In his new book “The Sibling Effect”, Jeffrey Kluger says that whether they want to admit it or not, every parent has a favorite child. I think he’s right. A parent may naturally “click” with one child over another or may find one child easier to understand. What’s important is that parents to do what they can to work against playing favorites by celebrating each child’s strengths, seeking support and feedback from spouse or other adults to manage the internal struggle, and to refrain from comparing your children to each other.
I was recently asked to comment on favoritism in families on KSL TV news. Here’s the interview!
Did your parents have a “favorite” child? Do you secretly enjoy one of your own children over the others? Feel free to comment below or join in the conversation about playing favorites on my Facebook page!
5 Questions To Ask Before Rescuing Your Child From Natural Consequences
The only source of knowledge is experience. – Einstein
Being a “good parent” usually means being involved in your child’s life and “doing” things for your child, like volunteering in school, attending their sporting events, and teaching them values and skills. Allowing your child to experience natural consequences is painful for parents because they require us to do less or to not do something which might leave you feeling like a “bad” parent. You may want to rescue your child from natural consequences to prevent your child from feeling pain, to keep your child happy, or to make your child like you. Or you may intervene in natural consequences to ease your own pain. It’s hard to see your child struggle with difficult emotions like disappointment, failure, loneliness.
If our job as parents isn’t to keep our kids happy, what is our job? It’s to do what we can to raise responsible children who grow up and contribute something positive to society, and to encourage self-awareness and sensitivity to others so they can grow up to create fulfilling adult relationships and healthy families.
1) Is my child in immediate danger?
If “no” then let natural consequences play out. If “yes” then intervene and use other ways of teaching. Examples of immediate danger are a toddler running into street, teen driving drunk, tween chatting with a stranger online. Generally, these situations are the exception in everyday parenting. It’s the small situations that are sometimes the trickiest to work through, like a child forgetting lunch, fighting with friends, breaking a household rule, because they don’t seem like a big deal individually, but they add up over time.
2) Whose problem is this?
Who owns the problem? If you “pick up” the problem and hold on to it, your child will let you and allow you to be in charge of their problem. Notice the language you use when talking to your child about their struggles. I hear a lot of moms say, “We’ve got a lot of homework tonight.” That’s a sign that mom is owning the homework, instead of the child. I like to tell my 9 yr old, “I already passed 3rd grade. This is your homework and I’m here to help and support you.” Your language can give clues to who owns the problem/issue.
Author Byron Katie says there are 3 kinds of “business” in life:
a) your business
b) other people’s business (including your child’s)
c) God’s business
We are usually in pain when we get into other people’s or God’s “business”.
I am currently in the difficult process of letting my seventeen year old own and experience the consequences of a big mistake. We have an old car that she was able to drive. She drove it for weeks without oil, after several reminders from her dad, and the car was damaged beyond repair. She is now paying us back a couple thousand dollars for the car she totaled. It is her problem.
3) What is the most loving thing to do?
Doing the “loving” thing isn’t the same as being nice or choosing a path that results in the least amount of relational conflict. The loving thing may at first seem to be rescuing, but being loving is actually doing what’s in your child’s best interest.
I’ve seen parents, in an attempt to be “nice” and unconditionally loving enable their child to continue to break the law, to take advantage of others, and to develop a sense of entitlement. In extreme cases, I’ve known a few parents who, in the name of love, enabled an adult child to an early death from addiction by not allowing them to hit rock bottom and continually bailing them out.
4) What will my child learn if I rescue him/her?
By rescuing your child from natural consequences you may be inadvertently teaching your child not to trust their own judgement, that they are not capable of handling hard things, and that they will always need you to help them. I recently met with a mother of an adult child who was angry at her son for taking advantage of her. She wanted him to get a job or work harder in school, yet she was allowing him to live at home without contributing to the household chores or paying rent. He had no incentive to step up. Her child had learned that his mom will take care of his basic needs even if he doesn’t contribute.
A Facebook friend Michelle Willis’ 5 year old stole a $15 book. Michelle held her daughter accountable to pay for the book by doing household chores. Her daughter, now 12, still has the book, and learned early in her life that you can’t get something for nothing.
5) How will this prepare my child for their future?
Each stage of development prepares a child for the next phase of life. Allowing your child to make age appropriate choices and experience natural consequences early on gives them experience to build on for future developmental stages in every area of life: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, physically.
Homework seems to be one of the most common parenting struggles. Here’s an example of how early experiences with natural consequences build preparation for the future. If your first grader forgets to do homework they may have to stay in at recess. In Junior High School if you forget to turn in a paper you’ll get a lower grade in the class. In High School forgetting to turn in papers means a lower grade in class and a lower GPA which limits future options, like college scholarships or work opportunities. Turning in papers in a time manner in High School or college prepares you for adult employment where forgetting to write report for board meeting will get you fired.
Another Facebook friend, Emily Bitner Hill, shares how she lets natural consequences teach her High School children who want to stay home because they aren’t feeling well. “They are quickly learning life is easier and less stressful if they go to school and stay on top of their work without me saying a word,” she says.
Wasatch Family Therapy is offering FREE therapy next week only!
WHY: Celebrate the opening of our Provo location
WHEN: Oct. 3-7, 2011
WHERE: Wasatch Family Therapy Provo
363 N University Ave, Suite 108A, Provo UT 84601Provo
HOW: Bring a canned food donation for Provo Community Action Food Bank and we’ll waive your therapy fee!
Can a playground be TOO safe and stifle kids imagination, or stunt development? Remember the tricky bars, carousel, really high slides, and gigantic monkey bars? A recent NY Times article on this topic suggests that eliminating all risk may not be in your child’s best interest. Watch what I have to say about it here…
Back to school doesn’t have to be all about your kids. Let the start of a new school year inspire you. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has a grown-up perspective on back to school that can help improve your emotional health. I recently did an interview for Natural Health Magazine’s article “Back to School for Grown Ups” about channeling school day memories and fall’s energy to improve our lives as adults. Here’s a quote from the article:
The weather, certain smells, certain tastes-all of these things can trigger memories of earlier experiences,” says Julie Hanks LCSW, a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City. “Come fall, some women feel the same type of anticipation they did as kids and might even unconsciously find ways to relive or improve upon the experience.”
Good parents sign their kids up for dance, sports, music, art, and language lessons, right? In a recent NewYorkTimes.com arti
cle Alina Tugend says, “…in an effort to give their children everything, some parents end up not just depleting financial resources, but also their own emotional energy.” Exposure to early opportunities, classes, sports, and lessons to gain skills doesn’t guarantee future success for your child,
and in some cases may be detrimental to your child and family. Here are some common myths that lead to overbooked kids, parenting truths and tips to help you to give your child what he or she really needs to succeed.
Do you and your partner fight about whose turn it is to do the laundry, load the dishwasher, or put the kids to bed? Julie Hanks, LCSW, Director of Wasatch Family Therapy is here to help couples understand and setting the chore war. Division of household chores is among the top sources of conflict for couples. According to Dr. John Gottman the happiest, and most sexually satisfying relationships, are those where husband participate equally in childcare and household chores.
Despite evidence that men are contributing more at home than ever before to household chores and child rearing many women still complain of feeling overwhelmed and overworked. According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the work load of men and women have never been so similar.
A recent Time Magazine cover story, “Chore Wars” explores the narrowing gap between the time men and women spend performing unpaid tasks, challenging the common assumption that working mothers have a “second shift”:
Full-time working moms did just 20 minutes more of combined paid and unpaid than working husbands.
Married couples without children working full-time are doing the same amount of unpaid work at home.
Men are doing nearly 3 times the amount of child care compared to 1965.
Families and Work Institute found that 60% of fathers said they were having a hard time managing the responsibilities of work and family.
So why do women still feel like they’re carrying more than their fair share?
Although actual time spend doing household chores is similar, the burden management and tracking of household tasks usually falls on the woman.
Society still values on paid work over unpaid work so there’s less social reward for household duties.
Women tend to multitask during leisure time, whereas men are better at relaxing during leisure time.
Tips to settle the “chore war” in your relationship:
Explore your own gender assumptions about chores
Think of the household responsibilities chores as “ours” instead of “yours”
Decide together who will do what and who’s in charge of tracking it
Express appreciation for your spouse’s paid and unpaid work
Use leisure time to relax together, not to multitask
Need help finding clothes to fit your standards and her style? It’s just one of the challenges moms face when shopping with “Tweens” and teens. Here are my tips to help help you resolve your shopping struggles, before you hit the stores.
Pam: “I would like to ask how I can make my daughter understand the difference between a $100 pair of jeans and a $50 or $25 pair of jeans and how to make money go farther?”
Tip – Give your daughter the cash
Decide on a budget and stick to it. Be concrete about it by using cash so your daughter can actually see and feel the money. This is a great way to allow her to make difficult choices to be accountable for her clothing selections.
Shannon: “How do I tell my daughter that things she likes are too short or too tight for my taste?”
Pam: “In today’s society everything is cut so lowâ€¦how do I help her shop more modestly?”
Tip – Let your school dress code be the “bad guy”
My kid’s school district dress code says shorts and skirts must be mid-thigh or longer, no midriffs or underwear showing, no spaghetti straps or tank tops. Along with consulting the dress code, before going shopping discuss what styles are off-limits, how your family defines modesty, and what is considered age-appropriate.
3) What’s Appropriate?
Kristen: “My question isâ€¦my daughter, who is eleven and a middle schooler, wears sweat pants and yoga pants to school. I want her to wear appropriate, nice looking clothes for school and still be comfortable”.
Tip – Explore the question, “What do you want your clothes to say about you?”
Moms, this is a great opportunity to discuss how appearance isn’t everything, it isn’t the source of value, but it does send an initial message about who you are. Help your daughter explore what characteristics, values, and traits she wants to convey.
4) When Should Tweens/Teens Shop Alone?
Leah: “How do I tell my mom I’d rather shop alone, not with her all the time?
Tip – Ask directly for what you want without complaining
Instead of saying, “Why do you always want me to shop with you?” or “When are you going to let me shop alone?” try “Mom, I’d like to spend some time shopping alone this year. Would you be ok with that?”
5) Differing Taste and Values
Jayden: “How do I help my mom understand that name brand things are actually important to me?”
Sydney: “It’s hard to find something that we both agree on. How do I get my mom to buy me what I want?”
Tip – Use empathy to find the middle ground
Daughters – remember that your mom really does want what’s in your best interest and has more life experience than you do. Mothers – you can develop more empathy by reflecting on when you were a teen, and how certain details (brands, styles) were very important. From a place of empathy you can find that middle ground instead of getting into a power struggle.
There are topics even best friends have a hard time talking about. We explore real life scenarios and offer real life solutions to help you tackle touchy subjects with your best friend.
Why are some topics difficult to talk about, even among our closest friends? Women tend to feel responsible for their friends’ feelings & don’t want to jeopardize the friendship. In a recent interview by WomansDay.com I gave some advice to women from around the country on how or if to approach sensitive topics with your best friend. So, it got me thinking about what topics are difficult for women in Utah women to talk about. Here are some real situations from local women (names have been changed) who need help to bring up a topic with their best friend. Read more