Understanding the goal of successful parenting
When to know if you need family therapy
The importance of Emotional Intelligence for families
Sympathy for how difficult it is to parent
Parenting adult children
How to Raise a Great Human Being
P.S. It’s harder than you thought, isn’t it?
Sometimes parents come to see me and proudly announce that they “overprotect” their child, as if overprotecting is a POSITIVE parenting trait, but unfortunately, the truth is just the opposite. Overprotecting steers a child away from the ultimate goal of successful parenting, which is to raise a healthy, independent, and well-adjusted adult. More specifically, if a parent does succeed in raising a healthy adult, here is what we’ll see:
Someone who …
- Is independent mentally, physically and emotionally.
- Has will, drive, and motivation to be productive, work, and succeed.
- Is capable of emotional connection.
Having these characteristics implies that the young adult will be confident, capable of being alone, able to develop attachments to others, will be able to feel and express emotions, and can achieve emotional and physical intimacy. Although this sounds simple, why is it that so many children grow up and fail to turn out that way?
Part of the answer is that many children fail to meet crucial developmental goals along the way that keep taking them to the next level of mental and emotional maturity that will bring them the confidence and self esteem they will need to fly out of the nest – and yes, it’s our job as parents to keep pushing our children lovingly and gently out of the nest. This involves allowing them to do things on their own, to figure things out for themselves, and to make mistakes and learn from them as they are developmentally able. A parent who solves every problem, who hovers, fixes, and doesn’t allow a child to venture out and discover what life is about will likely find that when the child grows up, he or she will be dependent, needy, fearful, and lack the self confidence or desire to fend for themself.
On this page you will find some interesting information about developmental goals you should be aware of, as well as a look at enotional intelligence – something we need to make sure our children – and ourselves– possess. You’ll also find some sympathy from me, as I acknowledge to parents everywhere just how tough and complicated the parenting role is.
You may find along the way that your family needs guidance along the way, and if you do, Family Therapy can make an enormous difference. A family therapist can help parents learn the parenting skills they need to raise independent and confident adults, help familes and siblings learn how to communicate, and to provide a safe environment in which everyone is encouraged express themselves.
Here’s a checklist that will enable you to see if your family might benefit from Family Therapy:
Answer True of False to the following questions ….
- My family is able to express their true feelings with one another without fear of judgment, criticism or repercussions.
- Our family is respectful of each family member’s right to be who he or she is.
- There is rarely tension among our family members.
- We’re all treated the same … no one in our family is “the favorite.”
- Things could not be better in our family.
OK – if you answered false to any of these questions, chances are your family would benefit from therapy. If so, rest assured that Becky is trained to make everyone feel comfortable, and to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. If you think you may benefit from Family Therapy call Becky at 501-590-9200 or email:
Piaget’s Theory of Child Development
Make sure your child makes it through these stages …
Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is renowned for constructing a highly influential model of child development and learning. Not all counselors agree that the theory is perfect, but even if it isn’t, it’s a good guideline for us to follow to make certain that children meet cognitive goal that are appropriate for each age level. If they do, we can be assured that they will have the tools necessary to be the mature thinking and feeling beings they will need to be. Most often I see men or women who never made it to the final level in which abstract thinking is attained. If this happens, the adult is now a a black-and-white thinker, typically rigid and unbending, and often needs hard evidence and analytical explanations refusing ever to include intuition or gut feelings into the equation. These people are the most difficult to deal with in life and relationships, and are also the most unhappy.
Piaget’s theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds cognitive structures–in other words, mental “maps,” schemes, or networked concepts for understanding and responding to physical experiences within his or her environment. Piaget further attested that a child’s cognitive structure increases in sophistication with development, moving from a few innate reflexes such as crying and sucking to highly complex mental activities. Piaget’s theory identifies four developmental stages and the processes by which children progress through them.1
The four stages are:
Sensorimotor stage (birth – 2 years old)–The child, through physical interaction with his or her environment, builds a set of concepts about reality and how it works. This is the stage where a child does not know that physical objects remain in existence even when out of sight (object permanance).
Preoperational stage (ages 2-7)–The child is not yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needs concrete physical situations.
Concrete operations (ages 7-11)–As physical experience accumulates, the child starts to conceptualize, creating logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences. Abstract problem solving is also possible at this stage. For example, arithmetic equations can be solved with numbers, not just with objects.
Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15)–By this point, the child’s cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning.2
A parent needs to be aware of these stages as well as other stages of child development to ensure that his or her child will be able to grow up and be a vibrant and happy adult.
1, 2 Source: http://www.funderstanding.com/piaget.cfm
If you or your family lack E.I. — puhhlease get it today!
Every man woman and child needs emotional intelligence in order to lead a balanced and healthy life, and whether you are an adult or a child, it will benefit you and your family to be aware of what this concept is, and to make sure you have it. IF you don’t you and your family will most likely benefit from Family Therapy …
“In a 1994 report on the current state of emotional literacy in the U.S., author Daniel Goleman stated:
“…in navigating our lives, it is our fears and envies, our rages and depressions, our worries and anxieties that steer us day to day. Even the most academically brilliant among us are vulnerable to being undone by unruly emotions. The price we pay for emotional (illiteracy) is in failed marriages and troubled families, in stunted social and work lives, in deteriorating physical health and mental anguish and, as a society, in tragedies such as killings…”
Goleman attests that the best remedy for battling our emotional shortcomings is preventive medicine. In other words, we need to place as much importance on teaching our children the essential skills of Emotional Intelligence as we do on more traditional measures like IQ and GPA.
Exactly what is Emotional Intelligence? The term encompasses the following five characteristics and abilities:
- Self-awareness–knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them.
- Mood management–handling feelings so they’re relevant to the current situation and you react appropriately. (If you can’t control your mood most of the time, you’re not emotionally literate.)
- Self-motivation–“gathering up” your feelings and directing yourself towards a goal, despite self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness.
- Empathy–recognizing feelings in others and tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Managing relationships–handling interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiations. (Note: continual emotional turmoil, up-and-down/on-and-off relationshops means you are not emotionally literate).
Why Do We Need Emotional Intelligence?
Research in brain-based learning suggests that emotional health is fundamental to effective learning. According to a report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs, the most critical element for a student’s success in school is an understanding of how to learn. (Emotional Intelligence, p. 193.) The key ingredients for this understanding are:
- Capacity to communicate
- Ability to cooperate
These traits are all aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Basically, a student who learns to learn is much more apt to succeed. Emotional Intelligence has proven a better predictor of future success than traditional methods like the GPA, IQ, and standardized test scores.
Hence, the great interest in Emotional Intelligence on the part of corporations, universities, and schools nationwide. The idea of Emotional Intelligence has inspired research and curriculum development throughout these facilities. Researchers have concluded that people who manage their own feelings well and deal effectively with others are more likely to live content lives. Plus, happy people are more apt to retain information and do so more effectively than dissatisfied people.
Building one’s Emotional Intelligence has a lifelong impact. Many parents and educators, alarmed by increasing levels of conflict in young schoolchildren–from low self-esteem to early drug and alcohol use to depression, are rushing to teach students the skills necessary for Emotional Intelligence. And in corporations, the inclusion of Emotional Intelligence in training programs has helped employees cooperate better and motivate more, thereby increasing productivity and profits.
“Emotional Intelligence is a master aptitude, a capacity that profoundly affects all other abilities, either facilitating or interfering with them.”–Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, p. 80.”
Parenting: The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Have
Millions of parents throughout the United States have a secret: They don’t like parenting. Yes, they love their kids, but they don’t like being a parent, and 44 year-old Sylvia is a prime example:
“I am so ashamed of myself,” she says. “I always wanted to be a mom and was thrilled when I got pregnant with my first child. I spent months obsessively planning for the baby’s arrival, and within a few weeks after he arrived, I wasn’t so excited anymore.”
Sylvia went on to describe a baby who had colic and cried for months. As the baby grew he remained cranky and difficult, and it seemed he was rarely content. As a toddler he was a terror, Sylvia says, and now that he’s 21 she says all-in-all it has been a rough, emotionally and financially expensive ride as a parent.
“I could never tell anyone how I feel,” she says. “It’s too horrible for a mother to say that she did not like being a parent. I had a second child and in her own way she was equally as difficult. She was needy and clingy. I often felt smothered, and with my son I was always trying to keep him out of trouble. I gave and gave –– financially, emotionally, and I never got the love back that I thought I was supposed to get. In the end, it was a lot of sacrifice, little or no appreciation from my kids, and I know I am a terrible woman for admitting it.”
Sylvia is not alone. As a counselor I often ask parents what their experience as a parent has been like, and many have told me honestly that they love their children dearly, would die for them, but if they had it to do over again, they would not have children because of the continual personal sacrifice and the lack of appreciation.
One of the greatest healing experiences when faced with a problem is realizing that you are not the only one, and when it comes to disappointment in parenting, you aren’t. Working this out and learning ways in which to best deal with a child is best done with a qualified family therapist, who not only helps you find healthy ways to process the stress, but can show you efficient and healthy was to discipline and set healthy boundaries.
In the end, the goal of child-raising is to raise independent adults who have drive and motivation to achieve. Family therapists can help you make certain your child is meeting the developmental goals that will take him or her there.
If you are dealing with an autistic relative, therapy may help you in how to cope and deal with the issue. While Becky does therapy with families of autistic individuals, she also knows that the autistic person may well benefit from a form of brain wave therapy called Neurofeedback. Colleague Allen Novian, Ph.D. reports that many of his autistic clients who before could not sit still or verbalize, now can thanks to this amazing form of brain wave feedback therapy. If you are interested in neurofeedback for your autistic relative, please visit Dr. Novian’s website at www.drnovian.com.
Parenting Your Adult Child
Treat Your Adult Child Like an Adult or Risk Alienation
The idea to discuss this topic on the “Great Day SA” show came up after a woman called me following a segment we did called, “Finding Your Marital Temperature.” The mother of a 30 year-old-daughter called to complain about her daughter’s marriage, and how her daughter wouldn’t listen to her when she offered advice.
“My daughter should leave this no-good man,” the woman said. “But she won’t listen to me.”
“How often are you in touch with your daughter?” I asked.
“Not as much as I’d like,” she said. “I need to know how can I get her to listen to me!”
“You can’t,” I answered. “And I predict that the more you try to make her listen, the less you’ll be hearing from her.”
“That’s right. You need to stop meddling in your daughter’s business. She’s 30 years old. She’s an adult. She must handle things on her own, in her own time.”
The woman was stunned. It never occured to her to not treat her daughter as the child she once was. That’s when I got the idea to come back on the show and talk to parents of adult childen and inform them that as their child transitions from child to adult, so must their parenting style transition from treating them like a child, to an adult.
Of course you are still the parent, but you are no longer in charge of their everyday safetey and security, so you have to stop acting like you are. It’s tough – but who said life was easy?
With that in mind, let’s talk about what an adult child is before we delve further into how a parent must switch their parenting style. An adult child is a financially independent person who is 18 years or older and who no longer lives at home. (Regarding those that have finished their education and are still living at home … well, THAT’s a whole different subject to be covered another day!!!)
The general idea behind what I’m trying to say to parents of these independent children is that after your child moves out and is financially on his or her own, we must recognize that our son or daughter’s life and needs have changed, and so we as the parents must adjust our parenting style to fit that change.
You may say to yourself, “I’m not going to do that, my child still needs me.”
Of course your child does, but not in the same ways he or she once did. And there is a very important motivation for making this change: If you don’t adjust your parenting style, you seriously risk your child distancing from you – if you want to be fully included in your child’s life, you must make the shift!! The last thing we want is for our adult children is to put us in a category of relationships they do not enjoy, but are obligated to continue.
Here is a great way to look at it – Life is difficult, your child needs to learn about that on his/her own … and each will need a SOFT PLACE TO LAND as he or she navigates through it all. Yes, they still need a parent, but the component of friendship now needs to be added to the mix. Visualize yourself being supportive and unconditionally loving and accepting – and yes, I am serious.
This is how to do it:
- Shut up – Forgive me for my brutal honesty, but darn it, stop lecturing! Full stop. No more! No unsolicited advice allowed!
- Listen. When people have a problem, most want to vent, and are not looking for solutions or advice. So keep your mouth shut and listen when your ADULT child shares about issues, and you’ll be surprised how willing they will be to communicate with you about the details of their lives. (Warning: sometimes what they may say can be painful for you to hear, but if there is something you don’t want to hear, just tell them.)
- Empathize. It is healing to know that someone can sense and/or feel your pain. When your chooses to talk, say things to him or her like, “That must have been very hard for you.” “I wish there was something I could do to help.”
- Talk. But ONLY when asked. Don’t give advice, until and unless ASKED for it. With the child’s permission, you can share stories of how you solved similar issues in your own life – but don’t expect them to do what you did.
- Suspend judgment. Again, keep your opinions to yourself. UNLESS asked.
And yes, there will be times when you absolutely positively must speak out and state your opinion about something your adult child is involved in. A good guideline is … IF you see your adult child involved in something that is dangerous or is about to make an obvious disastrous mistake. When this happens, DO say something, BUT … tell him or her: “Time out, please allow me to step into my parental shoes for a moment, I will say this one time, and then I’ll leave it alone.” Then, do it. Caveat: If your adult child is involved in things such as alcohol or drug abuse or illegal activities, you may have to stage an intervention, and this would certainly be indicated in situations where your adult child has become a danger to himself or others.
A couple of other things.
Release expectations. Don’t assume anything concerning what your child does. If you need something from him or her, ask. Don’t make demands, and don’t pressure him or her to be different from who he or she is. That includes pressuring for marriage or children. Leave it alone, or you may be spending your time alone!!
MYOB. Do not meddle, interfere, plan, scheme, or attempt to control your child through guilt or other means. This is your child’s life, not yours. Don’t be a pain in your ADULT child’s backside.