Saturday, August 18, 2007

What are Your Parenting Goals?

Do you remember what your expectations were for your children before you had them? You wanted them to be healthy, happy, and well adjusted. How does this now compare to the realities of everyday life full of runny noses, crayon marks on the wall, and temper tantrums? If you’re like most parents, sometimes all you can do is damage control before falling into bed exhausted. Despite your exhaustion, know that your calling is much higher than this. It’s important to have goals as a parent. To actually put thought into how you want your kids to turn out and what principles you want them to learn growing up. If you haven’t put much thought into what your goals should be start thinking about it today.

A good place to start is to ask yourself the following questions: what do you want to accomplish as a dad or mom, what do you want to teach your children, when your children are older what lessons would you have want them to learn? Here are a few goals you might want to consider for yourself:

1. Help My Child Develop Strong Core Values: These may include honesty, compassion, diligence, responsibility, courage, boundaries or self-respect. This is best done through modeling and open communication with your child

2. Help My Child Learn to Serve Others: Children are naturally self-focused and sometimes selfish. From an early age, you can teach your child to serve others by encouraging them to get a glass of water for mommy or daddy or clean up their brother’s room when their sibling is ill. It is important that they learn that the world does not revolve around them.

3. Help My Child Know They are Valued and Loved: The best thing you can do to show this to your children is to spend time with them. Play with them, listen to them, and create memories together. Don’t have a schedule so busy that there is little time for meaningful interaction.

4. Help My Child Respect Authority: There are many children who have trouble respecting their parents, teachers and grandparents. To get your children to respect you, you must first establish your authority over them. Remember, you are not their friend or buddy but their provider, protector, disciplinarian and guide throughout life. They must know your rules, limits and boundaries. Consistency in your response to such rules is a must.

5. Help My Child Have Meaningful Relationships: Modeling is the key to this goal. The best gift a father can give his son is the example of how he treats and respects his mother. This will in turn teach him to respect women. Teach your children to evaluate the characters of their peers in comparison to the values of your family. They will then be better able to cope with peer pressure.
6. Help My Child Honor God: It’s important that children understand that they were created to love God and love others. Help them know they can do this in many ways: by respecting their parents, not hitting their friends, recycling and caring for the environment or caring for their pet.

7. Help My Child Be Successful: In order to do this you must take an inventory of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, then help them to build on their strengths. Whether your child is athletic or a bookworm, encourage them in areas they are gifted. Keep in close communication with their teachers. Don’t fill their lives with so many extra-curricular activities that their academics or sleep suffer.

Having goals as a parent is like having a blueprint to work from. Using such a blueprint will help to shape your child’s life and provide a framework from whence he can make good choices. One day he will appreciate this and will thank for your guidance and love.

Lyris Bacchus, LMFT, LifeWorks Therapist, 407-647-7005 or www.LifeWorksGroup.org

What’s Wrong With You?

Since this isn’t e-bay, it is the LifeWorks web site, I am assuming (I know I know- never assume) that you are here because something is wrong. You are reading all about us with the hope someone in our group can do something to fix the situation. Worse still, someone around you has sent you to find someone at LifeWorks to fix you!

I had a client years ago whose husband told her everyday to find a counselor to “make her right”. Abbey* walked into my office with her head down and her spirit dragging behind her. I was her fourth attempt to find a counselor that could “make her right”. Three other professionals took her lead and reacted to the dejected appearance and faltering voice. The inevitable, beginning of a first session question, was then asked of Abbey “tell me what’s wrong”. Being too scared, ashamed, embarrassed, and confused to say much, the answer was always the same: “I don’t know”. Abbey would then proceed to tell the therapist her husband requested her to “get right” and an hour would be spent trying to define what “right” was. She left three other therapists feeling scared, ashamed, embarrassed and confused. When Abbey walked into my office her head was even lower and her spirit was left sitting in the car outside. I had seen this look hundreds of time before. I had also seen it in my mirror hundreds of times before. Because I had once found a therapist who knew what to say to me I knew what to say to Abbey. My first question was not “tell me what’s wrong” it was “tell me what’s happened to you”. I knew there was nothing “wrong” with Abbey to make “right”. Abbey was a victim of childhood trauma and had never had the help to work through the terror she still felt as a result. When I asked to tell me what had happened to her, Abbey started sobbing. Years of frustration vanished. Over the course of her therapy Abbey was able to tell me things she had never spoken about to anyone. The hurt child hidden inside was finally giving her voice and Abbey began the process of knowing a peace and a freedom she thought only existed for people who were “right”. From my perspective there is nothing wrong with any of you. It is what has happened to you that has caused you to take time and read about the Lifeworks Group.

Written by: Deedra Hunter is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has also published a book called; Winning Custody: A Woman’s Guide to Retaining Custody of Her Children.

Winning the Battle, And the War: Tips for Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

By: Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

He seems so cute, clever, and funny most of the time. It’s true. My three-year-old son has a sense of humor that can truly make his mama and daddy laugh. His vocabulary is advanced for his age, his smile can light up any room, and there are times that having a conversation with him can melt my heart........ But there are days where I can understand why some animals eat their young.
Yes, I admit it. I am the father of a strong-willed child. I cannot live in denial any longer. No more shall I insist that he is nothing more than a sweet, innocent, angelic little boy. I must verbalize to the entire world (or, at least, to those who read this article) that there are times when my son is only one step lower than Damian, from “The Omen” movies. He constantly pushes boundaries, he often will not comply with my wishes until he knows consequences are about a millisecond away, he tries to intimidate his mama by lowering his voice and yelling like some kind of quasi-Chewbacca creature, and he waffles between doting on his baby sister to doing his darndest to startle her badly enough that she jumps out of her bouncer. Yes.......his mama and I admit it. He is sometimes a monster.

But I adore him.

I do. He is the little boy I always prayed for. And, although he is difficult to parent at times, I prefer that he grows up to be strong and independent than passive and fearful. When he is thirty years old and must take a stand for his beliefs or he must be a strong leader during the hard times that his own family may face, I want him to be strong-willed and perseverant. When life smacks him right between the eyes and many others wilt under the pressure, my hope is that Joshua will step up to the plate and be a leader. When everyone else crumbles, I pray that my son will thrive.
Isn’t that what we all want for our children? To be strong and healthy adults? To endure all life has to throw at them and make a difference in our world? That is what Michelle and I want for Joshua. And so, I have resigned myself to the fact that, if that is the man I hope he becomes, then I must accept that he must show those same qualities in childhood. It is rare that someone can just “flip the switch” and suddenly rise up to be a strong person. Certainly, people can develop and grow their emotional, physical, and spiritual strength. No doubt. However, if a strong-willed child already shows those qualities, why squelch it in them? I know...........it would be so much easier if they were more compliant or meek. It would be great if they could be strong-willed to everyone else in the civilized world but totally mild with us as parents. But, that’s not how it usually works. In fact, parents usually get the worst of the strong-willed child they know and love.
Let us remember that, as parents, we are to train and teach and nurture our children. It is our job to focus their strengths and energies so that they, someday, will be ready for adulthood. Strong-willed children have many excellent traits; they are independent and love to try to do things themselves, they love challenges, they respond well to encouragement, and they are often high achievers, if focused correctly. It is true that they are a greater challenge to parent. Strong-willed kids can sap our energy and test our reserves. They can bring us to the edge of insanity and then win our hearts, all in the space of about 2 minutes. It’s not easy parenting a strong-willed child. However, I honestly believe that, if we take up the gauntlet, never give up on them, and invest our time and energy, we will be rewarded in the years to come.
I am certainly not a perfect parent. I get tired. I am sometimes selfish. There are moments when I rely on the television to entertain Joshua just so I can rest. However, I absolutely love my son and work very hard to be the best father I can be. Here are some of the things I have learned about parenting a strong-willed child:

1. Relationship is ESSENTIAL: Of course, this is true for all children but it is especially important when parenting a strong-willed child. If you invest time and energy into building a relationship with your child, it will go a LONG way when you have to discipline. For a strong-willed child to respect you and comply with your wishes, they have to believe you honestly care for them and know them. Make it your highest priority to spend many hours a week spending time doing what your strong-willed child wants to do. Play with them. Laugh with them. INVEST in them......and they will notice. If you make your strong-willed child feel connected and valued, you will notice a rise in their respect for you.

2. Patience is truly a virtue: This may seem obvious but it is so important. If you have a strong-willed child, you must adjust your expectations accordingly or you will find yourself sitting in a rubber room, in a white outfit, making that weird sound you make when you move your finger up and down on your lips while you are humming. You have to expect your child to test you. If you don’t think he or she is going to push your boundaries then you are not thinking clearly. Strong-willed children live for pushing boundaries. I honestly believe that strong-willed kids get some sort of rush from watching a parent lose control. I mean it. I really think that there is some satisfaction, for them, in pushing a parent to the point where the parent loses their cool. It may sound crazy but it’s what I’ve seen in almost every strong-willed child. So......don’t lose it. Be very firm but don’t blow a gasket. And, if you have to blow up, leave the room so the child cannot get the satisfaction of seeing it.

3. Consistency is key: You must set healthy boundaries in your home and you must be consistent when dealing with a strong-willed child. If his/her bedtime shifts every night, he/she is going to push you all the time. I’m not saying you can never vary in your routine but make sure it is not often. The structure and safety of consistent boundaries help to focus the energy of strong-willed kids. Also, consistently reward your child for not only good behavior but just because you love them. A strong-willed child often gets more rebukes than praise and that is never healthy. Remember, we don’t love our children for what they do. We love our children for who they are.

4. Strength is vital: The truth is that you MUST be stronger than your strong-willed child, even if you don’t think you are. Dr. James Dobson, in his book “The Strong-Willed Child”, basically says that, with a strong-willed child you must win every battle. I totally agree. If you think the battle is worth fighting then you MUST win it. You cannot let temper tantrums, intimidation, tears, charm, or anything else wear you down. Your child must know you’re in charge or they will always believe they can win. Now, after saying that, let me add this: Pick your battles. You don’t have to control every little thing in your child’s life. If you want to raise a leader then you must allow the child to make decisions, try things themselves, and learn from mistakes. If your strong-willed child wants to wear a different shirt than you have picked out, give him that freedom, unless you have to dress a certain way. Allowing them that freedom encourages their development. It also gives you more leeway to be stronger in enforcing the boundaries you believe are most important. One more thing about being strong: don’t allow your strong-willed child to draw you into meaningless arguments. I swear, Joshua will probably be a lawyer someday because he often wants to argue about everything. However, I find that if I correct him once or twice and he still argues the point I let it go. Most times, he will then accept my answer behind my back! (The little fiend!...haha) Seriously, we were vacationing this year and were in a swimming pool. One of the little girls in the pool had an inflatable Shamu and Joshua pointed at it and said it was a dolphin. I told him it was not a dolphin but was a whale because it was black and dolphins are bluish gray. He insisted that it was a dolphin so, instead of pulling out my marine encyclopedia to prove that I was smarter than my three-year-old, I said, “okay, buddy....whatever you think”. It wasn’t ten minutes later that I heard him telling his grandfather, who was also in the pool, to look at the whale over there. This is very common for my son, and with many strong-willed kids. They often like to argue just to show their strength. However, if you tell them what’s right and then back off, allowing them to feel powerful, they will more likely accept your answer. So, what I’m saying is be strong, but learn how to bend when it is effective.
Finally, let me just say..............good luck! :) Parenting a strong-willed child is hard work. It really is. But strong-willed children have the potential to grow up and be outstanding leaders; even world-changers in the future of our society. So, I guess what I’m saying is buckle up, buckle down, and enjoy the ride.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at the LifeWorks Group, Inc. in Winter Park, Florida. He has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together. To learn more about the LifeWorks Group, Inc. please visit, www.LifeWorksGroup.org.

Parenting Launch Sequence ~ Managing the change of letting go of childrenso they can launch into a successful life as young adults

By Dwight Bain, NCC, CFLM

Parents are told to give their children "roots and wings" from the time they are born until it is time to leave the nest, some twenty years later. I believe that the first part comes easier than the second, which may not come at all for some older adolescents these days. Let me explain a few factors to help you understand why some kids never seem to launch into early success as young adults.

Giving a child 'roots' is about shared traditions, Judeo-Christian values, personal accountability to a moral standard of behavior like the 10 commandments or the golden rule as well as providing a safe and loving home environment. I believe that most parents do their best to care and provide for their kids. I also believe that most parents try to build these core values into the heart of their kids which will always show up through their behavior and choices later on in life. If a child knows what they believe they are stronger and more focused to go through the teen years without getting hung up on the distractions and temptations that cause so many to stumble and fall.

Right from wrong is usually easy to spot
Frankly, I don't think most parents really struggle with knowing what they should be doing, because they know what they want their children to learn and if you ask them, they usually have a pretty clear vision of how they want their children to behave. It’s been my experience that most parents do their best to give their kids the strength of being deeply rooted into a personal belief system of some kind, especially in understanding right from wrong and how to respond to the world around them in a reasonable and responsible way.

If they aren't directly building these values into the lives of their kids, they are likely supplementing those values through Sunday school at church, some form of Christian values education (for instance, consider the great programs available through faith based groups like the YMCA), or exposure to positive messages through the entertainment and media they let their kids experience. Giving kids traditional family values will root them into knowing what they believe, but it won't always protect them when they are challenged by their peers as to why they believe it.

Common fights about the ‘flight plan’ between parents & older kids
So, how do you take a child that you have loved, cared for, taken care of and protected for their entire lifetime the right amount of space to 'fly' forward on their own wings? Let me warn you ahead of time, it's often hard to find the right level of balance on this subject and kids and parents often experience their greatest conflict during the teen years trying to figure out just the right level of responsibility and independence for each stage of life! Yet as hard as it may be for parents to even consider letting go of the children that they have invested so much time and energy into, it is essential for the child’s healthy development and inner strength as a person who will one day have to move out and move on as a young adult to tackle issues directly throughout their life without the security of knowing that mom and dad’s watchful care is always going to be near. The goal is for them to know what they believe, and when tested, to pass the test and live out those beliefs in spite of the pressures around them.

Dangerous truth- over-protective parents slow strength building in kids
Here's why this is such a problem for some loving parents. If you never let a child test their wings by moving a little further away from mom or dad's care, then sometimes they end up developing the symptoms of fear, extreme shyness or a social phobia and end up being afraid of moving forward in life. Not all kids will develop psychological or emotional fears because of overprotective parents, but it can be one of several factors that slows down their personal development and inner strength to move forward toward the next stage of life. Yes, we love our kids, but remember, part of that love is to equip them and prepare them to one day leave the nest to literally launch forward, just like a space shuttle launch sequence at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Think about all of the years of planning and thousands of challenges that have to be overcome to create a successful launch into space. Literally everything that takes place for the years leading up to a rocket or orbiter launch date is done to safely and strategically accomplish the goal of getting that rocket into space and to another place. That’s the driving force of those NASA engineers- to get that big bird off the ground at Cape Canaveral and into orbit toward the stars.

I love the line from the movie, “Astronaut Farmer” (staring Billy Bob Thornton), where the father-in-law tells his wanna-be astronaut son-in-law, “I really respect you son. Most dad’s can’t get their families to share a meal at the table together and you- you’ve got your whole family dreaming together!” The film shows the power of never giving up on a life-long dream of orbiting the earth, and more importantly the courage, patience and teamwork of a whole family coming together to make an impossible dream become an incredible reality.

Space flight can be a lot like parenting, we spend years getting them ready to have a successful launch because one day we know that we will have to do a launch sequence to countdown the days as they head out to another stage of life. This is the way that God designed it- kids are supposed to move out and move on to build lives of their own. If overprotective parents stall that process, it scrubs the launch and leaves the child stranded on the launch pad, while their peers are blasting off toward early success in life. No one wins and it often sets the child up for tremendous problems that could have been solved if the parents had taken a different and more directive approach.

5…4…3…2…1… Blast off- or blow up?
When kids are well equipped to launch into early success during their young adult years they soar and it’s a joy to watch. If you have ever seen a launch up close from Cape Canaveral at the Kennedy Space Center you know what I mean- words can hardly describe the power and the sheer excitement of knowing that not even gravity can stop that rocket from what it was designed to do- blast off toward the stars! However, when what I’ve been referring to as the parenting ‘launch sequence’ is interrupted by well meaning, (or sometimes fearful) parents they often blow up, because the kids crash in some way. Sadly, these days it seems there are more crashes than successful launches. (And you are probably thinking about someone you know stuck in this painful process right now).

So what to do? Here are some parenting tips to coach you through the process of parenting strategies through every stage of childhood to build strong kids now, so they can one day go out and build successful lives as adults. That’s a parent’s job, to give them the roots of belief and then equip them with the wings of healthy resources to fly.

When this process happens, a child grows through each stage of life with a better experience and then grows stronger from the momentum of moving forward in a powerful way because they were set up to win by parents who weren’t afraid to point them toward the stars and launch into the life that God designed for them to live.

Parenting Stages necessary to build strong kids:
Here are some of the key developmental stages and strategies to guide you toward a successful launch with your child.

Birth to puberty, (ages 0-12)-
Kids need a 'Caretaker' who can teach and help with daily tasks while the child gradually is learning these skills from their parent through positive role modeling, especially in the important areas of self-discipline and responsibility. Other ways for a child to grow in confidence and strength during these years is to help them find social connection and friends through school activities, church groups, youth sports or scouting. This higher level of involvement also connects kids with other healthy adults who can help kids learn even more because of teachers, coaches, and pastors who are investing into their young lives as they grow to the next level of maturity and future success.

Puberty to College Years, (12-21)-
The parenting strategy to use during the teen years is a combination of part Counselor and part Coach to help guide through the emotional issues of building relationships and dealing with hurt feelings; while balancing the tasks of learning to deal with difficulties in life and making wise educational or career choices. Psychologist John Trent calls this process ‘soft love mixed with hard love’, (For more on this concept of parenting, check out “The Two Sides of Love” published by Focus on the Family Publishing, 1999)

College years to Adulthood, (21-30)-
I believe that we always need our parents- it’s just that the need changes as we grow older. Little kids need a parent to help with personal hygiene, teens need their parents to help them develop healthy habits and by this stage young adults need honest advice and direction. These years are a great time for the parent/adult-child relationship to prosper since the young adult is out on their own dealing with life, yet still needs a 'Consultant' to bounce ideas off of as their build a life independent of their parents to firmly establish a life of their own.

I want you to know that millions of other parents have successfully launched their child from birth toward adulthood and you can too. There is a sign in the launch control room of the Kennedy Space Center that says it well, listen…
“It takes a team- to launch a dream.”

Know that you are not alone in this process. There are hundreds of resources available at our website as well as links to dozens of other groups that are driven by the desire to help you experience the great joy of watching a dream take flight, as well as provide the tools and training to help you if you’ve already crashed to get past the nightmare and not be afraid to dream again about what your son or daughter could be when they launch into a life of their own.


NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author:
Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with corporations and organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blog’s and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at
www.LifeWorksGroup.org

CREATING POSITIVE CHANGE IN SPITE OF CRISIS

Change... it is a part of life that we don’t like to face. Oh we may speculate on what it would be like to live some where else, move to another house, take another job in another industry, move away from mom and dad, or marry our 'dream date'. We like to talk about the big changes that we may go through one day; but let's face it. Most people hate to go through a major change. I think we tend to avoid change like the plague; even though we know in our heads that God will ultimately use change to grow us into a stronger person through the process.

Some of the changes in life are predictable. Losing our first tooth, the independence that comes from a driver’s license, graduation, moving out on our own, and other expected stages of life. Some changes are not pleasant, but equally common. A new-born baby not sleeping well and the parents struggling to find the energy to cope with their new child's continual cries for comfort, siblings fighting with each other, feeling nervous about a job interview, wondering if you will be able to pay for a child’s future education. We think about those changes for years, often with worry, sometimes with a plan on how to cope when the kids leave home, but always with the anticipation that the event will happen one day.

These changes we accept as a part of growing up... of moving forward... even if we don’t like it. You may be old enough to remember a popular song from the 1960's based on the verse in Ecclesiastes 3 :1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” God has a plan and purpose for your life, and ultimately we know that these predictable stages are a good thing. But what about the changes that we don’t like. The ones that are unpredictable and painful? Think about the sudden and unpredictable changes in life. Single words tell it all. Death, law-suit, divorce, flood, abuse, hurricane, bankruptcy, flunked, foreclosure, fired. Do we quickly seek to thank God for these events. I don’t and suspect that you don’t either. It is hard to see the blessing when the change was so unexpected, so sudden, so painful and so hard to figure out.

Perhaps that is why the following words have so much meaning to me. They were spoken by a local media personality, who shared these inspirational words at a banquet where he was the keynote speaker for the event. It's important to know that he was speaking that night AFTER he had been fired from his day job , yet BEFORE he was allowed to share his firing with the public. Listen:

“After awhile, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. You begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises. Learn to accept your defeats with head up and eyes open- with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child. You build your roads on today, because tomorrow’s roads are too uncertain for plans. So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And learn you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth.”

These words remind me that God is in control even if my life feels like it is in a total crisis. I beileve that God has a plan for you, a way out of the pain and toward the strength that comes on the other side of a crisis. The rest of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes includes the following theme that really gives us the big picture on sudden and unexpected change. ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I believe that God has the major changes of our lives mapped out. He knows why bad things happen to good people. So the next time a major change hurts you, feels scary, or causes you to want to run like crazy- I hope you will try running. Except this time, run toward Him, because in God you will find the peace you need in a difficult place. His presence will make all the difference to guide you from panic to a place of inner strength and lasting peace.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources about creating positive change from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org