Monthly Archives: September 2013

Who’s Running Things, Anyway?

bossy child 3

“The inmates are running the asylum.”

Mary, a teacher, was referring to our culture’s epidemic of overindulged kids. She and many other teachers are seeing the evidence of overindulgence in the classroom every day.

According to Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson and David Bredehoff in their book, How Much Is Enough? Overindulgence isn’t merely “about too much stuff or too many privileges. It’s also about too much attention and wobbly rules.”

They also write about the impact of overindulgence on adult life. Far from possessing low self-esteem, these people possess inflated self-esteem. They carry around the notion that the world owes them—that they’re entitled. When their expectations aren’t met, they lash out, or they just simply ignore the rules. Read more about this in an earlier post, Spoiled for Life.

Additionally, these grown-up children are ill-prepared to face the demands of independence and the responsibilities of adulthood.

Mary was able to avoid this all-too-common parenting misstep. Click here to read about how she accomplished that.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under General Interest, Parenting

You Always Hurt the One You Love

walled heart

Walls go up around the heart when we’re treated harshly. Eventually, bitterness replaces the tender love that was once there. 

Claire was starting to feel that way toward her husband, Joe, when she sought my help.

“He’s constantly critical and demeaning to me!” she said. “It has to change! I’m too miserable to have it go on like this.”

Claire is the type of person who holds it in. She doesn’t speak up, so whenever he’s unkind, she just takes it. Not good.

Resentment and hurt don’t just go away. They pile up and fester.

This is such a common problem, it brought to mind an anonymous couple I observed in the grocery store one day. Unbeknownst to them, they became fodder for a column I wrote a few years ago. 😉 (click here to read the column)

Back to Claire … at an early age she learned the art of peace-making and walking on egg-shells. I explained how counterproductive that behavior is. Not only does it corrode a healthy relationship, it has a negative impact on our health—physically and psychologically. It puts a damper on our well-being and overall life satisfaction and joy.

We may assume that the keep-it-to-ourselves-don’t-complain approach is best, but studies prove otherwise.

“Why don’t you object or complain?” I asked.

“Because he has health problems,” she explained, “and I know that has a lot to do with his temperament.” She made it clear that she didn’t want to hurt him or add to his problems.

“Joe’s health doesn’t justify treating you poorly,” I said. “Your feelings matter just as much as his.” I emphasized that her relationship was actually suffering—not thriving—by her remaining tight-lipped. “I’m sure he’d prefer a little honesty from you,” I said, “even if it does prick, as opposed to you feeling greater and greater contempt for him.”

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Tell him exactly how you feel,” I said.

Claire went home and did just that, and I was amazed with how well she did. I was so amazed, in fact, I asked her if I could share her story with others. Here’s how the conversation went:

“Do you ever notice how critical you are of me?”

“I guess you’re right,” Joe said reflectively. He then listed off the many troubling issues he deals with on a daily basis, including his poor health. “I guess I take it out on you.”

“And I can’t deal with it anymore,” she said. “You’re killing me.”

“But I don’t beat you or anything like that,” Joe said in defense of himself.

“But you’re hurting my heart,” she said. “I’m here to make you happy and to share my life with you. You don’t mistreat other people. I’m the one dedicated to staying with you, so why are you treating me like this? I don’t understand it.”

They continued to talk about it. The conversation went well because neither attacked and neither became defensive.

Since that discussion, she says he’s trying. “I can tell when he catches himself,” she said. He may start to say something, then stop mid-sentence and rephrase it. And if he doesn’t catch himself, she does. “I’m staying on it,” she said. “If he starts to go back to his old ways when he talks to me, I’ll ask:

‘What did you say?’”

Joe cares enough about Claire and his relationship to take these words as a gentle prompt. His response touches her heart, along with something else he began doing. He randomly breaks out in song: You Always Hurt the One You Love by the Mills Brothers. (click here to listen)

Yay, tenderness is making a comeback!

Names have been changed to honor client confidentiality.


Filed under Client of the Week, Couples, General Interest

Thoughts of Suicide


In my previous post, Banished from Her Mother’s Heart, I talked about Michelle, who was dealing with her mom’s rejection. In this post, I want to introduce you to Scott. Like Michelle, he marched to the beat of his own drum, and likewise suffered rejection, primarily from his dad. Scott’s gay, and his father couldn’t handle it.

When Scott came to me, he was on the verge of suicide, so great was his anguish. His story is here . . . .

My message to the Michelles and Scotts of the world is this:

In a perfect world, the negative people who occupy our lives—those who cause us strife—simply wouldn’t exist. Nor would any chance for growth. So it appears that getting knocked off balance may be a necessary bother for advancing forward.

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Filed under General Interest, Get Free, Parenting

Banished from her Mother’s Heart

going against current

“Your mother is good for you,” I said. “Her disapproval is forcing you to become immune to disapproving attitudes. Unbeknownst to her, she’s stretching you to become self-accepting and to believe in yourself.”

Michele followed the beat of her own drum, and her family shunned her for it—especially her mother.

Parental disapproval, at any age, can send our self-esteem to the basement! It makes us question our worth, our competence and even our age.

“I notice when you talk about your mother, you go small,” I observed.

Nodding, she replied, “Yes, when it comes to her, especially, I doubt myself.”

She explained that her mother’s rejecting and disapproving manner was something she’s always had to contend with.

“How are her failings as a parent challenging you to grow stronger?” I asked.

Read more about Michelle …

”Because you still view her through a child’s eyes—looming larger than life—you’re susceptible to her flawedness,” I said.

We need to be identifying with the more competent, more expansive and grown-up part of ourselves.

I invite your comments.


Filed under General Interest, Get Free