parents nor should they all be expected to be.  Having a child sometimes may be like planting a seed or seeds from an unknown plant that will grow up to be something important in its own right if given the right conditions and care.  When you plant it, you don’t know what it is supposed to be a vegetable, animal feed, a flower, or something else.  One person’s weed is another person’s flower.  What a shame when a rose is seen as a weed and uprooted and thrown away.

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Who Can You Talk To?


Problems???? (Photo credit: simone|cento)

There is often a pattern in people’s lives that they follow when they have a problem.  For example, if you couldn’t talk to your parents when you were in trouble when you were young where could you turn?  Did the problem get worse as far as you were concerned because when your parents found out, you were in deep “do do”?  How insecure did that make you feel?  Were you just another unavoidable problem that your parents had to solve on top of what they were already dealing with in their own lives?  Was it also more important that what happened to you caused problems for other adults in authority that your parents recognized than that it caused problems for you?

Family and school can constitute  the whole world for children at certain ages.  If there is no sanctuary in either place, the world is not a safe place for children.  They feel very insecure and often can not tolerate rejection.  If they are lucky, they learn how to solve problems on their own, but this doesn’t always work.  It leads to keeping secrets that can be an awful burden to carry in some cases and doing this can sometimes actually make problems impossible to solve.  We all need someone to turn to in some situations and if we can not trust that person to help us solve our problem, it leads to rebellion, self-blame, and rejection.

We can also become handicapped in terms of our communication skills if we had no one to talk to when we had a problem.  If we think that any conversation about a serious problem can only make it worse, we might never ever have the experience of talking something out successfully.

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Do What You Say You Will Do!


Parenting (Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

Be consistent.  Do what you say you will do.  This is not only helpful in disciplining and raising children but it helps you to fulfill your own resolutions that you make for yourself.  Also doing so will make you consider more carefully what you say you will do because you are actually going to follow through on what it is that you are threatening that you are going to do.  It will lead you to being more circumspect in terms of the rewards and punishments you are promising yourself or someone else for failure to do or not do something.

Children appreciate orderliness and consistency.  As an adult when you do this, you find that your life goes smoother and is more predictable.

Cover of Parenting

Cover of Parenting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Death and Children

Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the ...

Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California; originally created in the 1920s for Saint Vibiana Cathedral, Los Angeles Jesus and the children, detail: Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be very careful dealing with death and children.  From many hours of play and drawing therapy, I have found that children often get some strange ideas about bad things that they  have had to face that they have not faced before as very often their frame of reference is different from adults.

For example, when talking about a family member who had died, a child thought that at the funeral, they would see a body without a head.  He or she thought that since the soul had departed, the head would be missing.

Children often do not get the whole picture and/or do not think that death is permanent.  They often only get part of what they are told or they may interrupt it differently than an adult would.

Drawings by children who have faced the death of someone they know or who are sick or injured and are facing their own death often allow the therapist to determine what is going on in the child’s mind.  Drawings by terminally ill children often show that they are aware of their own coming passing.  Those with a spiritual bent often are reassured when a child demonstrates knowledge of an afterlife or heaven and possibly  of angels, God, Jesus, or a loved person or animal that has passed on before them.

It is best when helping these children that you determine what questions they have before giving them answers they are not yet ready for or wouldn’t understand or don’t need.  It is best to fit explanations to the child’s point of view, not the adult’s.



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Letting Go of the Controller in You

What if 'PLE' stood for Personal Life Expectat...

The only person you can change for sure is you and this, more than likely, will change how other people react to you after you are no longer trying to exert control over them.  This effect is amazing once it starts.  Letting go of the need to control others rather than yourself can change your life for the good when forcing others to do what you want can’t.  (Of course, there are times in life such as when you are raising children  that you do need to exert control over others, but it won’t hurt to keep your cool and keep the force you use, if any, in doing so to a minimum.)

Expecting others in everyday life to always change for you is a big job.  It is often the origin of a lot of drama ending in tears and anger.  The frustration that is caused when you don’t get others to do what you want them to do can make your life miserable.

If you can get others to do what you want rather than what they want, you may be creating a time bomb that goes off when they realize what has been happening and they rebel.  Then you no longer have control over them and you  may even discover that they now have control over you.

Changing yourself is a project and only you know at first when you are succeeding.  You are the judge of the extent of your self-improvement.  For example, taking a positive attitude, rather than a negative one, when things don’t go your way is one way to improve yourself rather than others.  Another thing you can do is when others are judging people,  don’t join in with them.  Better yet, find something good to say about the person being criticized.  You may be surprised at how the atmosphere changes.




What if 'PLE' stood for Personal Life Expectat...
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