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7 signs of troubled family relationships

There are certain things I hate to hear parents say because they are typically suggestive of significant family dysfunctions.

  1. “I’m my child’s best friend.” Parents need to be authority figures and not try to take on the role of peers with their children.  When parents attempt to become friends with their kids, roles become confused and rules become wishes.
  2. “My kids are my highest priority.” This statement, albeit well meaning, reflects a troubled relationship with your spouse. It’s difficult to be a good parent if you are in an unsatisfying relationship with your partner. This means that working on your marital relationship should be your primary focus. Being a better spouse to the most important person in your life will help you become a better parent and a much more effective team in raising your children.
  3. “I know I shouldn’t give in but I do.”  I hear this often in my office. This reflects probably the most fundamental dilemma of many parents. People know what to do. Why don’t they do what they know?
  4. “I hate coming home from work.”   Kids can cause tension and turmoil within the family and between partners. When it gets to the point when you want to avoid the kids, the family problems typically escalate. If you find yourself not liking to be around your children, reach out and get help very soon.
  5. “The kids are fine with everyone but me.”  In many ways this is a positive comment from a diagnostic perspective. It usually means that the child is really not suffering from any type of mental disorder. Rather, the youngster’s bad behavior is more likely due to inconsistent discipline. Once I hear that from a parent, I spend little time with the child and instead help support the parent in learning and using effective discipline techniques.
  6. “I’ve talked to him until I’m blue in the face.” Many parents seem to feel that repeating the same thing over and over will somehow result in a different outcome. It doesn’t!  Stop your pleading, threatening, lecturing and explaining. Talk less and act more. Kids aren’t impressed by what you say but rather by the consequences (both positive and negative) you implement for their actions.
  7. “I let my husband do the discipline.”  It’s considered unprofessional for me to scream at a family, but this statement drives me nuts!  It reflects a powerless mom whose weaknesses are evident to the kids, leading to greater misbehavior by the children and increased tension with her spouse. In addition, it reinforces a very unhealthy role of a dad as the enforcer, which is bad for the kids and both parents.
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