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parenting

Can You Say Thank You Too

English: Mary Cassatt: Young mother sewing

English: Mary Cassatt: Young mother sewing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you say thank you, along with “I forgive you,” even if it seems to be too late?  Mothers and daughters often have conflicts and daughters often take things for granted that they shouldn’t have.  I went through a stage as an adult criticizing my mom for how she raised me and complaining about the troubles that it had caused me.  No, I was not brave enough to say it to her face.

Then I went through a stage where I forgave her having learned that nobody is perfect and that she did what she knew how to do at the time.  No one is ready to be a parent when they become one.  Some just think they are ready.  I didn’t complain about my dad’s parenting because he was always at work or asleep.  That was the beginning of the realization that I had to forgive her or wear it forever like an albatross around my neck.

Then I started thinking about the things she did as a mother that helped make my childhood happy.  She was always a ro0m mother.  She celebrated and decorated for every holiday and I had Halloween and birthday parties.  Families were always important and you visited often and helped each other out.  My father believed that too.  Children were a gift from God and they made sure I had a religious education.

Recently I was thinking about things they had done for me that I hadn’t thanked them for at the time.  I was an ungrateful kid.  I did not thank them for the effort they made to take me to girls scouts and 4-H, the county and state fairs, and other school activities like choir, band, school gym shows, and plays.  I also was a cheerleader in 8th grade.  The biggest thing that I overlooked is that they put me through college at a private school and then helped supplement my grants in graduate school.  Of course, I earned scholarships and even worked a little; but I couldn’t have done it without them.  I couldn’t forget that when I was in college that I got $5 cash in a letter each week for extras like Sunday night supper which they didn’t offer in the dorm.  I am sure they did without.

Have you forgotten to thank somebody and now it is too late?  Have you focused on the problems in your relationship and not the things that they did for you anyway?

 

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How To Be A Good Parent

Sunflower

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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Who Can You Talk To?

Problems????

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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How to Change Behavior

Me And My Parents

Me And My Parents (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)

Part of a parent’s job is to modify the behavior of their child or children to protect them from danger and to learn more appropriate ways for their child or children to get what they want or need.  For this we get very little training and what we do know we have learned from the way our parents‘ raised us.  It is surprising to me that for one of the most difficult jobs in life we get very little education.  How we acquire knowledge is very important and yet it is often not studied by the very people who need it.

Behavior modification has been around for a long time.  It has been taught to mental health professions, parents, teachers, and others.  It seems very simple to do, but it is not that easy to apply.  It takes some finesse and that is what makes it work for some users and not for other users.   In this method, behavior change is facilitated by the use of rewards and punishments.  Rewards can be given consistently or they can be given intermittently.  The latter rather than the former is more effective.  The behavior targeted to change is also important.  Punishment focuses on the wrong, unwanted behavior and rewards focus on the desired behavior.  It is usually best to develop an appropriate behavior by rewarding it with which to replace the “bad” behavior.  An appropriate replacement behavior for one child might not work for another child.  Also the effectiveness of the reward used depends on what the child likes to do or have. Social rewards like praise are better in the long run than concrete ones.

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