Honesty

Honesty is something some of my family members seem to struggle with, whether it is out and out lying, being deceitful, or purposely withholding information to be manipulative.  I have a child who prides himself on how sneaky he can be getting away with things, and he very much reminds me of his dad who has modeled that behavior for him over the years.  And he learned it from his family growing up, along with how to manipulate people, which he has also tried to pass on to the kids.  I’m sorry, but that isn’t a family trait to be proud of, how good of a liar you are or how good you are at being deceitful.

The thing is, there’s really no need for all of this.  Part of the problem is there is an assumption made that whatever it is that they want, they are going to get told no, so then they start scheming to figure out how to get what they want at all costs.  It’s more important to get what they want regardless of how many lies they have to tell in the process.  I am always more upset at the lies and the scheming than whatever else.  And much of the time, I would be agreeable to what they want in the first place, so it’s really not necessary.  I am a very straight forward person who doesn’t like to play games, so I would rather just have them tell me what’s going on or what they want and talk about options than to deal with all the dishonesty.

Another part of the problem is that they expect to always get what they want, which can’t possibly happen.  But I would be more apt to have it work out that they get what they want if there was more of an effort on their part to be honest, work together, and not react like a spoiled kid when they don’t get their way.  My work has been cut out for me trying to teach the kids that it’s better to be upfront and willing to compromise and earn what you want than find an underhanded way to get it with what their dad and his family has modeled for them.

Unfortunately, this is not just isolated to my family members.  I have experienced this with other people as well, even people who I have hired to do work at my house.  A big part of having integrity is has to do with how honest you are and whether you are willing to admit that you made a mistake, especially when you are providing a service for someone.  Trying to cover up your mistakes or keep from being caught in a lie, especially if it is going to make someone else look bad in the process, is never a good idea.  It’s even worse than just plain lying in my book, but I have been on the receiving end of that too.

None of us are perfect and never tell a lie, and sometimes there is a good reason to keep a secret or withhold some information to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to protect someone somehow, but just to be manipulative and get what you want is not a good reason.  Every time we as parents tell a lie in front of our kids, no matter how small it is, is setting the example for them that’s it’s OK to do that.  So we need to be very conscious of how often and in what circumstances we are doing that and then explain that to them as well.  If we are always trying to get away with things and not follow the rules or are trying to cheat the system, then we can’t be surprised when are kids end up doing the same thing.

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Winning At All Costs

winningMy son was somewhat perplexed following his volleyball games against another school yesterday and questioned his coach afterwards about some of his decisions.  My son was disappointed that, although his team played well, the other team won more games because they bent the rules and were encouraged to take advantage of our weakest player.  He thought the weaker player should have been subbed out for a stronger player.  Our coach explained that he was all about playing by the rules, teaching good sportsmanship, and being fair about rotating the players so that they get the experience to improve and build their confidence, especially at the modified level when the kids are learning the sport.  He also explained that at the JV level, what the other team’s players were doing incorrectly will get called every time, and those kids will look foolish and will have to relearn how to play correctly, whereas our team will not.

I told my son as I emphasized all the positives that I was more proud of him for playing by the rules, being a good sport, and playing with the right technique than I would have been if they won because they had bent the rules or played underhandedly.  I know it isn’t sitting well with him that the other team got away with playing the way they did, but it bothers me that he seems to be focused on the fact that his team didn’t win.

The whole thing makes me think of that whole mentality which some people have that it shouldn’t matter how you get the outcome you desire as long as you get it, even if you have to be deceitful, manipulative, bend or ignore the rules, or hurt people in the process.  Sports are one thing, but everyday life is another.   Continue reading

Nurturing The Good

mind is a garden

It is all too easy to let negative thoughts take over our minds.  They really are like weeds.  They are there, whether we want them to be or not, and they just keep showing up no matter how hard we try to get rid of them.  Like weeds, negative thoughts also have a tendency to easily take over and crowd out all the good.

On the other hand, positive thoughts and memories are more like plants or flowers because we want to appreciate their beauty and relevance to our lives.  But if the plants or flowers do not get the nutrients, sun, and water that they need, then they will not grow.  So there is effort that is necessary to make that happen.  All the positive things in our lives are the same way.  We need to nurture them in whatever way is appropriate. Continue reading

Boundaries

Everyone has his or her own idea of what boundaries are acceptable.  It’s when there is a big difference in what is acceptable to different people that problems arise.  I am talking about boundaries related to personal space, privacy, topics that are appropriate to discuss, and things of that nature.

For example, I’m certainly not one to snoop through other family members’ belongings or things like their computer history, with the one exception of when it is necessary to keep tabs on my kids.  Even then, I don’t exercise that right all that often.  I like to respect people’s privacy and personal space because I would like that in return, not that I have anything to hide.  Unfortunately, I have not gotten that in return.  I know there are plenty of people who think it’s their right to go through their significant other’s phone, computer, and other belongings whenever they feel like it, even if there is no reason to be suspicious of any wrongdoing.  It’s just their right.  I don’t agree with that.

Even though my soon-to-be ex-husband hasn’t lived in the house for a while now, he still thinks it’s perfectly fine to just walk right in as if he still lives here.  He thinks that just because we can get along and work together with regards to the kids, that means he’s welcome to do that.  Getting along and invading personal space are two different things.

Boundaries really boil down to respect and trust, so if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries even if they disagree with them, then they really don’t respect you.  I think that’s one thing that differentiates “takers” is that they tend to not respect boundaries and feel like they have a right to do whatever they want whenever they want.  It’s up to the “givers” to set and enforce the boundaries.

This can be difficult though when you are dealing with someone who not only doesn’t respect boundaries but also reacts very negatively when it is brought to his or her attention.  In my opinion, how adults react to boundaries or view them in the first place has a lot to do with whether or not boundaries were set for them as they were children and how well their parents did at maintaining that.  Obviously, kids are going to push boundaries and test limits.  It’s a part of becoming an individual separate from your parents.  I’m all for pushing boundaries when they are along the lines of accomplishing something that has never been done before and things like that, but when kids push boundaries that have to do with curfews, acceptable behavior, responsibilities, personal space, and so on, I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to remind them that there are boundaries and consequences for not adhering to them.  And we need to teach them that there can’t be any double standards when it comes to boundaries.  If they don’t want a sibling going into their room to borrow a book, then they can’t go borrow one from their room whenever they feel like it.

The bottom line is that it’s perfectly healthy and necessary to set boundaries and expect others to adhere to them.  We just need to understand that it might be necessary to make it clear what the boundaries are because not everyone’s are the same.  If we don’t make it clear, then we may not have a right to be upset if we are assuming the other person understands our boundaries when perhaps that is not the case.  We also need to be respectful of others’ boundaries, even if they are different than ours because if we violate them, it will most likely be interpreted as lack of respect.  If there is a question as to what the boundaries are, it is better to err on the side of caution and not make assumptions.  The more conscious we can be about boundaries, whether it’s from a parenting perspective or the perspective of interacting with others, the better off we’ll all be.

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Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

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Dealing With Disappointment

Disappointment-QuotesThis has been a week filled with all sorts of disappointments for me, which has me thinking about how people handle different forms of disappointment.  There are, of course, lots of different reasons that we can be disappointed, whether it be in ourselves, in others, in the situations we are in, and so on.  Some things we can control or change, and others we cannot.  What we can definitely control though is how we view and react to the disappointments.

Most of my disappointments this week had to do with other peoples’ decisions or mistakes that are out of my control, but they affect me.  However, sometimes I have been disappointed in myself for not handling a situation better, for not being as efficient with my time as I could have been, or for making a mistake that I could have avoided that now has repercussions.  I could dwell on all of these things and be mad at myself or whomever else, but I try to focus more on how to resolve the situation and/or help prevent the same mistake from being made again.  Sometimes it’s difficult to not be upset, focus on who is to blame, or hold onto those angry feelings for a while, but it is not healthy or productive to do any of those things.  It’s really hard to get past that frustration at times though, especially when it’s a repeated behavior or decision that is the source of disappointment.

I try to remind myself to find the positives and focus on those, especially if there was some way that I learned something about myself or someone else as a result of the disappointment.  Depending on the situation, I may self-reflect and ask myself if there’s anything I could do differently.  Disappointments are one of those things that help us build character and grow as individuals, and it certainly never hurts to remind ourselves of that.  Something else to remind ourselves is that in some instances, perhaps the situation causing the disappointment happened for a reason because better things are to come if we can just be patient and not lose hope.

Disappointments can sometimes be due to certain expectations we have that aren’t being met.  There are plenty of people who live by the philosophy that if you don’t have expectations and just accept everything and everyone as they are, then you won’t ever be disappointed.  I agree with that to a certain extent, but I think it’s appropriate to have some expectations as to how we would like to be treated and how we would like to raise our children to deal with situations and treat others.  If we don’t have those expectations and express them to others, then they may never learn these things or feel it necessary to change any behavior that may be inappropriate or hurtful.

Likewise, I think it’s important for kids to experience disappointment and learn to how deal with it gracefully as they are growing up so that it is not as difficult for them when they are older and so they don’t behave like some adults I know who can’t handle any kind of disappointment.  If we rescue our children from every situation that doesn’t work out in their favor, then they never learn how to think things through and deal with the frustration in a healthy way.  When opportunities present themselves, we need to allow our children to figure out how to resolve their own situations, deal with the repercussions, and find a resolution all while dealing with the emotions that go along with all of that.  We can be there to guide and encourage them, but we shouldn’t always do it for them.

What I am trying to accomplish myself and teach my children by example is that in most cases, disappointments should be thought of as bumps in the road and not road blocks.  We can get past them eventually and hopefully find a way to do so as smoothly as possible.

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Proactive vs. Reactive Approach to Life

There are plenty of things in life that we can all approach either proactively or reactively.  House projects immediately come to mind.  In my house, nothing gets replaced or fixed until it is actually broken.  I definitely would appreciate if more things were dealt with on a proactive basis.  Our health is another example.  The more we take care of ourselves by eating healthy, drinking fluids, exercising (or at least making an effort to not sit still in front of a screen for too long), going to regular doctor’s visits, and anything else we can do to help keep our bodies and minds healthy, the less we need to be reactive and take medications or visit the doctor or hospital to treat the resulting symptoms.  We can make and effort to keep in touch with people rather than complain or be upset when others don’t reach out to us.

How we interact with people on a regular basis can be thought of as proactive or reactive as well.  We can assume when people are speaking to us that there are hidden messages or ill intent in what they are saying and react in a negative way, or we can listen without the negative filter and give them the benefit of the doubt.  We can treat people with respect and kindness, regardless of how we are being treated (in other words, treat people the way we want to be treated), or we can “do unto others as they have done to us.”  We can go out of our way to be helpful and generous or do anything to put a smile on someone’s face, or we can only do something nice when we know there will be something in it for us.  We can complain about all of our problems and play the victim, or we can find ways to be part of the solution.  We can blame everyone else for our poor choices, or we can be accountable for our own words and actions and own up to our mistakes.  We can anticipate that things are not going to work out the way we want them to, or we can have hope and expectations that are more positive. We can communicate our thoughts and feelings completely and effectively, or we can be upset when someone can’t read our mind.  We can set a good example for our kids of how to be respectful, honest, and all the other traits that go along with having good character, or we can not be conscious of the example we are setting and then come down hard on our kids when they are behaving just like we are. The list goes on.

The bottom line is that all of these things are conscious choices we can make.  It’s hard to not be reactive at least some of the time, especially when negative emotions get involved.  But in my opinion, it is definitely worth the effort to take a proactive approach to life and our relationships as much as we can.  I hope you agree.

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