The Open Door- Commitment

Yes, it has been a several months since I posted once again. I made a commitment to post on my blog, so today I am writing about this very issue. We all get busy and in today’s world there is no shortage of pressure in most people’s lives. Time and time again I see how people have a diminished respect for commitments. While we must leave room for some humanness to occur, the outright lack of caring or disrespect that has become more and more common place is wrong.

What about children? Their emotional development is influenced by how their parents interact with them. The child who’s parent (Mother or Father) does not honor commitments regularly. An example might be the divorced father who misses visits is MIA for months at a time, even years. Promises made and broken more than kept. This type of disregard for children is painful. Kids need to be important and promises need to be honored. We need to model behavior that we would like to see from our children as they grow into adults. So that when they promise to mow the lawn or other chores, they follow through. Integrity is such an important word, yet we see so many areas in society were this is deteriorating. I believe strongly that parents have a commitment to their children even when the adult relationship does not work out. How this is handled is a powerful message to kids about being loved and important. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reminds us that after food clothing and shelter. The most important piece of the human psychological foundation is: Love & Affiliation.

This does not mean the hot new sneakers or other pop item in vogue. It means time, connection and mentoring children. This is the very anchor that sees children thru the good times and the bad. This love and affiliation is what makes them want to show you their achievements. So you can be proud. It allows them the security of knowing that when something goes wrong, they can seek comfort and reassurance that they will get through tough times. Commitment to our children is so very important.
As with all good things we must be careful not spoil children, this is the mentoring part and it is work to say no when it is needed. We must give directives that teach responsibility and model the behavior of consistency that we hope they will embrace. So that they can function well as they move into young adulthood.
As always I welcome you to join the conversation because none of us is as smart as all of us.

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The Open Door- Our Tragic Society

Yes, it has been a several months since I posted once again. We live in a busy world with lots of issues. As a professional who works with families and their children in Connecticut I have been so deeply struggling with our current tragedy in Newtown at the Sandy Hook elementary school. So I can move forward with this discussion, I feel that a note of respect and honor is due to the teachers and staff who gave their lives in efforts to protect these children. The first responders, who will carry the emotional scars forever, that are a given for diligently managing this contemporary disease of violence that plagues our society. As tears fill my eyes knowing the very reason I do what I do, is my respect for the little ones, the kids who were just beginning their journey in a house of education, cut short in such a horrific way.

I waited a few days purposefully because more information is needed. I wanted to hear others who might have focused on singular issues. I believe we, the community are all hurting and as a society responsible to look at all the issues and not just the obvious “a very disturbed young man” perpetrated such violence in a sacred place. Violence does not belong in many places that we see it. We have become desensitized because our exposure is so great and so often. Anyone familiar with me professionally knows that in my writing or commentary around video games for the last 14 years, I have spoken against them. The lines of reality can get blurred for a young person developing social and executive functioning skills. Mental health issues and the deteriorating ability of our society to delay gratification and we have a recipe for disaster. I would have moved on from this point except that I spoke with an educator who teaches at the college level and is a game enthusiast. He commented in our discussion around this issue that when people move from the console type play of these games individually, to on line with others, the desensitization to violence and out right vile commentary is toxic. Anita Sarkeesian speaks to these concerns as they relate to women. In this situation all the adults who were victims were women. Hum, could there be a connection?

We could talk about the gun control issues and that the public has no need for multiple round guns. Military and police are the only place for these devices. They sell, just like the video games which take front billing on every department store flyer. We have to change our culture to a less violent one. We have to change the stigma’s associated with and pay for mental health services. One common thread in many of these recent tragic stories is that the perpetrator has been a white male in early adulthood with social isolation dynamics, from families with the means to get care. We need to better identify and see to it that individuals like this get the best help in treatment before they are a danger to society. Not just passed through as the HMO’s would like so CEO’s get their absurd bonuses.

Like a puzzle, lots of pieces. So, I challenge us all to do right by these people who lost their lives and prevent this, not with flacked jacketed armed guards at every school and venue. That is scary. We need to look at what is wrong with putting profits before the care of our community. As our religious leaders showed us in the memorial service, by working together to teach our children what we have in common. Love of our families, our friends and our community. We need to not spend our money to support the violent games industry. We need to change the pieces in the puzzle to get a better picture. To stop the outright nonsense that gets in the way of our society getting the job done because of politics.

As always I invite discussion because none of us is as smart as all of us. On this one I invite our president and all the politicians in Washington to do right by these children and the school staff who perished by making real changes to these many issues.

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The Open Door: Delayed Gratification.

Wow, it has been a few months since I posted once again. As the title indicates, I hope it is worth the wait. So my teenager got her first car. Holy crap! That was so much work. However, a very valuable lesson was learned. The researching of cars, the looking at cars and the filtering of some very sleazy games people play in the selling of used cars.

That was just a small part of it. Then, how others did or did not care for the car was an eye opener for my daughter. I am a person who keeps our family cars clean and maintained. We saw vehicles that looked as if someone stood with the door open and urinated randomly on the seats. Now hold your breath, as if you are already not grossed out. Some smelled like it! Advertisements that proclaimed like new or slightly used, were never the case. I saw bald mismatched tires. Mechanical and body issues that were not safe, in fact they were dangerous. Funny were the cars that listed options not in the vehicle upon inspection. “Wow” it doesn’t have heated seats adding the surprised look on his face. With the question does loaded mean with that and a sun roof? You guessed it, no sunroof either, as listed.

The point being that my young adult got to feel the frustration firsthand when time and energy was spent on a farce. Now this is the very exercise that begins to let us evaluate how our young ones are doing with the maturation process. How the discussion goes along with the willingness to wait for the right find. In this case even the process of handling one wrong find and handling the correction processes. For me the best part was getting to see that my wife and I had successfully raised a mature young adult who is responsible and ready for the privilege of driving. A prospect that is scary to most parents.
Ultimately we as parents need to teach and help exercise the delayed gratification learning process for our children to help them become successful adults. We see many issues in today’s society with adults who never master the process. As always I invite your input because none of us is as smart as all of us.

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The Open Door: You want to drive what?

I know it has been a few months since my last post, but as any parent of teenagers knows, busy, busy, busy. Run here, go there, we are sleeping at but going to, cuz!
This is always followed with the lengthy venting discussions ( Drama) when we are tired or busy and NOTHING when we are available and want to listen.
This brings me to the topic of today’s discussion. The task of teaching you’re teen to drive. It is a Rite of passage but not a right. Those of you familiar with my philosophy around privilege and responsibility know I feel strongly that you must know your child and their level of responsibility before engaging in this endeavor. Driving is serious business and now more than ever we must discuss the dangers of the roads in current times. The much feared and dreaded hand held techno devices that were not part of my or previous generations. This is as simple as NO TEXTING or PHONE while driving. Yet we see teens and adults on a daily basis forget or not caring and just in their own world texting and driving away.
You do not need my blog to tell you that this is a recipe for a deadly accident. My first time out with my own daughter she was in tune with my feelings on this issue and being a fan of texting herself, knew that she needed to show me shutting the phone and putting it in a compartment away from her focus of driving. I was all faklempt, the repetitive coaching and discussions had been heard. Once we tackle safety we can move on to realistic expectations. Some young folks see all the nice cars that are out today and want that one! The cool, fast …….
This brings us to my title “you want to drive what?” Yea, you are not driving the new Audi. Being a very big car enthusiast I have earned the right by middle age thru hard work, to drive a nice car. Our children need to have safe but reasonable cars given that they are new to driving and do not have lots of money of their own. Yes she wanted the old BMW or the string of other cars we have looked thru but ultimately young adults and parents must talk about what the family can afford, reviewing all the ancillary expenses that teens may not be fully aware of.
While I continue this journey of teaching my own daughter to drive, I welcome others input to the discussion, as none of us is as smart as all of us.

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The Open Door: Childish Politicians

I can’t take it anymore! I have to discuss the negative messages our politicians are giving our children. In grade school terms, “It’s my football and if you don’t play my way I am going home.” Now they become mean and vindictive as they say “because you did not play my way I am going to pop the other ball so you can’t play.”

Regardless of party affiliation it is the very non problem solving, bullying to get your way nonsense that we try to teach our children not to do! I often joke with kids in my office during sessions about how hard it can be to raise good parents these days. Our political and financial climate in this country is, without question, pathetic! How do we raise decent politicians or are these mutually exclusive terms that cannot be combined?
Redundant line huh? So is the ongoing blame about who did what and what is not being addressed etc. Yet when Political folks ask to see things done they block the very efforts to help a given situation unless it benefits the special interest that they are aligned with. Enter image of tall kid holding a cookie above the short kid’s reach, while eating it and saying “why aren’t you enjoying your cookie?”

While this may be an open door opportunity to discuss values and political feelings with your children, the very actions that are going on in Washington, D.C. are going to cripple our children’s future. Not only the children with less. The ones with more are harmed as well. Remember if you eat all the cookies you get sick.

We often see kids challenged in the development of coping skills when they are either over indulged or limited in resources. Our politicians have no coping skills so they attack each other, even in their own party, as well as the other.
It is time for us as parents to teach our children the importance of rules and regulations. Problem solving and team work. The country is on fire and it’s time to form a bucket brigade and put it out. If the politicians keep emptying the buckets passed in line by the opposing party, the country burns and we pass on only hardship to our children. We grew up being taught of a great country where opportunity existed for all to work hard and have a great life. People built businesses to employ the community for generations (many people did well), not the money games that have marked our nation with greed and narcissism.

If we want better for our children we need to discuss these contemporary issues with them, at their level of understanding. We need to model action and problem solving by example; get involved, do not stand by and watch our politicians and their wealthy special interest groups burn our country to the ground, while we sit idle as they empty our water buckets.
As always I welcome input to this discussion, as none of us is as smart as all of us.

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The Open Door: Back to School.

Wow, did summer go by fast or what? Now that school is starting up and all the kids have a fresh start, it is important to discuss the commitment needed to do the work necessary to get the most out of the school year. This means setting schedules that allow for time to get the work done and help from adults were needed. When parents put the effort in to orchestrate this dynamic, it models your commitment for the child involved and generally motivates them.

I hope you are getting the theme of this blog post, commitment! You see, that children often look at the way parents handle commitment early on and copy the behavior if it is presented as important. This issue becomes twisted in situations were parents are on a different page, or are divorced and one parent does not follow thru on commitments. My hope is that a parent reading this, who frequently drops the ball following thru on commitments might be reflective and make an effort to model better follow thru for the kids benefit.

If we think about how important it is to deal with those people who follow thru on their commitments because we are counting on them, it seems so obvious that this would be a good quality for our children to emulate. The next part of this is the self esteem that develops when young people feel a sense of identity that is based on integrity. If your child is telling you they are really making the best effort they are capable of; you want this statement to be truthful or that they will try harder and actually do so.

Sleep patterns and self care play into our ability to function at our best and carry out our daily tasks. These are very important to help children focus on so they can function their best. This is a commitment to yourself that kids often miss because they are involved in social media at late hours or eating on the run junk food, because they are late or over slept. My hope is that this will all come together for a wonderful school year and a commitment to young people doing well.

As always none of us is as smart as all of us and I welcome people to join the discussion.

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The Open Door: Illness & Compassion.

If you go back a few posts to the one titled diversity, you will see that I finish with the comment that “ignorance is not bliss, it’s just plain ignorance.” I would like to build on that by discussing how we treat people with illness. It is important that we teach our children to be compassionate to others in many ways but when it comes to illness it is important that they do not judge others because each individual responds differently to their illness.

Some people are stoic and will tell you all is fine while they are dying in front of you. Others will complain about every ache and pain to anyone who will listen. While we do not want to encourage people to exploit the situation we must first take the time to understand their situation. This means that if a person is important in your life, taking the time to learn about the specific illness they are dealing with and how it is affecting them will help you to help them. If we continue to be uninformed about the illness or assume we know how they should be responding, we run the risk of the classic break down of ASS U ME.

So, as to not make an ass out of you and me, take the time to learn about symptoms. Ask questions in a way that allows the person to know that you are concerned and want to gain an understanding of how they are experiencing their own personal fight with the issues facing them. This is not a fancy concept it is old fashioned compassion. If we model this behavior our children will grow to be compassionate people. This is a good quality to aspire for in our children as it will perpetuate the kinder side of life. As we know, life can be unkind and nasty at times. If we can work to offer this level of kindness for people around us with illness, who knows, it may spread to other areas of life and our world will be a kinder place.

As always none of us is as smart as all of us and I welcome input to this discussion.

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The Open Door: School is out for the summer.

Wow! School is almost over. The kids are getting antsy. This is a great opportunity for discussion around expectations for finishing up the school year well. It is also a good time to discuss summer plans and what you will expect from them in terms of curfew, chores and any other changes in their routine once school is out.

Programming is important and will be helpful in keeping children busy with summer fun, reducing the risk of boredom and opportunities to find trouble. The list is long for camps and recreation programs. Not sure where to turn for information? Start by contacting the recreation department in your town. Another good resource is your child’s school. Some community colleges also offer fun and educational summer programs. Some camps offer scholarships. It is worth inquiring about these because this may give your child an opportunity that he/she otherwise might not have. It is important not to wait until the last minute because many sleep away and day camp programs have limited room and may fill up quickly.

Summer memories and shared childhood experiences help to shape our kids so their activities need to be well thought out and planned. This allows kids to feel the break from school while still giving them the opportunity to grow as people. As for older children, I might suggest setting some goals for the summer and reviewing their progress periodically throughout the season. It is very validating for them to see that they followed their plan and accomplished their goals. Focus on those areas of interest for your child, like improving sports skills or assisting younger kids as a junior counselor in a recreation program.

The important thing is not to let your child’s summer be with out activity. Bored kids tend to find trouble. As always, none of us is as smart as all of us and I welcome input for this discussion.

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The Open Door: Choice and Exposure.

I was engaged in a discussion with some friends about the kinds of things that parents expose children too. A line I often tell patients is “When we are children we have no choice as to the nonsense our parents expose us to, as adults we have choice.” This statement is intended to illicit a feeling of empowerment, so that a person can reflect upon the things in their lives which they wish to change.

For those of you who are familiar with me, it is very clear that I place great importance on the welfare of children. Given that lead in, my hope is to encourage parents to examine their behaviors and look at what they model for their children.
Summer will soon be underway and lots of outings and activities will take place. I know that alcohol is consumed at many of these gatherings. Kids of all ages see this and depending on how parents handle themselves kids can see responsible, appropriate behavior or foolish, rude, risk taking behavior.
I have had parents try to justify some “off the wall” behaviors. My main rule in working with young people is that “Kids are the quintessential El Toro pooh detectors”! They know what’s up. When parents try to justify behaviors they recognize as wrong, they will become disenchanted with parental authority and possibly begin these very behaviors themselves.

I am certainly not the first person to say that honesty and open discussion help kids to grow in a healthy way and I will not be the last.
Remember our children watch closely when it comes to how we as adults approach things. This includes problem solving as well as our work ethic. If you are lazy or complain about work expect your kids to mirror this behavior. Do not be surprised if they avoid school work with excuses that they have heard in your home or if they leave a young sibling unattended, as they have seen a parent do, when you have put them in charge.
To sum it up, the efforts you make generally will be mirrored in your children.

As always, I welcome input to this discussion because none of us is as smart as all of us.

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The Open Door: Actions & Consequences.

This time, I would like to discuss consequences and the role they play in the learning process for children. I often see parenting situations where parents threaten consequences for certain actions but often fail to follow through with them. This is very damaging to healthy learning of appropriate behaviors. It is the very process of dealing with that uncomfortable feeling that allows for a healthy child to develop a regulatory process for unacceptable behavior. When parents give in to easily, it sets the stage for “limit testing” children to figure out ways to get around the rules and expectations. It also prevents children from learning the connection between privilege and responsibility, a dynamic that I often preach about in my practice.

I am sure many parents can relate to the overwhelming noises that children can create when not getting their way. Conversely, the sickeningly sweet way they will act until they get their way. These behavior tactics should not sway parents into forgoing consequences or into letting things slide too easily. This does not mean you should choose consequences out of anger, thus choosing consequences that are unfitting for the infraction (Your 10 year old should not be painting the house as punishment for a dirty room). It does mean that this is an open door opportunity for discussion with your children so that you can communicate your expectations for behavior as it relates to responsibility. The natural flow for kids as they grow is to ask for more privileges. By handling the above dynamic properly, parents can review how a child handles their responsibilities to evaluate the readiness for new privileges. It sounds simple but it is the foundation of many problems that I see in my practice working with young people and their families.

No one is perfect and I am not suggesting that this will be with out challenges but, the more consistent parents can be the better. The expression that repetition demands respect holds true and consistency is powerful in teaching children. Also, when parents relax the rules for special circumstances, it makes the reward of breaks from the normal routine more meaningful. When children are indulged with privileges that are beyond their demonstrated level of responsibility, they can become expectant and manipulative in order to get away with more. They have not earned it and this can lead to bad judgment scenarios in which children get into trouble or get hurt. No parent likes when this happens and it is painful for all.

I encourage parents to sit down and discuss with their children those expectations that they consider reasonable, along with what types of appropriate consequences and rewards will be given. Parents, please keep in mind your child’s age, stage of development and individual level of functioning as a guide for setting expectations. The goal is for your child to be successful, as this will be helpful in strengthening his/her self-esteem. It is very validating when kids can feel that their parents are proud of how responsible they are being. It will really make them shine when they can proudly state “I earned this privilege”.

As always none of us is as smart as all of us and I welcome your input.

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