You Are A Great Teacher! (No, Really!)

Do you realize that you are a GREAT teacher!? You really are. You are excellent at getting a lesson across to your kids, your spouse, employees, co-workers, nearly everyone you interact with on a daily basis. What you do and say makes an impression on your “students” … whether you mean for it to or not.

And sometimes the most powerful lessons you teach are those you don’t necessarily mean to deliver.

For example, when you comment with sarcasm to a less-than-perfect statement by someone. Like when your co-worker states they don’t like a new policy: “I just don’t like that we have to ask for time off a whole two weeks ahead of time. It is hard to remember to do that.” And you reply, “Yeah, it’s REALLY, REALLY hard to remember to type out a five second memo, isn’t it!?

What they were really asking for may have been a suggestion from you about how to be sure they meet the earlier deadline. Maybe if you said something like,

“Yes, it is longer than before, but I’ll bet they’re just trying to make sure everyone gets listed as well as possible. I think what I’ll do is to make a note as soon as my wife and I begin planning our trip. Then I’ll have it in front of me. At least I can be sure they have time to fit in my time off and let me know if there is a conflict.”
Lots easier on the ear, plus you’ve just taught your co-worker a lesson on inter-office communication and working within a system.

Or when your son ignores your request to move his toys from the driveway. Rather than roar at him, “Get off your BUTT and get your JUNK off the driveway before I drag it to the curb for the trash truck! NOW, MISTER!” Ouch. I’ve had a few of those reactions after a long, tough day.

But what have you just taught your boy? That “the Boss” is demanding and rude, and if you don’t want trouble, you better fear his roar! (Yeah, that’s what he’s thinking as he stomps off to obey your command!) (See what I did there? That’s sarcasm!)

Is that who you want him to become for those around him and for your future grandchildren? Probably not. But you most likely weren’t thinking about being a teacher when you were screaming at him. Children, especially, internalize what and how they are treated.

The meanness of his parent’s voice says that you disrespect him, you see him as a failure, and that you don’t think he is worth any patience. What a horrible building block for a dad, a husband, a boss, a man.

Here’s a neat idea, how about treating your child (or your spouse, or your co-worker) like you would want to be treated? Something more like,

“Hey Buddy, I asked you to move your things so they wouldn’t get damaged, please do it. I’ll bet you just forgot to put them away, and you know best where they should go, so please take care of it right now and I’ll help you.”
NOW you’re building him up and creating a positive role model for him to follow.

YOU are the only person many folks have who can build them up. You also may be one of the most influential in their day.

Give them a reason to admire you, to follow you, to remember you well. Chances are they need someone in their life like you to build them up.

Communication matters.

Marriage Planning

I love counseling couples. I love watching angry, conflicted husbands and wives slowly, through the process of Mediation, learn to understand what is troubling them. And then – DING! – see the light come on as they make that leap of progress together.

But I really love doing pre-marriage (program) even more. Pre-marriage planning (my own program is called STEPprep©) for a couple planning to create a stepfamily is different. It’s much more challenging.

And it should be! With divorce rates for 2nd marriages at 66% and for 3rd marriages at 75%, any couple who just “Hopes for the best,” or trusts that “Love will conquer all our problems,” isn’t being realistic. They are planning to fail, even if they don’t realize it.

And they are planning to cause their children even more trauma and damage from ANOTHER divorce and another broken home. Children who follow their parents through multiple divorces are much more likely to be negatively impacted for the rest of their lives.

Pre-planning for your next marriage is VITAL. It is not optional or a special extra or just a good idea if we have time and money for it. Believe me – I have taught divorcing Parents classes for the State Family Court System since 2004. No one expects to divorce again – yet most find themselves going through another divorce.

WHY

The reason I love pre-marriage planning so much, whether it is in my offices locally, or more frequently long distance via video conference and email, is because it is so much fun!

Pre-re-marriage planning (STEPprep) participants are:

1. More positive and optimistic,

2. Eager to learn, and

3. Looking to a Bright future ahead

HOW

I created STEPprep in 2007 in response to a need I saw repeatedly in my stepparenting class. Couples were struggling because they had no preparation before they married, and they said they were surprised or stunned by the situations that popped up in their new marriages.

My Goal is to bring reality to their world. Not to bring them down from their joy, but to help them be prepared for the challenges ahead. And maybe to Scare them some.

I try to Teach the bethrotheds a lot about themselves they haven’t faced or known before.

Together, we open all the closets, junk drawers, old dusty boxes, exposing the “skeletons” from their previous lives and previous marriages. Most are so in love (sometimes desperately so) they aren’t looking realistically either at themselves or at their Baggage from their former marriage experiences, and who all they will bring into the new marriage.

We also look at methods for handling the shocks that will come up. And how to fight right so the fight leads to more understanding and growth, not hurt feelings. (Because, hold onto your hat, you will fight much more than you will make love in your new relationship.)

I will help you come to accept the person you are marrying so you don’t fall into the trap of trying to “fix” them later. So you can both be comfortable in your “shared canoe” (without becoming afraid you’ll fall out every time he/she moves). And to realize that THIS is the person you have chosen to partner with for the rest of your life.

Because, If you start trying to change or “fix” each other, you are saying:

• You don’t like who/how they are

• You don’t approve of how God made them

• You think you could have done better

• You may, some day, go looking for someone who does fit your wants

SPECIAL NOTICE: due to the intrusion of the coronavirus (Covid-19), this premarriage program – and all my programs including one-on-one mediation/counseling – are available on-line, via telephone, or through video conferencing. Email me for details and to set up your appointment: Coach@FamilyMediator.org

Right now, as is usual for the first of the year, pre-re-marriage programs are way down

After holidays, most couples are not in the heavy planning stages of getting married

But now is the time to start thinking about how you will handle stepkids, in-laws, even EX-in-laws. If you think you should prepare before you make the commitment to yourself, your children, and your significant other, contact me directly so we can talk about how to get a program going for you.

You can read all about my STEPprep program here: http://www.familymediator.org/stepprep.html

Rewrite on UnDead Ex-spouses

I am currently working on rewriting, polishing up, adding new lessons I’ve learned to some of my old newspaper columns. And I though that maybe you would like to see the growth process as it comes along.

Here is a brief addition to a column I titled, “Dealing with the Undead.” The undead here refers to those pesky ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, and even friends of the now ended couple you once were.

The revised part is here:

“You married a person with a past. If you haven’t dealt with it (REALLY dealt with it, not just glossed it over), you’d better soon. This is where a support group can help a lot. Let others act as cushioning as you pry out details about your respective pasts and what they mean to your family today.

You must allow your stepkids – and your mate – to retain that past life. To try to make them hide their past is to steal part of their life. Happy memories of Daddy and Mommy and the kids on a trip together or around a birthday cake are some of the bricks we’re built of. To try to erase them is painful and dangerous.

How arrogant of someone to think they have the right to ask (or insist or demand!) their new partner should forget their past life for you! They had an entire life before you. Granted, it did not end well, but every marriage – every family has good times, has fun, builds happy memories. For you to want to, or try to take that away is very bad. In fact, you need to examine your approach to “love” if you want to steal your new family’s happiness just so you can force your own way on them.”

So, what do you think? If you have any thoughts on the tone, the wording, or the subject, please leave a comment to let me know.

Watch this blog for more rewrites over the next weeks.

TTFN!

STEPcoach Bob

How Much is Too Much?

Happy New Year, my dear friends! 2020 is here, like it or not. I hope you are growing closer together and looking forward to being more happily in love with each other throughout the next twelve months.

Two couples are weighing heavily on my mind this morning, as I pull myself into a new day, week, month, year, and decade; both couples’ families are facing a rough new dawn.

TOM AND MEL

One couple, Tom and Mel, (names changed, as well as some of the more identifiable facts below) first came to our weekly stepparenting support group classes around nine years ago. They weren’t married yet but she was helping him raise his two pre-teen children from a previous marriage. The battles with his ex and the conflicts between Mel and Tom’s children were putting a serious strain on their relationship.

They continued attending classes weekly while looking for ways to deal with their problems. Eventually, I began seeing them privately for couples’ mediation sessions and we were able to settle the dust. His children grew older; things evened off a bit between Mel and Tom’s kids; the couple settled down and had a baby of their own, which helped solidify the new family as Tom’s daughter fell in love with her new stepsister.

As with most couples, Tom and Mel had ups and downs. His kids grew up and became quite a bit better; Mel and he had a second baby of their own; they moved to another state and we lost touch. I recently got an email from Mel saying that things had worsened to the point that Tom finally moved out saying he didn’t love her any more.

Mel stays in touch via Facebook, and I watched her struggle through a Christmas and into this new year alone with her two young kids. Both Tom and Mel are broken hearted and alone and wondering what went wrong – but they both agree they don’t feel like trying any more.

DREW AND ANNA

About the same time, another couple — Drew and Anna — began attending the group classes. He was a local man who was engaged to a younger Russian woman after exchanging letters and emails for a few months. They were attending our support group, like Tom and Mel, to prepare for the daunting prospect of joining two touchy situations into one more touchy situation. He, too, had two children from a previous failed marriage.

Like the first couple, Drew and Anna struggled with not only the same, common stepfamily conflicts – kids, an ex, and new relationship upsets – but with the extra frustration of different culture expectations. I met with them privately some over the years and together we managed to find the patience, understanding, and love to push through together.

They had a baby boy whom they were both crazy about, and life spiraled on through the ups and downs. At one point, Anna contacted me and asked for help with some tougher-than-usual conflicts during which Drew had moved out. But, in this case love won out, and they got back together and moved on in love.

Then Drew had a slight health complication which, suddenly, lead to his totally unexpected death. Anna and their grade school age son were crushed. We all felt the shock as the joy of reunion was followed so quickly by tragedy.

Today, through her postings on Facebook I see Anna recovering from her loss and blooming again with their son. Of course she longs for her sweetheart, but Anna has the comfort of beautiful memories of his love and their happy time together before he was gone from her.

TWO VERY DIFFERENT NEW YEARS

And now, in this turning over of a year and lives, I watch these two families — one broken and alone, the other alone but still full of love. Neither knew what the future held for them. Neither could have anticipated the unexpected turns their lives would take in 2020.

NOW my friends, which future will you choose for your own family to experience in a year or a decade? Will you give up and submit your children to broken hearts and a future of watching Mom and Dad bicker and play tug-of-war with them, teaching their children lessons of warfare and how to hurt someone you once loved?

Or will you look beyond the petty arguments that attack every stepfamily, choosing to teach your children, like Anna is doing, that love goes on beyond disappointments, and even beyond death?

Yes, both mothers are now raising their children without their partners, but — oh! — what a difference stubborn, determined love can make! One household filled with warmth and sweet memories versus another filled with ache and bitterness.

You have the choice. During every fight, every upset, every disappointment, you get to choose your future. And please remember, not only are you choosing your own possible future, but you are consciously deciding what you want to demonstrate to your children.

Step carefully, my friends.

Stepcoach Bob Collins

P. S. If you appreciated this insight onto other couples’ rollercoaster of stepfamily lives, 1) let me know and 2) if you have a story of survival or of loss tell me so I can share it.

And, if you let me know you liked this article in the comments, I’ll give you another picture of possibilities and eventualities in families like yours.

God bless your whole family!

Got A Defiant Rule-Breaker? GREAT!

Stubborn childAs you know, divorce and family spilts can cause all kinds of upsets for children who find themselves torn between two beloved parents. And those upsets often lead to acting out and other confusing behavior changes.

However, sometimes a stubborn kid is stubborn because … well, just because she’s a stubborn kid!

And that may not be all that bad. No, really. As hard as it is to go into a battle of wills every-single-stinkin’-day, many studies are proving that those less than blissful children may be literally Diamonds in the Rough.

The child who too often argues about dinner time, bed time, television limitations, naps, and seemingly every other thing may be the child who shoots up the ladder of success ahead of his more compliant companions.

The following, attached article explains the whys this can happen and offers some suggestions about how to encourage your Alpha-wolf cub toward a future of leadership. It’s a good read.

But let me suggest also that you help your budding CEO learn to respect the reality of Rules for safety and the common (family) good. Just because you understand that it is good to Nurture a character of go-to-it, that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility to “train up your child in the way he should go.”

That leader of men will also need to follow guidelines in society on her way to success. And you are the designated teacher and shaper of character. YOU are the ones whom he or she will look to for direction. Your child may do this grudgingly or even a bit resentfully, but you are the models for their dealings with the world.

Nurturing the gifts and talents given to your child is a solemn responsibility. No one else can communicate what you can. They — and we — are counting on you.

STEPcoach Bob Collins


Your Stubborn Child Might Just Turn Out To Be More Successful And Wealthier, Says Study

https://understandingcompassion.com/articles/your-stubborn-child-might-just-turn-out-to-be-more-successful-and-wealthier-says-study/

Sensitive Child?

We talk a lot about strong-willed, troublesome kids, but what about the other extreme?

Do you have a sensitive (step)child? They seem to get hurt feelings over anything, from a sharp word to just a glance that they interpret differently than you meant.

Having both helped raise a sensitive child and (especially) having been one myself, I can empathize with both parent and child. A sensitive child is in turmoil much of the time when they are interacting with others, unsure how to approach them, but knowing they are supposed to be social — even when they would rather be alone or sitting quietly reading a book with quiet friends, quietly.

And the (step)parent has to interpret the mood of this mysterious child at this time.

The article below has some good suggestions, but I really want to hear about your own experiences raising (or being) a sensitive child. What do you notice that is different? What do you feel you have to be more aware of?

And, what are some sweet benefits you get to enjoy with a more sensitive (step)child?

Share, please!

https://www.verywellfamily.com/parenting-a-sensitive-child-8-discipline-strategies-1094942

STOP the Fights Already!

Arguments happen - Peace is createdSometimes families get tangled up in conflicting wants.

He says I believe we should do this and do it this way.

And she says (not to be obstinate, honestly having a different view point) No, we need to do it this way!

And you’re off to the races! He gets steadily firmer in his way, she gets more convinced of her way. And before you know it the whole family is bound up in the tension.

Well, have I got good news for you!

Mediation can solve those conflicts

  • Mediation is a process where one person (the Mediator)
  • guides two parties who are in conflict (such as a divorcing husband and wife, or two divorced parents)
  • to find a solution to their disagreements so they can work together for their children.

Our family Mediation Program has been very successful in helping divorced parents and stepfamilies in all stages find peaceful solutions to family conflicts and disputes.

Mediation is designed to help you get past your immediate stressful situations and develop stronger, more positive methods of building more workable relationships.

Mediation is shorter in duration than counseling and less expensive than hiring lawyers.

Mediation is NOT psychiatry, psychological counseling, or traditional marriage therapy. I am not intent on analyzing your relationship skills, your psychoses, or any mental illnesses.

My only goal is to help your family survive and succeed and work better.

When couples cannot reach a reasoned agreement, the whole family suffers, especially the children, because most divorces involve unresolved quarrels.

The number one cause of trauma for children of divorce is their parents’ battles. Mediation can lessen the battles and allow for a better family life.

Mediation for Ex-Spouses is the most effective method of dealing with:

  • hurt feelings and guilt
  • disrespect, both for parents and children
  • misunderstandings caused by angry or improper communication

Left unaddressed, these can make divorced parents become enemies instead of cooperative partners in raising their children. Mediation is a controlled, safe atmosphere where both sides can honestly discuss what is best for their children.

You Are Not Alone

I will act as both your Personal Coach and your formal Mediator who won’t take sides with either of you, but will keep you on track toward a positive solution.

As your Coach, I will help you both to develop a plan to handle your conflicts.
I will Mediate between you regarding specific problems that are holding you back,
and Coach you both to new ways to deal with those challenges.

To learn how Mediation can help your family, contact me at 479-522-7490

New Video Game Alert

Boy screaming at TV as he plays video game
Riding the Rage of Video Games

Whether you’re talking specifically about the newest phenom in video games, Fortnite, or any of the other 100s of addictive games your child has access to, as a parent and/or stepparent, it is part of your duty to make sure your kids can handle them.

The article referenced below about Fortnite refers to complications your kids can encounter if they play video games. My own grandson has had problems with these effects as he has grown up. In particular, we noticed that he would be quite a bit more aggressive after a session with the video. His temper would be shorter, his attitude more defensive, and his conversation was more rude than usual. We wound up with a pretty strict rule about limiting his playing time. (Every other day for no more than an hour at a time)

Read this article, then let me know if you’ve noticed any problems with video games in your tribe.

Movieguide: Three Things Parents Need to Know About Fortnite

The Effects of Divorce on Children

The list below is a small but important part of the material I teach in my court-ordered divorcing parents’ class, Parenting Together©. These statistics describe what your children are facing or dealing with if you have already divorced. The rest of my class deals with how to lessen the damage caused by divorce.

1) “Children who grow up in single-parent homes are less likely to marry, more likely to divorce, and more likely to have children outside of wedlock.” Daniel T. Lichter et al., “Race and the Retreat from Marriage: A Shortage of Marriageable Men?” American Sociological Review 57 (December 1992)

2) A study on the effects of unmarried mothers’ child raising found that daughters were more likely to become sexually active in their teen years and were more likely to become involved with men that will abuse them. The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher p. 167, citing Stephanie Schamess, “The Search for Love: Unmarried Adolescent Mothers’ Views of and Relationships with, Men”

3) Women raised in female-headed families are 53% likelier to have teenage marriages, 111% likelier to have teenage births, 164% likelier to have premarital births, and 93% likelier to experience marital disruptions (a.k.a divorces of their own when they get married. “Intergenerational Consequences of Family Disruption,” American Journal of Sociology 4 (July, 1988)

4) A major study has documented that “teen boys from one-parent households are almost twice as likely to father a child out of wedlock as teen boys from two-parent families.” William Marsiglio, “Adolescent Fathers in the United States: Their Initial Living Arrangements, Marital Experience and Educational Outcomes,” Family Planning Perspective.

5) Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families, according to a study which tracked 6,000 males aged 14— 22. Coalition of Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

6) Two-thirds of CoD (children of divorce) say they Felt like they grew up in two different families, not one, which creates “endless and often painful complications for a child.” Between Two Worlds; Elizabeth Marquadt

7) Fully 44% of CoD said “I was alone as a child” vs. only 14% of those in intact families, a three-fold difference. The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce; Marquadt

8) 20% of young adult CoD state “I love my parents, but don’t respect them.” What causes that loss of respect? Parent-to-parent relationships. Between Two Worlds; Marquadt

9) Most children blame themselves for their parents’ divorce according to numerous studies.

10) The effects of divorce on children is not short-term, as once believed; they are affected for the rest of their lives in almost every context. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce; Judith Wallerstein

11) When CoD act out their anger felt toward their parents, the children suffer much more than the intended victims — their parents. Wallerstein

12) Fighting ex-spouses damage their children. Period. Only by learning to cooperate, through mediation or some other method, can the parents hope to rescue their children from disaster. Marquadt

** This information and much, much more is included in my guidebook for divorcing parents, (HERE)

LOOKING FOR HAPPY HOLIDAYS IN A DIVORCED FAMILY

As parents battle over semantics, children get torn to pieces in the fray.

Holidays are a big deal for pretty much every family. Halloween, Easter, Independence day, all tug at family members, making us think of past celebrations and wondering about this year’s plans. But, of course, the biggies are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve; those are the ones that really feel like family events. In most every kind of family, these holidays mean reconnecting with loved ones.

Especially for kids, and especially after a divorce. In fact, often some of the earliest questions children wonder about when they learn of their parents’ plans to divorce (following the questions of Why? Where will I live? and Will you still love me?) are, “What about Christmas? Where will we open our presents? Will we still go to Grandma’s together? Who will fix Thanksgiving dinner?”

EMOTIONAL ISSUES

These can become crucial – and very emotional – issues for kids whose whole world seems to have fallen apart. When, they cry, will we get the normal back to our family?!

And, oddly enough, the older kids get more upset about holiday traditions, since they have experienced more family get-togethers than younger children have. Even the sullen teenager who last year just sat alone, texting friends and listening to his/her playlist instead of participating in games and storytelling, suddenly becomes adamant that they get to spend time with neglected grandparents, aunts & uncles, and weird cousins.

Why, in the midst of confusion trying to recover from divorce pressures and paperwork, are your kids choosing now to get fussy about seeing people they ignored before? It just seems like one more drama production for you to handle. Are they just trying to break you?

FAMILY!

Because, in the shock of seeing their family broken and wondering what foundations they have left, even those annoying family traditions previously about as important as a forgotten old box in the attic become dear old friends. One more dinner at Grandma’s house with Mom and Dad both together seems like the most precious dream for a child who is coming to realize they may never see their parents together again.

If this is the first holiday season after the divorce, this is an extremely important time. Your children will look on this as an indication of how the next several years will go. And they will look back at this season through the years as the way their new life started out. Give them a good memory and hope for the future years.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

So, what do your children need from you this year, during these coming holidays?

They need you to build a sense of calm, to keep the drama to a bare minimum.

Try to let your kids do as many of the activities they cherish as possible – visiting the grandparents, attending the Nutcracker, driving around together to see the lights on the houses, getting back together with cousins – even aunts and uncles.

And, throughout it all, as much as is possible, keep your side of the agreement to focus on peace with your child’s other parent. Even if you ex acts like a jerk, YOU can demonstrate how you wish you both should act, and lead your children toward a happy time.

Help and Hope for Breaking and Broken and reBuilding Families

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