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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Heavy on the Fault

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 21, 2014

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We’re all familiar with the ol’ break-up mantra, “it’s not you, it’s me,” which can also apply when you’re having repeated issues with a loved one. Sometimes, however, it’s worth considering whether it’s not you, but them; sure, sometimes there’s nothing wrong in a relationship other than the feelings they leave you with, but other people who look normal have subtle problems that can’t be changed. Instead of responding to your instincts about normality, weirdness, and responsibility, learn to accept your observations, discount your feelings, and think hard about where you think things need to go. Then you’re much more likely to come up with action or non-action plans that will best serve your needs, and turn them and you into a more functional “us.”
Dr. Lastname

My ten-year-old daughter is sloppy about her homework, but I don’t let her watch TV until she’s done it properly, so it’s past her bedtime so she never gets to watch her programs and she’s mad at me. At that point I’m mad at her, because I don’t like being the evil mother and she could easily do her homework in a fraction of the time if she was just a little more careful in the first place. Her teachers also say she blurts out answers before she thinks and makes herself look foolish. My goal is to get her to take care with her homework and get it done properly the first time, so we don’t have to struggle through the rest of the evening.

Both you and your daughter seem dedicated to getting through this homework situation, as evidenced by the fact that you’ve both made the ultimate sacrifice; you’ve given up your precious evening relaxation hours, and she’s given up prime time television.

What you need to ask yourself, however, is whether her sloppiness and foot-dragging are due to low motivation and stubbornness or a glitch in the way she learns new information, because your sacrifices—your time on the couch with wine, her “Vampire Diaries”—may be in vain if her brain doesn’t do homework well and she’s feeling like a failure.

It’s tempting to think that she could do better if she wanted to, since she does, actually, get her homework done the second or third time you hand it back to her. What’s more likely is that something is wrong with the central homework processor (CHP, it’s a medical term we just made up) in her brain, in which case you’re down on her for a weakness, which will add to her helplessness and make her defiant.

After all, homework requires many mental steps, including reading and understanding assignments, which probably also causes her problem responding to questions in class. She misperceives and answers before she gets organized, so maybe her brain just doesn’t do organization well.

Next time you supervise homework, ask her to tell you what she understands about the assignment before she begins and how she’s going to organize her answers. You’ll probably find she has trouble explaining herself and is too eager to jump in before she knows where she’s going, but don’t assume she’s careless or defiant. Ask her to read her homework more slowly and answer simple questions that will help her understand her assignment before she starts writing in order to perform a CHP override.

Watch the teachers she likes and pick their brains. Whether they’re aware of it or not, they’ve found ways to use her strengths to compensate for her weakness, so you should try their techniques at home.

Don’t assume her problem is permanent or crippling. If you don’t recognize it, it may cripple her morale when she gets criticized for her impulsive, disorganized responses and her inability to do better. If, on the other hand, you redefine her problem and responsibilities, you can teach her how to understand and work on her weaknesses and protect her from feeling like a failure.

It’s strategies, not sacrifices, that will best get you through this issue. Then the hard work and dedication you’ve both committed to education will pay off.

STATEMENT:
“I feel like getting my daughter to do homework properly is like pulling teeth, but I know she’s a good kid who’s trying to do what I want. I don’t like thinking of her as having a learning problem, but, by this time, I already know a great deal about it and don’t need much more advice and experience to learn how to help her manage it.”

My son is engaged to a girl he’s very happy with, and she seems nice, but with me she’s a cold fish. Most of his previous girlfriends went out of their way to talk to me and I really got to know them, but this one, while polite, doesn’t share a lot or pal around very much. I’ve asked my son whether she doesn’t like me and he says she’s just quiet and like that with everyone, but I wonder whether I should bring up the issue with her. My goal is to develop a close, positive relationship.

We all wish to have a close, positive relationship with our sons- and daughters-in-law, but it’s never a first priority. More important, of course, is that they have a stable relationship with our kids and work well together with them as parents of our grandchildren. Your goal then is to help your kids assess their partners realistically, regardless of your feelings or theirs, using criteria that predict a good, long-term working relationship.

You’ve noted, for instance, that many prospective partners who are fun and engaging to talk to don’t turn out to be good partnership material (hence their current ex status). That’s why it helps to tune out one’s own needs for a good and interesting conversation, and not get too close too soon. Instead, gather information that bears on her steadiness, past relationships, values, and interests, much as if you were trying to figure out whether she would fit well with your son as a secretary or business partner. You’ve got tons of experience to draw on, and, as long as you keep the conversation from becoming personal, your observations may be helpful.

In this case, it’s good that you’ve uncovered nothing negative about your prospective daughter-in-law and you notice no hostility or possessiveness; she’s merely reserved. So don’t let your disappointed friendship get in the way of your positive observations.

Sharing your disappointment with your son doesn’t advance your goal; you don’t want to put him in a position where he’s either defending his wife-to-be against what will feel like criticism or pressuring her to behave differently with her future mother-in-law. Either way is more likely to poison than to advance your relationship, so best to bite your tongue and remain your friendly self.

Meanwhile, keep up your observations. If they remain as positive as what you’ve described so far, your son is likely to have found a good match and you’ll have long-term access to grandchildren raised in a calm, stable household. And, as we always say, if you want a new friend, get a dog. They’re always interested in what you have to say, especially if it’s about chicken.

STATEMENT:
“I feel frustrated at not being able to get close to the new woman in the family, but I believe she and my son are on solid ground and that’s what will be most important in the long run.”

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