Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Your Opinion, Please

I'd honestly like to hear your opinion on this question which recently came up in a discussion group for stepparents of difficult children ... 
Which is worse (or, conversely, which is better) - 
1) no physical discipline, but plenty of verbal; or 
2) calm, physical discipline?
This question came up after a rather passionate discussion of how parents and stepparents handled hard-to-control children. Some were vehemently opposed to any sort of "physical violence" such as spanking, slapping, or bodily lifting and placing a child in a chair. Their reasoning was that violence begets violence. If you teach a child that hitting is acceptable, that child will fall back on hitting when he or she is excited.


The negative side of this group was that they admitted to far-too-often succumbing to the temptation to scream at their children to get their attention. Instead of grabbing Junior up from the TV and making him get moving, the tended to steadily increase from telling, to yelling, to screaming at him to move. They confessed they "lost it" at least once a week.


The "spare the rod, spoil the child" group first categorically insisted they had specific guidelines regarding corporeal punishment: when, how, and why to spank or slap, and usually had a follow-up strategy. Their method is generally to avoid emotional outbursts and to administer fair amounts of physical discipline, from bottom swats, to hand slaps, to lifting and removing the child.


Both sides were solid in their belief that theirs was the best way, and both had many examples of how well their own program worked for their children. 


But this was a fairly small group - only 6 couples. So I decided to expand this question. I'd like to know how most families deal with discipline/guidance for their unruly children. Please answer using the anonymous option on the comment page so there is no question of anyone getting in trouble. 


Other stepparents and biological parents are facing the same issues you are. I know they'd like to hear your opinions and your reasoning for your side.


Thanks,


STEPcoach, Bob Collins

25 Ideas that might make Life Easier...

A chum sent this along in an email. Don't know where it came from originally (sorry I can't give credit where credit is due), but I thought you'd appreciate some of these brilliant tips. Merry Christmas, y'all!


Why didn't I think of that?!
We guarantee you'll be uttering those words more than once at these ingenious little tips, tricks and ideas that solve everyday problems … some you never knew you had!

(Above: hull strawberries easily using a straw).
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Rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture will disguise dings and scrapes.
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Remove crayon masterpieces from your TV or computer screen with WD40 (also works on walls).
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Stop cut apples browning in your child's lunch box by securing with a rubber band.
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Overhaul your linen cupboard – store bed linen sets inside one of their own pillowcases and there will be no more hunting through piles for a match.
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Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone / iPod in a bowl – the concave shape amplifies the music.
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Re-use a wet-wipes container to store plastic bags.
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Add this item to your beach bag. Baby powder gets sand off your skin easily – who knew?!
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Attach a Velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys.
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Look up! Use wire to make a space to store gift wrap rolls against the ceiling, rather than cluttering up the floor.
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Gotcha! Find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the vacuum hose.
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Make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting crosses into a box lid.
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For those who can't stand the scrunching and bunching: how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet.
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Forever losing your bathroom essentials? Use magnetic strips to store bobby pins (and tweezers and clippers) behind a vanity door
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A tip for holiday packing. Store shoes inside shower caps to stop dirty soles rubbing on your clothes. And you can find them in just about every hotel!
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A muffin pan becomes a craft caddy. Magnets hold the plastic cups down to make them tip-resistant.
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Bread tags make the perfect-sized cord labels.
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Bake cupcakes directly in ice-cream cones – so much more fun and easier for kids to eat. Definitely doing this!
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Microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper bag. Much healthier and cheaper than the packet stuff.
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Brilliant space-saver: install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles. Genius!
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Win friends at breakfast with this heart-shaped egg tutorial. Aww shucks!
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Turn your muffin pan upside down, bake cookie-dough over the top and voila – you have cookie bowls for fruit or ice-cream.
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Freeze Aloe Vera in ice-cube trays for soothing sunburn relief.
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Gutter garden: Create a window-box veggie patch using guttering.
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Use egg cartons to separate and store your Christmas decorations.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Buying Guide for Your (STEP) Daughter

Does the following conversation sound familiar?
"What should we get Debbie for Christmas this year?" 
"I don't think we should get her a phone yet. Other parents have bought their girls phones at her age, but it just seems too early." 
"Yeah, I agree …" 
(Usually followed by dead silence.)
If you have a teenage daughter or stepdaughter in your home, you've probably had a similar discussion. Or you will before too long. As your daughter is growing up, you don't want to give her too much too soon. 

Maybe this is a good time to start thinking: what does our daughter need? It's easy to buy what our daughters want … they usually tell us! But what do they need?

Working with stepfamilies who have teens has taught me a principle: Giving your teen too much may equal giving her too little. Some of the most disturbed girls I have known have been the most spoiled. We spoil our daughters when we give them things they just want instead of things they really need. 

Girls who don't get what they need from their fathers demonstrate a hunger in their heart. This hunger is often revealed in at least four ways: boredom, self-involvement, becoming boy crazy, or becoming demanding.

What can a father do to feed the hunger in a daughter's heart? What can we do to keep her from becoming a demanding, self-involved, boy-crazy girl?  Answer: feed the genuine hunger of her heart. Give her what she really needs.

I believe there are three things a daughter needs from her dad; 

1. Connection

A daughter needs to feel special. she needs to know we consider her valuable. She needs to know we like her—that we want to spend time with just her. One-on-one time is an effective way to show your daughter she is very special to you.

Another way to connect with our daughters is with meaningful touch. They need it the most when it's the most difficult to give. When our little girls become teens, we're tempted to back off with our physical affection. "I wouldn't want to do anything inappropriate," we dads or stepdads reason. And that's good, but our daughters still need  dad's affection. Just because she's beginning to look like a woman doesn't mean she doesn't still need your meaningful touch. Sure, it will be different from when she was younger. Instead of wrestling on the living room floor, now it's a quick hug.

Time and place are important, too. I have noticed that my teenage stepdaughter is open to more affection when our family is all together in the privacy of our home. When watching TV for example, we often snuggle close with popcorn, laughs, and affection to share.

Some dads have found it helpful to have a daddy-daughter date every so often. Whether it's once a week or once a month, the consistency of a focused time together strengthens the relationship and shows you care enough to take time out just for her.

2. Communication

Have you noticed your daughter is different in some ways from her mother? Every woman is unique. Become a student of your stepdaughter. Ask yourself: What is her favorite kind of music? What makes her happy? What makes her angry? What's she hoping for? Who are her friends? Part of becoming a student of your daughter is determining her language of love. Does she seem to appreciate it more when you do things for her … or with her … or when you present her with a gift?

Regardless of the dialect, try to figure out what speaks love to your daughter. Then practice communicating love the way she "gets it." Develop a strategy to communicate love….

One strategy is letters. She probably doesn't want to listen to a lecture, so why not try writing her a letter. List the topics you want to share with her and begin. You may start with one letter a week. You could write about how proud you are of her dedication to band practice, or your concern over her sad mood lately, or the sweet way she sings along with the radio while doing her homework. Find something positive to lift her up and let her know you are paying attention. Even though communication and writing letters (not emails!) may be difficult for you, it's worth doing.

But if you think verbal communication is sort of overrated, try non-verbal communication. I try to come up with creative ways to communicate with my stepdaughter. I might place small notes on her mirror, in her textbook, or hide them under her pillow during the day. You might buy yours her favorite ice cream flavor, put it in the freezer, and leave her a few written clues to find it.

Or try talking with built-in distractions. Teens often don't communicate the way adults do. the aren't as confident as we are. If they have a built-in distraction, they may feel more secure. For example, you might have noticed that some of the best conversations occur in the car. That's because at any given moment, if the discussion gets uncomfortable, your daughter can say, "Hey, look at that!" and easily change the subject. It's safe.

One dad likes to go to restaurants that have crayons and coloring sheets and grab one for everybody. He's found that his stepdaughter really opens up when she is coloring, sipping on a shake, and chatting with someone who listens ... even if it's just him. Dads, make sure you take the time to communicate how you're feeling. Let her see that you have emotions. For many females, the only emotion they see in a male is anger.

Prepare your daughter for a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship with you by letting her know how you feel. If you are feeling stress from work, admit it. If you are worried about her, tell her. Open your heart to the little girl still inside your teen.

3. Commitment 

Some dads have the zeal and the information, but if they're lacking the commitment, it won't happen. 

How does a father demonstrate commitment to his daughter? By loving her when she is the most unlovable. Unconditional love reflects commitment … "I will always love you; no matter what." Those teen years provide ample opportunities to test your unconditional love. Maybe that's why God designed it that way. When our daughters need it the most, they make love the hardest to give. If you're like me, sometimes I just don't feel the unconditional love I need to show. I have to first go to my heavenly Father. That is part of His design.

Show your commitment by affirming your daughter. or stepdaughter. Affirm her distinctiveness. Accept and affirm that she is different from you. Accept and value her perspective. A practical way to affirm your daughter might be to give her a gift that says, "You are special." You could give a book or Bible with your note of affirmation written inside; something like: "May God's Word guide you as it has me. It is my prayer that you will continue to grow as a woman of God. Your mother and I are proud of you."

We need a generation of women who are loved, confident, understood, and valued. As fathers and stepfathers, we can be shapers of the next generation of women. The challenge is to give our daughters what they really need.

STEPcoach, Bob Collins

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