Trust

trustThis is so very true.  And trust is such a huge component to any healthy relationship, whether it’s a family member, friend, or companion.  Lack of trust leads to suspicion of any number of things such as questioning someone’s loyalty, commitment, faithfulness, intentions, motivations, actions, and so on.  It can really drive a wedge between two people.

Some people are naturally suspicious and question the other person’s actions either because of their own prior experiences, beliefs, or insecurities.  For example, my husband does not believe that a guy and a girl can be friends without one or both of them being physically attracted to the other.  Even though I wasn’t giving him a reason to be suspicious, he automatically assumed there might be something going on between a particular guy friend of mine and me or at least that the interest was there, especially because it was someone I had a relationship with back in high school.  I understand the natural suspicion because of the history, but it never mattered what I said or did, we were assumed guilty and he would snoop through emails waiting and hoping to gather some information to catch us in the act of something that was never going to happen.  He would always claim that it wasn’t me he didn’t trust but my friend, which I never believed.  I don’t think he ever really trusted me from the get-go because of whatever insecurities he had.  He has been suspicious of EVERY guy friend I have ever had whether I had a previous relationship with them or not.   So not only did the lack of trust itself play a major role in the demise of our relationship (technically we’re still married because of logistics but haven’t functioned like a married couple in many years), but all of his negative behaviors became worse when he was suspicious, which definitely pushed me away.

It’s funny though that when I was filling him in on a situation that our daughter was dealing with pertaining to another person, he was quick to say, “It’s like he doesn’t think a guy and a girl can be just friends,” as if anyone who thought otherwise was a moron.  So I don’t know if his views have changed or whether he sees things one way when it pertains to him and another when it doesn’t.  I just know that I don’t trust that he is not going to snoop through my things even at this point, and he probably still doesn’t trust me not because of anything I did or didn’t do.

Even in non-companion relationships, once a person has established a pattern of not being trusted, it is easy for someone else to make assumptions about that person that are negative.  My sons tend to sneak things like books out of another’s room, candy, food, time on the computer or other electronics, etc.  So when I hear the basement door open slowly, I am often quick to assume someone is trying to sneak computer time.  Or if I hear the pantry door open or see my one son disappear quickly up the stairs, I am quick to assume that he probably just snuck some food or a book from his brother or maybe has his DS tucked away in his bedroom when he shouldn’t, and then I react accordingly.  I am often right but sometimes am wrong.  If the pattern of behavior hadn’t been established though, I wouldn’t make those assumptions.  I am not the only one in my immediate family who makes these assumptions either, as the rest of the family has seen the same patterns.  So it’s important to act in a way that is trustworthy if you want people to trust you, especially since some people naturally don’t want to trust others to begin with even without factoring in the other person’s behavior.  It’s also important to not be so quick to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, as I addressed in my last post.

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Jumping To Conclusions

How quickly many people tend to do this really bugs me sometimes, whether it’s in our everyday lives interacting with others around us or having to do with things we hear in the news or wherever else.

One recent example coming to mind from the news would be reading a headline about a local cop who supposedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident that took place in a parking garage.  The fact that the media is so quick to report stories with so little information and sometimes put their own spin on things is partly to blame, but with just the headline and basic information reported, it was natural to assume the officer purposely fled the scene for some reason.  His side of the story is that he hit a woman who he didn’t see because she had been walking out from behind a large pillar while he swerved to miss a car that suddenly turned in front of him, he got out and asked if she was OK and told her he was with the police and would help her after he parked his car, and then had to park a little ways away.  By the time he returned, she was gone.  That’s a completely different situation than what the headline eluded to.

That happens all the time where someone is painted out to have done something wrong before his or her side of the story is gathered.  We are so quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn people with so little information, too.  And once those opinions are formed, we are reluctant to change them.  People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it seems to be human nature that we often assume the worst rather than consider other possibilities before we know the whole story.  It’s like we’re looking to see the worst in people. Why is that?

In relationships, so many people are quick to assume their significant other is cheating on them as soon as something seems out of the ordinary. Often times the person is wrong and it was something else like a surprise was being planned, the person was having health issues, they were stressing out about something, they were putting in extra hours at work, they were avoiding the person because they were afraid to bring up a particular topic, or any number of other possibilities.

My immediate family all seem to jump to conclusions frequently just in everyday conversations,  They often think they know what another person is going to say, that the other person is doing or saying something on purpose to bother them, that there is some hidden message or negative implication in what is being said, or that someone is accusing them of something rather than just gathering information.  I am guilty of these things too from time to time.  It’s so easy to think you know what’s coming or what’s intended and so hard to just listen without thinking about what you are going to say or read more into what is being said or done.

It is so very important to give people the benefit of the doubt, whether is in how we communicate or the conclusions we draw about the people we know and the people we don’t know. It’s something it seems most of us need to consciously think about a lot more than we currently do.

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Learned Helplessness

In my last post about being like or not like our parents, I said I didn’t necessarily think that doing everything for our kids is a good idea.  I certainly don’t mind doing things for my kids like making their lunches to take to school and plenty of other things, but I am also conscious of the idea of learned helplessness where the kids become so dependent on their parents to do everything for them that they are not capable of making good decisions and doing things for themselves.  I watched my roommate my freshman year of college completely fall apart and almost fail out of school because her parents practically made every decision and did everything for her up to that point.  They even unpacked her things for her and decided where everything of hers including her furniture should go on the first day.  She had no idea how to manage her time and belongings and get things done.

There are things I wish I had done more at home before leaving for college like laundry and cleaning so that I was better at them once I needed to do them on my own.  I’m still not all that great at cooking, but then again, I wasn’t home much when my mom was making dinner, and it’s not a big interest of mine. Maybe it would be though if I was better at it.

When I helped in my son’s classroom and when I was teaching, I could sometimes tell which students had parents who sit with them through doing most if not all of their homework and are right there to help them figure everything out.  The problem I see with that is that the child doesn’t learn to think things through themselves and struggle with something for a bit before asking for help.  They are also being deprived of the opportunity to feel that sense of accomplishment and pride when they do figure it out on their own, which builds confidence.  It is these students who raise their hands as soon as they don’t understand something when working on class work to ask the teacher to re-explain it to them individually.  That makes the teacher’s job a whole lot harder and why my help was greatly appreciated.  Their homework then is also not a true reflection of their ability, and neither are their projects when parents do a lot of the work on them.

I know kids don’t like it much when they are asked to do things for themselves that they are used to someone else doing for them or when they are given new responsibilities, but hopefully they appreciate it down the road when they realize how many things they don’t need to rely on anyone else to do for them and how helpful they can be to others.  The people I know who are the most willing to do whatever needs to be done to help out without being asked are all people who were raised to do things for themselves and others at an early age.

A Wall Street Journal article from this week titled, “Why Children Need Chores” says that “giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance” and that “chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.”  One study noted found that “young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.”  Apparently, it is strong relationships that are a more reliable predictor of personal happiness than high achievement.  So it is not only important to teach children to be responsible for themselves but also give them that sense of connection and responsibility beyond themselves as well.

I think particularly with the youngest or an only child, it is sometimes hard to come to terms with the fact that they don’t need us as much as they used to, so it’s hard to give up some of the routines like giving them a bath and start encouraging them to do things for themselves.  While some people may think doing so many things for their children and helping them with everything is the best route because they are being so nurturing, they may actually be doing their children a disservice by not allowing them to learn how to figure things out, do things for themselves, and learn to help others as well.  I think there’s a delicate balance that needs to be found where we are doing enough for our kids so they feel loved and nurtured but not so much that they are too dependent on us for everything.

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To Be Or Not To Be … Just Like Our Parents

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good parent, whether they are a parent yet or not.  Our opinions on that have a lot to do with what we experienced growing up and whether we thought our parents were good parents or not.  And whether we like it or not, we will be at least somewhat like our parents.  This may be in our temperament, in our mannerisms, in how strict or lenient we are, in how we handle disciplinary situations, and so many other things.

What I find interesting is what we end up doing the same way our parents did or completely the opposite and why.  Some things are pretty clear, like why my mom for the most part only asked us to make our beds when company was coming over who might check to see how clean the house was and if all the beds were made.  My grandmother was such a stickler about having the beds made that she actually woke me up a couple of times when I stayed at her house so she could make the beds before other company came back upstairs to get dressed after coffee and breakfast.  Or she would make other peoples’ beds when staying at their house.  She couldn’t stand looking at an unmade bed.  I’m sure that wore on my mother’s nerves for many years, so she was the opposite.  That’s a pretty minor detail in the grand scheme of things.  It’s parenting styles that are more interesting.

I know people who had very strict parents who are strict themselves, but I also know people who had strict parents who are very lenient parents.  I wonder how much of that is subconscious and how much is a conscious choice.  I suppose that depends party on if you have put much thought to it, whether you like the fact that your parents were on the stricter side, or whether you are even capable of doing anything differently.  If you had strict parents but are lenient, perhaps you are over-compensating in order to not be like your parents.  If you are strict and controlling and also had strict and controlling parents, perhaps you do things more instinctively because that’s all you know.

If you don’t think your parents met your needs, you might consciously or subconsciously bend over backwards to do everything for your children, or you may not meet their needs either because you don’t know any different.  I don’t think either one of these situations is necessarily all that great.  If you do everything for your children, you run the risk of learned helplessness setting in, which I will discuss in more detail in my next post.  If you don’t meet their needs because you aren’t nurturing enough for your children, then the cycle continues.

It’s definitely an interesting topic to ponder.  I can see ways in which my siblings and I are similar to each of our parents and ways that we are the opposite as well.  And I can do the same with my parents and their parents.  Have you ever thought about how and why you are similar to or the opposite of your parents?

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Procrastination

At one point I made a list of possible topics to write about for this blog, and procrastination was one of them.  Ironically, it’s one topic that I keep pushing down the list, so apparently I can be very good at procrastinating!  I know plenty of other people who are good at it as well.  I think it’s one of those things I tend to harp on my kids about because I wish I wasn’t good at it myself.  Conversely, I get great satisfaction out of completing a task and crossing it off my “to do” list and often do get things done in a timely fashion, so it’s not that I am not ambitious or lack self-initiative.  It’s just that some tasks are just not as interesting or fulfilling or can be daunting or overwhelming.  Or I just need to be in the right mood or have a larger block of uninterrupted time.  It’s getting started that is the challenge.  Once I have gotten over that hump, then things are a different story.

I find that feeling like I am organized and on top of things makes a huge difference.  If either my work space or my brain is too cluttered, then I can’t focus as well and don’t have as much drive.  So that is sometimes the first thing I need to do.  Sometimes getting rid of things that either the kids or I don’t need anymore gives me a lot of energy to get other things done.  I also tend to want to get a lot of smaller tasks done first before I start a larger task not only to declutter my brain but to feel like I accomplished something because success breeds more success.  I often feel like I got more done in a day if I can say I got lots of little things done vs. a larger project.  The problem with that is that sometimes the smaller tasks just keep piling up and I never get to the bigger tasks.  I do sometimes have to remind myself how good it will feel when I have that larger project done and just dive in.

I do get distracted by things like Facebook and reading online articles, but I also will all of a sudden feel like doing something like clean out a kitchen drawer or a closet on a whim and will be getting something done.  It just wasn’t what I had on my “to do” list for the day or at all.  Then there are the times I will feel inspired to be creative and will go with that when the mood strikes me.  Doing things that put me in a good mood or make me feel like I am making a difference, even though they distract me temporarily, help keep me going as well.  So I need to find a balance between getting things done and doing things that make me feel emotionally full. (See my post titled “Feeling Full or Feeling Empty” for more thoughts on that topic.)  What I need to be better at is sometimes setting a time limit for doing the more fun and fulfilling things when I know I have other things that need to get done.  Even though I suggest this to my kids frequently, I can’t always do it myself.

Life is obviously about much more than just getting things done, so it’s important to keep that perspective and not get too down on myself if I didn’t get too much done in any given day.  It’s when I have several days in a row of not accomplishing much that can make me feel like I really need to work on time management.

I have actually been procrastinating doing other things that I should be doing in order to write this because it is more fulfilling than the other things, although in a way it IS helping me declutter my brain of my thoughts on procrastinating.  So it’s time to follow my own advice and get started on something else!  If reading this has been a distraction for you, my apologies, but hopefully it was the mental break that you needed, and thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts!  Now get to work!

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Sincerity

Some people come off as being very sincere and genuine, while others do not for a variety of reasons.  The first reason that comes to mind has to do with sarcasm.  I have a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor, and so do plenty of people in my life.  That’s not the kind of sarcasm I am talking about.  I’m talking about when people generally respond to things and speak to people with a very sarcastic tone to what they say. This often comes off as being very condescending and insincere. This is especially true when it comes to apologies. “I’m sorry I’m such a bad person” or “I’m sorry I committed such a crime” doesn’t sound sincere at all.  In fact, it doesn’t even sound like an apology.  It sounds like you don’t think you need to apologize.  I would much rather hear something like, “I’m sorry I ________. I didn’t realize I was hurting your feelings, but now I do.  I’ll try not to do that anymore.”  That sounds sincere.  And so does, “You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”

Anyone who is dishonest, deceitful, or makes promises they have no intention of keeping is not a sincere person either.  I have a hard time believing anything that comes out of the mouth of someone who is like this.  I am always wondering if they are just saying what they need to in order to get what they want or if they are up to something.

People who don’t seem to be sincere don’t come across as being very trustworthy either.  They go hand in hand.  Being trustworthy isn’t just about being reliable.  It’s about people believing you mean what you say and that your word means something, which is hard to believe when your sincerity is questionable.  Respect and trust really are the easiest things to lose and the hardest things to get back, and sincerity plays a big role in that.

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Undermining Your Spouse

This is one of the worst things you can do as a parent, in my opinion.  Unfortunately, I have a spouse who is just starting to see the importance of this idea, now that the kids are in high school and middle school.  I’m afraid that’s a little too late.  Up until recently, it pretty much felt like we were working against each other when it came to parenting.  The only way I can think of that we were always on the same page was whichever parent put one of the kids in time-out would always be the parent to end the time-out.  Otherwise, that turns into a “good parent, bad parent” situation.

At one point we realized that if our daughter came running to one of us complaining about the other, it was just causing us to be mad at each other, so we stopped doing that and let her know that wasn’t going to work anymore.  Some kids are very good at pinning one parent against the other, which becomes a lot easier when the parents are not presenting a united front.

As I mentioned in my post titled “Equal Parenting,” one of the biggest differences in our parenting styles is that my husband is not as concerned with encouraging the kids to do anything that needs to be done as I am and mostly wants to do fun stuff with them.  In my mind, sometimes the fun stuff should be a reward or be earned and not just a given, and sometimes there needs to be consequences for not getting things done.  That doesn’t usually occur to him without me suggesting it, so we are often at odds and are viewed differently by the kids.  This has had a negative impact on the family dynamics in several ways, and I consider it another form of undermining me trying to teach the kids about time management, being responsible, and so on.

If he thinks I will not like the kids having something or doing something, he will actually suggest to them that they keep secrets from me, lie to me, and/or hide things from me.  When they were younger, more than once I had asked him to not have the TV on while I was out running errands because they had already watched enough for the day.  It was more convenient for him to put in a video or turn on the TV, so that’s what he did and then asked the kids not to tell me, or flipped channels when I walked in and saw the kids in front of the TV and tried to tell me he was checking the weather while they were pleading with him to go back to the movie.  I would have rather he be honest with me and explain that he chose to let them watch TV because he had a bad headache or whatever the reason was, and I probably would have been OK with that. Instead, he ended up clearly lying to me in front of the kids, promoting the notion that if you do not like what Mom is asking you to do, just do what you want and lie about it if you get caught.

That’s the problem.  Bad examples end up being set for the kids, it sets the kids up to prefer one parent over the other or behave differently with each parent, and they learn how to get away with things or get what they want from the more lenient parent.  Basically, they learn how to play games and be deceitful.  At least my kids have, even though I have been trying to teach them about the importance of honesty.  Kids need consistency, not only from each parent individually from day to day, but from both parents.  And they also need to know that parents are treating all of the kids fairly as best as they can.  I realize this is difficult to accomplish, but it is much easier when parents have similar parenting styles, beliefs about what is expected and fair, and ideas of what they want to pass on to their children about morals, values, and character.

Up until recently, it didn’t appear as if my husband was the least bit interested in teaching the kids about these things, probably because he doesn’t fully understand what they mean himself.  I only wish I had realized this a lot sooner than I did, but many things didn’t become apparent until we had kids.  I think he is starting to see that not only does he need to step up his game with what he tells them about how they should treat people and behave, but he also needs to practice what he preaches.  Otherwise, they are getting a very mixed message, and they are much more likely to copy what they see, including not listening to or respecting one parent or the other.

I just hope it really isn’t too late in the game for him to have some sort of impact on the kids to make some changes for the better.  I think it’s only fitting that since he is a big part of the reason they behave the way they do, he should have to help “undo” the damage.  Our oldest has called him out on being hypocritical, and it seems they have all been a bit confused by his sudden willingness to back me up on some things.  So it would have been much better if we had been presenting a united front all along.

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