Parenting: Setting Priorities With Your Children (cont.)

What is the answer then? Parents must learn to trust themselves. If it feels right for you, that's right. If it feels wrong to you, then it's wrong for you. And breast feeding is a perfect example of this. I've seen so many women distressed at the difficulty that they are having breast feeding. So I say stop, and they're guilt ridden. In truth, my whole generation grew up with bottles and formula, and we're fine! (laughs) I'm sure if you choose to bottle feed, your child will be fine. If you choose to breast feed and you love it, that's fine too! It's so easy, I don't know why we're making it so difficult. When I say easy, I mean we must honor who we are and trust that. Trust the child more. 

We have an era of what someone called "helicopter moms." They hover. In 1946, a Dr. Strucker talked about "momism" where the parents, particularly the mother, exerts too much control, too much influence over a child's life, not letting the child make her own mistakes and learn from them, and grow as a result.

lexx1_webmd: My question is how do I get my children to begin their own lives and to let me go? They are 24 and 22, and if they fight with their partners, it's like they expect me to me the judge!

Dr. Jeffers: This is totally in your control. You just say, "I love you very much. You figure it out. You have the ability to learn and to grow from it all." This is what you say to your children. This is very hard, I understand. One of the tools that I talk about is learning to cut the cord, over and over again. So, as soon as you see yourself being attached to your child, especially one of that age, cut the cord. Take a deep breath and trust that they will learn and grow from it all.

curly31_webmd: Your ideas are wonderful, but not always realistic for some of us. What if you are in a marriage that does not support you working outside the home?

Dr. Jeffers: Again, I wrote a book called Opening Our Hearts To Men, and the main message is that we must live our lives in a way that supports the best of who we are, and we must live our own truths, which means we must take responsibility for our lives. When we do, we're no longer angry with our partners or in whatever area we're in, whether with a boss or child or whatever. If we want to go out of the house in order to fulfill ourselves and our partner does not want that, we have to say, "I love you very much, but I have to be true to myself or I cannot be a happy person, which is not good for me, for you, and certainly not good for the children. Sometimes, this does devastating things to a relationship, it did with me. But I learned to fulfill myself in a way that allows me now, in my second marriage (laughs) to be very strong, very loving, and very fulfilled. But to be an adult, we must be true to who we are. We must responsibly take care of ourselves, as we responsibly take care of our children, and there are many working women out there who prove that that certainly can be done. Another thing: I believe that in our society, men are not involved enough in the parenthood role, and I think that for ourselves, for our children, and for our men, we must demand that they get more involved. This is very important. And when women are outside the home, working, men automatically become more involved.

curly31_webmd: My husband supports me in every other way and I love him very much, but I would lose him over this issue.

Dr. Jeffers: If I were married to someone who cared so little about my happiness, I would choose not to be there, and you know, her resentment will grow. The way to keep resentment from growing is to create joy in your life. That's a whole other issue, and I really talk about that a lot in Opening Our Hearts To Men, and I went through it, and I came out a much better, stronger, more loving person. Don't forget, 42 years ago, women didn't work at all. This was before the current women's movement, so I really did something that was very different for my time, and I'm so glad that I did. I believe if you tell your husband how unhappy you are in the situation, that he may honor that. If he does not, then you must choose what kind of a marriage you want. It's very frightening to consider these things, but as I said in my very first book, Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway.(Laughs.)

lexx1_webmd: How do you tell your children that are grown that compromise and discussion are the things that are the best tools? My daughter has two children from a prior relationship as does he. And they have different priorities in getting the new house ready for their family; his is the workshop, hers the bedrooms, etc. They fight when one does something without the other there.

Dr. Jeffers: Again, cut the cord. Just say, "I love you, this is not my business. You two have to work it out." Period. That's cutting the cord. And trust me, I've had to work on this myself, and when I stay out of my children's personal issues, they learn, they grow, and I learn and I grow, as well. It's a matter of trust. They can work it out.

Moderator: You don't believe that parents are solely responsible for how a child turns out. That will be a relief for some, but if parents aren't responsible for how children turn out, who is?

Dr. Jeffers: Yes. Again, I talk about the "circle of being" in I'm Okay, You're A Brat. There are so many factors that come into play that it is impossible to even list them all, including their personality, their genetics, their -- if you will, their calling, their friends, and all the factors that contribute to their lives. We don't know which factors affect which children and when. When we say something is good for a child, which child? When? We do our very best to give our love and care to a child as we think is appropriate, and then just let go of the outcome. Again, I worked with the poor in New York City for ten years. I saw one child in particular over that period of time. He had cigarette burns all over his body from his early childhood. He grew up to be one of the finest human beings that I have ever met. He ultimately went on to become a doctor . If the parent is the sole indicator of how a child will turn out, we certainly wouldn't want to say that cigarette burns all over the body is a good thing, but this child turned out beautifully! The point is, one would predict that a child who was so badly treated would turn out horribly. This was not the case. Something else in his circle of being touched him, and made him a beautiful human being. What that was, I don't know, nor does anyone else. There are certainly a lot of people prominent in the world today who had horrible parents, but turned out wonderfully. I don't advocate treating children badly at all, of course, but we do our best and let go.