It’s A Small World, But Shouldn’t Be

Routine and structure are what every new parent receives as advice and there is solid wisdom in these suggestions. As with all things, there is a point at which a good thing becomes bad quickly. In recent years, I have begun seeing an emergence of what I am worried is becoming epidemic among, especially, elementary aged children; intolerance of change.

I am witnessing a large number of children increasingly become more rigid in their need for routine and similarity; to the point that they are becoming clinically phobic. Many children will only eat off of a very small menu of food items, will only wear certain clothing items, cannot deviate from the normal structure of their day and other examples of extreme emotional rigidity.

There are several factors I think that are leading to the increases that I have seen in children having less emotional elasticity than they did even several years ago. I am suspect of some of the popular parenting philosophies that have emerged in recent years. The whole “positive parenting” movement was lost on me honestly. Sure, I completely agree with positive words of encouragement and encouraging the strengths within our children but when we allow children to only make choices that they “feel good” about, we are not teaching them the skill of flexibility. Children must be taught, from a very early age, that obedience includes having a good attitude about decisions in which they do not agree.  I think that the recent parenting ideas have led to this increase of emotional rigidity and the notion that children should be in agreement about everything concerning them. That simply isn’t life and we are setting our children up for a rude awakening as they mature into the real world.

I believe that all children must be obedient in eating a healthy variety of foods, agreeable to wear a wide range of clothing and any other safe and reasonable request from a mature loving parent. Over accommodating a child leaves them without a key character skill and for far too many children, it is leading to a rigid, small phobic world in which they live in on a daily basis.

If Mama Eats at McDonalds…

…then the kids eat at McDonalds; even if Dad doesn’t.

One of the many things I love about the work I do is that I get see patterns in human behaviors.  For some reason this is a fascination of mine and I enjoy seeing how we as a collective group of people behave similarly in some ways.

One such pattern I have witnessed over the years in working with clients is a pattern of nutritional health within a family. Of course there are exceptions to every pattern and I have not conducted any formal research into this subject; just noting what I have seen repeatedly.

I have noticed that if a family has a nutritionally healthy father but a mother who makes less than stellar food choices, the children will more often pattern after mom’s eating habits. I think this goes beyond the initial influence that moms have over the lives of very young children. The state of mom’s consciousness of her own health, food choices and physical activity greatly impacts how children are conditioned in these areas.

More often than not, as it affects kids, I have seen a healthy father’s influence be overridden if not outright, then lowered by a mom’s unhealthy eating habits. However, the opposite isn’t true. An nutritionally unhealthy father doesn’t not have the same negative impact on the children’s eating habits. A nutritionally healthy mom yields tremendous influence in teaching her children good habits; even if dad is a fast food junkie.

So what does this mean? Ladies, we must be aware of the role modeling we are providing for our children and teens. If the solution to “what’s for dinner” is to go to McDonalds and order up massive amounts of fat and salt for dinner, our children and teens are more likely to see that as a decent food option. Gentlemen, if you are single be aware of the health habits of your potential marriage partner and the long term affect on your future family. Married men, kindly speak up and encourage your wives to embrace a more healthy lifestyle for herself and your kiddos and respecfully refuse to eat in unhealthy ways.

It may be a hard adjustment to get away from the convenience of fast food and poor eating habits, but in my opinion, the epidemic of overweight and unhealthy youth starts at home and can be reversed. Having lost 115lbs over the last 20 years, I know.  Here is an old blog post from 2011 discussing the weight loss – http://southlakecounseling.org/archives/112lbs-and-going

It’s not easy to change lifestyle habits but well worth the efforts and the benefits go beyond just this generation.

 

 

A Tale Of Two Houses

The other day I met a friend for breakfast and as we were being seated, so was a married couple right in my line of sight. As I enjoyed the company of my friend, I couldn’t help but notice the couple. They were probably in their late 40’s or early 50’s and it was just the two of them together. As I glanced at this couple, I noticed very clearly that they weren’t talking to each other but were both playing with their cell phones; punching the screens and such.

Sitting together but looking down at their phones. This behavior went on for an awkwardly long time. Finally, the couple’s food arrived and small talk ensued. I heard the husband comment on how good the bread was and the wife nodded yes in agreement. As the breakfast progressed, they chuckled a few times together but mostly just ate in silence and took a few additional glances at their cell phones. As I sat and took in what I was seeing, it got me to thinking. How many couples go out for a meal and find themselves with little to talk about and how does this happen to a couple? I would argue that it happens slowly overtime while people aren’t noticing; at least some of the people.

After counseling with couples for many years, I have noticed a repeating pattern. I believe that there are two types of spouses and the difference between them depends on whether a spouse notices the lack of emotional attachment that exists within the marriage and desires for more.

Many couples live in the same house but really there are two different experiences of married life happening within the home; one is content with the status quo and the other is not.

For example: Spouse A can enjoy a marriage that isn’t fully emotionally bonded. The married life probably includes raising children, going on vacations, building the family financial portfolio, wearing wedding rings, having couple friends and basically what I call the “business of marriage.”  The relationship between the partners is friendly perhaps and could be described as comfortable. If you ask Spouse A if they are happily married, they will honestly answer yes.

However, Spouse B desires for something deeper than Spouse A. Spouse B enjoys all the above mentioned parts of marriage, but would like it to include an authentic emotional connection.  If you ask Spouse B is they are happily married, they will be able to articulate exactly what is missing in the relationship. They are noticing the poison in the water before Spouse A is aware of it.  However, Spouse B’s concerns are often ignored and therefore lasting change within the marriage sadly doesn’t occur. Why would it? Spouse A might be unmotivated to change since life is pretty good from his/her perspective.

The natural inclination is to believe that men are usually Spouse A and women are Spouse B. Not so fast there! I have seen more husbands in counseling who are Spouse B then wives. Telling the truth!

If I had been able to ask the couple sitting across from me at breakfast how they got to the point in their marriage that they would rather play on their cell phones then talk to each other, I would bet money that one would be a Spouse A and other would be a Spouse B who gave up and stopped fighting for connectedness with their spouse. So they sit and aside from a few pleasant exchanges they basically ignore each other and people like me notice it.

This emptiness needs to be avoided; it’s bad for the soul. In order to do so, we have to be honest with ourselves and ponder the question of whether we are authentically happily married. If the answer is no, we need to talk to our spouse about what is missing in the relationship. If the two people can’t fix things themselves, they need to see a counselor. Deadness in a marriage will not repair itself and it only grows worse with the passing of time.

If you can honestly say that you are happily married, then go ask your spouse about how he/she feels about being in the marriage. Really listen to what your spouse tells you and if they are a Spouse B, fix things before it’s too late. Years and years of unconnectedness is very difficult to repair, so getting headed in the right direction today is essential.

Marriage and long-term relationships take work but it does NOT have to deteriorate to two almost-strangers doing life together in close proximity. Many couples enjoy lasting bonds throughout the years. It is possible. Don’t believe the lie that all couples end up disconnected. Get busy fixing things before all bonds are lost and the relationship is irreparable.

Mommy Wives

 

Alright ladies, this post is for you. Although what I have to share might come with a little bit of a sting . After years of counseling with couples, I have noticed some patterns in the way spouses relate to one another. Some patterns are about men’s behaviors (and that is for another post) and some patterns relate to women.

Today is about the ladies. One of the most consistent patterns I have seen during marriage counseling is when wives begin to treat their husbands like one of the kids.  If you ask a wife if she does this, most will say no. But truth be told, many wives are making the mistake of lumping their communication to their adult husband with how they communicate with their minor children. As moms we guide, instruct, give consequence, set limits and yes control our children and their behaviors. This is NOT the role of a wife though. Your husband already had a mom and it wasn’t you. Ouch? Maybe. But it is sad as a counselor to see women make this mistake and erode the bond within their marriages.

Ladies, we must listen to ourselves when we are speaking to our husbands. Better yet, let us ask our spouses if they feel like we treat them like one of the kids. If they say yes, we better listen and make some changes, quickly. It is an easy mistake to fall into, but treating our husbands like a big kid can have long lasting consequences. Men have told me that when their wives don’t treat them like adults, it breaks something deep within the marriage.

It is not our job as wives to control our husbands. They are equal players within the game of life and we must realize this on a daily basis. So listen to yourself speak to your spouse. Are you trying to get your way most of the time and are using similar tactics that you would with the kids; or even the exact same words?  If you have found yourself being a mommy wife, apologize to your husband. Tell him that you now see the mistake you have been making and agree to work on it together.  He needs your respect and equality within your life together or in years to come, you will wonder why he seems so distant and checked out.

Protecting Innocence

 

She grew up on a side of the road where the church bells ring and strong love grows.  She grew up good. She grew up slow…
“American Honey” by Lady Antebellum  

Growing up good and growing up slow. For a lot of kids those are long lost concepts. I am very concerned about the societal environment our children are being raised in nowadays. It is a different world than when I was a little girl tearing down the driveway on my big wheel.
As parents, we have to make a conscious decision about how fast we are going to  allow our kids to grow up. If you follow the culture’s guidelines, then your kids will grow up quick. They will have knowledge about adults things long before they are emotionally ready.
I see the affects of kids growing up too fast all the time. There is a hardness and edginess to kids who are not given the protection they need to develop at an age appropriate rate. Now let me say that 100% of parents think  they are doing a good job of protecting their children’s innocence. But watch the kid. They will tell you. A few examples include;
* If a child lets curse words slip out of their mouth then you know a parent is either saying them in front of the child or the parent is not correcting the child when he/she says those words.
 * If a child is singing suggestive song lyrics then you know a parent isn’t filtering what is being played on the radio or is even encouraging their child to sing “I am sexy and I know it.”
* If a child has seen a lot of PG-13 movies and some R rated movies then you have a parent who isn’t concerned about the adult content that his/her child is seeing and hearing. Some PG-13 rated movies make me blush!
* If a child knows how to access pornographic websites the a parent hasn’t put a webfilter on every single electronic device that has access to the internet (Ipod, Ipad, smart phones, gaming consoles, and the list goes on).
Let me pause here for a moment. If you have a computer and a child who knows how to use it, you need a web filter. Period. Elementary aged kids are going to school and introducing their classmates to the pornographic websites they found on their home computers. Believe me, I am not lying.
So am I a prude? Am I advocating that we shelter our kids to the point that they are not functional in the world? Some might think so. Some might argue that I am being a hovering parent.  But I prefer to think that children should be allowed to grow up good and to grow up slow. To be protected from the underbelly within our culture and to maintain their innocence for as long as possible because once it’s gone, there is no getting it back.