Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parenting Lessons -- Finding Our Way, Neck-Deep Into the Pre-Teen Years

Well, it's been awhile since I've talked about the challenges we've been having with communicating with our oldest son. My previous post was well over a month ago, although the obstacles we've come across have practically been daily.

Well, we did it! We decided together to seek guidance and talk with a family therapist. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor who came highly recommended from a close girlfriend of mine.

Paul and I went to meet with this therapist this morning and I am happy to say that the first session was fantastic. Having gone through therapy many years ago to help me deal with personal issues stemming from my own childhood, I am so much more in love with the man I spend my life with just knowing how he is so open to family therapy.  It shows his devotion to me and our family, his determination to be the best parent and partner, his confidence in the Man and Parent he already is, and just his understanding that many times it is a subjective eye that is able to provide the most helpful guidance.

We Get Homework Too!

Just some quick points we'll be working on to help improve our communication issues with Zack...

  1. Lecture less.

    One of the issues we're having is that homework in the 6th grade has become more challenging for him, and the number of courses increases the amount of homework he has each night. I want to help him, but for various reasons many nights have ended late and with arguments. We have decided that he should go to study hall, which is an after-school option where he can spend some quiet time doing his homework and have a teacher available if he has questions. Well, convincing Zack to go to study hall has been tough. For every point we have for why we expect him to go, he has a point why he does not want or need to. The therapist pointed out that we do lecture him quite a bit. After explaining to her what we say to Zack, she said, "You know what he hears?" And she did the "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah" mimic of the Charlie Brown teacher. Before we jump into the reasons why we expect him to go to study hall, she advised that we ...

  2. Listen more.

    In the same scenario, it was easy to see why so many of our encounters with Zack result in arguments. It has constantly been a back and forth between him and us -- "You need to go to study hall because...", "Well, I can't go today because..." And, he is not hearing us. On the same note, we aren't letting him just talk. We're rebutting too quickly. It's also apparent now how this one fact likely plays a part in the reason why he does not communicate with us. Why should he? When he says something, we just rebut. So now, we'll be trying more to allow him more space to just explain whatever it is he has in his mind. Whether or not we agree, we need to let him completely have his stance.

  3. Give him some carrots.

    We also determined that we have way to many consequences. For example, we'll threaten to take away his phone or his computer. Since so much of what he did suffered a consequence she asked, "What is his incentive to do anything that he doesn't want to do, that you want him to do?" Instead, after listening to everything he has to say about, for example, not having to go to study hall, our decision as his parents is that he has to go. So, instead of threatening to take something away (which in the end he doesn't really care that much about and actually just gives him reason to be mad at us), we should offer him a reward -- sort of like dangling a carrot in front of him. It should be something small, but it should be easy for us to figure out what he would really like. So, we decided that if he tries it out for a week that he and his best friend can walk up to the local frozen yogurt place, our treat. It's a taste of independence that he'll think is so cool.

My Smart Alec Other Half -- And, Other Things I Already Knew

When we left the therapist's building this morning, I asked Paul, "So, what did you think?"  He was so hilarious.

He said, "Well, she didn't say anything that I didn't already know.  The whole time I was thinking it's all your fault and I wanted to say, 'You know, I completely agree with everything you're saying. That's what I've been trying to tell Jamie this whole time.' But, I held myself back and didn't say anything."

Of course, he was joking and I'm glad we can still laugh at ourselves.  It will help us as we try to work out the things we need to focus on as we continue to raise, love, and (hopefully) still influence our growing son who is so wonderful -- but I already knew that. :)

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