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Stepping Stones
by Jean Baldwin

Parenting. Is there a more difficult job in the world? Most would say there is not another job responsibility that can take your energy, your heart, and, sometimes, your hair like the role of parenting. Children come into the world completely dependent on their caretakers for the most basic of needs. And when those needs are met they grow into healthy, active toddlers and children with inquisitive minds and hands. Or is it head-strong stubbornness? And what is next; adolescence? Heaven help us!! How do you effectively parent and love a child into a caring, responsible, creative adult while nurturing his individual spirit?

Dr. Ross Campbell, the author of Relational Parenting, states that there are two common approaches parents take in raising children. Dr. Campbell writes that parents take a reactive approach to parenting or a proactive one. The important distinction between these two approaches is that reactive parenting responds primarily to what children do while the proactive approach deals with what children need. Reactive parenting is responding after the fact, thus using punishment as the primary discipline tool. Proactive parenting anticipates the behaviors and finds ways to meet those needs, utilizing teaching and modeling as the discipline tools.

The way parents express their love needs to be age appropriate, paying close attention to the personality of each child. Relational Parenting describes four areas that this love can be expressed, thus forming the basis of effective, proactive parenting. Dr. Campbell calls these areas the four foundation stones of effective parenting. They are:

  • Meeting the emotional and nurturance needs of your child
  • Giving loving training and discipline to your child
  • Providing physical and emotional protection for your child
  • Teaching and modeling anger management for your child

The first foundation stone of meeting the emotional needs of your child includes loving them unconditionally. Unconditional love is the acceptance of the person no matter what behavior is acted out. Separating the behavior from the person supports the spirit of the child while accepting that mistakes are made but love is consistent. Nurturing his dreams, goals, and outlook creates a sense of worth and confidence. Anticipate mistakes and unrealistic dreams. But always encourage hope and effort.

The second foundational stone is training and disciplining in a loving way. Using the reactive approach involves anticipating situations and preparing for them. By merely reacting to their behaviors our response will always be tied to negative behaviors. Yes, appropriate punishment is necessary at times. But consistent, fair discipline encourages confidence, self-control and a healthy relationship between parent and child. And isn’t the goal of parenting for children to become self-reliant, responsible, happy and successful adults?

Teaching values and ethical responsibility is a way of protecting our children from physical and emotional harm, the third area of effective parenting. As parents of small children we are their guardians from the monsters under their bed and the strangers on the street. But as they grow up and become independent thinkers (a development of a healthy adult) and become separated from us emotionally as well as physically they need the skills to make good decisions. Instilling a personal code of ethics and teaching a set of values during their childhood becomes the foundation for a good decision making skills and for their lives to take a positive course.

The fourth foundational stone is training children to handle their anger in a respectful way. Anger is an emotion like joy, sadness, and hurt and you can’t effectively deny it. Modeling your behavior by words, actions, and non-verbal communication in a non-threatening and non-abusive manner encourages resilience and acknowledges that mistakes are just behaviors, not people. Focusing on what your child does right instead of what he does wrong strengthens the bond between parent and child. As Campbell says, “Positive guidance for good behavior is far superior to negative punishment for poor behavior.”

It is never too late to begin to use different, more positive methods in parenting. Seeking help through books, professionals and divine guidance can put your children on a path of self-discipline, responsibility, and a successful future.

Shared stories, shared blessings
by Nonie Caruthers

“What do you like most about working at Samaritan Center?” Recently, a friend who is pursuing a graduate degree in counseling posed this question to me. As I thought about her question several ideas popped into my head. I immediately thought about the staff at the center. Our administrative manager brings such comfort, peace and competence to our group. Not only does she know how to run things, administratively, she knows people. She always has a smile on her face and a kind word to say, not only to the staff, but also to our clients. I thought also about the rest of the staff. We are a tight knit community passionate about pastoral counseling. However, we are also unique individuals who each bring different points of view to the center and our clients. At Samaritan, I feel accepted to be myself and encouraged to support the individuals working here.

While my immediate thoughts raced toward our staff, my ultimate answer to my friend’s question did not directly include them. Instead, I dug deeper within myself to know what I really like most about working here. It is the clients! I told her that it is an awesome privilege to talk with the individuals who come to our center seeking help and support.

Clients share their pain, anxiety, sadness and their joy, hope and fears. They share their stories in an effort to develop something different and new for themselves or their families. Working together to find solutions, whether that means changing behaviors, developing acceptance, deepening faith or finding comfort and understanding is ultimately an exciting, creative process. Ultimately, it is a blessing for me to be a part of the process and watch individuals work toward change and newness in their lives.

Dealing With the Anger Around You (or Within You)
by Ann Inabnet

When we hear of or think of the word “anger,” different thoughts and feelings come about for each of us. A few of us may experience anger as good, while most of us may experience anger as bad. One “official” definition found in the dictionary is, a feeling of displeasure and hostility resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc. So if anger is a feeling, how can it be good? First of all, this automatic physiological reaction has an important function of defending and protecting by pumping us up to overcome a threat or provocation. In today’s society anger functions in the form ranging from a firm assertion when personal rights seem to be infringed upon to a physical counter measure when bodily danger seems imminent.

However, the “bad” side of anger is not so functional. Its effects are evident in our families, schools, and places of work. Many of us a forced to live with, work with, or go to school with someone who is consumed by anger. Anything could be the spark that lights their fuse.

Understanding the characteristics typical of habitually angry people helps in knowing how to relate to them. Often their unmet needs can put fuel to their anger. Therefore, satisfying the need, such as alleviation of pain, or compensation for lack of security, respect, or self-worth – becomes the mission of angry people. Anyone or anything that gets in the way of that mission becomes a target of their hostility.

People with chronic anger often have great expectations of themselves and those around them. Like most of us, angry people operate on the assumption that their perception of the world is accurate. However, consumed by their need, hot-tempered people have a tendency to distort actions and words of even their loved ones.

Clear communication is the best tool to avoiding and diverting heated confrontations. The following strategies require courage and practice.

· Say what you mean. When we fail to communicate accurately, misinterpretation takes place. Most of us respond defensively to criticism. Chronically angry people will often fight back in the belief that they are being personally attacked. Use I rather than you, and avoid statements that use never and always.

· Respond wisely. The tone of a discussion is of equal importance to the words being said. Choose to reply in an even tone rather than responding in kind with loud replies or deliberate silence.

· Practice active listening. In conversation, whether hostile or friendly, we often tend to be either listening for what we want to hear or mentally preparing the great response we will deliver as soon as the other person takes a breath. Marriage experts recommend a practice of putting into your own words what you think you heard your spouse is saying. This practice works in all relationships and assists in ensuring that the correct message has been received. The skill of active listening helps to determine the reason behind the confrontation by defining the conflict, therefore avoiding a lot of useless strife. “I want to be sure I understand what is upsetting you. Is it that . . . ?”

So if you have recognized that an angry person lives at your home, or workplace, try some of these strategies to avoid unnecessary verbal battles. If you have decided that perhaps that angry person in your midst is you, it is important to know what to expect if you choose to do work on your anger, either on your own or with the assistance of a professional.

Learning to express the feeling of anger in a “good” and healthy manner requires practice. The first challenge is to recognize it and learn to deal with it in a realistic and reasonable manner. The results can bring greater health emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.