Dr. Peggy Drexler.Author, research psychologist and gender scholar
Jill remembers the very first time Ben got called to the principal’s office. The kindergarteners were standing in line waiting for the bus home when Ben pushed a classmate to the ground. Then he encouraged a few of the other kids to start kicking. The boy wasn’t down for long before a teacher, who had witnessed the whole thing, came over to intervene. Ben, the teacher later told Jill, seemed to think it was funny. Jill was horrified.
Ben and his collaborators were sentenced to five hours each of community service around the school during recess: cleaning dry erase boards, packing up balls in the gym. At home, Jill talked to Ben about what it means to act appropriately at school and to be kind to others, and continued to talk to him in the months following. He was a smart boy; he understood, she thought. After all, at home, he was generally well behaved.
And yet, three years later, Ben remains the undisputed class troublemaker. Teachers almost seem to assume that he’ll act out. Often, Jill suspects, this is precisely the reason he does. He knows what’s expected of him.
During the elementary school years, boys tend to misbehave more than girls, though girls catch up later during adolescence, in other ways. We used to say that boys were more “active,” as if to excuse, or at least explain, misbehavior. But the truth is that the line between “active” and “disruptive” is thin, kids aren’t particularly skilled at walking it, and disruptive is a problem. Parents of kids like Ben know that once a boy has been labeled a troublemaker at school, it can be very difficult for him to shake the label. Often, that’s because he becomes the label; he, like Ben, lives up to the expectations other have laid out for him.
It’s not easy for parents to admit their son is the one causing trouble, and can be even harder to reconcile when the child is well behaved at home. It’s a natural impulse to defend kids, especially when you didn’t actually see what happened, and want to help them argue their way out of trouble — whether that’s after-school detention or a speeding ticket. It’s also natural for parents to want to intervene when their troublemaker finds himself an outcast among friends, as many often do. “Many of the boys stopped wanting to play with Ben at recess because it often meant they’d get into trouble, too,” remembers Jill. “It was heartbreaking, but in a way I couldn’t really blame them. It wasn’t untrue.”
If your child is the troublemaker, it’s important to help set him straight sooner rather than later — ideally before he gets labeled and before he finds himself losing friends. A few ideas to keep in mind:
Practice tough love (on yourself, too). Be honest with yourself about your son’s behavior. Your job is to be his champion, but not his defender when he’s behaved inappropriately. If he’s the class clown, even if he’s not “hurting anyone,” you need to acknowledge that, and respect the consequences. Learning to develop the skills needed to be part of a group is a critical part of growing up, and something your son needs to learn. Maybe even the hard way.
Cooperate. The best results come when parents can work with, and not against, teachers. When you argue with the school, his coach, or the staff at the daycare, you’re letting your son off the hook. You can support him without letting him avoid the consequences of his actions. The more you help him skirt the issue, the less likely he is to change. And if you do disagree with the way a teacher is handling your child, never discuss it in front of him. That will only further undermine her authority in his eyes. Take your concern directly to the teacher, way out of earshot of your son.
Be specific. When your son acts out at home or in school, don’t just tell him what he did wrong. Have him tell you — and then talk together about why that behavior was unacceptable. Teach him strategies to act better. One way to do this is to present specific scenarios. Set up micro-scenes and have him act out responses: What to do when he’s bored in class, angry with a friend, feeling the urge to tell a joke during quiet time. Then remind him of all his positive qualities and point out when he does something right, like helping a friend or making his bed without being asked. Being labeled a troublemaker can be difficult on a child’s self-esteem, so remember to give it a gentle boost now and again. If he thinks he only does wrong, he’ll continue to do wrong.
Let things go… If your son is losing friends because of his behavior, don’t try to intervene, no matter how difficult it is to watch. Children have the right to decide if they’re not comfortable playing with other children. Respect their decision and know that it will be a learning tool for your son, then talk to him about why his friends may be turning away. Learning how to get along with others is an important part of becoming independent, and while you can help him understand what it means to be a good friend, you can’t force other children to overlook your son’s problematic behavior. In fact, the less you help, the quicker he’ll figure it out himself.
…But don’t give up. If the pattern continues or gets worse, you may want to consider enlisting the help of your pediatrician or a counselor. Some kids have trouble adjusting to change, at school or at home. But if his behavior has been consistent over months or even years, something may be bothering him that he’s unable to articulate.
By Amber Moore Children who get good sleep at night are more likely to have good vocabulary as they can learn and retain new words better than kids who don’t get enough sleep.
A new study has found that the mechanism that the adults use to learn is the same mechanism that enables children to develop vocabulary.
“These are truly exciting results which open up a new dimension of research in our understanding of language development. Our work provides the first evidence that sleep is associated with the integration of newly-learned words into the mental dictionaries of children,” said Dr Anna Weighall from the psychology research group at Sheffield Hallam.
Researchers found that new words began assimilating with other words in the brain after a cycle of 12 hours. But, this process happens only if the child has slept during the period. Sleep provides an environment that helps the brain start consolidating learned material that it shifts from short-term memory to long-term memory.
“Children’s ability to recall and recognise new words improved approximately 12 hours after training, but only if sleep occurs. The key effects were maintained one week later, suggesting that these new words are retained in long-term memory,” said Dr Lisa Henderson from the Department of Psychology at University of York.
Children with disturbed sleep or those who snore a lot while sleeping are more likely to have problems with learning and behavior. Previous research has shown that sleep can aid in learning of a complex motor-skill.
Researchers say that further studies in the field will show how sleep affects children who are diagnosed with developmental and neurological problems like autism and dyslexia.
“Clearly, children need to learn material well in the first place, but then they also need to sleep well in order to weave these new memories in with their established knowledge. The combination of these two components is the key to robust learning,” said Professor Gareth Gaskell in the Department of Psychology at University of York.
Read more at http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/13294/20121128/good-sleep-linked-improved-vocabulary-children.htm#wRHs9AWk0Z6EEvzr.99
Written on September 26, 2012 by bpeters in Family Relationships, Marriage .
Just the other day, as I was talking with a client about the progress they’re making in his relationship, he voiced another concern.
He told me about a recent conversation he and his wife had engaged in about their 6-year-old son’s behavior. In a moment of humorous desperation and frustration, he had said, “Maybe we should send him off to some military boarding school to make him behave better.” What they didn’t know was that he was sitting on the stairs in the hall.
The poor kid had heard the whole thing! And as a 6 year old, he wasn’t very discerning. He couldn’t tell reality from fantasy, and he didn’t know that it was a statement made as a joke. So the little boy internalized it as any little boy would.
He started thinking, “they want to get rid of me, they don’t love me.”
A few days passed and he told his mother that he was having trouble sleeping. He said he was having bad dreams where bears were after him. This began to concern my client and his spouse, and spilled into our conversation about advice on relationships.
Communication is necessary between parents concerning child rearing issues, of course. But it’s critical to have boundaries in place! Kids have a way of hearing everything that is said, especially when you least expect it.
While I often write about topics relating to advice on relationships, marriages are definitely affected by how you relate to your children as well. Communication issues there create tension that will need to be resolved.
When communicating with each other about your children, here are some suggestions to prevent similar mishaps based on misheard information:
Advice on Relationships: How To (Safely) Talk With Your Spouse About Your Kids
1.Keep it positive and loving.
2.If there is an important issue to discuss that could be negative in nature, make sure you have that conversation in a place where the child in question cannot hear it. If you’re relying on your child being in bed or in another room, this can backfire. Check and double check to make sure you’re not being overheard as the conversation unfolds.
3.Make sure other siblings do not hear the conversation either.
4.Never talk to one sibling about another.
5.Do not talk to others about your child who might go back to the child and paraphrase your words, often incorrectly.
The things you say shape your child’s perception of the world, feelings about him or herself which can raise or lower self-esteem.
Words have power. They can leave a scar if internalized incorrectly.
Have you ever been caught in this kind of situation? If so, here are some steps to resolve it – but you must take them seriously and truly regret having caused distress for your child.
Advice on Relationships: How to Resolve Miscommunications With Kids
1.Apologize to the child.
2.Reassure him or her that it was not meant to be factual. This may take some thoughtful explaining.
3.Engage in follow up behavior to reinforce your words and rebuild your child’s trust in you.
Like we tell children so often, as parents, we must think before letting those words roll off our tongues. Our kids listen, watch us, and pick up cues from us, even in the times we think they aren’t paying attention at all.
Have you had to apologize to your child for an inadvertent miscommunication with unintended consequences?
By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
College grads: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Unfortunately, for many, the answer is a resounding “no.” Hordes of college grads have not acquired any skills that will enable them to get a decent job. And if that weren’t bad enough, they’re saddled with a mountain of debt that will be an albatross around their neck for decades to come.
With no prospects for the future, is it any wonder that so many college grads feel lost? This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Higher education was supposed to be the best investment one could make to guarantee a solid future. Often they feel cheated, left asking “now what?”
Dumped into adulthood, with no job prospects, many decide to double down on their education. Go to grad school. Get an advanced degree. But will more education pay off? Or will it simply dig a deeper debt hole? No guarantee. Even many with graduate degrees are unemployed or underemployed.
The importance and value of a college education has been sacrosanct. But things change. It takes a while for people to get used to the change. Remember when owning a home was the guaranteed path to building financial security? Paying rent was supposed to be throwing money down the drain. Then came the housing bubble. And we all know how that story turned out for scores of homeowners.
Might it now be time to openly question the value of a college education? With the walloping nonstop increase in tuition costs, it sure seems like we’ve entered an education bubble. It’s likely to leave many in mega-debt, with no prospect for even a ho-hum career. Latest reports indicate that 53 percent of recent college grads are either unemployed or working at a job that does not require a college degree. There are more than 100,000 janitors in the U.S. with college degrees and 16,000 parking lot attendants.
Clearly, many families need to consider other types of post-secondary education for their kids. Perhaps learning a marketable trade is the way to go. There will always be a need for auto mechanics, electricians, carpenters, beauticians, makeup artists, and workers with other hands-on skills. These jobs will not disappear and cannot be shipped overseas. Or, one might consider investing in a small business or franchise. Become an entrepreneur. Pursue your culinary skills. Follow your artistic dreams. Or, don’t attend college as a four-year vacation with beer parties, drug parties, hooking up and easy courses as the main attraction. Instead, pursue your degree with the primary goal of learning marketable skills.
But what about the idea of education for education’s sake? Isn’t that what college is supposed to be about – making you smarter, more savvy, more cosmopolitan? Ideally, yes. However, in today’s world, anyone who wishes to become smarter and savvier does not need to attend college. The Internet can provide you with an amazing low-cost or free education. Several companies, including Coursera and Khan Academy, offer lectures taught by world-class professors. You can learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. Curious about what makes good people do bad things? Go online to TED talks for free lectures from top researchers in the field. Get started with a talk by Dr. Phil Zimbardo and you’ll be hooked.
Even Ivy League schools offer free courses. Yes, prestigious universities like Stanford, Yale, Princeton and MIT offer the same courses with the same professors that college students spend thousands of dollars to take. For free.
The catch? You don’t get college credit. But you will get an education. And you can use the money that would have been spent on getting a degree to launch your career and move out of your parents’ house before you turn 30
There are choices to be made, folks. Don’t automatically assume that going into debt for a college education is the only or best way to create a first-class future. There are many options out there. Consider them before deciding what to do.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2012) — Parents with a higher number of stressors in their lives are more likely to have obese children, according to a new study by pediatric researchers. Furthermore, when parents perceive themselves to be stressed, their children eat fast food more often, compared to children whose parents feel less stressed.
“Stress in parents may be an important risk factor for child obesity and related behaviors,” said Elizabeth Prout-Parks, M.D., a physician nutrition specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who led a study published online October 22 in the November issue of Pediatrics. “The severity and number of stressors are important.”
Among the parental stressors associated with childhood obesity are poor physical and mental health, financial strain, and leading a single-parent household, said Prout-Parks. Although previous researchers had found a connection between parental stress and child obesity, the current study covered a more diverse population, both ethnically and socioeconomically, than did previous studies.
The study team suggested that interventions aimed at reducing parental stress and teaching coping skills may assist public health campaigns in addressing childhood obesity.
The researchers analyzed self-reported data from 2,119 parents and caregivers who participated in telephone surveys in the 2006 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey/Community Health Database, conducted in Philadelphia and neighboring suburbs. The households contained children aged 3 to 17, among whom 25 percent were obese. Among the variables included were parental stressors, parent-perceived stress, age, race, health quality and gender of children, adult levels of education, BMI, gender, sleep quality, and outcomes such as child obesity, fast-food consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity.
Of the measured stressors, single-parent households had the strongest relationship with child obesity, while financial stress had the strongest relationship for a child not being physically active. Unexpectedly, neither parent stressors nor parent-perceived stress was associated with decreased fruit and vegetable consumption by their children.
However, this study was the first to find an association between parent-perceived stress and more frequent fast-food consumption by children. Fast food, often containing high quantities of fat and sugar, is an important risk factor for obesity and child health. The researchers speculated that parents experiencing stress may buy more fast food for the family, to save time or reduce the demands of meal preparation. The authors also suggest that actual and perceived parental stress may result in less supervision of children, who may then make unhealthy food and activity choices.
“Although multiple stressors can elicit a ‘stressor pile-up,’ causing adverse physical health in children, parent’s perception of their general stress level may be more important than the actual stressors,” the authors write.
Future research on child obesity should further examine other family behaviors and community factors not available in the current study, conclude the authors. In addition, “Clinical care, research and other programs might reduce levels of childhood obesity by developing supportive measures to reduce stressors on parents,” said Prout-Parks. “Teaching alternative coping strategies to parents might also help them to reduce their perceived stress.”
(Edmonton)By Bryan Alary Children who bask in the nighttime glow of a TV or computer don’t get enough rest and suffer from poor lifestyle habits, new research from the University of Alberta has shown.
A provincewide survey of Grade 5 students in Alberta showed that as little as one hour of additional sleep decreased the odds of being overweight or obese by 28 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. Children with one or more electronic devices in the bedroom—TVs, computers, video games and cellphones—were also far more likely to be overweight or obese.
“If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom,” said co-author Paul Veugelers, a professor in the School of Public Health, Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions Health Scholar.
Veugelers, director of the Population Health Intervention Research Unit that works with the Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating (APPLE Schools), said the research is the first to connect the dots on the relationship between sleep, diet and physical activity among kids.
Nearly 3,400 Grade 5 students were asked about their nighttime sleep habits and access to electronics through the REAL Kids Alberta survey. Half of the students had a TV, DVD player or video game console in their bedroom, 21 per cent had a computer and 17 per cent had a cellphone. Five per cent of students had all three types of devices.
Some 57 per cent of students reported using electronics after they were supposed to be asleep, with watching TV and movies being the most popular activity. Twenty-seven per cent of students engaged in three or more activities after bedtime.
Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices, with similar results reported among obese children.
More sleep also led to significantly more physical activity and better diet choices, researchers found.
Co-author Christina Fung noted that children today are not sleeping as much as previous generations, with two-thirds not getting the recommended hours of sleep per night. In addition to healthy lifestyle habits, a good night’s sleep has been linked to better academic outcomes, fewer mood disorders and other positive health outcomes, she said.
“It’s important to teach these children at an earlier age and teach them healthy habits when they are younger.”
The research was published in September by the journal Pediatric Obesity, in an early online release. The REAL Kids Alberta evaluation was funded through a contract with Alberta Health.
Dr. Peggy Drexler
Twelve-year-old Jessie knows how her dad, Sam, feels about her grandmother, Sam’s mother-in-law. Exactly how he feels. “I think she’s great, but my dad always talks about how judgmental, critical, and demanding she is,” says Jessie. “Sometimes I guess she makes my mom feel bad. Whenever she’s coming for a visit, my dad gets stressed out.” Most times, Sam says, he uses a joking tone when bashing his mother-in-law. Other times, he admits, he is straight-up biting.
We’re always hearing about children and teenagers who share too much: with their friends; with their parents; online, with the world. But what happens when it’s Mom and Dad dabbling in TMI? How do we know how much–and what sort of–information our kids can handle?
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest of social media, we have quickly grown accustomed to the concept of over sharing. Revealing the most mundane details of our daily lives–not to mention our formerly private innermost thoughts–feels normal to us; it’s what people do. But this lack of boundaries has also resulted in a generation of mothers and fathers who share too much with their kids, from too-early talks about sex to what we really think about the neighbor, the high school math teacher, or Grandma.
Part of this tendency stems from a desire to be close to, and connect with, our children. We think that sharing secrets, or interacting with kids as we might other adults, breeds a level of intimacy. In some ways, it does: Sharing some personal information with your child is necessary in order to build trust. But children aren’t meant to play the role of confidante to their parents. They’re not meant to be your sounding board, and they can’t process information in the same way you do. You might have spotted the school principal last weekend hitting on a woman that wasn’t his wife. But that’s news for you–and not your kids–to deal with.
That’s because kids, even older ones, aren’t intellectually or emotionally prepared to shoulder the burden of TMI. They don’t have the capacity to try to figure out how they should react–or why–to what you’re telling them. What’s more, they’re terrible at keeping secrets. You can say, “Dad and I are having an argument.” You can’t say, “I think your father is having an affair.” Similarly, it’s okay to tell a child, “We can’t afford that” if you can’t. But not “I just don’t know how we’re going to pay the mortgage this month.”
Jenna and Bart divorced when their son, Luke, was a baby. Bart has remarried; Jenna has not. And she’s told 8-year-old Luke that she never will, a statement he’s since repeated to most anyone who asks about his mother. Perhaps Jenna’s confiding in Luke was a way of differentiating herself from Bart, the “bad parent” who had left. Or maybe it was just something she wanted to share. At 8, however, Luke is too young to know how to process this information, and what it means to him.
Divorced parents will frequently use over sharing when competing for a child’s affections, which puts the child in the middle. (This can happen even when both parents aren’t outwardly bashing the other, just as it can happen between parents who are still married.) At times, Luke will tell Bart that he is unable to play with him because “Mommy says you lie.” Katie was a 15-year-old who told me she couldn’t live with her mother because she was “passive aggressive and controlling.” Those were words she got from her father, and they were words that Katie used against her mother, especially as she got older. One day, she would also use those words against her dad.
Here, we see how over sharing can disrupt the natural order of the parent-child dynamic. When you make your child your confidante, you’re sending the message that you and she make decisions together. This, of course, is not true. While you should encourage your child to assert her opinion, you, as parent, make decisions–even minor ones. Too much information leads a child to believe that he or she has a role in the decision making, reducing your authority and skewing your child’s view of the world and how things work.
It’s easy to think that by telling your child things, he will, in turn, tell you things. Sometimes that’s the case. More often, it’s not. What’s more, it’s important for kids to individuate from their parents–and important for parents to learn to let their kids do that. Many parents use over sharing to try to halt this very necessary process. But kids aren’t our friends; they are still learning to be friends to others. It’s important that you provide that model. To do that, give your kids enough information to meet their age-appropriate needs, and to keep them safe. They don’t need to be freaked out, worried, or caught in the middle between adults. They’re kids. Don’t take that away from them.
This first appeared on Psychology Today.
Does your bright child have special abilities – but also some special issues? Did you know that it is common for gifted children to be “too old and too young” at the same time? For example, you might have an 8-year-old who has the reasoning ability of a 15-year-old, the mathematics skills of a 12-year old, the social skills of an 8-year-old, and the emotional regulation of a 4-year-old – all at once.
In addition, many gifted children struggle with anxiety, attention problems, dyslexia, Asperger’s disorder, and more. These kids are called “twice-exceptional” or “2e” because they have abilities at both ends of spectrum. They are both more advance than, and behind, their same-aged peers. Unfortunately, 2e kids usually are not identified as gifted, and do not receive support for their gifted abilities – or their deficit areas – because their strengths and weaknesses cancel each other out. Understanding whether your child is 2e is critical for his or her life-long development – for both maximizing strengths and addressing weaknesses.
Your child might be 2e if he or she:
1. Is not achieving in school the way you believe she or he should
2. Seems “bright but lazy”
3. Gets easily frustrated and melts down often
4. Has attention and organizational problems that undermine her or his achievement
5. Struggles with social skills and making and maintaining friendships
6. Fails to hear correctly, see correctly or is overwhelmed by sensory stimulation (i.e., noises, sounds, smells, bright light, textures)
7. Has difficulty with sound/symbol relationships, reversals, spelling, and writing, but manages to power through reading using contextual clues and unusual effort
8. Shows high verbal ability but extreme difficulty in calculation skills and rote memory
9. Isn’t able to show what he or she knows on tests
10. Worries all the time and refuses to try new things
Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/
by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express
Parenting is one of the most challenging, yet meaningful life tasks. Unfortunately, popular wisdom and misconceptions about how to raise responsible kids can lead to ineffective communication and power struggles Some parents use authoritarian parenting strategies that do not allow the child an independent voice or sense of efficacy. Other parents overcompensate with overly permissive parenting that doesn’t teach kids about limits and self-control. Research shows both extremes can interfere with kids’ ability to regulate emotions and form healthy relationships as adults. The best type of parenting is fair, flexible, respectful, and has learning, rather than submission as its goal. Hearing and respecting feelings, allowing choice, yet setting fair and clear limits on unacceptable behavior is the healthy balance that we should all strive for. This article will teach you how to avoid ineffective ways of communicating that lead to noncompliance and power struggles, or damage self-esteem.
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(1) Talking Too Much
When parents go on and on, kids tune them out. Researchers have shown that the human brain can keep only four “chunks” of information or unique ideas in short-term (active) memory at once. This amounts to about 30 seconds or one or two sentences of speaking.
“I’m not sure what we should do about ballet and softball this semester. You know, you really probably can’t do both because softball is on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4, but then you have to change and put your hair in a bun, so that won’r be enough time, unless you pack all your ballet stuff on Monday night, which means it has to get washed on Sunday…….”
There are so many different ideas in this message that the kid will get confused and tune the parent out. Also, the message has an overall negative, anxious tone that can cause the kid to react with doubt and anxiety. It is not necessary to tell the kid all of the information at once. Rather, break it up into separate steps to be more digestible. Let the kid express his/her overall preference first, before bringing up all the obstacles.
“If you do both ballet and softball this semester, you’ll have to go right from one to the other some nights. Let’s sit down and figure out if this makes sense for both you and me.”
In this example, the parent is limiting the conversation to two sentences, which makes it easier for the kid to absorb the information. She is also also being clear about the overall goal (make it work for both), and the next steps she is requesting (sit down and discuss the issue). Finally, she is communicating a willingness to collaborate and consider the kids’ needs as well as her own.
(2) Nagging and Giving Multiple Warnings
Most parents are familiar with the early morning rush to get everybody out the door on time, along with their lunches, gym clothes, musical instruments, signed homework, and so on. The child who gets distracted and seems unmotivated to get ready on time is the greatest challenge to a busy parent. Many parents feel out of control and try desperately to control the situation by nagging or criticizing. The problem with nagging is that you are actually training kids to ignore you because they know there will be more reminders down the road. While very young kids, may need more assistance and instruction, effective parents allow the kids to take increasing responsibility as they grow older.
Ineffective Example (to a 10-year-old kid)
“I’m waking you up an hour early because you are never ready on time. You need to get dressed right now. Do you have the homework for me to sign? “
Ten minutes later.
“I told you to get ready and you’re still lollygagging. You’re going to make us all late. Go and brush your teeth and put your clothes on.”
Ten minutes later.
“Where is your homework? I asked you to bring it for me to sign? And you’re not finished dressing. We are going to be late.”
And so on.
This parent is taking way too much responsibility and indirectly communicating to the kid that she doesn’t trust him to manage the situation without extensive instruction and interference. This so-called “helicopter parenting,” can lead to unconfident, overly dependent kids, according to Dr. Carol Dweck, a best-selling author and researcher on parenting and motivation. The tone is also negative and intrusive, which is likely to create resentment and resistance or passive-aggression.
“We will be leaving for school in 45 minutes. If you don’t have everything you need, it’s up to you to explain it to your teachers.”
These instructions are brief and convey a clear expectation, with a consequence for not complying. They are free of judgment, anxiety, and attempts to control. The parent allows the kid to learn from the natural consequences of his/her own behavior.
3) Using Guilt and Shame to Get Compliance
One of the biggest lessons one learns as a parent is that young kids don’t naturally have empathy and consideration for your needs. They develop empathy slowly as they mature, by experiencing your empathy for them. That’s why the expectation that young kids walk in your shoes and see things from your point of view may not be reasonable. The failure to do so does not mean they are a bad or uncaring kid. They are just being a kid — focused on having fun in the moment, and testing their limits to learn about what is acceptable. Most parents are stressed multi-taskers who often forget to take care of themselves. This can lead to resentment when kids don’t seem to be cooperating. It is important to take some time to connect with your own feelings and calm down using deep breathing or self-talk before letting these emotions leak and derail your communication with your kid.
“I have asked you repeatedly to tidy up your toys and here they are, strewn all over the living room floor. Don’t you care at all? Can’t you see that I’ve been on my feet all day taking care of everybody’s needs. Now I have to trip over your toys or waste my time cleaning them up. What’s wrong with you that you’re so selfish?”
This parent is creating a lot of negative energy. While we can all empathize with her frustration, her communication is blaming and disrespectful. Calling a kid “selfish,” or implying there is something wrong with her is also harmful. Kids internalize these negative labels and begin to see themselves as “not good enough.” Humiliating or shaming a kid can shape brain pathways in negative ways. Label the behavior as unacceptable, but the kid as still lovable.
“I see the toys haven’t been packed away yet and that makes me upset. It’s important for me to have an orderly house that we can all function in. All the toys that are out will need to go sleep in the garage tonight. You can earn them back by tidying away all of your toys tomorrow.”
This parent is clearly communicating her own feelings and needs without anger or blame. She is applying a clear, but not overly punitive consequence for the behavior and providing an opportunity for the child to try again tomorrow and succeed. She does not attribute any negative motivation to the kid or label his personality in negative ways.
4) Not Listening
(We would all like to teach our kids to respect other people. The best way to do this is by modeling respectful and caring behavior in our own interactions. This helps the kid learn the value of respect and empathy and teaches them the skills of effective communication. Often, attentive listening is the most difficult thing for parents to do, because kids keep interrupting us, or our minds are preoccupied with all the errands that have to be done. In this case, it is okay to say to the kid “It’s difficult for me to listen to you now because I’m busying cooking, but I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” It’s better to set aside a clear time for communication than to listen half-heartedly or resentfully. Remember, though, that it’s difficult for kids to wait for long periods to be listened to
Parental response to a kid saying they scored a goal at soccer
(without making eye contact) “Oh, that’s nice, dear. Now go and play with your sister (muttering to herself) What temperature do I cook the chicken at?”
Effective listening involves all of the non-verbals, such as maintaining eye contact, conveying understanding with our faces and voices, and using words to reflect our understanding. This parent is teaching her kid not to bother her, and that the things that are important to him are not important to her. This can make a kid feel alone and not good enough.
Parental response to a kid saying they scored a goal at soccer.
“You scored a goal. Fantastic! I can see you feel really proud of how you played. I want to hear all about how it went down today.”
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This parent is displaying interest and enthusiasm; inviting the kid to elaborate and describe what happened. She is effectively tuning into the kid’s nonverbal expression and reflecting his feelings, thereby helping the kid to gain awareness of his own reactions. This type of response leads to the kid feeling that he is important and worthy of attention and care. This type of empathic resonance helps the kid to deelop more interconnected brain pathways to processand make sense of emotion.
Parenting is a difficult job, and one in which we all make mistakes at times. Communicating effectively with our children takes time and energy. We need to become aware of our own feelings and automatic reactions, and slow down enough to be able to choose a more mindful way. Following through with consequences teaches kids limits, while listening and granting autonomy teach kids respect. Be sure to take care of yourself enough so that you have this type of mindful energy for your kids. This may mean re-examining your priorities and letting some things go. It is well worth it. Kids who have respectful, engaged, consistent parents learn to regulate their own emotions more effectively, feel better about themselves, and are able to have more loving relationships as adults.
About the Author
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Practising Psychologist in Mill Valley and San Francisco, California, and an expert on mindfulness, communication, parenting, family & work relationships
Follow me on twitter @drmelanieg
Like me on facebook www.fb.com/mindfulselfexpress
Q: My 14-year-old son has been on Concerta (methylphenidate) for three years. Lately, he has lost weight and been depressed. His grades are also falling. The doctor was concerned about the weight loss and switched him to Strattera (atomoxetine). He said it should help with my son’s depression and appetite. What else can I try for my son? He just seems sad all the time.
A: The first thing you can do for your son is educate yourself. Depression is a whole-body illness; it involves changes not only in mood but also in almost every area of a child or teen’s life. Depression impairs sleep, appetite, energy and general health, and can lead to stomachaches and headaches. It interferes with the ability to concentrate more than ADHD does, and hinders quick thinking.
In depressed children, school performance often declines, and moodiness and emotional outbursts put a strain on family relationships. Friendships tend to suffer as a child with depression becomes increasingly withdrawn, isolated, aggressive or argumentative. If your son fits this description, he may be having a major depressive episode. You should ask your son’s physician to refer you to a psychiatrist who has expertise in the area of children’s psychiatric problems and response to medications.
If your son has been taking Concerta, a slow-release form of methylphenidate, successfully for the past three years and now has sudden weight loss and depressive symptoms, this might be the result of a different psychiatric or medical problem rather than a side effect of his ADHD medicine. Strattera can work as an anti-depressant, but it is marketed as a medication specifically to treat ADHD.
I assume your physician has considered the possibility that the weight loss and mood changes are related to some specific medical condition (for example, mononucleosis).
Learn more in the Everyday Health ADD/ADHD Center. Medically reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD
By Allison Takeda, Senior Editor
Some 10 percent of tweens and teens have exchanged sexually suggestive photos via phone, the Internet, or other electronic media, according to a new study just published in the journal Pediatrics. But even more — up to 39 percent, according to a survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy — have sent or received sexually suggestive messages, such as texts, e-mails, or IMs.
Sexting, the transmission of such messages and images, primarily between cell phones, is an increasing concern among parents — and though the study released today indicates it’s not as widespread a problem as we’d previously feared, such behavior can have serious consequences, not just for your child’s emotional well-being and privacy, but from a legal standpoint as well. If you have teens, you’re likely already on the lookout for red flags. But do you know what those flags are? Many sexually explicit messages aren’t actually that explicit — to parents, anyway. A lot of sexting is done in code, using acronyms and decoy words.
Here are just a few of the many (many!) examples of shorthand that teens and tweens use to sext:
1.53X = sex
2.8 = oral sex
3.Banana = penis
4.CD9 = code 9, parents are around
5.P911 = parent alert
6.CU46 = see you for sex
7.GNOC = get naked on cam
8.GYPO = get your pants off
9.IMEZYRU = I’m easy, are you?
10.IPN = I’m posting naked
11.ITS = intense text sex
12.IWSN = I want sex now
13.J/O = jerking off
14.Kitty = vagina
15.LH6 = let’s have sex
16.LHU = let’s hook up
17.NFS = need for sex
18.PRON = porn
19.TDTM = talk dirty to me
20.RUH = are you horny?
If you spot any of these messages on your child’s phone, don’t just get angry and take away his or her text privileges. Talk with your teen about why and with whom they’re exchanging such messages, and discuss the potential consequences of their actions. Then make a plan to check in with your child about his or her text habits in the future. You may also want to consider monitoring cell phone and computer use for further inappropriate behavior, and contacting the parents of the other child involved.
Read on about the dangers of sexting from Everyday Health’s medical director, Mallika Marshall, MD.
By Mary Rooney, PhD
They might be getting more independent, but you’re still on the support team
As a parent you have undoubtedly done a great deal to help your child with ADHD stay organized, stay on time, and stay on task. You’ve also been an advocate for your child and made sure he had access to academic services, classroom accommodations, and psychological treatment. So when it’s time to send your child off to college, it shouldn’t surprise you that your job isn’t over yet. While college students are primarily responsible for managing their own ADHD, parents remain important members of their support team. Here are some tips to keep you and your child on track.
1. Plan to be involved. As your child becomes increasingly responsible for managing her own ADHD, it will be important for you to have a plan for the ways in which you will continue to provide support. This plan should be developed collaboratively, with your child. Ask how involved she would like you to be. How does she think you can be most helpful? Respect her opinions, consider her point of view, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Your plan should also outline how she is going to keep you in the loop about her academic progress and mental health.
2. Have access to academic records. Some students with ADHD don’t recognize that their grades are slipping before it’s too late. Others realize they are struggling, but feel as though they can’t do anything about it. As a parent you can help by monitoring your child’s grades throughout the semester, and by talking to him as soon as you notice signs of trouble. Colleges typically post grades online shortly after exams or assignments are completed. Students automatically have access to this information, but parents do not. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), academic records are only available to parents if the student provides written consent for disclosure, or parents provide evidence that the student is a dependent on their most recent tax return. To learn about college-specific procedures for gaining access to student records, search for “FERPA” on the college’s website, or call the college registrar’s office.
3. Help your child identify and access academic support services. Helping your child identify and access academic support services on campus is one of the most helpful things you can do as a parent. College students with ADHD qualify for academic accommodations under federal law, but they don’t get these accommodations automatically. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the college of her ADHD diagnosis and submit documentation (requirements vary by school). Together with your child, contact the campus disability support services office. Have your child make a list of available services and determine which services or accommodations she would benefit from. Make sure she also gathers the necessary documentation. A step-by-step guide to obtaining college accommodations is available on NAMI’s website.
4. Talk about alcohol. Underage drinking is common on the majority of college campuses. Unfortunately, alcohol use appears to lead to more negative consequences for students with ADHD than for students without the disorder. Consequences can range from relationship problems and academic difficulties to risky sexual behavior and physical injury. Talk to your child about the risks of alcohol use and encourage him not to drink. This is a serious topic that warrants a serious conversation. Refrain from sharing alcohol-related stories about your own college days unless they convey a clear message about a lesson that was unfortunately learned the hard way.
5. Talk about money. The inattention and impulsivity that are part of ADHD can interfere with money management. Make sure you and your child have a clear plan in place for how money will be handled. If impulsive spending is a concern, help your child by keeping the bulk of her spending money in a savings account. On a monthly basis, transfer a predetermined amount into her personal checking account.
For more advice read our college tips for kids with ADHD.
Do you or you spouse ever feel this journey of parenthood is not exactly what you thought it would be? In many entertainment magazines and tabloids, parenthood has been a cause de célèbre, especially when movie stars make being a parent the new “in” thing. You see pictures of celebrities taking their young children to the park or on other outings looking blissful and beautiful. You wonder why these stars look so happy and you are not, right?
The truth is parenthood is the most challenging yet rewarding “job” we will ever have. There are moments of pure joy mixed in with times of sheer frustration and terror. The question is: Can we realistically expand more times of joy being a parent? Practicing right brain parenting might be the answer.
Right brain parenting is defined as the ability to use that part of the brain that is emotional, creative, playful, and intuitive while parenting. This approach came to me while asking a good friend of mine how he came up with an incredible creative game with his son. It was not only fun for him and his child to partake in, but it also had a learning component to it. I realized that the joy he got doing this came from using his right brain.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres that control different functions, yet are connected to one another. Left-brain functions include analytical and mathematical thinking. When you are being creative, allowing yourself to daydream, or using your intuition, the right side of the brain takes over. Often while parenting children, we are constantly in a state of questioning our actions, with thoughts like, “Is this the right way to handle this situation?” or “What if he/she can’t do this task and what should or can I do about it?”
These thoughtful questions allow our left-brain to take over to come up with logical answers. There is nothing wrong with these left- brain induced thoughts, but it begins to become tiresome when there is no balance of right brain parental action. You know when this happens when you feel more stressed, less joy out of parenting, and overwhelmed.
Here are three ways to activate the right brain while parenting and get more fun and joy out of being a parent:
1. Allow a creative flow of ideas in the form of games or projects to play with children. Start off with an idea of what could be a fun way to teach or explain something to your children. It could also be some way you want to spend time and interact with them. Don’t over analyze the idea and enjoy having fun playing around with the creative aspects of it. You can include your children in this right brain idea formation and ask for their suggestions. The how to’s of putting it into action will be the left -brain’s job to do.
2. Tune in to that intuitive voice when you’re not sure how to handle a situation with your child. Instead of immediately reacting to a situation, take a few deep breaths and then ask yourself, “What would be the best way in my child’s highest interest to handle this particular situation?”
Listen for the answer that sounds like a voice talking to you. It’s our right brain tuning in to the wisdom that comes from our intuition that is usually correct. The stress in parenting comes from the not knowing how to handle a child’s problem or issue.
3. Create more right brain parenting thoughts. For every “I should do this for my child” thought, counter it with “What would I enjoy doing with my child?” thought. Too often the “shoulds” of what to do make parenting tiresome. Also when you switch the thoughts around, this allows you to see different perspectives and gives you more choices while parenting.
You do not have to react to every right brain thought or even do them at that moment, but it alleviates the stress of too much logic in parenting and not enough fun—and fun in parenting leads to more joy!
Dr. Andrea Weiner is the founder of Emotionally Smart Beginnings www.drandie.com
By Jessica Minahan, M.Ed, BCBA
The Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports one in eight children suffer from anxiety disorders. Without intervention, they’re at risk for poor performance, diminished learning and social/behavior problems in school. Because anxiety disorders show up differently in children, parents and teachers can’t always identify them until the child hits the breaking point.
When a student acts out—throws a book, yells, storms out of the room—or has difficulty learning to read or grasping new math concepts, teachers often don’t suspect anxiety as the underlying cause, which means the problems may persist or worsen. This fall, I consulted with Mr. Lee, an exasperated third grade teacher. “I want to give up,” he said, slumping in his chair. Mr. Lee is one of the most thoughtful, talented teachers I’ve worked with. It’s unusual to see him so defeated. He related an incident from that morning’s math class.
Mark was in a great mood. He loves math, especially math fact bingo, which was on the agenda for the day. As always, Mr. Lee asked Mark if he would like to pass out the pencils. Mark asks to do this almost daily because he says he “likes to get up and move.” Today Mr. Lee had barely finished the question when Mark jumped out of his seat, swiped the contents of his desk on the floor, screamed, “I hate this school!” and ran from the room. “It came out of the blue!” Mr. Lee said.
“Out of the blue” behavior
When I hear a teacher report a student’s challenging behavior “comes out of nowhere” or is “totally unpredictable,” I begin to suspect anxiety. Teachers are trained to recognize behavior patterns (“Carl always gets frustrated during math.”, or “Maria often cries when asked to read aloud.”), but some students with anxiety don’t show clear patterns. Anxiety levels fluctuate throughout the day, based on many variables, making the student’s behavior seem erratic. Think of an unopened soda can. You can’t know if it’s been shaken until you open it and it explodes. Similarly, it’s difficult to see how shaken a student is in any given moment until he acts out.
When Mark was asked to pass out pencils on Monday he did it with a smile on his face. On Tuesday, he said “Great!” when asked. But on Wednesday he totally blows up. The outburst has little to do with distributing pencils. It’s due to the high level of anxiety Mark was experiencing at the moment he was asked. On that day the request was the last straw.
Effects on Academics
This invisible disability can greatly affect academic performance as well. Anxiety impacts a student’s working memory, making it difficult to learn and retain information. The anxious student works and thinks less efficiently, which significantly affects the student’s learning capability. One study showed children who were the most anxious in the autumn of first grade were almost eight times more likely to be in the lowest quartile of reading achievement and almost 2½ times more likely to be in the lowest quartile in math achievement by spring of first grade.
What’s worse, academic performance can be hindered in an inconsistent way due to the student’s fluctuating level of anxiety. This leaves teachers befuddled and left to make their own conclusions.
Mr. Lee expressed his confusion. “Yesterday Mark wrote three exceptional paragraphs and today he didn’t finish a single sentence. Is he tired? Is he lazy today?”
This inconsistent presentation is unique to anxiety. Other disabilities, such as a reading disability, are much more predictable. A student with dyslexia doesn’t read a chapter flawlessly one day and then struggle over a sentence in the same book the next day. Teachers aren’t accustomed to thinking of disabilities as affecting kids only some of the time.
Recognizable Effects on Behavior
Without obvious signs, like sweating, shaking or blushing, anxiety is difficult to detect. The good news is that anxiety isn’t always totally invisible. A teacher can learn to recognize the more elusive behavior signs—increased inflexibility, over-reactivity, emotional intensity, and impulsivity. Many anxious students try to escape or avoid something through behavior, for instance going to the nurse to avoid a math quiz or acting up to be kicked out of chorus. Just as with a child who has oppositional behavior disorder, reactions may be tantrums, constant arguments or angry and disruptive acting-out. The form the behavior takes isn’t particularly distinctive – the only difference between oppositional and anxiety-related behavior is the underlying cause.
Educating teachers about anxiety and the behavioral signs they may see in the classroom makes this invisible disability easier to detect and understand. Mr. Lee learned to expect the unexpected while gaining an understanding of anxiety. The trained teacher is on the way to intervening effectively, turning the tide for the student’s academic and behavioral performance.
Jessica Minahan, M.Ed, BCBA, is a board-certified behavior analyst and special educator in the Newton, Massachusetts public school system. She is the co-author of The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, written with Nancy Rappaport, M.D. (jessicaminahan.com)
50 Best Back-to-School Articles for Parents
1. Teaching Beyond The Transmission of Knowledge by Miguel Angel Escotet, Ph.D. Parents are teachers too! Understand the educational philosophy of teaching to the test vs. teaching to the heart. Twitter
2. The Developmental Psychologists’ Back-to-School Shopping List by Gabrielle Principe, Ph.D. at Psychology Today. Five ways to improve children’s learning at all ages, grounded in scientific research.
3. Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect by Patti Ghezzi at SchoolFamily. Learn how kindergarten has changed and how new academic standards will affect your child. Twitter; Facebook Page
4. A Link Between Relatedness and Academic Achievement by Ugo Uche, LPC, at Psychology Today. The key to student success relies not just with teacher’s attitudes toward students but also with the student’s attitude towards the teacher. Parents help develop these attitudes! Twitter
5. Happiness in the Classroom by Jessica Lahey. A middle-school teacher’s tips for classroom happiness apply beautifully to parents too! Pass this one onto your child’s teacher! Twitter
6. Seven Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers by Steve Reifman, M.Ed. A teacher’s strategies can turn your child from a reluctant to a willing reader. Try them out! Twitter; Facebook Page
7. Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Patti Ghezzi at SchoolFamily. Get insights on how to help your son or daughter at home and in the classroom. Twitter; Facebook Page
8. The Success Myth by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. Rethink your ideas of what makes us succeed. Then apply them to your parenting. Twitter
9. It Isn’t Easy Being a Parent by the Search Institute. Nine strategies every parent should know based on fostering developmental assets in children. Twitter; Facebook Page
10. The Happy Teen: A Primer on the Positives in Youth Development by Stephen Gray Wallace, M.S.Ed. at Psychology Today. Read some good news about adolescent development.
11. Growing Empathy by Jody McVittie, M.D. at SoundDiscipline. How to see the world through children’s eyes, without judgement. Twitter; Facebook Page
12. Resisting Raising Children Who Feel Entitled by Jan Faull, M.Ed. at ParentNet Unplugged. How NOT to indulge your child’s every want. Twitter; Facebook Page
13. Four Tips for Having a Happier Family, by Joe Wilner at PsychCentral. How to deepen family bonds. Twitter; Facebook Page
14. The Seven Best Gratitude Quotes by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. How to bring gratitude into your family’s life. Twitter; Facebook Page
15. Are Parents Setting Kids Up for Failure by Pushing Too Hard for Success? By Lylah M. Alphonse at Yahoo Shine. Tips from Madeline Levine’s new book, “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.” Twitter; Facebook Page
16. Five Lessons Our Kids Don’t Learn in School For Success in Life by Jennifer Owens at HuffPost Parents. Parents play a big role in teaching children how to succeed in life! Learn how. Twitter
17. Six Ways to Let Your Child’s Genius Out by Marjie Knudsen at The Oregonian. Learn how to support your child’s learning – for a lifetime! Twitter
18. Healthy Parenting after the Marriage Ends by Kevin D. Arnold, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. How to support your children’s social, emotional and intellectual health after divorce. Twitter
Parent-Readiness and Engagement
19. Parent Involvement: The Missing Key to Student Achievement by James Norwood, Ph.D. at Teaching in the Middle. Learn why developing a partnership with school is one of the most important things you can do to help your child. Twitter
20. Are You Ready for the First Day of School? by Meryl Ain, Ed.D. at Your Education Doctor. An important back-to-school list for parents. Twitter; Facebook Page
21. Twenty-Five Education Blogs Perfect for Parents (And Just About Anyone Else) by Jeff Dunn at Edudemic. Excellent blogs to follow to keep abreast of what’s going on in education. Twitter Facebook Page
22. Two Questions Heard Around the World by Steve Constantino, Ed.D., at ParentNet Unplugged. When your children come home from school, replace the most common two questions asked by parents with a few well-placed statements! Twitter
23. Developing Belief Systems About Education: It Takes a Village by Nicole Rivera, Ed.D., at Psychology Today. Children develop beliefs about education through what their parents believe.
24. Top 10 Pinterest Boards for Parents by Cathy James at the NurtureStore. If you are looking for educational projects to do with preschool and elementary school-age children at home, Pinterest is the place to be! Twitter; Facebook Page
25. Back-To-School Worries by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. How to help children cope with starting a new school year. Twitter; Facebook Page
26. Ease Back-to-School Stress by Christine McLaughlin at SchoolFamily. How to help your child switch from laid-back fun of summer to homework and routine. Twitter; Facebook Page
Children with Special Needs, Abilities & Personalities
27. Ten Tips for Parenting an Introverted Child by Susan Cain at The Power of Introverts. Learn how introverted children are special and how to cultivate their passions. Twitter; Facebook Page
28. Five Strategies for Smooth Operating for the New School Year by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M. at PTSCoaching. Good advice on getting organized, managing time, and using low-tech strategies to support children with ADHD. Twitter; Facebook Page
29. Five Ways to Help Your Child Transition Back to School by Chynna Laird at Special-lsm. Mom with child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) talks about creating a transition plan for supporting special needs children. Twitter; Facebook Page
30. The Need to Believe in the Ability of Disability by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. and Kevin McGrew at HuffPost Education. How our beliefs help or hinder children with disabilities. Twitter
31. The 200 Best Special Education Apps by Eric Sailers at Edudemic. Great apps for teachers and parents who work with special needs children. Twitter
32. From Perfection to Personal Bests: 7 Ways to Nurture Your Gifted Child by Signe Whitson at HuffPost Parents. How to develop a growth mindset in your high-ability child. Twitter; Facebook Page
33. Reducing Homework Stress by Lori Lite at Stress Free Kids. Ten tips to help parents, teens, and children with the daily homework routine. Twitter; Facebook Page
34. Who Takes Responsibility for Homework? What is the Parent’s Role? By Rick Ackerly at The Genius in Children. Helping kids understand the consequences and rewards of homework. Twitter
35. Keep Your Middle Schooler Organized by Nancy Darling, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. How to help kids develop organizational skills and relieve the homework struggle. Twitter
36. Soccer, Baseball or Karate? Top 10 Reasons to Involve Your Kids in Sports by Signe Whitson at Psychology Today. Reasons why being a sports chauffer can pay big rewards. Twitter; Facebook Page
37. Emphasize the Internal Rewards by Jeffrey Rhoads at Inside Youth Sports. How to help your child experience the internal rewards of playing sports. Twitter; Facebook Page
38. How to Help Kids Be “Winning” Losers in Youth Sports by Patrick Cohn, Ph.D., at The Ultimate Sports Parent Blog. Learn how losing in sports develops internal skills perseverance, determination, and the ability to adapt to adversity. Twitter; Facebook Page
39. Heads Up Concussion In Youth Sports by Shannon Henrici at Stress Free Kids. Learn about concussions and what you can do as a parent. Twitter; Facebook Page
40. Mean Girls: Why Teenage Girls Can Be So Cruel by Chris Hudson at Understanding Teenagers. Learn how gender influences adolescent behavior in friendship groups and why girls have a natural tendency toward social aggression. Twitter; Facebook Page
41. Bully Proof Your Child by Lori Lite at Stress Free Kids. What parents can do to protect children from bullying. Twitter; Facebook Page
42. How to Protect Kids from Cyber-Bullying by Michele Borba, Ed.D. How to keep an electronic leash on your child! Twitter
43. Bullying Runs Deep: Breaking the Code of Silence that Protects Bullies by Michelle Baker at HuffPost Education. A poignant and personal story with deep insights for parents. Twitter
Media & Technology
44. Parenting: Who is More Powerful: Technology or Parents? By Jim Jaylor, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. How are you flexing your parenting muscles against the strength of today’s media? Twitter; Facebook Page
45. How Much Television is Too Much? Science Weights In by Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., at Psychology Today. Science vs. common-sense parenting. Twitter
46. Will Watching Violent Video Games Affect Your Teen’s Behavior? By Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., at How to Raise a Teenager. Get both sides of the story about violent video games. Twitter
47. The Dangers of Teen Sexting by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., at Psychology Today. Learn about sexting and how to protect your teen. Twitter; Facebook Page
48. What is in Your Discipline Toolbox? By Jody McVittie, M.D., at ParentNet Unplugged. How to use kindness and firmness when disciplining children. Twitter; Facebook Page
49. Why Punishment Does Not Make Good Neurological Sense by Meredith White-McMahon, Ed.D., at Development in the Digital Age. How punishment differs from discipline. Twitter
50. Connection before Correction by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., at Positive Discipline. How positive discipline creates respectful connections with children. Twitter; Facebook Page
©2012 Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. Marilyn is the author of Roots of Action: How Families, Schools, and Communities Help Kids Thrive. Find her on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to new articles by email.
By Amy Van Wynsberghe, PhD
The Benefits of Positive Behavior SupportAll individuals have the right to aspire toward their own personal goals and desires. At times, mental health conditions and problem behaviors, such as aggression or property destruction, can create barriers to reaching those goals.
Fortunately, a number of treatment practices exist that can assist an individual in adopting positive behaviors. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental health condition and has problem behaviors, consider talking to a mental health provider about the benefits of Positive Behavior Support (PBS).
What is PBS?
Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a philosophy for helping individuals whose problem behaviors are barriers to reaching their goals. It is based on the well-researched science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). A key component is understanding that behaviors occur for a reason and can be predicted by knowing what happens before and after those behaviors.
PBS interventions are designed both to reduce problem behaviors and increase adaptive, socially appropriate behaviors. These outcomes are achieved through teaching new skills and changing environments that might trigger problem behavior. Prevention of problem behaviors is the focus, rather than waiting to respond after a behavior occurs. PBS strategies and interventions are appropriate for children and adults diagnosed with a variety of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, autism, and intellectual disability.
Who is Trained in PBS? What Do They Do?
Mental health professionals, such as psychologists and behavior analysts, are trained to complete assessments and design PBS interventions. They conduct assessments, called structural and functional behavioral assessments, to determine when, where and why problem behaviors occur. For example, a mental health professional may conduct an assessment of a student who is identified at risk for expulsion and alternative school placement due to profanity and disruptive behavior in the classroom. The goal would be to learn what the student is achieving by using those behaviors.
A typical assessment would include several observations in different locations to determine which behaviors are problematic. It then would identify the environmental triggers that predict when those behaviors will and will not happen. The mental health professional would talk with the student, his or her family, teachers, other treatment providers and friends to answer questions about the problem behaviors.
From there, the professional would develop treatments that match the reason that the student is using the problem behaviors. These treatments include developing strategies to replace problem behaviors with appropriate behavior.
By learning and using new skills, an individual can stop using problem behaviors. For example, an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia may break the ceiling fan in her home because she believes that the fan is yelling at her. The mental health professional will teach her coping skills such as mindfulness, deep breathing, journaling, asking for help, or muscle relaxation. This gives her other, more acceptable behavior options to use the next time she believes that the fan is yelling at her.
While the mental health professional may lead the development of PBS treatments, the individual leads the implementation by learning and using these new skills or replacement behaviors. Additionally, key people in the individual’s life such as family, friends and co-workers learn how to implement PBS treatments to change the environment to support the individual.
Why use a PBS Approach?
PBS emerged in the 1980s to understand and address problem behaviors. As a holistic approach to treatment of mental health conditions, PBS has many attributes:
It is person-centered. Using a person-centered approach, PBS addresses the individual and respects his or her dignity. This includes listening to the individual, recognizing the individual’s skills, strengths, and goals, and the belief that the individual can accomplish his or her goals. Treatments are developed to fit the specific individual rather than a “cookbook” approach.
It causes positive changes. Through environmental changes and reinforcement of adaptive behaviors, individuals can reduce problem behaviors. Coping mechanisms such as relaxation can take the place of the problem behaviors. PBS minimizes the need for punishment or restrictiveness such as restraint, seclusion, or removal of privileges.
It is outcome-focused. PBS places an emphasis on outcomes important to the individual and to society. These behavioral outcomes, such as fewer aggressive incidents, have the ability to make homes, communities, hospitals, and schools safer.
It provides collaborative support. PBS involves collaboration with those who support an individual, including caregivers, support providers, doctors, nurses, teachers, aides, nurses, social workers, and team leaders. This collaborative process keeps everyone involved in the individual’s treatment and allows for new behaviors and skills to be supported in all settings.
Does PBS Work with Other Treatments?
PBS may be practiced alongside other treatment interventions as part of a multidisciplinary approach to mental health treatment. For example, an individual who is prescribed medication by a physician or psychiatrist for mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, autism or impulse control disorder could benefit from PBS. An individual who sees a dietician to help with specific nutritional needs such as in Prader-Willi Syndrome, or receives occupational, speech, or physician therapy, may also benefit from PBS techniques.
PBS is consistent with other treatment approaches that are person-centered or recovery-based. This means that they can work well when used together. PBS interventions are inconsistent with restrictive or punishment-based interventions. PBS interventions are used instead of these approaches.
Since PBS is a holistic approach, and clinicians consider all aspects of an individual when assessing and developing interventions, it is helpful for a PBS clinician to become a member of an individual’s interdisciplinary team. PBS-trained professionals have experience working directly with other health care professionals to design treatments. For example, a PBS-trained professional may work with speech therapists to develop communication boards for non-verbal individuals who engage in self-injurious behaviors such as head-banging or skin-picking.
Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness are astounding: disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide. While medication and other interventions have proven to be beneficial in many mental health conditions, a multidisciplinary approach that includes a behavioral component can offer support mechanisms critical in the treatment process.
Talk to a mental health professional about the benefits of PBS.
As a divorced parent, what lessons and behaviors are you modeling for your children? The messages you convey will influence your children into adulthood. Here is valuable advice on leaving a positive imprint on your innocent children.
Bad things can happen to good people. Divorce is a prime example. Good people get divorced. Responsible people who are loving parents get caught in the decision to end a loveless or deceitful marriage.
The consequences of that decision can either be life affirming or destroying, depending upon how each parent approaches this transition. Parents who are blinded by blame and anger are not likely to learn much through the experience. They see their former spouse as the total problem in their life and are convinced that getting rid of that problem through divorce will bring ultimate resolution. These parents are often self-righteous about the subject and give little thought to what part they may have played in the dissolution of the marriage.
Parents at this level of awareness are not looking to grow through the divorce process. They are more likely to ultimately find another partner with whom they have similar challenges or battles and once again find themselves caught in the pain of an unhappy relationship.
There are others, however, for whom divorce can be a threshold into greater self-understanding and reflection. These parents don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and want to be fully aware of any part they played in the failure of the marriage. Self-reflective people ask themselves questions and search within — often with the assistance of a professional counselor or coach — to understand what they did or did not do and how it affected the connection with their spouse.
These introspective parents consider how they might have behaved differently in certain circumstances. They question their motives and actions to make sure they came from a place of clarity and good intentions. They replay difficult periods within the marriage to see what they can learn, improve, let go of or accept. They take responsibility for their behaviors and apologize for those that were counter-productive. They also forgive themselves for errors made in the past and look toward being able to forgive their spouse in the same light.
These parents are honest with their children when discussing the divorce — to the age-appropriate degree that their children can understand. (That doesn’t mean confiding adult-level information to children who cannot grasp these issues!)They remind their children that both Mom and Dad still, and always will, love them. And they remember their former spouse will always be a parent to their children and therefore speak about them with respect around the kids.
By applying what they learned from the dissolved marriage to their future relationships, these mature adults start the momentum to recreate new lives in a better, more fulfilling way. From this perspective, they see their former marriage as not a mistake, but rather a stepping-stone to a brighter future — both for themselves and for their children. When you choose to learn from your life lessons, they were never experienced in vain. Isn’t this a lesson you want to teach your children?
* * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!
By Madeline Vann, MPH Just like adults, many kids — infants and toddlers included — are plagued with mental health problems. In fact, nearly one in five children has a mental illness, and for some of these youths, the disease interferes significantly with their daily lives.
But according to recent research from the American Psychological Association, young children are less likely to get mental health treatment than their grownup counterparts. Why? Too often, kids are expected to “grow out” of their emotional problems.
That means it’s up to the parents not to ignore any instinctive sense that their child’s emotional health is at risk. If you suspect any signs of mental illness such as ADHD or depression in children, it’s important to seek help from an expert in kids’ psychology.
What to Do When Something’s ‘Off’
“Most parents want to believe that their kids are doing okay,” says psychiatrist William M. Klykylo, MD, professor and director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. “But if you feel that something is going on or if someone you trust — a teacher or counselor, a minister or other clergy person, or a coach — says ‘I’ve got a feeling about your child,’ pay attention.”
The signs of mental illness in children vary by age and type of illness, with some psychiatric disorders appearing even in preschool years. However, two warning signs tend to cross over into all categories and signal that you should consult with an emotional health professional experienced in kids’ psychology:
Extremes or peculiarity of behavior for the age and gender of the child, such as being significantly more hyper, aggressive, or withdrawn
Sudden, hard-to-explain negative changes in behavior, such as a steep drop in grades
But many children have more than one mental illness — which makes getting a diagnosis even more challenging.
Know These Signs of Kids’ Mental Illness
Here are some of the signs of mental illness during different age ranges.
Preschool/early elementary school years:
Behavior problems in preschool or daycare
Hyperactivity way beyond what the other kids are doing
Excessive fear, worrying, or crying
Extreme disobedience or aggression. Because it’s often within a child’s nature to disobey or intrude on a playmate’s space, an excessive degree of this behavior is what should concern you, says Dr. Klykylo, such as deliberate destructiveness or hurting peers or animals.
Lots of temper tantrums all the time
Persistent difficulty separating from a parent. Klykylo acknowledges that many children experience separation anxiety at first; there could be a problem if this goes on for months.
Klykylo adds that what you might think are signs of mental illness may in fact be symptoms of another condition entirely, such as a sleep disorder, but that you should still seek medical help.
Grade school years:
At this stage, Klykylo suggests looking at your child’s relationships as a good external barometer of well-being. A child might only have one or two friends, but it’s not the number of friends that you want to watch — it’s the type of friends and how well your child maintains those friendships. If one drops off, that’s an issue, says Klykylo.
Other possible signs of mental illness include:
Excessive fears and worries
Sudden decrease in school performance
Loss of interest in friends or favorite activities
Loss of appetite
Sudden changes in weight
Excessive worry about weight gain
Sudden changes in sleep habits
Visible prolonged sadness
Substance use or abuse
Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Klykylo notes that from a parent’s perspective, it can be hard to figure out what type of mental illness could be threatening your child. For example, he says, “Depression in children does exist, but it is often accompanied by hyperactivity.” While depression can cause a loss of appetite, if your child is refusing to eat or only eats very limited selections, you might also be seeing the early signs of an eating disorder.
Tween and teen years:
The preceding signs of mental illness are still a concern, but the behaviors may be more pronounced as children get older. Look for:
Destructive behavior, such as damaging property or setting fires
Constantly threatening to run away or running away, which can be a precursor to self- harm, says Klykylo
Withdrawal from family and friends
Comments or writings that suggest a desire to harm himself or others
Once you seek help, your child will be evaluated. The Child Behavior Checklist, which contains more than 100 questions related to child behavior, may be used — or the kids’ psychology expert you choose may refer to the DSM-IV with strict medical guidelines for diagnosing mental illnesses.
Your participation in both the evaluation and the treatment of your child could be essential, says Klykylo. Younger children are often treated with the involvement of their caregivers and family, he says. Medication, therapy, behavior change, modifications in the school setting, and other tools may be needed to help you and your child, depending on the diagnosis.
Virginia Gilbert, MFT In a good-enough divorce, exes work through feelings of anger, betrayal and loss and arrive at a place of acceptance. Frustrations over the other parent’s values and choices are contained and pushed aside, making space for the Holy Grail of post-divorce life: effective co-parenting.
Co-parenting is possible only when both exes support their children’s need to have a relationship with the other parent and respect that parent’s right to have a healthy relationship with the children.
But some people never get to acceptance. They become, essentially, addicted to anger. They convince themselves that the other parent is incompetent, mentally ill, or dangerous. They transmit this conviction directly or indirectly not only to the children, but also to school staff, mental health professionals and anyone who will listen.
High-conflict exes are on a mission to invalidate the other parent. No therapist, mediator, parenting class, or Gandhi-esque channeling will make an anger-addicted ex take off the gloves and agree to co-parent.
If this scenario feels familiar, and you are wondering how you’re going to survive raising kids with your high-conflict ex without losing every last one of your marbles, I offer you this counterintuitive suggestion: Stop trying to co-parent!
Try Parallel Parenting instead.
What is Parallel Parenting?
Parallel Parenting is radical acceptance. It means letting go of fighting reality. Divorce is terrible enough, but to have a divorce that is so hellish as to make co-parenting impossible is another kind of terrible altogether.
It’s helpful to conceptualize Parallel Parenting as an approach many Alcoholics Anonymous folks use when dealing with the addict in their lives: they stop going to the hardware store looking for milk. Why are you trying to have a reasonable conversation with someone who isn’t reasonable, at least with you? Stop expecting reciprocity or enlightenment. Stop needing the other person to see you as right. You are not ever going to get these things from your anger-addicted ex, and you can make yourself sick trying.
How to Practice Parallel Parenting
You tried to co-parent so your kids would see their parents get along, and to make them feel safe. That didn’t work. Now you need to limit contact with your ex to reduce the conflict in order to make your kids feel safe — and to keep yourself from going nuts. So how do you do this?
1. Communicate as little as possible
Stop talking on the phone. When speaking with a hostile ex, you will likely be drawn into an argument and nothing will get resolved. Limit communication to texting and e-mail. This way you can choose what to respond to and you will be able to delete knee-jerk retorts that you would make if you were on the phone.
2. Make Rules for Communication
Hostile exes tend to ignore boundaries. So you will have to be very clear about the terms for communication. E-mail or texting should be used only for logistics: travel plans, a proposed weekend swap, doctor appointments. If your ex tends uses e-mails to harass you, tell him you will not respond, and if the abuse continues, you will stop e-mailing altogether.
3. Do Not Respond to Threats of Lawsuits
Hostile exes frequently threaten to modify child support or custody arrangements. Do not respond! Tell your ex that any discussion of litigation must go through your attorney. This will require money on your ex’s part: phone calls between attorneys, disclosing financial statements, etc. It is quite possible that your ex does not really intend to put her money where her mouth is, so don’t take the bait.
4. Avoid being together at child-related functions
It’s great for your kids to see the two of you together — but only if they see you getting along. So attend events separately as much as possible. Schedule separate parent-teacher conferences. Trade off hosting birthday parties. Do curbside drop-offs so your child doesn’t have to feel the tension between you and your ex.
5. Be proactive with school staff and mental health professionals
School staff and therapists may have heard things about you that aren’t true — for instance, that you are out of the picture or mentally ill. So be proactive. Fax your custody order to these individuals so they understand the custody arrangement. Even if you are a non-custodial parent, you are still entitled to information regarding your child’s academic performance or mental health treatment and the school and therapists want you to be involved. Talk to school staff and therapists as soon as possible. Do not be defensive, but explain the situation. When they see you, they will realize that you are a reasonable person who is trying to do the right thing for your child.
6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Parallel Parenting requires letting go of what happens in the other parent’s home. Although it may drive you crazy that your ex lets 6-year-old Lucy stay up until midnight, there is really not much you can do about it. Nor can you control your ex’s selection of babysitters, children’s clothing or how much TV time is allowed.
Your child will learn to adapt to different rules and expectations at each house. If Sienna complains about something that goes on at Dad’s, instruct her to speak to him directly. Trying to solve a problem between your ex and your child will only inflame the conflict and teach her to pit the two of you against each other. You want to empower your child, not teach her that she needs to be rescued.
Parallel Parenting is a last resort, to be implemented when attempts at co-parenting have failed. But that doesn’t mean you have failed as a divorced parent. In fact, the opposite is true. By reducing conflict, Parallel Parenting will enhance the quality of your life and most importantly, take your child out of the middle.
And isn’t that what a good-enough divorce is all about?
Follow Virginia Gilbert, MFT on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@VGilbertMFT
1. HITTING MODELS HITTING
There is a classic story about the mother who believed in spanking as a necessary part of discipline until one day she observed her three- year-old daughter hitting her one-year-old son. When confronted, her daughter said, “I’m just playing mommy.” This mother never spanked another child.Children love to imitate, especially people whom they love and respect. They perceive that it’s okay for them to do whatever you do. Parents, remember, you are bringing up someone else’s mother or father, and wife or husband. The same discipline techniques you employ with your children are the ones they are most likely to carry on in their own parenting. The family is a training camp for teaching children how to handle conflicts. Studies show that children from spanking families are more likely to use aggression to handle conflicts when they become adults.
Spanking demonstrates that it’s all right for people to hit people, and especially for big people to hit little people, and stronger people to hit weaker people. Children learn that when you have a problem you solve it with a good swat. A child whose behavior is controlled by spanking is likely to carry on this mode of interaction into other relationships with siblings and peers, and eventually a spouse and offspring.
But, you say, “I don’t spank my child that often or that hard. Most of the time I show him lots of love and gentleness. An occasional swat on the bottom won’t bother him.” This rationalization holds true for some children, but other children remember spanking messages more than nurturing ones. You may have a hug-hit ratio of 100:1 in your home, but you run the risk of your child remembering and being influenced more by the one hit than the 100 hugs, especially if that hit was delivered in anger or unjustly, which happens all too often.
Physical punishment shows that it’s all right to vent your anger or right a wrong by hitting other people. This is why the parent’s attitude during the spanking leaves as great an impression as the swat itself. How to control one’s angry impulses (swat control) is one of the things you are trying to teach your children. Spanking sabotages this teaching. Spanking guidelines usually give the warning to never spank in anger. If this guideline were to be faithfully observed 99 percent of spanking wouldn’t occur, because once the parent has calmed down he or she can come up with a more appropriate method of correction.
VERBAL AND EMOTIONAL “HITTING”
Physical hitting is not the only way to cross the line into abuse. Everything we say about physical punishment pertains to emotional/verbal punishment as well. Tongue-lashing and name-calling tirades can actually harm a child more psychologically. Emotional abuse can be very subtle and even self-righteous. Threats to coerce a child to cooperate can touch on his worst fear—abandonment. (“I’m leaving if you don’t behave.”) Often threats of abandonment are implied giving the child the message that you can’t stand being with her or a smack of emotional abandonment (by letting her know you are withdrawing your love, refusing to speak to her or saying you don’t like her if she continues to displease you). Scars on the mind may last longer than scars on the body.
2. HITTING DEVALUES THE CHILD
The child’s self-image begins with how he perceives that others – especially his parents – perceive him Even in the most loving homes, spanking gives a confusing message, especially to a child too young to understand the reason for the whack. Parents spend a lot of time building up their baby or child’s sense of being valued, helping the child feel “good.” Then the child breaks a glass, you spank, and he feels, “I must be bad.”
Even a guilt-relieving hug from a parent after a spank doesn’t remove the sting. The child is likely to feel the hit, inside and out, long after the hug. Most children put in this situation will hug to ask for mercy. “If I hug him, daddy will stop hitting me.” When spanking is repeated over and over, one message is driven home to the child, “You are weak and defenseless.”
Joan, a loving mother, sincerely believed that spanking was a parental right and obligation needed to turn out an obedient child. She felt spanking was “for the child’s own good.” After several months of spank-controlled discipline, her toddler became withdrawn. She would notice him playing alone in the corner, not interested in playmates, and avoiding eye contact with her. He had lost his previous sparkle. Outwardly he was a “good boy.” Inwardly, Spencer thought he was a bad boy. He didn’t feel right and he didn’t act right. Spanking made him feel smaller and weaker, overpowered by people bigger than him.
How tempting it is to slap those daring little hands! Many parents do it without thinking, but consider the consequences. Maria Montessori, one of the earliest opponents of slapping children’s hands, believed that children’s hands are tools for exploring, an extension of the child’s natural curiosity. Slapping them sends a powerful negative message. Sensitive parents we have interviewed all agree that the hands should be off-limits for physical punishment. Research supports this idea. Psychologists studied a group of sixteen fourteen-month-olds playing with their mothers. When one group of toddlers tried to grab a forbidden object, they received a slap on the hand; the other group of toddlers did not receive physical punishment. In follow-up studies of these children seven months later, the punished babies were found to be less skilled at exploring their environment. Better to separate the child from the object or supervise his exploration and leave little hands unhurt.
3. HITTING DEVALUES THE PARENT
Parents who spank-control or otherwise abusively punish their children often feel devalued themselves because deep down they don’t feel right about their way of discipline. Often they spank (or yell) in desperation because they don’t know what else to do, but afterward feel more powerless when they find it doesn’t work. As one mother who dropped spanking from her correction list put it, “I won the battle, but lost the war. My child now fears me, and I feel I’ve lost something precious.”
Spanking also devalues the role of a parent. Being an authority figure means you are trusted and respected, but not feared. Lasting authority cannot be based on fear. Parents or other caregivers who repeatedly use spanking to control children enter into a lose-lose situation. Not only does the child lose respect for the parent, but the parents also lose out because they develop a spanking mindset and have fewer alternatives to spanking. The parent has fewer preplanned, experience-tested strategies to divert potential behavior, so the child misbehaves more, which calls for more spanking. This child is not being taught to develop inner control.
Hitting devalues the parent-child relationship. Corporal punishment puts a distance between the spanker and the spankee. This distance is especially troubling in home situations where the parent-child relationship may already be strained, such as single-parent homes or blended families. While some children are forgivingly resilient and bounce back without a negative impression on mind or body, for others it’s hard to love the hand that hits them.
4. HITTING MAY LEAD TO ABUSE
Punishment escalates. Once you begin punishing a child “a little bit,” where do you stop? A toddler reaches for a forbidden glass. You tap the hand as a reminder not to touch. He reaches again, you swat the hand. After withdrawing his hand briefly, he once again grabs grandmother’s valuable vase. You hit the hand harder. You’ve begun a game no one can win. The issue then becomes who’s stronger—your child’s will or your hand—not the problem of touching the vase. What do you do now? Hit harder and harder until the child’s hand is so sore he can’t possibly continue to “disobey?” The danger of beginning corporal punishment in the first place is that you may feel you have to bring out bigger guns: your hand becomes a fist, the switch becomes a belt, the folded newspaper becomes a wooden spoon, and now what began as seemingly innocent escalates into child abuse. Punishment sets the stage for child abuse. Parents who are programmed to punish set themselves up for punishing harder, mainly because they have not learned alternatives and click immediately into the punishment mode when their child misbehaves.
5. HITTING DOES NOT IMPROVE BEHAVIOR
Many times we have heard parents say, “The more we spank the more he misbehaves.” Spanking makes a child’s behavior worse, not better. Here’s why. Remember the basis for promoting desirable behavior: The child who feels right acts right. Spanking undermines this principle. A child who is hit feels wrong inside and this shows up in his behavior. The more he misbehaves, the more he gets spanked and the worse he feels. The cycle continues. We want the child to know that he did wrong, and to feel remorse, but to still believe that he is a person who has value.
The Cycle of Misbehavior
Misbehavior Worse behavior Spanking Decreased self-esteem, anger
One of the goals of disciplinary action is to stop the misbehavior immediately, and spanking may do that. It is more important to create the conviction within the child that he doesn’t want to repeat the misbehavior (i.e, internal rather than external control). One of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of spanking in creating internal controls is that during and immediately after the spanking, the child is so preoccupied with the perceived injustice of the physical punishment (or maybe the degree of it he’s getting) that he “forgets” the reason for which he was spanked. Sitting down with him and talking after the spanking to be sure he’s aware of what he did can be done just as well (if not better) without the spanking part. Alternatives to spanking can be much more thought-and-conscience-provoking for a child, but they may take more time and energy from the parent. This brings up a main reason why some parents lean toward spanking—it’s easier.
6. HITTING IS ACTUALLY NOT BIBLICAL
Don’t use the Bible as an excuse to spank. There is confusion in the ranks of people of Judeo-Christian heritage who, seeking help from the Bible in their effort to raise godly children, believe that God commands them to spank. They take “spare the rod and spoil the child” seriously and fear that if they don’t spank, they will commit the sin of losing control of their child. In our counseling experience, we find that these people are devoted parents who love God and love their children, but they misunderstand the concept of the rod.
Rod verses – what they really mean. The following are the biblical verseswhich have caused the greatest confusion:
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15)
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Prov. 13:24)
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Prov. 23:13-14)
“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to itself disgraces his mother.” (Prov. 29:15)
At first glance these verses may sound pro-spanking. But you might consider a different interpretation of these teachings. “Rod” (shebet) means different things in different parts of the Bible. The Hebrew dictionary gives this word various meanings: a stick (for punishment, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.). While the rod could be used for hitting, it was more frequently used for guiding wandering sheep. Shepherds didn’t use the rod to beat their sheep – and children are certainly more valuable than sheep. As shepherd-author Philip Keller teaches so well in A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, the shepherd’s rod was used to fight off prey and the staff was used to gently guide sheep along the right path. (“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4).
Jewish families we’ve interviewed, who carefully follow dietary and lifestyle guidelines in the Scripture, do not practice “rod correction” with their children because they do not follow that interpretation of the text.
The book of Proverbs is one of poetry. It is logical that the writer would have used a well-known tool to form an image of authority. We believe that this is the point that God makes about the rod in the Bible – parents take charge of your children. When you re-read the “rod verses,” use the concept of parental authority when you come to the word “rod,” ratherthan the concept of beating or spanking. It rings true in every instance.
While Christians and Jews believe that the Old Testament is the inspired word of God, it is also a historical text that has been interpreted in many ways over the centuries, sometimes incorrectly in order to support the beliefs of the times. These “rod” verses have been burdened with interpretations about corporal punishment that support human ideas. Other parts of the Bible, especially the New Testament, suggest that respect, authority, and tenderness should be the prevailing attitudes toward children among people of faith.
In the New Testament, Christ modified the traditional eye-for-an-eye system of justice with His turn-the-other-cheek approach. Christ preached gentleness, love, and understanding, and seemed against any harsh use of the rod, as stated by Paul in 1 Cor. 4:21: “Shall I come to you with the whip (rod), or in love and with a gentle spirit?” Paul went on to teach fathers about the importance of not provoking anger in their children (which is what spanking usually does): “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Eph. 6:4), and “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will be discouraged” (Col. 3:21).
In our opinion, nowhere in the Bible does it say you must spank your child to be a godly parent.
SPARE THE ROD!There are parents who should not spank and children who should not be spanked. Are there factors in your history, your temperament, or your relationship with your child that put you at risk for abusing your child? Are there characteristics in your child that make spanking unwise?
•Were you abused as a child?
•Do you lose control of yourself easily?
•Are you spanking more, with fewer results?
•Are you spanking harder?
•Is spanking not working?
•Do you have a high-need child? A strong-willed child?
•Is your child ultrasensitive?
•Is your relationship with your child already distant?
•Are there present situations that are making you angry, such as financial or marital difficulties or a recent job loss? Are there factors that are lowering your own self-confidence?
If the answer to any of these queries is yes, you would be wise to develop a no-spanking mindset in your home and do your best to come up with noncorporal alternatives. If you find you are unable to do this on your own, talk with someone who can help you.
7. HITTING PROMOTES ANGER – IN CHILDREN AND IN PARENTS
Children often perceive punishment as unfair. They are more likely to rebel against corporal punishment than against other disciplinary techniques. Children do not think rationally like adults, but they do have an innate sense of fairness—though their standards are not the same as adults. This can prevent punishment from working as you hoped it would and can contribute to an angry child. Oftentimes, the sense of unfairness escalates to a feeling of humiliation. When punishment humiliates children they either rebel or withdraw. While spanking may appear to make the child afraid to repeat the misbehavior, it is more likely to make the child fear the spanker.
In our experience, and that of many who have thoroughly researched corporal punishment, children whose behaviors are spank-controlled throughout infancy and childhood may appear outwardly compliant, but inside they are seething with anger. They feel that their personhood has been violated, and they detach themselves from a world they perceive has been unfair to them. They find it difficult to trust, becoming insensitive to a world that has been insensitive to them.
Parents who examine their feelings after spanking often realize that all they have accomplished is to relieve themselves of anger. This impulsive release of anger often becomes addicting—perpetuating a cycle of ineffective discipline. We have found that the best way to prevent ourselves from acting on the impulse to spank is to instill in ourselves two convictions: 1. That we will not spank our children. 2. That we will discipline them. Since we have decided that spanking is not an option, we must seek out better alternatives.
8. HITTING BRINGS BACK BAD MEMORIES
A child’s memories of being spanked can scar otherwise joyful scenes of growing up. People are more likely to recall traumatic events than pleasant ones. I grew up in a very nurturing home, but I was occasionally and “deservedly” spanked. I vividly remember the willow branch scenes. After my wrongdoing my grandfather would send me to my room and tell me I was going to receive a spanking. I remember looking out the window, seeing him walk across the lawn and take a willow branch from the tree and come back to my room and spank me across the back of my thighs with the branch. The willow branch seemed to be an effective spanking tool because it stung and made an impression upon me— physically and mentally. Although I remember growing up in a loving home, I don’t remember specific happy scenes with nearly as much detail as I remember the spanking scenes. I have always thought that one of our goals as parents is to fill our children’s memory bank with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pleasant scenes. It’s amazing how the unpleasant memories of spankings can block out those positive memories.
ABUSIVE HITTING HAS BAD LONG-TERM EFFECTS
Research has shown that spanking may leave scars deeper and more lasting than a fleeting redness of the bottom. Here is a summary of the research on the long-term effects of corporal punishment:
•In a prospective study spanning nineteen years, researchers found that children who were raised in homes with a lot of corporal punishment, turned out to be more antisocial and egocentric, and that physical violence became the accepted norm for these children when they became teenagers and adults.
•College students showed more psychological disturbances if they grew up in a home with less praise, more scolding, more corporal punishment, and more verbal abuse.
•A survey of 679 college students showed that those who recall being spanked as children accepted spanking as a way of discipline and intended to spank their own children. Students who were not spanked as children were significantly less accepting of the practice than those who were spanked. The spanked students also reported remembering that their parents were angry during the spanking; they remembered both the spanking and the attitude with which it was administered.
•Spanking seems to have the most negative long-term effects when it replaces positive communication with the child. Spanking had less damaging long-term effects if given in a loving home and nurturing environment.
•A study of the effects of physical punishment on children’s later aggressive behavior showed that the more frequently a child was given physical punishment, the more likely it was that he would behave aggressively toward other family members and peers. Spanking caused less aggression if it was done in an overall nurturing environment and the child was always given a rational explanation of why the spanking occurred.
•A study to determine whether hand slapping had any long-term effects showed that toddlers who were punished with a light slap on the hand showed delayed exploratory development seven months later.
•Adults who received a lot of physical punishment as teenagers had a rate of spouse-beating that was four times greater than those whose parents did not hit them.
•Husbands who grew up in severely violent homes are six times more likely to beat their wives than men raised in non-violent homes.
•More than 1 out of 4 parents who had grown up in a violent home were violent enough to risk seriously injuring their child.
•Studies of prison populations show that most violent criminals grew up in a violent home environment.
•The life history of notorious, violent criminals, murderers, muggers, rapists, etc., are likely to show a history of excessive physical discipline in childhood.
The evidence against spanking is overwhelming. Hundreds of studies all come to the same conclusions:
1. The more physical punishment a child receives, the more aggressive he or she will become.
2. The more children are spanked, the more likely they will be abusive toward their own children.
3. Spanking plants seeds for later violent behavior.4.Spanking doesn’t work.
10. SPANKING DOESN’T WORK
Many studies show the futility of spanking as a disciplinary technique, but none show its usefulness. In the past thirty years in pediatric practice, we have observed thousands of families who have tried spanking and found it doesn’t work. Our general impression is that parents spank less as their experience increases. Spanking doesn’t work for the child, for the parents, or for society. Spanking does not promote good behavior, it creates a distance between parent and child, and it contributes to a violent society. Parents who rely on punishment as their primary mode of discipline don’t grow in their knowledge of their child. It keeps them from creating better alternatives, which would help them to know their child and build a better relationship. In the process of raising our own eight children, we have also concluded that spanking doesn’t work. We found ourselves spanking less and less as our experience and the number of children increased. In our home, we have programmed ourselves against spanking and are committed to creating an attitude within our children, and an atmosphere within our home, that renders spanking unnecessary. Since spanking is not an option, we have been forced to come up with better alternatives. This has not only made us better parents, but in the long run we believe it has created more sensitive and well-behaved children.
What can parents do to improve relations with teenagers?
Help your teenagers believe in themselves. They will only believe in themselves if you show them that you have confidence in them and faith that they will make the right decisions.
Recognize the efforts of your teenagers. Reassure them that they have the qualities you want for them.
And if conflict with your teenager does arise:
Focus on the behaviour, not the person.
Think ahead to what you will say and how you will say it.
Keep your messages clear and concise.
Stick to one issue at a time.
Do not argue with the way your teen sees things. Instead, state your own beliefs and opinions
Do not talk down to your teenager. There’s nothing more irritating than a condescending tone
Do not lecture or preach. This only provokes hostility. Besides, the average teenager goes “deaf” after hearing about five sentences.
Do not set limits or consequences you cannot enforce.