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Kids and Marriage Relationship Self Help Advice

Written by Jon Sindell

Advice on parenting happy kids. Marriage Gurus Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt.

Sooner or later, every parent hears the voice. We angrily chastise our child for breaking some rule that we impose simply because it was our own parents' edict. Suddenly the voice confirms: "My God, I've become my father."

Advice
Learn to mirror your child's words so she can feel truly heard.
Validate your child's right to feel what she feels.
Express empathy for your child's feelings.
The Art of Play
Allow your child to regress at times; it is normal.
Use words that express support rather than disapproval.
Set reasonable limits to enhance your child's sense of safety and support.
Learn to listen for what your child thinks and feels, not merely for signs of disobedience.
It's no surprise that the way we were raised is the single most important factor in determining how we raise our children. But being aware of our habits and changing them are two different things. Relationship experts Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, who help couples break destructive patterns, have returned with a book for parents.

The key to raising emotionally healthy children, the authors say in Giving the Love That Heals, is to become aware of the unconscious factors that determine our parenting patterns.

They support their thesis with anecdotal examples that ring uncomfortably true: the sexually repressed mother who grossly overreacts to her teenage daughter's provocative clothing; the father who cannot tolerate his teenage son's expressions of anger because his parents stifled his every attempt to express his feelings; the domineering mother who observes her 6-year-old "chip off the old block" bossing her playmates.

But how do parents become conscious of the patterns controlling our parenting behavior? Learn from your children, the authors say, for they are your best mirrors. Thus overstressed, driven-to-achieve parents are dumbfounded by their 12-year-old's casual attitude toward life until they realize that he is their teacher and this is his lesson: Chill out.

The best technique for becoming conscious of these lessons is what the authors call "intentional dialogue." It's a technique that allows kids to express rather than repress their thoughts and feelings.

Readers of the authors' best-selling Getting the Love You Want will recognize "intentional dialogue" as the key technique for becoming a better romantic partner. They may be fascinated by the authors' exposition of how their Imago Relationship Theory, which holds that we unconsciously seek romantic partners who embody the traits of our parents, also explains our parenting methods.

The scholarship in Giving the Love That Heals is impressive, but it's also a practical guide packed with suggestions for connecting with our kids in a way that exalts their spiritual connection with us and the world at large.

The payoff, say the authors, is emotional health for our children and a healing break with our past.

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Photographer: Bobby Deal