Tomorrow

September 23rd, 2014 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Remember the line from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

“I can’t think about that right now.  If I do I’ll go crazy.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

–Scarlett O’Hara

Why is the idea of tomorrow so tantalizing?  Why do we feel that space, time and energy will open wide…tomorrow?  Are we lazy, deluded, or simply lacking willpower?

I have a vivid picture in mind of a young family waiting in front of the university publishing building, in a u-haul toting station wagon.  I was furiously running copies of my master’s thesis inside to be bound, before we moved back east to attend doctoral school.  Nothing but leaving town for four years, and not having the money to mail back all of those pages, had given me the needed focus and deadline to get that weighty project completed.

As human beings we naturally seek to avoid the uncomfortable in social situations, in work to be done, in actions to be taken. Though we berate ourselves for it– knowing we will be sorry–we still put things off until an impending crisis moves us to action. Case in point, Monday was September 15th, the final day to file tax returns for the previous year.  Ask any accountant; procrastination causes more stress, illness, and harsh feelings than any other human trait.

I can imagine heads nodding in agreement as we consider the consequences of procrastination.  But lets turn now from tasks to relationships.  Who hasn’t wished for one more day to say “I love you” to a loved one who has passed on unexpectedly?  Who hasn’t wished for more time spent listening to or playing with our children while they were young and adoring?  Who hasn’t been regularly guilty of not prioritizing our marriage or our friendships over the crush of work? Regret is one of the most destructive emotions and is rooted in procrastination.

This month’s Notes From Home is filled with solid ideas and tools to get you to identify and change your own and your children’s procrastinating ways. As always, we hope you will find instruction and inspiration for strengthening your family.

To happy families NOW,

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder
Homeward Bound

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Twitterpation Will Happen

June 20th, 2014 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Parents want their children to be successful and happy.  It’s universal. While many of us are intimately involved in directing our children’s academic or extracurricular lives, we can often feel inadequate or uncomfortable in advising them in their social/love lives.  That’s understandable, but not an excuse.

Popular culture has tried to brainwash us into thinking it’s none of our business.  Perhaps we haven’t felt very successful in our own relationships and are gun shy about offering suggestions.  Often we have tried and been told we are still operating in the dark ages of dating.  I am here to tell you, do not be deterred.

No one loves your child like you do, and you have their best interest at heart.  With that said, you may need to freshen up your understanding of the world our teens are entering.  Though every child is different, on average you will find children who are ages 9-11 showing more interest in being with their friends, rather than just their family.  From 10-14 they may begin to associate with mixed gender groups, and from 15-19, there will likely be experimentation with romantic relationships.

You went through these stages of social maturation yourself.  Some did it more gracefully than others.  Take a moment to remember what it was like.  Remember the insecurities, the elation or devastation that accompanied romance.  Now, take that compassion and personal experience, and talk to your son or daughter.  Let them hear about you.  Let them learn of the good, the bad, and the ugly in your teen relationships.  Don’t become preachy or squirrely.  Sometimes you just need to share the story, and let them discover the lesson to be learned from it.  Though they may not act grateful, I’ll guarantee they are curious to hear how things were in “back when I was a kid.”  They will absorb more than you think.

My point here is simply this:  as a parent, your job is to keep your child as guided, informed, and safe as possible.  You will not be able to completely avoid heartbreak for them, but you can teach values, respect for others and themselves, and when they are ready, help them feel comfortable in exploring the world of dating and love.  Their future happiness is largely influenced by the relationships they are forming now.

I hope the articles found in this month’s Notes From Home will be a trip down memory lane as well as an important conversation starter in your home.

To Family Happiness,

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder
Homeward Bound

 

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Stop Spinning the Plates

May 20th, 2014 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy, I co-presented my first family seminar.  My target audience was what was referred to in the literature as “The Sandwich Generation.”  This four week class targeted people in their 40’s and 50’s who’s lives were being squeezed like a sandwich with the demands of raising children on one side, with the often competing needs of aging parents on the other.

Of course, these were only two of the stressors and time consumers in their lives.  On top of the family roles, they were often at the height of their careers, in the midst of accumulating cars, homes, and educational opportunities for their children, and were also devoted to church or civic roles.  This didn’t even broach the subject of carving out time for leisure and hobbies.

I had studied the research and literature on this group extensively and I believed I understood their challenges fairly well.  I naively thought it couldn’t be much more difficult than what I was experiencing as a 27-year-old full-time student, who was recently married, holding down a part-time job and serving in our church with a fairly heavy responsibility.  Fast-forward 20 years.

Okay…I was dumb and naïve.  This mid-life stage is much harder!  I grasp the plate-spinning metaphor now and sometimes want to cry “Uncle!”

Ambition and a drive for growth and mastery are all good things if managed correctly.   They propel us forward towards our goals and these yearnings bring about great human accomplishments.  But at some point, all of us will have to ask ourselves if our drive and the accumulation of things in our life, is actually subtracting or fulfilling our lives.  Is our ability to love, serve and find joy in life being diminished by the frantic pace set by demands and ambition?

As a man, smack-dab in the middle of the sandwich generation, I will tell you, I have crossed over to a place where it’s time to take a few plates down before they crash.  It started last month when I shared that I had sold our herd of Black Angus cows.  As much as this was a dream, the time it took worrying about how to feed them, where to find summer pasture, and who would take care of them while I was about my “real job” was too much.

That experience felt so right, that last week I took down a second much bigger plate; Paisley Farms, our all-natural, pure-bred Berkshire hog farm.  This ambition was not about making money or it would have been easy for me to liquidate years ago.  In four years, we went from not knowing a thing about pigs, to building the largest, highest ranked farm in the Mountain West with Whole Foods Markets.  However, what started out with good intentions to provide an opportunity to work and learn together as a family, turned into one crisis after another, robbing us of the joy it was intended to create:  piglets being crushed by their mothers if no one was attending them at birth, missing pigs either from death or theft, feed prices at an all-time high, pork price negotiations, transporting hogs to market in blizzard conditions, farm audits, employees that wouldn’t show up, equipment breaking down or being mistreated, registration records, vet bills, and so on.  And this was supposed to be a hobby?  Thankfully, I found the perfect buyers, a young guy with great ambition, who also has the time to devote to it.  I think the farm “plate” will be a success in his hands.

This summer choose to simplify and prioritize the connections in your family.  Being squeezed or stretched leaves you with little time or energy to play with or even quietly behold your loved ones. Preoccupation will rob you of the satisfaction of healthy and current relationships.  When you are in survival mode, it’s all about the crisis, and unless your family becomes a crisis, you won’t get around to them.

Simplification doesn’t just feel good, it’s preventative .  When you develop attachment, rapport, trust and love in the family, it ends up being the biggest buffer against family troubles. I challenge you to identify the plates in your life that are distracting from your family, and find a way to set them aside.  Start small if need be.  There are usually good reasons you haven’t taken it down before.  This will most likely take courage and faith.  Remember, no plate is worth the loss of deep, loving family relationships.

I hope you will find ideas and resources in this month’s edition of Notes From Home to inspire you to make summer a time to renew your connection and satisfaction with your family.

To Family Happiness!

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder
Homeward Bound

 

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Practice for Parents – parenting doesn’t always come naturally

April 23rd, 2014 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Craig was coming out of the front door as I was walking up the driveway.  He carried two suitcases full of tools and computer equipment.  He was wet with perspiration.  As our IT guy, it had been his job to enter this beautiful California home and get it wired up and ready for the video coaching we were going to do with our first Homeward Bound family.

On entering the home, I looked up to see white video cable strung high on the living room wall, leading down the hall to be plugged into the kitchen desktop computer.  The anxious parents greeted me at the door, evidently willing to do whatever it took for me to help them with their daughter’s return from a year of residential treatment.

In our Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program, video-taping our sessions was a powerful tool that produced rapid  understanding and paved the way for a fledgling therapist’s faster growth.  Just as teens can become defensive when therapists tell them what they observed in their behavior, parents will often do the same thing when a therapist tries to help them recognize their contributions to negative patterns their teen exhibits.  But showing them a playback of their voices raised, their teen’s eyes rolling, their waffling and uncertainty about boundaries is a completely different ball game.  There is little room for subjectivity and not much need for coaching.  The information is in living color, right there for them to soak in and understand for themselves.

Knowing this, I decided to use videotaping in the work we would do for Homeward Bound families.  Things were set up with the family’s permission of course, s that I could sit at my desk in my office and pan and zoom around the living room.  The family was instructed to go into the room when they were going to discuss a subject that would bring up powerful feelings, or when there was an argument going on.  I could then immediately and precisely coach them as they used new communication skills t navigate the crisis.  Later, the family could access a playback of the digital recording as a refresher course if they needed it.

And it worked.  A parent from Miami watched himself on video as he addressed a drinking incident with his daughter.  His weak attempt to implement preset consequences for her actions summoned this response from him join our coaching session later:  “That was the most pitiful display of parenting I’ve ever seen.  I will never do that again.”  I didn’t need to say a word.  He could see it all o his own.  Another parent from Connecticut said, “If you think you know about your relationships with your kids and spouse, there is no substitute for seeing the experience live. For me, the video feedback was eye opening and revealing.  Inside five minutes, I knew what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong as a parent, and no one had to tell me.  It was as clear as day.”

So a brilliant idea right?  Well, I will say now that it was definitely gutsy.  Not only did it take a very specific kind of family to agree to this procedure, but I frightened off 95 percent of the families we could have helped.  Other professionals were stumped as to how to motivate their families to enroll in our process because most couldn’t get over the hurdle of that scary video-camera stuff.  It took years for professionals in our field to move past the guys-that use-video-taping reputation, even though we realized the obstacle we had created and stopped using cameras within six months of implementing them.

Why would I tell you this awkward story about our first families and our initial attempts to help them?  It’s simple, really:  because you can’t solve a difficult problem if you don’t go “all in.”  At the time I started Homeward Bound, I remember reading studies that reported 50,70 even 90 percent recidivism, depending on the issues being addressed.  These dismal outcomes were not acceptable in my mind, as the best our field could produce.  I was driven to find a solution to the problem of recidivism after treatment with the courage and gusto common to those who want to make a big difference.  We weren’t savvy marketers; we were just determined to build a program and process that worked, regardless of whether it was hard or uncomfortable.  The only criteria we used to determine if a certain feature should be included in our model was the question “Will this enhance the likelihood of success?”

Parents, if you want to become good at parenting, you need to practice.  You need to watch yourself or ask your spouse to watch you and give you a compassionate, but frank review of how you handled a situation.  I understand how threatening this can feel, but if you truly want to improve, you have to be humble enough to take the coaching.  If you don’t have a spouse or someone you trust, get a therapist or coach.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t pick someone who just wants to remain on your payroll, so they are heavy on the validation and soft on the direction.

There is nothing more important than our family relationships.  Put your best efforts, your money, your time, your everything into learning how to relate to and direct your family.  It takes practice, coaching, and at the end of your life, you can rest assured that you used your time and life wisely.

To Family Success and Happiness!

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder
Homeward Bound

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Pulling A Rabbit From My Hat

November 13th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

When I was a doctoral student at Virginia Tech, I was doing my dissertation project on the use of marriage and family therapy models in business organization’s leadership and management training. I worked with leaders from industries ranging from hospitals to circus’s. We worked intensively together to educate, train, and coach them on real situations for weeks at a time. There were incredible results, which made for a very exciting project.

One of the professors on my committee, Harold Kurstedt, is a brilliant management systems engineer. He also taught parts of the training. He would often press me on how I did what I did in coaching. I told him it was a mix of several therapy models and my own personal style. I didn’t know how to explain it, much less teach someone else how to do it. After three workshops, he came up to me, handed me a sheet of paper with a diagram, and said “Here’s your model.” He had captured Solution Focused Coaching.

Though Harold was a great mentor, I worried that he expected me to work magic on the stage, particularly when he took me to Virginia’s Forum for Excellence to teach a group of 300 people. He wanted me to ask for a volunteer from the audience, have them share a personal or professional struggle, and come to a magical ending. The volunteer should feel empowered with a clear solution and exude enthusiastic confidence. Oh yes, and I had 15 minutes to do it in. I had only done this in therapy settings, or in small groups with trainees I knew well from hours of personal interviews and coaching. I was so sick with nerves that I didn’t sleep the entire night before.

That day, as the presentation got underway, Harold turned the time over to me to demonstrate Solution Focused Leadership and Coaching. I said a silent prayer for a homerun issue. An engineer from India raised his hand first. Just great. What if I couldn’t understand his heavy accent or his engineering projects, much less truly help him come up with a solution. Fortunately, prayers are answered. He and his wife were building a new home and their relationship was suffering as they fought over decisions constantly.

In a nutshell, I used the model, which includes keys like:

1. I listened without interrupting.
2. I was curious about his strengths and how he had solved problems in the past.
3. I explored exceptions to the problem story.
4. I focused on solutions, not the problem.
5. I was affirming.
6. I summarized what I had heard.
7. I kept whittling things down until together, we came up with a doable plan
He was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get home and implement the plan. He was sure things were going to be different this time. People in the audience crowded us afterwards, wondering if the engineer had been a plant because it worked out “too perfectly.”

The point of my story is that this wasn’t magic. I wasn’t exceptionally brilliant. Simply put, there are powerful, true principles in communicating effectively. If you put real effort (and it takes effort) into learning them, you will experience greater ease and satisfaction in any realm of your life. If you have tried, but still can’t apply them consistently or effectively, get someone else to apply them for you. Find a trusted teacher, a coach, a clergy member, or a therapist to help. It sure beats trying to sludge through problems in the same old ways, expecting better results, and being consistently disappointed.

Every other month, Notes From Home will pull ideas from our extensive parent curriculum on the Family Bridge to teach principles of good parenting. We hope you enjoy learning and being reminded of solid and successful principles as much as we at Homeward Bound do.

To Your Family’s Happiness!

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“What Were You Like Dad?”

April 26th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Saturday morning I woke my 16-year-old son Talmage earlier than he had hoped, and asked him if he would go with me to work on our church’s welfare farm. In his usual easygoing manner he agreed without argument, but was quiet for our 20-minute drive to the farm. We were just two of a small group of men, and a few boys drug along by their dads, volunteering to help clear a new plot of land of rocks in preparation for spring planting of corn.

Talmage listened to the stories of our group as we joked about our younger years and expressed concern on the state of the next generation of boys to enter adulthood. He quietly worked and listened as we heaped seemingly unending quantities of rocks into piles.

As we made our way toward another section of the field strewn with thousands of rocks that needed our attention, Talmage said, “Dad could you tell me a story of when you were younger and you got into trouble being mischievous?” I of course denied everything with a smile so that he knew not to believe me. “What do you mean? I’ve never gotten into trouble!” “Dad, I’ve heard a couple stories so I know that you did.” he said with his own smile.

In that moment, I sensed that my son might have been looking for evidence that his own dad was more like him than I let on. Talmage wasn’t asking simply to be entertained with fun stories. He wanted to affirm that he was normal, that he was still “on track” to turn out just fine even though he didn’t love working like we men seemed to.

I’ve heard it said that expecting a 21 year old to be independent today is like expecting a 13 year old to take care of himself a couple of generations ago. All I can say is…really? Are we raising kids that unprepared? Is this delayed adulthood completely fine and we have nothing to worry about?

Well, I believe that we do have reason to be concerned about our boys and young men. I believe that there are far too many boys delaying responsibility for far too long, growing up confident in their video gaming skills, but scared and insecure when it comes to the prospects of needing to fend for themselves and eventually a family.

Societal factors are certainly playing a role; I acknowledge that. Marriage rates are going down. Age of first marriage is going up and being put off longer. Boomerang children are becoming the norm instead of an anomaly, and we have a new stage of development that we’ve never had before called “Emerging Adulthood”. It seems that there is no clear event now at which a boy moves from dependence and childhood, to independence and adulthood. Adulthood just kind of “emerges”.

This month’s Notes From Home is on boys and the challenges they face in the world today. I hope you will find inspiration in the sound advice and research reported here. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

To Your Family’s Happiness!

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder
Homeward Bound

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“My Kid’s a Bump on a Log”

January 26th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

“Unmotivated” has got to be one of the top 5 descriptors we hear from parents when telling us about their struggling teen.

It turns out that motivating our kids, and helping them learn self-motivation, is one of the great tasks of parenthood.  We all know that there is a lot riding on our children acquiring as much of this magic dust as possible.

As with so many of the other disciplines and qualities we hope our kids develop, it’s easy as a parent to notice only the reverse of these qualities.  Laziness, dishonesty, or disrespect assaults and insults us.  We can’t miss them.  However, it’s a lot more difficult to notice the quiet and more tentative acts of initiative, honesty, and kindness.  Just because we haven’t noticed great motivation in our kids, doesn’t mean that the seeds aren’t waiting for the right conditions to spring forth.

So how do we encourage motivation in our kids?  Again, as in just about everything else in life, a balanced approach is usually best.  Let me share three examples of how parents haven’t done it right.

First:  I worked with a young man who really enjoyed tennis.  His father was a very successful business man and recognized the fact that his son was motivated around the game.  Dad was thrilled.  He knew that self motivation was a key ingredient to his own success.  The father decided that since his son had some self motivation and natural ability, he would oversee things to ensure that he was spending the time required to become great.  He hired a personal tennis coach, sent him to summer camps, and entered him in tournaments.  Sounds good right?  Well, in this case the father effectively commandeered the boy’s passion and made it his own.  Unfortunately, the tactics backfired and it wasn’t long before the boy despised tennis and wanted nothing to do with it.  This parent was way too “Hands on”.

Second:  I’ve also seen another approach, sometimes used by me honestly.  When you see disturbing signs of apathy or laziness, you wrongfully assume that if you push, you’ll find more of the motivation you are looking for in the child.  So you point out the fact that your son sleeps too late on weekends, is constantly leaving home too late to avoid being tardy at school and that he never pick up his clothes from his bedroom floor without being nagged.  Now, instead of feeling motivated to change those things, our teens resist change and the label “lazy” or “unmotivated” seems to fit more than ever.  This type of parents is too “Hands On” as well.

Third:  This strategy is used by parents who recognize their teen’s passion and work to facilitate it.  As the teen spends more and more time in one area of life, the parent removes any obstacles to running with the dream.  When we are too accommodating of an interest or gift, teens may choose to ignore the less desirable skills of life, i.e. grades, chores, respectful behavior, etc.  In an effort to be supportive, parents inadvertently teach teens that it’s ALL about their interests.  Over time, the teen starts to feel that he has no obligation to things that don’t interest him.  This is a good thing run amok. It’s too ‘Hands Off.”

In watching my own kids I have seen major lacks in motivation, and then surprising feats in discipline.  As you well know, every child is different, has different interests, and gets up for different things.  Your challenge, Mom and Dad, is to help them become aware of what is exciting to them.  As an adult and a student of your child’s gifts, you are best qualified to show them new ways to utilize their energy around that motivator.  You will also have to be the bad guy and remind them that they can’t toss the rest of their life in pursuit of that goal.

To Family Happiness!

 

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.

Founder

Homeward Bound

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Relax, Take a Deep Breath, and…

April 12th, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized 7 Comments »

Parents of teens will often enter adolescence fearing it as a painful and scary period that they will need to grit their teeth through to survive.  They have heard the horror stories, they have witnessed some pretty rough stuff with their own eyes, and they are ready to do the “death march” through it until the teen is launched.

Let me share an interesting experience I had with relaxing a little, so that you can appreciate the exhilarating experience of parenting your teen.

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All That “Mom Guilt”

February 24th, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Last Saturday my nine year old daughter made her first batch of hot cereal for the family. As she stirred the cup of Cream of Wheat into the boiling water on the stove, she called out “This is going to be so good!  I can’t wait to eat this cereal…Yum!”

Sitting next to each other at the counter, she kept watching for my reaction as I took the first bite.  “Wow this is great!  Especially for your first time ever making it” I said.  And I wasn’t lying.  She had made a delicious breakfast that not only tasted good, but induced wonderful memories of my mother making the same creamy white cereal for me when I was in grade school.

Then I scooped up a large, hard lump of cereal that had not been stirred in properly as it was being cooked.  My breakfast bliss with my daughter was disturbed with feelings of shame.  You see, along with the nice memories were the memories of times Mom hadn’t gotten everything just right.  In the rush to get 8 kids out the door for school, mom’s inattention sometimes produced clumps of cereal.  I would flatly refuse to eat it.  Even after she offered other options for breakfast, I’d chose to go to school hungry.  I remember consciously trying to make my mom feel bad.  Not because I didn’t love her (she was the center of my world still), but because I knew that Mom would feel guilty and then do whatever she could to make it up to me in some way.  I didn’t realize this then, but I admit now, that in some ways I was entitled and manipulative. Read the rest of this entry »

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Write Away

January 21st, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

What do you call it when you are trying to write something and you can’t find the words, or even know how to start the process?  Oh yeah…it’s writer’s block.  I have experienced years of this.  My beliefs around me putting pen to paper were terribly restrictive, and sometimes they still are.  Instead of writer’s block, I felt inflicted with “Non-writer’s, writer’s block” and that’s even worse!

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but my relationship with Roxanne became serious just in time for her to feel highly invested in me graduating from college.  That meant she could help me with the last obstacle–my senior paper.   Humbly I asked for her help and fortunately she did help…a lot.

But things are changing!
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