Your Vision for Your Children

Think about your children and about your hopes and dreams for them and for their futures. At the same time, think about your role, about what your commitment is. Your hopes for and commitment to your children is your “vision” for them.

Here is a sample vision statement that you can use as a starting point as you develop your personal vision statement. Please work with the statement until it reflects your vision for your children and your commitment to them. You may want to add items, delete items, or change items. Your goal is to make the vision statement yours.

After each item in your vision statement, write a sentence or two about why you think it’s important.

My children:

●Must have their needs for food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and spiritual nurturing met.

●Deserve my unconditional love and respect.

●Must develop a strong sense of self-worth and personal esteem.

●Are entitled to live in a safe, nurturing home where they can develop to their fullest potentials.

●Must learn how to be responsible, contributing members of the community.

What else should be in this section of your personal vision statement to make it right for you?

●(a.)

●(b.)

Children & Strong Negative Emotions

Does your child pout and become hard to live with?

All children have some way of handling it when they don’t get their way. They have their own ways of reacting when things do not work out as they want. They have ways of dealing with a world they think is sometimes unfair.

Two of their choices are temper tantrums and pouting. Most children use one or the other once in a while.

Just to be fair, answer this question. When you get angry or frustrated, are you more likely to pout or have a little temper tantrum? How about others at your home? When things do not go the way they want them to go, do they pout or have tantrums? Just keep in mind that your child may not be the only one having trouble handling things.

Also, take a minute to think about a child who neither pouts nor has temper tantrums. This can be much worse than either pouting or temper tantrums. Why? Because it often means the child is just accepting whatever happens. Even worse, she has gotten to where she no longer has any feelings about what happens to her. She does not care or thinks what she feels does not matter. This is a very bad sign.

What is your child doing when she pouts? She is angry, frustrated, or upset about something. She mainly feels angry. She does not talk about it or try to work out her problem. Instead, she pouts and makes it rough for other people.

What can you do? Think about what upset her. Maybe what happened was unfair or she really was treated badly. Either way, pouting about it is a problem.

Say, “I have thought about what happened. We can talk about it if you want to. Here is my problem right now. You have a right to feel how you feel but pouting about it is not your best choice. I think it would be better if you either got up and over it or at least talked about it. It is your choice. Here is what I am going to do. I am going to do nothing unless you choose to talk with me about it. You can pout or talk. It’s your choice. If you choose to pout, please do it in your room.” Now leave it alone. Her only choice is to behave more appropriately or be by herself.

Children, Sexual Abuse, and Truth

Whether responsible judgements can be made about things that did or did not happen based on interviews with very young children is a topic that receives a lot of attention. Specifically, the question is whether pre-school children can tell us when they have been sexually abused and whether what they tell us can be believed. This is a complex issue and cannot be answered in simple yes/no terms. Rather, it requires an understanding of child development, an understanding of the kinds of events that prompt concern, and the process that leads to seeing events from the child’s perspective.

The development of children is multidimensional and continuous from birth through adolescence.

“Children have a physical, doing dimension. It incorporates their physical bodies, their potentials and capacities to do and behave, and most of what is visible in terms of their actions and activities. Part of each parent’s role is to help his or her children grow to respect and appreciate their physical abilities and skills, to know how to behave in a variety of situations, and to recognize and utilize their physical capacities and potentials. This physical, doing dimension starts at infancy and is central to kids’ adjustment throughout their ongoing, on-growing journey to adulthood.

“The same level of importance holds for the emotional dimension of children. Here are found feelings, fears and frustrations, sadness and joy, disappointment and excitement, love and hate, fun and futility. Growing children experience all of these emotions and need to learn how to interpret them, how to express them, and how to manage them. For example, kids must learn to express anger without having tantrums, to deal with despair and disappointment without becoming destructively depressed, to express love and joy without getting into harmful or inappropriate relationships. Within this dimension, children must learn to deal with the internal experience of emotions as well as how to express their feelings effectively and appropriately.

“Around the age of four or five the moral, spiritual dimension begins to emerge. Effectively helping children develop a solid sense of right and wrong, good and bad, requires that their parents are clear about their own values and beliefs in these areas. Success in this dimension is critical to success in the social dimension that emerges about the same time. When kids are about five or six, the social dimension becomes dominate and begins to interact with the other developing dimensions. The social dimension embraces the child’s potential to interact with other children and adults and to become socially effective and self-determined.

“By about eleven or twelve, the young person’s emerging sexual dimension begins dynamically interacting with the other developing dimensions. Sexual behavior and attitudes that are appropriate and inappropriate, healthy and unhealthy, effective and ineffective are best conveyed to maturing adolescents by parents who have thought through the issues.

“For younger children, ‘sexual’ behavior normally is not related to interests and interactions associated with ‘adult’ sexuality. Rather, it is related to physical and gender interest and curiosity. If ‘adult’ interests or specifically ‘sexual’ content is present, a specialized consultation is indicated to assess possible sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual experience.”

Both May Be Right

“In every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are, both wrong. It is this situation which gives family life its peculiar hysterical charm.” — Isaac Rosenfeld

 

Rosenfeld almost got it right, but not quite. Certainly, in every dispute between parent and child, both may be wrong. It’s also true that they both may be right; and to some extent, they usually are. Although parent/child disputes are typically treated as a special category, they are better understood merely as disputes, not particularly different from other disputes. Quite simply, people are disagreeing. That’s all there is to it.

 

When parents and children disagree, the dispute is viewed differently than other disagreements. In the latter, there is an assumed balance or parody between the participants. In the former, there is a strong tendency to assume that the parent is right and the child is wrong. For the child to pursue the contrary view is disrespectful.

 

When adults disagree, they seldom dispute the observable facts. They are usually disagreeing about the correct interpretation, meaning, or significance of those facts. When parents and children disagree, it’s usually over “enough;” early enough, late enough, clean enough, good enough, well enough, and so on. Even so, the dispute represents a difference in point of view, opinion, or interpretation. The point is that the issue is normally not the kind of situation where someone is right and someone is wrong. Both parties are at least partially right. Instead of understanding it as a dispute or argument, it needs to be seen as a negotiation, not dissimilar from any other negotiation.

 

This converts most parent/child disputes to either negotiations or unilateral decision making. The parent either negotiates or lays down the law, so to speak. There is no dispute or argument. Deciding which is appropriate is difficult; but Virginia Satir has a perspective that helps, “Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible — the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.”

 

Of course, Sidonie Gruenberg was right, “Home is the place where boys and girls first learn how to limit their wishes, abide by rules, and consider the rights and needs of others;” but Thomas Moore was also right, “Family life is full of major and minor crises — the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce — and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.”

 

The conclusion is this. Lay down the law with your children, when you must. The rest of the time, negotiate, using the same tact and interpersonal charm you use with everyone else with whom you occasionally disagree.