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Love Relationships For A Better World

   

Treating our children with kindness and respect

     
 

A few days ago, as I was walking my dog, I watched a young couple—who didn’t appear happy with one another--walking along with their 3-year old daughter. The daughter was riding a bike with training wheels. As I watched, the mom was speaking harshly to the girl about staying near the side of the road. The road was a quiet side street near a park and there were no cars in sight. GET OVER HERE!! I TOLD YOU BEFORE …. My analogy of the mom’s treatment of the girl: the little girl was a prisoner of war and the mom was a guard at the prison. If this is how the girl is treated in public, I wonder how she’s treated at home in private.

This experience reminded me that in my work as a dating and love relationship coach not only is it important to me that couples are happy and healthy, but that the byproduct of happy couples is children who are treated with kindness and respect.

The “sins of the fathers”

 

“The sins of the fathers are visited upon their children” is a fitting assessment of what happens to children—meaning that parent’s shortcomings clearly impact their children. On one hand, many people feel each person is responsible for the quality of their own life—no matter what the circumstances may be. However, in a larger sense, I think we are each responsible for, and contribute to, the quality of life for everyone in our lives.

From a slightly different perspective, I don’t think anyone would argue that harsh abusive treatment of a dog wouldn’t affect the development of the dog. We’ve all seen abusive treatment make a dog skittish, hypervigilant, and fearful. I believe children react similarly. Of course, the reactions of children are often hidden with “social veneers”.

Recently, another analogy has occurred to me that provides further insight into the impact of dysfunctional parents on their children. Consider an experience we’ve all had of going to a movie and walking out of the theater bathed in the mood in which the movie inspired. We were immersed in the movie’s “mood” for only 2 hours and yet we were obviously impacted. I suggest that the impact of living in the mood of a dysfunctional or abusive family profoundly colors our world and how we live into our future. Of course, there are other factors that influence the quality of one’s life. I think family life is a pivotal one.

From his article in Omni in June 1989, Charles Whitfield, author of the book Healing The Child Within, writes: “According to Virginia Satir, a founder of family therapy, about 95 percent of U.S. families are dysfunctional—troubled, unhealthy, or unable to deal directly with daily problems. Most households are troubled because the parents came from unhealthy families. Until someone breaks the cycle, parents pass on this painful legacy.”

The impact of the dysfunction of my parents

I’ll provide an example of the impact of parental dysfunction on children by using my family experience. I believe my experiences as a child are fairly common.

My siblings and I grew up in a family with a mom and dad who were respected and successful in the community--and who loved their 5 children deeply, as most parents do. And, they were at times physically harsh on us when they were angry (a large heavy wooden paddle was the worst). My parents were also domineering and persistently critical. Although the critical monitoring could bring us to tears, our sadness and anger were unacceptable expressions. Very early we learned that it was safer to not express, and instead we seethed and suffered in silence. As far as I know, during our childhood, neither parent ever apologized or acknowledged the impact of their attitudes and behaviors on us.

I love my mom and dad and have forgiven them. I know they were doing the absolute best they knew to do. And I know the sins of their fathers were visited upon them, as well. We all go out into the forest of life and lose our way. And, of course, my parents were very good to us in many ways. The point I’m making here, however, is that I didn’t experience being safe with my parents, nor did I experience that they were a support system I could count on. By the time they divorced when I was 16, it was not a big deal to me. Suffering in our relationships was so commonplace that a divorce was just more of the same.

This family environment continued to make an impact on my siblings and I as we lived our lives. Three of my siblings struggled with heavy drug use for 25 years. One had on numerous occasions been confined to a mental hospital for drug use reactions. Although 2 siblings are completely clean, another is still using. Drug use or no drug use, my view is that my siblings and I are all at least 20 years behind where we could easily have expected to be at this time in our lives. Our work lives have been hampered, and nearing 50 years old, none of us have any retirement income set aside. Further, I am the only one of the five of us who has been able to create a solid, lasting love relationship. Our models of conflict resolution in a relationship were mostly unproductive arguing, blaming, and resentful silence.

Personally, I’m far behind where I could’ve expected to be in my work life. Much of the past 30 years of my life has been devoted to getting out from under the “mood” of my early family life and looking for ways to assist others. In this 30 year time period, I have gone for psychological therapy, have gotten a master’s degree in counseling, and had 2 years of professional training in mediation and conflict resolution. Plus, every year I take a number of intensive, non-accredited growth and development courses.

The paths I’ve taken for healing and growth have been godsends and I’ve been able to produce a life that now includes play, fun, friendship, spiritual connection, and self-acceptance. I have developed myself far more than I could have predicted for my lifetime. So, in one sense, I am grateful for the challenges that have pushed me to grow in ways that a softer life might not have. In fact, three of my siblings have pursued similar paths of healing and have become wonderful, sensitive and kind people. I could say we’re 20 years ahead of the average person in terms of developing our inner selves. Plus, I believe that as we get free from our past, we’re slung like a slingshot out into successes in life. These successes can erase what was lost from a difficult childhood.

The impact my family experience has had on my marriage

The impact of my childhood experiences on my relationship with my wife, Noel, has at times created difficulty for us and has disrupted our wellbeing. And yet, because of our commitment to ourselves and to the relationship, Noel and I have healthily addressed many of these patterns in our 12 years together—and we have become quite adept at assisting others in doing the same. Again, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come in my ability to relate in a healthy way.

On the other hand, I have struggled with an inherited pattern of being critical, controlling, and uncommunicative. My capacity for being vulnerable has been severely compromised. I can rarely allow myself to cry in front of anyone. I am quick to be defensive and quick to take of my wife’s actions as if she is being mean, uncaring, and unkind. And, although I’m crystal clear of the need to communicate when I am upset, my first reaction is usually to clam up, hope things change on their own--and at times seethe in feelings of resentment and hate.

A proposed solution

I grieve for all that children go through in dealing with troubled parents. My mission here is to encourage changes in families that result in all children on the planet being treated with kindness and respect. I strongly believe we can all have a powerful impact on the quality of children’s lives by developing healthy love relationships and by using our relationships to grow and develop as individuals.

How does one develop a healthy love relationship? Not an easy task, as can well be seen in our society. However, I have done it and I know you can, too. Here’s the simple version: Being committed to dealing with all conflict in healthy ways will have you discover where you are contributing to the dysfunction in your life and will lead to you making the changes that will create a healthy life and satisfying relationships. [Note: Of course, parenting classes are also extremely useful in learning how to raise children.]
 

 
Bill White, MC, NCC is a dating and love relationship coach in Tucson. He has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling and is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor.

Bill offers coaching by phone, e-mail, or in person. He can be reached at 520-319-9132 and by e-mailing bill@lovethatlasts.com. His website is www.lovethatlasts.com.

You are offered a free, no obligation consultation to find out what I do, for me to find out what you want, and to see if there’s a match.
 

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