Making Your Marriage a Priority

empty nesters hi
Recently I was interviewed on the radio to discuss the question of how to prioritize your relationship with your spouse vs. your kids. You can listen to the 20-minute segment here. Here’s the spoiler: I come down firmly on the side of keeping your spouse #1 on your list. This of course doesn’t mean that you ignore your children’s needs or that you spend 100% of your time and energy on your spouse. It just means that your relationship with your spouse comes first. Many people think that “the children come first” and end up putting too little, or nothing at all, into the marital relationship....
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How Do I Get My Kids to Eat Their Vegetables?

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Another common battleground for parents with young children is mealtime.  Getting kids to eat their proverbial veggies has been a vexing problem since time immemorial.  Just as we noted with bedtime, it’s unlikely you will ever have children who are 100% compliant with your wishes 100% of the time.  Nevertheless, there are certain steps you can take to make mealtimes easier and more pleasant for all involved. Lower Your Expectations Sometimes the frustration parents experience at mealtime is simply a product of expectations that are too high.  A two-year-old is not going to remain spotlessly...
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The Five Love Languages: Finding Your Language

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Okay, so, we’ve talked a lot about the different Love Languages. But how do you know which is yours? Below we’ll discuss a couple of ways you can try to determine which language fits you best. You and your partner can both try to figure out for yourselves, and for each other, what your love languages are and share your answers with each other. 1. It’s obvious Sometimes, one of the Languages just jumps out at you.  You read about it (see our above posts) and it really resonates with you; you know that’s YOU.  If so, consider yourself lucky, and pass the info on to your significant other so s/...
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The Five Love Languages: Physical Touch

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The last of the Five Love Languages is Physical Touch.  This one is in some ways very easy and in some ways very hard. It’s very easy because it’s pretty clear what we’re referring to when we say “physical touch.”  But it can also be very hard because for many people, it’s simply not natural. Let’s explore further. What it Looks Like As with all the other Love Languages, Physical Touch is for some way the main thing they need to feel loved.  Words are nice, gifts are delightful, but they don’t help such a person to feel truly connected and loved.  To bond with a Touch person, then, you need ...
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The Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation hi
Words of Affirmation is the first of the love languages described in Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages system. For people whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, it’s what you say that counts.  This of course does not mean that you can act like a slob, forget your wife’s birthday gift or cheat on your spouse as long as you say nice things while you do it. It just means that in order for your spouse to feel truly loved by you, you will need to use the power of speech. This is in some ways very easy and in some ways very difficult.  On one hand, we all know what it means to spea...
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The Five Love Languages

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The Five Love Languages® is a great tool for improving relationships, whether you’re at the beginning of a new relationship or you’ve been married for decades.  It is a very simple and understandable method of connecting with your significant other – as well as your children, parents, siblings, friends, and anyone else you are in a relationship with.  There is an extensive array of books, quizzes, and online resources you can look into at http://www.5lovelanguages.com.  Here I will offer a brief overview of this concept which you can use as a springboard for further exploration; I will continu...
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Family Therapy: Parental Transitions

Family Therapy hi
In the previous post we cited a number of examples of role changes that can lead to conflict in the home and the importance of family therapy for managing these transitions.  There we focused primarily on the changes experienced by the daughter in a relationship (see here for why I am using female protagonists in this discussion). However, I wanted to note that transition is really a lifelong companion and that parents too go through their own life transitions. A common time in a parent’s life that causes a major role shift is retirement.  If an individual has been in the workforce for deca...
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Mothers & Daughters: Changing Roles

Mother & Daughter hi
Why do relationships between mothers and daughters that are warm, loving, and peaceable turn into battlegrounds of conflict and frustration?  What happens that causes such a drastic change, often in so short a time? The usual culprit is transition.  Life transitions are generally a period of personal instability and therefore instability in relationships. This can be felt powerfully in parent-child relationships because usually one party is undergoing a major change while the other isn’t, and is therefore not expecting things to change. For example, a common period when conflict betw...
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Family Therapy: Parents & Children

mother and daughter hi
We frequently get calls for family therapy, specifically regarding troubled mother/daughter relationships.  These include young parents with school- or preschool-aged children, middle-aged women with their teenage/young adult daughters, and even up to elderly women who still struggle with having a proper relationship with their adult daughters. Why does this particular relationship so often run into trouble?  The truth is, there is probably just as much opportunity for conflict with fathers and with sons. However, since our culture frowns upon men expressing emotion (apart from the emotio...
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The Kids Were Difficult Tonight

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An amazing thing happened in my house last night. I was out for the evening, and I came home to find a tired but relatively cheerful wife and three sleeping children. This is what I would call an excellent outcome for a nighttime routine executed with only one parent. But that wasn’t the amazing part. That was excellent, but not necessarily amazing. What was amazing was my wife’s take on it. She said, quote, “The kids were difficult tonight, so I had to be extra creative.” AMAZING! Did you hear that? She did not say “the kids were difficult tonight and I totally lost my cool,” or, “the kids...
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How In-Laws Can Support a Marriage

help with in-laws hi
Parents-in-law have been known to cause grief in many a marriage, but they can also be of tremendous help to it.  In this article I touch on just a few important notes for how parents of adult offspring can do right by their children and their children's spouse. http://www.marriage.com/advice/counseling/how-in-laws-can-support-a-marriage/ Learn more about our family counseling services here.
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Do You Have a Family Member with Borderline Personality Disorder?

borderline personality disorder hi
It is not uncommon for us to field calls from people looking to get help for someone other than themselves. One common category of such callers is the family member of someone with borderline personality disorder. If you have a relative with this diagnosis, this probably comes as no surprise to you. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of unstable and highly emotional relationships, as well as impulsivity and emotional volatility. If someone in your family has this disorder, you know something is wrong, even if you haven’t heard of the diagnosis. It is not the kind ...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 4

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The last piece I’m going to post on the topic of why a good marriage is the best gift we can give to ours kids is probably the simplest: 4. It’s just nicer to live in a happy household than an unhappy one. Can anyone disagree with that? Who wants to live in a home where people are constantly upset with one another, yelling at each other, harping on each other’s insecurities? What gift could be better than a house full of love and contentment? Children superficially clamor for material things, because they cannot understand more than that – they beg for a new bike, the latest gadget, the new ...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 3

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Continuing on in our exploration of why a good marriage is so vital to your childrearing endeavors, here is reason #3: 3. They’ll do as you do. Jimmy’s parents were called into school, where Jimmy was waiting apprehensively in the principal’s office. The principal sat down with the three of them, looking very sternly at Jimmy and his parents, and said he regretted to inform the parents that their son had been caught stealing pencils from the supply closet. “Stealing?!?!” gasped the father. “Jimmy, how could you?! If you needed pencils, why didn’t you just tell me? I would have brought you so...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 2

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In the last post, I opened up the topic of why a good marriage is good parenting and discussed the issue of household stability. Here is reason #2 that the best gift you can give your children is a good marriage. 2. Kids run on emotion. As noted in the previous post, kids are consumed by their emotions. Rational self-control is a hallmark of maturity; no matter how persuasive your logical discourses may, you will not get a four-year-old to stop crying about a lost candy bar. The grief fills their entire being, and the faculty for saying, “You know what? I have twenty-three other kinds of can...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children

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When I get a call from parents seeking help with problems with their children, it is not uncommon that a large portion of the work actually needs to happen with the parents themselves. Unrealistic expectations, misguided parenting approaches, personal problems, and other factors play into this a lot. One important element that needs to be considered is related to a point I make to many of these parents, and to many clients that come in for other issues as well, unrelated to their children, and that is: the best gift you can give to your kids is a good marriage. (This is an especially timely me...
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The Only Thing I Can Give to My Daughter That Matters

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I recently posted an article on Kveller.com, a site I enjoy sharing my personal experiences on. Check out my fun and educational story of the day I spent one-on-one with my four year old! http://www.kveller.com/the-only-thing-i-can-give-to-my-daughter-that-matters/   Learn more about our parenting counseling services here.
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Assertiveness in Relationships

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Everyone has things they want and need out of the relationships they are in. Most people recognize that aggressive behavior is not a good way to get those things while maintaining the relationship at the same time – you might get what you want, but you might also find yourself with one less friend thereafter. On the other side of the spectrum, passive behavior is a strategy many people use in order to keep a relationship, giving in to the demands of another for fear that standing up to them might lead to the other person walking away from the relationship. What is the middle path? Passive-aggr...
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My New Favorite Parenting Expert!

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I recently chanced across an article by Andrea Nair and was so appreciative of it that I looked her up and ended up finding dozens more really helpful articles.  I agree with almost everything she says. I think her perspectives are spot-on and her techniques very solid.  Here is a super article entitled "Stop Tantrums: 33 Phrases to Use With Toddlers" (which I just reviewed for myself as I was posting this.)  A few choice excerpts: 3.     “Pajama time! How about like this?” Put your child’s bottoms on your head. 14.  Put a plate of cut vegetables at your place at the table and say, “I hope...
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Modern Communication Tools for Parents

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This morning while dropping my kids off at school I spotted a mom driving her minivan into the carpool line while talking on a handheld cellphone.  I don't know what the laws are in other states, and I'm not really going to go googling right now, but in Maryland, this is illegal.  And I am pretty confident that in all 50 states it's dangerous.  So let's take a look at all the messages this mother gave to her darling children in the back seats in this one moment: You don't need to follow the rules. It's okay to break rules as long as you don't get caught. Safety is not important if it's...
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Mother Trouble

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Check out our new video about one of our unique specialties - helping adults manage their relationships with their own parents!  We hear a lot of complaints about this kind of issue out in the community and just chatting with friends, but not a lot of people think to get professional help with it.  Sometimes, a few counseling sessions is just what's needed to figure out how to break through an impasse, make amends, or just learn how to deal with a nasty relative.  Check it out:   Learn more about getting help with your parents and in-laws here.
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The Mama Bear Effect – Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coloring Pages

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A friend of mine passed these along to me - coloring pages to be used in discussing sexual abuse with your children.  Check them out at http://themamabeareffect.org/coloring-pages.html. I think they are fantastic!  This can really help children become active in their learning important principles about staying safe from abuse.  Remember that this topic is not something you can convey in a one-time conversation - it's something that you need to bring up from time to time over the course of your kids' childhood.  This is another tool you can use in this process.  They touch on some very impor...
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Why Moms Get Nothing Done

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Have you seen this video yet? This entertaining video gone viral by Story of This Life is generating a lot of conversation – over 3 million views on YouTube as of this writing! Many Moms out there LOL when they watch this video, recognizing the can’t-get-anything-done scenario and laughing at their own frustration. There’s no doubt that this is a cute little toddler! Some folks are posting their own pictures of that triumphant toddler who has taken over Mom’s home domain with making such a mess; others comment that Moms need to come up with some other solutions than letting the toddler ...
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