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Posts Tagged ‘Hashem’

Question:   My 15 year old daughter settles for nothing less than top grades.  She participates in every conceivable extracurricular activity and everything has to turn out perfectly.  She is exhausting herself. I am starting to get worried about her.   Do you have any suggestions?—Malka, Teaneck, NJ

Children who are perfectionists believe, consciously or unconsciously, that their personal worth is attached to their performance rather than their essence.    They are often very self-critical when they compare themselves to others and they therefore often feel little satisfaction, even after expending prodigious effort.    They are in an exhausting race to find their self esteem.    In a competitive society, perfectionism is a common problem among sensitive, high achieving individuals.

As parents, we can actually teach our children to have a positive self concept.  It is best to begin to focus on this vital parenting task from the very beginning and never really stop.  Don’t lose heart, though, even if your children are already a bit older, because it is never too late get started. It will just take longer to be successful when kids are past their most formative years.  To build self esteem, we must provide unconditional love and attention, very consciously separating how we may occasionally view our children’s negative choices from how we think of them as intrinsically valuable people.  They read us very well, and they learn about their worth by seeing themselves through our eyes.

Not uncommonly, children become perfectionists because they desire to please an insecure, demanding or critical parent.   For example, some anxious parents view any error as failure.  Some are very competitive and must win at any cost.   Still others want ‘more’ for their children than they themselves were able to attain in life. Regardless of the reason for requiring top performance, the child learns the essential lesson.   She is NOT okay the way she is.  She had better work harder if she is going to ‘deserve’ her parent’s approval.

So, does this mean that we cannot expect excellent effort from our children?    No.  We expect them to learn and grow up to utilize their potentials.  But, we simultaneously infuse them with the knowledge of their inherent precious worth and of our respect for their unique qualities.

So how can you help your daughter?   Teach her that when she was born, she was given a precious gift from Hashem Himself—her holy neshama (soul).  Her essence is not just wonderful, it is actually holy.  And absolutely nothing she will ever do can affect her essential holiness.  Remind her that Hashem created people and therefore, since all people have some challenges in addition to their strengths, they are being ‘perfectly’ human.  Hold her and tell her that she is plenty good enough just the way she is.  You love everything about her.

When you see her working a bit too hard, remind her to strive for excellence, not perfection.  Encourage her to set realistic goals and give it a good effort.   From now on, focus her, not so much on the endpoint, as the meaningful content of the task and her enjoyment in the process.  After all, the pleasure of a perfect outcome is momentary but the pleasure in a meaningful process lasts far longer.  Remind her that Hashem has put us here on earth to be m’sameach (joyful).  She is actually doing a mitzvah by enjoying what she does.

In addition, consider whether you and/or your spouse has a critical side that has been affecting the way your daughter has been viewing herself.  If this is so, you will be doing yourself and your family a tremendous favor if you were to seek out professional help to address the root causes for that negativity. And as a extra bonus for your efforts at self improvement, your daughter will learn a valuable lesson from your example:  As long as we live, we keep working on getting better and better.

To sum up, make sure that your daughter knows that she does not have to DO anything to be loved and appreciated.    Her accomplishments are her contributions to the world and they have definite merit.  But it is who she IS that you treasure and her essence is perfect now, just as it always has been and always will be.

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
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In my last blog entry, we briefly discussed the innate differences in approaches to living that are based on personal styles within a family. There we mentioned that understanding these variations can be extremely helpful when people live together. This week, I would like to address myself to the question posed in the Ask Debbie section by a West Coast mother of four. The husband and wife have widely differing reactions to the daily realities of living with growing children.

Dad has a goal orientation. He is uncomfortable with his children’s inherent unpredictability and messiness and believes the kids can learn how to “act right” by being told to do so. He “teaches” by punishing disobedience. His goal is to get his children to abide by adult norms in his adult centered household.

Mom has a process approach to life. She observes her children’s individual styles of exploration, studies basic child development and tries to gain the children’s cooperation through negotiation. Her expectation is that the household will be primarily child centered.

Aside from differences in personal style (goal versus process orientations), there is also a difference between the ways the two parents understand the parent-child relationship itself. Dad believes the parent is the one who should hold all (or most of ) the power in the parent-child relationship. He decides if its play time or serious time and he sets the performance standards. His understanding is that his young children will feel more secure and perform well in life because of the structure he is providing. Mom describes herself as “laid back” and “less confrontational”. The likelihood is that she is more flexible in her approach and shares power much more easily with the children. Her priorities may be to create close connection with the children and to encourage creativity. Dad runs of a high risk of discouraging honest communications with the kids. Mom runs the risk of not setting clear enough boundaries.

Asking about “right” and “wrong” gets us into trouble. A better question would be “What would be the most nurturing childhood experience for the children?”

Here are some healthy parenting principles:

* Kids need clear behavioral limits delivered in a calm tone of voice.
* All kids, at every age, must treated with respect.
* Parents should talk to their kids a lot. Children get very valuable information from their parents’ longer life perspective.
* Kids must be granted the ability to explore, make noise and messes, and take risks so they can learn about themselves and their worlds by trial and error.
* Although punishments bring compliance, they are almost never good teaching tools because they always break connection and usually produce at least some resentment. Employing logical or natural consequences when children breach limits is a far more constructive and effective approach to teaching responsible behavior.
* For most of everyday life, the nurturing household ends up functioning as a child centered unit. That said, on special occasions, kids can profit tremendously by listening in on the adult world and, if appropriate, being asked to contribute their own thoughts.

There is no one correct answer to the question: “Which approach is right”. The best parenting approach for this family—and for every family—starts with an individualized parenting plan that takes into account the parents’ unique blend of personal styles, parenting values and individual strengths. In addition, the parents have to learn basic parenting principles and practice nurturing techniques for appropriately managing the everyday as well as the unexpected.

When parents work as a team, their combined strengths synergize, providing a better childhood experience for their kids than either could provide alone.

Thanks for the question. Let’s have some more!

© by Debbie Katz. All rights reserved.

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In the last blog, we discussed the need for self awareness in parenting.  One aspect of ourselves and others that we should be aware of is something called personal style.   Our personal style is related to our  basic temperament and therefore is fundamental to our individual emotional makeup.  In many households, the styles of the parents are different from each other, and different from at least some the children.  Not surprisingly, members of a household with similar styles tend to understand each other well because they approach tasks, time, people and situations in a similar way.  But when styles differ, the approaches often differ as well.

Let’s use a parenting example.  Say we have a situation where we have ongoing sibling disagreements. For a parent who has a goal orientation, there is likely to be a preference for swift, directed closure of each conflict. Another parent who values process and information would probably prefer to read, listen and observe before having an in-depth private discussion with each child.  A third type of parent may work hard to anticipate individual children’s needs in order to maintain harmony and avoid conflict completely.   A fourth type of parent may enjoy figuring out out-of-the-box solutions that make everyone take themselves a little less seriously.

All of these parenting styles are healthy, but there are differences in emphasis.  Most of us have one predominating style in combination with at least one secondary style.  It is helpful to know something about our own personal style and the styles of our spouse and children because this knowledge will create a much more informed context for living and working together in the family.    In my coaching practice, I use the Quick Style Indicator by Consulting Resource Group (CRG).  It is an inexpensive tool that many parents find illuminating.  (Other more complex screening tools like Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram Personality Type Indicator can perform a similar purpose.)

Parents are often relieved to discover that what had seemed like serious miscommunications were easily reframed.   Once they know about the differences in personality styles within the family, the parents can learn to style-shift. In so doing, they learn to see the world through the eyes of another.

Learning about the personality styles of members of your family helps everyone feel a bit closer, and a lot more understood.   Mutual understanding is an important basic element  in our ongoing quest to achieve shalom bayisfamily harmony.

All materials © by Debbie Katz.  These materials are the property of Jparent and can not be used, changed, or distributed without permission.

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Want to ask Debbie a question?  Click on the Ask Debbie tab at the top of this blog to submit your jewish parenting question!

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Discipline is best defined as a form of chinuch, education.   Parents have a unique ability to educate their child beginning at birth, because it is parents who structure the child’s environment and structure the parentchild relationship.    Each day, parents deliver hundreds of life lessons to their children about family values and priorities, mostly in the form of unconscious modeling, but also in the form of directed discussion and limit setting.  The parents’ unique access to the inner and outer world of the developing child gives them almost unlimited influence over the child in the early years of life.

For starters,  it is important for parents to clearly understand their job description.   The ultimate goal of parenting is to facilitate the formation and internalization of the child’s inner compass, the “control panel” that will guide decision making throughout the child’s lifetime.   This inner compass will be comprised of the life lessons you, the parents, instill.  The lessons will include your personal relationship with Hashem,   your value system, your priorities, your likes and dislikes, your middos and your emotional reactions.    These lessons become neurologically encoded in the earliest years of life and may be reinforced by repeated experience.  This does not mean that we never get a second chance.  We do. We get another chance every day.  And kids give us lots of practice!

When we have children, our lives change fundamentally.   We become Exhibit A.  We are role models.  Our children are watching and learning from our mistakes and triumphs.  It follows then, that enhancing our own self awareness is very important. We have to consciously define and refine the values and priorities for our own lives.    We also hold the responsibility to be calm and controlled with our children, even when we occasionally feel out of balance.   This is because, in our children’s child-centered universe, our imbalance is open to their misinterpretation.  We must take seriously the fact that kids tend to believe they are the cause of our negative outbursts.  Children make themselves responsible for our negative behavior.

Perfect, we’re not.  We are not expected to be perfect.  But, we are expected to work hard, to grow, and to try to make high level choices.   Raising children is the best vehicle on Earth for attaining self knowledge and self improvement.   With a lot of help from Hashem and from one another, we can all be great parents.   We can meet the challenge.   We’re all in this together.

All materials © by Debbie Katz.  These materials are the property of Jparent and can not be used, changed, or distributed without permission.
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Want to ask a question?  Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions!

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