Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

April 13, 2019

Is this your child?

by Rod Smith

What I believe some children are trying to say…..

Dear Parent,

Please. Relax. Let go.

Open your hand so I can grow.

I want the freedom all children deserve.

Please, emancipate me from the expectation of meeting your adult, ginormous needs.

Your need-to-succeed as a person, a parent, all centered on me, is a burden far too heavy for me to carry.

I am a child.

I cannot deliver you from the pain of the unfulfilled expectations of your own childhood.

My childhood is not a recovery act for yours.

When you regard me as proof that you, the adult, have made it, we get entangled in ways that trip both of us up, and confounds us both.

Such covert expectations kills the joy that can unite us.

We are separate people.

It’s been that way from the very beginning. I know it and I’ve known it almost from the very beginning.

How come you don’t?

Why is this so much more difficult for you than it is for me?

While you regard me as an attachment, an extension of yourself, a banner announcing your success or declaring your failure, things get rough for both of us.

I am your child. I am not a trophy. I am not a ticket to greater happiness – although I do want you to be happy. I am a child. I am not endowed with special powers to make your life meaningful.

Of course I am special, and I am special to you, uniquely gifted, endowed with a God-given calling – but I am also, in many ways, just like millions of other children.

We both must remember this. Please don’t make me into something I am not and cannot become.

I am as unique as a proverbial fingerprint, AND, as common as any child ever born — ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I am a unique painting, a loving product of the Divine Hand – and yet, and yet, I am baptized into human condition, and as much like all humans as any – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

While you expect more than I am designed to deliver – we both feel the pressure and miss out on the real miracle we can know as parent and child.

With deep, appropriate love,

Your Child

April 12, 2019

Daily parenting challenge

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

My daily parenting challenge which I hope you will also adopt…

Be the adult you’d want your child to become.

Negotiate deals, resolve conflicts, compromise on disagreements, in exactly the manner you want your child to emulate when he or she is an adult. The most powerful learning happens by watching – and by much more than watching. Such living will transform you, and the transformation you undergo will transform your family.

Use money, save money, leverage all your resources in exactly the manner you hope your child will one day utilize resources. Attitudes leak. How you behave becomes the norm.

Treat your parents in exactly the manner you hope your children will treat you in your advancing years. Modeling endures.

Love and serve your brothers and sisters so your children will have absolutely no ambiguity about what love looks like in immediate and extended families. Authenticity prevails.

If you want your child to be a reader, be one yourself. It might not “take” in the immediate, but chances are it will in the future. Some things take time, not nagging.

If you want your child to be well-mannered, courageous and kind, allow your every interaction with lover, friend, or foe, to be well-mannered, courageous, and kind.

April 8, 2019

Inside out……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I stumbled upon a powerful cartoon some years ago.

Its message has stuck with me long after the cartoon has disappeared* into the mass of papers that occupy our home.

“If you’re ugly on the inside,” the character said, “eventually it shows on the outside.”

This helped me frame why some people are mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, and can’t seem to find good in the world no matter what their circumstances.

It helped me self-monitor. It helped me ask myself why harshness or sarcasm or bitterness appear to be my first options on a particular day.

“Rod, what’s going on inside you today that sarcasm is so near the surface when you could choose kindness in its stead?” asks the persistent inner-voice.

Sometimes addressing the question helps me be a better person.

The cartoon helps me filter what I write online. I manage my vocabulary because of it. I filter how I respond to gibes and jokes that turn some people or groups into victims.

I think the cartoon struck such a deep chord because it strongly echoed the sentiments of one who said that everything that comes out of a person’s mouth reflects what’s going on in the heart.

* found it.. …. all credit to the artist if I could read the name….. (perhaps someone can assist):

April 6, 2019

Living around excessive use of alcohol

by Rod Smith

The Mercury, Monday

Living around the excessive use of alcohol…..

Every relationships feels temporary and threatened, if things are going poorly, or things are going well – it makes little or no difference since both conditions can switch in a heartbeat

All important relationships dwell under a cloud of anxiety, an ever-present sense that things are about to fall apart, a nagging thought that anything you do or may miss doing will jeopardize and begin the beginning of the end.

Any expressed conflict, even the slightest disagreements, feel like the relationship will fold or unravel.

Everything is a trade; nothing is as it seems or as it may appear. You have to look behind and beyond and beside all requests, all demands, and all pleas in order to see what it is that a person (any person) may REALLY want.

All love is to be held in suspicion and there is no such thing as unconditional love – there is always a price to pay.

Even if you are repeatedly told that an issue, any issue, like causing someone to be drunk or trying to get someone to be sober, or feeling responsible for the lack of money in the house, or being the cause of the conflict in the house, is not your responsibility, or yours to monitor or to fix, or that it is not your fault, you nonetheless feel the pressure of all of it upon your shoulders.

April 4, 2019

Pocket prompts for family conversations……

by Rod Smith

What would like me to do more or do less? What have I not done so well today as far as you know? Is there anything you would like to tell me about your day or is there anything you would like to know about mine? Is there anything about my life you would like to know? What is the hardest or toughest question you would like to ask me? There are some things I know I did not do well today. Would you like to know about them? Was there anyone you really wanted to thank today but didn’t? I want you to know it is really important to me when you express appreciation for the things I do for you and for our family. Tell me about a time you were really proud of yourself. When do things seem really unfair to you? What do you see other families do that you wish we could or would do?

My sons usually avoid “deep” talk but it does occasionally occur – which is why I keep these prompts in the back of my head in the event of an unexpected vulnerable moment – and they do, but not as often as I’d like!

April 2, 2019

How much to tell post affair

by Rod Smith

“I have a questions that I was curious what your opinion would be. In my practice, I often work with individuals who have had an affair but have not told their wife/husband about it. I usually advise them to come clean because I believe that it will in some way or another affect the relationship even if the other person never learns of it. Of course, many of my clients think this is crazy because they believe if they tell their partner this will be the end of the relationship. What is your practice when it comes to this?” (Family Therapist, Krakau, Poland.)   

I too believe it is better for couples to “come clean” but I have to respect that it is the client who sets the pace and the degrees of detail divulged. I have seen such confessions further destroy an already tenuous marriage and aggrieved spouses become obsessed with the details and who then cannot rest until all arising questions are answered. When intimate details are shared the knowledge can further seduce the married couple away from reconciliation. I have seen it be helpful (full disclosure) and I have seen in further destroy. I encourage the client to determine what the mariage can endure.

March 31, 2019

Planning a great week? year? rest of your life?

by Rod Smith

Where does a really good day, week, month, year, or the rest of your life really start?

I think it starts deep within the heart, mine and yours.

The heart? Where is it? What is it? How do I see or tap into it? How do I see what’s there?

Of course I’m not referring to the fist size muscle that’s in the center of the human chest.

I’m referring to the seat of the emotions, the spirit, soul, the mind, – and some fabulous combination and intersection of all of these “places,” these distinctly human capacities.

The heart of a man or woman is the point from which the spark of a life emanates – the inner being. It’s the deepest place within – where dreams are birthed and often broken.

There is so much we cannot even begin to control but we can do our part in making sure our hearts are in good order and in the “right” place. I know mine is in the “wrong place” when I harbor resentment, blame others for anything, and have a bitter taste from something that did not pan out or from a relationship that soured.

Cop-outs for a turn-around: “it’s my spouse’s fault”; “if only my children would (insert desired behavior)”; “if only my dad hadn’t have (insert undesired action).”

March 30, 2019

Building blocks

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Thusday

Building blocks that will bring powerful shifts to your life:

• Deliberately become the most generous person you know. This is not about already possessing wealth before you can be generous. If you’re not generous when you have little you probably won’t be if you become rich.

• Hold everything you own with an open hand. Share, just as you learned (or as adults tried to teach you) as a five-year-old.

• Empower others. You lose nothing when you help others to gain.

• Say “yes” more than “no” to the adventures that come your way (Ed Friedman) although it’s necessary to learn how and when to say a firm “no.”

• Develop the capacity to “see beyond” the limitations set by your family history, your nationality, and your faith story. (Also Friedman)

• Learn to live within your means. In other words, make more money than you spend.

• Determine to embody forgiveness, freedom, and grace for all who will repeatedly and naturally attempt to sabotage you. You will meet more and more resistance as you become more and more intentional about your choices.

• Acknowledge and embrace your inevitable dark side. Try to understand it and accept it so that it will not try to take you by surprise in response to your denial of its presence.

• Be gentle on yourself as you would with a treasured loved-one. After all, you are all you’ve got.

March 28, 2019

Friday challenge

by Rod Smith

If you are working on your emotional health, with or without a therapist or a coach, you may want to set yourself a few goals to measure progress. Here are some “global” ways I try to measure my growth (or the lack of it). I want:

  • Greater maturity evident in my choices so I choose options and paths that yield long-term benefits rather than those that offer immediate or false comfort.
  • To engage in activities that reveal healthy unpredictability and spontaneity.
  • To watch my boundaries and want them to be clear without being rigid.
  • To work at lowering my levels of anxiety and my unreasonable expectations of others.
  • To be less sure of what I believe, to have more questions, fewer answers, more ambiguity.
  • To be more defined and have a good ‘sense of self’ in all my relationships.
  • To have less inclination to seek heroes, knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, or fairy godmothers and rather to see people as flawed, frail and fallible as I am, and not as saviors or as people needing to be saved.
  • To appreciate that there is a natural pain that comes with being human without trying to attract it (that would indeed be absurd).
March 26, 2019

by Rod Smith

Dear Coach:

Before I permitted my son/daughter to play rugby/soccer/cricket/water-polo/basketball (insert your sport) I did my research.

Therefore: I will trust your approach to coaching and your decisions. I will accept that you know more about the players, their abilities and needs than I do. I will trust that you are an expert in the sport and in coaching and that you have the highest interests of the team and of my son/daughter as you make decisions.

I will not coach from the sidelines, shout at you or the referee (or umpire), or at anyone else. I will not speak poorly about you, your coaching staff at any time in any context. I will not discuss the game or the outcome for 24 hours after it ends unless it is to thank or congratulate you. When I do talk with you it will be only about my son/daughter and how I may further assist you in your valued role.

I will a good sportsman/woman as a spectator and applaud good play whenever I see it – for or against us.

Yours truly,

Team Member’s Parent


I know, I know, I’m taking all the fun out of watching.