Sunday, January 29, 2017

Child who abuses animals needs therapy

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I just watched a horrifying video on my 6-year-old son’s phone. He was casually torturing his friend’s cat. His friend was there and didn’t say anything.

My son was tying the cat’s tail with a string and then pulling it so the cat would chase its tail. My son would laugh, even when he heard the cat crying in pain.

I told my husband what happened. He said not to call it “torturing” because our son has never had an animal (due to his allergies) and didn’t yet understand how to treat animals.

I called my former therapist and told him what happened and my husband’s reaction.

The therapist said we all need therapy to help my son. He said it’s not behavior to be ignored, and then said, “Just look it up on the internet … children who abuse animals are the ones who become serial killers.”

I feel like I am in the middle of two extreme opinions, my husband’s casual opinion that my son need only to be exposed to more animals and learn that they have feelings also … and my worry that my son is going to grow up to be a serial killer.

I am just sick about it. I don’t know where my son got this behavior.

Animal lover

Dear Animal lover,

Please be direct with your son. Do not react with the horror you feel now. Stay calm and let him know you love him.

Don’t reward him, but love him.

Your son may be the recipient of, or witness to, violence and abuse of some kind. You and your family need professional therapy to explore his experiences.

In fact, we recommend a child therapist for your son and a family therapist for all of you together.

He may feel powerless from abuse he may be receiving or witnessing. He may not know how to express himself appropriately, so he acted out his power on an animal.

Statistically, it is true that violent criminals and killers often were perpetrators of childhood animal abuse.

However, that fact doesn’t tell the full story of a child’s experiences witnessing animal, child, or any abuse.

Children can become numb to violence with news, constant images on games, or with the internet and social media.

The reality is, this may be a one-time incident and may not signal any truly violent or malicious tendencies. A child therapist can help you make that determination.

Your son has a phone at age 6? Why does he need a phone at that tender age? We do not condone phones at that age because children will witness inappropriate (often violent) images that desensitize the empathy response, among other things.

Violence is everywhere as entertainment. Your son needs to learn coping skills, communication skills, and empathy. Please take his phone away and replace entertainment and amusement with your real-life attention, play, love and guidance.

You said, a couple of times, “my son.” We are wondering if you might be accepting all the parenting responsibilities, which is unhealthy for all of you.

Your husband can benefit from therapy also, especially if you are tolerating his preference for adults more than learning how to help parent “his” son.

All of you need healthy bonding activities together that do not involve any media at all.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Sunday, January 22, 2017

You can't make someone care about you

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m sick and tired of my husband caring more about him than me and our three kids.

Our oldest daughter hardly talks to him anymore since he forgot her 18th birthday last year. When she reminded him (which I usually do so he won’t miss any of the kids birthdays … like he always misses mine), he said he was sorry in a way that sounded forced. Then he said he’d make it up to her by taking us to his favorite restaurant!

That daughter just ignores him now, even though he still tries to make her laugh with his silly faces he made at her long ago.

Our son plays football in high school, just like his dad, and he used to beg his dad to come to games. My husband was too busy with his own golf games and work. So my son started hanging out with his friend and their family because their dad pays attention to him.

Tonight was our youngest daughter’s cheer competition and my husband missed it. She threw her jacket at him when she got home because she was so angry and then cried in her room.

So he told her that she was a brat! He went on and on about how hard he works for us to have a nice house and all her dance lessons. Then he told her he needed to play golf to unwind from work.

I was going to comfort her but my husband told me to “ignore her” and make him dinner. It was 9 p.m. and we all ate before the competition so I started to serve him some leftovers and he got mad … so I cooked for him.

He completely forgot about how upset our youngest was. I told him it would be nice if he did go and comfort her. He didn’t bat an eyelash and instead said, “What’s for dessert?” and asked if I would make his favorite pudding.

Normally, I would go ahead and make it but tonight I couldn’t. I’m tired of him not caring about any of us, especially our kids. If it was just me, I would be okay.

He’s always been selfish, but now he’s become completely self-centered.

How can I make him care?

Caring wife and mom

Dear wife and mom: 

You cannot make your husband care about anything. He has choices.

It’s wonderful that you genuinely nurture your family, however, we believe you may be co-dependent with your husband. You are sacrificing yourself to do everything your husband wants you to do.

You are a good person with good intentions. That’s necessary for a start.

Now you need courage to define your own needs and wants. Love doesn’t mean doing everything for everyone.

You must choose to be a healthy and emotionally strong person who deserves joy.

How do you do that?

First, we suggest that your whole family goes into family therapy with a professional. Go, even if no one else goes.

Then define yourself before others do.

Write down your values, which might include:

• Caring without sacrificing your whole self;

• Integrity – requiring each person to be accountable for serving one another; and,

• Empathy without expectations of it in return.

The good news is that if you learn to not expect your husband to have empathy, care, and integrity, you can learn to count on yourself.

You can never change a person from being selfish to caring. No manipulation, bribing, crying, or ignoring will cause a stone to turn into water.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The bad borrower

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri, 

I have a sister who is about four years younger than me (I’m 18) and, ever since she was little, she would “borrow” my stuff. She was always destructive with my things. None of my other brothers and sisters ever did anything like this.

I’m the oldest, and my mom, who is a single mom who works all the time, always taught us that if we borrowed anything from anyone (including family) that we had to give it back in the same shape it was in.

All of the rest of us have borrowed each others things and always returned them without any problems, except this particular sister.

Since my dad left, she has gotten worse.

I recently found a favorite shirt under her bed with a thousand other bunches of stuff and it had stains under the arms that I was going to have the dry cleaners get out.

But, the dry cleaning man said he couldn’t get the stains out because it was from not wearing deodorant and the shirt is ruined. I was so mad, I yelled at her and got into a huge fight with her.

My mom got angry at me for not being the more mature one and handling the situation better.

I don’t think it’s fair that I got yelled at. Nothing like this goes on at the other family’s home where I babysit other kids.

I can’t wait to graduate and go to college and get away from having to be the babysitter all the time at my house and have my sister ruin all my stuff.

 Sister of a bad borrower

Dear Sister,

you are to be complimented on being a responsible person. However, we think you may have too much responsibility on your young shoulders.

There’s an old saying from our society, when we were a more civil society, which goes something like this: “Give back borrowed items in better shape than you received them.”

In today’s culture of entitlement, people have a tendency to not be as polite in the borrowing arena.

Good habits of lenders:

• Tell them your expectations, i.e., “ I need this (item) back by (certain date and time) and I need it to be in the same or better shape when you return it.”

• If someone borrows money, have them sign a note.

• The expectations of both borrowers and lenders are that accidents do happen, problems will occur, items may not be able to be repaired or returned in a timely manner.

• Try to be patient with those who try or are contrite about losing, damaging, or not being able to return whatever was borrowed.

• Don’t lend something you really want or need back.

Borrowers, don’t borrow unless you intend to repay and don’t ignore the lender – let them know you care, you are trying, and you are sorry.

Now, good sister, we encourage you to ask your mom to sit down with you and your sister and communicate in the most civil manner (with rules like no yelling, no throwing, no dirty looks, etc.) to discuss this big problem together ASAP. Tell your sister you love her but she has been hurtful and disrespectful.

You can then express to Mom your concerns over the care of your brothers and sisters and how you feel too much responsibility is on your shoulders. It’s not that you aren’t capable of helping; it’s that you are young and need some carefree time.

Get some exercise, have fun, and let go of things that aren’t your responsibility – starting now.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri