Source Credit : Should Kids Help with Family Chores
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. at www.PerfectingParentingPress.com
Many parents wonder if they should expect their kids to take on household responsibilities. Even though parents report that their children are willing to help out when asked – or even volunteer to do a job – many families don’t ask their children to take on regular chores. Some think it’s not worth the potential conflict and nagging, and feel it’s easier to do the chores themselves. Some feel children don’t do the jobs well enough anyhow. Some parents feel their children are too busy. Other parents can’t see the value of teaching children to do chores. And some parents resented having to do chores growing up. In households where paid housecleaners and gardeners do the chores, it may not fit easily into the routine to assign tasks to the children.
But there is real value in having children shoulder their share of the work. Here are five reasons:
- Doing chores together helps build the spirit of “family,” enabling kids to see that everyone has to do his share. We don’t want our kids to believe that it’s adults’ job to do all the work. Teaching the habit of pitching in with tasks encourages a child to step up and do his part – rather then doing as little as possible – at home, in others’ homes, and in the community.
- Children learn their parents’ standards and work ethic when their parents teach them to do chores. We don’t want our children to learn to take the easy way out and do jobs in a halfhearted way. Too many parents complain that their school-age children aren’t motivated and won’t try their best at schoolwork, sports, projects, etc. Family jobs have great value as a way to help our children internalize the standard of working hard at a job.
- Getting kids accustomed to doing chores helps them learn patience and perseverance. You’ll be able to see the results when your child has to wait while you talk to a neighbor or tackles a school assignment that he isn’t enthusiastic about.
- Some children don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not being entertained, and complain about being bored if they’re not having fun every minute. Chores help children realize that doing ordinary and even tedious tasks are part of life, which helps them appreciate the activities that are fun and amusing.
- Doing family tasks helps children learn how to thrive with the independence they’ll need in college and adult life, with less of a learning curve when they need to prepare food, do laundry, and eventually take care of their home.
Click Image To Read Reviews And More
If you want to build family chores into your kids’ lives, here are answers to the important questions.
- At what age? Toddlers and preschoolers love to imitate you and to help you, but can’t be counted on to do jobs regularly or well enough. Still, we should encourage them and praise their help. By starting at this young age when they’re eager, you get them accustomed to pitching in, and by five years old they can start doing regular family tasks.
- How frequently? Daily jobs (seven days a week) work best so they become part of a regular routine; then kids are less likely to argue and negotiate about those jobs on Mondays – after the weekend off.
- What kinds of jobs? (Children three and over can do some of these on an occasional basis. Kids five and older are able to do any of these jobs on a regular basis.) Most of the jobs should be about five minutes. Look at the kitchen first. There’s lots to do there: Setting the table. Bringing the serving platters to the table. Rinsing dishes. Washing and drying pots. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Then look at all the jobs involving garbage: Dumping garbage from the wastebaskets throughout the house. Dumping the kitchen garbage into the bigger garbage cans. Putting cans outside for pickup. Look at the possible recycling jobs. There are also plenty of laundry jobs. And vacuuming individual rooms and cleaning sinks, etc., are also worthwhile tasks. Cooking probably shouldn’t count as a job, because it’s fun for most kids.
- How many jobs? Elementary school children can do one or two jobs a day, increasing to three or four for teens. Even busy kids can spare these few minutes, especially if everyone in the family has jobs to do – including parents, of course.
- Should kids keep these jobs forever? No, every month or two, have the kids look at your master list of chores; offer them the chance to keep them, to trade jobs with their siblings, or to choose new ones. Doing chores is more interesting when they get to do something new, and it allows parents to teach kids different skills.
- Should you give children an allowance for doing family tasks? We’ve all heard the two sides. Allowance should be tied to the chores children actually do, or the allowance should be completely unrelated to doing chores. (Of course, some families do not give an allowance at all.) My advice is that it’s valuable for your child to connect being responsible for doing work with receiving a monetary reward. If we lived in a culture with few things to buy, few ads, few choices, then money wouldn’t be that important. But our children want to have things – lots of things – and most get interested in money sometime during the elementary school years. Children’s endless desire to buy new things is a major issue for parents to provide guidance on. Children should be learning that it takes work to earn money to buy things and that money doesn’t come too easily. (As you know, young children think money just comes from the bank or out of the ATM.) It takes years before children realize that you can’t just go to any bank and be handed money.
- How much allowance should kids get? This differs a lot depending on your community, the ages of the children, and how many jobs they do. Check with other parents and teachers to get an idea of the community standard. Assuming the older children in your family are doing more work, they should get a bigger allowance. (With age usually comes more privilege and more responsibility.) Teaching chores is much more successful when parents set up a chart for kids five years and older so they can check off their jobs each day. Then allowance is paid only for jobs done. Make sure you set a time to go over what they earned and didn’t earn that week. (Lots of families need to set a consistent weekly time or else the whole plan falls apart, and kids go back to not doing regular family chores.) Either give them the money to put “in their bank” or keep a tally. Many parents have started their children on chores and not followed through. Parents feel disappointed in themselves and their children when they give up on their parenting plans, and children lose some of their trust and confidence in their parents.
Click Image To Read Reviews And More
What can they spend their money on?
Parents should allow increased decision-making around spending as children get older. As kids are starting regular chores and allowance, you’ll need some guidelines about their spending. You might want to start with only the first category, but within a few years, consider dividing the money into three categories: inexpensive purchases, more expensive purchases that kids need to save for, and charitable contributions. Parents usually decide the percentage for each category with increasing input from kids as they get older. Parents are the gatekeepers even on the inexpensive purchases until children are about ten years old. When children want to buy something, you can help them by talking to them about how to decide whether they should spend their money on “that” or not. You can teach them how to judge an item’s quality,
whether it’s an acceptable purchase based on your family values (such as toy guns – yes or no – or whether the child already has similar toys). In short, we want to teach them to be thoughtful, not impulsive, consumers. If we do a good job, we won’t have to keep giving them money when they’re 40!
Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and development of young children for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,I Don’t Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and the just-released I’m Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for young children and a manual for parents. For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com. To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to www.PerfectingParentingPress.com/about_author.html.
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
It’s a question that many of us ask when terrible things happen. Where are the people who call themselves your friends when the going gets tough?
This reposted article from Harriet Brown of the New York Times may help you understand some of the possible answers.
Over the last few years, my family has weathered our share of crises. First our younger daughter was hospitalized for a week with Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and spent several months convalescing at home. Soon after she recovered, our older daughter landed in the hospital with anorexia, which proved to be the start of a yearlong fight for her life.
Somewhere in the middle of that process, my mother-in-law was given a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, and died less than 11 months later.
So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe not only how we dealt with trauma but how our friends, family and community did, too. For the most part, we were blessed with support and love; friends ran errands for us, delivered meals, sat in hospital waiting rooms, walked, talked and cried with us.
But a couple of friends disappeared entirely. During the year we spent in eating-disorder hell, they called once or twice but otherwise behaved as though we had been transported to Mongolia with no telephones or e-mail.
At first, I barely noticed; I was overwhelmed with getting through each day. As the year wore on, though, and life settled in to a new if unpleasant version of normal, I began to wonder what had happened. Given our preoccupation with our daughter’s recovery and my husband’s mother’s illness, we were no doubt lousy company. Maybe we’d somehow offended our friends. Or maybe they were just sick of the disasters that now consumed our lives; just because we were stuck with them didn’t mean our friends had to go there, too.
Even if they were completely fed up with us, though, they had to know that my husband and I were going through the toughest year of our lives. I would have understood their defection if our friendship had been less close; as it was, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.
In the wake of 9/11, two wars and the seemingly ever-rising tide of natural disasters, we’ve come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.
“We all live in some degree of terror of bad things happening to us,” said Barbara M. Sourkes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “When you’re confronted by someone else’s horror, there’s a sense that it’s close to home.”
Dr. Sourkes works with families confronted with the unfolding trauma of a child’s serious, and possibly fatal, illness. “Other people’s reactions are multifaceted,” she said. “There’s no formula, and it’ll change from person to person.” The only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as within it.
Click image to read review
Often the closer one feels to the family in crisis, the harder it is to cope. “Most people cannot tolerate the feeling of helplessness,” said Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University who has studied grief and relationships. “And in the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”
Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivor’s guilt: People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis; as Dr. Sourkes put it, “They might, for instance, make sure they’re never in a situation where they have to talk to the family directly.”
Awkwardness is another common reaction — not knowing what to say or do. Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”
“We have more of a societal framework for what to say and do around bereavement than we do when you’re in the midst of it,” Dr. Sourkes said. “Families say over and over, ‘It’s such a lonely time and I don’t have the energy to educate my friends and family, yet they don’t have a clue.’ ”
The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect. A friend whose son suffered brain damage in an accident told me that the families who dropped them afterward had children the same age as her son. They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.
That was true for us, too, I realized. The friends who had disappeared had daughters exactly the same age as ours.
Dr. Rainer describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” — creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. It’s magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then I’ll be safe.
Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, “is ‘I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.
True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.
I tested that theory recently, when a friend’s mother went through a series of medical crises and moved to an assisted-living facility in our town. Normally, I might have been guilty of pseudo-care, asking if I could do anything but never really stepping up. Instead, I e-mailed her a list of tasks I could do, and asked if any of them would be helpful.
To my surprise, my friend responded by asking if I’d visit her mother on a day she couldn’t. Her mother was glad for the company, and my friend felt reassured, knowing that her mother wasn’t alone.
And I had the chance to do something truly useful for my friend, which in turn let me show her how much I cared about her. The time I spent with her mother turned out to be a gift for me.
Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had. In retrospect, I wished I’d taken a slightly more Zen-like attitud
“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”
Harriet Brown is the author of “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia,” being published next week.
There are times when parents have to stay tough and Nigel Latta explains how best to do it
A COMMON question among parents of young children is: ‘‘ When does raising children start to get better?’’ The answer could be that it doesn’t get any better, it just gets different.
MADE TO ORDER: Keeping a firm hand but not rule by fear is the recommended way to go.It’s a theme Nigel Latta explores in his new book, Politically Incorrect Parenting. Latta will soon present a show of the same name on Channel 9.
While the issues he explores are hardly new, this is not your average parenting book. It doesn’t trade on a parent’s fear but on the reassurance that there are ways you can survive, keep a semblance of sanity and still enjoy the company of your little home-grown terrorist.
It’s battlefield wisdom from a therapist who’s seen more than most of us could handle and has some commonsense tools to help ordinary parents who need a hand.
Some of the chapter headings might give you a clue to his approach.
The preface ‘‘Never Mind the Kids . . . Save Yourself’’ is a pretty good hint, but there are also gems such as ‘‘How to Make Time Out and Sticker Charts Actually Work’’. Then there’s ‘‘Why You Should Never Negotiate with a Terrorist’’.
‘‘I just think parenting is such bloody hard work and the last thing you want to do is read a book on raising your children that’s boring and just makes you feel worse,’’ Latta says.
‘‘You want to read something that feels like a bit of time off.
‘‘What I try to do in the TV show and the book is to give people useful things that they can actually use to make things better but also just reassure people that life is not that complicated.
‘‘We all worry about damaging our children if we say the wrong thing, or send them to the wrong school, or don’t read them enough stories. It’s not about any of that stuff because it’s not stuff that matters.’’
Latta fears the modern world has done away with a lot of common sense. ‘‘I understand common sense as wise thinking,’’ he says. ‘‘If people have a problem with their children most will Google it and they come up with 26 million different opinions . . . and a lot of scare tactics.
‘‘Scaring people is a way to sell books because it works, but I just think it sucks. You don’t need to make parents any more afraid because as soon as you have children you start to worry and it never stops.’’
Click Image to read reviews
After helping thousands of people crawl out of what they feared were bottomless pits, Latta has found a common theme running through the vast majority of cases.
‘‘By far the biggest issue is that people just need to toughen up and that invariably gets it sorted,’’ he says.
‘‘People come to me and say they have a four-year-old they just can’t control and I’m wondering if he’s a mutant six foot high fouryear-old.
‘‘And they become paralysed with all this modern doubt stuff that makes them wonder if they’re doing the right thing when really it’s pretty straightforward.’’
For example, what to do with a fussy eater.
Hungry children eat, Latta says, it’s as simple as that.
He has a key message for parents who are doing it tough. ‘‘Get tough on the behaviours you don’t like and praise them for stuff you do.
‘‘Do that and it fixes anything – a few simple things and it’ll all be fine.’’
Source: Tony Bartlett: The Courier Mail news.com.au
It had been nearly 40 years since Linn Holt lost her mother, but some days, the pain was as unbearable as the day she died. Family gatherings were heartbreaking, Mother’s Days were miserable. And on every anniversary of her mother’s death, Holt would stay home in bed, hibernating from the world, swelling with grief.
It wasn’t normal, she thought. She needed help.
Three years ago, Holt attended a seminar on Mother’s Day weekend for people struggling with the loss of their mothers. She realized she wasn’t alone.
For more than a decade, the workshop at the Stella Maris Center for Grief and Loss in Timonium has been helping people confront and cope with the loss of their mothers during a trying time of year. From faith services honoring mothers to the endless loop of TV ads pushing “that special gift for Mom,” it’s a day most people can’t avoid if they tried.
Instead of trying to escape it, workshops like the one at Stella Maris encourage people to embrace the day as a way to honor and celebrate their mothers’ memories.
“We hope they can begin to face Mother’s Day head on and find that it can be joyful; it can be a day to honor with love,” said Doreen Horan, manager of bereavement services at Stella Maris, who has led the workshop for six years.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first Mother’s Day since a mother died or the 40th; there is no expiration date on grief, say grief counselors.
“People tend to think you get through all the first anniversaries and you’re healed,” said Robin Stocksdale, bereavement services manager at Gilchrist Hospice Care. “But anything can kick up those memories and those feelings. It does tend to get a little easier with time, but you don’t get over it. You learn to get through it.”
Holt, 58, of Baltimore, was 15 when her mother died of Hodgkin’s disease. As the only daughter left at home, Holt inherited the cooking, cleaning and responsibilities of caring for the household. Her father shut down emotionally, and her brother was just 7 years old. Holt had to stay strong and keep everyone together, she said.
“My whole world came to a crushing end,” she said. “And I couldn’t talk about it. It was done, it was over, and I was expected to move on.”
At her first workshop three years ago, Holt was asked to do things that were foreign to her: write in a journal about her feelings; listen to classical music; and use colored pencils to draw recollections of her mother.
“I thought, ‘What, are you crazy? I don’t just sit down and write. What do you want me to say?’ ” she said. “But I tried it. I realized I had a lot of anger and frustration. And I left feeling that it’s OK to feel this way. It’s OK to be 56 years old and ticked off that your mother isn’t here.”
During Horan’s workshop, participants spend half the time writing in journals and drawing, and the rest listening to classical music designed to evoke warm memories. Attendees can share their reflections, but they don’t have to.
“The point is for us to realize that life will not go on in the same way without our mothers — if it did, it would conclude their lives meant nothing and had no contribution,” she said. “It’s for us to talk about that, process that and move forward.”
Channeling hurt feelings into something positive is key to coping with grief, said Penny Graf, a social worker at the cancer institute at St. Joseph Medical Center. People should try to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day, either with an activity that their mother would have enjoyed or by spending time with family.
Click on image to read reviews
Even so, there’s no quick way to “get over it” said Stocksdale. Sharing feelings with someone who will listen is a start, she said.
Holt thinks that has helped her enormously. After therapy and two years of Mother’s Day workshops, she’s looking forward to helping others during this year’s event.
“I have learned to look at the things my mother taught me in the short years I was blessed to have her in my life and not the loss of not having her,” she said. When she’s down, Holt listens to music, writes in her journal or pulls out a photo of her mother.
“These are things I learned to do that have helped,” she said. “Maybe I can pass this on to somebody who is going through this for the first time.”
I have re-posted this article from psych central as it is a thorough, well written and balanced view of the impact of alcoholism in families, the hope for recovery and the role of families and the community in helping those with substance over-use illnesses: Please read!
By William L. White, M.A. and Robert J. Lindsey, M.Ed., CEAP
On April 25th, Hallmark Hall of Fame will broadcast the movie “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” starring Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper (CBS, 9:00 pm ET). The movie, which portrays the life of Lois Wilson, co-founder of Al-Anon Family Groups and wife of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, is based on William G. Borchert’s 2005 book, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough.
Borchert’s earlier screenplay was the basis of the acclaimed movie My Name is Bill W. which starred James Woods, James Garner, and JoBeth Williams. The premiere of the movie also falls during the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.’s (NCADD) 24th Annual Alcohol Awareness Month with its theme, “When Love Is Not Enough: Helping Families Coping With Alcoholism.”
Lois Wilson fell in love with a man whose alcoholism brought his life and their relationship to the brink before he began his personal recovery and helped found Alcoholics Anonymous. Lois and many of the other wives of early AA members also began to band together for mutual support, formalizing these meetings into Al-Anon Family Groups in 1951.
When Love is Not Enough is the story of Lois Wilson and her life with Bill Wilson. The reach of her and their stories is unfathomable and inseparable from the larger stories of AA and Al-Anon and the influence their lives would exert on the larger story of the professional treatment and recovery of individuals and families affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As William Borchert suggests:
“In the end, Bill Wilson’s alcoholism proved not to be the tragic undoing of this brilliant and loving couple, but rather the beginning of two of the twentieth century’s most important social and spiritual movements- Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups.”
There are presently more than 114,500 Alcoholics Anonymous groups (with a combined membership of more than 2 million) and more than 25,000 Al-Anon/Alateen groups (with a combined membership estimated at more than 340,000) hosting local meetings worldwide.
When Love is Not Enough is clearly more than a love story, though it is surely that. Readers of Psych Central and the people they serve will discover in this movie six profound lessons about the impact of alcoholism and alcoholism recovery on intimate relationships and the family.
1. Prolonged cultural misunderstandings about the nature of alcoholism have left a legacy of family shame and secrecy. Centuries of debates between those advocating religious, moral, criminal, psychiatric, psychological, medical and sociological theories of alcoholism failed to offer clear guidance to individuals and families affected by alcoholism. When Love is Not Enough is in part a poignant history of the hidden desperation many families experienced before the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and modern alcoholism treatment. Lois Wilson and Anne Bingham helped change that history in 1951 when they organized 87 groups of wives of AA members into the Al-Anon Family Groups.
2. Alcoholism is a family disease in the sense that it also wounds those closest to the alcohol dependent person; transforms family relationships, roles, rules, and rituals; and isolates the family from potential sources of extended family, social, and community support. And, it has far reaching, long-lasting effects on the physical and emotional health of the family and children. When Love is Not Enough conveys the physical and emotional distress of those struggling to understand a loved one who has lost control of drinking and its consequences.
It vividly portrays the disappointment, confusion, frustration, anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, guilt, shame, anxiety and depression family members experience in the face of alcoholism. The recognition that significant others and their children become as sick as the person addicted and are in need of a parallel pathway of recovery were the seeds from which Al-Anon and Alateen grew.
3. The family experience of alcoholism is often one of extreme duality. When Love is Not Enough poignantly conveys this duality: brief hope-inspiring interludes of abstinence or moderated drinking, periods of peacefulness, moments of love and shared dreams for the future — all relentlessly violated by explosive bouts of drinking and their devastating aftereffects. Memories of that lost person and those moments and dreams co-exist even in the face of the worst effects of alcoholism on the family.
It is only in recognizing this duality of experience and the character duality of the alcoholic that one can answer the enigmatic question that is so often posed about Lois Wilson’s contemporary counterparts, “Why does she/he stay with him/her?” As clinicians, we can too often forget that these family stories contain much more than the pathology of alcohol or drug dependence (White, 2006).
Click image to read reviews
4. Family recovery from alcoholism is a turbulent, threatening and life-changing experience. The hope of all families and children wounded by alcoholism is that the drinking will stop and with it, the arrival of an idyllic family life. Lois Wilson’s story confirms what research on family recovery from addiction is revealing: recovery from alcoholism can destabilize intimate and family relationships. Stephanie Brown and Virginia Lewis (1999), in their studies of the impact of alcoholism recovery on the family, speak of this as the “trauma of recovery.”
People recovering from alcoholism, their families, and their children can and often do achieve optimum levels of health and functioning, but this achievement is best measured in years rather than days, weeks, or months. That recognition in the life of Lois Wilson underscored the need for sustained support for families as they went through this process.
5. We cannot change another person, only ourselves. If there is a central, singular message from Lois Wilson’s life and from the Al-Anon Family Groups program, this may well be it. Al-Anon’s defining moments came when family members stopped focusing on how they could change and control their addicted family member and focused instead on their own need for regeneration and spiritual growth, the overall health of their families and the comfort and help they could offer each other and other families similarly affected.
Their further discovery that AA’s twelve step program of recovery could also guide the healing of family members marks the birth of the modern conceptualization of family recovery. The 2009 Al-Anon Membership Survey confirms the wide and enduring benefits members report experiencing as a result of their sustained involvement in Al-Anon—irrespective of the drinking status of their family members.
6. The wonder of family recovery. As a direct result of Lois’s groundbreaking work in co-founding Al-Anon and the impact it has had on the field of alcohol and drug treatment, family recovery from alcoholism is a reality for millions of Americans today, and the hope, help, and healing of family recovery has become the most powerful way to break the intergenerational cycle of alcoholism and addiction in the family.
The growing interest in the lives of Bill and Lois Wilson — as indicated by a stream of memoirs, biographies, plays, and films — is testimony to the contributions that Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups have made to personal and family recovery from alcoholism and to the ever-widening adaptation of the Twelve Steps to other problems of living (Wilson, 1994).
Psych Central readers will find much of value in “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” including the power of Al-Anon as a tool of support for clients living with someone else’s alcoholism. A DVD of the movie and a Viewer’s Guide, for use as a tool in family and community education, will be available at www.hallmarkhalloffame.com on April 25th, the day of the movie’s premiere.
Al-Anon membership survey. (Fall, 2009). Virginia Beach, VA: Al-Anon Family Headquarters, Inc.
Borchert, W.G. (2005). The Lois Wilson story: When love is not enough. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
Brown, S., & Lewis, V. (1999). The alcoholic family in recovery: A developmental model. New York & London: Guilford Press.
White, W. (2006). [Review of the book The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is Not Enough, by W. G. Borchert]. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 24(4), 159-162.
Wilson, L. (1979). Lois remembers: Memoir of the co-founder of Al-Anon and wife of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 800-4AL-ANON (888-425-2666), Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
Credit: Maia Szalavitz: neuroscience journalist The Huffington Post 29 March 2010
One of the least-praised pleasures in life — and yet one that is probably most likely to bring lasting happiness — is the ability to be happy for others. When we think about empathy, we tend to think of feeling other people’s pain — but feeling other people’s joy gets short shrift That must change if we want to have a more empathetic society.
While working on our forthcoming book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered (my co-author is leading child trauma expert Bruce Perry, MD, PhD), one of the most common questions I’ve gotten is, “What can parents do to raise more empathetic children?”
And, as I talked about sharing joy with a friend last week, I thought again about just how important the pleasurable part of empathy is in parenting. Sharing pleasure is actually one of our earliest experiences: consider the way a baby’s smile lights up a room and all the silly things adults will do to elicit these little expressions of happiness and connection. Videos of laughing babies delight us for the same reason. [I dare you to resist the laughing quads!]
Cuteness is nature’s way of getting us through the most difficult and demanding parts of parenting: if babies weren’t so darn cute, few people would be able to take the dirty diapers and other drudgery of caring for them. But their smiles and laughs are overwhelmingly infectious.
It’s this same early dance between parent and child that instills empathy in the first place. We all have the natural capacity (in the absence of some brain disorders) for empathy. However, like language, empathy requires particular experiences to promote learning. The ‘words” and “grammar” of empathy are taught first via early nurturing experiences.
Without responsive parenting, though, babies don’t learn to connect people with pleasure. If your smiles aren’t returned with joy, it’s as though you are being asked to learn to speak without anyone ever talking to you. The brain expects certain experiences to guide its development — if these don’t occur at the right time, the capacity to learn them can be reduced or even lost.
So, most of us come into the world and receive parenting that implicitly teaches us that joy is shared. Babies don’t just smile spontaneously — they also smile radiantly back when people smile at them. The back and forth of these smiles, the connection, disconnection, reconnection and its rhythm teaches us that your happiness is mine, too.
Over time, unfortunately, we learn that we are separate beings and sometimes come to see other people’s happiness as a threat or a sign that we’ve lost a competition, rather than something we can share.
This, of course, is natural, too: we are also normally born with an acute sense of fairness and justice that makes us sensitive to say, whether our older brother’s toys are nicer than ours. While cries of “that’s not fair” are the bane of many parents’ existence, they’re not just selfish. They’re part of a social sense that we should
Click image to read reviews
receive equal treatment.
How, then, can we help kids to develop both their sense of justice and the ability to share joy?
One key is making the implicit explicit. When we see kids smiling in response to others, point out how seeing someone else smile made them feel good; when we see that they enjoy our reaction to their artwork and gifts, praise them for being happy for us. Saying that “it’s better to give than receive,” may ring hollow — pointing out when children are actually experiencing the feeling of taking joy in giving is much more powerful.
Allowing children to own this ability and recognize it in themselves will also encourage it — helping them to define themselves as the kind of people who are happy for other people will make them feel like good people, too. Encouraging such an identity will reinforce other positive behaviors as well. Changing behavior to suit an identity you prefer is actually one of the easiest ways to make changes.
Further, rather than calling kids selfish or self-interested when they protest about someone else getting what seems like something better, reframe this as a concern for justice and ask them to look out for when what seems unfair is unfair in their own favor, too. Children who see themselves as being “bad” or “selfish” will unfortunately take on that identity, too — if they don’t recognize their own prosocial behavior, they can’t enhance it and may embrace a very negative view of their own desires and drives.
Sadly, as a society, for centuries we have embraced a view of human nature that is selfish and competitive — with evolution being described as a contest in which the most ruthless are always likely to be the winners. In fact, research is now showing that, at least in humans, kindness is also a critical part of fitness.
For one, both men and women typically describe kindness as one of the top three characteristics they seek in a mate (sense of humor and intelligence are the other top two picks; gender differences in valuing attractiveness and resources come lower on the list).
Second, the ability to nurture and connect is critical for the survival of human children: in hunter/gatherer societies, the presence of older siblings and grandmothers can be even more important to child survival than the presence of fathers according to Sarah Hrdy’s research, suggesting that cooperation in childrearing made genetic survival more likely — not competition.
This means that human nature isn’t the selfish, sociopathic murk we’ve been told it is. While we are certainly no angels, our altruistic side is equally real. To create a more empathetic world, we need to own this as adults as we teach it to our kids.