Q: My parents are clearly partial to my daughter -- their first grandchild -- over her little brother. He obviously notices but doesn't say much. How do we address it when Grandma and Grandpa play favorites?
Jim: I'd suggest that your first priority is to affirm your son (the youngest child). Reassure him that you've seen the signs of favoritism, as well, and that it's not a reflection of his worth or identity. Avoid blaming the grandparents, but let your son know you're working on it.
Hopefully you can address this issue through a good-natured, non-defensive discussion with your parents. Start by emphasizing how much you appreciate their interest and involvement in your kids' lives. Highlight positive contributions they've made to the children's upbringing. Once you've set the right tone, explain your concerns. Communicate that while you're certain they've always acted from the best of intentions, some of their actions and words have been hurtful to your younger child. Ask them to help you find a way to counteract this (hopefully) unintended effect.
If they deny the charge of favoritism, just thank them for listening and let the matter drop. It's possible that after some sober reflection they'll see the sense of your words and quietly make the necessary changes.
However, if they react in anger there may be deeper boundary issues below the surface. If so, you may want to invite them to discuss the problem with you in the presence of an objective third party -- a good friend, a disinterested relative, a pastor or even a qualified family therapist.
Finally, in extreme cases where grandparents refuse to cooperate, it may be necessary to limit the amount of time they spend with your children -- at least until they begin to take some positive steps in the right direction.
If you'd like to discuss this situation with our counselors, call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: I spend time with my kids, go to all their activities and make sure they're taken care of. I'm trying to be a good dad, but my wife says I'm not very loving in how I talk to them. How much do my words really affect my kids?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Words can encourage or tear down, connect or divide. Think about the words you commonly use -- are they life-giving, or critical and damaging?
Ask yourself the following questions when considering how your words impact your children:
-- Are they true? You need discernment to determine the truths your child needs to hear. For instance, it may be accurate to tell a child they aren't good at a particular thing -- but what's your purpose in saying that? Also, be sure to follow up with something they do well to convey life-giving confidence. And if your child has heard destructive lies about their identity and value, bolster a proper perspective by communicating the truth about who they are.
-- Are they encouraging? Sometimes children just need to hear that things are going to be all right. They also need you to talk about good qualities they know or suspect they have – or maybe didn't know they had.
-- Are they loving? You don't want to look back with regret someday, wishing you had said "I love you" more.
-- Are they helpful? Words of redirection and correction can teach important concepts about life, relationships, responsibility, work and finances.
Here are some great words that can build life in your child by modeling respect and love:
-- Thank you.
-- I love you.
-- That was brave/kind/responsible.
-- You are capable/trustworthy/smart/a leader.
-- I missed you.
-- That's probably not a good idea, a better choice would be...
-- I enjoy spending time with you.
For more practical tips and resources, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com/Parenting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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