Did we really need a federally funded research project to learn this?
My heart is breaking. For who you may ask? For twelve-year-old Ireland Baldwin, daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. I'm sure many of you have heard about the angry voice mail message that was left on her cell phone from her father. If you are in the dark, click here to catch up to speed.
I have had the misfortune over the years to see first hand the toll that bitter divorces can have on children. It is painful to see their anguish and listen to their stories. Stories of arguments between parents, guilt over having a good time or wanting to see the non-custodial parent, etc.
I've had the opportunity to watch the media reports on what I will call "The Baldwin Debacle" including responses by other celebrities. I was pleasantly surprised to see that people were not so quick to jump on the 'Alec Baldwin is a horrible parent' band wagon.
Some of you might be surprised hearing that from me, but let me explain. First, I want to make it clear that I under no circumstances agree or condone the comments made by Alec Baldwin. They were hurtful, inappropriate and emotionally abusive. Having said that and having heard the tapes MANY times (enough already Access Hollywood and Inside Edition -- can you give updates WITHOUT playing the tape over and over?!), I also hear a father who is hurting. A father who is likely feeling cut out of his child's life and feeling powerless to change things. Valerie Bertinelli summed it up well saying "You have to love your kids more than you hate your ex." Well said, Val.
It is easy to point the finger at Mr. Baldwin, but is Ireland's situation entirely his doing? We don't know what actions Ms. Basinger has taken to fuel this bitter divorce. I don't want to draw conclusions about what happened behind the scenes in this particular situation as that wouldn't be fair to either party. Instead, let me discuss some of the things to avoid when going through or coming out of a divorce:
Just a few closing thoughts on the Baldwin Debacle. I have never met a perfect parent and frankly, don't feel that perfection in parenting is possible. We all make mistakes along the way and do things that we later regret. What would people think of if our indiscretions were made public? I must say that the person who leaked the recording to the public should be ashamed of themselves. This action was just as insensitive and abusive as the comments made by Mr. Baldwin. I can't even imagine what poor Ireland is going through right now. It's bad enough being caught in the middle of this mess let alone having to go through it in the public eye.
Okay, it's time for me to get off my soapbox. I'm curious to know your thoughts on this situation. Who do you think is more responsible for this mess, Alec or Kim? Let's hear your thoughts!
Ah, relationships. I remember people telling me once I got engaged that marriage was the most difficult thing I would ever endure (these people must not have had kids yet). I laughed, I scoffed, I thought "How bad can it be?" Almost thirteen years later, we are thankfully still together and very, very happy.
But there were those first couple of years. You know, when the honeymoon wears off. When you move from saying politely, "Honey, could you please not leave your shoes in the middle of the room" to "How many times to I @*##* have to tell you to MOVE your @#*@$$ shoes!"
It's rough in the beginning trying to figure out how this whole marriage thing is going to go. It seemed as if I was constantly thinking "I'm not going to put up with THIS for the next 50 years!" at which point I would dig my heels in about some absolutely stupid issue. Thankfully, over the years, we have learned to pick and choose our battles and that there are some things that you just learn to live with, like shoes in the middle of every room in the house.
In her post The 10 Best Ways to Win an Argument, my colleague Tammy Lenski outlines some of the traps we fall into when arguing, particularly with spouses. How we as parents resolve our conflict is a big indicator of how our children will too. Let's remember to be good role models and fight fair. We don't want our children to carry on a legacy of name calling and always having to be right. Being right all the time can get pretty lonely...
Do you remember the movie "The War of the Roses?" The one starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as a couple embroiled in a bitter divorce? They took fighting with your spouse to an all new low. Thank heavens they didn't have kids!
So, what are disagreements with your spouse like in your home? Are you shouters? Do you throw things? Slam doors? The more important question is do you do it in front of the kids?
As a Children's Protective Services worker, I had the unfortunate opportunity to see parents arguing in front of their children on a regular basis. Even worse, I had to interview the children and see the impact that the fighting had on even the very youngest members of the family. These children were filled with anguish and anxiety. How unfair that they should carry the worries of grown ups!
This is not to say that you should and will never have another disagreement with your partner. For most of us, that would be impossible! Here are some things to consider when an argument is brewing:
Now this is not to say that you can't have disagreements in front of the kids. As a matter of fact, it is important for them to see that you and your partner can have differing opinions on something and work through the conflict to a compromise. You are modeling appropriate conflict management skills for your kids. What you don't want your kids to see are yelling, name calling, and aggressive behavior.
I will talk more in future posts about how to fight fair with your spouse. Before going there, however, it is important to be aware of the impact that fighting with your spouse can have on your kids.
Any questions about this topic? How do you and your partner handle conflict? What are your thoughts on fighting in front of the kids? Do you have any tips for others about how to avoid this? Please post your responses!
It is a common complaint from the moms I work with that the kids listen more to their father than them. Why could this be? Hmmm. Let's explore this further by the use of an example:
Your four year old is jumping up and down on the couch. You say: "Joey, stop jumping on the couch. If you keep jumping up and down you are going to fall off and get hurt, then I am going to have to take you to the emergency room to fix your broken arm. Have you ever been to an emergency room? It isn't a fun place. You have to wait a long time and fill out a bunch or forms. Anyhow, we can't afford a visit to the emergency room. Are you listening to me? I said STOP JUMPING ON THE COUCH!"
Joey heard: "Joey, stop blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah..." (Insert the voice of the teacher from Charlie Brown and you get the effect).
Dad says: "Joey, get off the couch." (With a firm I mean business kind of voice.)
Joey hears: "Joey, get of the couch."
What is the difference? MOMS USE WAAAAY TO MANY WORDS! Now, I am just as guilty as the rest of you for doing this and this continues to be an area for me to work on. You see dads instinctively know to use fewer words for better results. Most dads also have that firm tone that when their kids hear it, they know dad means business.
So to all the dads out there, keep up the good work. For the mom's, let's learn from the men and keep it simple so we can get better results too!
In a previous post discussing spouses, I mentioned a description by a friend as men being "primitive." I want to elaborate on why I thought that was such a keen observation.
Men are straightforward in their communication, both verbal and nonverbal. Most say what they want and express their feelings using simple and clear language. We women could learn a thing or two from this.
How many times have you been angry at your significant other? How do you communicate this to him? Do you sigh? Slam pots and pans around? Give short "yes" and "no" answers to his questions? And when he asks "What's wrong?" do your respond "Nothing" and when he carries on with his business do you get even angrier because he doesn't know you are angry?!
Come on ladies, we've all done it. The big question here is why? Are we trying to to shift the balance of power our way by sending doing these covert maneuvers and then launching a surprise attack, e.g., "How could you not know that I am angry at you!"
How often has your significant other used this tactic on you? If he has, how did it make you feel? I would feel blindsided, flustered and retreat away from the source of the assault. This is not a communication pattern that lends itself to a happy relationship.
Thus, the point of this discussion: Women could learn a lot from the way men communicate. The old adage "keep it simple stupid" is true. If you are angry with your spouse, tell him. If you would like him do something, ask him. If you want open communication with your partner, be more honest in your communication style.
We'll talk more about what we can learn from men and how they communicate with their children next time. Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you tried any of these tactics? I would love to hear from anybody who has found success with this...
So often, I hear complaints from mothers about their spouses. They don't help out around the house, they undermine my efforts with the kids, they can't seem to put the peanut butter away after making a sandwich (OK, that's mine). I want moms out their to know that this blog is not just about parenting. It is about all the roles that women have, e.g., wife, mother, sister, employee, etc., for each affects the other. As a result, there will be much discussion on the topic of husbands.
A friend of mine once told me that men are "primitive." Their priorities are food, sleep and pleasure. I thought this to be a keen observation. I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about men and their behavior while working in a maximum security prison for nearly five years (oh, the stories I can and will tell).
Please be aware that I am not a man-basher. Rather, I like to use the insights I have learned about men over the years to help other women in their relationships. For example, I recently found I out that I have inadvertently been using the "Shamu Maneuver" with my husband for years with fantastic results. You can read more about it at The Shamu Maneuver on Dr. Tammy Lenski's blog. She is a great resource for women who struggle with conflict.
Do you have a "Shamu Maneuver?" What tips do you have for a healthy and happy marriage?