Archive | August, 2013

Are You “Too Good” a Parent?

21 Aug

Dear Reader:
I encounter many parents and children of various ages in my practice as Marriage and Family Therapist. It is always challenging to discern the dynamics of these relationships when a family comes in for counseling. Often the child is the “identified patient,” although usually in reality there is something wrong with the family system.
Unfortunately there is a relatively small percentage of “functional” families, just as in the business world there are relatively few high-functioning enterprises where emotional intelligence (EQ) is practiced by leaders.
Most families who come for counseling have a family system that is not working, and one of the main culprits I am seeing lately is what I call the “too good” parent.
See if this description fits someone you know: The “too good” parent tries to give their child all the things that they perhaps as a child did not have or get to experience. While it is good to expose your children to all kinds of new and educational experiences, this type of parent is unable to say No to the child’s many requests. Parents of this ilk get into the very dangerous habit of giving in to a child’s every whim. Often they do this because it is the easy way out. To say No becomes harder and harder as the child gets used to having his or her way. These children are rich in things and possibly experiences such as outings, but they lack empathy for others and appreciation of all the privileges granted to them.
Children as young as four or five years old can manipulate parents through whining, temper tantrums, or pouting, while the parents’ sense of guilt adds the impetus to give the child what s/he wants. The guilt may come from the parents’ own difficult upbringing, OR it may come from not having enough TIME to spend with the child because of work or other commitments.
Giving in to your child’s demands is not the answer in this skewed system. Not only does it put the child in control of the situation, it actually undermines the child’s sense of self-worth. The child knows that you are giving him/her a “thing” instead of your time and attention. Giving of yourself to your child is what s/he needs most!
The direction in which this “too good” parenting is going is from entitlement to DESTRUCTIVE entitlement. In other words, YOUR behavior is allowing the child first to feel entitled to certain privileges, such as playing with your cell phone or I-Pad. At first, this giving over of an expensive piece of equipment is just expected by the child. Later, however, when the child is denied something s/he requests — a sweet, a sleep-over, a new toy — s/he may act out against you or another caretaker in destructive ways. S/he may manipulate you into believing something which is untrue (lying!), or s/he may actually destroy some personal property.
My point is that this cycle starts with you as the “too good” parent. Your child is just responding to YOUR behavior in a predictable way — s/he has been taught that whining, temper tantrums, pouting, etc. will yield the result s/he wants.
One of the most difficult situations in which to deal with entitlement and destructive entitlement issues is in the separated or divorced family. It may be that one parent — in order to hold onto the love which s/he feels is slipping away in the direction of the other parent — buys the child’s affection.
We will share more with you how to deal with your own feelings so as not to endanger the well-being of your child through such tactics. Look to our next article on this blog for further discussion. Call us to share your questions or comments: Jean Eva at Beyond the Horizons Consulting can be reached at 505-466-4990 or at e-mail address, jeaneva@comcast.net.

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All in the Family!

18 Aug

Dear Reader:
Have you often wondered why you don’t “see eye to eye” with someone who is closely related to you? It could be a sibling, a parent, or even your own children.
Perhaps when you and your spouse married, it seemed that the two of you thought alike and had the same values. When it came to decision-making time, you thought you had it made — a friendly discussion and you could both move forward with your project.
As the years passed, however, and you had discussions with siblings who may have seemed close — after all you both grew up in the same family! — you began to wonder how it was that the other person’s perspective was so different from yours.
Then perhaps you and your spouse had children and were raising them with the same values you both prized. As they moved from toddlerhood into the elementary school years, you may have noticed that one or more of your children had really different interests from yours, and that they also felt and behaved differently in various situations. You began to wonder how it was that these very different young individuals were born to you as a couple and were all raised in similar ways.
Well, it turns out that not only do we have a genetic makeup, we also have an INBORN PERSONALITY TYPE!
Yes, each of us is born predisposed to think, feel, perceive, and live according to our own inborn personality!
I will share a short story with you from my many experiences as a marriage and family therapist over the last 30 years.
The family I am about to comment on consisted of mother, father, and three children. The two older children were boys, but very different from each other in personality type and temperament. The little girl was only three years old, so I was unable to discern her personality type at that age.
The parents were of the SJ (sensible-judging) personality type. The father worked for a social service agency, and the mother was heavily into volunteering for worthy causes. Both of them were “pillars of the community,” as the SJ types usually are.
The younger son followed in the parents’ footsteps, being heavily involved in Scouting and other extracurricular school activities. The older boy entered my office as “the problem” in the family.
What I found out in working with this family and with the older son was that he didn’t fit into the family’s view of themselves as socially minded and gregarious people. This older son was interested in theoretical science and spent a great deal of time studying and researching what he had been learning at school. In working with him, I felt that he more closely fit the NT personality type, which is the Intuitive-Thinking individual.
Once this difference in temperament and personality was explained to the family, I was able to support them in accepting those differences and in encouraging their older son in the pursuit of activities which interested him. Fortunately, they were able to work on understanding and supporting their son, even though their own way of being in the world was so different! This story had a happy ending!
I hope you will contact me with any questions that may ultimately come down to differences in personality type. At Beyond the Horizons Consulting, we can help you with other types of relationship issues, as well as anxiety, depression, self-esteem and other issues. Call us at 505-466-4990 today.
P.S. We can provide coaching over the phone and Skype as well as in-office consultations.

5 Aug

Dear Reader:

If you are a parent — or a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, for that matter — you may find the following information helpful. Let’s think  about parenting in two dimensions, which we call Support and Guidance (or Discipline).

First, the Support dimension. Think of this as a horizontal line going from Left to Right. Low Support (on the left) would mean that you as parent or adult in your child’s life are NOT there for him or her emotionally. High Support on the Right would mean that you are there to listen and to draw out your child’s feelings and help him or her talk about those feelings: happy, sad, lonely, afraid, anxious, angry, etc. You listen and you notice facial expressions and behavior, and you help your child express him/herself.

Second, the Guidance dimension. Think of this as a vertical line going from Low to High. Low Guidance means that you don’t talk about what the guidelines for your child’s behavior in any situation are. Your child doesn’t know what is expected of him/her in a given situation and certainly doesn’t know what the consequences of behaving badly might be. What is not acceptable in your household —  words and names that are not tolerated? What behaviors are totally out of bounds — pushing, shoving, hitting, lying, and so on? If your child not only knows these No’s but is also aware of what behaviors are encouraged (for example, saying Yes, Please, and Thank You), then you are moving up along the Guidance/Discipline dimension.

We can also think of the Support and Guidance dimensions as creating FOUR QUADRANTS representing four different parenting styles:

1. The upper left quadrant: This is Authoritarian parenting, which I laughingly also call “tyrannical”! This is the parent who does not relate emotionally to the child but does have high demands for exemplary behavior. This style of parenting is NOT the preferred style, although it was the most prevalent probably through the 1950s.

2. The lower left quadrant: This is the Neglectful style of parenting, in which there is both low Support and low Guidance. The child might as just as well not be there, for the parent is really oblivious to the child’s existence. It is unfortunate that many children do experience this absentee parenting, whether it be from alcoholism, drug abuse, workaholism, or any other cause in which the parents are simply not emotionally present.

3. The lower right quadrant: This is the Permissive style of parenting, which is the most popular style of parenting today. Notice that it involves high Support but low Guidance. This style does not produce a confident child, because s/he is wondering inside, “What is really OK to do? If I whine some more, will my father/mother give in?” Not having a parent who says No sometimes or who sets parameters is really SCARY for a child!

4. The upper right quadrant: This is the Authoritative (note spelling!) quadrant, the ONLY STYLE OF PARENTING which produces confident children who know their boundaries — and yours.  With this style of parenting, your child is confident that you understand him/her and also that you are setting guidelines and consequences that are clear and fair.  By the way, consequences of not behaving in a way that has been agreed upon need to match whatever it is that the child has done wrong.

Questions or comments: Send me an e-mail to jeaneva@comcast.net or phone me at 505-466-4990!