Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for November, 2009

Still Working on that Broken Heart

Posted by Marcia on November 21, 2009

I write about family issues because it also helps me. Yes, it can be very therapeutic to know you’re not the only one with family difficulties, to review what you did, what you wish you did, and learn from the process.

Thanksgiving was always a family holiday for us as it is for many people. Some people dread the squabbles that will erupt, but we didn’t have that problem. Our son loves a good meal so that part wasn’t an issue, either.

For the past 2 ½ years, we’ve been estranged from our son. I don’t want to go into the details, it’s enough to say we have no contact and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. It’s painful and lonely, and there’s no substitute for having him in our lives, but we try to cope with the matter. It’s hard to accept.

I hear how he’s doing and know in general what’s happening in his life and it pains me to say that I don’t see much personal growth on his part. I hope that will happen in the future, but it clearly isn’t there now.

This Thanksgiving will be spent with extended family as we’ve done before. And as in those other times, my son will be hovering in my mind rather than sitting nearby. I’ll enjoy the time with family while missing him like crazy and worrying about him as always.


Posted in changing parent's behavior, estranged, family difficulties, missing our son, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Troubled Teen Pulls Through

Posted by Marcia on November 15, 2009

I do various workshops and presentations and after one of them, a woman told me the story of a family she knew.

The parents had hoped “Ann” would grow out of her difficulties  or maybe she’d just get married and move out.  There were no high expectations of Ann as she was female, but her brothers were encouraged to achieve in school and in business.  

At 20, Ann was not working, had left college in her freshman year, and her boyfriend was abusive.  The father had run out of patience and told her she had two weeks in which to either get a job or move out.  The mother was appalled and upset, arguing with her husband that her daughter should just stay at home, that at least they would know where she was.  The father prevailed and Ann moved into a rented room with a friend.  She found a job and bounced from job to job over the next three years. 

At a certain point, Ann looked at her friends and compared her life to their lives.  They had completed college or had been working in one job for awhile.  They were growing up and moving on, but she felt “stuck”.  She signed up for a class at the local college and learned how to study for a college course.  Although it took her several years to complete her undergraduate degree, she did it because she felt the drive, she understood the value, and she felt proud of herself for each accomplishment.

“Ann” is now an executive, and she is the one who relayed this story.  She learned many years later that the disagreements between her parents brought them to the brink of a divorce and it was terribly hard on both of her parents; they worried about her constantly.  They felt tremendous pride and joy when they attended her graduation ceremony, and her mother died a short time later.

Ann said she is now dealing with her own difficult teen, and her experience has given her a special insight into his difficulties, how she can best help him and how he needs to help himself.  And she’s ready to give him the toughlove he needs to be responsible.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, confidence, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Did the Self Esteem Movement Create an Entitled Generation?

Posted by Marcia on November 7, 2009

I’ve mulled over a lot of things I’ve experienced as a parent and a lot of things I’ve read, and would honestly say that I did do some things well and there are some things that I would absolutely change.

I have some serious concerns about the self-esteem movement and what the effects are on our kids.

Self-esteem is the way you think about yourself and this impacts the way you feel.  If you think you’re a good painter, you feel good about that skill and your confidence.  If you have a poor image of yourself and your abilities, it manifests in low self confidence and underachievement.

The self-esteem movement was a good idea run amok.  The idea of encouraging children to think well of themselves sounds like a good idea, but, like many things in life, it has to be earned to be appreciated.

Our son “J” was born in 1988, and I took him to Mommy and Me and toddler classes. I guess others were reading books I hadn’t read, but I remember the teacher and other moms saying “good job” whenever a child did anything. It didn’t matter what the child did, but the rewarding phrase was said. Kid finishes a project, eats his food, plays a game: “Good job.”

At home, if J picked up his toys, I said “thank you” or “that looks nice”. I felt that if I said “good job” to everything, then when he’d really do a good job of something, then what would I say and how would I make that meaningful?

We noticed that when he participated in team sports, even if their team lost, everyone got ribbons and sometimes trophies.  I guess the theory was that they wanted all the kids to feel like winners and therefore, it’d magically give them self-esteem and confidence, but I think that backfired.

If the ultimate goal of parenting is to raise a child who can operate in this world, overpraising for simply existing isn’t going to help. After all, how many managers stand around waiting to tell people they did a good job?  I can tell you from an HR perspective that some do but most expect you to do a good job, and if you do an extraordinary job, then maybe you’ll be noticed.  There are expectations that you’ll perform as you should, that poor work will be adversely noted and good work will be rewarded.

Young people steeped in the self-esteem movement resent not being continually verbally rewarded and when they simply complete a project.

I believe that good self-esteem and confidence result from completing projects, overcoming obstacles, leaping over barriers to success.  It can’t come as a result of continuous praise from others: you have to know it, to feel that accomplishment.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, entitled, nagging the kids, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

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