If You Get In A Hole, You Have To Get Yourself Out


By Tamara Wilhelm, MA, LMHC, LCAC

One of my favorite things to do is listen to my husband’s grandparents tell us stories about things they’ve experienced in their life. One of the stories that sticks with me the most is one his grandmother told about getting her car stuck in a pothole.

Grandma was out running errands in a shopping center one day and was driving in the parking lot. It had been raining hard, and a very large pothole had filled up with rain water and was not visible to drivers. As she drove over the pothole, her tire got stuck in the pothole (can I reiterate this was a very large pothole!) and her car was immobile. She was stuck.

Grandma proceeds to call grandpa to let him know she’s stuck in the hole & needs his help. His response? “You got in the hole, you get out of it!” Ouch. She was furious. She needed help. Now she was stuck and alone.

Now I doubt grandpa knew what he was doing at the time. To most of us, it looks as though he’s being a rude and unsupportive husband. However, at closer look, he’s not enabling his wife. Instead, he is forcing her to figure out things for herself. [Read more…]

How Do You Model Conflict?


By  Joleen Watson, MS, NCC

I remember being somewhere around the age of 10 and witnessing my parents have a fight about– and yes, I’m being serious– the size of the garden (insert laugh track here).

Even at the age of 10, I somehow knew their fight couldn’t possibly be about the size of the garden, and of course, it wasn’t.  My parents rarely fought, so they were engaging in a power struggle, which just happened to be about the garden.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but their fight about the size of the garden (and both of them needing to prove how “right” they were) was teaching me something about conflict that I would later need to “undo”.  On the other hand, I remember my best childhood friend sharing with me that she never saw her parents fight– not even once!

This was modeling something about conflict for her, as well.

Of course, neither of these are healthy ways of modeling conflict.  You could find as many parenting books as the day is long to discuss different ways of teaching conflict resolution skills, but what is your relationship model for conflict and what is it teaching your child?

Here are some common things we hope healthy conflict will  teach our children:

  1. The art of negotiation– when appropriate.  Healthy relationships are about successful negotiation.  It’s important to model for your children how to do this.  If one person has the majority of the power in the relationship, there probably is not much negotiation going on.  Of course, most relationships have things that are non-negotiable, such as morals and values.  Teaching your child when it’s appropriate to negotiate and when it’s disrespectful will help them learn healthy boundaries with others.
  1. How to have a voice.  Having a healthy voice means teaching your child to put words to their feelings and not feeling like they are “wrong”  or “bad” for disagreeing, even when they don’t get their way.  Sometimes it can be confusing in our family systems about what the unspoken and unwritten rules and messages are about having a voice.  If one person tends to be overly passive and the other more direct and forceful, a child may not learn to incorporate the two and have a healthy voice.
  1. You can still feel love when you are angry.  Many times, people who grew up in households with a lot of conflict feel like they aren’t loved when someone is angry with their behavior or a choice they made.  Confusing the two can cause a person to bottle up anger for fear that they will be “unlovable”.  It’s important to teach a child that you can feel angry (in an appropriate way), while still feeling love.
  1. Anger is NOT rage.  Anger is a feeling;  rage is a behavior.  If we grow up in an environment that confuses the two, we will most likely become afraid of a feeling that is healthy and normal.  Anger can sometimes be confusing though, because it can be what we call a “secondary emotion”– meaning that often times, there are more vulnerable feelings underneath our anger.  For example, if your spouse arrives late for your date night, your instant feeling might be anger, but underneath it, you might really feel hurt or rejected.  It’s important to learn how to communicate the underlying feelings to show your child that anger can be expressed appropriately, and without having to “act it out” in an unhealthy way that is rage.
  1. You don’t always have to be right, especially if you want to be happy. In other words, you don’t have to be the one who is “right” in knowing the exact size of the garden!  I doubt either of my parents felt very fulfilled when they found out who was “right” that day.  And I doubt that either of them felt more emotionally connected and pleased with their relationship after one of them was crowned the “right “one!  Long before the days of Dr. Phil, I had a graduate school professor who used to say “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”.  This also includes not doing everything perfect!  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, no matter how hard we try.

While these lessons certainly don’t encompass all of the things we hope to teach our kids about healthy conflict, hopefully it provides a good starting place for evaluating your own relationships and how you manage conflict.

How do you model conflict in your relationship and what are some important lessons you hope to teach your children?


Photo Credit

Increasing Your Child’s Self-Esteem


“Kind words are short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” Mother Theresa

One of the most valuable things you can do as a parent is to build your child’s self-esteem.  Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves.  How we define or think of ourselves influences our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors and affects our emotional adjustment.

Healthy self-esteem is a child’s armor against the peer pressure and challenges of society.

Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts, persevering and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life – isn’t that what you would like for your child?

Patterns of self-esteem start very early in life – beginning when your child is a toddler and develops even more as they get older.  You play a major role in this development – as with most things, it all begins in the home.

There are sure-fire ways to increase your child’s self-esteem and when you take the time to focus on the positive things you see in your child, the negative or troubling things begin to fade away.

Simple ways you can build your child’s self-esteem include:

  • Appreciating your child
  • Tell your child that you love them
  • Spend time with your child
  • Encouraging your child to make choices – this leads to confidence and independence
  • Really listen to your child’s opinion
  • Take the time to explain reasons, when it is appropriate
  • Feed your child daily with positive encouragement – not general  praise, but specific encouragement
  • Encourage your child to try new and challenging activities – this builds perseverance

Recently I was introduced to a wonderful tool that makes it much easier for parents to recognize and record the positive things about those they love.  The “I like book” for kids as well as the “I like book” for couples are perfect for busy families who do not want to miss the opportunity to capture the positive!


The books are easy to use – broken down by 12 months (you can start anytime) and have an entry available for each parent per day.  I love that you can write a short line or phrase for each day and have it as a record to look back on.  Wouldn’t it be fun to look back at these 10 years from now?  I know it will become a treasure that your child will hold close to their heart!

I am thrilled to share that I was given two of the books to giveaway – one for children and one for spouses.  Please leave a comment to enter – share with me one thing you can appreciate about your child today – I can’t wait to read them!  Entries close midnight May 17th and will be announced.

You can find out more about the books at www.theilikebook.com .  They are offering a discount of 40% when you use the code kids2010 when you register at checkout.  Get one at a discount and start investing in your child today!

Photo Credit

“No one is perfect… that’s why pencils have erasers!”


By Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW

If you heard someone say, “I’m perfect”, you would automatically discount their word. They are lying. It is an impossible goal.

So why are there so many perfectionists in the world? Many people I work with in therapy struggle with this issue, including myself! Our emotional brain says, “Strive for it”, while our logical brain says, “You’ll only fail”. But the emotional brain’s power takes over, and we try over and over again.

Wise Words about Perfectionism

A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.  ~John Henry Newman

Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.  ~Rosalynn Carte [Read more…]

Bittersweet Transition


For the past month I have come to the full realization that my daughter will be leaving home this summer for college and perhaps never truly return home.  Her room will lay empty and my heart aches at that thought.  As a mom who is always thinking of preparing, nurturing and teaching, I rarely connect with my ‘sappy’ side – except for lately.

I have become a little emotional about this reality.   It is even more difficult for me, I think because as a blended family I have had only half the time with my daughter as she grew up.  Yes, it was a choice I made and I am not going to go to that place which doubts or questions decisions I made many years ago, but rather try to allow God to help me sort through the emotions I am riding on.

A feeling of loss, some regret, urgency to do something more, words that need to be said and the courage to express them. [Read more…]