Archive | September, 2013

Truth or Consequences, Part II

21 Sep

Truth or Consequences, Part II.

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Truth or Consequences, Part II

21 Sep

Thinking about truth telling leads to thinking about lying and its consequences. Lying behaviors range all the way from distorting or exaggerating the truth to fabricating a story which in no way resembles how an “objective observer” would describe the scene. Lying can range from an “innocent” white lie to a rumor to a statement that changes the face of what thousands of people believe (witness the political arena!).
Most importantly, lying destroys the fabric of relationships. After the discovery of a lie, the relationship between two persons is already shaky. Instead of a sense of comfort and ease of interchange, there is that nagging doubt and perplexity in the mind of the listener. This attitude, which profoundly affects the relationship, will last until the perpetrator of the lie regains and earns the trust of the other person through truth telling and keeping his/her promises. No one can name a time at which any such relationship can be put right.
Let me give you some examples of lying which affect both marital and family life. First, consider the child who is lazy and says to his parents, “Yeah, I did my homework.” The parents may believe the child UNTIL the teacher calls or emails, informing them that the student has been lax in doig his homework. The parents then feel it necessary to check all homework assignments over weeks or months until they are convinced that they can trust him PROVISIONALLY.
Consider the case of a spouse who begins innocently enough having lunch with a coworker. These lunches may then lengthen into long afternoon breaks with more tete-a-tete conversations. The spouse comes home in his or her own world with perhaps a note in his pocket or a text message on her phone. Gradually the unsuspecting mate begins to wonder if something is happening between her partner and another individual. She might ask, “So how did things go today? I noticed that you had that dreamy look again, and when I did the wash I noticed a note from Nancy in your pocket. Have you guys been meeting often for lunch?” Response: “No, a whole group of us go out every Friday, and Nancy was just checking in to see if the group lunch was on.” This response looks OK on paper, but a spouse is sure to pick up some unusual vibes and be especially careful to check later statements and behaviors for veracity. There is now (spoken or unspoken) a barrier between these partners that could widen unless the real issues in this marriage are brought out into the open and discussed.
Once I had a patient (let’s call her Edy)who was rather needy of her family’s love. Her family consisted of one son, his wife, and their four children. Apparently her daughter-in-law (let’s call her Sandy) was insecure about Edy’s relatinship with the children. The children were always so excited to see grandma, who had lots of fun projects to do with them and who they felt loved and accepted them as they were. Sandy managed with time and perseverance to turn Edy’s son against her. She told lies, such as “Your mother is looking to buy property near us, and we’ll never have any peace because she’ll interfere with everything,” or “Your mother thinks she can run our lives,” or to Edy, “I’m the one who really does everything around here.” Once at Eastertime Sandy even told Edy that she had spent $250 on Easter candy. Edy wondered whether she should contribute to the Easter candy fund!
Lies like these can culminate in the “looking good” family — a family who appears on the outside to be almost picture-perfect. Neighbors, colleagues and friends think they know these upstanding people, but the fact is that no one really knows them. Their thoughts and actions are predicated on APPEARING like good, normal citizens.
Often people who lie come from a very insecure background, where as children they felt of little worth. It may have been because an older sibling was a “hero” in the family, or because they did not like their own appearance. Perhaps they were too tall or too short, or they didn’t like their own face or some other part of their body. These individuals make up for feelings of insecurity by planning everything in great detail so they can get what they want. They learn to manipulate not only circumstances but people through twisting of the truth or through planning moves as if they were playing chess. By that I mean that such individuals, predisposed to being narcissistic in order to protect themselves, use every scrap of information and every interaction in relationships to their own advantage.
The consequences of lying to oneself or presenting a false image to the world are far-reaching, particularly to the children of such parents. These children will likely not develop a secure sense of themselves. They will be caught in the smoke screen and mirror images of distorted truth. No matter how many material advantages such a family offers its children, lying prevents them from “getting real” with the children — a lifelong loss.
The renowned psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled,” also wrote a seminal work on this topic, entitled “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil.”

Truth or Consequences! (Part 1)

4 Sep

One of the most difficult parts of helping parents with their parenting skills is teaching them how to set and maintain guidelines with their children. We’ve all known parents who want to be pals with their children. They ask, “Is that all right with you?” “OK, Tiger, we’re going to do it this way. Will that work for you?”
We are still in the age of Spockism — the age of permissive parenting — and no wonder! If parents get their children seriously upset, the kids can call the Division of Youth and Family Services (or whatever it is called in your state). They can claim that their parents are abusing them in some way, for example, not feeding them or abusing them physically. Actually this does happen and parents can find their homes invaded by the Children, Youth and Families Division social workers, checking out their homes and interviewing the parents and the children for suspected abuse.
This is one reason, along with popular culture, that parenting continues to slant toward the permissive side. Permissive parents are usually emotionally supportive and can learn to listen to their children’s feelings, but may be clueless (and perhaps afraid about) how to set guidelines and boundaries for their children.
Setting boundaies and guidelines has to do with establishing mutual respect. Of course, as parents we hope you will bring the accumulated wisdom of your years to bear in establishing such behaviors as good table manners, bedtime routines, homework and extracurricular activities, proper behavior around extended family and community members.
Once you have set an observable example of good behavior, it may be relatively simple to reiterate guidelines at a family meeting. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me” are a wonderful start. Learning to share toys, gadgets, and TALKING TIME with siblings is a great follow-on. Appreciating the other person’s point of view is something that comes with time as a child matures. It’s helpful for kids to be able to observe their parents thinking out loud in a compassionate way about difficult situations.
All this having been said, one of the most difficult aspects of good parenting: How do you enforce those guidelines you have carefully established in a way that seems fair to your children? In short, what are the CONSEQUENCES of poorly chosen behavior?
I have worked with some parents who have grounded their teenage daughter for three weeks because she colored her ahir a luminscent rose color! I have also worked with parents who turned their heads the other way when their son was failing a major subject. Obviously the matter of determining a consequence for a deliberate breaking of the rules is not an easy task. I think it was in the operetta “HMS Pinafore” that the famous phrase appeared: “the punishment has to fit the crime.”
Kids will innately feel that a three-week grounding for a minor infringement of the rules is over the top, and they will respond by becoming more rebellious. Communication breakdown will result.
So let’s start by making sure that all family members are aware of the “house rules.” These rules apply so long as a child of any age is living under your roof without paying room and board. If you don’t want recreational drugs in your home, that still aplies to a 23-year-old who has been unable to find a job and is living at home. If quiet time is after 10:30 M, that also applies to adolescents and young adults living at home.
Family meetings can have many uses, but one of them can certainly be to discuss an amendment of a guideline or rule. Such a discussion might go as follows: DAUGHTER: “I know you don’t like to see kids with other than natural hair colors, but if I pay for a rose color dye and leave it on for a month, would you let me see whether I really like the effect?” MOTHER: “Well, you’re right, I don’t like unnatural hair colors, but if you want to try a rose color and you agree to leaving it on for a month without making it blue or green (horror of horrors), OK. I guess I could look on it as an experiment.”
One of the most serious and difficult behaviors to deal with is LYING. People who lie about even the smallest of matters are entering into SLIPPERY territory. Lying destroys trust in relationships and can lead to painful breakdowns and even cutoffs in relationships. We will deal with this topic in our next post! Stay tuned, and e-mail us any questions you may have. Your questions may just help others to be better parents! (jeaneva@comcast.net)