How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”
If ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?
Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?
Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!
Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.
The Challenge of Confidence
Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.
I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:
Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.
The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.
It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.
Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).
Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’
Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.
Once again, from The Power of Dadhood:
Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.
‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.
Which is it?
So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.
Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.
There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!
And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!”
Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.
Disorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS
Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.
Difficult to Address
According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.
These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.
Is there hope for change?
Ambivalence is an Issue
Our guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.
Melissa Growman, LCSW
Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)
TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK
If your child is continuously combative and disrespectful to you, imagine that same child at the age of 17 driving off in a car. If you do not reign in behaviors from early ages, you are dooming your child’s future and you are destined for a troubled relationship. Would you let your child eat bad foods, drink poisonous substances, or play with dangerous toys? Allowing out-of-control behaviors is toxic to the family and the child.
Always Testing Limits
Children are always testing their boundaries; a parent’s job is to define those limits clearly within the family structure. As a parent, you must be confident, kind and committed to what’s acceptable regardless of a child’s emotional reaction.
Know that crying is not a death sentence, it’s a growing experience. Discipline and accountability are key elements in raising well-balanced, well-adjusted children. If you allow unruly behavior at any age, your kids will assume it’s acceptable. Remember you’re not their friend, you’re their parent and you need to mentor them.
Three Ways …
Here are a few recommendations:
1. Develop family rules and be consistent in adhering to them. For instance, children should have chores around the house appropriate to their age. They should keep their rooms tidy and help with meals, cleanup, etc. When they do these tasks, offer positive reinforcements, such as saying, “I’m so fortunate to have such a thoughtful child who did all the dinner chores tonight without even being asked…Thank you.”
On the other hand, if they fail to perform the requested activities, you need to activate consequences. Be firm without raising your voice. If they misbehave at the dinner table or with their siblings, they lose privileges such as play dates, no TV, no games, no phone. Depending on the severity of the infraction, they may be confined to their room for a period to think about what they’ve done.
Consider a young adult who got fired from his job. Did he understand what would happen when he got caught with drugs on the drug test? It is important to teach children accountability: If you do something wrong, there are penalties. It’s okay if they learn to use an excuse with their peers for avoiding bad choices such as “My Dad will kill me if I do that.”
2. Teach respectfulness and kindness. Help your child recognize feelings of gratitude. With young children, reinforce positive moments. For instance, if one child shares a toy with another, say aloud how happy and grateful the receiving child appears so it becomes a teachable moment.
Create a gratitude jar. Ask your child to write one thing they are grateful for each week and put the comment in a beautifully decorated jar. At the end of the month, spend time together as a family reviewing the entries. Words and notes of thanks should also be encouraged and can help children explore feelings of gratitude further.
When your child exhibits positive behaviors, take time to give a compliment.
Make volunteering part of your life by donating family time to help a charitable organization. Use such an opportunity to bring awareness about others who are less fortunate.
When Countess Stella Andrassy was growing up in a privileged household in her native Sweden, every Christmas her parents made sure that she and her siblings visited several homeless shelters to distribute gifts before they were permitted to enjoy their own holiday gifts. “It gave me greater appreciation for all that I had,” the Countess once shared with me. There are few things comparable to the feeling one experiences by helping someone else. Selflessness and kindness are important lessons so children aren’t always thinking about just themselves. You can help them expand their awareness so they’ll learn to enjoy doing things for others.
3. Be conscientious about setting a good example. Walk the walk by exhibiting values and integrity. Let them catch you doing the right stuff. For example, a cash machine delivers $120 when you requested $100. Exemplify the behavior you want to encourage by giving back the $20 in front of your children. Hold the door open for others so that you teach them respect and awareness.
Let children witness you taking care of yourself and dealing with life’s challenges in constructive ways. Show them how to relax with what is. Instead of focusing on problems, withdraw from any immediate dramas and pause for a time out to be able to see a clearer, more productive solution.
More than likely, you have all the basics for your survival. You may want more or are improving yourself but in this very moment, you’re okay. Let your children know that they’re okay. Create a sense of safety and security for your child full of love and support. In this parental environment, children thrive and grow to be valuable adults who contribute to a better world!
Give Yourself a Break
If you’re having difficulty getting centered yourself, try my free audio at 3MinutestoDestress.com. By taking a brief mental pause, you will refresh your mind and body. It will help you think more clearly, feel more energized, function more effectively, and ultimately reduce stress so that you’ll be more present and available for your children! ###
Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book, Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. CLICK HERE for a free consultation with Peggy, or visit her website at PeggySealfon.com.
Here’s a posting of an earlier interview with Bill Ratner on a topic important to all parents. I appreciate Bill’s perspective on the matter, and I consider this interview to be one of the best on The Changing Behavior Network. We present, “Dealing with Media’s Effect on Our Children.” –JDS
There is a very real concern that our children spend too much time online or with activities on computers, tablets, smart phones, and other digital devices. Opportunities for social interaction, family time together and even fresh air and exercise just aren’t there like they were before the digital age hit us full-force.
Digital Marketing Blitz
Our guest on this program, Bill Ratner, author and Hollywood voice-over specialist, suggests there is another presence that overwhelms our children through their digital devices: the media. Kids face a marketing blitz that’s supported by advertisers paying billions each year to target them specifically. In this program, Bill will give us an insider’s take on the problem, and what we can do about it to better protect our children and grandchildren.
Even if you’ve never met Bill, you have likely HEARD him. He’s a leading voice-over specialist and voice actor in thousands of movie trailers, cartoons, television, games and commercials. Through his connections in advertising, Bill has been the voice of many leading corporations.
While raising his family, however, Bill realized his own children were being bombarded by media messages he helped create. This became a driving force behind the development of a program of media awareness for children and the writing of the book, Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It. This book is the focus of Dr. Sutton’s interview with Bill on this program. (35:19)
TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK
Dad held and rocked him for a little while and then gave Jonathan to Mom to cuddle while Dad ran to the store to get medicine.
After Jonathan took the medicine about 2 a.m., he wanted to watch a movie. Dad said it was time for bed, but Jonathan cried. Dad turned on the movie. Mom shook her head in disbelief and went back to bed. At 4 a.m. when the movie was over, Jonathan wanted to play. Dad and Jonathan built a tower of blocks until about 4:30 when Jonathan fell asleep. Dad carried him to the bedroom and then went to bed himself.
Solution: Structured Choices
In a situation like this, Jonathan, at age three, isn’t old enough to have good judgment. Dad and Mom need to be responsible for making these middle-of-the-night decisions. Giving some choices is a good diversionary tactic, especially at 2 a.m. when Jonathan is crying.
Dad can take him to bed, but Jonathan can decide:
Will the bedroom door be open or shut?
Do I want the hall light left on?
Will I snuggle my favorite teddy under the covers or keep him on my pillow?
Children need the opportunity to make selections. Learning this skill will be a great benefit to Jonathan as he gets older. A parent can give him the gift of democracy by establishing limited freedom with choices.
Start a Family Council
Family councils are a great place for youngsters like Jonathan to become proficient at decision-making as they up. Councils are a great venue for parents to teach children to brainstorm ideas, single out several choices, and pick the best one. Parents can plan together, work out their parenting styles, and teach their children how to be proactive. ###
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].
It was a joy once again for me to visit with Rosalind about the important work of those advocating child-centered divorce. From an idea to a worldwide mission, Rosalind has steered a steady course over the years, and the positive impact has been noted in the lives of young people. But there’s plenty of work yet to do, so listen in as we bring you “10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month.” –JDS
International Child-Centered Divorce Month
January has been established as International Child-Centered Divorce Month. January of 2017 is the 10th anniversary of ICCDM and its outreach in helping parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, mediators and other divorce specialists focus on the needs of children and teens when divorce plans are being made.
Many free resources and gifts related to child-centered divorce are being offered during International Child-Centered Divorce Month. You won’t want to miss a single part of this excellent opportunity.
To help us understand more clearly the importance and methodology of child-centered divorce is our special guest, Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and the Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. Rosalind will emphasize, using her own story, why the needs of children should be a priority in divorce, how best to explain divorce to one’s own children and why a child-centered, collaborative approach is so important.
Rosalind is the author of an innovative storybook approach to communicating divorce to a child, an approach that informs while it supports and upholds a youngster’s identity, dignity and sense of value. Her diligence and effort resulted in a successful and highly acclaimed e-book entitled, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children –With Love.
Rosalind’s work with the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which she founded, has been acknowledged on five continents worldwide. In her speaking, writing, blogging and media appearances, Rosalind continues to share the message of child-centered divorce. The International Child-Centered Divorce Month is yet another way to showcase what is being done. The link below takes you to the website and a free e-book from Rosalind, Post Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right. (29:09)
TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK
This short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”
A Valuable Lesson
Listen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?
A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.
Dr. James Sutton
Dr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)
Learn More About THIS BOOK
Jim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about nine years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS
At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.
It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.
But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.
But, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.
The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”
That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.
It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.
He bid it in for $6.50.
He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.
It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.
The Woman in the Cold
“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.
She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.
The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.
She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.
She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.
“It is Mine!”
The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.
But they were happy tears of recognition.
“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.
“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”
For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.
But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.
“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”
The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”
She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.
As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.
The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.
After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.
The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.
“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”
The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.
The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.
Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.
The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.
Purpose in the Storm
True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.
So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.
Then watch the miracles come. ###
Addiction and divorce can both cause confusion and conflict in the lives of children. Rosalind Sedacca has insights that can help. The Changing Behavior Network presents, “Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset.”
Getting divorced and exploring the realities of co-parenting ahead? Life after divorce can be enormously complex; it’s especially challenging for parents who are coping with addiction issues and their consequences.
Cooperative co-parenting is always best for your children. It is easier for them to accept life after divorce when they have access, love and attention from both parents. Post-divorce co-parenting with an addict makes this process more complicated, especially if one parent is not fully dependable, trustworthy or responsible.
Common Parental Issues Following Divorce
Difficulties can be compounded by the many issues all parents face following a divorce:
• Both parents are bringing the raw emotions resulting from the divorce into a new stage in their lives.
• Mom and Dad are also bringing previous baggage from the marriage (ongoing conflicts, major disputes, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations) into the mix as they negotiate a co-parenting plan.
• Both parents are vying for the respect and love of the children, They are easily tempted to slant their parenting decisions in the direction that wins them popularity with the kids.
• Anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement can impact and influence levels of cooperation in the months and years to come.
• Parents may disagree about major issues ahead that weren’t part of the parenting dynamic in the past: visits and sleepovers with friends, scheduling after-school activities, handling curfews, new behavior problems, consequences for smoking, drinking and drug use, dating parameters, using the car, and scheduling vacation time.
• Parents may not share values and visions for the children as they grow, and they may also not agree on the plan of action required to honor those values.
When challenges appear, parents might find themselves struggling to find ways of coping. Agreement on how to co-parent effectively in the present and the future is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication, both verbal and written, as well as regular connections via phone, email or in person. It also takes a commitment to make co-parenting work because you both want it to.
The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are very likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement or unity, pitting Mom and Dad against one another while they eagerly take advantage of the situation. This is a danger sign that can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent is prepared to handle.
Addiction: Another Layer of Confusion
Addiction problems bring another layer of confusion. The addicted parent may not be granted shared custody and may have limited visitation. I encourage these parents to take advantage of video chats, emails, texting and other options today’s technology offers to support close parent-child connection.
It is essential that both parents always keep their promises and show up on time. Disappointments deeply hurt children. They will lose their trust and respect for a parent, which is hard to earn back. Don’t make agreements you can’t live up to. And never show up intoxicated or unprepared to parent, but be fully focused on your children and their needs.
When Mom and Dad are on the same page, they can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. These parents agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and shared intentions regarding their children. They discuss areas of disagreement and find solutions they can both live with, or agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.
If meals with Mom are vastly different than food offerings during time with Dad, that can still work if both parents respect the differences and let the children know it’s all okay. When differences become an area of high conflict, that’s when the kids can get hurt, being caught between battling parental egos. Children are confused and often feel guilty in battling parent situations, which rarely leads to any good within the post-divorce family structure.
Get professional support to guide you if you’re uncomfortable when the kids are with your co-parent. Discuss your options objectively. Sometimes we’re so caught up in past situations we can’t create workable solutions for co-parenting success without the assistance of a divorce mediator, therapist or mentor experienced with addiction and its challenges.
Keep in mind that when you’re more open and receptive to your co-parent, you are more likely to get what you really want in the end. Good listening skills, flexibility and the commitment to do what’s best on behalf of your children are part of a smart co-parenting mindset. Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults. ###
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach/Mentor and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She’s author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? and co-host of The Divorce View Talk Show and podcast. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her mentoring services and other valuable resources on mastering child-centered divorce, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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]