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Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)

Stepfamilies often face challenges, but, according to author and family expert, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, efforts spent in resolving the issues can make a big difference in blended families.
This interview comes from our archives. It was first aired in August of 2014.

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Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)Anyone, parent, child or teen, who has ever been part of a blended family knows there often are difficulties and obstacles to making a stepfamily work as as it should. Discouragement mingled with frustration shouldn’t be the name of the game, but often it is. The job of drawing together a family across multiple households is a challenge not suited to the weak of heart or spirit.

But it CAN be done, according to our guest on this program, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman. She has, as they say, “Been there!” Faced with the struggle to parent five children from three different households, Valerie was often overwhelmed, almost to the point of giving up.

Blended Families An Anthology, Valerie J. Lewis ColemanLooking back on those struggles, Valerie shares how her experiences of heartaches, frustrations and sleepless nights were but the labor pangs required to birth her passion to help others stop what she calls the “Stepfamily Maddness.” From her own journey, plus the experiences and contributions of others going through similar circumstances, Valerie compiled and edited a book, Blended Families: An Anthology. This work, and the wisdom gleaned from its pages, well-represent this topic of blended families.

With over 20 years of experience in families and relationships, Valerie has given advice on varying stepfamily issues, including Baby-Mamma Drama, defiant children and a really tough one: disapproving in-laws. Also, as an established author in her own right, Valerie encourages and trains new authors through her publishing company, Pen of the Writer. (25:26)

www.PenoftheWriter.net

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

June 11, 2017 Posted by | adversity, anger, Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, Divorce Issues, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child’s Life? (Judge Tom Jacobs)

If a youngster breaks the law, does that mistake have to follow them forever? Not necessarily, says author and former juvenile judge, Tom Jacobs, as he offers insights into options for saving that youngster’s future. We present, “Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child’s Life?”

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Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child's LIfe, Judge Tom JacobsIn February, 2017, two fifth grade students at a California elementary school hacked into a classmate’s tablet. They posted graphic images and offensive language. The boys involved were both ten years old. There was an investigation by school officials.

Should this act affect their future college applications, employment opportunities, or military enlistment? No. Should it become a teachable moment? Of course.

A Serious Situation

This was the boys’ first offense, but one that could result in a criminal record. Hacking into someone’s computer and posting objectionable content may constitute a crime, depending on existing state laws. The act could be considered harassment, intimidation, cyberbullying, or threatening. Whatever category it fits into, the boys could be charged with a felony, misdemeanor or petty offense.

Diversion As An Option

The school district may have a policy of handling first-time offenses internally. The boys could face suspension or expulsion. Or the school could have a diversion program designed to educate students about the importance of being good “netizens” who practice netiquette every time they use social media. Considering their age, diversion is preferable to sending them to juvenile court for formal prosecution. The purpose of diversion is to “divert” the offense away from the criminal justice system. That way, a minor charge does not become a “record” that could follow the juvenile into adulthood.

Diversion is common across the country for first-time offenders charged with minor crimes. The majority of participants in a diversion program do not re-offend. Their brief brush with the law has a lasting impact.

Ask The Judge, Judge Tom Jacobs

Diversion generally involves community service, counseling, or a class about laws and one’s rights and responsibilities. Once the program is successfully completed, the case is closed and there’s no official record of the incident. There is no guarantee, but usually it would not appear in a background check done years or decades later.

Expunging a Juvenile’s Record

When a case is handled in juvenile court, and the court finds the juvenile guilty of an offense and imposes consequences, a record is created. All states have laws regarding expunging (destroying) a juvenile’s record. It’s a simple process and does not require hiring a lawyer. That’s a decision for the applicant and/or the parents to make. The application is a short form that, once filled out, is filed with the court the juvenile was in. A copy of the application is sent to the prosecutor’s office for review. The prosecutor notifies the court whether they agree with the expungment or oppose it. A judge ultimately decides to grant or deny the request.

If you are a teenager or pre-teen and you find yourself in court charged with a minor offense, it’s a serious event in your life. But, it’s not necessarily life-changing or the end of the world. Once you face the music, make amends, and comply with all court orders, the incident will become history and not affect your future. The U.S. Supreme Court commented in the famous Gault case in 1967 that “the policy of the juvenile law is to hide youthful errors from the full gaze of the public and bury them in the graveyard of the forgotten past.” When a juvenile court expunges a minor’s record, he or she can move out of the shadows of this cloud in their life.

NOTE: Many courts have Self-Help Centers where the public has access to legal booklets and forms to assist them navigate the system without an attorney. Such may also be available on the court’s website. In addition, some family and juvenile law attorneys offer free initial consultations. If you contact one for advice, ask about this. A brief consult may be all you need to file for an expungment of a juvenile’s record. ###

 

Judge Tom Jacobs spent 23 years as a juvenile judge in Arizona. From his heartfelt concern for young people, Judge Tom, with assistance from his daughter, Natalie Jacobs, founded and moderates AsktheJudge.info, a teen-law website for and about teenagers and the laws that affect them. It stands as a valuable site for parents and educators who want to stay current with issues that affect the safety and welfare of our young people. Judge Tom has written a number of books for lawyers and judges, as well as for teens and parents, including “What Are My Rights?” Teen Cyberbullying Investigated, and a recent book he co-authored with Natalie, Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice.

 

June 6, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Difficult Child, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Law & Justice, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, counselor and author, believes strongly that kids and teens have great capacity to be self-reliant if given the opportunity. He shares here what he has observed, learned and encouraged.
Every Tuesday, Greg posts, through his website blog (link), an inspiring story about a self-reliant youth and their contribution to others. He also invites your questions and input on how we can best “set the life stage” for self-reliance building in all youth.
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Ask yourself this question, as you consider if you are open to having your beliefs challenged:

What do I truly believe kids and teens are capable of in the arena of self-reliant action and contribution from the earliest ages?

In my most recent book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, I explain how I hold an unshakable belief in the capabilities and wisdom of young people, knowing that they can indeed manifest their “I-am-a-one-of-a-kind-human-masterpiece” status!

A FIRST STEP

As a counselor, I strive to see that my work stays rooted in dignity, respect, and compassion. In turn, I’m frequently privileged to watch the process of self-directed change begin to take place in my office. As an example, consider the day when a 12-year-old said this to me:

I was sitting in church the other day and started thinking, if I don’t start acting different I’m going to have a miserable life.

That was a first step on a remarkable journey of self-empowerment for that child. I wish for you, also, a part in a inspiring and fulfilling adventure like this one.

Raising self-reliant children is more important than ever. Change and confusion are constants; there’s no doubt this modern world is increasingly difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, our culture provides little in the way of a tangible, practical, and comprehensive road map for the child traveler. Honestly, that was my mission with this book … to provide a kind of road map.

Rebecca

I had not been counseling long when I met a small, freckle-faced, nine-year-old girl named Rebecca. She did something during our first meeting that I will never forget, and I want to share her story as a way to introduce the power of these ideas.

To begin the conversation about the trouble at home, I said:

Rebecca, your mother is calling the trouble “crying and tantrums.” Is that what you call it or do you have a different name?

“I call it ‘having the fits,’” Rebecca said. From then on, we used Rebecca’s words to describe the trouble.

To gauge her willingness, I asked Rebecca:

Do you think having the fits has taken over your life, or do you think you can still fight against the fits?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonIn the next moment, only about ten minutes into our first meeting, Rebecca jumped out of her chair, stood up straight and announced:

I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up!

Just as quickly as Rebecca had made up her mind, I began to get in her way with my doubt. I thought how my professors didn’t teach me about the possibility of change occurring quickly … and certainly not instantly!

I wondered how this nine-year-old girl had figured out what to do about her very troubling behavior within the first few minutes of our first meeting. I began asking her, in a variety of ways, if she was sure that this is all it would take for her life to be better. Within a few minutes, I could see that she was certain.

Fortunately for Rebecca, I had the good sense to stop asking her more questions and just be quiet.

Interactions like this launched my What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! blog-post series. Content also will be related to taking some pressure off parents, teachers and counselors by providing a box full of practical tools as they engage in the adventure of “creating” self-reliant youth that can contribute to the world all along the getting-on-with-growing-UP pathway.

It is my hope you will find this resource helpful and inspiring, and that you will tell others about it. ###

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, his book and the blog mentioned in this article, go to his website, selfreliantkids.com.

 

April 16, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Wo Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. 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

 

April 10, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

April 4, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, left-click this link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.

 

March 28, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Approach to Noncompliance: A Meeting That Never Happens! (Dr. James Sutton)

BTAboutThemHere’s a strategy to use with an uncooperative youngster that lets her THINK her way back into compliance. Best of all, it comes out looking like HER idea.

Oppositional and defiant sons and daughters already think they are equal to the task of playing compliance games with their parents. And, more often than we’d like to admit, they’re right. Here’s an idea for setting up a situation whereby the youngster decides the best solution to the problem is to DO what needs to be done.

Jim415smIt applies across most any tasks, but let’s say Dad has already had a discussion with Sally about rolling the trash container out to the street on pickup day. It’s a quick and easy task she can do before she goes to school. She has even agreed to do it; no problem there.

The problem is the chore is NOT being done. The container is brimming over, as is Dad’s frustration in Sally’s neglected chore and a broken promise about doing it.

If Dad confronts Sally directly about the chore, he knows she could turn the whole thing into an uncomfortable argument. Here’s one thought on how he might approach it. Keep in mind the chore could be anything; the trash container is just an example.

trashcanDad makes it a point to speak with Sally the evening BEFORE the trash is to be put out on the curb:

Sally, I’ve noticed that the trash has not been moved out to the street for a couple of weeks now. It’s becoming a problem. You promised me you’d put it out every Wednesday morning before you went to school. So far, it looks like the plan isn’t working very well.

Let’s do this, Sally. Let’s see what happens with the trash in the morning. If it doesn’t get put out, we’ll meet tomorrow evening to work on a different plan. Sally, what would be a good time for you to meet with me tomorrow night? Six o’clock? Six thirty? Seven? You pick it, Sally. What time would work for you?

Although it’s very possible Sally will say she will take the trash around in the morning, Dad should continue to press for a time to meet the next evening. She only has to give him a time, and she can pick it.

Sally quickly realizes that, although the time is set for a meeting tomorrow night, it can be avoided completely. All she has to do is PUT OUT THE TRASH in the morning. (Of course, the fact that she has already set the time to meet with her father “helps” to move the trash around.)

One benefit of this intervention is that it approaches the issue as a problem to be solved rather than a confrontation. Additionally, it puts Sally in complete control of making certain the meeting DOESN’T happen … by complying!

(Teachers: This same approach could also work with a difficult and “forgetful” student, also.)

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His book, Resolving Conflict with Your Children, contains a step-by-step process to use to address compliance issues in the home.

 

March 7, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child (Peggy Sealfon)

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child, Peggy SealfonIf 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.”

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy Sealfon2. 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.

 

 

February 6, 2017 Posted by | adversity, anger, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Healthy living, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Children Too Much Power (Christy Monson)

Giving Children Too Much Power, Christy MonsonJonathan, age three, had a sore throat and a hacking cough. He woke up about midnight, coughing and crying. He couldn’t breathe.

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.

Power Problems

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?

Family Talk, Christy MonsonChildren 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].

January 17, 2017 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, Healthy living, Parents, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (Dr. James Sutton)

Special Report, The Changing Behavior NetworkIssues and concerns related to self-esteem can create significant difficulty for a youngster’s overall development and progress. Answers to these five questions will give you a pretty good idea of where a particular child or teen might be in terms of self-esteem. These are taken from one of Dr. Sutton’s latest, downloadable e-books, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). The book obviously contains more information regarding followup, intervention and treatment. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book. We now present, “Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem: Five Questions.”

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Dr. James Sutton, Evaluating a Youngster's Self-Esteem: Five QuestionsThere are five questions that pertain to the evaluation of a child or teen’s self-esteem. It is probable that a child with low self-esteem will have difficulty in several of these. Answers to these questions and observations can be helpful in determining management and treatment.

Question 1 of 5:

HOW DO YOU BELIEVE SHE (OR HE) VIEWS HER OWN IMAGE AND ABILITIES?

It’s not unusual for youngsters to have issues with their physical appearance; our bodies stay with us for life. The body is an individual’s direct connection with the outside world, and the only part of a person that others can see, hear, and touch.

Is she confident regarding her physical appearance? If she is not comfortable, is the problem an authentic one, perhaps even one that could be repaired (like crooked teeth)? Or is her issue with her appearance primarily in her own perception only, such as an attractive child believing somehow that she is ugly?

Does she put herself down when it comes to appearance and physical characteristics? What is the nature of her complaints and concerns?

Does she feel up to the challenge of comparing herself and her abilities with age and grade peers?

Sports is another area which showcases a youngster’s abilities, or lack of them. How is she in this area? Competitive sports like soccer and Little League come into a child’s life early on and continue through school and non-school functions and events for years. For some youngsters, the pressure to perform is anything but fun.

Question 2 of 5:

HOW WELL DOES HE HANDLE FRUSTRATION?

Can he handle quite a bit before he “loses it?” Can he creatively use setbacks as challenges to try even harder, or is he overly reactive to aggravation and setbacks?

It’s easy to see how the behavior of an angry youngster can bring about consequences that only create more frustration when the consequences are applied. The frustrated child finds himself in a hole that moves only in one direction deeper, then deeper still.

If self-esteem is a container from which we manage our stress, then some folks carry buckets while others have thimbles. You can size them up easily during moments of frustration. Said another way, a low tolerance for frustration is almost always a tip-off to low self-esteem.

Question 3 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE CRITICISM, EVEN CONSTRUCTIVE, WELL-INTENDED CRITICISM?

Does she accept criticism graciously and use it as a springboard for improvement, or does just about ANY criticism bring about a response like, “How come you’re always picking on ME?”

Some youngsters feel they have long since met their quota of mistakes for the rest of their lives! So, when one more is held up in front of them, they’re not exactly happy about it.

Sometimes there is an opposite effect. This is the youngster who had difficulty accepting compliments. This situation is actually part of the same concern.

We all have an image of ourselves as a total person. If that image is a poor one, compliments will be in conflict with it. In other words, the compliment can’t find a place to “fit.” Consequently, the youngster might reject a compliment in order to maintain consistency of a poor self-image and of low self-esteem. One might say that this is self-defeating and that it doesn’t make much sense at all, but it is consistent.

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonQuestion 4 of 5:

IS HE WILLING TO TAKE APPROPRIATE RISKS?

Life involves risk. The very hope of progress, just about any kind of progress, demands that we take risks; not fool-hearty risks, of course, but age and situation-appropriate risks.

Examples of risks include sports and other areas of competition, the sort of classes a high school student signs up for or seeking that first after-school job. Then there’s the big one for a guy asking a girl out for a date. Life requires risk all the time.

The bottom line of risk-taking is always the same: fear of failure. If that fear is strong enough, one will not risk. But there’s a paradoxical quality to it. Since one cannot experience success UNLESS he takes a risk, a paralyzing fear of ultimately creates more failure.

We might consider here a pattern of an opposite effect: fear of success. The whole notion of success doesn’t fit well with a poor self-image or a low self-esteem. Many youngsters will strive for a consistency of a poor self-image rather than a successful life-style. That seems to run contrary to the laws of personhood, but in more than three decades of working with young people, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Question 5 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS, BOTH WITH PEERS AND WITH ADULTS?

Does she seem to have a number of meaningful friendships that have lasted, friendships into which she is invested? Does she speak easily and comfortably with adults?

At the other extreme we find youngsters who seem socially isolated and withdrawn. They might possibly say things like, “No one likes me!” They might even make friends easily, but have difficulty keeping them.

This youngster might either be uncomfortable with adults or spend all of their time with just one friend or one adult, like a favorite teacher. This might appear to be a very positive relationship, but the deeper message could be avoidance of other relationships. This can become a real problem, especially if that one intense relationship falls apart. And generally, if the relationship is one-sided in its intensity, it will eventually fall apart.

There are underlying issues in such an unfortunate scenario, such as two kinds of fear: the fear of closeness and fear of being socially “exposed” For an adolescent, a stage of growth where peers are such an important part of psychosocial development, just the thought of being “exposed” is quite disturbing. This youngster can be terrified that, if others get too close, they might not like what they see. One way of dealing with this problem is to never, but never, let anyone get too close. But, just like the problem of risk, not letting anyone get close is also self-defeating. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberA nationally recognized (and now mostly retired) child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about the ebook featured in this Special Report, CLICK HERE.

 

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has Depression Lost Its Meaning? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Special Report, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?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

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Dr. Larry F. Waldman, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Recently, I overheard an adolescent tell her friend, “I was so depressed yesterday but I’m fine today.” Her friend replied, “Yeah, I understand; I get depressed sometimes, too.”

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.”

Dr. Larry Waldman, Who's Raising Whom?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. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberLarry 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.

 

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Minute Solution: Counseling a Difficult Youngster (Dr. James Sutton)

BTCounselorEvery 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.”
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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.

10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters (Dr. James Sutton)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.”

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?

clock(This example mentions a meeting to go to, but it can be anything that presses on your time. Obviously, a little planning here can make this an authentic statement.)

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. ###

 

SixtyWaysCounselDr. 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.

 

August 19, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Kids STAY Angry (Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportHere’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.

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Jim415smAnger in children and adolescents is one of the toughest behavioral issues to manage and “fix.” In part, this is because the expression of anger tends to “feed” the next angry outburst.

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).

 

August 5, 2016 Posted by | adversity, anger, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeling Invisible? Try This! (Dr. Tom Phelan)

BTQuestionsDr. Phelan: Much too often, I feel that nothing I do or say to my children is making the slightest bit of difference. It’s like I’m invisible in my own home. Any thoughts?

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TPhelanphotoIf you’re a parent living with small children, you may often feel like you’re invisible to your kids. After spending a day cajoling, reasoning, threatening and even screaming in an attempt to get your kids to behave, you may feel as if they never listen to you, much less respond.

But all that talking is precisely the problem. If you feel like you’re invisible, you’re probably way to audible. When it comes to discipline, silence often speaks louder than words.

One Problem: An “Extra” Goal

Many parents complicate the job of discipline by setting for themselves two goals instead of just one. Their first goal is to get the kids to do what they’re supposed to do, which is fine. But when kids don’t respond right away, many parents add a second goal: getting the youngsters to accept, agree with, or even like the discipline. So Mom and Dad start reasoning, lecturing and explaining.

One Explanation Should Suffice

All this extra talking accomplishes only two things, and both of them are bad. First, it aggravates the kids, and second, it says to the children that they really don’t have to behave unless you can give them four or five reasons why they should.

One explanation is fine. But the mistake many parents make is trying to reason with their kids as if they were “little adults,” and too often adult logic does not impress or motivate young children. Once you say “No” to obnoxious behavior, you should save your breath. Further pleading will irritate you more and give the child a chance to continue the battle … and the behavior.###

Dr. Tom Phelan is an internationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist. He is the author of the aclaimed bestseller, 1-2-3 Magic! His website is www.parentmagic.com.

 

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Outbursts Mask Depression in a Teen (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

Dr. Laurie Hollman, Unlocking Parental Intelligence, When Outbursts Mask Depression in a TeenOn one of many Saturdays, a thirteen-year-old spent the day screaming, throwing things, criticizing everyone for hours then slamming her door to her chaotic messy room and sleeping for hours.

Barely revived for dinner, she complained about the food, yelled at her mother for not knowing she was a vegan, and tossed her full dishes in the sink.

Her mother was angry, tired, and felt disrespected. She didn’t deserve this treatment and took it personally. Was this what the beginning of teenage life was going to be? Could she tolerate it?

Have you ever experienced this kind of scenario?

Earlier in the day this distraught mother had yelled,” What’s wrong with you?” sarcastically fed up and beside herself with her incorrigible child. Her husband was no help: “Now you’ve done it. She’ll never speak to you again.”

They had an argument about how to raise kids, something they’d done since she was a baby.

Something was “Hidden”
But by the end of the weekend, the thirteen-year-old’s mother shifted her tone and asked once again, but in a gentle voice, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” To this change of maternal voice, her daughter let forth a torrent of tears.

“I have no idea!” she said. “I wake up with a weight on my shoulders and force myself out of bed. Everybody and everything irritates me. I don’t want to be this horrible person, but I think I’m going crazy.

Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, Laurie Hollman PhDThis was the opening her mother needed to understand that the outbursts were hiding a deep insidious depression overtaking her daughter. There were no outward stressors beyond the norm of lots of homework, dramas with girlfriends, and frustrations with teachers. Her grades were decent, she got to school on time, and nothing traumatic seemed to be happening, or had it ever that she could remember.

This mother, however, was reminded of the depressions that crept through the female side of her family; now she knew it was her daughter’s turn.

Signs of a Struggle
The outbursts were just outer signs of a deep internal struggle with a biological base that made everyday life seem like a torrent of wounds. Her child’s revelation opened the door to a wish for help that had been conveyed indirectly through all the complaints, messes, and screams.

They weren’t bids for attention; they were demands for support and help. And once this mother no longer felt personally provoked, she could see with different eyes that the baby she had nursed and cuddled needed her warmth and strength again without judgment or accusations.

Learning, Help and Love
That cold weekend turned into a warm one as mother and daughter shuddered and cried together. Regaining composure the mother explained depression to her daughter. They google searched the signs and symptoms and knew this was beyond her daughter’s immediate control. She needn’t be blamed or accused of anything. They would work it out with help and kindness. This surely wasn’t about discipline, messy rooms and outbursts; it was going to be about learning, professional help, and above all … love.###

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. has a new book out, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.

May 25, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Respond to Your Child’s “Getting On With Growing Up” Responses (Greg Warburton)

The following article is excerpted from Greg Warburton’s book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.

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Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell Less

I can live for two months on a good compliment. —Mark Twain

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Responding to the child’s response is a dynamic, interactive process between parent and child. Begin your continuous praise practice now. Children behave in myriad ways; sometimes what they do is troubling, and at other times it is positive, exciting, and transformative.

Getting Out of The Compliment Desert
Unfortunately, our busy, attention-fractured world can lead us into a compliment desert because we often take our children’s positive behaviors for granted. Or parents may believe that their children just know how to do certain things and behave in certain ways and no longer require any recognition for their positive ways of being. Vigilantly practicing responding (verbally and nonverbally) to your child’s getting-on-with-growing-up behavior response, and no longer taking good behavior for granted, can quickly put your family on a positively different pathway and provides an esteem-boosting oasis. Begin right now to consider how you too can move your family onto this pathway as you review the story below.

Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell LessThe Meeting
I had been asked to meet a family with four children, ages five, seven, nine, and 11 who had been removed from an abusive home while living with their father and stepmother. They were now living with their mother, she seemed frantic and overwhelmed. She started our meeting by telling me that the children were not behaving for her and she didn’t know what to do to “bring them back into control.”

Picture me sitting in a room with all four children and their mother to talk about troubling behavior and adjusting to their new home, when all the children really wanted to do was play. How do I begin to engage them, to cause them to become attentive, curious, and active participants and, most importantly, begin to change the direction of their lives?

I started by noticing all of the growing-up things I saw them do or heard them say from the moment we began our meeting, and told each of them about what I was seeing. The instant anything positive happened, I responded with verbal praise.

Early in the meeting, I heard seven-year-old Abby say, “I have an attitude.” I immediately asked, “Did you notice the growing-up thing you just did?”

She shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know what I was referring to, but she seemed curious and engaged by my language and my excitement.

Me: Well then, I’m sure glad I saw it so I can tell you about it. Are you ready to hear what it was?

Abby: (Nods her head to mean “yes.”)

Me: I just caught you telling yourself and your family the truth about how you act sometimes.

To help her identify how this behavior connects to successful growing up, I continued:

Me: Does telling the truth help kids grow up or grow down?

Abby: Grow up.

Once I had acknowledged and reinforced her positive behavior with verbal praise, I moved on to externalizing the problem (from Chapter 13):

Me: How big does this attitude seem to be?

When she didn’t answer right away, I suggested candidate sizes:

Me: Does it seem bigger than you, as big as the room, as big as the world?

Abby (seeming amused): As big as the world.

Me: How much do you want to shrink the attitude?

Abby (clapping her hands together with excitement): All the way to ZERO!

As you analyze all that happened in the moment of interacting with one of the children, imagine the path we would have traveled had I responded to Abby’s statement by asking, “WHY are you having an attitude?”

My experience teaches me that Abby would typically have responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!” This predictable response usually leads the adult to telling the child what will happen if she doesn’t change her attitude and/or believing the child is being resistant: “Well, you know what will happen if you keep showing this bad attitude. You will stay in trouble and you won’t get any privileges, and you won’t have any friends” (and so forth). Instead, Abby was now engaged and curious. She was listening, thinking, and deciding about what she was going to do to fix the attitude trouble.

Build Awareness

One thing parents always have complete control over is which behavior they pay attention to. As you build your awareness, you will notice that there is always some good and appropriate behavior occurring, no matter what troubling and inappropriate behavior may be going on at the moment. But in our always-too-busy modern world, it is easy to take compliant, cooperative behavior for granted and confine the big energy and attention to behavior trouble. The problem with this approach is that any behavior that gets a parent’s main mental and emotional focus will tend to be repeated.

Remember, you do get to choose what behavior you will respond to day in and day out throughout your child’s adventures in growing up. In my 30 years counseling with kids, teens and parents, I have vigilantly chosen to see the socially successful behavior(s) and “catch them and praise them for getting-on-with-growing up.” ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].

 

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your GPS for “Perfect” Parenting (Kirsten Siggins)

perfect parenting, institute of curiosity, family values, Kirsten Siggins

Being a parent these days is tough. So often I coach people who find their life as parents to be overwhelming. In our hyper-connected world of smartphones and social media, society has created an image of perfection in aspects of our lives, including how we are ‘supposed to’ show up as parents, which very few feel they are able to achieve. This societal expectation can create impossible challenges for many, leaving a wake of frustration, anger, judgment, shame, and even blame. I think we can all agree being a parent is hard enough and no one welcomes the pressures of trying to achieve “perfect” parenting.

Curiosity is at the Core

So what can we strive for as parents? At the Institute of Curiosity, we believe curiosity is at the core of being the best parent you can possibly be, whatever that looks like for you. Each of us, based on our upbringing, experiences and education can use curiosity to better understand ourselves and understand others, which supports us in being a better, stronger and happier self.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and like conflict, it begins with our values. When you have clarity around your personal values, you can co-create family values that will help you navigate the challenges of being a parent. This also helps your family in conflict! Developing joint values around parenting supports a unified approach when dealing with issues with your kids. These values create a GPS for you to stay focused in all aspects of your lives including challenges that arise for your family and help you align with your vision of ‘perfect’ parenting.

3 Steps to Creating Your GPS for Perfect’ Parenting

1. Identify and define your values. Get curious to understand what’s non-negotiable for you. Ask yourself right now, “what are my values?” If you don’t know, that’s OK and it is time to start exploring them. Explore them personally and with your partner. As you explore them, it is important to define what they mean to you as we all define our values differently.

For example, adventure may be the movies for one and skydiving for another. Until you are clear on what adventure means to you it is difficult to live in alignment. Once you are clear on your values, you will gain clarity around what holds importance for you, what the non-negotiable are in your life. You will also gain that same clarity around your partner and how you want to show up together as parents. If you need some help exploring your values, check out a step by step process here: http://www.instituteofcuriosity.com/what-do-you-value-what-you-need-to-know-to-be-successful/

2. Identify your family values. What holds importance for you as a family? Working with your partner and kids, using the same steps as above, identify and define your family values. Once defined, clarity will be gained around how you and your family want to navigate life together. These values will support your kids in how they behave, make decision and manage expectations. Family values will also support you as a parent navigating the many challenges with continuity, and create consistency your kids can rely on. These values will also come in handy when in conflict!

The Power of Curiosity, curious questions, staying curiousAs an example, let’s say safety is a family value. Your teen wants to go to a party and you are concerned about their safety, you don’t want them to go. Rather than an all out war of “I am going/ No you aren’t” you can use that value as the focal point of your conversation when discussing the party to learn about your teen and their approach to the party. It could sound like: ‘Safety is one of our family values and we wonder, how do you plan to ensure you are safe while at this party? What strategies do you have in mind if you find yourself in a situation where your safety could be at risk?” Questions like these take the focus off you and your teen so you can both focus on your joint value of safety. Together you can decide if strategies need to be developed to ensure safety in order for your teen to attend the party.

3. Stay open and curious. As you discuss what is important to each other ensure that you stay open and ask curious questions to learn (focus on questions beginning with WHAT & HOW). We are each unique and just because you are a family, it doesn’t mean you all value the same things OR define your values the same way. Your definition of safety may be very different than your child’s, making it difficult to align and cause conflict. Be present to listen to your kids and spouse as they discuss what they value and how they define that. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it does allow you to better understand their perspective and experiences, and creates a framework that helps each family member make choices in their every day interactions.

This navigation system ensures you stay the course and support each family member in the challenges that present themselves each day. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

For more tips and tools to stay curious & connected, even in conflict, visit: www.instituteofcuriosity.com

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.

March 24, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Video Games: The New Plague (Dr. Larry Waldman)

Larry Waldman, video games, addictive video gamesVideo games are like crack cocaine to today’s youth. Many children, especially boys between the ages of 11 and 16, spend untold hours involved with these electronic games, often from the time they come home from school until they finally go to bed. Far too many kids spend essentially entire weekends (and most of their holiday and summer breaks) playing these “games.” I regularly hear reports from parents that their children engage in “gaming” to the neglect of homework, reading, eating with the family, or going out with the family. No-shows to college classes are at an all-time high due to students missing class to play video games.

Addictive

To say that video gaming is addictive is not an exaggeration. These addictive games are brightly colored, quite visually and orally stimulating, very life-like, and, most importantly, are self-regulated. Kids whom are unable to sit and concentrate for 15 minutes in school will spend an entire afternoon alone in their room intensely focused on a video game.

Promotes Lethargy and Obesity

Children of previous generations watched too much TV—this writer included. Nevertheless, those TV-watching kids managed to occasionally pull themselves from the “boob tube” to get out and interact and socialize with peers. Today’s “gamers” are socially isolated. “Virtual friends”–other kids who play along remotely–are considered “best friends” by many “gamers” today, though they have never met in person. Because of video games, today’s kids do not have the same opportunities to learn social skills as did children of previous generations.

Data on the epidemic of obesity in US adults (60%) suggests that the early bad habit of excessive TV-watching may be part of the reason many adults today fail to exercise. If the majority of the previous generation of TV-watching kids are now obese as adults, even though they got some exercise as children, what can we expect from the current generation of kids whom are not active even as children?! In 15-20 years we are going to see some of the largest “tushes” known to man—but their thumbs will be long and lean. (Some newer games encourage activity, interestingly, but their use is in the minority.)

Promotes Violence

Finally, and most significantly, we must consider the medium of these games to which are kids are addicted. The overwhelming majority of these video games involve violence—graphic violence, replete with screams, life-like blood, and gore.

In the 1970’s and ‘80’s many research studies were conducted which documented the negative psychological effect excessive TV-watching—and its associate violence–had on kids. Today’s “gamer” views more violence in an afternoon than I did throughout my entire childhood of watching TV.

WRWI firmly believe it is no coincidence that many of the young men who were responsible for some of the recent shootings we all have heard about were reported to be active “gamers.” I am not about to argue that video games caused these tragedies, but I have to wonder if electronically killing thousands of “aliens,” monsters, or “bad guys” over hundreds of hours of video gaming, could distort a young person’s reality or desensitize them to the value of life?

Pilots learn to fly via simulation. Maybe we should start calling this process video “training”—not gaming. I am waiting for the first defense attorney to use the “Gamer’s Syndrome” as a means to defend their client.

The Result

Every older generation thinks the younger generation is “going to hell in a hand-basket.” I remember when I got into the Beatles and my mother thought I had “lost my religion.” Having worked with hundreds of children over the past 40 years, I have become truly worried about the impact video games are having on our youth. I am fearful that soon we will have a generation of under-socialized, impulsive, impatient, entitled, apathetic, aggressive, obese young adults. To this health professional, video games are the newest plague.

What to Do

Parents, please toss out the X-Box or, at least, limit its use. Take a walk or hike with your child. Take a bike ride. Do something fun, active, and interactive; go to the gym together. It will be good for you and your child.###

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Father Hunger: Needing a Father’s Love (Keith Zafren)

a father's love, father hunger, psychological effects of father absenceFather Hunger is a phrase many psychologists, authors and poets use to describe the universal and life-long yearning children have for a father’s love and involvement. Sometimes loving dads satisfy that hunger. Other children continue to yearn when their need is not met by engaged fathers. Some starve for lack of fathering.

Psychological Effects of Father Absence

Fatherlessness leaves children hungering—craving for dad’s affection, affirmation, and loving presence. Father hungry children tend not to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted and happy adults. A host of studies link fatherless to many serious social problems. Children from fatherless homes account for:

63 percent of youth suicides
71 percent of pregnant teenagers
90 percent of all homeless and runaway children
70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders
80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
71 percent of all high school dropouts
75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.[i]

father's love, father hunger, psychological effects of father absenceResearchers Frank Furstenberg and Kathleen Harris reveal that more important than a father’s presence or even his living at home is how close a child feels to his or her father. That feeling of closeness, they argue, is most predictably associated with positive life outcomes for the child even twenty-five years later. Based on these findings, Dr. Kyle Pruett notes, “Children who feel a closeness to their father are twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth, 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.”[ii]

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the mid 1990s confirmed that “doing lots of activities together is not the crucial variable in the relationship between parent and child; rather, it is a sense of connectedness.”[iii]

Satisfying the Hunger

Ultimately, it’s how close a child feels to their dad that makes all the difference as to how satisfied their hunger. If you’re a dad, that means that your focus ought to be, as much and as often as possible, and as intentionally as you can focus, on creating that feeling of closeness with your kids.

May our children never go hungry, as some of us did.

Great Dads Shape Great Kids.
Be a Great Dad Today.
________________________________________
[i]Reported in John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-37.
[ii] Cited in Kyle D. Pruett M.D., Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child (New York: Broadway Books, 2000), 38.
[iii] Cited in Gail Sheehy, Understanding Men’s Passages: Discovering the New Map of Men’s Lives (New York: Balllantine Books, 1998), 166.

Post by Keith Zafren, 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.

Men who want to be great dads love the stories Keith Zafren tells, the practical skills he teaches, and the personal coaching he offers. 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 Great Dad Video Training.

February 12, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)

NOTE: This post announces a 25:26 minute talk radio interview with Valerie on The Changing Behavior Network [Interview with Valerie J. Lewis Coleman].
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Anyone, parent, child or teen, who has ever been part of a blended family knows there often are difficulties and obstacles to making a stepfamily work as as it should. Discouragement mingled with frustration shouldn’t be the name of the game, but often it is. The job of drawing together a family across multiple households is a challenge not suited to the weak of heart or spirit.

But it CAN be done, according to our guest on this program, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman. She has, as they say, “Been there!” Faced with the struggle to parent five children from three different households, Valerie was often overwhelmed, almost to the point of giving up.

Blended Families An Anthology CoverLooking back on those struggles, Valerie shares how her experiences of heartaches, frustrations and sleepless nights were but the labor pangs required to birth her passion to help others stop what she calls the “Stepfamily Maddness.” From her own journey, plus the experiences and contributions of others going through similar circumstances, Valerie compiled and edited a book, Blended Families: An Anthology. This work, and the wisdom gleaned from its pages, well-represent this topic of blended families.

With over 20 years of experience in families and relationships, Valerie has given advice on varying stepfamily issues, including Baby-Mamma Drama, defiant children and a really tough one: disapproving in-laws. Also, as an established author in her own right, Valerie encourages and trains new authors through her publishing company, Pen of the Writer.

www.PenoftheWriter.net

 

To listen as Dr. Sutton interviews Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, click this [Interview with Valerie J. Lewis Coleman].

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP


Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(830) 569-3586 Email

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can a Child ENJOY Being in Trouble Constantly

“CAN A CHILD ‘ENJOY’ BEING IN TROUBLE CONSTANTLY?”

Sometimes I believe my son actually ENJOYS all the negativity his oppositional and defiant behavior brings upon him. Could that possibly be the case? Can a child really “enjoy” being in trouble constantly? If so, what can I do about it?

The short answer is, “Absolutely!” Like so many facets of behavior, however, there are deeper issues that play into what’s going on.

One huge issue is the power and control a youngster like your son experiences when he can control the emotions and behavior of an adult. Early on in my practice, I had a young patient who had his father by the throat (figuratively speaking, of course). He could make a lot of stuff happen by squeezing on that hold. Unfortunately, Dad played right into the son’s game. All the boy had to do was forget a chore, for instance, and Dad would go into a tirade.

Just imagine this picture. All the boy had to do was neglect taking out the trash and he got a first-rate floor show, and he knew he made it happen, and could make it happen any time he wanted. Although the boy didn’t like the hard edge of Dad’s wrath (consequences bordered on abuse), part of him delighted in the power and control he had over the old man.

Your situation probably is not as severe as the example I just shared, but I strongly believe that an adult’s response to oppositional, defiant and noncompliant behavior has a great deal to do with those behaviors happening again and again. It’s not the sort of payoff you can reach out and touch, but it’s a powerful, intangible payoff that a youngster can grow to prefer. Why? Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley say it well in their book, Transforming the Difficult Child:

“The energy, reactivity and animation that we radiate when we are pleased is relatively flat compared to our verbal and nonverbal responses to behaviors that cause us displeasure, frustration or anger.”

How Do We Change Things?

1. Refuse to become overly upset. If there is a consequence to be applied, apply it, then physically remove yourself from the situation, if you can. Youngsters don’t like consequences. If you hang around, they just might go through their entire script of unhappiness.

2. Work out all the consequences in advance, and write them down. Discuss with your child what would be reasonable consequences for forgotten tasks or inappropriate behaviors. When they are not in a defensive mood or “on-the-spot,” many youngsters will come up with excellent consequences as you consider what would be reasonable and fair for a given situation. (These are called “elicited” consequences. If the youngster helps you with the consequences, he’ll be less likely to say they are unfair when you later have to apply them.) Type all this up on the computer (better yet, let the youngster do it). Go over it again with them, and give them a copy of the signed document. Later, instead of telling them the consequence for a behavior, produce the list, and ask them to read it to you. There’s something about a child or teen stating a consequence in their own voice that takes a lot of the fight out of the situation.

3. Attend to your child when he’s NOT in trouble. Although this makes a lot of sense on the surface, we live in a busy, busy world. When our kids create trouble, we have to attend to it, but it’s easy to let relationships slide when there’s no emergency. Make a commitment just to be with the youngster for a few moments on a regular basis. A parent’s physical presence, especially in those few moments before their child goes to sleep, is a powerful and positive thing.

4. Consider ways to provide additional empowerment. For some kids, getting adults worked up into a full lather appeals to them because they feel that’s the only way they have any power at all. A simple way to increase empowerment is to offer more choices, where appropriate. In assigning chores, for instance, give them five tasks and explain they can give two of them back to you if they do three of them by a certain time.

5. Learn to live more calmly in an imperfect world. This one certainly applies to all of us. I have to work on it every day.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
Email

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What if it’s NOT ADHD? (An Interview with Frank Barnhill, MD)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Frank Barnhill, family practice physician and ADHD expert at his home in South Carolina. The information in this interview is so powerful that I decided to put a link to the intervied on the “It’s About Them” blog.

This telephone interview runs 29 minutes, and can be accessed through this link:
www.thechangingbehaviornetwork.com/2011/12/03.

There are over 60 medical, psychological, and environmental conditions and circumstances that can mimic the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

What does this mean? It means that almost 2.5 million young people are being misdiagnosed, mismedicated, and wrongly labeled as ADHD. The implications of this are far-reaching and harmful to our children.

In this fast-paced and fact-filled interview, ADHD expert and family practice physican, Dr. Frank Barnhill, describes the problems and concerns associated with a “quick fix,” a hasty diagnosis of ADHD and use of stimulant drugs without benefit of a thorough evaluation. He shares how a wrongful diagnosis in children and teens can lead to employment, legal, and emotional problems in adulthood. He then draws on his 27 years of family medicine to cover important questions parents should ask their doctor to be sure their children are being effectively evaluated and treated for ADHD (29:04).

Dr. Barnhill is the author of the aclaimed book, Mistaken for ADHD. The book, an ADHD blog, and his newsletter, “Living with ADHD,” are all available through his excellent and informative website, www.mistakenforadhd.com.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
Email

December 4, 2011 Posted by | ADHD, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The ONE Thing

THE ONE THING:

Folks can write all kinds of books on raising and teaching difficult kids. It certainly seems that one’s head can become so overloaded with ideas until it’s difficult to focus on ANY of them. Tell me, what is the ONE thing I can do to have the most impact in changing the difficult and defiant behavior of my child?

It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by all the well-intended advice. Actually, this question reminds me a bit of the movie City Slickers (Columbia Pictures, 1991). Curly Washburn, Jack Palance’s character in the picture tells the wanna-be cowboys there is one one thing that matters most in their cattle drive, and in life. Curly never tells them what it is, exhorting them to figure it out for themselves.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, the psychologist noted for his unique and effective approach to healing (his success resulted in the closing of an entire ward set aside for criminally insane patients at the Hawaii State Hospital in the late 80s), shares how he was inspired by a simple plaque on his mentor’s desk:

Peace Begins with Me

(Dr. Hew Len’s story inspired me from the moment I first heard of it, then later read about in the book, Zero Limits. His approach to healing lies at the very core of my newest work, The Changing Behavior Book.)

If this was the driving philosophy that helped Dr. Hew Len achieve astonishing improvement in what many would consider “impossible” individuals, how much better would it serve us with reasonably intact young people capable even of expressing a bit of tenderness amid the turmoil?

But what sort of peace is that? Well, for starters, I believe it means waking up in the morning without a “hangover” full of yesterday’s issues. Is that difficult to do? Incredibly so, sometimes; I’ve been there as a parent. But I honestly can’t remember one single instance where my anger, resentment, and frustration ever contributed anything to a solution. One doesn’t change the weather by smashing the thermometer.

Authentic peace, and how to achieve it, has as many meanings as there are folks interpreting it. One thing, however, is for cetain: Everyone knows when they don’t have it.

Let me close this section with a word of caution about “Peace Begins with Me.” It is contagious.

Your kids can catch it.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
Email

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Eliciting Conseqences for Inappropriate Behavior

This piece was the second part of the “Your Questions Answered” section of the ODD Management Digest. (The Digest is free; subscribe from the column on the right.) It poses some good strageties for more pleasant outcomes of a conflict between parent and child.

I appreciated what Janet Lehman had to say in the recent two-part piece on consequences. In discussing it with a friend, however, an alternative of “eliciting” consequences was suggested. I’m not sure what this is, but it sounds interesting. How does it work?

In the last issue of the Digest I addressed this question. It’s a good question, and it helped us look at another way of managing consequences with a difficult or defant youngster.

A Little Review

The approach we covered last month was not complicated at all. In fact, it made a lot of sense. It involved simply asking the youngster to state the consequence to follow.

The most difficult part of eliciting a consequence is the making certain that in a moment of no strife or difficulty, consequences for certain behaviors or actions (including behaviors of “not doing”) have already been discussed with the child or teen. It would be a great idea to write them down, print them off, and give the youngster a copy. That way, if the child says, “I don’t remember,” they can go get their list or retrieve it from the saved file on the computer. (I suppose we could call that “Family” Public Record.)

Last month I also emphasized the value of the child stating the consequence to the parent. THIS IS CRITICAL. There’s something about a son or daughter stating the consequence back to the parent in their own voice that serves to nail down the issue.

Always keep in mind that with this approach, some work has to be done up front, long before the consequence is needed.

Another Way

But what if the work has not been done up front? What if the situation of the infraction is so unique there is no preset consequence?

Try this: Calmly ask the child what she believes would be a reasonable consequence. Better yet, ask her to come up with a menu of three. You might present it in a manner something like this:

Suzie, I’m sure you understand I’m not happy about what you did (or didn’t do), but I’ve always seen you as a reasonable and fair young lady. See if you can come up with three consequences you believe both of us can accept. If so, I’ll pick one, and we’ll be done with it. Okay?On the other hand, Suzie, if you don’t think you are reasonable and fair person, let me know, and I’ll come up with one. (Not likely to happen.)

“Come up with three consequences …” is actually a pretty solid consequence in itself, isn’t it?

I do believe most youngsters understand the concept of “reasonable and fair.” Suzie know that telling a lie doesn’t mean she’ll sleep outdoors for six months, but she also knows a parent isn’t likely to let a blatant falsehood go unaddressed.

Even when she messes up, Mom and Dad can honor Suzie when they appeal to her sense of what seems right.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email: suttonjd@Docspeak.com
Website: http://www.docspeak.com
Blog: https://itsaboutthem.wordpress.com

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Parents | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Consistency in Assessment of ODD

 

CONSISTENCY IN ASSESSMENT OF ODD

  Here’s a thoughtful question from the November, 2010 issue of the ODD Management Digest. Have you ever wondered the same thing?

(NOTE: To receive monthly complimentary issues of the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE.)

I have seen kids I believed to be marginally defiant hauled off to a doctor for a battery of tests. It ended with a psychological report that was more scary than helpful. On the other hand, I’ve seen youngsters who were seriously defiant NEVER receive any assessment or evaluation at all. In your opinion, Dr. Sutton, why is this?  

 

 This happens all the time. Some youngsters receive an assessment based on the observations, priorities and financial resources of the parents. Frankly, they can take their child to any doctor they choose, and do it any time they choose. My observation over the years is that a parental request for a psychological assessment, especially when Mom and Dad are paying for it, will result in a diagnosis of some sort.

 As for behaviorally-needy youngsters not getting an assessment, there could be a number of reasons.

1. For whatever reason, parents are not communicating with the school on the matter. 

2. Multiple stresses within the home put survival as the priority that trumps everything else. 

3. The parents can’t afford an assessment or don’t have adequate health insurance to help on the bill. (And they might be embarrassed to mention it.) 

4. The school hasn’t adequately expressed the need and made a case for an assessment to the parents. 

5. The school has been implementing interventions (RTI or PBS) in an attempt to resolve behavior and compliance issues. (This is as it should be, with an understanding that, at some point, a school psychological assessment might be helpful.) 

6. School psychologists and other assessment folks are overloaded and must work with students based on highest priority needs. 

7. The line between learning issues and behavioral issues becomes so “fuzzy” that one is addressed at the expense of the other.

 

This list isn’t even close to being complete; we could spend a day adding to it. Solving the assessment issue involves regular communication between home and school, strong longitudinal documentation, and successful efforts to involve the youngster actively in the problem identification-solving process. (This last one takes time and trust, but it pays big dividends.)

James Sutton, Psychologist    www.docspeak.com

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can You Handle Your Child’s Anger?

This article was featured in the October, 2010, issue of the ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) Management Digest. To get a complimentary subscription to this excellent resource, with many articles and tips for teachers, parents and counselors working with behaviorally difficult youngsters, CLICK HERE.

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CAN YOU HANDLE YOUR CHILD’S ANGER?  It really hurts, doesn’t it, when someone you’d die for has moments where they would prefer you do just that.

Let’s take it a step further. There are parents who are so uncomfortable with their child being angry at them they’d either capitulate to the youngster or try to “buy them back” in some way. Result: Youngsters learn to use their anger to change outcomes at home. Do we really want the child to take that “skill” into the workplace and into marriage?

(As a dad, I remember how much it hurt to have one of my children that upset with me. My wife, the one without the degrees and licenses, was always much better than I at handling it.)

Sometimes your decisions as a parent must stand regardless of how angry a son or daughter becomes. Here are three quick tips for getting through it:

1. DON’T try to smooth it over. Just the sound of your voice might send them into another orbit. Let some time pass. Resist any temptation to reason with them, to explain the responsibilities of being a parent, or even share how much you love them. They’re not ready at that point to hear much of any of it.

Sometimes a small redirection regarding the outcomes of their anger might be effective, especially if it’s something the youngster hadn’t considered. It’s not a move designed to shut down the anger, but rather it’s intended (hopefully) to prevent the child from making a mistake they might later regret.

Here’s a quick story about what I mean. When my son was in high school our family was getting dressed to have photo portraits made up at the church. One problem: He was very upset with me. (It’s interesting today that, as we speak of the incident, neither of us can remember why he was so upset with me.) He proclaimed he was not going with us.

I had visions of our family’s picture in the church directory for the next five years or so being minus one conspicuous member. So that’s how I discussed it with him:

Jamie, I know you’re upset with me. I’m not here to talk you out of that. I just wanted to make sure you knew that, if you’re not in the picture with the family, people are going to ask why … people like your grandparents and other folks you really care about. Long after you and I work out the problem between us, you’ll still be missing in that picture. I hope you’ll come with us, but you’re too big for me to order around. You decide.

With that I went upstairs and put on my suit. I don’t recall him saying a word but, after a bit, he quietly got dressed and rode with us up to the church. As it turned out, it was our best family portrait ever. A huge copy of it graced our den for many, many years.

I can’t say my short dialog with him was necessarily right or wrong, but it was heartfelt. I’d like to think that was the message he received.

2. Be available, but not too available. Don’t change your lifestyle just because they’re mad at you. Give them some space, but don’t avoid them.

3. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul. Not only will your children eventually return to an anger-free relationship, they just might grow in their respect for you. And, just perhaps, they’ll learn that when they don’t always get their way, the world goes on, anyway.

James Sutton, Psychologist      www.docspeak.com

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Parents | , , , | Leave a comment

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Digest (September, 2010)

ODD Management Digest

(September, 2010)

 

The September, 2010, issue of the resource for parents, teachers and counselors, the ODD Management Digest, has been published to the web. For a complimentary (free) subscription, CLICK HERE. (If you miss the September, 2010, issue, subscribe anyway. Any current Digest will direct you to past issues.)

Here’s what in the September, 2010, issue:

 

TIPS FOR PARENTS

Noncritical Noticing: Here’s an excellent approach for affirming a son or daughter without their fear that we are being critical or judgmental.

HANDLING CLASSROOM CHALLENGES

“I’ve Got Your Number:” A teacher in California shares an excellent strategy for a nonverbal and non-embarrassing method for redirecting a student back to a task.

THE COUNSELOR’S CORNER

The Apple Tells the Story:  A guidance counselor in South Carolina shares how a shiny apple can be used to teach youngsters the damage put-downs can do. This strategy is so visual and strong, it easily opens discussion on reasons and ways to be considerte to others.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Finding a Counselor or Therapist (Part Two): This is the second of two parts of an answer to a father’s questions about what makes a good counselor or therapist for his child, and where does one find them.

FREEBIES

(New Video) Finding a Counselor or Therapist for Your Child or Teen: Using the material from the August and September, 2010 issues of the Digest, Dr. Sutton put together this short video on the topic.

WHAT’S NEW?

New Anger Training Program: Dr. Sutton’s lastest training program, Practical Stategies for Managing the Angry, Aggressive and Impulsive Student, is now being scheduled for educational service centers, schools, and seminar companies. A schedule for the 2010-2011 school year is included.

LIFE’S MOMENTS

2%–The Winner’s Edge:  Winning in life and successfully achieving one’s dreams is often built around slight advantages in effort. Sometimes only 2% more brings a tremendous payoff, but the 2% has to be there. Don’t miss this piece.

For a complimentary subscription to the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE. The Digest will appear monthly in your email as long as you want, and you can cancel it at any time.

September 12, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Apple Tells the Story

THE APPLE TELLS THE STORY: If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then an apple can be worth a whole book. Here’s a great visual lesson shared by Tamela Ward, guidance counselor at Anderson School District One in Piedmont, South Carolina. (I did a training workshop in Columbia one winter. It was 40 degrees below zero that day! Okay, it felt like 40 below!)

Here’s the deal. Deliberately bruise an apple the evening before the lesson. Be careful not to break the skin or damage the appearance.

“Show the group or class your pretty, shiny apple,” suggested Tamela. “Discuss with them what it means to be a good friend and to be considerate of the person and the feelings of others. Bang the apple against the desk as you make your point about put-downs and words that hurt others.

“After you’ve made your point, cut the apple open and show them how it is badly bruised on the inside. Discuss how, even though things may look fine on the outside, a lot of damage can be done on the inside.

“It’s a very powerful lesson for showing how words can really hurt a lot,” Tamela concluded.   

September 11, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Behavior Modification Trap (free e-book)

The Behavior Modification Trap

A complimentary e-booklet for parents and educators

 

Have you ever offered a youngster a super deal of some kind if they would do a task, only to have them refuse? If it’s a youngster who is oppositional, defiant and difficult by nature, they seem to delight more in refusing than accepting … regardless of the offer.

 

What’s going on here? It doesn’t make sense, does it? This free publication, The Behavior Modification Trap, addresses … AND ANSWERS … an interesting question: Why do tangible rewards and incentives NOT work with some youngsters?

 

To download this complimentary e-book, CLICK HERE.

 

Dr. James Sutton, Psychologist        www.docspeak.com

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tip for Counselors: THE LIST

THE LIST: It is a challenge sometimes getting youngsters to identify issues they need to work on in counseling. It’s also possible for a counselor to have the exact opposite problem: youngsters who lean too heavily on the counselor and want to “customize” every session.

 

I’ve had counseling and therapy clients bring a list with them! It contained all the issues and items they wanted me to cover in the sessions with them. If this were a once-in-a-while sort of thing, with a youngster writing down a few things during the week she wanted to discuss with me during the next session, it would be fine.

 

As a habit, however, a list can send up a few red flags. We’ll look at three concerns. (You’ll notice I keep saying “she” because my most memorable list-making, list-bringing, client was an adolescent girl.)

 

1. The list might be full of petty gripes and complaints that she wants me to fix or repair for her. Again, one or two occasional issues are not a problem, but I do need to make it clear that the counselor or therapist is not a handyman or a cop. (The real focus here is her empowerment to manage the smaller issues herself.)

2. The list could be a diversion. It just might be a defocus to take the discussion away from things that are difficult or uncomfortable for her to address. As long as she can make a list, and as long as I address her list items in session, she’s controlling the session and not doing much in terms of improvement.

3. The list could signal compulsive or histrionic characteristics. With adolescents, especially girls, persistence in making and bringing lists to counseling or therapy could create concern about emerging features of a personality disorder. This is not as big a concern with younger clients. One young client brought her list to almost every session. She even gave me a decorated binder for storing all her notes and lists! This girl brought me the ultimate list to one session: numbered ways to kill herself. She wanted me to circle the one I thought best for her … a “recommendation”, so to speak. Obviously, we had plenty of work to do in that session.

 

Here’s how I handled the list thing with her and a few others. I didn’t tell her not to make or bring lists. Instead, I accepted the list, placed it on the corner of my desk, and shared that we could talk about the list during the last few minutes of the session. This approach worked well with her and, without me saying much about it, the lists got shorter and eventually disappeared.

 

As you might guess, this young lady was not my typical counseling case. I’m happy to say, however, that she is doing quite well today. Life for her has not been easy, but she has persevered and thrived. I’m proud to say she’s happily married, has earned a college degree, owns her own successful business, is active in her church, and has five great kids.

 

James Sutton, EdD, Psychologist    www.docspeak.com

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment