by Judith Xavier, Focus on the Family Singapore
Parents can build up or tear down their children.
Do you remember the most recent conversation you had with your child? What words did you choose to convey your thoughts? What were the emotions evoked in your child? And what was the outcome of that interaction? Often, we get caught up in the hectic pace of life, and our words are more orders than encouragement, and our tone can get tense and curt. Undeniably, this has an effect on our children.
As parents, our words are powerful. They leave an indelible mark on our children; while we might forget the conversations we have had with them as we get busy with adult responsibilities, our words sometimes, linger on in the memories of our children and are carried on into their lives as an adult, impacting how they perceive themselves and the world around them. For example, a young adult who has poor body image may have faced regular critical comments from their parents about their weight and appearance. Another, who is a perfectionist and displays highly self-critical behaviour may have endured constant criticisms about not meeting certain standards in their growing up years.
Conversely, using words of affirmation can have a long-lasting positive impact on your child. A child who’s is regularly affirmed and encouraged, is likely to have greater self-awareness, confidence and resilience, and build positive healthy relationships with others. They are also more likely to practice positive-self talk and keep a healthy perspective when weathering the challenges that are part and parcel of adult life.
Over the course of this week, observe the way you speak to your children. Do you find yourself using more positive or negative words and phrases? How do you handle a situation when your child has fallen short of the standards you set? Do your comments focus mainly on the academic area of your child’s life? Once you understand where the gaps are, you can begin to change the quality of your parent-child conversations. Use words of affirmation and praise when your child has shown good effort. By this, they will know that you see and value what they have done. Perhaps your child has a personal passion in a specific area such as sport, art or music. Affirm their hard work and talent when they showcase it to you – a parent’s praise is priceless!
Even in discipline, it is possible to be consistent and firm, and still extend grace to your child who needs it. This doesn’t mean you should be a permissive push-over – that certainly won’t help your child either. Take the time to discipline your child rather than just handing out punishments; this requires a conversation about their wrong-doing, and how they can set it right, and listening to their thoughts on the situation – you can practice even with a young child who understands right from wrong. As a bonus, your child will likely internalise this process and practice it on their own as they get older.
Often, poor parent-child communication indicates a bigger and more long-standing problem in the lives of the parents – a chronic lack of self-care. Here, the analogy of securing your own oxygen mask in an airplane, before tending to your child, holds true. Make the time and find healthy ways to cope with the stresses you are under, rather than pushing them aside. When you are relaxed and have a healthy perspective, you are more likely practice affirming your child on a regular basis, rather than reacting to them with anxiety and even anger.
The great news is that it is never too late to start a family culture based on affirmation and encouragement. Take small steps today, by using positive words with your child and yourself!
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
by Focus on the Family
What to do when your spouse seems to be making you both poorer by the minute
We received this tongue-in-cheek question at our Crazy Marriage Seminar this year. No surprises that questions on squabbles over money management were one of the most frequently asked.
In many marriages, husbands and wives differ drastically in spending habits but interestingly, the disagreement over money is rarely about money. It is usually more about fighting for something that brings satisfaction to one’s life; pleasure, independence, control, freedom or security.
Here are some ideas as to what you can do if you are living with a spouse whose spending patterns are a cause of concern for you:-
Rally your spouse to be your team player in setting money goals
It is highly likely that neither you nor your spouse would like to be dictated to when it comes to decisions on how much money is to be spent and where to spend it. However, you’ll both need to start with the big picture by collectively deciding on how much money you both envision to keep as security in the form of savings and how much to put aside to freely spend for acquisition of things and investments.
While negotiating this can often be tricky because values might differ from your spouse, the key thing is to remember that the goal is to maintain the health of your marriage – that is what is truly valuable. Coming to a consensus that the both of you are reasonably comfortable with should be the main objective for the sake of your marriage. Think as a team in all your money management decisions – that is the value to hold on to.
Seek to find out the underlying reasons for your spouse’s need to overspend
In every fight, listen to your spouse’s story before telling yours. Find out why your spouse spends compulsively on things. There are usually a myriad reasons for overspending. To name a few – privileged childhood, deprived childhood, depression, anxiety, the thrill of the hunt, satisfaction of snagging good bargains or keeping up appearances. Looked at closely, they all point to one thing – the need to fill an emotional void.
Whether or not your over-spending spouse is fully aware of this fact or oblivious to it, your spouse might think along the lines of, “If I have this, I’ll be hip.” Or, “I’ll be accepted.” Even, “My life just might be complete.” However, the truth is that the acquisition of things never provides real security. It can instead be a never-ending abyss that cannot be filled.
Before making a purchase, encourage your spouse to ask this question, “What am I trying to do?” If the answer has anything to do with finding fulfillment or escaping stress or pain, discourage them from buying the item and instead find ways to be the one to provide the stress relief to your spouse or explore other less material-based pursuits to fill that emotional void of theirs.
The best thing you can do to help your spouse overcome their inclination to overspend is to support him or her in seeking other ways to fill that emotional need. It could be anything from joining them in pursuit of finding fulfilment or even simply spending more time with your spouse doing things you both love that might not even need to cost a cent.
However, seek to validate and not put down your spouse as you help him or her identify unmet emotional needs. Rather than rebut your spouse’s point of view, validate it with statements such as “Let me see if I understand what you are saying” or “If I heard you right, what matters to you is…”
Your validation communicates respect and love.
Be open to seeking professional help too, if you sense there is a need, by seeing a counsellor or religious leader as a couple to help your spouse manage his or her spending habits.
In every marriage, conversations about money are always going to be challenging. But if you are determined to be a spouse who is willing to lovingly help your loved one develop healthy spending habits, your marriage will be greatly strengthened.
©2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Discover strategies on managing your finances effectively as an engaged or newlywed couple by signing up for the next Connect2 workshop!
by Focus on the Family
Strategies to help your child cope with fear
“I’m scared of the dark!”
“My tummy hurts. I can’t go to school today.”
“There’s a monster in the cupboard!”
A child’s fears, both real and imagined, can surface at any time. While it is common enough for all children to experience fears at different points in their growing up years, this can turn into anxiety and very real emotional distress if left unchecked for a prolonged period.
Often, the biggest challenge for parents and caregivers is striking a balance between empathising with the child, without feeding their fears. Here are 3 strategies to try with your child.
Talk about their fears
The worst thing you can do to a fearful child, is to minimise or ignore his fear. Saying “Don’t be scared” or “There’s nothing to be scared of” will only make him even more anxious. Instead, allow your child to speak freely about what is troubling him. Often, this may provide you with insight on the root cause of the fear itself, or what coping mechanisms might work best for the situation. Do keep a calm tone of voice and demeanour, even as you offer a listening ear. This will enable you to empathise with your child without increasing his anxiety.
Make a plan
If you observe your child closely, you’ll find that her fears will follow a predictable pattern. For example, a young child might be afraid of the dark, and you can be sure that this fear will emerge at bedtime each night, resulting in a standard routine of tears, tantrums and a refusal to go to bed. To address this, you could find a time when your child is relaxed, and devise a simple plan of action that she can use. This might include switching on a nightlight before getting into bed each evening, and using self-talk to remind herself that the movements in the dark are simply shadows. If all else fails, they can then call for you. Having a plan assures your child that she is not helpless when fear strikes.
Provide gradual exposure
Completely avoiding the cause of your child’s fear can sometimes backfire and turn it into a long-standing phobia. Some fears can be overcome by gently introducing them to the subject of fear. For example, if a child is fearful of dogs, you might want to visit a park and observe the dogs playing from a distance. After a while, you could visit a friend who has a pet dog, and encourage your child to sit in the same room with it, and then to touch the dog’s coat, when he is comfortable doing so. With this slow and steady exposure, your child can overcome his fears.
Empowering children with the tools to cope with fear builds emotional resilience. As they move through childhood and into adult life, more complex issues are guaranteed to crop up – and these skills will help them deal with crises. In some cases, these coping strategies may not suffice and parents should seek the help of a counsellor who can guide their family effectively.
Join the next Parenting with Confidence class to discover timeless parenting principles, backed by trusted research. Gain the essential tools to raise resilient and resourceful children today!
As parents, it is natural to have big dreams for our children. It is not rare to hear parents telling their children to study hard so that they can become doctors, engineers, lawyers etc. when they grow up. The idea that our children have to excel academically in order to be successful in future is deeply ingrained in the minds of most parents.
However, it is crucial that parents learn to recognise that there is more than one pathway to success and every child is unique in his or her strengths and passions. If we are adamant in forcing our children to fit a certain mould, or try to compare our children with others, the result can be detrimental. Until we embrace a broader definition of success, only then will we be able, and willing to equip our children to chase their dreams, whatever that dream may be.
The recent change in the PSLE scoring system is a start in the government trying to change the trend of an overemphasis on academic grades but to encourage parents to allow their children to pursue their interests as well. We need to ask ourselves, “What kind of future do we want for our children? While we desire for our children to do well academically, are we also nurturing the fundamental qualities that will help them be successful whichever path they choose? Are we taking time to develop their strengths and interests?
Here are three ways you can help your children chase their dreams:
- Observe your children at play and you may discover some hidden talents that you were previously unaware of. For example, does your child often lead the pack when playing in a group? Is he good at conflict resolution when a disagreement happens during playtime? Does he think out of the box or is he more analytical? There are many personality traits you can discover through your observations that can help you guide your children in their development.
- Engage your children in meaningful conversation about their aspirations. Beyond the standard question of “What do you want to do when you grow up”, ask them what they would like to do to make the world a better place. Challenge their thinking and perspective by talking to them about what they observe around them. If they are old enough, talk to them about current affairs or walk them through planning and setting meaningful goals towards achieving their dreams. Share with them the values you would like to see develop in them. Help them to dream big and not just settle for the rat race.
- Encourage your children to pursue their interests, no matter how unrealistic they may seem. For example, if your child wants to be an astronaut, don’t be too quick to diminish that dream and say it is impossible. Instead, take him to the planetarium to look at the stars and dream with him.
Confucius gave us these words of wisdom, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Rather than getting stressed up about our children’s academic results, why don’t we take time to explore and nurture our children’s strengths and passions?
© 2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Discover more tips on how to empower your children to pursue their dreams at our upcoming Parent-Coach Dialogues!