Tag Archive for parent child relationship

Parents Are Students…& Guess Who the Teacher Is?

I was talking with a father of a teen. He was struggling to establish a relationship with his daughter, so I asked him to tell me about her. He struggled to tell me her birthday, interests, likes, and dislikes. He tried to explain his difficulty learning and remembering this information. He seemed so uncomfortable that I changed the subject to sports. He sighed with relief as we discussed his favorite football players. He knew their weight, height, and age as well as their position, speed, college attended, completions, and other relevant stats.

As we talked, I had to ask, “How did you learn all this?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess it just like it. It’s important to me. I enjoy the games.”

“Hmmm. Isn’t your daughter just as likable, important, and enjoyable?”

The fact is, we learn about those things we value. We learn about the things we enjoy. And, we value and enjoy our children. Even more, our children need us to learn the details, the stats, of their lives. If we don’t learn their stats, they will feel lonely, unimportant, and uninteresting. They will feel as though we don’t value them and love them.  They will feel unloved. To put it another way, our children will feel loved as we learn and know the stats of their lives.

Guess who will teach you your children’s stats? That’s right. Your children will! They are the teachers and we are their students in learning the stats of their lives. So, become a good student by:

  1. Listening to the teacher. Listen closely as they talk about their lives. Listen to the stories that include their friends, their activities, their fears, their peers, their studies. Listen closely.
  2. Remembering the details. You may have to write some things down in a notebook to help you remember the constantly changing plays, players involved, and opponents. Call it your Children’s Stats notebook. Review the information now and again.
  3. Asking them about the details of their lives. Now that you know the stats of their lives, talk with your children about them. Ask them how that project for English is going. Ask about the argument they had with their friend. Ask them about things that interest them and how they are resolving various areas of discomfort. Then, as they answer, go back to #1 and start again. They will grow. The answers will evolve. The players, the plays, and the opponents will change. The goals will mature. With that in mind, go back to #1 and repeat: listen, remember, and ask.

At least two things will happen as you learn your children’s stats. One, your relationship with them will grow. They will feel loved by you and draw near to you. Two, you will enjoy your relationship with your children more. What’s not to love about that? Learn the stats.

How I Had to “Break Out” to Become a Better Parent

I am not the most emotionally expressive person in the world. Truth be told, I’m a little overwhelmed when people become very emotionally expressive. I would much rather quietly, and privately, experience emotions. My mother recalls my two-year-old self opening Christmas gifts one at a time, calmly setting each down to open the next, with very little emotional expression. My wife smiles at me sometimes because my big display of emotion consists of, “That’s cool.” I think I’ve gotten better, but….

I learned to make some adjustments to my emotional expression in response to my children. My wife and I have two beautiful daughters. Early in their lives they taught me that any emotion they experienced was to be recognized by all, including me. When they were angry, everyone knew. When they were sad, it was heartbreaking. When they were excited, the whole room vibrated with their joy. Don’t get me wrong. They are very appropriate in their emotional expression, but they did express their emotion…and I didn’t. Their emotional expression could easily overwhelm me.  And when I get overwhelmed by emotion, I shut down. John Gottman describes it as “emotional flooding” and I was drowning.

None of this is necessarily bad. They were not wrong. Nor was I. We just have different personalities. But I wanted to connect with my daughters. I wanted to “rejoice when they rejoiced” and “weep when they wept.” I wanted to connect with them and draw closer to them through their emotional experiences. My first instinct, however, was to calm it all down. “That’s exciting; but calm down a little.” “It’s not that bad. Don’t worry about it.” “Quit crying. It’s just a game.”  Anything to reduce the intensity of the emotion. And that just frustrated them and made them more emotional.

In fact, trying to “tame” another person’s emotions devalues their experience, their emotion, and their person.  It can also reinforces gender stereotypes of the non-emotional male. It sends the message that emotions are stronger than the person. It offers no support. It puts up a wall of “your-emotions-don’t-matter” and “I’m-not-strong-enough-to-handle-your-emotions” that separates the one expressing emotion from the one trying to calm the emotion. By proxy, it sends the message “I’m not strong enough to handle your emotions…or you. If can’t hand your emotion, I can’t protect you…or help you.”

To help my daughters grow and to develop a better relationship with them, I had to learn to rejoice with them and weep with them. I had to “break out” of my little emotional box to experience their emotion with them, to empathize with their emotion and so let them know emotions are normal. I had to “break out” of my comfort zone to share their emotion and let them know I value them enough to enter their world of joys, sorrows, celebrations, and fears. I had to “break out” of my fear to validate their emotions as valuable sources of information. I had to “break out” of my tendency to shut down to let them know that we, as people, are in control of our emotions. Our emotions are not in control of us.

My children taught me a lot about myself in this process. And, I had to “break out” and grow. (Parenting will do that to you.) I’m still not what people call “emotive.” Probably never will be. But, for my children’s sake, I had to “break out” of my comfort zone to connect with them and grow with them. Believe me, it was well worth the effort. I’ve learned to share in their emotions in our own way…and draw closer together in the process.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Sense of Security

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

The next “cheat code” involves making your daughter feel secure!

The Cheat Code: A Sense of Security.

Purpose: Giving your daughter A Sense of Security will…

  1. Increase your daughter’s confidence in the world outside the home.
  2. Give them the freedom to learn habits promoting happiness and success throughout their life.
  3. Decrease behavior problems.

Value: Children need a sense of security. Having a sense of security frees children to explore the world around them so they can learn and grow. A sense of security includes a sense of belonging, both of which promote confidence and courage to try new things. A sense of security will also promote positive behaviors in your daughter, decreasing the need for discipline.

Instructions: Practical actions that will give your daughter A Sense of Security involve…

  • Investing in your relationship with your daughter’s mother. Your daughter will feel more secure when she knows you and her mother have a secure relationship. Invest in your marriage. Keep it strong.
  • If you are divorced, your relationship to your daughter’s mother still matters. Build a positive, congenial relationship with your daughter’s mother. Do not make negative statements about her.
  • Whether married or divorced, do not says negative things about your daughter’s mother. Support her in her parenting efforts. Defend her if your daughter says something negative about her. Build a strong relationship for your daughter’s sake.
  • Express your affection for your daughter in word and action. Tell her you love her. Compliment her. Show her physical affection.
  • When you need to discipline your daughter (and you will), take time to reconnect with her afterwards.
  • Develop rituals of connection with your daughter. Spend time with your daughter. Read “Cheat Codes”: Time and “Cheat Codes”: Confidence for more.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Household Chores

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code,” inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

The Cheat Code: Household Chores.

Value: Household Chores involves helping around the house. When you help around the house you will discover many positive results.

  • When men get involved in household chores, they set an example for everyone else in the family. They also portray the kind of man they hope their daughter will marry, a man who models leadership through service.
  • Studies have shown that daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores broaden their perceived career options. Daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores are more likely to become in involved in careers involving leadership, management, or professional positions.
  • One last benefit which has nothing to do with your daughter. Your wife will love you for doing the chores and you’ll discover what it means that “sex begins in the kitchen.” Of course, a stronger marriage will also benefit your daughter.
  • Learn 3 other ways that doing household chores will help your daughter in The Top 6 Reasons for Men to Help Around the House.

Instructions: The instructions for Helping Around the House are simple.

  1. After dinner, help clear the table and wash the dishes (or load the dishwasher).
  2. Help complete the laundry. Put clothes in the washer. Switch clothes from the washer to the dryer. Fold clothes. Put the clothes away.
  3. Take out the garbage.
  4. In the morning, help make your bed.
  5. Run the vacuum, clean the bathtub, or mop a floor.
  6. You get the idea. You don’t have to do all of these. You don’t even have to do the same one all the time. However, doing household chores on a regular basis will have a tremendous and positive effect on your daughter. It’s a powerful “cheat code” for dads of daughters.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Shared Rituals

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will open a gateway to a special power of influencing your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed include:

Now it’s time for another.

The Cheat Code: Shared Rituals.

Purpose: With Shared Rituals, you will…

  1. Increase the time you and your daughter spend together. This will help you build a more intimate relationship with her.
  2. With rituals in place, the need to discipline negative behaviors will decrease. (How to Discipline Before You Even Need To.)
  3. In addition, your daughter’s sense of security will increase. She will feel safer in a home with predictability.
  4. Because she feels safer, your daughter will have greater freedom to explore and learn about her world and herself. In fact, The Gift of Freedom is Wrapped in Safety.
  5. Rituals will also help your daughter pursue goals and have a greater sense of purpose in life. (Routines & rituals Add Meaning To Life.)
  6. Your daughter will gain a greater sense of independence and mastery with appropriate routines in place.

Value: Creating shared rituals with your daughter has two great values. First, your shared rituals will guarantee that you spend time with your daughter. Spending time with your daughter in a shared ritual deepens your relationship with her and increases her sense of security. Second, shared rituals build predictability into your relationship and your home. This predictability will increase your daughter’s sense of security. With the knowledge of her close relationship to you and the predictability of her environment, your daughter will feel safer to explore her world and herself. She will pursue greater goals. All in all, routines will deepen your relationship with your daughter, empower your daughter to explore her world, and increase your daughter’s sense of competence. Who doesn’t want that?

Instructions: ThreeShared Rituals to create…

  1. “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Set aside one time a week (an evening, an afternoon, a day…whatever time works best) as time dedicated to your daughter. This will become known as “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Let nothing interfere with that time.
  2. Find out what your daughter enjoys doing. If you don’t know, ask her. If she’s not sure, ask her what kind of activities and foods she would like to try or places she would like to visit. Each week during “Daddy-Daughter Time,” do one of one of those activities with your daughter. Or, go to one of the places you have agreed upon. You might play Barbies, go to a movie, get ice cream, or go rock climbing. Your options are as broad as your daughter’s potential interests and creativity. These first three steps represent what I believe to be one of the most powerful shared rituals you can do with your daughter. You will never regret having engaged her in this way.
  3. Become involved in your daughter’s bedtime routine. This may include reading with her, talking about the day, sharing things for which you are grateful, and giving her a simple hug and kiss goodnight. Bedtime is an amazing time to bond with your daughter.
  4. Create a shared mealtime ritual with your daughter and your whole family. Strive to eat one meal a day together. If you can’t do one meal a day, do at least 3-5 meals a week. Establish the nights and keep the “meal date.” The shared ritual of eating together offers a wonderful opportunity to talk, share, and bond. (Learn the benefits of eating as a family in The Lost Art of Family Meals.)

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Beauty

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. They help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed to succeed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You probably desire a “cheat code” that will open a gateway to the special power of influencing your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

Now it’s time for another “cheat code:” Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty.

The Cheat Code: Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty.

Purpose: When you Acknowledge and Protect Your Daughter’s Beauty, youwill…

  1. Increase your daughter’s confidence in her appearance and her overall self.
  2. Help your daughter develop positive boundaries for romantic relationships.
  3. Increase the chances that your daughter will wait to become sexually active.
  4. Increase your daughter’s modesty and appropriate self-protective behavior.

Value: Our daughters receive conflicting messages about beauty, romance, and how to “use” their body. In many ways, I think our society encourages a love/hate relationship with the body. The media teaches girls to use their bodies to get what they want while teaching them to hate that others give them what they want in response to their appearance. However, as a father you can help change this for your daughter. By Acknowledging and Protecting Your Daughter’s Beauty you teach her the true value of her body.  You teach her to value her body as a gift. As you do, you increase her overall confidence and her willingness to establish appropriate boundaries of modesty.

Instructions: Acknowledging and Protecting Your Daughter’s Beauty involves…

  1. Giving healthy hugs and affection. Share healthy physical affection every day with your daughter.
  2. Acknowledge her beauty. Tell her she is beautiful. Acknowledge times when she looks especially nice.
  3. Talk about what she wants in a romantic partner. Rather than asking, “Do you love him?” talk about what she wants in a relationship. What traits does she want her romantic partner to possess? How does she expect her romantic partner to treat her?
  4. Be a champion for modesty. Right or wrong, the way a person dresses impacts how people think of them. In a manner of speaking, a person’s style of dress becomes the packaging that advertises the content inside. Fathers can help their daughters think through what they want to say through their dress. How can their dress reveal the true nature of the content inside?
  5. Teach our daughters that the deeper value of the body is not based on external beauty but on the character they develop. The body allows us a tangible way to live out our character. The body allows us to serve, care for, and comfort as well as rejoice with, celebrate, and connect with others. 
  6. Encourage involvement in sports. This can help a girl learn the joys of a body that is active and healthy.
  7. Practice gratitude for all our body allows us to do. (Read Thank You, Body with your daughter. Print it out & give her a copy so she can read to herself as often as she wants to.)

After School Questions Your Teen Might Even Answer!

Ever notice how frustrating it can be to ask your teen, “What did you do today?” and hear, “Nothing.” “Nothing!” All day with friends, all day at school, all day…and “Nothing!” Maybe we need to ask a different question, one that might surprise them, even elicit some thought on their part. Here are some ideas:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • What new fact did you learn today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • What did you do during lunch/recess/before school/after school?
  • What part of the day was the most fun? What made it so fun?
  • Did anything happen today that made you feel bad/sad/angry?
  • What did you do that made you feel most proud of yourself today? Why did that make you proud?
  • What is the kindest thing did you do for someone else today?
  • What kindness did you show yourself today?
  • What was the least boring part of the day for you?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What did you do to help a friend today?
  • What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
  • Who inspired you today?
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • Who did you encourage today and how did you encourage them?
  • Who encouraged you today?
  • What can I do for you right now?
  • What is happening tomorrow that you are excited about?
  • What do you wish was different about today?

That’s 20 questions you can try instead of the usual “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” Try different ones. Mix them up. And, add to the list. Please, share with us any new questions you ask your children about their day.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Confidence

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed for greater success.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to the special power needed to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

The last “cheat code” provided information about “Spending Time With Your Daughter.” Here is another “cheat code” for raising daughters: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

The Cheat Code: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

Purpose: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities will…

Value: Every day, your daughter’s confidence and inner strength is undermined in a multitude of ways. Our cultural obsession with a particular brand of beauty leads to a lack of confidence in our daughters. In fact, 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet because they lack confidence in the appearance of their body! Struggles at school with teachers and academic work also impacts our daughters’ confidence. Conflict with peers, jealousy, boyfriend problems, girl drama…it all threatens to crush your daughter’s confidence.

Fortunately for us, children first gain a sense of confidence from their family. More importantly,  you, her father, have a special power to boost your daughter’s confidence. You do it by simply Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities.

Instructions: Showing Confidence in Your Daughter’s Abilities involves…

  • Praise specifically. Don’t just offer a broad acknowledgements like “Good job” for something she did well. Offer a specific praise. For instance, “I really liked the time you went around the defender to shoot the goal. That was fancy footwork.” Or, “I love that blue color you chose in your drawing. How did you choose that?”
  • Expose your daughter to challenges. Climb trees and mountains with your daughter. Go backpacking. Let them drive on a snowy day. Support them in trying out for the school play. Applaud their solo. When we support our daughters in taking risks, we show our confidence in their ability. And they learn to have confidence in their abilities as well.
  • Let them go. Our children start exhibiting a desire for independence when they crawl away from us into another room or refuse to eat the mashed sweet potatoes on the spoon we are floating in front of their face. Encourage their age appropriate independence. Support it. Teach them and then show confidence in their ability to do what they have learned.
  • Listen to your daughter. Really listen. Let her teach you about her life at school, her friends, her music, her world. Show genuine interest in her and her world. Carefully consider what she says and let her words influence you. Acknowledge her wisdom. And, change with her as she grows and teaches you. You might even learn to like some of that “kid’s music” along the way. More importantly, your daughter will grow confident in her ability to voice her opinions.
  • Let your daughter do significant tasks that contribute to the household. Yes, this means chores. But make sure they know the significance of those chores to the household. Thank them for doing the chores…after all, we thank people for doing those things that are important to us.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads of Daughters: TIME

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” “Cheat codes” help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon they need to succeed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you probably feel like you need a “cheat code.” You want some inside information to help you move up to an advanced level of understanding or win points to deepen your relationship your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” for obtaining the special power needed to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters. 

The Cheat Code: Spend Time With Your Daughter.

Purpose: Spending Time With Your Daughter will…

  1. deepen your relationship with her,
  2. increase your understanding of her, and
  3. strengthen your influence with her.

Value: Why is spending time with your daughter important? Your daughter does not spell “love” with the letter “L.” She spells it with the letter “T” for T.I.M.E. Spending time with your daughter communicates your love for her. It increases her sense of value and self-worth.

Instructions: In order to communicate love effectively through time, you have to make some adjustments.

  1. Put down your cell phone.
  2. Turn off the TV. Quit reading the paper. Stop watching the game.
  3. Spend 20-30 minutes simply interacting with your daughter. You can do this by going for a walk with her or simply sitting down with her and talking. You could take a ride to the ice cream shop and talk over an ice cream cone. Let your creativity and your daughter’s interests guide the where and when of the conversation.
  4. Use your time to time to listen “twice as much as you talk.” Let her set the topic of conversation. If she does not initiate a topic, ask about her interests, her activities, her friends, or her dreams. Compliment some aspect of her that you admire.
  5. When she does bring up a topic, show interest. You may not really be interested in the “best color skirt” to wear to the dance or the ongoing saga of girl life in middle school. Show interest anyway. Ask a few questions. Be excited with her and mourn with her. Learn about how she thinks about everything. 
  6. As you spend time with your daughter, she will learn of her value. She will learn she is valuable enough to have your undivided attention for a period of time every day. You will also develop a stronger relationship with her…one that will last a lifetime.

Stay tune for more “cheat codes” to come!

A Roadmap to Rebuild Trust With Your Teen

Let’s face it. Teens do some crazy things at times. I did some stupid things as a teen. You probably did too. And, our teens probably will as well. They may do one thing we never thought in a million years they would do; and, in so doing, break our trust. It may be simple, like staying out past their curfew. Or, it may be more serious, like getting caught with drugs or sending a revealing picture to the “new love of their life” (or convincing their “new love” to send the picture). Whatever it is, big or small, it shatters the trust we once had for our sweet, innocent child. We discipline and work to assure the behavior won’t happen again. But how do we rebuild the trust we once had? How do we begin to trust our teen again?

  • Be open with your teen. Explain your feelings to your teen. Let them know their behavior hurt you. You may have sounded angry, but underneath the anger was hurt and disappointment. Explain your desire to trust them again and your continued love for them. Let them know you recognize their potential and believe in their ability to reach that potential. Recall times in which your teen has acted in ways that built trust and increased your pride in them. Let them know you still remember those positive behaviors as well.
  • Develop a balanced view of your teen. Recall the positive things your teen has done and said that give you a sense of joy and pride in order to balance any feelings of disappointment and hurt you may have experienced. Remember, you have also done wonderful things and things of which you are not proud. Allow your teen the same freedom.
  • Deal with your feelings. You have talked to your teen, now deal with your own emotions. They are your feelings and your responsibility. Don’t let your emotions interfere with your changing relationship with your teen. Resolve them. 
  • Clarify boundaries and expectations…but be careful as you do. Do not set up unrealistic expectations in a knee-jerk reaction to the behavior that broke your trust. Be reasonable. Discuss limits and boundaries with another adult to get a more objective viewpoint. Discuss them with your teen as well. Work to reach an agreement on what constitutes reasonable expectations for your home and family.
  • Develop a clear roadmap for regaining trust and watch your teen’s journey on that road to redemption. When your teen meets an expectation or follows a rule, make a point to notice it and allow it to enhance your trust in them. Realize no teen is perfect, so allow for some  minor setbacks. A rule of thumb is to allow your teen 1 setback for 5-6 trust building actions you observe. Keep your eyes open for those trust building actions. Don’t let them slip by unnoticed.  
  • Take a risk. Parents have the tendency to hold their teen closer and micromanage their every activity after trust has been broken. Unfortunately, this only increases frustration. It leads to greater conflict and a further deterioration of trust. Rather than micromanage, allow your teen to engage in a “trial run.” Explain the “trial run” to your teen. “I am trusting you with this job or activity. When all goes well and they return, you will have nurtured trust. If you revert to the behavior that originally broke our trust, you will have further damaged our trust.”
  • Finally, talk about other stuff. Don’t continue repeating the conversation about your fears and their behavior. Find some areas of interest to talk about. If they enjoy music, talk about music. If they enjoy fishing, talk about fishing. Find areas in which you can enjoy conversation with your teen. Doing so will build relationship and trust.

These 7 actions are not simple. But they will help rebuild trust with your teen and deepen your relationship with them.

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