Parents: Avoid the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome

Many adults enter parenthood with visions of “picture perfect” children. They imagine a warm and loving home, as well as respectful and polite kids, all eagerly doing whatever is asked with only an occasional explanation from Mom or Dad.  As a veteran parent, you know this is not reality. But many parents have the idea that kids are just smaller versions of adults: reasonable and unselfish. This is the “Little Adult Assumption.” Moms and Dads who embrace this myth often prefer the “modern method” of discipline—talking and reasoning. Unfortunately, many times words and reasons alone prove unsuccessful. Sometimes they have no impact at all, and then parent and child fall into the trap known as the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome.

This tragic sequence results from the very best of parental intentions. Your child is doing something you don’t like. You tell her to stop. She continues her misbehavior, so you try persuading her to see things your way. When persuasion fails, you start arguing. When arguing is not successful, you yell. Yelling fails, so—feeling there is nothing left to do—some parents turn to hitting. The two biggest parenting mistakes—too much talking and too much emotion—trigger the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome.

Changing Kids’ Behavior Begins By Changing Your Expectations

If you have a child who is doing something you don’t like, get real upset about it on a regular basis and sure enough he’ll repeat it for you. Too much yelling and too much anger on the part of a parent are destructive for several reasons. First, they move the focus off of the child’s misbehavior and on to the parent’s own outburst. Second, many children take the emotional eruption of a parent as a challenge to a fight, and there are plenty of kids who love a good fight. Third, parents who over explain and give three, four or five reasons to a child to encourage right behavior are almost saying “You really don’t have to behave unless I can give a number of good arguments as to why you should.” This is not discipline, it is begging, and the shrewd enough child will simply take issue with the parent’s reasons.  Changing children’s behavior often begins by changing parents’ expectations of their children. Trying to teach young children appropriate behavior is actually closer to training than it is to teaching “little adults.” This means choosing a method and repeating it consistently until the “trainee” does what the trainer wants. Very little of the training involves extensive verbal explanations. Most important, the trainer remains calm, patient and gentle, but also persistent and firm. Keep in mind, children need consistency and repetition in a warm and loving environment.

Another Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!!  If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first! [This may mean improving your physical, mental, and/or spiritual health…..contact Dr. Jones today for consultation or specific referrals!]


Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

uick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf



1-2-3 Magic Parenting Newsletter © 2013

Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning parenting resources. To learn more or to subscribe visit www.123magic.com/Newsletter.



Attachment & Relationships

Trust issues…where do they come from?  Yes, it’s certainly possible that family and intimate relationship experiences can cause heart-break and mistrust.  For instance, enduring your parents’ divorce, seeing your mother as unfaithful or your father as a “rolling stone,” and you yourself, being cheated on by a long-time spouse or partner – all of these experiences can cause us to keep up an emotional guard in relationships, doubt the fidelity and genuineness of others, or avoid intimacy altogether.  But what about those of us who do not have such profound and obvious experiences?  Where does the inability to trust come from if we’re never modeled or ‘taught’ to be weary of others?

Attachment Theory provides a possible explanation to these queries.  This theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans, which is determined as early as infancy.  The most important principle of Attachment Theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development.  Attachment is the affectionate tie between two people and this bond becomes internally representative of how young children will form relationships in adulthood.  In other words, this initial relationship between self and others serves as a “blueprint” for all future relationships.

The attachment bond can be broken in many ways, with the most obvious being physical and sexual abuse; however, physical and emotional neglect can also be detrimental to future relationships.  For instance, a child frequently left crying, wet, or hungry, or who is not comforted when in physical pain, must learn to comfort or sooth himself, and possibly, develop an inability to trust those whom they love the most.  Another example is an infant child who smiles at his or her mother, or reaches for a hug, but does not receive reciprocation may develop a lack of empathy for others and have difficulty forming lasting relationships in their later life.  They may lack genuine affection with others, be inconsiderate or conscious of others’ needs, or be suspicious of a partners’ affection. 

The core of one’s relational problems may be his or her attachment style and history.  Therefore, in some cases, what may seem like a need for couple’s counseling may actually be more of an issue for individual counseling.  The deeply-seated and suppressed needs can be met, emotional damage can be healed, and relationships can become lasting. 


Childhood Stress. Really? Really.

As adults, we have hundreds of sources for stress: in our homes, in our jobs, in society, financially, relationally, physically, mentally, and the list goes on and on.  It’s easy to discuss with friends the “problem of the week” or with colleagues “what’s wrong with the world today.”  Oftentimes, we don’t consider that children have these same sources for stress.  In fact, many of us reminisce about childhood being “easy” and free of responsibilities.  In my clinical experience, however, that has not been the case for many children and adolescents.  Due to disregarded stressors (external and internal), many youth present with psychological issues or conditions, including disruptive and defiant behaviors, ADHD, depression, anxiety, social problems, low self-esteem, substance abuse, learning or academic difficulties, and sexual behavior problems.  External stressors can occur within the family (i.e., separation, changes and/or disorganization, loss, finances), peers (i.e., bullying, loss, assimilation), school (i.e., success and expectations, child/teacher relationship, learning limitations), and community (i.e., social pressures, violence, media).  Internal sources for stress might include hunger, pain, physical sensitivities (to noise, temperature change, crowding, etc.), fatigue, over- and under-stimulation, psychological conditions, and physical disabilities. 

A main difference with adult verses child stress, is that adults have had years of learning coping mechanisms to manage their stress (some positive, some not-so-positive), whereas children are not so fortunate.  Due to cognitive limitations, children generally rely on previously learned behaviors to diminish the stress (i.e., crying, temper tantrums, asking questions, being withdrawn, thumb sucking).  However, this may lead to a negative cycle whereas symptoms remain, become enhanced, and/or transfer to other problems – especially if the child is disciplined for the “inappropriate” behavior.   Here are some signs to look for if your child or adolescent may be experiencing external or internal stressors: crying, sweating palms, tantrums or aggressive outbursts, headaches and stomachaches, toileting accidents, sleep disturbances, sadness, avoidance, excessive shyness, hypervigilance, excessive worry, “freezing up” in social situations, seemingly obsessive interests in objects or routines, excessive clinging, inattentiveness, or hyperactivity. 

So, as a parent, what do you do?  First, it’s important to know what NOT to do…Do not assume that your child can or will cope in the same manner you do.  Then what?  1. Appropriately prepare the child and help them anticipate the stressor (if and when possible).  2. Provide the child with an age-appropriate and friendly environment where they feel supported to play out or express their concerns.  3. Help the child identify various coping strategies, including relaxation techniques, artistic expression, and positive self-talk skills (i.e., “I can do this”).  4.  Help the child recognize, name, accept, and express their feelings appropriately.  Many child and adolescent therapists can offer these tools, this special type of environment, and provide other recommendations for helping children cope with stress.  Also, in some cases, psychological testing may be necessary to fully understand the nature and impact of external and internal stressors. 


The Many Faces of ADHD

Simply understanding Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a disorder of inattention and/or hyperactivity is not enough.  While on internship in Chicago (2009), my very-insightful supervisor, Dr. Gene Carroccia, helped me to better understand this complex disorder.  The following are just a few important aspects of the brain-functioning condition called ADHD:

ADHD is a motivation or boredom disorder.  People with ADHD are usually not motivated to do things except what they are interested in at the moment.  If they are interested in something then they can do it for long periods.  This is confusing for parents and teachers because they will see the ADHD person persisting with things they like, but then struggling with chores, following rules, and homework.  Dr. Carroccia explains that ADHD people often appear as lazy, selfish, insensitive, and self-centered because they pay more attention to things that are new, highly stimulating, or interesting, and struggle with things that are routine, ordinary, boring, or tedious (such as schoolwork, chores, lectures).

ADHD is an organization disorder.  ADHD people often are quite messy and disorganized.  Dr. Carroccia posits that, most people with normal brains take for granted their ability to be organized and follow steps to complete everyday tasks, like cleaning a room, doing homework, or doing a project.  They have trouble starting a project or activity, remaining focused, and persisting in the small tasks in order to complete the entire task.  Because of this problem, ADHD people are notorious procrastinators and will also struggle to maintain things in neat or orderly ways.

ADHD is a frustration disorder.  People with ADHD can appear angry, but it is often really frustration.  ADHD people often have frustration tolerance problems, meaning they do not tolerate frustration as well as others their age.  When things don’t go their way or when they are told to do things they do not want to do, they can become frustrated.  When frustrated they can have temper tantrums or outbursts where they yell, cry, scream, or say mean things.

ADHD is a self-control disorder.  Because some ADHD people have impulsivity, they have a harder time controlling their actions.  They do and say things without thinking about the consequences of their behaviors, and this can cause them to be rude and get into trouble.  They have serious self-control problems, and struggle with the ability to stop, think, inhibit, plan, and then act, as well as to continue doing things while other distracting things are occurring.

ADHD is a time-disorder.  They often have time management problems due to having difficulties with planning ahead and anticipating negative outcomes from their behavior.  They lose track of time more easily and are often late for things.

ADHD is not a common sense condition and may appear strange to parents, teachers, spouses, and co-workers who have not been educated about ADHD.  For more information on this disorder or to schedule a psychological evaluation to help identify if ADHD is present in your child, spouse, or you, contact Fresh Start today!


Love & Communication

When we think back to past, failed relationships, it’s easy to attribute blame to the –ex, negative circumstances, and/or poor timing.  Oftentimes these memories are long-lasting and impact subsequent relationships.  It is clear that we are all different people, with different life influences, different values and beliefs, and different coping mechanisms.  Couples’ differences are generally the cause of degenerating or failed relationships.  In considering ALL the differences couples may have, the misinterpretation or inconsistencies of one’s love language is also imperative to understand.

What is a love language?  Author Gary Chapman stresses the importance of being able to express love to your partner in a way that he or she can understand. He calls this type of communicating, love languages.  He posits that there are 5 main love languages that we speak: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.  Imagine your attempt to communicate love in a relationship, but you speak it in Spanish and your partner speaks it in German.  More specifically, imagine that, throughout childhood and adolescence, love was communicated to you through physical touch (e.g., hugs, kisses, pats on the back) and your partner’s was through receiving gifts (e.g., flowers, new clothes, money).  Then, in your adult relationship, a gift may be meaningless when all you want is to be held.  For your partner, a passionate kiss could be misconstrued, if he or she is expecting a token or gift that represents love.  Though you’re genuine in your communication and you strongly desire to convey, “I love you and I’m committed to you,” your partner hears a foreign language and may rely on your actions to do the communicating.

Without understanding each other’s love language, an individual’s actions or lack thereof, can be misconstrued or disregarded.   After years of unhappiness, arguments, and dissatisfaction, many couple’s counselors often find that the problem isn’t love, it’s the love language.   Amongst many valuable reasons, counseling is an opportunity for individuals and couples to build healthy and long-lasting relationships.  Not only can counseling help clients understand their and their partner’s love language, it also can help protect against the consequences of these languages not being understood or respected.  These might include anxiety, depression, anger, arguments, and even, divorce.   It is a worthwhile investment to help couples navigate life and love in a healthy way.

For more information on love languages, read Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (2004).