My son spilled a whole glass of milk on the couch this morning. Again. This is maybe the second or third time that he has made the same mistake, and I have to admit, I was upset. O.K., I was more than upset, I was mad. So, I went to him and asked him calmly and respectfully to clean up his mess. Well…it might not have gone that smoothly. I think I actually had a panic attack. And you might have seen a nuclear mushroom cloud exploding over my head!
There is a lesson here for all parents: how you respond to your child during times of disappointment and stress is incredibly important. Your kids are going to disappoint you. Period. It is an inevitable part of being young. And when they do, our natural reaction will be to bark at them, “Why in the world did you do that?” or “You have to think before you do something!” The research shows that these kinds of aggressive responses are more than just annoying to your children. Over time, aggressive responses lead to mere compliance from children and ultimately to dependent adults. Translation: if you are overly focused on boundaries and neglect warmth in your attempt to provide discipline your children will probably struggle to be confident adults.
Now some of you are keenly aware of how damaging aggression from parents can be. You’ve
lived it in your family of origin with your own parents. Individuals who are determined to avoid replicating painful criticism from parents typically end up being passive with their own kids. These individuals have no problem demonstrating warmth to children during times of disappointment and might shower them with love and attention on a consistent basis. But you probably struggle
with drawing strong appropriate boundaries. The research indicates that parents who give their children warmth without strong boundaries typically produce adult children who are entitled and self-centered.
Obviously, you want to shoot for combining boundaries with warmth when you need to provide
discipline or correction. This is a difficult goal, I know, but it is possible! Start by focusing on listening to your children, even when their behavior seems indescribably irrational. If you can listen to you kid, even when you are mad, upset, or disappointed, you are communicating to them that you
value their perspective even if you don’t agree with it. Ironically, the more you listen to your
child, the more they will have ears to hear you. And when your kid is willing to listen to you, your boundary setting will amount to a teachable moment. And isn’t that the goal of our discipline? To teach our children how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again and to ultimately help them live a life of character and passion.
Tomorrow is the BIG day. We will all sit around a table with people that we care about and “celebrate Thanksgiving”…whatever that means to you! But it is important to recognize that our gratitude is not merely an act of discipline. Giving thanks has emotional and psychological benefits that are truly astounding and that are in some ways the foundation of a well-lived life. Basically, gratitude makes you happier and can change your attitude about life. It’s almost like an emotional reset button for you life that helps you transform envy, anger, resentment, depression and STRESS into peace, joy, and even hope. When you stop to count your blessings, you are hijacking your emotional system and driving yourself out of a funk into a place of less stress. To use this Thanksgiving as a catalyst for positive and healthy change in your life, try these three steps:
1. Focus your gratitude on people, not on things. Many people sit around the Thanksgiving table and talk about being thankful for the food they are eating, the car that they drive, or the house that they live in. But giving thanks works its emotional magic mostly because it connects us with others. That’s why when you give thanks it should be more heartfelt and personal. Forget the quick mostly anonymous Facebook status updates thanking all your 776 “Friends” for how much they mean to you. Don’t bother to compose the group text telling everyone in your contact list you are thinking about them this thanksgiving. Instead, get real! Be transparent. Write someone in your family a note thanking them for making a difference in your life this year. Or you can make it a point to go around the table and share one reason you appreciate each person in attendance at your thanksgiving feast. Whatever you do, be sure to concentrate on what life would be like without the relationships you have and on how grateful you are for the blessing of the people you love.
2. Write down what you are grateful for. A solid body of psychological research suggests that recording your gratitude helps extend your positive mood indefinitely. I have two ideas that will you write about what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving in a pretty painless manner. First, sometime during Thanksgiving weekend write and deliver in person a letter of gratitude to someone who has been especially kind to you, but who you never thanked. The research shows that this letter will give you an immediate boost in your mood and lower your stress levels significantly. Second, keep a journal between now and the end of the year in which you write down three things that you are grateful for everyday. I will bet you that if you follow-through with these two writing exercises, you will have one of the most peaceful Holliday seasons ever!
3. Take a moment tomorrow and think of your worst moments, your sorrows, your hurts, your loses, your sadness, your brokenness, you embarrassments, and your pain. Then…remember that you are here in this place, able to remember them. You got through the worst day of your life and you lived to tell about it. Then, look to God and thank him that through it all He has never left you or forsaken you. That He has been present, and faithful, and powerful, and TRUE. And that we will continue to be all of these things always and forever.
Growing up in my Italian household meant that many family times were centered around one thing: FOOD. As a teenager I remember sitting down to a home cooked meal with my mom, dad and sister every night. And there was only one expectation as we ate together as a family: we had to talk! There was no television blaring to distract us from each other. There were no drive through meals at McDonalds. Just simple family communication. “How was your day?” “What did you learn in school?” “What would you like to do when you graduate from college?”
In today’s world it seems that every member of the family goes in a different direction. Family dinners that involve actual interaction with other people have been replaced with quick trips to fast food restaurants and take-out Chinese that is eaten in isolation. Without a doubt, the art of the family dinner has been lost. And with that loss, comes considerable consequences:
Researchers have found that family meals may protect against anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive overeating in girls. The results of the study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that girls who shared meals with their families five or more times per week were nearly 30 percent less likely to exhibit an eating disorder than girls who had family meals less often.
Researchers also found that children who have regular meals with the family are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and they are more psychosocially well adjusted.
Even if you have to pick up take out, try getting your family together for dinner at least a few nights a week. Talk to your kids about what’s going on in their lives. And in the end, your children will be healthier for it!
Live the Life You’ve Always Wanted!
Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle
So, do you know what makes up a good marriage? Do you have one?
Can you spot trouble instantly in someone else’s marriage? How about your own?
Research shows that the way you recount your early years of being together, both positive and negative, is about 90 percent accurate in predicting whether your marriage will succeed or fail.
For instance, when you are out to dinner with new friends and someone asks you how you and your spouse met, what does your story sound like?
“Oh, he planned a beautiful picnic by the lake for our first date. I was so impressed because he packed delicious cheeses, a lovely bottle of wine and freshly baked bread in a lovely basket. He chose a gorgeous spot beneath a stately old oak tree for shade that was close enough to the water to throw crumbs to the passing ducks. But about ten minutes after we arrived it started to rain. We got soaking wet running to the car. When we finally got in, we sat in silence for a few seconds shivering. He looked at me with mascara running down my cheeks and I looked at him with hair that was filled with a whole tube of gel now matted to his head, then we suddenly burst out in deep belly laughter. We made an instant mental note…check the weather report prior to a picnic!”
But if your marriage is under significant stress, the same exact story would sound more like…
“He planned a picnic by the lake out on Old Mill Pond Road. The mosquitoes were as thick as a blanket and
he forgot to check the weather report. It rained cats and dogs, ruining my brand new shoes. And to top it off, the car got stuck in the mud and we had to sit there half the night waiting on Triple A.”
It’s the same story but instead of looking at the events positively…like the opportunity to talk and get to know each other while waiting on the tow truck and eventually having a great story to tell the grandkids…it’s nothing but negative. Out
of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
So, the next time you’re asked to tell a story about your relationship, listen intently to the positive or negative nature of what you’re saying. It will clue you in to what you are really feeling deep down.
Live the Life You’ve Always Wanted!
Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle