Learning Effective Communication

July 24, 2010

It’s not easy to know everyone’s communication style. You have to be aware of where people are at and understand how conversations work to develop better skills in communication. I remember that I learned in junior high school that life isn’t all about bragging about who you are and what you can do- it’s actually better to become involved in what the other person says and then reveal a little about yourself as you become comfortable.

Learning effective communication is something that is a work in progress within our house. I have two strong willed daughters who definitely will make their opinions known- and want you to talk back to them in less than a sentence so they can go on once again. We’ve had to be careful when we put out thoughts that are confusing or possibly making them feel shame about themselves. Often they will hang on the negative word without really listening to the whole context of the phrase or sentence.

I think you become a better communicator through listening. I mean real active listening- where you show appropriate eye contact, facial expressions and engage in follow up questions to truly understand what the person you are talking with is saying. How many times so we engage in this activity in our fast paced lives? We seem to want to cut people off or think we know what they are saying before they’ve finished the thought coming from their brain and out of their mouth.

Children will learn best through you as a parent and a role model. If you cut them off in conversation, don’t expect them to be able to stand there for long without doing the same in return. It’s not the time to show off your impressive vocabulary either- simpler, quicker to understand concepts go a long way to becoming mainstay ideas that last a lifetime.

Take a speech class or go through Toastmasters if you want to be a better public communicator. We all need consistent feedback on how to improve in this area- especially with the fear of public speaking being so high on everyone’s list. Don’t you want to give people help and communicate ideas effectively? Imagine how much this will improve your own self-esteem? Imagine how if you are an expert on a topic that others could use your help in, how valuable this could be for a second part-time or even full time career?

I remember hearing many times throughout life that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason- so we can listen twice as much as we talk. Take the time out of your life to plug into someone else and listen- you may be surprised how much you have in common with that person and how much more you will learn. Even if it’s someone half your age or even your child- they may be able to teach you something you didn’t already know. Thank you once again for reading and keep up the good work on your journey to health, happiness and success.


Tough Lessons

July 20, 2010

Sometimes we have to learn by example. Sometimes we have to learn through experience. I believe today my oldest daughter learned an important lesson on friendship, trust and responsibility- both from the child’s view as well as the parent view.

She was sleeping over a friend’s house, and a verbal fight occurred between the friend and my daughter. She was scheduled to sleep over for 2 nights. Since the friend didn’t want to resolve the argument amicably, in the early afternoon the mother ordered my daughter to leave the house.

Her resourceful brain had her walk to our old neighborhood and decide to see if our across the street former neighbors were still there. Luckily they were until I could be called to pick her up.

What parent kicks out their friend in the middle of a sleep over? Is it that tough to use your parenting skills and resolve things? When this friend had difficulty over our house with our daughter, we talked things through, apologies were made and the sleepover went through without a hitch. That’s being proactive and doing the right thing for the benefit of a relationship.

I’m hoping my daughter learned that this friend isn’t a true friend if she is unwilling to resolve conflicts- or if her manner of solving the problem is to just let people leave her life. I would never do that to a child. That’s the easy way of handling conflict and challenge- just run away from the problem or act like it doesn’t exist. What do children learn from that? They’ll probably end up parenting in the same way- learning from observation.

I didn’t scold my daughter because she did the right thing. My wife and I warned her that previous actions from the mother and her daughter weren’t really acts of kindness but more of selfishness. I think she learned that who she really thought was a friend wasn’t much of a friend at all.

To me a friend is someone who you may occasionally have disagreements with, but will be in your corner when you need them. They are there for the good times and the hard times- the celebrations as well as when you need comfort. It’s a mutual back and forth exchange.

I’m hoping my daughter understands the investment of a good friendship is worth it in the long run. It may be scary for her to want to develop new relationships, and I’m sure she’ll approach the next one cautiously. She tends to be an all in kind of person- you know where she stands at all times.

I want her to know not all people are like this former friend. You don’t leave at the first sign of conflict. If you are truly a friend, you look at the other person’s point of view and consider where they are coming from. It’s not always about you. I know she’s in pain about this long term friendship coming to such a crashing end- so I will be there if she needs a dad to listen.

I’m Not Proud

July 18, 2010

Yesterday would not be one of my most impressive moments in front of my family. On our way to head out of the house for an all day yard sale, I twirled the car keys around my fingers. As we entered the elevator, the keys slipped off my finger and down the elevator shaft. The maintenance worker searched for an hour and couldn’t find them.

What was I not proud of? I swore in front of my wife and kids. I lost my cool over something that can naturally happen in life. I felt shame and guilt for not keeping the keys safe. I’m usually the logical one, the responsible one, and this time I left myself and my family down.

I spent the better part of the day searching around for a replacement key. I got one made, and tried to re-program it for my car on my own. It doesn’t work- and then I’ve been looking online for the possible reason why.

Come to find out, you can’t program the new key unless you put in the master key to replicate it. Problem is- I wouldn’t have had a new key made if I didn’t lose the old key. Sort of like an Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” routine, I’m not caught waiting for the elevator people to come to our complex on Monday to get the problem solved.

Tomorrow will be another day. I need to learn that when I’m faced with a series of problems, I can’t lose my cool. What does it really accomplish? I may be getting rid of a moment or two of frustration, but my kids and wife remember the day that their father and husband couldn’t be a role model, and couldn’t keep things together.

It’s hard to give myself a break. I do believe that people remember the one negative thing you did versus the 10 positive things you may do thereafter. I did apologize to my children for my behavior. They will forgive me, and they will move onward. I need to remember that the next time when I’m faced with this situation, the outcome should be different.

Ever Wish

July 16, 2010

Ever wish you could set up a bootcamp for your children? Make them feel like they could know the meaning of respect, discipline and hard work?

It just may be time for a little role reversal in this house. I’m seeing far too much anger and attitude thrown about from both my daughters right now, and my wife and I aren’t happy about it. They can’t tell me things are so much worse here than when they lived in group homes. Instead of having multiple people to deal with in terms of roommates, it’s only 4 of us.

I realize in the summer time there’s more freedom and less of a solid structure. My wife and I still have to work because we don’t get the summers off from school as our daughters do. And yet they make us feel like we should be their entertainment committee, forking out our hard earned money at the mere impulsive instinct they have to buy something.

Life doesn’t work that way though.

I was working part time jobs from the time I was 13. I developed my own deejay business out of necessity to fill a need. My junior high school needed an affordable disc jockey to play at dances, and my best friend and I had the equipment and record collection to do the job. It took us a couple of years of reinvestment, experience and a learning curve to really better ourselves, but we believed we could succeed and we did. When I felt like I needed more income, I started working at a local private school cafeteria.

Bottom line was, I didn’t mope and groan about boredom or my lack of money. I figured out a way to be creative and use my skills to earn money.

Right now we are preparing for a multi-family yard sale over the weekend. The girls are pricing their items that they want to sell, and I think a lot of times they overestimate what they can get. They are learning the art of bartering prices, and judging consumer demand versus what the market will be willing to spend on those items. My wife and I have a similar goal: we don’t want to cart back to our apartment the same amount we put into the car in the first place. Priced to go, and that’s what we aim for.

If I could find the Delorian and go back in time like Marty McFly in Back To The Future, I would send both kids back in different time periods. Probably one to when I was a child, and another back to the Depression years of the 1930’s. Then maybe they would start appreciating how easy life is now compared to then. Maybe it would motivate them more to not expect others to design their lives- to actually think, learn and grow themselves.

If I could wave my magic wand, I’d start certain aspects of their lives over again. I want happiness and harmony for all, and yet I know I can’t make either happen unless they want it to happen. Have a wonderful day everyone, thank you for reading this and keep smiling and keep giving to others.

What Is A Deal Breaker?

July 13, 2010

I figure this would open up a debate on where you think a deal breaker is when it comes to your children and where you have to put your foot down to teach an important life lesson. We all know that as parents we have to pick our battles. As children get older and strive for autonomy and independence, you can’t be there all the hours of the day to keep your children away from making poor choices.

What would be a deal breaker for you? When it comes to safety and security? Do you put a premium on honesty, integrity, keeping up with their rooms, teaching them responsibility, household chores?

We are a week into both children being back at home. For the most part they’ve been working on adjusting to our expectations as parents. My oldest mentioned to me that she still has to break out of group home habits- even though she’s lived with us 7 years and was there for a little over a month. We are patient and not overbearing on every little issue.

I’m thinking about teaching an important lesson regarding personal property, because both girls have different feelings about touching or borrowing other people’s items. They’ll get furious if it happens to them, but not really have any qualms about taking items from others if they need it in the moment. They must not believe in their conscious the consequences are severe enough to stop them from this act.

When I was growing up I learned an important lesson regarding this in junior high. I ended up severing a couple of friendships because these kids thought it would be hilarious to steal from a big department store. Even though the cameras were right in front of the area they would be stealing from. I went into a line to buy something legitimate and didn’t know what they were doing. Security ended up stopping all 3 of us- and my parents were notified as we were at the mall with them.

So I guess I learned to be careful who I associate with, what my values were, and that I need to have money to be able to purchase stuff- not just take because I feel it’s my right to do so. I’d like to teach my girls this same ethic, but I feel that the impact has to be full force in order for it to stay with them.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for your support of these posts- I really appreciate all the comments and debate that goes on. If it makes you think and you act in a different way, that’s a good thing. You are growing- you are showing that you care- and pass this help on to others in need.

Ebb and Flow

July 12, 2010

We’ve been having our share of emotional struggles this past weekend with both the girls. What’s been great so far is their willingness to accept responsibility and do repair work. We may not be able to quiet down their outbursts in the moment- but my wife and I are hoping that as a result of the repair work they’ve been doing they really think about the consequences of their actions. Towards themselves- towards each other- towards the environment they are in- and towards us.

I don’t know whether it’s related to an age situation or wanting to break free independently, but my oldest seems to be engaging in a power struggle over how the events of the day will play out with us. She figures in her head if she wants things a certain way- that’s how it will be. If she makes a promise to someone and doesn’t feel in the mood to follow through, that we will bail her out of a commitment. That would be doing her a great disservice though. We are teaching her responsibility, even if she doesn’t like it in the moment, we want her to understand you don’t break the promises that you make to people that depend on you.

My youngest daughter who is very careful on how things are done discussed with my wife earlier in the day about trading one particular repair job for another. She is cleaning the refrigerator inside and out and organizing it better for us to be able to find the items we need. She does get overwhelmed at such large tasks so I use a bit of positive verbal reinforcement and physical reinforcement (high fives, hugs) to keep her spirits going in the right direction.

I want her to know that I’m glad that she is showing us that she wants to work together as a family and pull us closer with the completion of this task. Earlier in the weekend she picked up the bathroom as a result of another repair task, and these steps are huge to recognizing what we have to do when we face challenges and act out towards the one we love inappropriately.

So today I feel like my head is in a bit of a fog. Our building where we live had a fire alarm go off about 45 minutes into my normal sleep time. The cats ran underneath the bed and stayed for a long time for fear of the high pitched wail. My daughter made sure I was aware of the alarm and we quickly left the house.

So my message today is understand the ebb and flow of your children and their emotions, especially during the summer time. They want to relax, they know they have commitments to fulfill and yet you may hear the two famous words all children love to say, “I’m bored.” Don’t take this personally. They need to crank up their imaginations and be able to not have items entertain them all the time- they can be very creative if you let them. Channel that energy in the right direction.


July 11, 2010

We tend to say this word a lot around our house. Probably because it breaks the tension when there is a sense of discontent. It’s been two days since both children have returned to the house, and typical personality traits have quickly come to the surface.

It’s clear that the health of one is better than the health of another. Not necessarily from a physical standpoint- more from a commitment and attachment standpoint. My wife noticed yesterday that there seems to be a struggle for power and control with the one daughter who seems to want what the other daughter has- and yet she doesn’t want to take the steps necessary to gain the closeness she desires with us as parents.

Instead of following directions, she’ll purposely do her own thing. When she doesn’t want to face a situation that could be stressful, she’ll give up or act like she’s not capable of getting her own clothes, taking a shower, finding an appropriate snack, keeping her room clean, doing her homework, and so on down the line. Meanwhile she watches our other daughter gain the opportunity to go over friends houses, enjoy the comforts of texting on her cell phone, being able to use the computer, and basically giving and accepting love and affection and back and forth communication.

She knows what she wants, but doesn’t want to put the work in to get it. She believes it should just be naturally handed to her. It’s such a shame that the world doesn’t work in quite that same manner.

I didn’t have my first car until the summer before I left for college. I spent 2 1/2 years saving up money from my deejaying on the weekends and my part time cafeteria job to buy a 1973 Dodge Dart Sweeper for $1,400. I paid for the car in full and paid for a year’s worth of insurance. It had 55,000 miles on it and I ended up using it for my full 4 years of college. I remember taking one of my math classmates from Lowell to the Cape and back for $50. But I never expected my parents to just give me a car or pay for one totally on my own because I just wanted it or I deserved it.

Seriously, I worry that her adulthood is going to be even more of a struggle than her childhood. Will my youngest just give up on a job because her boss looked at her the wrong way? How will she be able to find a nice, charming partner who will love and care for her if she doesn’t know how to be appropriate to her parents? You can’t shape or change the people you interact with regularly- you either accept them as they are or you learn to change how you view their opinions and the way they treat you.

We’ve talked to her many times about the fact that if she’s truly unhappy- she has to make the moves. No one else is going to change the circumstances or her environment- unless she wants zero control for the rest of her life.


Surely I am, and I know my wife is. We will throw more of our attention on to anyone who treats us with respect, is real about their feelings and willing to be productive to work as a family. I can’t reward negative attention any more.