Tag Archives: parenting

Parental Authority – Dynamics and Interaction

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 “Benevolent authority is put into action as consistent and continuous dialogues with our children where we actively listen to and clarify what we hear, reflect back our understanding of what we hear and respond respectfully in our roles as leaders and teachers.  This way, our respect and love for our children as separate people comes across loud and clear.  Collectively, these interpersonal skills form a diplomatic initiative that opens negotiations to obtain our children’s cooperation through motivational strategies designed to get them on board with our vision for raising them.” 

“My parenting philosophy, borrowed from many sources is based on teaching children to feel entitled to ask for and negotiate their needs, to learn that the satisfaction of their needs may require patience, perseverance and  resourcefulness over time.  When we fail to care adequately for ourselves it can be unbearably painful to listen to our children ask for the sky and then, unrealistic that we praise them for doing so.  We all know how to shame and guilt our children into silence but, this is a victory we and they pay for down the road.  It’s difficult to take children to places we have never been before.  So, make it a priority to learn to care for your needs so that you will find the intestinal fortitude to cope constructively with their resistance to unpopular but, important decisions that you know from experience are in their best interests.”  

See the link: 

http://www.goodtherapists.org/articles/what-i-learned-about-the-uses-and-abuses-of-parental-authority-working-in-the-criminal-justice-system–19#%21

The Pros of Structure

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Parental Structure

Parental Structure

Clearly, children all need to be taught to modulate emotions, resist impulses, and plan into the future. However, it is unlikely that as concerned parents, we are aware of how these abilities are developed in our children when we provide clear, understandable, consistent structure.

The need for helping our children accomplish these abilities is indisputable. We have all seen how important it is to a child’s autonomy to be able to regulate their own limits and boundaries. And the way they learn how to achieve this is though having been provided the structure with which they can learn and continue to grow.

Even as our children develop, the need for structure is apparent. How many of us are entirely convinced that without a regular bedtime, our teenage children would end up like aliens from some unknown planet in the morning because they would have been up watching televisions or playing video games or texting their friends all through the night?

It has taken me a lot of self exploration and inner work to be able to say that I truly know my parents did the best they could raising us (I have two sisters). I used to be able to say these words and not really mean them, but I know in my heart of hearts that both my parents were only human and they truly did the best they could with what they had when it came to caring for us and raising us.

They were, however, quite remiss when it came to structure and boundary setting and teaching us these crucial life lessons. It began because they were not on the same page themselves and of course, this spilled over into the lack of consistency they demonstrated to us as well.

My father was the one who had more of an idea and plan when it came to setting and maintaining a system and rules around the house. He served in the military and it is something that he may not have understood the emotional and psychological need for, but tried to accomplish nonetheless.

Rules

Rules

My mother, God bless her soul, didn’t know the first thing about rules and regulations and how to set limits. She was sure that people, including her daughters, would not like her very much and be unhappy if she told us “no,” so that is something we did not hear very often as we grew up.

While you might think this was a good thing, in the long run, it was just the opposite. We needed to teach ourselves “no.” We needed to teach ourselves how to get moving and when to stop doing certain things. For me, this was quite a struggle growing up and there were quite a few areas in my life that I needed to work extra hard with, as I actually parented myself.

First I learned that I emotionally had to buy into the need for discipline, limits and structure. It was not an easy thing for me to learn but it wasn’t until I believed that it was something positive for me to work at, nothing changed. I had gotten quite accustomed to letting many things just go their own way and learning to regulate was tough. But worth it.

My parents loved us, but they didn’t demonstrate how important it was to do things because we had to, not just because we wanted to. Once I realized I could survive and be happy even though I had to accept certain things being a certain way, it began to come together for me.

Pretty much, everything had a price. Sometimes the price was steep, sometimes not so steep, but if I wanted particular outcomes, I had to “learn the cost” and then “pay the price” to get it to happen that way.

Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

That is what structure teaches, the borders, the boundaries, the outline within which I have to color my picture. It defines things and that is critical to being successful. Without definition and recognizable boundaries, it is a free for all and nobody can survive that way for long.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Trick or Treat – YOU Decide

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Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

According to research by the Indianapolis Sun who computed caloric values from individual candy information, the average child consumes approximately 2 pounds of candy on Halloween night, the equivalent of somewhere between 3000-7000 calories. It will effectively take a 100 pound child 44 hours to walk off the amount of sugar-induced calories consumed or 10 hours of a more physical activity such as playing soccer or basketball.

More than likely, you can personally witness the effects of their trick or treat expedition in the non-stop motion that resembles the Eveready Bunny from the time your own children get home until way past their normal bed-time.

So, what’s a health-conscious, caring parent to do? One of the best things involves more than a lesson in nutrition or calorie counting; it is one of proportion and budgeting. All it takes is reassurance and a box of little baggies. The baggies are used to portion out the candy into smaller amounts that your child can look forward to each day until the candy is used up.

candy1

With a bit of planning you can turn this into a ‘family activity that can be helpful and fun. When your child returns from Trick or Treating, you can go through their ‘stash’ with them. You section out the candy into portion-sizes that you approve of and they can select the candies they prefer for each bag. This way, your child will feel as if they still have a say and you will feel better knowing they won’t be overdosing on sweets.

You can even let them choose if they want to take the day’s baggie with them as a snack with lunch at school, or if they prefer to keep it at home for after school or dinner. The more involved in the choices your child has, the more likely they are to remain happy about the process.

And you will be teaching your child that it is important not to overdo things, even things we may feel are good. By teaching them to ration it this way, they will be able to see the benefit of making something last longer than using it up quickly and then having no more for later.

Temperance

Temperance

Once upon a time, this was known as temperance, a value that we used to see in society all the time. However, as America became more of the world’s leader and people began to live ‘the good life’ the value of temperance, doing without, slipped further and further into our past.

Maybe it’s time we think about bringing it back and Trick or Treat can provide us with a wonderful place to start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Essence of Different

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Judge

Judge

Which would you prefer hearing: “What you just did was wrong!” or “What you just did was different than the way I would have done it!”

I don’t think there is anybody who would truly prefer to hear the judgment that comes with the label of ‘wrong’ or any other word like it. Yet both comments can get the main point across which is that it may be a good idea to make some type of change.

The truth is that there is no strong value judgment imposed when we think in terms of ‘different’ as opposed to ‘right or wrong’ or ‘good or bad.’ There is a neutrality associated with the word ‘different’ that is blown to smithereens once a value judgment is imposed.

Yet so many times, people react with the value judgment. I’m human and also, I hope, a realist – at least some of the time – so I don’t think most of us can alter our knee-jerk reaction to things (in this case, the first though would include a value like ‘good’ or ‘wrong.’)

Swiss Neutrality

Swiss Neutrality

However, all that we need is a commitment to use a bit of restraint, and we can keep our ‘knee-jerk’ value judgment to ourselves, but respond aloud with the neutrality of ‘different’ instead.

When someone does something that we don’t find okay – we can feel as if it is wrong or bad, but we don’t have to say that out loud. We can say something much more neutral and non-judgmental by saying that the choice the person made was different than the one we might have made in that circumstance.

This is how it would play out in a real-life situation a parent might have. Tonight is your 12-year-old son’s night to make sure the dishes are washed. He hurriedly rushes through the motion because he wants to have time to play his video game. You are aware that the job was not done correctly and that the dishes need more of an effort in order to be done correctly.

Rather than making a judgment call or even just instructing your son to return and do the job over again, try framing it by letting him know you prefer the chore be handled differently – referring to the type of energy exerted and the finished product (the cleanliness of the dishes.) NOT a word about “RIGHT” or “WRONG” or “SHOULD HAVE” or anything else that imposes a value judgment of any kind.

Open Door

Open Door

Choosing to address a problem in this non-confrontational, non-judgmental way opens doorways to progress and change that might otherwise remain shut tight and totally unavailable to us.

So how about if just for today, we commit to using the concept of things being “DIFFERENT” if we find we don’t approve of them rather than voicing our disapproval and our opinion? I’m game if you are!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Complex States At Being

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Emotions can be incredibly complex states of being/mind.

I just want to be happyPeople (particularly in this western culture) are afraid to experience emotion due to heavy amounts of socialization and conditioning, especially in school. You know, we’re taught to sit still, to be quiet, to “use our inside voices”, to line up, to avoid disorder and be orderly, to obey, to submit, to share. To share, but not to cooperate. There is a difference. Sharing does not necessarily imply or guarantee cooperation. In school, sharing is a behavioral technique; used as a means to control the behavior of a room full of pinging (that is, naturally rambunctious and curious-minded) short beings.

Let me tell you a story: a sad story about a little girl who cried.

cry, baby, cryTo get to City Island one can walk across a 2,800 foot long truss bridge, which was exactly what I was doing when I spotted a brief exchange between a little girl and her father. The little girl’s father, pushing another child in a stroller, told the little girl to look around as well as look at all the fish visible in the River below. The little girl was throwing bread over the side of the bridge to the fish, and seemed very happy.

Later, having crossed the bridge, I was sat under a pavilion and saw the little girl and her family again as they were passing by. The little girl tripped over a rise in the structure of the sidewalk and fell very hard. So hard that I winced when I heard the sound. She immediately bawled, as I’m sure that hurt her terribly. Probably terrified at the pain, you know, she ran to her father for solace. . . and he admonished her. He yelled at her as he brushed the dirt from her clothes, “You gotta watch where you’re walking. You can’t be looking around while you’re walking!” He seemed actually angry with her that she tripped, an accident on her part, no intent to spoil his day whatsoever. She only cried harder asking then for her mommy. At this, her father really became angry and shouted, “That’s it! You’re going back to the car you can’t act right!”

Did you see the contradiction?

Just moments ago, on the bridge he was telling her to LOOK around, then minutes later punished her for doing exactly that. These are the kinds of happenings that disturb me in the world. What did that do to the mind of that little girl? How could she possible understand that kind of contradicting information from such a trusted and authoritative figure as her father? What was the impact upon her consciousness? What did she just unconsciously learn? How did that affect her ego? Her sense of self in the world she knows and how will that affect her sense of self in subsequent years?

Which brings me back to emotions and the horrors some humans have undergone. That suffering. What I think not many humans grok is that suffering can be soft, horror is not always large, it can be very subtle. . . like entropy, changing and developing small vibrations over time that then result in the current personality/identity of that child in the form of an adult.

The Girl Who Cried WolfWhat happened to that little girl is a subtle terror, an event that will accompany who knows how many more and will shape her as a human being. It’s systematic, to get children all to sit still or to behave as one being so it could be easier (or more efficient) for the teacher to educate them. A good idea, sure, but in actuality what happens is that the children become standardized. The spark, the inspiration for creativity and innovation and imagination breaks down because the channels created have no room for them, no means to categorize something as unpredictable as a room full of children all having ideas simultaneously.

This is one way that fear of emotion is installed in the collective consciousness. That fear to really let go and be fully in the space. . .

“. . . and I’m free, free falling.” ~Tom Petty, ‘Free Falling’

*Image credits (used with permission through CC license)–
“I just want to be happy” by bravelittlebird
“cry, baby, cry” by Barbara Pellizzon
“The Girl Who Cried Wolf” by GaelForce Photography

Her letter to her father

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We know

We know that some parents have enough with their own problems. We know they might even try to change. Some of them manage to do it, some of them don`t. We know love can hurt, and that love can heal, but we don`t always feel the pain of it. I want to share this post from c. The content speak for itself, but I ask the readers to set aside some minutes for this. I have cried for this woman, who dared to do what she feared, and I will continue to cry for others who have lost what they wanted the most. Maybe tears can heal, too.

 

THE [OPEN] LETTER TO MY FATHER THAT HE WILL NEVER READ

Dad,

Yesterday, I decided to find you.

I tried, I tried so very hard, to not need anything from you. I tried to convince myself that I could move on without you; that I could carry on with my life somehow, without ever getting an apology. I gave it my all, I swear I did. I sweat and bled and broke, trying to be strong enough to do this without you. I told everyone around me that I was over what you had done to me, that I was over needing anything from you. I told everyone around me; I spouted it and bragged about it, hoping that it would sink into my pores and into my heart and into my soul and into that little girl that desperately needed her daddy’s love.

I tried, Dad. I tried … but I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it, because the truth is that I needed you. I longed and ached for you. I didn’t need an apology, I didn’t want an apology. What I wanted, more than anything in this world, was a hug. I lived for that moment where I would find you, and you would wrap your hands around my little body and hold me tight and tell me, “Erica, I love you.” Yes, I lived for that moment … and despite all of the bad, bad things that I have experienced in my life, and despite how harshly I have been beaten down and despite how I had lost hope for everything else, I still believed in you. I believed in you, Dad.

In my head, you were no monster. You were beautiful. You weren’t a drug addict, you weren’t a rapist, you weren’t a murderer, you weren’t a woman-beater, you weren’t racist. You were pure. In my head, you were God. I pitied you; I felt so sorry for all of the pain that must be inside of you, to make you act in the ways that you did. Oh how I built you up so very, very high. If you would have just given me a chance, a moment of your time, you would have been in awe of the man I made you out to be. And you would have loved it. You were so very beautiful to me, Dad.

I didn’t blame you for the perils of my life. I didn’t blame you for the molestation. I didn’t blame you for abandoning me. I didn’t blame you for forgetting about me. I didn’t blame you for taking an innocent child’s trust and sabotaging it for the rest of her life. I didn’t blame you for calling me once every few years, offering your love, and then taking it away just as quickly as it came. I didn’t blame you for beating those women. I didn’t blame you for killing that woman. I didn’t blame you for beating my sister. I didn’t blame you for beating my brother. I didn’t blame you for disappearing. I didn’t blame you for me crying myself to sleep every single night. I didn’t blame you for me deciding that, at age 3, I was going to be forever unlovable. I didn’t blame you for choosing drugs over being a human being. I didn’t blame you for picking me up that one time, telling me how proud you were of me, and then walking away forever. I didn’t even blame you for the fact that I couldn’t accept the love of this great, great man in front of me, offering me everything I had ever needed. I didn’t blame you for anything, Dad. Not one single fucking thing. 

Because I loved you. And because I needed you to love me too.

Yesterday, I found you. After more than ten years, I decided it was time. I had my fiance next to me, keeping me safe, and I finally felt ready to try. I told him that I didn’t need anything; that I was prepared for the worst … but it wasn’t true. As I sat in the car, while he looked up your address online, I appeared calm. I appeared calm. I wasn’t. Inside of me, was little me. She was jumping up and down, up and down, up and down out of excitement. She had the biggest smile on her face, Dad, you wouldn’t believe how big that smile was! She was about to see her Daddy, and he was going to see her and run to her and pick her up and hold her close and tell her how much he had loved her all along.

We drove to your apartment, and the butterflies flew inside of me. My fiance hugged me tightly, knowing already how this would turn out. You see, he was not in denial and he did not paint a pretty picture. He knew you, without knowing you .. but still, he tried, for me. He instructed me to write a note, just in case you did not want to see me. What would I say to you? Surely, you wouldn’t turn me away! So on the back of a receipt, I quickly scribbled,

“Dad,
I just wanted to let you know that I love you and I just wanted to hear it back someday.
❤ Erica”

I didn’t think the note would be needed, but I gave it to him anyway.
And then he was gone; walking away to knock on your door.

I sat. And I sat. And I sat. I waited and waited and waited. I even put on my shoes, because I was so sure that you were going to want to see me. I fixed my hair, and I fixed my makeup, and I sat.

Yesterday, Dad, I found you.
And yesterday, Dad, you turned me away.

I did not cry. I did not cry because I believed that my fiance must have found the wrong man. I did not cry because surely, surely, you would not have reacted in that way. I did not cry. And I did not blame you. There must have been a reason, a reason why you would turn me away. A reason. We startled you, we should have called, you were scared. Anything, everything; I did not blame you.

But right now, as I type this Dad, I am going to blame you. I blame you, I BLAME YOU, for closing that door. I BLAME YOU for knowing that you are dying, and not giving me any chance for clarity. It was your choice, it was your decision. And you closed that door. You. You. You.

I blame you for breaking my young, fragile heart.

I blame you for that.

I still have not cried, Dad. I am sure that I will, but I haven’t yet. I am sure that the hole you left inside of me will continue to ache, and I am sure that I will someday soon cry. But I also know that I will try my hardest to never again cry for you. I want to finally be able to cry for myself and for the pain you caused me, not for you.

It may not have been you at that door yesterday, but it doesn’t matter. You closed the door on me a very long time ago, and it is a daily battle for me to believe that it was not my fault. That little girl was not lacking anything, that little girl was good enough. She deserved your love. I deserved your love.  And whenever I think of you, from this day forward, I will remind myself of that.

The saddest part, maybe of all, is that you probably have & will never be loved by anyone, as much as you were loved by me.

Sincerely,

Erica

How to avoid bedtime struggles

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How to Avoid Bedtime Struggles

By MOLLY YARNELL SKYAR AND DR. SUSAN RUTHERFORD

 

How to Avoid Bedtime StrugglesMother of two young kids, Molly Skyar, interviews her mother, Dr. Susan Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, about best strategies for enforcing bedtime with young kids and how your parenting decisions today may affect your child as an adult.

Molly: I received this question from another mom who was wondering if I knew of any good strategies to help her enforce bedtimes. She feels that no matter what time she starts, something always comes up and her kids go to bed too late. They’re hungry, or they have to go the bathroom… She knows she has to be more structured or have a better routine, but she’s a self-described “softie” so it’s hard for her to do.

Dr. Rutherford: I think this mom’s idea about having a firmer, stricter routine is a really good starting point. Those children are obviously manipulating their mom and she, for whatever reason, is not able to set limits.

Suppose the children’s bedtime is 7:30pm. And they bathe before they go to sleep. They are going to have dinner first, so shortly after dinner I would start bath time (if this is part of the routine – or whatever else is part of the routine) and then read a story.

Molly: Or maybe she could do the bath before dinner if it’s making the process stretch out too long.

Dr. Rutherford: That’s right. That’s a good idea. And then she’s going to read her children a story and make sure they go to the bathroom, et cetera. She’s right that she needs to have a routine.

Children actually love routines. They brush their teeth, go to the potty, read a book, maybe talk about their day a little bit with mommy… and then it’s night-night time. Having a routine helps them transition over to this stage of the day.

Children who leave their bedrooms at night saying they’re “hungry”… Well, most of the time it’s a manipulation tactic. Most of the time when kids get up at night, I think that the kid is having trouble with that transition from wakefulness to sleep and is wanting attention from the parent. If a child emerges after being put to bed, you can escort him or her back to bed saying, “You know that we don’t get out of bed after we’ve read stories.” You shouldn’t do this with anger, but we should be firm in our resolve.

A parent can reinforce this resolve by assuring the child that the next time they will talk together will be in the morning when everyone wakes up and we have breakfast. Remind the child that if we don’t go to bed now, everyone is going to be cranky and tired tomorrow, and we don’t want that.

If the child is one of the kids that is always coming out asking for water, think about that ahead of time and prepare to leave a cup of water or a water bottle next to the bed.

As a parent, your life will run more smoothly if you can think ahead and anticipate what the child might need or want at bedtime. It’s reasonable for a child to want their transitional object like a blanket or stuffed animal, for example, so make sure that is in the room before you say goodnight.

Molly: One thing that we do at my house is that, as we leave the kitchen to go upstairs to bed, we say, “That’s it, the kitchen is closed. If there’s anything else you want, now is the time because we’re not getting up after you brush your teeth and go to bed. There’s no more eating tonight.”

Dr. Rutherford: Perfect. That’s a perfect way to do it.

Molly: But we’ve had to be really strict about it. The first three nights, my five-year-old daughter really tested us; she even went so far as to claim she was “starving” after she had eaten a large dinner. And then we had to say, “We already put you to bed tonight. If you get up again, you’re going to lose your privilege for watching your television show tomorrow.”

Dr. Rutherford: You really had to do some behavioral modification intervention.

Molly: We also did a chart. Every night that she didn’t get up, she got to put a sticker on the chart in the morning. I think this is the thing that actually worked the best.

Dr. Rutherford: You offered a reward for staying in bed. That’s employing positive reinforcement as a motivation for behavioral change. Positive reinforcement is a good way to set patterns for a child. Behavior is all about patterns. If a child gets up once, saying he’s not feeling well, that’s not a big deal. When he or she starts doing it regularly, as a pattern, that’s when you absolutely must intervene. The sooner, the better.

Molly: Are there any possible long-term effects of not dealing with this?

Dr. Rutherford: There can be short-term effects and long-term effects. The short-term effects become long-term effects. For instance, if this isn’t dealt with when it first starts, it can go on for years and the child may have real difficulty in moving from the awake state to a sleep state. An example of this might be when the kid is old enough and goes on an overnight to a friend’s house, she might have a lot of trouble falling asleep and will keep her friend up because she hasn’t really learned how to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

As the child becomes an adult, these kinds of issues can easily continue. They often take the form of having trouble falling asleep and may manifest in eating at bedtime, needing the television to fall asleep, or maybe even alcohol or pills — all because that adult never learned how to move from wakefulness to sleep in a timely manner as a child.

Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford are behind the blog “Conversations With My Mother”, a blog about raising kids and how our parenting decisions now can have long term effects. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has her undergraduate degree from Duke University, a Masters from New York University (NYU), and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver.

Giften Children: I won`t try to fix you

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I Won’t Try to Fix You

Posted on 04/30/2013 | 1 Comment

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Four years ago, I sat in the library of my children’s school and said a small prayer.

“Please don’t let that happen to us,” I thought.

I was listening to a psychiatrist talk about anxiety. He said that during adolescence a child’s hormones can amplify stress and anxiety, causing depression. As predicted, the hormones came, my son’s anxiety got worse and he became depressed.

Maybe I should have been more proactive and made choices for my son that would have reduced his stress and anxiety. Instead, we let him make choices that satisfied some of his personal ambitions but exacerbated his anxiety. We let him leave his support system and travel across the country to go to boarding school. The move fulfilled his desire to explore new interests, have new experiences and challenge himself. It also made his undiagnosed depression worse.

As a parent, what do you do when you think trouble is coming? Do you make decisions for your child, knowing that you have the experience to anticipate the consequences? Or do you let your child make decisions that will help him to discover who he is, even though it might come at a substantial price? The child who elicited my silent prayer has a big personality. As a child, he was loud, independent and adventurous. Unlike our oldest son, who did not want to leave our arms, our middle child cried until we put him down. A lover of novelty and adventure, he wrote a high school admissions essay about a holiday celebrating rollercoasters. The day would “remind people to enjoy the journey.” You would never know that he is also highly sensitive.

Anxiety, sensitivity, independence and an adventurous spirit; all of these characteristics seemed to be baked into our son at birth. They also fight against one another, as adventure creates anxiety and sensitivity requires support. The qualities that led my son to his depressed state are not going to go away. So, what can I do to ease his journey? I asked him.

He didn’t know how to respond until he found himself on the other end of the conversation. A friend came to him to confess that he was depressed. As my son thought about what to do, he went quickly through a list of don’ts. Don’t say that you understand what the other person is going through because you don’t. Don’t say that things will get better because when you are hurting, you believe that it will never get better. Instead, my son said something that I think about every day. He told his friend:

“If you never get better, if you are always sad, nothing will change between us. I care for you as much today in your sadness as I did when you were happy. You don’t have to change. We will always be good.”

His expression of unconditional love and acceptance stunned me. I thought he would share strategies that worked or connections that sustained him. Instead, my son accepted his friend as he found him. He not only refused to offer advice but also absolved his friend of the responsibility to “get better” for his sake.

I am not suggesting that parents just sit back and watch their child get depressed. My son needed a professional to help him find a way out of the dark. But, I also learned that every well-meaning comment intended to help him imposed a burden of its own. He told me as much a year ago when I held him in my arms as he cried. Desperate to find something to make him feel better, I reminded him that he was home and I was with him.

“Does that make you feel a little bit better?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I know that I am making you sad, and that makes me feel worse.”

Our children know what we want for them. We want them to be happy. Yet, we know their gifts may come with anxiety, emotional intensityperfectionism or social isolation, all of which make reaching this goal difficult. We think we know how to help them cope with a potentially cruel world; if they would just modify their behavior in one way or another, we are sure that things will be better. In the process, we are sometimes communicating to them our dissatisfaction with who they are. Maybe we could just put aside our goals for them and help them understand themselves and be themselves. Maybe every challenge doesn’t need a strategy, a pep talk or a class. Maybe they need to know that we don’t need them to change. Maybe the most important thing for them to know is that together, we will always be good.

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