Many families today are blending members from past relationships. It would be easy to give up when faced with all the conflicting methods of parenting and discipline that come to a family who has joined forces together.
As I was doing research for a recent book, I interviewed a young counselor at a youth camp. I was impressed with her sincerity, maturity, and gratitude that her "blended family" had made the effort and sacrifice to work together toward a common goal. She admitted that she was the instigator of most of the conflict and absolutely refused to cooperate on even the most menial request by her step-mother. She could tell that the adults were becoming increasingly unhappy and stressed and she was secretly glad that they were suffering.
Then an interesting thing happened. She was invited to spend a weekend with a friend and she saw what happens when families get along and support one another. The family held a family meeting to decide about some upcoming projects and chores. When putting activities on the calendar, she was amazed to see her friend volunteer to attend the ball game with her little brother so the parents could make another commitment. They laughed and joked with good natured ribbing as opposed to sarcastic mean spirited teasing. The family ended the family meeting with ice cream sundaes and she saw the kids pitch in without being asked and that they served the parents before getting their own bowl.
It was an eye-opener for this young lady to see that it is possible to work together in a win-win atmosphere. She honestly had not even realized it was possible to live in harmony as opposed to chaos and anger.
When she got home from that stay, she called a family meeting and everyone came fearing that she was going to say she was moving out if she didn't get her way. Instead, she told them about what she had witnessed and asked for a commitment for all of them to start over and become a cooperative, supportive and loving family where everyone was treated with respect.
She went on to tell me that it had not been easy to change old habits, especially with her. But, as a family they had set a goal and a commitment and had worked on their relationships and communication skills daily. As a young adult, she said that because of that commitment, she had gone into counseling to assist other young people who were filled with anger. She wanted to share the valuable lessons that she had learned.
Oh yes, she counts her step-mother as one of her best friends now.
In our living room is a beautiful potted plant. It contains a number of small individual stems and branches that, as separate entities, are fragile and unsteady. Each stem could probably make it if it were broken off and stuck in a glass of water, but it might not. However, grouped together, they gain strength and protection from one another. Their roots are intertwined and form a foundation that allows them to successfully withstand being knocked over and occasionally neglected.
Families are like that plant. We are all in this together, and we need to know there are others who will hold us up when we need it and support us as we grow stronger. The word for the strength of a unit is synergy. It means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
It is that common goal of cooperation and support that builds success in our children and our families. Please don't give up. Try one more time to provide the loving and respectful environment that each member of the family deserves.
Good luck and God bless. You do the most important work in the world.
Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator © 2005 www.ArtichokePress.com
This article has been written by Judy H. Wright, a parent educator and PBS consultant. You will find a full listing of books, tele-classes, and workshops listed at www.ArtichokePress.com. You have permission to use the article providing full credit is given to author. She may be contacted at 406-549-9813 or [email protected]