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Date Ideas & Why What You Do Isn’t Really Serving the Purpose

Date ideas are not as easy to come by as I thought.

Date ideas for the young and the old

I used to think that couples had no issues coming up with things to do together. That was until a few years back when I realized that, time and time and time again (yes, I did mean to write that three times), couples would hit this wall and not be able to think of anything to do together.

When I saw this pattern repeatedly, I would continue to have all sorts of conversations with couples about things they can do together on a regular basis to make sure that they don’t grow into strangers.

 

If you think this only happens to the newlyweds, think again.

If you think this only happens to people who seemingly have no creative juices flowing through their bodies, think again. (I found that so often they’ve used them up at work, leaving them with no ability to come up with some solid date ideas at the end of their day on their own.)

And if you think that this only happens to couples who have been together forEVER, think again.

We all have these date ideas that are sort of our go-to when the question arises – “It’s date night tonight. What should we do?”

Date Ideas – The ‘Not So Good’ Category:

  1. Movie night at home or seeing a movie at the movie theater Or the ultimate Dinner & a movie
  2. Finding a new favorite in the TV series realm and binge-watching that over the course of a Saturday
  3. Having family over for dinner
  4. Getting together with another couple for a double date
  5. Doing work along-side of each other on the living room couch

 

These date ideas seem just fine to me – what’s wrong with them??

 

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of the activities above in and of themselves, except that if that’s what you do every time you think of having a date night with your spouse, it’s not really spending time together in a way that I’d like to see you spending time together.

 

My point number 1

As for item No.1, you are welcome to watch movies together so long as it’s not the only thing you do, every time you are trying to connect.

Why?

Because when you stare at a screen (even if you may be staring at it together), you are not actually engaging with each other.

Other than, perhaps, bumping into each others’ hand in the pop-corn bowl or feeling your spouse’s arm around your shoulder.

 

My point Number Two

Same goes for 2 and 5.

Feel free to work together, each on your own computers or on the same computer  but do me a favor – don’t call it a date night.

I know sometimes life happens, things happen at work, and the ideal schedule goes out the window and you have to get some things done.

That’s fine. And sure, is it nicer than both of you sitting in your respective offices when it’s 9:30 at night? By all means. But don’t fool yourselves into thinking that by doing so, you will keep growing closer together.

 

My point number three

The one with family (No.3) is tricky.

You want to have time with your extended family members, you want your parents to know their grandchildren, but again, that cannot be the sum of all you do together.

Family time can be great.

And is necessary. I’m all for it.

Plus, I would generally never advise against it but you have got to find times to just do something – the two of you.

BUT—

Date night is meant to allow you two to connect on a level that you can’t over text message or email.

When you two can be present to each other in a way that’s impossible when you have to run around, bringing food to the table, making sure everyone else is comfortable and having a good time, or heaven forbid, you still need to finish the dessert because you ran out of time.

 

My point number four

The last one, doing a double date, sort of falls into the same bucket as the one with having family over for dinner.

Unless these are really close friends and you can have deep conversations around the table without holding back, double dates are good for a light evening out.

They are great for meeting new friends.

But again – contrary to their name – they do not qualify for a date night.

WHY?

Because you still have to look out for two extra people, and make sure they are having a good time.

You have to talk about things that will include them somehow (unless you don’t mind being rude), not allowing for the topics you and your spouse would want to dig into at all.

And one last time – keeping up with your circle of friends or creating a new social circle is fabulous. But you will (most of the time) not be able to have it work in your favor as a couple on a date night.

 

Now that you know what, essentially, not to do, tomorrow I will bring you 5 simple and yet meaningful Date night ideas for you to try.

 

PS: And, if you think that date nights are out of style – think again (and READ THIS BLOG POST HERE.) I trust these date ideas were helpful – Happy date night to all! 🙂

How to improve your marriage Part 125 – Staying out of the doghouse | Couples Counseling

Dog house Blog PostWhether you have been married one day or a hundred or ten thousand and five (don’t worry, I did the math for you – that’s twenty seven years and some – you’re welcome), how to improve your marriage is a question couples want an answer to. Why? Because no matter where they stand, as long as they stand next to each other, they actually want to know precisely that – How to improve your marriage.

 

If you are like me, sometimes, when I think of how to do something right, it’s getting the answer to how not to do it. What not to do. So I do that today and my question for you is: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE DOGHOUSE? Yep, for real. I did just ask that question. Have YOU ever been in the doghouse?

 

Or, alternately, should I just say: When was the last time you were in the doghouse?

 

What does ‘being in the doghouse’ look like in your household?

 

Understanding that it’s a commercial, of course, that wants to give you ideas about what not to purchase and give to your significant other. It’s all funny and cute. It made you laugh. It made me laugh too, I’ll admit it. It’s all fun and games. Until it’s not.

 

Have you ever been in the doghouse?

Sometimes you might be there due to a misunderstanding. Other times, it’s completely legit – generally speaking anyway. Sometimes you might not have a single clue how you ended up there. All of a sudden you are being drug by the collar and asked to crawl in. That’s because nobody ever told you that you should have NEVER purchased a vacuum cleaner as an anniversary or Christmas gift.

 

Not every man or woman will end up in the doghouse for purchasing an electronic device for their spouse. I know both women and men that would LOVE a vacuum cleaner for a present. Particularly if it’s some fancy-shmancy vacuum cleaner that they dream of doing all the work for them.

 

Several years ago, we even purchased one for a wedding we attended. It ended up being a group gift for one of my husband’s best friends from college. The couple specifically asked for one. Unashamedly, openly and directly they asked for a robot vacuum cleaner. One of those that runs around your entire house while you are gone and cleans the floors for you. What an amazing gift.

 

I am sure you have seen something similar on other wedding registries. And if it wasn’t a vacuum cleaner, then it was a kitchen machine of some sort. Or an appliance for their workroom. Whatever it was – none of us wasted more than a second thinking about it. It’s a given – it’s there so we can purchase it. And we know that the folks that requested it will love it when they un-wrap that gift. Guaranteed. You might have had one of these on your own registry or wish list.

 

Granted, you might argue here – I can already hear some of you saying:- BUT – it’s different if this happens between the couple. Particularly if it’s on their birthday. Or anniversary. Or whatever other important day of the year.

 

I would beg to differ. With all due respect — is it? Is it really?

 

You will agree with me if I say that we all have expectations. Expectations of what our married life should look like, expectations of what we want for our favorite holiday, hopes for how our birthdays should be celebrated or our anniversary trips planned.

 

I believe the disconnect happens when expectations meet reality.

 

In fact, here is what my question really is: If we assume that there is some unwritten law – but the law itself differs from household to household, and nobody says anything ever – how would you then know what to do? How on earth are you and I supposed to figure it out? Why do we stop asking each other things, just as bluntly and openly as we did before, the day we put our wedding gifts away? Why is that no longer ok?

 

Did something change? Is there some secret ritual in which each of the newlyweds unwraps their purple colored Predictibility-of-the-future shades?

 

When was the last time that you asked your partner what you want? Have you ever?

 

Are you better at it or is your spouse?

 

Returning to the doghouse theme, allow me to point out one more thing. At some point, particularly if you have spent days or weeks in the doghouse – then what do you do? How do you get out of it? And – if you are the one that sent your spouse there – what do you do to help your spouse get out of the mess they got themselves into? Anything? Do you just observe? Are you on standby until they figure it out?

 

If you think about it, while your spouse is in the doghouse, they are no use to anyone. You are left to fend for yourself, whether that’s with the house, or the pets, or the job, or the kids. They can’t do you any good while they are there.

 

So you both lose.

 

Can you help them win?

 

How To Talk To Your Spouse – OR – The Notes & Words That Matter

How to talk to your spouseHow to talk to your spouse seems quite plain and simple on paper. It seems like you and I should know what to do, like it’s something that should just come naturally. Easily, even. And yet, it’s sometimes not as simple as it seems. If you are one of the many people who don’t exactly know how to do this, keep on reading. But first, I have a dare for you. (say what?)

I dare you.

I dare you to pick out a card, one that you can more than tolerate, and write a note from scratch.

With Mother’s Day past, and Father’s Day fast approaching, the way I see it, there may be an opportunity around the corner. Maybe you and your spouse are celebrating your anniversary. It IS wedding season afterall. Perhaps you are attending a wedding or you are in one. Maybe it’s the graduation card for someone whom you have watched turn something poor into great.

Whatever the case, I dare you. I dare you to pick up a pen and just write.

Why?

Maybe you remember having had a similar experience. Or two. Or five. I have spent countless hours at the card stand at Papyrus, Target or the grocery store. You know the scene – you pick up one card after the next, without success. You leave an hour and a half later, frustrated and still with nothing to show for it.

What happens to me is this: I would either love the design 100% and hate the wording or the other way around – tolerate the text but hate everything else about it. The worst ones are the ones where they are almost good to go but then one word or phrase or paragraph just plain ruins the rest of it all.

And it makes sense, right? When you think about it, how can someone – a lovely lady or gentleman – sitting behind a lovely desk somewhere in a lovely faraway land (or state) know what YOU would want to say to YOUR spouse, your best friend or grandfather for that matter?

They try to guess. They do the best they can. They try to make it sound pretty. They put effort into making an impression. But it only works on a limited number of occasions.

When I was growing up on the other side of the Atlantic, there was no such thing as pre-written cards that required you to do no more than add your tiny little signature on the bottom of it. No such thing. We didn’t have that kind of luxury. If you wanted to write a card, you bought one with a design you liked and then wrote your own message. Every time.

I don’t know if it’s better one way or the other. But I know this. It forced a person to think about what they wanted to say. Nobody did the thinking for you and me.

And yes, it probably took longer. I remember writing a draft of the card on a scratch piece of paper so that, as I was thinking about the words, as a composer of sorts, I would not end up scratching words out on the card that was to be sealed and gifted. Sometimes it takes a while to say what you want to say. And yes, only you can say it. Because only you know the complexities of the present situation or the details of the past. Because only you know the person your card is addressed to. They might a friend, a son or daughter in-law to someone else. But they are only your spouse.

Nobody else’s.

And saying something to someone you care about means something. In fact, it means a lot. Particularly if that someone is the father of your nieces, or the person who raised you or the friend who stood by and never disappeared during the tough times. Or it’s the person who, after publicly or privately promising to stand by you – however many moons ago that was – stuck with you through the thick of it and is still standing close by.

Consider this. If you could speak your heart – what would your card say? How would you as a couple come out on the other side, greater and closer together for having connected with the other in a meaningful way? Can you even imagine the impact?

Instead of signing your name and agreeing to agree with a prescribed message, write a letter. Or a card. I dare you to fill up all the empty space. Use real stationary. Or don’t. It doesn’t have to be eloquent beyond measure, unless that’s who you are. Your partner in crime wants the real you to shine through. Make it your advantage. Make it a point to stand out. It’s going back to being intentional and making time to talk to each other.

Improving your communication may include getting in touch with this lost art of writing that we have been hearing about. What do you think? Would you accept the challenge?

I guarantee you victory.

Because that’s one way you can start grasping how to do this thing – how to talk to your spouse – in a real and meaningful way about big things, and small things and all the other stuff in between.

 

What IS a Marriage Care Event | Minneapolis Marriage Seminar

Marriage Seminar Minneapolis

When was the last time you had your teeth checked or professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist? When was the last time you got your oil changed? Or your tires checked? Or your eyes examined? I bet that even if you don’t know the exact date, you will be able to tell me at least what month it was. And I bet it was within the last year.

Why do we care about all that? Why do we make appointments (months in advance sometimes) to take care of our teeth, our eyes or the well-being of our vehicles? Because if we don’t, — and yes, I said webad things happen.

If you don’t go to the dentist’s office every so often, you are bound to get a cavity or, worse yet, root canal. Along with that comes tremendous pain, discomfort, mandatory time off and a fat bill following the procedure. If you don’t take your car into the shop, or change the oil in your garage, you might get a flat tire at the most inconvenient of times and pay a couple hundred dollars to get towed. Or –  worse yet – ruin your entire engine as it cannot be running without oil being refilled periodically and having to replace it altogether.

 

Why am I bringing all this up?

Somehow in the midst of life, we have come to believe that we do not need to do that with our marriages or families. How that happened — How we ended up doing that without an acute awareness of negative consequences — is beyond me. If the same rule applies – that is, if you don’t take care of the things you care about, bad things happen – we should not be caught off guard that when not taking care of our marriages, our relationships end up not doing so well.

 

What a Marriage Care Event IS:

If the best way to spell love really is T I M E – then this would be the perfect opportunity. Here is what a Marriage Care Event is:

  • Something you do to make known that you value your relationship
  • Something you do to show the one you love that you CARE – about them & about your relationship and you act on it by TAKING CARE of that precious relationship
  • A chance for you and your spouse to spend some time ALONE together, uninterrupted & connect
  • It’s also a chance to learn a thing or two about what works & what definitely does NOT in a long-term relationship
  • It’s about being proactive –It’s about making your marriage a PRIORITY
  • It’s about being intentional – There are 168 hours in a week – how many of those do you give specifically and purposefully to the two of you? THIS – is your opportunity.
  • Finally, it is your chance to grow to love each other better & thrive in your relationship

What a Marriage Care Event IS NOT:

  • Something you attend only if your marriage is in the trenches and the D word has been thrown around a handful of times already
  • You two don’t even have to be angry at each other when you register (though if that’s the case, it does NOT disqualify you from attending)
  • An intense couples therapy session where you have to share your feelings in front of other people
  • Group therapy or crisis marriage (or other) counseling

Who is a Marriage Care Event for?

From newly engaged/married to the nearly divorced, and just about everyone in between, this event (much like any other MCE organized by Bogott Counseling) is geared towards couples at ANY stage of their relationship.

 

You do not NEED to be a newly married couple. But you can be. You do NOT need to be on the verge of divorce. But, again, maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, married for several years, perhaps you are on your second or third marriage and are hoping to avoid the mistakes of the past. At our events over the years, we have had couples that have been together for months and others that had already celebrated their 40th anniversary.

Here is some of the feedback for you to consider:

“(A Marriage Care Event is) a reality check on what we’re doing to each other that will never work.”

“It’s a way of working on strategies to thrive in a marriage – it demonstrates ways of thinking and acting that enable us to grow in love.”

“Really informal, dedicating time to explore your marriage and open up to spouse about issues, realizing that we both have some we can work on. It disarms fears.”

“A day set aside to examine weaknesses & strengths that we bring to a marriage while also hearing insights & encouragement from other married couples.

 

Here is what they had to say about the material discussed (AKA The Losing and the Winning Strategies). The material was:

“Easy to understand, not threatening”

“Practical & honest insight for any marriage”

“Well balanced professional advice & more personal candor”

 

Whatever the case, if you want to make known that you care about your relationship, this event is for YOU.

 

If you would like to be notified when our next event is happening, or have any other specific questions about this Minneapolis marriage seminar of sorts, please contact us via our contact page HERE. We hope you can join us next time!

 

How to save your marriage Part 1

When you are feeling discouraged in your marriage (and we all do at times), it is easy to desire one quick & easy fix. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Contrary to what the film industry has been telling us for decades, happy marriages don’t just happen. You and I make them happen. Whatever you want to call it – Marriage is work. And like everything else that you want to keep in good condition, it, too, requires some TLC (read: work). And, it’s the kind of work you cannot outsource.

 

But wait! In case you’re thinking – wow, thanks…that sounds depressing… There is something you can do to start saving your marriage TODAY.

 

Start with one word — or phrase — of appreciation.

 

One a day. That’s it.

 

It’s that simple.

 

Many couples I see in my practice will say: I keep doing all these things, and nobody notices any of it – not the kids, not my husband (or wife), and I am tired of it all. Consider for a moment the difference that adding words of appreciation could make.

 

• You build up your spouse with encouragement.
• You start focusing on more positive aspects of your relationship.
• You put a smile on their face.

 

 

In our relationships, our communication tends to be heavy on the negative. Anytime we talk it’s to voice a concern or a complaint or a dissatisfaction of sorts. We need to balance the negative content with more positive conversations. And this can be one.

 

In the words of the relationship guru and a mentor of mine, Terry Real, most couples are appreciation deficient and need to become more appreciation efficient.

Of course, it can be hard to think of encouraging words. Most things are hard when you first start trying. Sometimes it’s hard to see actions worth appreciating. But for the sake of trying, put a couple of these suggestions to the test:

 

–Maybe after dinner, instead of simply saying “Thank you” you take time to tell your spouse how good you have it;  they not only know how to cook but they care enough to make meals you enjoy. And they do it often.

 

–Perhaps you notice that your spouse took out the trash. You can tell them you were just thinking about how much you dread doing that and thank them for taking care of it.

 

–On a day when you find it hard to think of something, thank your spouse for working for the family (whether you both work at jobs outside the home, or if one of you is home with children).

 

Ultimately, what you choose to compliment doesn’t really matter! Be open to noticing these things around you.

 

Just remember: Whatever you say or do, you HAVE TO MEAN IT! Faking it won’t get you anywhere. So, do yourself a favor and remember that.

 

There you have it: Give your spouse a word of encouragement today! If ever in doubt whether you’ve already done it that day, it’s always safer to do a couple than do none.

Ready, set, go!

Does Marriage Counseling Work?

Does marriage counseling work?Does marriage counseling work? How often have you heard those same words in one sentence being directed at you?

It’s the million dollar question, right?

How does one even get to answer given that every couple’s life experience is different and combining that with the makeup of any given therapist, you would get as many different answers as many people were in the room when you posed the question to begin with.

Yes, we – therapists that is — might use different methods or different exercises that we give you for homework. We might not give you homework at all. We might want to see both of you together sometimes and each of you individually other times. We may have a more direct way or less direct way of approaching certain topics. We may be waiting for you to bring issues to the table and we might point them out to you as they come up in session. There are tons of variables, clearly.

Does marriage counseling work – The pre-requisite

The one and only pre-requisite that I bank on most is this: Both people involved have to want to be present. And when I say ‘present’, I don’t just mean, they have to drag their physical body into my office. I mean they have to be behaving as if to say:

I am here because I want our relationship to change. I am not here because someone else dragged me to come. I am genuinely aware of the issues that are in the way of my spouse and I being well together. I recognize that I have a part in the [insert size: big, small, moderate…] mess that we are in. You always need two people to tango. And I care and love my partner enough to want to do something about it.”

I make it part of my initial intake. A question that won’t go unanswered when a couple walks through my door.

Why?

Because it’s an essential part of the success that you are going after. And if one, or both of you, for one reason or another, are one foot in and the other foot out the door — no matter what the other person will do or what I would do as the counselor in the room, we will not be able to get anywhere at all until this pre-requisite is taken care of.

That, right there, is the hard reality. Once you can both genuinely answer that question positively, we can get the process underway.

If you don’t know where you stand, or need help figuring that out, there is a process for that too. It precedes couples’ work and is called Discernment Counseling. If that is, in fact, where you are, click here to read more.

 

This post was initially motivated by a podcast a while back on MPR. The topic resurfaced via a question posed during a recent session in my office. (If you would like to listen to program on MPR, I believe it’s still available here:http://www.mprnews.org/story/2012/03/22/daily-circuit-couples-therapy)

Oh, for the love of Pet Peeves!

Pet Peeves. You know what I am talking about, those tiny little things that make you want to cringe. EVERY time. They ALMOST go unnoticed, but they don’t. We all know what ours are and maybe even have somewhat of a clue what our partner would say theirs are in return. The question is – What do you and I do about them? Do you know, and I mean, REALLY know, why they actually bother the heck out of you?

A therapist colleague of mine came up with a meticulous list that he collected over three weeks from clients’ complaints. He even went so far as to specify how each qualified for the extra-annoying category. Clever, what can I say.

Here is a dozen. I had to share. Take a look at some of my favorites.  Some, I hope, may even be reason for a chuckle.

 

  1.   Driven to distraction by electronic devices

Extra annoying—being so absorbed as to not answer when spoken to.

  1.   Disguising empty cartons as full by returning them to the fridge (or cupboard)

Extra annoying—you had asked them to get some and they forgot.

  1. Refusing to ask for directions or use the GPS.

Extra annoying—you’re already late or lost.

  1. Rude awakenings by making noise when you’re still sleeping.

Extra annoying—they hate being woken up themselves.

  1. Blatant task neglect by forgetting basic duties they agreed or volunteered to do.

Extra annoying—getting mad at you for inquiring or reminding them.

 

  1. Dishwasher malpractice—loading improperly so it fits only two plates and a bowl.

Extra annoying—they’re champions at Tetris.

  1. Snooze alarm torture by repeatedly hitting the snooze button when you’re still sleeping.

Extra annoying—getting annoyed at you for waking them up to complain.

  1. Bad talk timing by starting serious talks when you’re about to leave for work.

Extra annoying—accusing you of not caring when you’ve already missed the train.

  1. Shoulder tap as substitute for foreplay.

Extra annoying—you’re already asleep.

  1. Newspaper stalactites, tall piles of old issues they haven’t read yet and never will.

Extra annoying—claiming they still plan to read an article from the nineties.

  1. Used tissues left around the house.

Extra annoying—you didn’t realize they were still wet.

  1. Dirty dozen bedside glasses collection.

Extra annoying—getting annoyed at you when they can’t find a clean glass.

 

Pet Peeves

We all have a list. You and me both. Now, that’s no surprise. Whether it’s fifty shades of them or seventy five. The real question here is – what do you do about it? Have you found a system that works? How do you find a system? Do you talk to your best friend or do you present them to the offender with the goal & hope that he/she might single- handedly try to minimize the side effects or bring the extra annoying ones down a level to just regular annoying?

Have you ever thought about what it is about any one of these pet peeves that drives you so crazy? And if you have, indeed, thought about it, have you kept your conclusions to yourself or have you brought them up for discussion?

Couples generally don’t get divorced over huge issues or disagreements. It is the little things. It’s what’s underneath the surface that matters most. And that – you and your partner – may have to just good old-fashioned talk about.

 

For entire list/ article, click here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201302/how-survive-50-common-marital-pet-peeves

You and your spouse vs. your kids – How do YOU decide who comes first?

I am not one to often repost articles that circulate on the web. This one, though, by Emma Jenner, had gotten enough of my attention to – at the least – pat this woman on the back and say: ‘This is so right on’.

 

I don’t work with kids per se, but having couples in my office, the topic of children and parenting comes up all the time. We talk about children all the time because parents’ issues with their children and their differences approaching certain situations permeate into the couple’s relationship. And they affect the two of them. Deeply.

 

I love this woman’s outlook on the fearfulness of the mom and dad in the picture. I align myself 100% with what she is noticing – that we are sadly no longer as a community thriving towards the same goal. That, more often than not, we go against each other to see who can take more blame so that I don’t have to feel responsible. Even though it is my responsibility. Because our kids are – because they are our responsibility. In so many things she said, she is so painfully right.

 

The one piece of her insight that does come up more often than I would like it to is this: Even though we get distracted by our family’s everyday life, activities and the needs of our little ones, we ought to always remember the needs of the couple that started it all. I see this all too often. Paying attention to our children (the smaller they are, the more intense this is, of course, and that’s alright) has gotten out of control. Mothers and fathers get so fixated on the wellbeing of their kids — putting their needs ahead of their own — that they often fail to notice their marriage rotting right in front of them, in the middle of it all, because – they have not taken the time to tend to it – Sometimes in weeks, sometimes in months or years.

 

We can’t just want our kids to have their cup full and neglect the relationship between the two adults.

 

Our marriages need care.

 

They always have.

 

We will not be able to erase our failure to thrive as a couple because our kids won the first place in every tournament possible. Nor will our children be able to ignore the damage done to them and ourselves in the meantime. For me, more often than not, it goes back to the good ol’ saying: The best gift you can give your kids is a happy mom and dad. Suffering marriages are no good for families.

 

To read the whole article, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-jenner/modern-day-parenting-in-c_b_5552527.html

OR Find it below:

 

By Emma Jenner

 

“I generally am quite an optimistic person. I tend to believe that everything will work out for the best unless the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not prone to drama. That’s why when I say that modern parenting is in serious trouble — crisis, even — I hope you’ll listen, and listen carefully. I’ve worked with children and their parents across two continents and two decades, and what I’ve seen in recent years alarms me. Here are the greatest problems, as I see them:

 

  1. A fear of our children.

I have what I think of as “the sippy cup test,” wherein I will observe a parent getting her toddler a cup of milk in the morning. If the child says, “I want the pink sippy cup, not the blue!” yet the mum has already poured the milk into the blue sippy cup, I watch carefully to see how the parent reacts. More often than not, the mum’s face whitens and she rushes to get the preferred sippy cup before the child has a tantrum. Fail! What are you afraid of, mum? Who is in charge here? Let her have a tantrum, and remove yourself so you don’t have to hear it. But for goodness’ sake, don’t make extra work for yourself just to please her — and even more importantly, think about the lesson it teaches if you give her what she wants because she’s thrown a fit.

 

  1. A lowered bar.

When children misbehave, whether it’s by way of public outburst or private surliness, parents are apt to shrug their shoulders as if to say, “That’s just the way it is with kids.” I assure you, it doesn’t have to be. Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it’s in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, chores, generosity or self-control. You don’t think a child can sit through dinner at a restaurant? Rubbish. You don’t think a child can clear the table without being asked? Rubbish again! The only reason they don’t behave is because you haven’t shown them how and you haven’t expected it! It’s that simple. Raise the bar and your child shall rise to the occasion.

 

  1. We’ve lost the village.

It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child. They would act as the mum and dad’s eyes and ears when their children were out of sight, and everyone worked towards the same shared interest: raising proper boys and girls. This village was one of support. Now, when someone who is not the child’s parent dares to correct him, the mum and dad get upset. They want their child to appear perfect, and so they often don’t accept teachers’ and others’ reports that he is not. They’ll storm in and have a go at a teacher rather than discipline their child for acting out in class. They feel the need to project a perfect picture to the world and unfortunately, their insecurity is reinforced because many parents do judge one another. If a child is having a tantrum, all eyes turn on the mum disapprovingly. Instead she should be supported, because chances are the tantrum occurred because she’s not giving in to one of her child’s demands. Those observers should instead be saying, “Hey, good work — I know setting limits is hard.”

 

  1. A reliance on shortcuts.

I think it’s wonderful that parents have all sorts of electronics to help them through airline flights and long waits at the doctor’s office. It’s equally fabulous that we can order our groceries online for delivery, and heat up healthy-ish food at the touch of a button on the microwave. Parents are busier than ever, and I’m all for taking the easy way when you need it. But shortcuts can be a slippery slope. When you see how wonderful it is thatCaillou can entertain your child on a flight, don’t be tempted to put it on when you are at a restaurant. Children must still learn patience. They must still learn to entertain themselves. They must still learn that not all food comes out steaming hot and ready in three minutes or less, and ideally they will also learn to help prepare it. Babies must learn to self-soothe instead of sitting in a vibrating chair each time they’re fussy. Toddlers need to pick themselves up when they fall down instead of just raising their arms to mum and dad. Show children that shortcuts can be helpful, but that there is great satisfaction in doing things the slow way too.

 

  1. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.

Naturally, parents are wired to take care of their children first, and this is a good thing for evolution! I am an advocate of adhering to a schedule that suits your child’s needs, and of practices like feeding and clothing your children first. But parents today have taken it too far, completely subsuming their own needs and mental health for the sake of their children. So often I see mums get up from bed again and again to fulfill the whims of their child. Or dads drop everything to run across the zoo to get their daughter a drink because she’s thirsty. There is nothing wrong with not going to your child when she wants yet another glass of water at night. There’s nothing wrong with that dad at the zoo saying, “Absolutely you can have something to drink, but you must wait until we pass the next drinking fountain.” There is nothing wrong with using the word “No” on occasion, nothing wrong with asking your child to entertain herself for a few minutes because mummy would like to use the toilet in private or flick through a magazine for that matter.

 

I fear that if we don’t start to correct these five grave parenting mistakes, and soon, the children we are raising will grow up to be entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults. It won’t be their fault — it will be ours. We never taught them any differently, we never expected any more of them. We never wanted them to feel any discomfort, and so when they inevitably do, they are woefully unprepared for it. So please, parents and caregivers from London to Los Angeles, and all over the world, ask more. Expect more. Share your struggles. Give less. And let’s straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.”

 

Improve Your Marriage in 30 seconds

Improve your marriage – Essentially EVERY couple, given the choice and the opportunity, wants to know how to do that. If you are married or in a relationship, chances are you will agree with me right off the bat – without having to think any further about it. A colleague and friend of mine shared this with me a couple of weeks ago and somehow it stuck with me. I don’t agree with Gottman on everything, but this is brilliant on so many different levels. And, it allows for a check-in with reality which – more often than not – tends to be a great place for couples to go back to every so often.

Is there something you can do in 30 seconds to improve your marriage?

See for yourself. Have a listen.

If you were asked that question today, would you know the answer?

What are his/her dreams? And what are yours? Do you even know that?

Do those two answers line up at all? When you got married, were they somehow part of the wedding vows?

Honoring your spouse is one thing. Honoring their dreams is another. Do you remember the last time that you and your spouse made a pact to do just that? Honor each other’s hopes and dreams? When you think about ways to improve your marriage, I wonder if this one comes up much. If I think about mine – I think I would have to say no.

And of course, as with most things, it seems easier said than done.

Improve your marriage –  right here, right now.

But it certainly can be done nevertheless. Do you and I have what it takes?

It takes a conversation.

It takes time.

It takes energy.

It takes responsibility.

It takes respect.

And, no surprise here, it takes love.

In the end, always remember love.

I often give couples in my practice homework – I am certainly going to keep this one in mind. Make time and figure out what the answer is. So that you know, without a doubt, how to best honor your spouse’s dreams.

It’s never too late to find out. Take my word for it. You can improve your marriage or relationship right at this precise moment in time.

If you need help walking through this one question or this process, perhaps you are unsure how marriage counseling works and what to expect, read THIS ARTICLE HERE. Once you are done, let me know if you have any questions. I always LOVE questions – and I look forward to seeing them in my inbox.

The Significance of Communication

There is always a conversation to be had. The only question is – is it happening in your head or out loud? How many bullet points do you have in your head at any given time? Topics you think or, better yet, KNOW that you need to bring up for discussion.

 

 If you are the parent, it’s YOUR responsibility to start. No matter how hard or how easy the topic, unless you have a chatter-box of a kid, you are going to need to start the conversation. If you are unable to share your thoughts, feelings and opinions/responses, your kids will make all sorts of assumptions about what that means for them.

 

Your kids – they learn from you. All the time. Whether you notice them watching or not.

 

They will pick up what you are laying down. They will learn what topics are off the table. They will quickly figure out what time is not appropriate or that there simply is no appropriate time. They will train themselves at perfecting the art of silence if that’s what you are throwing their way.  

 

Communication matters. It always has and always will.

 

And I am not talking text. Or FB message. In fact, I am quite opposed to the use of the above mentioned devices if you are saying more than the permissible “I’m running late”, “In a meeting” or “On my way”. When misused, it can create a havoc. When used in conjunction with face-to-face communication, it may not be quite as harmful.

 

And I trust this will not come as a surprise — this applies to couples just as much with only one distinction: The responsibility is shared.

 

 So much of this has become a regular part of couples’ intake sessions lately. More often than not, one or both of the partners have a complaint related to technology use or abuse.

 

Phone or Facetime is also not ideal but it is the next best thing to good old-fashioned, in-person, real-time conversation.

 

Think about it.

Re-connect.

Really.

 

 

#talk#RuleNo1