Dr. Waldman addresses a significant issue regarding how the word “depression” is often used; his insights and explanations here are absolutely on-target. It is important to note that children generally manifest depression differently than adults. (As one of my college professors once lectured, “Depressed adults VEGETATE; depressed children AGITATE.”) A depressed child is often seen as a behavior problem. Too often, while the behavior is being addressed, intervention for depression is either delayed or not addressed at all. So, whether we’re considering depression as it affects youngsters or adults, it’s a topic needing a LOT more understanding. With our thanks to Dr. Waldman, we present, “Has ‘Depression’ Lost Its Meaning?” –JDS
This conversation reflects the very common misuse of the term “depression.” Most individuals mistakenly refer to depression when, in fact, they are simply sad or unhappy. We all occasionally “get down,” get “bummed out,” or have “the blues,” but these feelings usually last a few hours or a day or two, and the individual can manage their life—eat, sleep, work, socialize, etc.
True Depression is Serious
True depression, sometimes called clinical depression, is far more severe than a few hours or day or so “down in the dumps.” An average episode of clinical depression lasts approximately six to nine months; in some cases it can last a year or more. It is a deep, prevailing sense of sadness and darkness, often accompanied with the thought that, “I will never feel better.”
Truly depressed persons cannot carry on with their lives because they are unable to focus or concentrate, have no energy, cannot sleep or sleep excessively, cannot eat or overeat, and strictly avoid socialization. Depressed persons typically develop low self-esteem and anxiety. It is also common that physical symptoms accompany depression, like head- and/or backaches or GI distress. The term depression has clearly lost its meaning.
Depression at times is brought on by some negative environmental event but just as frequently depression begins with no apparent cause. Individuals with family members whom have struggled with depression, and thus may be genetically predisposed, are more susceptible to this kind of depression with no obvious precipitant. (Psychiatrists refer to this as “endogenous” depression.)
Depression is Dangerous
Depression is dangerous: People with clinical depression lose their ambition, confidence, and their jobs–even their careers. They have great difficulty fulfilling their role as parent and/or spouse and thus those relationships become tenuous. Depressed people may abuse drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to ameliorate their symptoms. Finally, the prospect of suicide becomes more likely as the depressed patient becomes convinced they are defective and “will never feel normal again.”
To suggest that one can be depressed yesterday but be fine today, like the two teens referenced above, is ludicrous. This failure to appreciate the true gravity of the word depression is significant, also. Persons with clinical depression don’t get the family or social support they deserve because others think we all “get down” now and then.
Employers will be most considerate if an employee breaks their ankle but will provide relatively little understanding to the employee who requests time off for depression. Until recently, insurance companies covered physical problems much better than mental ones.
Finally, the depressed person may not fully understand their condition, feeling shame and refusing help.
Treatment of Depression
Treatment of depression requires a multi-faceted approach: consider medication; receive psychotherapy; eat right; sleep right; exercise; and socialize. Lying in bed in a dark room, waiting to feel better, will only prolong the depressive episode.
It is important that we cease misusing the word depression and recognize the serious medical/psychological condition it is. ###
Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.
I make no bones about it: As a foster child, I don’t think I was an easy person to get along with. I certainly wasn’t trying to make bonds or connections with those around me. Of course, I knew nothing at the time about trauma brain.
I went into foster care at the age of 13. My life prior to entering the system was one of immense dysfunction; I had practically raised myself. My mom was rarely around, and, when she was, it was usually to tell me that we were moving. We moved over 50 times and I went to more than 35 schools in my life before the age of 13.
Chaos had become my normal.
In learning to “cover” for my mom’s actions, and watching my mom talk her way out of almost any situation, I learned a valuable skill early on: lying. It was a skill that saved me numerous times from severe punishments.
Foster Care and Beyond
I thought foster care would be a positive solution to the life I was living. What I found was more of the same as loneliness, isolation and depression followed me into care. I had become disconnected from my feelings and simply accepted that I was unable to love … and was unlovable. I continued behaviors from the past and found no solace in the families that took me in.
I ultimately aged out of the system at 18 and was turned loose onto the world with no real connections to other people. When I hit the college campus, a feat I wouldn’t learn was remarkable until later, I made a pact with myself to never talk about my past with anyone. I was a good liar, and, because of that skill, I kept that promise to myself for more than 20 years.
I spent those years, hiding the past, keeping myself at arms length from any real relationships, and doing the one thing I was knew I was good at: lying. I didn’t know it at the time, but I found myself in what I now refer to as “trauma brain.” I would go to that comfortable place in my mind, a place of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Appease.
For me, there was comfort in chaos. When things in my life were going well, I looked for and caused chaos for myself so I could feel “comfortable.” Of course I didn’t realize, at least not consciously, that I was doing it until I started to become increasingly unsettled with the life I was living. I had a good job, managed to get married and had a child, but I was only comfortable in the unknown.
I wanted to change.
For most of my life, I chalked up my behavior to the idea that I was just “crazy,” a concept I was comfortable with. I figured it was only a matter of time until I turned into my “crazy” mother. I was working in a law office at this time, and I would watch clients with similar tendencies. I had wondered about their past and when I started to ask, I was surprised by how many of them had been former foster kids, also. I had always assumed there had been very few kids like me. The numbers appearing in my office were off-putting, to say the least.
Flash forward. In an effort to find peace in my life, I initially turned to self-help books. I found a little relief, but often found myself going back to old habits. I started to realize that hiding my demons was only making me more depressed and more disconnected.
I tried everything: more books, journaling, yoga, meditation. and hiking. Physical exertion was having an impact, but it only lasted a few hours, then I was back in my mind, returning to old habits.
I finally realized that I had to tell my story. I wrote Garbage Bag Suitcase and began diving into an understanding of trauma and its effects on the brain.
The research began turning me onto new books. Suddenly I understood my “trauma brain” in a whole new way. I wasn’t “crazy;” my brain was just programed to constantly be in Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease mode, and this knowledge changed everything for me.
Like a Sledding Hill
I recently heard Dr. Cathy Fialon explain trauma brain as a sledding hill. When you go sledding the path becomes worn, so you gain greater speed. The well-worn path is easy and comfortable. However, if you take your sled over a few feet to a part of the hill that hasn’t been used, it becomes more difficult to slide down; you can’t gain momentum and you often start and stop a lot. It takes time, she explained, to break in this new path and make it again enjoyable for sledding.
I understood exactly what she meant. My learned reactions as a child had become the well-worn sledding hill. It was easy for me to go down that road, regardless of the effects. But when I started working on myself (i.e. taking my sled to a new hill) it was difficult. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m still working on breaking in my new path, every once in awhile I like to take a spin on the old one.
That is “trauma brain” retraining ourselves, and oftentimes those we care about, how to break in a new way of thinking. I am thrilled to say I have a new career that allows me to help others recognize their trauma brain and the trauma brain of those around them, and to help themselves and others heal in a brand new way.
After all, we all deserve to try out a new place to sled. ###
Shenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth and an advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com
A young girl, Jane, came in for therapy. She felt victimized in the neighborhood and at school. Her dominant father showed her how to fight back physically and berated her because she didn’t engage in conflict. Her mother fretted and worried, but had no solutions. Jane knew what she wanted, but was afraid to share her ideas for fear they were no good. Her self confidence was severely lacking.
The four of us worked together to empower this child using the following ideas. Both parents were willing to listen and learn and change their behavior.
Listen to Your Child: This was an especially difficult task for both parents. The father discounted everything Jane said. Mother interrupted the girl, talking over her and sharing her worry. When the parents began to listen, Jane didn’t know what to say at first.
Ask for the Child’s Opinion: It took some time for this family to open their communication and discuss their issues. But therapy gave them a time of accounting, and they were successful.
Come Up with Solutions Together: The three of them learned to come up with answers together. Although the father found it hard not to impose his ‘law’ in the discussions, he did learn to keep his mouth shut and listen.
Work Together to Unravel a Problem: Mother had the most difficult time being solution-focused. She was not used to following through to resolve a problem. Over the years she had kept herself in a constant state of drama with her worry, and it was hard for her to let that go.
Discuss Your Success: When this family had a victory in solving a problem, they were able to talk about the things that worked and the things they would do differently next time.
Ask the Child How He or She Feels About the Victory: Both parents were delighted with their victories, and they praised Jane. I suggested that they asked Jane how she felt about her triumph.
Over the months, Jane’s relationship with her family and friends changed. She no longer felt victimized by those around her. Jane shared her ideas when she had play dates. She could lead and follow in the activities. She developed several close friendships in the neighborhood and at school. ###
Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].
National Grandparents Day is the first Sunday in September following Labor Day. This story by the late Dr. Stephen R. Yarnall honors grandparents everywhere. The story appeared in the book, GRAND-Stories: 101 Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids. This book was compiled by Ernie Wendell and was published by Friendly Oaks Publications in 2000. We are pleased to feature “Grandpa’s Good Advice.”
Bompy was a quiet, good-humored, kindly, gray-haired grandfather whose casual ways belied his considerable wisdom and experience. His collection of weapons from the Spanish-American War and World War I was an awesome sight. It made a lasting impression on a young boy.
That summer visit was really special because we were alone, just the two of us at his backwoods cabin. The experience took on even greater proportion when, after a bit of begging on my part, Bompy let me ride his horse around the cabin area.
“Just Let Go of the Reins …”
He told me to be careful, not to go too far, and not to get lost. But he also gave me some advice in case I did get lost. “Just let go of the reins and the horse will bring you home,” he said.
But, as fate would have it, I couldn’t find the trail. On the fringe of panic, I searched the border of the meadow. I was covered all the way around; trees, trees, and more trees.
There was no opening anywhere.
I then remembered Bomby’s advice: “Just let go of the reins and the horse will bring you home.” Well, I did … and he did!
the Way Home
I have never forgotten that good, loving advice. On numerous occasions I have had reason to use it again and again. Indeed, there are those times when one should let go of the reins and be shown the way home. ###
Dr. Stephen R. Yarnall passed away in 2011. He was a practicing cardiologist in Edmonds, Washington for 50 years. He also was an accomplished speaker and an active member of the National Speakers Association. CLICK HERE for more information about the book, GRAND-Stories: 101+ Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids.
Our children are watching us … always. It’s not healthy when we hold onto things that clutter or physical and emotional space. It can affect how we function and the examples we set for our loved ones. Decluttering and organization expert, Alison Kero, has some great ideas here that can move us in a much better direction, a direction we want our kids to follow. We present, “5 Decluttering Myths Debunked.”
I’ve heard it all before; there are so many reasons people feel like they’ll never get organized. Too much stuff, too little time, no energy; the list goes on and on. These are false beliefs. Once we allow ourselves to think about decluttering and organizing as an exercise toward healthier habits, rather than as a difficult project, we can take some positive steps towards enjoying happier, healthier, more productive lives for ourselves and our families.
Here’s a list of my five favorite decluttering myths, along with reasons why they aren’t true.
Myth #1: “It’s Going to Be Hard”
Organizing does involve some light manual labor, so those with certain physical challenges may find it a bit more difficult, but really organizing is more of a mental challenge for most. Being open to recognizing the various emotions that your belongings have gathered with them along their journey with you can be difficult for many people.
There can be a collection of fear, guilt, shame and apathy associated with clutter; it’s often a challenge to face those emotions head-on. The great news is that these emotions are attached to inanimate objects! These things can’t get angry or sad at your expense.
They can’t judge you, either. You, however, can let those useless and damaging emotions go by simply taking them out of your house and over to the donation center, recycling center or dump. Think of it as your own personal therapy session and trust that you can’t do it wrong and you can always go back and make improvements as you see fit.
Myth #2: “I Don’t Know How”
Organizing is about making decisions. What I love about decluttering is that the process lets you learn and practice making good decisions for yourself.
Personally, I find it’s actually the safest environment to do so. You get to be in control regarding how you want your home to look. Best of all, there can be no wrong decisions.
Whatever you choose will be exactly right, no matter what. It’s just about what you like and need for yourself in your home, and, with some practice, it does become much easier – fun even, because you’re learning how to empower yourself and learning what you like in the process.
Myth #3: “I Don’t Know WHERE to Begin”
Overwhelm is the quickest way to stop a healthy habit. In organizing there will be moments where you do feel overwhelmed, but it’s okay. It’s about making one choice at a time, then taking one step at a time to help you take action versus giving in to overwhelm and stopping altogether.
When you view your clutter as a whole or your home as one entire project, it may seem extremely challenging to even think about decluttering. However, when you start to break the project down into smaller, more manageable steps, it becomes doable, maybe even kind of easy.
So, to start decluttering your house, pick one room to start and pick one category within that room. If you choose your bedroom, start with your wardrobe. Then pick one category within clothing, like jeans. Place all your jeans together and then, one-by-one, go through them, making a decision on each pair as to whether or not to keep them. Trust your instincts and know that the more often you go through your items, the easier it will become to make the right decisions for just about everything in your life.
Myth #4: “I Don’t Have the Time (or the Energy)”
Trust me, if you are low on time and/or energy, you NEED to declutter. This is how you will get more time and energy because you will be letting go of old emotions as well as physical and spiritual clutter. This is an easy way to do a body/mind/spirit cleanse without having to consume or buy anything weird.
The less clutter you have, the less time you’ll spend looking for lost items. You’ll also save mental and physical energy because you’re not wandering around looking for lost items.
Myth #5: “It Never Stays That Way for Long”
The day after you first learned to walk, did anyone expect you to know how to run a marathon? No, right? Why would you then expect that for yourself?
Creating positive change takes a little time. No one does it perfectly right away. It’s about making small decisions that, over time, lead to amazing changes in your life. It’s a process, and you can keep decluttering as you go throughout your entire life, and you can do it as you see fit. There’s no wrong or right way, it’s just about wanting to surround yourself with meaningful people, places and things for a happier, healthier, more productive life.
Since positive change doesn’t always happen overnight, it’s important to get used to the process in your own time. By letting go of fear, judgment and what you think the outcome “should” look like, you’ll help yourself overcome obstacles and create the changes more quickly.
Allow the process to come as you’re ready for it, and remember: It’s about making one, small, self love-based decision at a time to create the changes you want to see in your life and in the lives of your loved ones. ###
Long before decluttering expert, writer and speaker, Alison Kero, started her first organizing business in 2004, she searched for ways to make her own life easier. Since implementing her new decluttering system, Alison has found she now enjoys increased energy, improved productivity and overall greater contentment. She truly enjoys teaching this easy, effective system to her clients through her company, ACK Organizing. To reach Alison, go to http://www.ackorganizing.com.
Returning to school after a summer break marked by the divorce of the parents would be a challenge for any youngster. Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, offers some great tips to help these kids make the best of the support available at school. We present, “Back to School After Divorce: Tips to Help Your Kids!”
Many divorces take place during the summer. This timing can help families adapt to the changes ahead. But it also makes returning to school a challenge for most children. Fortunately, there are ways to ease the transition by tapping into the many resources available through the school. That’s why it’s wise to develop a cooperative relationship with key school personnel.
Communicate with the School
Start by informing your child’s teachers about the divorce and any changes in your home environment. The more aware they are, the better prepared they can be to help your child. After all, school is often a second home for children – and that may be very comforting during this time of transition.
We can’t expect children to not be affected by the divorce. So expect raw emotions to come to the surface, including fear, shame, guilt and many forms of insecurity. Be aware that these complex feelings are likely to affect a child’s focus and self-esteem, as well as relationships with their friends – not to mention the impact on their academic performance.
Take advantage of the fact that most children trust and feel safe with their teachers. So schedule a conversation with them before the school year starts. Discuss the status of your post-divorce arrangements. Having the teacher as an ally can help your child feel more secure and less alone.
The following suggestions can guide parents in using school system resources to your child’s advantage:
Teachers can look for signs of distress or depression in your child. Being compassionate by nature, teachers can talk with your child about their feelings. They can let your child know they are not the blame. Nor are they the only kids at school going through these difficulties. Messages like this can reinforce prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures them to know that the divorce is not a big dark secret. It can be discussed candidly without shame.
Talk with your child’s guidance counselor. These professionals are a valuable resource; they are trained to handle challenging circumstances. They can be an ally to you and your children, and they can be counted on for support and guidance.
Look at these educators as members of your child’s support team. They have the background to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be addressed with you as soon as possible. So ask them to be attentive toward your child.
Be sure to take advantage of divorce support groups at school. These groups are designed to encourage children to talk with one another, sharing their feelings during or after the divorce. It’s helpful to know they’re not alone, that they’re accepted, and that others are facing or have experienced similar life-altering circumstances. That awareness gives children a sense of belonging. Many children make new friends with others who are sharing their experiences. The less alone a child feels, the easier it is to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months to come.
Of course, schools cannot replace parental responsibilities. It’s essential to talk to your child before they return to school. Prepare them for changes in routine or scheduling they might encounter. Inform them about those they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adjusting to new situations.
Let school be your child’s best friend at this time. It can be a great support system for your family if you take advantage of the experience and useful resources available. ###
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services, articles and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
I first met Terry Lancaster when he suggested a different kind of podcast interview, one with a focus on self-improvement and positive change based on common sense, attainable and sustainable goals, plus plenty of old-fashioned, “I WILL do this!” commitment. That’s Terry, and that’s the focus of his best-selling book, BETTER! Self Help for the Rest of Us. An additional benefit to this sort of improvement and lasting change is the positive impact it can have on one’s marriage and entire family. In this article, “Getting in the Shape Your In … BETTER!” Terry discusses what “getting in shape” should really mean. Bottom line: As always, Terry makes a LOT of sense. –JDS
Marathoners and other endurance athletes talk about “hitting the wall,” that point when their body has done all it can do, has burned up all its energy and just gives up. For a finely-tuned athlete, that could happen 15-20 miles into a 26 mile race.
For most people I hang out with, “The Wall” happens somewhere between the couch and the table where we left the remote.
Getting started is the hardest part and I can’t tell you any way to make getting started any easier, but I can tell you one 100% guaranteed, sure-fire way to make it simpler, and I can tell you three reasons that keep most of us from doing just that.
Reason #1: Trying to Be What We’re Not
The odds are pretty good that none of the Olympic athletes this year are taking the time from their schedules to read my little blog post on personal performance and fitness. None of the players from the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals or any of the other top athletes ever called me asking for advice on how to drop a couple of pounds.
So I’m assuming you’re not a world class athlete trying to shave a hundredth of a second off your personal best time. Quit worrying about those folks, what they do and how they train. You’re not playing in the same league. You’re not even playing the same game.
And the same goes for your friends who are running marathons or working out 5 days a week alternating cardio days, leg day and upper body days. They have no useful wisdom to share for those of us just struggling to get off the couch.
I’m fat, out of shape and clinging to middle age by the thinnest of demographic margins. 15 months ago, I couldn’t run to the mailbox, much less a marathon.
Accept who you are and concentrate on being you better.
I used to play hockey with a guy in Nashville who started playing at the age of 30 and decided he wanted to make it to the NHL. (Yeah, I know; most of us hockey players aren’t terribly bright). He booked an appointment with a professional coach and wanted to discuss a training/coaching regimen that would get him league ready in the quickest time.
The coach told him he should build a time machine and start playing hockey every day at the age of 3. “Play your way up through Pee Wee, Bantam, Midget and Juniors,” he said.
“And, oh yeah, try to be born in Canada.”
Now maybe with hard work, dedication, proper nutrition, professional training and a little good fortune, this guy was the one in a billion who actually could make it. It’s not likely, but maybe. I do know this, if he’d have just set out to play old fart hockey a couple of nights a week, hang out with his friends and be a better middle-aged beer leaguer he’d probably still be playing hockey and having a blast today.
I haven’t seen him around the rink in 10 years.
Maybe you can run a marathon if that’s what you really want to do. And maybe you can swim the English Channel and hike the Appalachian Trail. But if you’re hitting the wall somewhere between the couch and the remote, running a marathon isn’t what you need to be thinking about.
Reason #3: The “No Pain, No Gain” Nonsense
I started out walking a couple of years ago and eventually got to where I could run … first a mile, then 3 or 4. And then the thoughts started popping into my head that maybe I should train harder, really push myself to run a half, maybe even a full marathon. And maybe I should.
But I found out when I ran farther and faster, I often felt worse. I didn’t have the energy left to do things I really wanted to do. And I watched a lot of my friends push themselves harder than their eighth of a ton middle-aged bodies could handle; they ended up injuring themselves and going back to the couch where it always feels safe and warm.
Why I Run
Yesterday was a beautiful day in Nashville – 56 degrees and sunny after weeks and weeks of freezing, drizzling and cloudy weather. (It’s late winter as I write this article.) I went outside, ran 2 miles and it felt glorious. I felt good all day, I had more energy all day and I’m not sore today so I’m good to go play hockey with my buddies tonight.
I could run farther and faster. I could push myself harder. I could lose more weight. But that’s not why I run.
I run to feel better, and I’ve figured out that if I just concentrate on that, everything else will take care of itself.
GETTING IN THE SHAPE YOU’RE IN … BETTER!
Quit trying to be something you’re not.
Quit trying to do something you can’t.
Quit trying to get into shape, or into better shape, or into some other shape. Instead, start today, today, being in the shape you’re in, better.
Starting is the hardest part.
The answer isn’t easy. But it is as simple as putting down the remote, getting off the couch and doing something, anything really … today.
Terry Lancaster helps people create BETTER! lives and build BETTER! businesses one step at a time starting right here, starting right now using the science behind habit formation, focus and flow. In addition to being a best-selling author, he is a contributing writer for Forbes, a TedX speaker and is involved in the GOOD MEN Project. Terry was one of the very first members of The Speakers Group of The Changing Behavior Network. Here’s his website [link].
Every counselor, clinician or therapist knows of the challenge of working with a youngster that is determined to be uncooperative and resistant. Here’s a strategy that can get things started; it come from Dr. James Sutton‘s book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. We present, “10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters.”
Let’s face it. If you happen to be working with an oppositional and defiant youngster, it’s highly likely the child will show up at your door with a bit of “encouragement” from some authority figure that has maxed out on this kid’s behavior. They are not exactly candidates for self-referral.
Most of these youngsters are expecting just about anything except a positive experience from you. The bright ones have already planned their next three or four moves based on how they assume things are going to go. Here’s an idea that shakes up what they expect while it stack more control on your side. In the process, it also supports a stronger counseling relationship (what clinicians call a “therapeutic alliance”). I call this little intervention the “10-Minute Solution.”
The “10-Minute Solution” recognized that short visits, especially initial ones, can be more productive than longer ones. Ten minutes skillfully used by the counselor can cover a lot of ground and build a bond with a child or teen. I’ve used it many times.
How It Works
Here’s how it works. When a youngster shows up for the session, the counselor (clinican, therapist, etc) says something like this:
You know, I’m VERY sorry. I have a meeting I must to go to in ten minutes, so this visit will need to be a short one. I only have ten minutes to spend with you today. Is that alright?
Is it alright? OF COURSE it’s alright. This kid didn’t really want to be there in the FIRST place. He’s already anticipated a ton of questions he didn’t want to answer. Shorter to him definitely is better. Heck, I’d even seat him where he can watch the clock click down those ten minutes.
Why It Works
It’s always amazed me how much a youngster will say and share when he knows there’s already an up-front limit to it. In other words, he’s thinking: “However tough this gets, I only have to tolerate ten minutes of it.”
It’s been my experience that a youngster will share a lot in a short period of time using this approach, and he generally will be more direct and honest in those responses. As always, my aim with this approach is to collect material that can be addressed in subsequent session.
The best interventions are always high in “next time” value. ###
Dr. James Sutton is a semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child, the source of this intervention, CLICK HERE.
Here’s a video Dr. Sutton originally posted on his YouTube channel in 2009; it has drawn a lot of traffic and interest. It’s on a topic that continues to frustrate and confuse a good many folks as they attempt to work with a child that’s angry … and chooses to stay that way.
In other words, angry behavior is self-reinforcing as it creates “benefits” for a youngster. For instance, the child or teen who’s uncomfortable with peers being close to them might engage in behaviors designed to push others back to a more “comfortable” distance. If closeness bothers a youngster enough, any behavior that is obnoxious enough to produce the distance probably will be repeated. It’s tough on one’s social life, but it provides immediate relief.
(Although we’re talking about kids here, there are plenty of adults who do the very same thing, aren’t there?)
Consequence for poor behavior won’t do much to slow down a youngster who acts out to achieve relief. After a behavioral episode, this youngster easily can tell you all about the consequences to follow. For that reason, piling on more consequences isn’t always the answer.
I made this video in 2009 to better explain the characteristics, issues and behaviors of anger in young people, to share why I believe they are sometimes so resistant to change, and to offer insights into how we can better address the needs of the chronically angry child or adolescent.
The blog, ebook and newsletter mentioned at the end of the video have all been combined into this site, The Changing Behavior Network. The website is correct [link]. An updated telephone number is on the website.###
Dr. James Sutton is a nationally recognized psychologist that started out as a Special Education teacher. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His most current bookis Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised).
How does a parent talk to their son or daughter about drugs? Dr. Richard Horowitz, The Family Centered Parenting Coach, offers some excellent guidance in this article entitled, “Having ‘The Talk’ About Drugs.”
Dr. H: Recently I have seen a number of TV commercials urging parents to speak to their children about drugs. My son is 12 years old. How do I start the conversation?
Parents often feel uncomfortable about discussing the “hot topics,” namely drugs/alcohol and sex with their children. Waiting for the so-called right time often means starting the discussion when the issue arises as a problem. Unfortunately, this is often too late. Therefore, it is important to establish a comfort zone within the family for discussing a wide variety of topics.
A Family Meeting Approach
I recommend holding family meetings on a regular basis to resolve family issues, set rules, and plan for the future. When these occur, bringing up the tougher stuff fits in naturally as just another subject for conversation. In other words, the process of dialogue is already established, making all issues easier to talk about.
Specifically, in your situation, after several meetings have been held and all members of the family are more at ease with the process, you can open the discussion about drugs. I would start with a hypothetical question that is relevant to your child’s life. For example, I might ask, “What would you do if one of your friends offered you a drag on a marijuana cigarette when you were hanging out at his house?” In addition to practicing specific coping strategies in advance of a potential situation, the door is open to talk about drugs in general.
A note of caution: Be prepared for the discussion by acquiring accurate information. Children, especially adolescents, turn you off if what you are saying is either exaggerated or not consistent with what they have learned both at school and on the street. So do your homework by researching available databases and publications for information that can be passed on to your child as factual. In addition, make sure the adults in the family are clear about what message they want to send about experimenting with drugs. The youngster will sense any ambiguity you might be experiencing.
Handling Their Questions
If you experimented with drugs while you were in high school or college, be ready with an answer when you child asks you if you ever tried drugs. There is no right answer for this. Some parents try to deflect by saying that the question is not relevant to their children’s decisions. Although probably accurate, children usually hear this as a tacit admission that their parent used drugs.
The other approach is to say that, precisely because you as their parent might have made mistakes when you were younger, the children can learn from those mistakes. To reinforce this argument, a parent can point to factual information that proves that the marijuana smoked 25 years ago was much weaker that what is out there today. Furthermore, reputable studies are demonstrating that drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents can affect brain development in the prefrontal cortex, a later maturing area of the brain that helps control impulses, regulate moods and helps us to better organize our lives. ###
Dr. Richard Horowitz is better known as “Dr. H,” The Family Centered Parenting Coach. His book is entitled, Family Centered Parenting: Your Guide for Growing Great Families. [website]
Anger is the proverbial two-edged sword. When we are emotionally vulnerable, one edge stands ready to protect us from additional hurt and harm, but the other edge can rob us of our joy and, over time, steal our health and vitality as well. The Spirit of Forgiveness offers us one way to deal with long-term anger.
Like a Suit of Armor
Like a knight’s suite of armor, anger does a good job of protecting us from additional hurt. It covers our delicate emotional flesh, but, if worn too long, the armor itself can hurt us. If we choose never to remove the armor, others will see us as strange and even difficult. And when the summer sun does its number on the armor, we will have a new problem: heat stroke.
At some point, the armor needs to come off, right?
Forgiveness, A Delicate Issue
Authentic forgiveness requires a vulnerability, an emotional risk … without armor. One of the things that makes forgiveness difficult is the fact that, in order to truly forgive, one must make contact with what they are forgiving. That can be difficult, often causing forgiveness to stop before it even begins.
(This is precisely who insisting a child, teen or adult forgive someone is so ineffective, even harmful. We cannot mandate matters of the heart, especially when the heart is packed in armor!)
Waiting to Forgive
Even when one is willing to forgive, what happens if it is never sought? Is one stuck at that point, just waiting to forgive? What happens if they can’t or won’t wait?
For ten years I was the consulting psychologist for a residential treatment facility for children and teens. They had been removed from their homes because of ongoing abuse and the emotional damage it created. These kids inspired me in their growth and in their willingness, over time, to step out of their armor. In the process, however, some of them attempted to forgive family members when that forgiveness had not been sought. For the most part, the results were quite predictable: Disaster.
The Spirit of Forgiveness
There is a way to help a youngster or an adult to get to the point of forgiveness even if it is never sought. I call it The Spirit of Forgiveness. It involves a “What if …” that can lead very closely to the same sort healing if a person is ready for it.
The Spirit of Forgiveness starts with a question:
You are right; it seems very unlikely that person will ever seek your forgiveness. But what if they DID ask you to forgive them, and you were absolutely convinced they were 100% sincere is doing so. Would you consider forgiving them then?
Almost to the youngster, the kids I worked with in treatment initially would respond with something like, “I wouldn’t believe them!” “That would never happen!” or “They would never ask that!” At that point, my aim would be to coax them toward a “Yes” or “No.”
I understand. But what if someone you trust a lot, someone like your grandmother, were to tell you they were sincere in seeking your forgiveness, what would you do?
If the youngster elected to stay with their previous response or say they would NOT forgive that person, I would stop right there. They were not ready; they still needed their armor. They were neither right nor wrong; they just were not ready.
If, on the other hand, they were to say they would forgive that person under those circumstances, I would explain to them how very, very close that is to actual face-to-face forgiveness. The results often would be obvious in their eating and sleeping habits, behavior, relationships and school performance. I was privileged to observe youngsters use The Spirit of Forgiveness, a predetermined answer to a question that might never be asked, to make significant progress in their recovery.
Acceptance: An Alternative
I have communicated with adults that felt even The Spirit of Forgiveness was too difficult for them to conceptualize in terms of their own experiences. In one way or another they all shared that they moved past the pain and hurt by reaching a point of acceptance and moving on from there.###
Dr. James Sutton is a former teacher, a child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His website is DocSpeak.com
I was fortunate enough on several occasions to spend a bit of time with the late Zig Ziglar. If anyone ever had a corner on the market for humility and common sense, plus the gift for bringing out those qualities in others, it was Zig. This piece, written earlier and entitled “Handling Criticism“, was included in the Ziglar company eNewsletter dated June 16, 2015. –JDS
The late comedian, Groucho Marx, said that “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” My dictionary says that criticism is “the art of judging with propriety of the beauties and faults of a performance; remark on beauties and faults; critical observation, verbal or written.”
“… With the Canal”
Col. George Washington Goethels, the man who completed the Panama Canal, handled criticism effectively. During the construction he had numerous problems with the geography, climate and mosquitoes. Like all mammoth projects, he had his critics back home who constantly harped on what he was doing and predicted that he would never complete the project. However, he stuck to the task and said nothing.
One day an associate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer the critics?”
“Yes,” Goethels responded.
“How?” he was asked.
“With the Canal,” Goethels replied.
Though that approach didn’t bring instant satisfaction, the canal itself brought long term vindication.
The Meaning of Criticism
Aristotle said criticism was meant as a standard of judging will. Addison said it was ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performance. It has also been said that no one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who is giving it.
The world is hard on critics but on occasion they have real value. Ask yourself this question: “What interest does this person (critic) have in me?” A parent, teacher, employer or coach has a vested interest in your performance.
Unfortunately, many of them do not know how to effectively build a person up while giving suggestions that can make a difference. The key is to criticize the performance and not the performer.
“You’re NOT Most Boys”
My mother once criticized my performance by saying, “For most boys this would be all right. But you’re not most boys – you’re my son and my son can do better than that.” She had “criticized the performance,” because it needed improvement, but she had praised the performer because he needed the praise. So follow this procedure and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!###
Zig Ziglar is known as America’s Motivator. He authored 33 books and produced numerous training programs. He will be remembered as a man who lived out his faith daily. [website]
For years, I have been encouraging people of all ages to consider diligently practicing changes in thinking and/or behavior, ideally, with an attitude of mastery. Indeed, great interventions take practice.
We seem to be clear about the value of diligently practicing physical skills and technique in athletics, music and art. At the same time, however, we seem to be much less clear, or even unaware, about the need to practice using different parenting interventions or changes in thinking. Making a decision to diligently practice in these arenas will pay off.
A Need for Change
Let me share an example from my book, Ask More, Tell Less (Chapter Ten, “Drastically Decrease Lectures and Speeches”). Perhaps you have heard a child say something like, “I’m dumb,” or “I’m stupid,” or “I can’t learn.” In lecture mode, the conversation might go something like this:
(Parent) No, you’re not. You can do a lot of things and you’re smart. I don’t want you to keep saying those things about yourself. You know you won’t ever do well thinking that way. Besides, I don’t like seeing you so upset, so stop talking that way. Why do you keep saying such negative things about yourself anyway?
(Child) I don’t know.
(Parent) Well, please stop talking like that.
Here the beginning practice is noticing to build awareness; this type of parental communication shuts down the conversation and leaves the child powerless to think and decide for himself? Who is doing the thinking and talking in this example?
To create a framework for practicing in this arena of thinking/belief change, you might think in terms of the work-out language of physically “doing reps.” So one should begin parental practice by thinking in terms of doing thought-and-feeling-watching reps and mental-shift reps just like the reps in physical skill practices. You can decide to notice your thoughts and feelings 10, 20, 50 or 100 times a day, plus whether or not you need to make a mental shift from DON’T lecture unnecessarily to DO ask quality questions. Based on what thoughts your noticing practice produces, you can ask one additional question: “Will this thought/belief work for me or against me in achieving what I want in this situation with my child?”
As you practice building awareness of the long-term impact of thinking and doing too much for a child, imagine practicing shifting from giving a “lecture” like the one noted above, to practicing what I call quality question-asking. Right now, as you are reading this, practice noticing the felt mental-and-emotional shift when a parent stops lecturing and telling their child what to do and think and begins practicing asking thought-provoking questions like these:
How much longer do you plan to practice believing you’re stupid?
Does saying “I’m dumb” and “I can’t” help you make friends or lose friends?
If you stopped believing you’re stupid for just one second, what one new thought might sneak into your brain?
Rather than spending a lot of time telling your children what you think, spend the time skillfully asking them what they think. When some different action or behavior is necessary, begin by asking them what they plan to do.
Time to Reflect
Take a moment to practice reflecting. Here are some questions to get you started:
Can you imagine making this shift from telling to asking?
Can you see the efficacy of asking a single question which replaces the typical lectures children are given when the desire is for the child to change?
Can you see how this question-asking practice takes some of the pressure off of the parent who is anguishing over figuring out the just right thing to do or say?
Are you the kind of person who sticks with new practices or do you notice you give up and revert back to old, known ways? ###
Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].
Keith sent in this article some time ago. I asked him if I could save it for a Father’s Day piece on The Changing Behavior Network. It carries a powerful message that needs to be shared. Thanks, Keith for your willingness to share something so close to your heart. We present, “Forgiving My Father … Again.” –JDS
In my book, How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had, I wrote a chapter on “Forgiving Our Fathers.” It was an emotionally moving chapter to write because I have spent years (and thousands of dollars in therapy) working out my painful relationship with my dad, learning to see him as a man in pain himself, owning the good that he did bring to our relationship, growing in compassion for the life he lived—and endured—and forgiving him for the many things he did and did not do that hurt me.
Jack Called It
A few years back, I completed Jack Canfield‘s year-long Train the Trainer course. During one of the training weeks, I asked Jack in the public session a question about my business and an issue I felt frustrated by. I was looking for some business advice. I got way more than I bargained for (as is often the case with Jack).
He “processed” me in front of the group about this issue that actually led right back to my dad’s rejection of me. I had no idea when I asked my business question that the situation I felt frustrated and a bit angry about was in fact also an emotional trigger of a past experience with my dad.
It was my final experience of my dad—the day he told me he didn’t want to be my dad. Those were the last words I ever heard him speak to me.
We had no contact after that for over a year. Then I received a phone call from his landlord informing me my father had been found dead of heart failure in his apartment.
He was alone.
After twenty-three years of working out my pain and forgiving him for so much, I now realized I had not yet resolved that last rejection. Because it was so painful, and perhaps more importantly, because it turned out to be so final when my dad died, that rejection got stuck in my psyche as somewhat of an independent rejection, somehow split off from all the other pain associated with missing my dad and feeling his repeated rejections of me.
It was as if those final words were frozen in time.
Even after fourteen years since his passing, those words touched a place of deep sadness in me. I had allowed his words to define me as a fatherless son, and my heart still ached.
Time to Do More Work
Jack asked me questions that led me to see that it was me, not my father, who was still causing the ache in my psyche, telling myself that I was somehow not okay, that I wasn’t a good son, that I must have done something wrong that contributed to—or even caused—my dad’s rejecting tone and words.
My dad was gone, but I had kept his voice alive in my head and heart all these years around this final interaction.
When I encountered other men since then who disapproved of me in some way, even if I just perceived that disapproval, it would often trigger this same feeling of sadness and anger I harbored deep within me toward my dad due to his final disapproval. And I would sometimes respond to the man triggering this feeling with some of the emotion I still felt toward my dad.
Jack helped me see it was time to let all this go. It was time to release my dad from the judgment I felt toward him for not wanting to be my dad, and the judgment with which I viewed myself (that I had done something wrong). It was time to forgive my dad for rejecting me, and to forgive myself for judging my dad for doing so.
I chose to forgive—to finally let this rejection go as well. I chose in that moment, and the days that followed, to release my dad, and to release myself, from judgment.
The Difference It Made
The freedom has been remarkable since. I feel at peace—finally. I’m not worried any longer about the disapproval some may feel towards me, at times. It’s no longer tied to nor does it trigger pain I’m harboring inside me. That pain has been healed through forgiveness.
I’ve let my dad rest in peace.
And I’ve been living in peace from that day forward.
I see what a difference it makes for me in being more present to my kids as well. Because I am at peace, because I am not feeling my dad’s rejection, I am more free to fully give myself to my boys, to love them the way they need me, and to not worry about anything.
I had no idea my lack of forgiveness was affecting me as much as it was. But I can see it now because of how free I feel to love my boys.
Remember, great dads shape great kids.
Great dads let go of the past to be more fully engaged in the present.
Be a great dad today.###
Keith Zafren is the founder of The Great Dads Project and author of the award-winning book, How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had. Keith has spent seventeen years learning firsthand how to raise three great teenagers and stay close to them, no matter what. He coaches busy dads not to repeat the mistakes their fathers made, but instead, to create fantastic relationships with their kids. Check out his FREE video training course.
Thanks go out to Kirsten Siggins for this excellent article. It captures the essence of the sort of authentic communication that can build strong connections of communication with our children. Here is “Three Habits for Connecting with Your Kids, Even in Conflict.” –JDS
Arguing and kids often feel like they go hand in hand:
That’s so unfair!
You never understand!
I hope you are happy because I am NOT!
Such a flurry of these “conversations” seems loaded with resistance rather than respect. These conversations are exhausting, frustrating and leave everyone feeling drained or annoyed. It is also the time when parents often say and do things without much thought, those knee jerk reactions to make a point or seek completion faster. Almost all conversations begin with good intentions and possibilities, yet, when heated, they turn into arguments that shut communication down and end with judgment, blame, or even shame, all of which lead to conflict and fractured relationships.
We’ll look at three ways, or habits, for connecting more effectively and authentically with our children.
#1: Be Who You Want Your Kids to Be
Research is showing that effective communication is the most important skill we are failing to teach our kids, particularly when conflict is involved. Kids do what parents do, not what parents say, so effective communication begins with you. How you approach each conversation is going to model what competent conversations look and sound like to your child. If you find yourself constantly arguing with your kids, that will become their communication norm, and they will approach each conversation the same way.
The good news is, it isn’t too late to change that impression. Rather than butting heads and talking at each other, pause and take the time to stop what you are doing and actively listen to what your child has to say, what their needs are, and what their experience is like. This doesn’t mean you have to like or even agree with their comments, but it does mean you will have a better understanding of what is going for your child. It also models to your child what listening looks and sounds like so they learn how to actively listen.
#2: Be Curious; Don’t Judge
Parents love to fix and solve everything for their kids. It is faster and easier than having them figure it out themselves. Unfortunately, this approach robs them of learning, skills development and accountability. It sends the message that your way is the “right” theirs is “wrong”. Argument then enters the picture. Arguments begin when the focus is on self, wanting to prove points, be right or share wisdom and expect others to agree with you. It amounts to judging others’ thoughts rather than being open and curious to explore and learn about them.
Argument: a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong. (Google)
Rather than tell or solve, ask questions to learn what is actually going on for your child and explore possible solutions they propose. This builds confidence and send the message that you believe they are capable of solving their own problem, trusting they can find effective solutions.
Neuroscience has found that, when we enter into a conversation with another and we become curious by asking an open question, dopamine is released, making us feel good as it creates a mind/heart connection. As we continue to ask open questions to better understand and collaborate, we continue to feel good. We have found this happens even when we feel emotional, even “edgy.” Using curiosity, our emotional tension starts to dissipate and wash away, allowing us to be present and connect with our children, rather than disconnect in conflict. With each open question asked, you are able to shift from conflict to connection, making even the most challenging conversations manageable and drama free.
Any time you find yourself entering into an argument, pause and put a “what” or “how” in front of your thought and LISTEN to what your child has to say. This will help you stay curious and connect with your child by better understanding them. It will keep you cool when things heat up AND it will model to your child what confident, competent conversations look and sound like. ###
Kathy Taberner & Kirsten Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book, The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015), gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict. [website]
“This one’s finished,” I said to myself, as I prepared to yank a plant up by the roots and throw it into the compost pile.
It was then my fingers, not my eyes, discovered it: a perfectly formed, fist-sized tomato. Fastened near the bottom of the plant, it was green and growing, resting against the picket fence where it had been shielded from my view.
In that moment I was struck with the notion that people sometimes are like that heat-battered tomato plant. It could be the student who is painfully shy in the classroom. It could be the hard-working immigrant who struggles to learn a strange, new language. Or it could be the kind soul who must live out her days in a nursing home. Circumstances differ, yet the message remains the same:
Be patient with me;
I can STILL contribute.
Only the Master Gardener has all the answers.
“… For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b (KJV)
Dr. James D. Sutton is a (mostly) retired child and adolescent psychologist. His most recent book is The Changing Behavior Book, and he is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. [website]
Note: We are posting this announcement in support of our partner site, The Changing Behavior Network. (When “this page” is mentioned, it refers to the Network’s site.) —
Okay, I’ll admit it: I am excited about this! After a couple of months of planning, The Speakers Group is now a reality. I thought starting The Changing Behavior Network five years ago was a great experience, but this one tops it.
We will continue to add to this distinguished group, but I’d like to offer special thanks and recognition to the following authors/experts. Through the years, they have been my guests on the Network. It was their faith and confidence that made this “debut” possible in the first place: Mike Ferry, Alison Kero, Dr. Laurie Hollman, Judge Tom Jacobs, Natalie Jacobs, Terry Lancaster, Christy Monson, Peggy Sealfon, Rosalind Sedacca, Kirsten Taberner Siggins, Kathy Taberner, Dr. Daniel Trussell, Dr. Larry Waldman and Greg Warburton. –JDS
The Changing Behavior Network announces a new component to the efforts of encouraging and supporting children, teens and their families in what many consider difficult and challenging times: The Speakers Group.
What Is It?
The Speakers Group is made up of guest authors/experts that have been interviewed on The Changing Behavior Network. They can provide a number of services for you or your organization, including ARTICLES for your blog or newsletter, INTERVIEWS and BOOK SIGNINGS, CONSULTING (including coaching), PRESENTATIONS, TRAINING and CONFERENCE keynotes or break-outs. These individuals make up a strong collection of resources … so use them!
(Using the “Free Materials from Our Experts” tab at the top of this page, you’ll see that these folks also have provided excellent complimentary materials on their particular specialty.)
Two things are especially unique about these listings in The Speakers Group. First, each one of them contains a “Listen to an Interview” audio link to an actual Changing Behavior Network interview with that person. This enables you to “sample” their expertise without even leaving the page. And second, since The Speakers Group is a listing and not a booking agent or a speakers bureau, you will be able to communicate directly with each group member or their staff. That’s a BIG benefit.
A Great PLACE to Start
Consider asking one or more of these experts for an article for your blog or newsletter in exchange for a byline about their work, book and website. What better way to start a great relationship?
To go straight to The Speakers Group page, CLICK HERE, or use the tab at the top of this page.
For information or questions about The Speakers Group, email us at:
Barely revived for dinner, she complained about the food, yelled at her mother for not knowing she was a vegan, and tossed her full dishes in the sink.
Her mother was angry, tired, and felt disrespected. She didn’t deserve this treatment and took it personally. Was this what the beginning of teenage life was going to be? Could she tolerate it?
Have you ever experienced this kind of scenario?
Earlier in the day this distraught mother had yelled,” What’s wrong with you?” sarcastically fed up and beside herself with her incorrigible child. Her husband was no help: “Now you’ve done it. She’ll never speak to you again.”
They had an argument about how to raise kids, something they’d done since she was a baby.
Something was “Hidden”
But by the end of the weekend, the thirteen-year-old’s mother shifted her tone and asked once again, but in a gentle voice, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” To this change of maternal voice, her daughter let forth a torrent of tears.
“I have no idea!” she said. “I wake up with a weight on my shoulders and force myself out of bed. Everybody and everything irritates me. I don’t want to be this horrible person, but I think I’m going crazy.
This was the opening her mother needed to understand that the outbursts were hiding a deep insidious depression overtaking her daughter. There were no outward stressors beyond the norm of lots of homework, dramas with girlfriends, and frustrations with teachers. Her grades were decent, she got to school on time, and nothing traumatic seemed to be happening, or had it ever that she could remember.
This mother, however, was reminded of the depressions that crept through the female side of her family; now she knew it was her daughter’s turn.
Signs of a Struggle
The outbursts were just outer signs of a deep internal struggle with a biological base that made everyday life seem like a torrent of wounds. Her child’s revelation opened the door to a wish for help that had been conveyed indirectly through all the complaints, messes, and screams.
They weren’t bids for attention; they were demands for support and help. And once this mother no longer felt personally provoked, she could see with different eyes that the baby she had nursed and cuddled needed her warmth and strength again without judgment or accusations.
Learning, Help and Love
That cold weekend turned into a warm one as mother and daughter shuddered and cried together. Regaining composure the mother explained depression to her daughter. They google searched the signs and symptoms and knew this was beyond her daughter’s immediate control. She needn’t be blamed or accused of anything. They would work it out with help and kindness. This surely wasn’t about discipline, messy rooms and outbursts; it was going to be about learning, professional help, and above all … love.###
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. has a new book out, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.
Creativity is a path to happiness. The more time we spend being creative, the happier we’re likely to become. In addition, creativity is an essential aspect of innovation, which will propel us to a brighter future. As kids many of us are naturally creative. Unfortunately, our creativity tends to be eliminated as we enter school. So, here are ten ways to boost creativity.
The really good news is that we can reclaim our creativity. In addition, we can help our kids preserve and develop their creative capacity.
Here are ten (hopefully fun) activities designed to engage your skills of creativity. Using each group of words, compose a short story, skit, poem, song, movie, dance, etc. Let your mind roam free. If this becomes hilarious and a bit chaotic, so be it! Maybe you could try this exercise the next time you need an icebreaker in the office, the classroom, or anywhere else. Plus, you might learn a thing or two by looking up the meanings of any people, places, or things you don’t know about. The more we learn, the more creative we can be!
Walla Walla, Washington
Hello Kitty pencil
This is a recent blog post of mine that has been getting some attention on Twitter. I’ve tried a few of these with my students, and the process has been lots of fun. ###
Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7
Have you ever witnessed the look in a child’s eyes when the light bulb comes on? Adrenaline rushes in the moment he or she understands something which once puzzled, frustrated, or mystified them, accompanied by a great boost to their confidence. These moments are so important because success always begets more success. However, a child will have few opportunities to feel that rush or become more confident if not properly challenged intellectually. Let’s look at how parents can instill a thirst for learning.
By challenged, I mean being introduced to new things which have to be studied to be understood. To a toddler it could be putting shapes in similarly shaped openings. As they mature, it could be building their own shapes, or houses, or cars with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Learning, like infinity, never ends. Experiencing it, like infinity, you may need a rocket ship. Parents can be rocket ships for their children for there will always be new discoveries to be found, studied, and conquered.
The stars of our galaxy are a wonderful way to stir the imagination. It could be explained that the North Star, the Big Dipper or other constellations helped early travelers find their way. Chemistry sets and microscopes are great tools to learn science, such as how to make slime or crystals, or how to see microscopic objects invisible to the naked eye. Each step of learning advances a child to a higher level of knowledge and a stronger desire to learn more. And don’t forget to take your kids to the local zoo or science center! Better yet, teach them about animals before you go. They will be fascinated.
I remember how astonished I was when I learned I could measure the exact height of a tree without climbing to the top and dropping a tape measure from the top branch to the ground. It was simple trigonometry. By finding a point away from the tree where the top of the tree was at a 45-degree angle from the ground, I knew the height of the tree was the same as the distance to the tree. I then wanted to learn more ways trigonometry worked to solve more mysteries.
I haven’t even mentioned to greatest tool to a child’s imagination, that being reading! Reading to toddlers, or even babies fascinates them. They see the writing and the pictures and know they are related. Even the comfort of being on your lap and having your attention relates reading to being safe and loved. What better way to introduce a child to learning. As they get older, children want to be able to translate a written string of letters to understandable thoughts and descriptions, just like mom and dad can do.
Late Starts in Learning Can Be a Terrible Burden
But what about the child who is never read to, not to mention never having a learning tool like a chemistry set with simple experiments any parent can teach. They are left unaided to stimulate their imaginations which become a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers, those who have had loving attention and mentoring. Even though some children are born with more active imaginations than others, every child will be helped by outside stimulation. And although their schools are a key place to stimulate the imaginations of kids, the real joy of learning is discovered in the years prior to formal learning. Not surprisingly, it is the parents who are the key parties in challenging their children during these early years.
Very important in raising more than one child is to understand their different paces in learning and varied interests. Some kids will be more challenging than others, but they must not be compared. You want to challenge the fast learner and the slow learner at different rates but with similar degrees of challenge, i.e. where they will succeed, but not too easily. When over challenged, kids will get frustrated and want to quit. If under challenged, kids will be bored and disinterested in moving forward.
If you are lucky, your child will find a passion. A child with a passion is like putting them in cruise control towards their love of further discovery. They will be driven by their interest and not by your prodding. With a passion comes a desire to learn more and more. A passionate child will more often live in the moment and not brood about the past or future.
The Dry Sponge Theory
Lastly, remember this when your child complains about not quite understanding a subject in school. Have him take the next higher level course and while he may struggle again, he will look back at the last level with more understanding. For instance, let’s say your child struggles with multiplication. If they graduate and then learn algebra, it follows that when she looks back to multiplication, multiplication won’t seem as difficult any longer.
I call this the ‘Dry Sponge Theory.’ (I discuss it in more detail in my book, The Power of Dadhood: Become the Father Your Child Needs.) A dry sponge absorbs quite a bit of moisture. However, when a sponge is totally wet, it won’t absorb anything more. A larger sponge will have room for more absorption. Taking algebra makes your learning sponge for multiplication bigger, allowing a capacity for more understanding. It follows that no one is an expert at the level they are studying. They become experts at a level two or three steps lower than where they are currently studying. For instance, sixth graders would be considered experts in fourth-grade subjects…and so forth.
Your kids may not be convinced of the ‘Dry Sponge Theory’, but hopefully you will be convinced to push them forward. The ‘Dry Sponge Theory’ works similarly for topics that may bore your child like Art Appreciation or History. They may not become historians, but their learning sponge will have increased in size and, therefore, in capacity. Other topics will fall more easily into place. I am convinced of this.
Parents are key teachers in the most important early learning years–when the sponge of a child’s brain is insatiably thirsty. Introduce interesting things to them. Challenge them. Make learning fun and look for a passion that may pull them forward. And finally, if they aren’t passionate about learning, keep pushing them. Knowledge and the thirst for learning are so important for their futures! ###
Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog
Understanding the subconscious mind will help us to focus on the importance of instilling positivity in children and teens. Your conscious mind is your reasoning mind; therefore, once you accept something to be true at the conscious level, it then goes into the subconscious mind and that is what produces your results. Your subconscious mind produces your actions. So, if you want to change the results you are getting then you must begin to alter your thought process.
Understanding Developmental Periods
You can alter behavioral patterns in children as well as adults. In doing so you must understand the developmental periods of a child’s life.
From birth to seven is the imprint period; in which everything is absorbed from the environment. Parents and relatives have the most impact on the child during this particular time.
From seven to fourteen is the modeling period and this is a very crucial stage. They break away from the parent and model the behavior of other children, movie stars, singers, etc. Many parents will ask me how it is possible to raise two children the same way and have them turn out so differently. That’s because they go in different directions and are influenced by others.
From fourteen to twenty-one is the socialization period. This is where they become individualized. So it doesn’t matter what influences they have encountered because you can always alter behavior. Understanding these periods helps us identify where the obstacles surfaced.
Altering Behavioral Patterns
One way to alter behavioral patterns is to implement techniques of Neurolinguistic Programming. It involves the systematic study of human performance. It is a multi-dimensional process that involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP is:
Neuro: Derived through and from our senses and central nervous system
Linguistic: Our mental processes are given meaning, coded, organized, and then transformed through language
Programming: How people interact as a system in which experience and communication are composed of sequences of patterns
Your subconscious mind doesn’t reason; therefore, you must be very careful as to what you plant. We are made up of energy, so it’s important to get our children in a positive energy flow so they are able to attract positivity.
There are many ways to get that energy flowing in the morning. I talk frequently about the importance of gratitude. Most people tend to focus on the negatives of life. Positive and negative can’t occupy the mind at the same time, and, since negative is the dominant emotion, one must work very hard to replace it with positive.
Another key tool is to teach them the importance of positive affirmations. Get them in the habit of saying positive statements such as…”I can…” or “I will…” Repetition is key, so, as they get in the habit of saying them, the greater positive influence they will have.
Get your children excited about their goals and have them create a vision board. It’s another powerful exercise of the mind that will keep them in a focused and positive environment.
Implementing Success Principles
Finally, implement success principles within your child. I’ve written many articles about the importance of this. It is a redirection of negativity and instilling entrepreneurial skills in children aids in them becoming successful adults. Teaching them the 4 C’s will make a difference when they become adults. They are:
Communication: Sharing thoughts, ideas and solutions
Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal
Critical Thinking: Looking at problems in a new way
Creativity: Trying a new approach
So develop an Attitude of Gratitude and get that positivity flowing! ###
Peggy Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. www.lifecoachingandbeyond.com
We all know divorce can be devastating on many levels. But sometimes we forget the emotional toll of divorce. In addition to the physical and financial stress on both partners, divorce can also wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem. Even those who initiate the divorce process can experience tremendous emotional turmoil resulting in guilt, anxiety and insecurity. Those who were not expecting or in any way desiring the break-up can come away feeling psychologically battered, confused and questioning their own worth. A focus on rebuilding parental self-esteem is worth the effort.
It’s hard to tackle these burdens alone. A support group, private coach, professional counselor or other similar resources will be very valuable in reminding parents that 1) you are not alone in your experiences or feelings and 2) there is a brighter future ahead for you – if you take proactive steps in that direction.
While family and friends are usually very well-intentioned, their support may not always be valuable for you. They have their own agendas, perspectives and values about marriage, family and divorce. What parents most need at this difficult time is a support system that is dispassionate, compassionate and knowledgeable about responsible behaviors that will move you into a more positive chapter in your life.
Here are a few suggestions to guide parents in boosting their self-esteem during the divorce and its aftermath.
If you stay stuck in reliving and clinging to what no longer is your reality, you will not open the door to the next chapter in your life. There will be better, brighter days ahead – if you allow that awareness into your experience. Make space in your life for new friends, relationships, career options and fulfilling activities. Look for and expect new opportunities in new places. See the future as a positive beginning for you and your children. You’ll be pleasantly surprised about what you can create when you anticipate good things ahead.
Choose Your Company Wisely
We can’t easily change other people, but we can change the people we associate with. If your social group isn’t supportive of you, or tends to wallow in self-pity, realize you have a choice in your life about who you spend time with. Choose instead aware, introspective people who accept responsibility for their own behavior and proactively move ahead in transforming their lives. Move out of the blame game and put yourself in the company of positive people with high self-esteem who can appreciate you, with all your assets and baggage, as the wonderful person you are. You may find these people where you least expect them. So step out of your comfort zone – and be receptive to new friends and new experiences.
Be Flexible about Change
Life is always filled with changes, not just during divorce. Get comfortable with the unknowns ahead and accept that change is inevitable. While dark periods are tough to handle, realize they too will fall away and be replaced with better days and new relationships. Listen to your self-talk. Let go of limiting beliefs about yourself. When you catch yourself in doubt, fear or put-down language, become aware of that message and consciously refute it:
I am a worthy parent.
I can attract a new loving partner.
I deserve to be happy in my relationships.
My children love me and know how much I love them.
Determine what you want to change about yourself from within and relax about controlling circumstances around you. When you come to accept the reality of changes in your life, you’ll feel more at peace with yourself and those around you.
Life is about choices and decisions. Use your divorce as a catalyst for positive change. Choose to be the person and parent you most want to be. Then watch how circumstances around you settle into place more harmoniously than you ever expected.###
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, coaching services, and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
The following article is excerpted from Greg Warburton’s book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.
I can live for two months on a good compliment. —Mark Twain
Responding to the child’s response is a dynamic, interactive process between parent and child. Begin your continuous praise practice now. Children behave in myriad ways; sometimes what they do is troubling, and at other times it is positive, exciting, and transformative.
Getting Out of The Compliment Desert
Unfortunately, our busy, attention-fractured world can lead us into a compliment desert because we often take our children’s positive behaviors for granted. Or parents may believe that their children just know how to do certain things and behave in certain ways and no longer require any recognition for their positive ways of being. Vigilantly practicing responding (verbally and nonverbally) to your child’s getting-on-with-growing-up behavior response, and no longer taking good behavior for granted, can quickly put your family on a positively different pathway and provides an esteem-boosting oasis. Begin right now to consider how you too can move your family onto this pathway as you review the story below.
I had been asked to meet a family with four children, ages five, seven, nine, and 11 who had been removed from an abusive home while living with their father and stepmother. They were now living with their mother, she seemed frantic and overwhelmed. She started our meeting by telling me that the children were not behaving for her and she didn’t know what to do to “bring them back into control.”
Picture me sitting in a room with all four children and their mother to talk about troubling behavior and adjusting to their new home, when all the children really wanted to do was play. How do I begin to engage them, to cause them to become attentive, curious, and active participants and, most importantly, begin to change the direction of their lives?
I started by noticing all of the growing-up things I saw them do or heard them say from the moment we began our meeting, and told each of them about what I was seeing. The instant anything positive happened, I responded with verbal praise.
Early in the meeting, I heard seven-year-old Abby say, “I have an attitude.” I immediately asked, “Did you notice the growing-up thing you just did?”
She shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know what I was referring to, but she seemed curious and engaged by my language and my excitement.
Me: Well then, I’m sure glad I saw it so I can tell you about it. Are you ready to hear what it was?
Abby: (Nods her head to mean “yes.”)
Me: I just caught you telling yourself and your family the truth about how you act sometimes.
To help her identify how this behavior connects to successful growing up, I continued:
Me: Does telling the truth help kids grow up or grow down?
Abby: Grow up.
Once I had acknowledged and reinforced her positive behavior with verbal praise, I moved on to externalizing the problem (from Chapter 13):
Me: How big does this attitude seem to be?
When she didn’t answer right away, I suggested candidate sizes:
Me: Does it seem bigger than you, as big as the room, as big as the world?
Abby (seeming amused): As big as the world.
Me: How much do you want to shrink the attitude?
Abby (clapping her hands together with excitement): All the way to ZERO!
As you analyze all that happened in the moment of interacting with one of the children, imagine the path we would have traveled had I responded to Abby’s statement by asking, “WHY are you having an attitude?”
My experience teaches me that Abby would typically have responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!” This predictable response usually leads the adult to telling the child what will happen if she doesn’t change her attitude and/or believing the child is being resistant: “Well, you know what will happen if you keep showing this bad attitude. You will stay in trouble and you won’t get any privileges, and you won’t have any friends” (and so forth). Instead, Abby was now engaged and curious. She was listening, thinking, and deciding about what she was going to do to fix the attitude trouble.
One thing parents always have complete control over is which behavior they pay attention to. As you build your awareness, you will notice that there is always some good and appropriate behavior occurring, no matter what troubling and inappropriate behavior may be going on at the moment. But in our always-too-busy modern world, it is easy to take compliant, cooperative behavior for granted and confine the big energy and attention to behavior trouble. The problem with this approach is that any behavior that gets a parent’s main mental and emotional focus will tend to be repeated.
Remember, you do get to choose what behavior you will respond to day in and day out throughout your child’s adventures in growing up. In my 30 years counseling with kids, teens and parents, I have vigilantly chosen to see the socially successful behavior(s) and “catch them and praise them for getting-on-with-growing up.” ###
Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].
Video games are like crack cocaine to today’s youth. Many children, especially boys between the ages of 11 and 16, spend untold hours involved with these electronic games, often from the time they come home from school until they finally go to bed. Far too many kids spend essentially entire weekends (and most of their holiday and summer breaks) playing these “games.” I regularly hear reports from parents that their children engage in “gaming” to the neglect of homework, reading, eating with the family, or going out with the family. No-shows to college classes are at an all-time high due to students missing class to play video games.
To say that video gaming is addictive is not an exaggeration. These addictive games are brightly colored, quite visually and orally stimulating, very life-like, and, most importantly, are self-regulated. Kids whom are unable to sit and concentrate for 15 minutes in school will spend an entire afternoon alone in their room intensely focused on a video game.
Promotes Lethargy and Obesity
Children of previous generations watched too much TV—this writer included. Nevertheless, those TV-watching kids managed to occasionally pull themselves from the “boob tube” to get out and interact and socialize with peers. Today’s “gamers” are socially isolated. “Virtual friends”–other kids who play along remotely–are considered “best friends” by many “gamers” today, though they have never met in person. Because of video games, today’s kids do not have the same opportunities to learn social skills as did children of previous generations.
Data on the epidemic of obesity in US adults (60%) suggests that the early bad habit of excessive TV-watching may be part of the reason many adults today fail to exercise. If the majority of the previous generation of TV-watching kids are now obese as adults, even though they got some exercise as children, what can we expect from the current generation of kids whom are not active even as children?! In 15-20 years we are going to see some of the largest “tushes” known to man—but their thumbs will be long and lean. (Some newer games encourage activity, interestingly, but their use is in the minority.)
Finally, and most significantly, we must consider the medium of these games to which are kids are addicted. The overwhelming majority of these video games involve violence—graphic violence, replete with screams, life-like blood, and gore.
In the 1970’s and ‘80’s many research studies were conducted which documented the negative psychological effect excessive TV-watching—and its associate violence–had on kids. Today’s “gamer” views more violence in an afternoon than I did throughout my entire childhood of watching TV.
I firmly believe it is no coincidence that many of the young men who were responsible for some of the recent shootings we all have heard about were reported to be active “gamers.” I am not about to argue that video games caused these tragedies, but I have to wonder if electronically killing thousands of “aliens,” monsters, or “bad guys” over hundreds of hours of video gaming, could distort a young person’s reality or desensitize them to the value of life?
Pilots learn to fly via simulation. Maybe we should start calling this process video “training”—not gaming. I am waiting for the first defense attorney to use the “Gamer’s Syndrome” as a means to defend their client.
Every older generation thinks the younger generation is “going to hell in a hand-basket.” I remember when I got into the Beatles and my mother thought I had “lost my religion.” Having worked with hundreds of children over the past 40 years, I have become truly worried about the impact video games are having on our youth. I am fearful that soon we will have a generation of under-socialized, impulsive, impatient, entitled, apathetic, aggressive, obese young adults. To this health professional, video games are the newest plague.
What to Do
Parents, please toss out the X-Box or, at least, limit its use. Take a walk or hike with your child. Take a bike ride. Do something fun, active, and interactive; go to the gym together. It will be good for you and your child.###
Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.