Good Advice or Hurtful Advice?

Is Your Advice Helpful or Hurtful? Ask Yourself These Four Questions: It’s a common scenario—one partner offers unsolicited advice to the other, only to find out that his or her partner doesn’t find it good advice at all. In fact, they find it critical and hurtful. Cue the resentment, unhappiness and discontent. If this sounds familiar, or even if you’re just curious about whether you’ve been guilty of offering unhelpful advice in the past, here are four questions to ask yourself before offering up any future guidance.   1. Were you specifically asked for your advice before giving it?   Until you’re asked for your opinion, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Unsolicited advice is rarely helpful and more often than not, it actually harms a relationship by driving an emotional wedge between partners. There are, of course, appropriate occasions to offer unsolicited advice, but they mainly occur between individuals in a hierarchical relationship like boss to employee or parent to child. In these relationships, one person is specifically responsible for guiding the success of the other. Not so, however, in a relationship of equals. When you give unsolicited advice to your partner, you are really telling that person, “I want you to [look/act/speak] this way.” That’s not love or respect; that’s control.   2. Is your advice honest?   Believe it or not, the topic of exercise comes up in couples counseling more often than you might expect. For example, one partner may offer unsolicited advice to the other about her exercise patterns, but disguise his advice as concern. He says, “I’m just worried for your health” or “I’m just concerned for you.” Truth test, folks: That’s not honest. Yes, the partner may be concerned for the other’s health, but his choice to comment on his partner’s behavior is not a demonstration of concern, it’s a demonstration of control. Again, it’s equivalent to saying, “I want you to do what I believe is best.” In contrast, it would be honest for him to say, “It makes me worry when you don’t exercise because I want us to live a long, healthy life together.” This way, he gets to be honest about his real concern without pointing blame at the other.   3. Are you an expert on the subject?   People like to be problem solvers. The straighter the line to a solution, the better. It’s a terrific …

Nurturing the Parent Teen Relationship

Focus on your parent teen relationship and less on the teen. Tip: Focus on your parent teen relationship and less on the teen. What does that mean? If you develop a good parent teen relationship (not perfect) but a good relationship with your teen then there’s a high chance they will use that as a template for all their relationships going forward. In other words, if you have a healthy parent teen relationship, they’ll end up having healthy relationships. It’s easy, in theory, just not so easy in practice. What do I mean by focusing on your parent teen relationship?  One: Acting out behavior. I think we all know that acting out behavior is damaging to your relationships. So when your teen does acting out behavior, the key for you is going to put words to your emotions so they can learn how to do that. Instead of shouting at them for the acting out behavior, and making it into a big argument, say, “Excuse me for a second but it sounds like you’re angry about something if you can tell me what you’re angry about without shouting, I might be able to help you.” Kindly and calmly put the words to it.  Same with you, relationships are two-way. If you act out at some point, it’s going to be imperative that you go back to your teen and use the words. We all make mistakes. Go back and say, “Hey, I’m sorry that I yelled at you, what I wanted to say and wish I said is I’m angry that you continue to leave a mess in the kitchen.” Talk through your emotions. Two: Autonomy. You have to respect each other’s autonomy. We can all agree that in a healthy relationship, we respect each other’s autonomy. What does that mean? That means when your child makes a decision, instead of undermining it or taking over, you want to let them have it! There are only two exceptions at this stage: Loss of life or limb, or legal problems. Anything else you let them make the decision, you let them fail at it or succeed, but you let it be theirs. That’s autonomy.  You also have to be autonomous, if you’re the parent who does whatever your child wants, whenever they want, think again. You’re just teaching them how to be someone’s puppet. You have to be honest with your …

How to Set Boundaries With Family Over the Holidays

Three Ways to Set Your Boundaries Over the Holidays I’ve had several male patients in my office who let the people in their life walk all over them. And they all do it in the name of keeping their reputation as a “Nice Guy.” My first questions are always the same. I say, Where is it written that Nice Guys can’t say no? Is there a law that to be a Nice Guy, you have to put up with abusive comments and invasive questions? Does the dictionary define Nice Guy as, “A man who allows others to take advantage of him”? The answers? No. No. And No.  The critical factor here is they need to learn how to set boundaries with family. I’ve had so many Nice Guys in my office and heard so many stories about the pain they’re feeling. My message for Nice Guys everywhere: It is possible to set and maintain your boundaries with friends and family without turning into a jerk. Three tactics on How to Set Boundaries with Family and Friends this Holiday Seasons While it’s impossible to control what people say to or expect of us during the holidays, there is a lot we can do to manage our behavior while we’re with them. I tell my patients to practice three boundary setting tactics: Stop inappropriate behavior in its tracks Preemptively set boundaries Change the subject when faced with inappropriate comments One: Stop inappropriate behavior in its tracks Finally, one of the most anxiety-producing holiday situations my patients experience is the feeling of being “stuck” with people whose behavior makes them uncomfortable. This can be physical, such as relatives who don’t share the same boundaries around hugging or kissing, etc., or it can also be environmental, such as the relative who loves to bring up touchy subjects like politics. No matter what form the inappropriate behavior takes, you don’t have to spend the holidays “stuck” in its net. For example, one of my patients doesn’t enjoy copious amounts of physical contact with anyone except his wife. His wife’s family, however, is very physical, and he used to dread spending time with them because they had no inhibitions about snuggling up to him on the couch or touching his arms or legs while in conversation. Now, instead of feeling uncomfortable and “stuck,” he promptly moves his hand or foot, etc. out of physical contact and …

Is your teens behavior normal teenage behavior?

What is normal teenage behavior? Parents: Let’s talk about YOU and your emotional well-being. Some parents are overly concerned or continue to be worried about their teenager not being perfect. Despite being told by others that their teen has normal teenage behavior. Or despite being told by a therapist that their teenager is normal; they continue being worried. We call this a defense. Sometimes, people get wrapped up in other people’s problems or concerns as a way to avoid what’s going on within themselves. Typically, this is an emotional issue. Some examples: If you are having trouble grieving the loss of your baby (teen), which is what a teenager highlights for you- the child that you had that is no longer around, it does set up grief within us. Some parents may become overly concerned about their child’s normal teenage behavior. Grief involves sadness and anger. A lot of people have trouble with these emotions. If you’re one of them, then you will be delaying going through that grief. You’ll delay it by getting overly wrapped up in the details of your child. Of course, this isn’t good with the relationship for your child and can set your child up to have emotional or relational problems. That typically happens in people who are raised in families who did not deal with grief well. If your primary relationship with your spouse is damaged, it’s possible you are unconsciously avoiding that by getting wrapped up in what your child is doing while not realizing your child’s behavior is normal teenage behavior. Typically, I see this when there was a problem in the relationship before the children. The children became this great distraction. Especially if you are on the same page as your spouse on how to raise the children, it’s like a shared experience. When that ends, the relationship falls apart or hasn’t gotten any better so, it may be that you are having problems with your spouse that you need to address. If you’re using your kids to fix something between you, that’s certainly not going to work. Turning emotions on yourself. Turning emotions on yourself is another way for people who cannot express emotions well. An example of this include: chronic worrying or being overly concerned about their child’s normal teenage behavior. We’re all concerned about our kids but, if it goes on to the point where you aren’t doing …

Worried About Your Teenagers’ Disrespectful Behavior?

What do you do with your teenagers’ disrespectful behavior? This disrespectful behavior may not be a sign of sociopath or narcissist behavior because it’s a way of separating, and it’s normal teenage behavior. But, you may be wondering how do you keep the behavior from spinning out of control; that way, they don’t become a narcissist or sociopath. The answer is: YOU HAVE TO CHANGE. My patients who are parents often make the same mistake, which is they try to change their child. “You can’t talk that way; you’re being nasty, you can’t be rude.” The problem with this is, it’s just telling them how to behave. How do we all respond to that? We don’t like to be told what to do, and neither does your teenager, it’s not going to work. Remember, the emotional goal for your teenager to not be a sociopath or narcissist is to be able to express their emotions well — especially anger, sadness, and neediness. What I mean by changing yourself is you have to express anger, sadness, and neediness and be a role model, instead of telling your child what to do. Examples: Let’s say your child is name-calling. Stop them immediately and say, “It’s hurtful when you use name-calling when you’re talking to me, I can’t even hear what you are saying. I’m going off to the garage, if you can tell me this later without the name-calling, I’d be glad to listen.” Let’s say your child is shouting. You can say, “It really irritates me when you’re shouting at me. It makes it very hard for me to hear what you are saying. I’m going off to the kitchen if you can say this without shouting I’d be glad to listen.” I was talking to a parent, and he was doing a favor by picking up his child from the bus that way, his child did not have to take the dreaded bus. His child was using provocative language, and he felt like the child was trying to get under his skin by saying things that were personally offensive to him. So, the next time he could say, “I’m not going to pick you up from school anymore because it is very upsetting to me. I need to have a car ride home that does not involve this provocative language, So I will not be picking you up from school …