More parenting thoughts

I have been away from the blog for a while, and I want to let you know why, and thank you for your interest and kind words. I always hope the articles I post can be useful, and hope you can share them with others. For the past few months I have been dealing with some health issues that have altered my days. I have begun chemotherapy for cancer treatment, and have found a true “holy ground” as I have met fellow patients and a wonderful group of medical professionals, who amazingly always have encouragement and optimism available to share. Optimism is like oxygen, you know…

But, I am now ready to do more writing. For a while now, I have been sharing chapters from my book…. Marriage Minutes… available from (a tip by the way, if you go there to look for it, put,,, marriage minutes ford ,,, in the search engine. Obviously, if you use my name only, you will get the books by the more famous Gerald Ford.) I have only a few more chapters I wish to share from the book, and then I want to explore some other areas. So, I hope you will join me, pray with me, and share your comments with me, and the articles with others.

Marriage Minute # 148 Mirror, Hero, and Twin

We depended on our parents and other caregivers for several things, and hopefully they finished much of their job. But, some patterns of unfinished business rightly continue throughout our life, and we begin to look for similar things in other relationships. Let’s take a look at these things. For a background I am thankful to Ikar Kalogjera and his colleagues at the Milwaukee Group for the advancement of Self-Psychology. (Writing in, The Disordered Couple, edited by Jon Carlson and Len Sperry)
Many theorists about childhood assert that we need, among other things, some early psychological experience with three “things”, a mirror, a hero, and a twin. First, we need to “see” ourselves in our parents. They need to reflect pride (not just theirs, but our own pride) in our accomplishments, and the ability to accommodate with growth (not shame) when we find that we need to change. This is where we first learn to enjoy physical and mental activities, and pursue goals. Later, we can continue to “mirror” with our own experience, and with selected individuals in friendships and/or mentoring relationships. Without “mirroring”, we may find ourselves feeling empty, inadequate, and in constant need of reassurance.
Secondly, we need a hero. The hero of our childhood is often one, or hopefully both, parents. Idealizing gives us a sense of consistency, security, and a sort of optimism about values and purpose. We learn to regulate ourselves, soothe and calm ourselves, and pursue ideals with commitment. (This is not the same as being driven by guilt or fear of a “giant”. It is the drawing power of a hero.) Later, we find heroes in our adult life. Healthy relationships with God, and with other people, provide more idealizing influence. A marriage needs the mutual admiration, the wonder, the curiosity, and the security of this experience.
Third, the child needs a twin. This isn’t about whether or not we ought to be our child’s friend. This is about whether we encourage our children, and help them see that they can also become the “hero” they have seen demonstrated. Will we be heirs of the good giants who raised us? Can we be heirs of God? Will we be able to be a “hero” to others and live as a contributing person in the world? Can we successfully become a person with “empathy, creativeness, humor, wisdom, and acceptance of one’s transience”? (p. 218) After all, a hero that I cannot become “like” is a useless hero in the long run. Marriage, similarly, should be a relationship where we support each other’s growth, and thereby our own. Sadly, many marriages are places where people try to make themselves superior by making the other inferior. Personhood, realized, needs twinship.
In fact, personhood needs all three of these things, the mirror, the hero, and the twin. To be able to say, “I am loved and worth love, I can value and understand love, and I can love and be lovable.” These three needs may also be understood as the needs to be seen, valued, and joined with in building the relationship.
A warning is in order. The Narcissistic person will horribly abuse this whole issue. They will demand a mirror, but they won’t be one for others. They will claim to be a giant, but will do all they can to deny any peerage, nor will they have any heroes but themselves. They will refuse twinship, because that would mean their personhood might depend upon relationship, and upon growth, cure, change, and mutuality.
The one who chooses to love, finds personhood, and makes it available.

Marriage Minute # 149 Elephants

Let’s talk about elephants. Years ago there was an overpopulation of elephants at an African game preserve. The solution offered by those who managed the preserve was to move the baby elephants to another preserve. Some people objected, saying that the babies would not survive, but this was not the outcome. The young ones survived and thrived. In a manner, they thrived, but another problem soon arose. The rhinoceros population began to die off. Something was killing them. Property was being destroyed. People who lived around the preserve reported being charged by the elephants. It turned out that the young elephants were behind all these problems, even though this was not the characteristic behavior usually seen in elephants.
It was feared that the herd would have to be sacrificed, but a rather bold thing was tried first. Several adult elephants were transported to the area, including some quite old elephants. Soon the problems ceased. Almost immediately, the young elephants took notice of their new role models, and these “parents and grandparents” started showing the young ones how to live in their world. The news show, “60 Minutes”, called the elephants’ social system complex, interconnected, and elegant.
Years later, in a place far away, humans were discovered discussing whether parents were necessary or not. Some of them had become obsessed with getting away from their own parents. Some had become obsessed with finding ways to get away from their own children more often. When parents and grandparents became marginalized in children’s lives, behavioral problems began to occur. One “noted” specialist even recommended that children be taken away from parents at a certain age and raised by government owned and operated training schools, later to be returned to parents as finished products. He said that child-raising was too important to be trusted to unprofessional and untrained parents. He spoke of reinforcing this behavior or that one, and showed how humans could be conformed from the outside. But, problems continued, and even worsened.
The truth re-discovered in both places is that children need parents, and they need grandparents. Children need to see behavior modeled, not just reinforced. Even more than that, they need to be helped in the discovery that they can choose, and are responsible for choosing responsible behavior, from the inside of themselves, not the outside alone. Parents need to show their children how they have been able to renegotiate a relationship with their parents, now that they are grown. They can demonstrate that parents and adult children don’t have to relate in terms of rebellion and power struggles. Children can learn to contribute to the family, and to the human community, from their childhood up, and then how to let their contribution change with age, but not go away.
I didn’t know my grandparents well before they were gone, but I did have several older family members who contributed a lot to my life. Chief among them was a great uncle and his son, who were sort of the family story tellers, and guess what I do now.

Marriage Minute # 150 Free the Cell Phone!

How many uses are there for a cell phone? They take pictures and can send e-mails and texts, and connect to the Internet, they provide books in new forms, and do many other things. Despite the wonderful things they can do for us, parents have begun to use them for a purpose for which they were not designed. They are using them to extort chores and other bits of behavior from their teenagers. If the room doesn’t get clean, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. If the kid doesn’t get home on time, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. If grades suffer, the cell phone gets taken away for a few days. No, I’m not trying to give out ideas for how to get your kid to do things, I am trying to say these ideas don’t work, for a number of reasons.
First, losing a cell phone won’t teach the value of a clean house, of punctuality, or of a good education. Discipline needs to be a natural or logical response to the actual nature of the problem. If you lost your cell phone, would you go sit down with an academic book and study hard for that next test? If someone stole your cell phone, would you suddenly feel a compulsion to go home and clean your room? I guess you could hide their cell phone in their room and tell them to clean the room to find it (only joking). Value is taught by example, by experience, and by connection to what is truly good in life and relationships. Discipline that is not natural or logical will produce more behavior that is not what you want to see.
Second, holding a cell phone (or other object) hostage, when the cell phone is not really the problem (i.e. misuse of the phone, going over minutes, etc.), will teach a dangerous lesson. You might see the kid threatening to disturb the peace in the family unless they get their way. Sadly, bribery hurts both ways. When a person threatens a tantrum unless their demands are met, it’s bribery, no matter how old or young they are.
I know that some kids will cooperate, but that doesn’t mean that the hostage taking really worked. The person who cooperates with this type of discipline would probably have cooperated with a better form of discipline, anyway, and everyone involved would have had a better experience from it all. In fact, the child that is cooperative, who wants to be in a good relationship with the family, will be discouraged by any discipline that doesn’t give them the credit they deserve.
By the way, I watched with interest, a few years ago, as Prince Charles dealt with Prince Harry’s insensitivity in wearing the Nazi uniform to a party. He sent him to tour Auschwitz, and hear the story of the horrors committed there. Now, that is discipline that is directly (naturally/ logically) related to the nature of the problem. I don’t know about the rest of Charles’ parenting, but he got this one right.
The best way to raise adults is to present kids with two good adult examples. Do parents cooperate with each other, respect others, and do they accept influence from each other in solving problems? Or, do parents bribe each other? Free the captive cell phone.

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2 Responses to More parenting thoughts

  1. Gerald, I am sorry to hear of your cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment. We just went through that in our home with my husband – you are right that a cancer center is holy ground! Praying for you!

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