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To love and be loved is the most basic of all human needs. People will go to extremes to get this need met. It forms the basis of the world’s religions. Society has capitalized on it commercially through the marketing of Hallmark cards, chocolate candy and diamond rings. Whatever its form or expression, getting the love you need and sharing it with others is a life-long process.
One of the best books on the subject, for me, was the book “The Five Love Languages”by Dr. Gary Chapman. In a very practical manner he listed the five love languages as:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Receiving Gifts
3. Quality Time
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch
According to the author, every one seeks to get their love needs met through these five areas. Some of us have more dominant love needs through positive words of affirmation while others feel more love through the application of touch. Regardless of the specific dialects you might speak, all of us have one or more of these basic elements in our emotional vocabulary.
One of the easiest ways to determine someone’s love language is to observe how they express love. We tend to speak love to others in the way we want to be spoken to. This can result in frustration for people in close relationships who persist in expressing love in ways that met their own needs but don’t take into account the language of the other person. For example, my wife might like acts of service to fulfill her needs for love while I like to receive gifts. Bringing her candy and flowers for Valentines Day might be appreciated but it will not have the same impact as cooking her dinner and drawing a bath.
Take a moment to remember the last time someone did something for you that made you feel loved. How did that action fit into the five love languages? Was it a hug? An evening out? A gift? An act of service? A kind word?
Take another moment to analyze the love needs of those closest to you? How do they fit into these five love languages? It might be more than one. Have you spoken this language in a way that meets others needs?
There might be days where you wish you didn’t have to get up in the morning to face your family and the day. Those are difficult moments in life, truly dark days of parenting. Use those transitional moments from sleep to wake to be thankful for your family members. It may take some effort but practice gratitude to help you form new attitudes that lead to higher emotional altitudes.
Consider that to have the family of your dreams you need a family. Change doesn’t happen in isolation. It occurs through the rub of relationships and the repairing of ruptures in our daily interactions. You want to partner with your partner and children today. You need them and they need you even if they do not recognize this reality. A family is a system and like a pebble tossed into a pond, ripples move outward stirring the entire pond. Toss that pebble of thankfulness today and watch how the ripples from it start to create change.
One of the biggest hurdles that nontraditional parents must jump over in society is the feeling of being “less than” traditional, two-parent families. Nontraditional families suffer under the weight of guilt and grief as a result of their particular family structure. They often feel isolated and alone, as if no one else could possibly understand the struggles they are going through. The reality is that most nontraditional parents feel that they do not met with societies standard of acceptable parenting and labor under the same feelings of guilt and grief. One way to help nontraditional parents adjust to their family structure is to look at their situation as the “same but different” and “different but the same” as other family types.
Same But Different
Nontraditional families do not have a clear job description or they try to use an inadequate model of the two-parent, traditional family when operating their blended or broken family. This model only frustrates them further. A new, more relevant plan is needed for nontraditional families. The motto: “same but different” can be used when creating this new job description.
Nontraditional parents may have the same values as traditional parents but the way in which they exercise them may be different. The need to have a strong executive or marital subsystem is the same but the makeup of that subsystem may be different. It may be made up of remarried individuals, grandparents instead of actual parents, nonbiological rather than biological parents, or a single parent instead of two parents. Birth order is the same in the nontraditional family as in a traditional one but is different or more complicated where a first-born child in a remarried family changes roles due to the inclusion of new siblings after the remarriage and becomes the middle or last-born child. This can lead to a difficult adjustment and the need to continue respecting the child’s old position along with their new position. Boundaries are the same as in the traditional family but where and when these are set will be different due to the different structure of the nontraditional family. The perfect parenting standard will be the same in the nontraditional parent but differs as nontraditional parents fall farther from the parenting ideal. And power plays will be the same in the nontraditional family as in the traditional family but detriangulation or diffusion take place differently from traditional families. Focusing on nontraditional parenting as the “same but different” helps normalize parenting for nontraditional parents while acknowledging their uniqueness.
Different But the Same
Likewise, focusing on being “different but the same” is also important for the nontraditional parent, to a point. They need to accept, if they are to move through the states and stages of grief, that they are very different in structure and composition from traditional families. Therefore, their experiences and feelings will be something traditional parents may not share. To believe that nontraditional parents are carbon copies of traditional parents and to attempt to live according to principles establish on their terms, will result in further failure in balancing love and limits.
Another way for nontraditional family to balance love and limits is to focus not of differences or sameness but on solutions. Finding what works, regardless of the traditional or nontraditional family parents find themselves in, will assist parents in achieving a greater balance of love and limits.
Love and limits represent two sides of the parenting coin. To have a balanced home, nontraditional families need to have both a “relational discipline” based on affection and communication and an “action discipline” style based on firm limits and structure. How a nontraditional family organizes these two principles of parenting will be similar and yet different from traditional, two-parent homes. By keeping in mind the concepts of “same but different” and “different but the same” nontraditional parents can better manage this balance of love and limits in their own unique fashion.
What are your thoughts on non traditional vs. traditional families? Share here or at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
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Sometimes the problems we experience in our family relationships can feel so large that we simple stare transfixed at them. It can overwhelm us and cause us to give up hope. We may resign ourselves to the idea that we cannot over come them and this is the way our family will always be…
The unfortunately result of this immobilization is that we often believe the lie that other people (or ourselves) are the problem. I am fond of quoting a line from Narrative Therapy that goes: “The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem.”
It is only when we partner together, against the problem, externalizing it from our person that we are able to overcome that problem. Blaming one another as bad, damaged, or toxic only intensifies shame and keeps us stuck. I am not saying that people don’t make bad choices. We all say things and do things we wish we hadn’t done that can have destructive consequences on our families. The point here is that if we are to have the dream family we deserve to have, we have to work together against the problem.
Instead of staring at the problem, try “gazing” at your loved one and only “glancing” at the problem. It is still there but it is not where your attention needs to be glued to. Reconnect with your family, work together against the problem and start making changes, however small that will restore relationships and rebuild connections.
It is easy to focus on the negative behaviors and personality traits of your most intimate of relationships. While these people are the ones you most care about, they are also the ones who may have hurt you or disappointed you the most too.
As you re-structure your relationship start by listing 5 things you are thankful for with each person in your life. It will help you address their strengths and it will open you up to more possibilities for hope.
Consider “thankful” to be your new password to your new dreams for your family.
My wife and I were recently listening to some parenting workshops on audio and the speaker was talking about parenting one-liners used by the Love and Logic organization. I forgot how amazingly simple and powerful these one-liners are for parents who want to stay calm and regulated during potential power struggles with their children.
Some examples of one-liners include:
Instead of getting hooked into an argument or fixing a problem for child, use the parenting one-liners to facilitate more independent problem-solving skills by the child. Genuineness, on the part of the parent, is important when using them.
Get a free pdf here: http://www.loveandlogic.com/documents/one-liners.pdf
Do you have any other one-liners you use that disrupt power struggles? Share them here or on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1703QiT