Parenting: Family Problems
In my practice, I am often presented with families who have sought out help for their children because these parents feel that their children are not listening to instruction or following the rules. These parents come to me because they want me to provide counseling to their children alone, and in some way, ‘fix’ their children.
A problem within the family unit is just that, a family problem.
These parents are quickly given a wake up call. If a client is presented to me for such a reason, I quickly inform the family that a problem within the family unit is just that, a ‘family problem’. And if members are not communicating properly, it is every member’s responsibility to learn how to improve matters. It is a lot easier for parents to cast blame on one of their children if they feel that there is not sufficient harmony within the household.
The truth is, we all respond to our environment differently, and the likelihood is very high that their child is responding in a certain way because of the atmosphere in the home, the style of parenting being imposed, feeling misunderstood, etc. Every member of a family contributes to the successes and failures of the ways family members communicate with one another.
As a therapist and as a parent, it is my job to help families, including my own, identify where communication is breaking down, and what sort of strategies would work to increase peace within the home. My husband and I both have struggled to identify and accept that our children are all different from one another. They respond differently to the same types of discipline. They have different temperaments. What triggers a reaction in one might not even faze the other. They also need or demand different qualities from their parents. Love and support expressed in varying ways. Space or extra hugs. Whatever the case may be.
Parents need to figure out what works for each child, and which types of behaviors are virtually ineffective. This is often a daunting task and vey difficult for parents to achieve successfully. Let’s not deny that it is also completely frustrating and extremely time consuming. Time that most parents do not have to give on an ongoing basis to assess and figure out which ways to help their children.
Once you think you have mastered something with one child, it all means nothing if one of the other children does not respond to it. We apply the ‘wrong’ type of parenting, and end up unintentionally hurting our children along the way. The truth is, we do not always know which path to take. And along the way we make mistakes. Many, many mistakes.
So what are parents to do?
First off, parents need to recognize the unique qualities in their children and understand how each of their children self regulates. One might be very non-reactive about most things, and take more risks. This child might be able to handle criticism in a constructive way without taking too much to heart. A sibling, on the other hand, could respond in the opposite way. Everything needs to get thought through. Every behaviour is well planned. When mistakes are made, this type of child handles it with difficulty. She might take it as a personal slate against her.
The point is, every child is unique. And parents are fooling themselves if they think that one type of discipline or one type of comfort or one type of parenting style will suffice. If parents do not recognize that their children self regulate differently, they are doing a huge disservice to their children whereby they are not identifying their child’s exceptional characteristics and are subsequently undermining them as people. Children need acceptance for who they are, especially from their parents.
This is one of the greatest parenting challenges for many, and mastering it is certainly on ongoing process.
Over the last decade we can all admit that we have been bombarded with many social media tools. Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, etc to name a few. We all have different preferences for each, but it is safe to say that social media is slowly making its way into our lives and affecting the ways we communicate with others.
Let’s face it. Without Facebook, would we be able to look up old high school friends, former loves, or long lost family members? Possibly. But more unlikely. Or certainly without the same ease. Social media trends have opened up many new lines of communication with others, which is fabulous.
But similarly, these same tools have taken away our ability or even our willingness to communicate with people directly. We are all slowly learning not to address people face-to-face, or even by phone, as it is far easier to chat with them online. We don’t need to listen to them. We can respond when we feel like it…at any time of day. And conversations can be never ending. By communicating in this manner, we are taking away from ourselves and in the lessons we teach our children, how to properly communicate with one another. How to read social cues. How to interpret one’s body language and gestures. And how to practice turn-taking when talking without interrupting or talking over others. These are all very basic, but very essential social skills.
So this begs the question…what are the appropriate uses for social media? And how do we recognize when we are ‘over-using’ them or not using these tools properly?
An example of this type of misuse happened recently on my local neighborhood Facebook page. This page was created in order to bring our neighborhood together, a fabulous idea in what I feel is an already very tight, personable and friendly neighborhood. It was created to familiarize ourselves with our neighbors, to advertise for a babysitter, or if we have any items for sale.
Over the last several months, however, members of this community were using this Facebook page to air their dirty laundry. Anyone who logged on to the page could quickly figure out, just by reading the back and forth comments, who does not like whom. Who has issues with someone else’s politics, etc. Many of the comments were antagonistic, insulting and hurtful. The level of scrutiny on this site became so high that the page administrator had to ‘close’ the group. At her own discretion, she has the right to approve all joining members and the right to remove all members who she feels are causing trouble, so to speak.
We cannot expect that everyone in every community, no matter how tight, will always get along. Or agree. Or see eye-to-eye. An ideal thought but completely unrealistic.
But is using social media the right venue to air our dirty laundry? Unlikely. Most would say ‘no’. Being one who does not shy away from controversy, I very calmly requested that these people take their fight off line. Be more discreet. And be more respectful of the hundreds of others who are merely logging on to find a babysitter or a good recipe or a winter break camp for their kids. And when I asked, many of my friends and neighbors also acknowledged their discomfort in having to bear witness to the arguments and bickering which had nothing to do with them directly. These same people were glad I had stepped in and said something.
It says a lot more about one’s character to not give in to the scrutiny, or respond to the antagonistic comments. If you take issue with something that is written online, by all means, address it. Get off line, and handle it maturely or choose to walk away. Or at least deal with this private matter, privately. Please leave the rest of us out of it.
What are your thoughts on the role of social media in managing our private matters and relationships? Isn’t dealing with one’s problems face-to-face more appropriate not to mention more effective?
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