Archive for February, 2010

February 28, 2010

My son and I want to share space and expenses…..

by Rod Smith

“I want insight my son and grandson and I living together. We each have insufficient funds to live on our own. My son and grandson are slobs and I’m expected to do most of the kitchen work. The boy (my grandson) has some kind of thinking disability related to hyperactivity/attention deficit and both are loud, play rough, and do a lot of man/boy stuff much to my chagrin. My younger son has also hounded me to ‘get a man’ and to release his brother from my life. So: Is it so awful for a son to live with and help support his mother? What is protocol when either of us has company, and is it okay for us both to have outside company in the common areas of the house and/or in our individual bedrooms?”

Rod Smith, MSMFT

What you are planning is expected in many parts of the world. My only reservation is that it appears your son is willing to abdicate some of his responsibilities – by leaving cleaning and cooking to you. Develop a full life of your own while sharing accommodation. You and your son will determine the “correct” protocol regarding guests. Talk over all possible scenarios and therefore minimize the potential for surprises and disappointment.

February 25, 2010

Explosive 16 year old. Help!

by Rod Smith

“My son (16) has from very young displayed the most unvelievable stubbornness on some issues. We have come to understand it as being inflexible explosive behaviour that it is incredibly difficult to work with. Usually there is a pattern and there are times when one is able to reason and resolve, other times there is no warning and the explosion or meltdown occurs. It is usually because he has not been able to get his own way despite our explanations. He indulges in defiant behaviour such as in this last instance, staying his bedroom for 25 hours and sleeping most of the time. Upon arising my attempts to talk to him are met with a blank. How does one handle someone who resorts to defiant behaviour when he doesn’t get his own way? I believe it is time for him to find alternate, more mature ways of dealing with issues – or am I expecting too much from a 16 yr old?” (Edited)

While I could say “take him by suprise” or “change the rules” I am going to resist suggesting the solution is easily found. He sounds depressed perhaps relating to some broader matters. I am hereby asking readers to express their opinions and experience before I tackle your question again in a few days.

Yesterday’s column clearly hit a hot button. Here are two of may responses…

“I was amazed at the description of the stubborn 16 year old. It could have been a description of a family member of mine who has been diagnosed as depressed. For a long time we all thought it was purely a self-centred nature or a short fuse. Based on learning the hard way my advice to the parent would be to stand up to his behaviour. If an explosion occurs walk out of the room. Do not try to reason or explain. Being depressed does not give anyone the right to abuse others. The depressed individual is quick to see a pattern forming: ‘If I have a tantrum everyone will do as I wish, out of fear, or just to keep the peace.’ If you fall into this trap you are setting yourself up for much misery and are not doing your depressed family member any favours by playing to their brattish behaviour.”

“My first impression was that the boy suffered from a lack of discipline. However, the problem appears to have existed from a very young age and appears to be a more deeply rooted problem. If I was in the shoes of the parents I would consult a psychologist/psychiatrist as Bi-polar comes to mind.”

One reader’s view regarding the defiant 16-year-old….

“The story of the stubborn, defiant 16-year old makes me smile. The mother has waited 16 years too long to start disciplining her son. One of my daughters had this same strong will, it was not an iron will, it was stainless steel! Her first few years made life very difficult for us, until I started reading books about the strong willed child. When she was old enough to begin understanding that her tantrums were not acceptable we began teaching her. Whenever we told her to stop whatever was unacceptable, and when I counted to 10 and she did not stop I would give her a smack with my wooden spoon on ‘the seat of learning’. After about 6 weeks the truth sank in, and I only had to warn her: the wooden spoon treatment became now very rare. She grew up into a delightful woman. The Bible tells us to spare the rod and spoil the child. Unfortunately this has now become forbidden in many countries.”

Rod Smith, MSMFT

Apparently your experience ends happily. I’d welcome a comment from your daughter whom you say is a “delightful woman” – and hear her comments on your discipline.

I fear she might be too afraid to tell her truth.

February 22, 2010

I am one of the jealous men you often refer to…

by Rod Smith

“I am one of the ‘jealous men’ you often refer to and I think you are very unfair. I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost a year, and it’s the only thing that causes problems for us in an otherwise perfect relationship. Jealousy isn’t as simple as you make out. I love my girlfriend with all my heart, but this ‘monster’ inside me is impossible to control. I’ve tried to come up with the root of the problem many times, and I think it’s probably to do with past relationship experiences and very high levels of testosterone. So you can make jealous guys out to be men who have no consideration for our partners but that isn’t true. I love my girlfriend so much and would do anything to change. It’s something uncontrollable that I’m desperate to cure it. The prospect of having to live with these constant feelings, pushing away those that I love, is truly terrifying.” (Edited)

I know jealousy can be uncomfortable for both the perpetrator and the victim. Thankfully many men and women truimph over jealousy through guidance, grit, and the painful process of letting go. Healing is close to you when you see it as your issue, but healing will evade you whenever you place blame upon anyone for your issue.

February 20, 2010

Don’t hold me accountable until you do that with your bratty kid!

by Rod Smith

“I have a daughter (5) and I have been with my partner for over a year. My daughter stays with her grandparents during the week to help me with gas. My partner does not work and I pay all the bills. He gets angry with me because he believes that I do not hold my daughter accountable. I don’t hit my child but I do talk to her so she has an

Rod Smith, MSMFT

understanding what she is doing is wrong. I do not want my daughter to fear me, I want her to respect me. He has a drinking problem and surrounds with people that are no good. When I bring up my concern he says, ‘Don’t hold me accountable until you do that with your own bratty kid.’ What am I to do? I want to leave but I feel as though he would fail himself and put himself in situations that will jeopordize his life and well being. I love him but I believe that things will never change.”

This will go nowhere worth going for you until you love yourself more than you love your daughter and you love your daughter more than you love him. I’d suggest you devise an immediate escape plan. Your daughter, not this manipulator, is your responsibility.

Jean Hatton

I think being ‘held accountable’ is a good idea, but not concerning him. I would ask you to consider that you have brought this man into your home and by so doing, have put yourself and your daughter’s well being at risk. It sounds like he has done nothing but add stress and guilt to your life as he makes demands on you to keep him happy. Loving your daughter is your priority. Be accountable for the decision that you made to bring this angry controlling man into your lives — and choose the healthy way out.

February 20, 2010

I don’t want to lose him….

by Rod Smith

Rod Smith, MSMFT

“I am 26 and have been living with the father of my children for five years. We are not married and he has been cheating on me ever since. He claims to be a changed person now but I don’t trust that. He still goes onto ‘Mxit’ and chats to uknown females and I am uncomfortable with that. I have been through this so many times but I haven’t moved out the house. He has been horrible towards me and he seems to be doing it all over again. I am really afraid to lose him. I don’t want my kids to grow up without their dad, like I did. Please can you help me?”

Probably not. Until you change your behavior and refuse victimhood matters will deteriorate. You desire relief from pain without spending the necessary “clean” pain to get there. Insight is useless when people are unwilling to change and, something in this sad scenario works for you – or you would have moved on years ago.

Yes. You are uncomfortable, but apparently not sufficiently uncomfortable to plan a major move. About losing him? That’s already occurred.

February 17, 2010

Do you need therapy?

by Rod Smith

Rod Smith, MSMFT

Given the absence of a glaring symptom or two, here is a brief test (answer at least one as a ‘yes”) to establish if you might benefit from some personal therapeutic work:
1. You experience some anxiety at the thought of being in a room for an hour or two with all members of your immediate family in order to discuss your life and your life-choices.
2. Spending time with one or both of your parents makes you anxious, annoyed, or leaves you exhausted.
3. You can find little or nothing positive to say about some members of your family and you do all you can to avoid spending time with them.
4. You are harboring unforgiveness or grudges from events that occurred in the past and you can’t bring yourself to directly address the related family members.
5. You have to modify the truth or run interference about any one family member (your husband, for instance) when talking with other family members (your sister or parents, for instance).
6. You find yourself being zealously competitive with your peers and see almost everything as a race or competition which you must win.
7. You have a short-fuse and are inordinately angry at the drop of a hat over matters that most people regard as insignificant.

February 17, 2010

What can I do to be “lower” maintenance?

by Rod Smith

“I am a high maintenance or attention seeking person. Having looked over the relationships that I have had, especially with women, I have found that I crave attention. If I do not get it to my seeming satisfaction, I get resentful or am smugly superior to the people. Sometimes this is very subtle. It can stem from being turned down for a date or not having

Lower your expectations of others....

a call returned. In relationships I am jealous if I am not the center of activity. I seem to be never satisfied or trusting. I seem to be always afraid I will not get the attention that I crave. I fully agree with the need to grow up and not be so sensitive, so here’s the question: coming to the realization is great, but what actions can I take to help me become less needy of the affirmation of others?” (Edited)

Change is initially internal, beginning with awareness. The nature of your issue makes it a private journey – if you ask your friends for help, in a weak moment you are likely to blame others when you fail. Read every available book available on personal boundaries. Keep on reading, journaling, and lowering your expectations of others.

Jean Hatton

JEAN HATTON: You have discovered valuable insights into your behavioural patterns and I commend you for your choice to say ‘Now what do I do?’ I would encourage you to seek help through therapy. ‘Walking through, and talking through issues of your history of relationships will shed more light on what you have found, giving you answers to the reasons for your behaviour.

February 16, 2010

Toxic levels of anxiety…..

by Rod Smith

Toxic levels will strangle you....

Relax, take a deep breath, try to assess whether your anxiety levels are “normal” (there’s a natural anxiety that comes with day-to-day living) or unhelpful (debilitating, crippling).

Toxic anxiety will make you partially deaf to what others are saying and you will only hear what you want to hear. It will make you partially blind to what is going on around you and will see what you want to see. It will make you hyper-sensitive to the actions of others and less aware of your own behavior.

Your anxiety levels will reduce if you….

1. “De-triangle” yourself by getting out of the middle of relationships that do not directly involve you.
2. Re-connect (appropriately) with people to whom you are related – especially when it is by “blood” (it is virtually impossible to be enduringly emotionally well if you have cut off “blood” relationships).
3. Step out of the role of being a peacekeeper (one who avoids and helps others avoid necessary and helpful conflict) and step into the role of being a peacemaker (one who welcomes and facilitating necessary and helpful conflict).

February 15, 2010

Letter to a young dad….

by Rod Smith

Love her mother....

Durban’s own Grant Fraser (former Durban City soccer star) wrote to me this week. Celebrating the joys of parenting of his infant daughter triggered his reminiscing: “You never taught me how to do this,” said his brief note referring to when I was his school teacher. You are correct, Grant. There isn’t curriculum that can effectively teach you to be a dad. Nonetheless Grant, here are a few challenges:

1. Dedicate yourself to your daughter to the same degree you enjoyed the dedication of your own mother and father. You could not have had better parents.
2. Love, serve, and honor your partner. Loving your child’s mother is the single most powerful way you can love your daughter.
3. Be as committed to honesty with your child as you were with others when you were a boy.
4. Don’t let the mundane, but necessary, tasks wear the joy out of you. Babies need fun more than they need clean nappies.
5. Go away for an overnight and a full day often with your daughter – just the two of you. Get no help packing or planning from anyone.
6. Finally, leave the teaching to your daughter. She will teach you how to be her dad more effectively anything you will ever teach her.

(Name used with permission)

February 11, 2010

Muslim / Christian marriage – please repond via comments…..

by Rod Smith

I am Muslim and my husband (5 years) is Christian. Initially I was crying all the time – about why my family don’t they accept my husband –feeling guilty about how I made others feel and hurting my family in the process. Recently I planned a party for our child and wondered if my family would come. Days before I got messages from cousins declining. It really hurt us. My husband called the party off and in the tenth hour I managed to secure some family and friends to save the day. One cousin said I put the family in an awkward position by inviting them. My own mum won’t come to my house but is all nice when my husband gets to her home. Her not coming to my home annoys me. I cannot have that hard conversation with her because I’m afraid of where it will land up. Since last year I decided to make my own nuclear family work for me and I haven’t missed the extended family too much. Should I write them off? Should I invest more heartache or must I continue with my husband and two kids? (Letter shortened)

Jean Hatton

What a courageous couple you and your husband are to join your lives, coming from two totally different cultures, beliefs, and histories. You must love each other very much! You probably didn’t realize exactly what you were getting into when you married, did you? It sounds like your family is having so much difficulty adjusting to something they never thought they would have to deal with. Religion and culture are two powerful and influential foundations in our lives. Your family must feel that you have moved to another planet where they do not belong. That’s part of the cost of the choice you made to marry a Christian. I commend you for your choice of ‘making your own nuclear family work for you.

I would suggest that you not ‘write your extended family off’ but look at their struggle realistically and accept them in the battles that they are going through. Don’t stop inviting them to important family gatherings and celebrations, but always give them a choice about attending, and then accept their decisions…drop your expectations on their seeing and accepting you and your family like you want them to.

It is far from easy for them. Heartache and energy have to do with expectations which will set you up for more and more disappointments.

You won’t be able to change them.

It might be a good idea if you asked your family if you they would like to continue receiving invitations – perhaps they would welcome the response of you knowing how difficult it must be for them and be released from ‘having to attend’.

A Muslim man writes: When I read your letter, I felt great disheartenment, I have neither met you nor do I know you from a bar of soap, I felt the way I did simply because you are a Muslim and I am striving to be a Muslim. We have no other connection. From your family’s point of view they must feel a hundred times more sadness than me.

I don’t think you should ignore your family and “carry on”. There is a problem, you have sought help, follow through and resolve the issue. There is an ideological disagreement between Islam and Christianity, without going into great comparison between the 2 systems of belief…the 2 cannot co-exist in a single family unit. I think that you might not be “living” Islam, you might acknowledge it’s teachings but have not fully implemented it in your daily life…this is why you have been able to remain married for 5 years.

The solution is to engage your husband in what he believes, he must do the same with you, until the 2 of you come to an agreement on which is the best path. Ask questions of each other and if you do not know, seek out the answer from people who have knowledge. You haven’t said anything about your children, what do you want them to believe in? The path they choose is up to them, but certainly you want them to believe in 1 system of belief or the other. I must state that you should take my advise with a pinch of salt, as I want to be a Muslim, I am prejudiced in favour of Islam.

A Muslim woman writes: My sister who is a muslim has a Christian boyfriend. She wants to marry him, but not in a church. Islam will not recognise their union whether in a court of law or in the church, neither will it sanction a marriage between a christian man & the muslim lady. The Muslim lady who “married” the Christian man knows this. She was already ready to accept this when she married the man.Why does she want approval from her muslim mother who understands the law of Islam.She made a decision which had nothing to do with religion but a love for a man.Why does she frustrates herself in wanting to force her mother to go against her Islamic beliefs.

Religion is one of the biggest conntributors of quarrels. However for most of us who are staunch in our beliefs, we are not going to go against it. My advise to the Muslim lady, is live your life however you want with your set of values, but do not infringe your so called values on others and expect them to shun the teachings of the Quran for your happiness.You know better.