In order to learn how to prevent emotional and behavioral disorders in children, we need to understand that, contrary to popular belief, disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and almost all others, are in my opinion and my clinical experience, NOT caused by genetics and biology! As has been demonstrated to me countless times, they occur when a child is born with a particularly sensitive temperament, and then experiences certain adverse childhood stressors, which because of his sensitive nature, are experienced as a trauma. The emotional disorder is the body and mind’s maladaptive attempt to cope with that trauma.Read More
If I were to tell you that stuttering is genetic, or a hard-wired brain or speech defect, there would be nothing you could do to prevent it and little you could do to cure it, as you can’t change a child’s genetics or biology very much. But since I’m telling you that it is fueled by stressors in the environment, by changing the child’s environment through stuttering therapy for children including Play Therapy and Parenting Interventions, you can defuse what’s fueling the stuttering, and even allow it to be replaced with healthy speech habits which develop from the child’s newly earned emotional health!Read More
We as parents possess tremendous power to influence our children for the good; by improving the way we relate to them, we can literally fashion and shape their very emotional health, which is the critical foundation upon which a life of success will be built.Read More
Anxiety is one of the most common disorders in children, affecting over 10 percent of those under 18. Unfortunately, it can rob a child of the happiness that he or she needs so much. The good news is that Child-Centered Play Therapy, together with Parenting Counseling, can do wonders to reduce and even resolve childhood anxiety!Read More
In considering how to encourage siblings to get along, it’s good to remember that not only are there things we as parents can do, as I describe here, but there are things the kids themselves can work on to help get along better with their siblings. Therefore, I suggest you have your kids read the following advice:Read More
Self-esteem is based on having a conscious awareness of, honoring and respecting one's own emotions, needs, decisions and desires. A person with healthy self-esteem thinks, “I am aware of how I feel. Sometimes I feel this way, and sometimes I feel that way. I have a right to feel anything I want. My desires are legitimate and should be honored. I have a right to honor and try to fulfill any of my desires. My needs are important and people need to respect and attend to them. My decisions are valid and important and need to be honored and respected by people.” Such a person not only has a healthy relationship with himself, but since he treats himself with so much respect, he tends to treat others with equal respect and to be very kind, generous and helpful. How do we get a child to think in this healthy wayRead More
Many parents think that happiness is like a goal that they would like their children to achieve some day, like it's the icing on the cake. The important thing in life is to be a good person and to be successful, and happiness is like a nice pleasant extra. However I'm saying that happiness is like a tool that must be constantly applied in a child's life, it is the most important tool for child success. It is a most critical ingredient in the recipe for moral character.Read More
It takes both a mother and a father to make a child and ideally these two should work together in harmony to raise the child to be healthy. However as we know, conflict often arises between parents and everyone knows that it's seriously affects children.Read More
An emotionally healthy person loves, approves of and respects himself unconditionally. That means that he recognizes his intrinsic value as a person, and he does not allow his mistakes to take away from his own self-estimation of that value. Furthermore, he does not make that approval or respect dependent on superior achievement or especially good deeds, rather on the authenticity of his feelings and his faith that overall, he is a decent, worthwhile person. His default setting, so to speak, is “I’m Ok just the way I am.”Read More
My opinion in general is that using medications for your child’s ADHD and other issues, including psychotropic meds such as Ritalin, Prozac, etc., should be reserved for more serious situations. For example, if a child diagnosed with ADHD is getting B’s and C’s it is probably overdoing it to put him on meds.Read More
By Joseph Sacks, LCSW
A perfectionist is someone with extremely low self-esteem who feels that the only way to redeem himself from those horrible feelings of low self-worth is to get things perfect, to have truly amazing accomplishments. Anything less than perfect performance is considered worthless, a failure and shameful. Perfectionism can cause many disorders such as extreme anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as a host of psychosomatic physical health problems.
Is my child a perfectionist?
Perfectionism comes from being raised by loving well-intentioned parents who have unfortunately made some mistakes in child-rearing. The most common such mistakes are over-control, criticism and lack of approval or conditional approval. Chronic criticism devastates a child's self-esteem and makes him feel that he must get things perfect in order to be worthy. In addition he absorbs a message sent directly from his parents: "Only when you get things just right do I approve of you. Only when you do well are you acceptable, worthy and loved." So when considering the question, “Is my child a perfectionist?” we must keep these things in mind.
I wouldn’t ever like to say anything bad about my beloved favorite tennis player!
However his autobiography, Open, presents strong evidence that Andre Agassi was a perfectionist. My only goal is to help parents and children, and I think it will be extremely helpful for parents who wish to raise their children in an emotionally healthy way, to become aware of the mistakes Agassi’s parents made, so that we don’t repeat them. In addition, it is very important for us to learn that even the greatest professional success is not worth it if the person does not possess emotional health!
In his autobiography entitled Open, Agassi lays out very clearly what his life was like. Despite his fame and fortune, he felt that he was living a life of abject misery. He absolutely hated playing tennis. He describes playing tennis as “Torture,” and the court was his prison. His “Punishment” began in his early childhood and never ended until he retired. “No matter how much I want to stop I don't. I keep begging myself to stop, and I keep playing.” (p. 27) He pursued perfect performance in tennis not for the joy of accomplishment and achievement, but only to relieve his terrible feelings of low self-worth, and to counteract judgments of self-criticism. “Though I hate tennis, I like the feeling of hitting a ball dead perfect. It's the only peace. When I do something perfect I enjoy a split-second of sanity and calm.”(p29) Relentless and futile pursuit of such perfection became the goal of his life.
Agassi’s father made several key parenting errors. First of all, he was completely over-controlling. “What are you doing! Stop thinking! No thinking!” (p.31) He never asked the young Andre, “Would you like to play tennis?” He alone decided for his son that his life would be dedicated to tennis. He forced him to play every minute of his childhood, even making him miss school on many occasions for extra practice. He was literally a slave-driving drill sergeant. “I take no pride in my reflexes. I get no credit. It's what I'm supposed to do. Every hit is expected, every miss a crisis.” (p.28) He made it clear to Agassi that none of his wants, needs and desires were important. “What I want isn’t relevant.” (p.29) The only thing that was important was his father's will, his father’s desire that he become a great tennis player. “I don't want to upset my father. I don't dare. Bad stuff happens when my father's upset. If he says I'm going to play tennis, if he says I'm going to be number one in the world, then that's my destiny. All I can do is nod and obey.” His emotional life was completely disregarded. This taught him to repress his emotions, one of the key factors in emotional illness.
The legacy of criticism
In addition, his father constantly, absolutely, criticized him. Every single move Andre made that was even slightly less than perfect was met with a torrent of criticism, disapproval and verbal abuse. He sent a clear message to his son, that he must be perfect and totally successful: otherwise he was worthless. Even when he did play perfectly, his father never praised him or expressed approval. Andre’s only reward for success was a temporary relief from criticism and shame. “I win my first seven tournaments in the 10 and under bracket and my father has no reaction. I’m simply doing what I’m supposed to do.”(p.37) “I've never lost and can't imagine what my father's reaction will be if I do.” (p. 37) Agassi internalized this message and became his own (and harshest) critic: "I will now have a loss on my record forever. Nothing can ever change it. I can't endure the thought, but it's inescapable. I'm fallible, blemished, imperfect. After years of hearing my father rant over my flaws, one loss has caused me to take up his rant. I have internalized my father, his impatience, his perfectionism, his rage, until his voice doesn't just feel like my own, it is my own. I no longer need my father to torture me, from this day on I can do it all by myself.” (p. 38) This is the fate of most perfectionists. They become their own harshest critics, leading a life of inescapable agony.
Anger and Shame
Whenever a person hurts someone else, as in the case of the verbal and emotional abuse that Agassi suffered at the hands of his father, the reaction is naturally and automatically anger. Therefore we can likely assume that someone who went through what Agassi did may harbor extreme anger toward his father for the way he treated him. However, he likely never would have been able to express and process his anger as a child, for fear that his father would retaliate against him. Therefore the anger must have been repressed. Leading a life of repressed rage is very unhealthy. It generates many emotional disorders. “I'm furious with Tarango, with God and with myself.” He admits his father’s abusive behavior, “Of course he has no qualms about preying on me.” (p. 30)
The other emotion that perfectionists usually feel is shame. Shame is the king of all unhealthy emotions. After reading Agassi’s autobiography, I feel that it is safe to assume, and necessary for us to recognize, that he was very likely terribly shamed by his father for every one of the many mistakes he made, however small they might have been. He probably internalized those feelings and felt intense shame over every single less-than-perfect performance.
Unfortunately but interestingly, he suffered from intense, debilitating back pain and sciatica. He claims it came from herniated discs and other structural abnormalities, but it may have been that none of those had the power to create the amount of pain he was experiencing. The truth is, from the life history and symptoms he describes, he may well have been suffering from a condition described by Dr. John Sarno, called Tension Myositis Syndrome, where one’s consciousness threatens to be overwhelmed by feelings of shame and low self-worth because of the fear of a less than perfect performance, and one’s mind creates the intense back pain to distract him from his overpowering shame. The pain serves to distract his mind and saves him from what his unconscious fears may be an emotional breakdown. In addition, his repressed rage threatens to burst forth where his mind fears he might do something aggressive, and so It creates the back pain to distract him from his repressed rage and to keep it locked in his unconscious. This condition is very common and affects millions of Americans every day.
I don't know if Agassi ever made it into therapy…
If he did, he would have had to express intense grief over how he was treated by his father, and over his lost childhood. He would have had to take all of that unconscious repressed rage, and express it consciously in therapy, so he can process it and let it fade into the past. He would have to mourn and grieve the fact that he was denied the important gem that every child must have, a feeling of self-determination. It would be very helpful for Agassi to seek an admission from his father that although he made him a great tennis player he destroyed his emotional health and set him up for a life of misery. Such an apology would be extremely valuable as it would shatter his feelings of low self-worth, which are in reality just an illusion. He would have to completely change his thought patterns and value system, recognizing that in life one should be allowed to strive for more mundane, reasonable accomplishments, and not for perfection. He would have to learn the joy of the ordinary.
How can we do differently?
By the way, his father could have turned him into an equally good tennis player, but in a different way. He could have showed him the joy of playing tennis well, the pleasure of the game, to such an extent that he would have been inspired, and would have chosen of his own free will to spend much of his time playing tennis. He could have taught him to see the joy and beauty of winning, and of success, while at the same time not feel any shame or self-criticism at losing or because of a less than perfect performance. There are many successful athletes who have this healthy attitude. Any parent can inspire his child in this way, leading to success in any endeavor, success in the healthy way, and not through criticism, pressure or force.
Agassi is an amazing example of the devastating effects of parental over-control and over-criticism. He is a great lesson for us in how not to treat our children. All the fame and fortune in the world is not worth a life of emotional devastation. In fact, one need not go to the extremes gone to by Agassi’s father to create an unhealthy perfectionist. Even a moderate amount of criticism and mistreatment can do it, and must be avoided like the plague.
Therefore, we need to display an extremely non-critical, non-judgemental, accepting attitude towards children, one of unconditional approval even when they make mistakes. Mistakes should in fact be celebrated for the great learning experience that they are! Good performance should be encouraged by teaching them the joy of doing well, not the shame of making errors. And above all, children need to be treated with extreme gentleness.
For my approach on how to respond when a child makes mistakes, click here.
Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, download one of my free reports, or view my video. If you are wondering, “Is my child a perfectionist?” and would like guidance or treatment from a child therapist in NYC, you may call me at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute phone consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!
Are you frustrated by your child’s frequent tantrums? Is he or she defiant, and often refuses to listen? Are you overwhelmed as a parent and have given up hope that anything will help? Did you ever wonder how to reduce tantrums using Play Therapy?Read More
This article was inspired by the amazing how to stop bullying genius, Izzy Kalman. Anyone who has a problem with bullying should immediately buy his book, Bullies 2 Buddies: How to turn your enemies into friends, and check out his website, Bullies2buddies.com, and even take his video course. His level of psychological wisdom puts him near the level of saintly, and he is the only one out there who offers any real solutions in this area. Therefore, I feel I must absolutely give my readers the benefit of finding out about the how to stop bullying solution in my blog. I also have many of my own ideas about how to resolve bullying, so I have synthesized them with Izzy Kalman's and added elucidation.
So How To Stop Bullying?
I was bullied somewhat as a youngster and I was never able to figure out a solution until my second years of college, when I was 19. I had a best friend named Jonathan Weidenbaum. We fondly called him “Ep.” He was extremely well liked by everyone. I wondered why he was so successful, and so I decided to study and observe his ways. I noticed that whenever he would see an acquaintance coming towards him from far away, he would call out in a loud voice, “Oh my Lord! It's Toni!” We went everywhere together, and I noticed that he would give a big hearty hello even to people who are complete jerks and who I would have much rather ignored. In addition, I spoke to Ep about how to win friends and influence people. He really educated me, telling me about the concept of a fresh chance. Whenever someone bothers you, insults you, or does anything inappropriate or unfriendly, don't hold onto resentment or bear a grudge. Next time you see that person, give him a completely fresh chance to choose to change his ways and treat you respectfully. You do that by giving him a big, warm, hearty hello, treating them like your best friend and like you've totally forgotten about his previous insult. In addition, if someone does something embarrassing or makes a fool of himself, don't remind him of his mistake or think of any less of him next time you see him. Give him a fresh chance to behave respectfully by giving him a big hearty hello. This will make people love you and totally regret the day I ever did anything bothersome to you. I began implementing Ep’s techniques, greeting everyone warmly and loudly from far away and giving everyone a fresh chance. I went out of my way to be particularly friendly to even the biggest jerks or people that I had hated in the past. In addition, around the same time I consulted with my wise old grandmother, Mema, who told me to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, Pepa, and to be charming to everyone. She told me to say hello to everyone warmly no matter how much it kills me and how much I dislike them, just like Ep. So I resolved that I would make friends with everyone, even the worst people. The results were amazing. I became a really popular guy on campus. People even came up to me and asked what happened, what kind of changes come over me, how did I become so friendly. I became firmly convinced of the power of friendliness could overcome any interpersonal problem.
So that is the advice that we must give to anyone who is struggling with how to stop bullying. You must go out of your way to say hello to even the biggest bully. As a matter fact, you must say hello to the biggest, worst bully, first, from far away before you get close to him. Call him by name, say “Hey, Johnny, what's up? How are you doing?” Go up to him and shake his hand and say, “What's going on?” This will completely surprise and disarm the bully. You see, saying hello to someone is actually a very important act of kindness. By doing so you are giving the person tremendous consideration and respect. You give the bully, who until now hated you, a reason to think, “Maybe this guy’s not so bad after all.” In addition, it solves another problem. When a child is being bullied by someone, he tends to avoid that bully like the plague for fear that he will get bullied more. The problem is that expressing fear and avoidance of the bully is extremely insulting to him because you're treating him with loathing. Moreover, your fear shows him you are treating him like an enemy and fearing him only gives him power over you. All this will encourage him to bully you more. Therefore no matter how he treats you, give him a fresh chance, going up to him warmly greeting him and treating him like your best friend, and you will soon have him completely charmed. That's a big part of how to stop bullying, you must treat everyone like a best friend, adopting an attitude of kindness and generosity towards everyone. Never say “This particular person is not my friend, I don't want to talk to him.” Be friends with everyone no matter how much it kills you, just like Mema said.
How To Stop Bullying? Learn to laugh at yourself!
Around the same time, I was working as a waiter in a restaurant and the pizza man used to make cracks at me. I told him to stop because I didn’t like it, and he said to me, “C’mon, you can’t tell me I can’t kid around!” Somehow, I realized that he was right. He was working under a hot oven all day and he needed to kid around to preserve his sanity. Kids in school are no different, they need to kid around, even at each other’s expense. Therefore, rule number two is that you need to learn to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. Many times, bulling is just an attempt to kid around, enjoy some jokes and relieve the boredom. When you get angry at some simple jokes, then the bully says, “You won’t let me kid around, I’ll have my fun in an even crueler, more aggressive way." Therefore you can resolve the whole situation by learning to laugh at yourself and even make more jokes about yourself. The bullies will actually love and respect you for it. In addition, you are doing the bullies a great act of kindness by providing them pleasure and entertainment and you will make them your friends. But if you demand that they never make fun of you, you are taking away all their fun and you're driving them to have their fun in a different way, by bullying you in an aggressive and cruel way.
Don’t get angry or try to get them to stop!
Often however bullies are just trying to get pleasure out of exercising power sadistically over others, therefore in such a case apply rule number three, do not get afraid, angry, indignant insulted or defensive when someone bullies you, because that way you were only giving the bully the power and the great sadistic pleasure of controlling and manipulating you. He will think “Wow it is so exhilarating, enjoyable and empowering to bully you when you get so angry, insulted and upset. I’m going to keep doing it!” Rather you need to show the bully that his insult doesn't in any way get you to feel bad about yourself, that it doesn't affect you, you are comfortable with your own shortcomings and you are humble. This definitely takes a good dose of self-confidence and self-esteem, which I am aware many children lack, but gradually over time they can get themselves psyched and build it up. This will completely prevent the bully from having power over you and will inspire him to like you. Therefore, if someone bullies you, do not get upset or angry and most importantly do not try to get them to stop, because trying to get them to stop shows that it bothers you and that is what gives them the pleasure and power and they will only bully you more. When they see that you don't get insulted, angry, upset or defensive and continue to treat them like a friend, their bullying will lose all It’s reward and it will stop.
Freedom of speech
You see, as Izzy Kalman wisely reminds us, everyone has freedom of speech even to insult people. The idea that they don't have the right to insult you and that you must stop them from doing so, only gives them the power that they want and you will fall into a trap. Therefore, one key to how to stop bullying is that you have to get yourself psyched up that they can make fun of you all they want and it doesn't bother you a bit. As I said, some kids just simply cannot tolerate being insulted because their self-esteem is so weak that they are apt to actually believe the insults themselves and feel truly terrible about themselves. Therefore you need to educate a child and help him to himself conclude that he truly is a good and worthy person and no insults or teasing that anyone does can take that away from him. Therapy will help with this, and patience. The how to stop bullying solution is a long term, lifelong skill that takes years to master.
When insulted, say things like “If you like to make fun of me be my guest,” and “If you want to put me down you can do it all day long, I don't care,” and “ When you want to make fun of someone come to me.” Make jokes about yourself and laugh with them. When you don't attack them, get defensive or show fear, and you laugh at yourself, it is impossible for them to see you as an enemy, and they will be much closer to liking you and becoming your friend.
Let’s say someone insults you or teases you about the way you look, don't argue with them and try to deny it or change their mind. Agree with them, “You're right, I don't look so great. I wish I was good looking like you.” Such a response will turn them into your friend.
If someone tries to exclude you from their group,
don't get upset, insulted or indignant, just say “Ok, that's fine. I’m probably not cool enough for you guys anyway.” Your self-acceptance and humility will paradoxically and amazingly prove to them that you actually are cool enough to be in their group. But if you get offended, you will show them that you were only concerned with your own honor and that you are insecure, and that will prove to them that you indeed are not cool and they will continue to exclude you.
How To Stop Bullying Involving Physical Attacks:
If another child seriously attacks you and tries to really hurt you, that is not bullying, it is a crime, and you need to seek help from the appropriate authorities. But if the child say pushes you or hits you lightly, the wisest course is to not respond at all, just like if he insulted you. Don't get defensive, angry or attack back. This way they will think that you’re tough and not a crybaby and will gain respect for you. If they keep it up or start to really hurt you, first say, “That really hurts, please don't do that again,” without attacking or getting defensive. The trick to how to stop bullying here is to reduce the conflict from a physical one to a verbal one. Engage the bully in a conversation, say, “Are you mad at me about something?” If he tells you what he is mad about, you have succeeded at getting him to stop hitting you and now you can deal with the problem verbally. If he is mad about something you did, validate their claim, apologize and show him that you won’t do it again. Only if they are really, truly hurting you do you go for help.
Bullies who try to take your things…
If a child tries to intimidate you into giving him a dollar and you can afford it, give him the dollar generously as you would to a friend in need. This will disarm him. If he asks you for another dollar the next day say, “What you want a dollar every day? I wish I could give you one but I simply can't afford it. If the bully wants something of yours express empathy, how much you wish you could give him what he wants, you would love to help him but unfortunately you just can't afford to give it up. Show him that he's your friend and you wish you could help him, and help him out whenever you can as you would a friend.
Basically, you want to show the bully that you can be his benefactor, that you will be kind and helpful to him and that it pays for him to be your friend because he will benefit so much from your friendship and by being nice to you.
Never tattle on a bully!
Never complain to the teachers or principal and try to get them to discipline the bully. Getting the bully in trouble will just cause him to hate and despise you and lose all respect for you. It will encourage him to bully you more and will create enemies. Only with real physical attacks which is not bullying but a crime and requires possibly police involvement do you call for help. 99 percent of the time it’s not a serious threat and if you use the techniques described here, you will be empowered. You will possess your own solutions to the how to stop bullying problem and will not be dependent on anyone. These techniques will greatly increase everyone's respect for you and you will become much more popular.
How to deal with nasty rumors.
If people are spreading rumors about you and someone confronts you with the rumor such as, “I heard that you wet the bed,” Izzy Kalman has invented an ingenious solution. Don't try and deny the rumor, get upset or defensive, or try to find out who started it. Just simply ask the person, do you believe the rumor? If they say actually no, then the problem is solved right there and you come out on top. If they answer yes that they believe the rumor, like for example they say, why would people be spreading it if it wasn't true, simply answer, “You can believe it if you like. People can spread rumors about me if they want and it doesn't bother me.” The person will feel foolish for believing a nasty rumor about you for no reason. You don't have to admit that the rumor is true, you just have to give them the right to free speech, not let it bother you and ask them if they believe it. This will only increase their respect for you and the rumor will die down.
How To Stop Online Bullying
If someone calls you fat on social media answer back, “You're right, I'm trying so hard to lose weight, I wish I was thin and beautiful like you.” This will totally disarm the bully. She will feel terrible if she continues to bully someone who is so humble and gracious to her. This response completely takes the wind out of her sails because it makes you immune to insults. You are showing that you totally accept your weight or physical shortcomings, and therefore there's no way that she can get you to feel bad about yourself, therefore there's no pleasure in it for her and she will stop. The key to dealing with online bullying is not to get upset, defensive, fight back and try to find out who's bullying you, just like in person, because all that will do is just make you look stupid. It will give them the satisfaction and enjoyment of making you upset and they will bully you more.
How to teach a child how to stop bullying.
When teaching a child how to stop bullying, we must do it very gently and gradually or he will not be willing to accept it. First of all, we must not invalidate his feelings of his suffering about being bullied. We must first reflect his feelings and show empathy, “Wow, it must be so hard for you. Getting bullied must be so painful. Having those kids make fun of you all the time must feel terrible. It's very unfair and not nice of them. I'm so sorry that's happening to you” Then tell them that you may have some advice to help stop getting bullied. When you explain to them this advice, be careful not to make it seem like the bullying is their fault, that they deserve to get bullied for not treating the kids like their friends or for getting angry. That will just get the child upset and he will be unwilling to listen to your advice. Rather validate their feelings showing them that you are aware that it's totally not their fault and it's really unfair what's happening to them, and you just want to help them. In other words, if the child has a problem that he doesn't know how to take a joke and laugh at himself, and he gets too angry and insulted whenever anyone teases him, that is a mistake, but when you point out his mistake you cannot make it feel like you are criticizing him or he will resist and will not want to implement your advice. Rather reassure him that it's not his fault and he's not doing anything wrong, but you're just going to help him by teaching him some ingenious tricks regarding how to stop bullying. Tell him you agree, that they are totally wrong to pull you down. They are the bad ones and he's the victim, but you have some ingenious ways actually overcome them.
It’s a long term solution that takes years to master!
I know most parents are desperate for an immediate solution how to stop bullying, but the truth is anti-bullying strategies require long-term solutions. He needs to learn how to deal with bullies not just right now but for the rest of his life. It may take a few years together with psychotherapy to implement and fully master the how to stop bullying solution. He will have to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. So be patient with your child and these methods and give them time to work. But if you pressure the child too fast, “Why can't you just do it already,” the child will reject all of your advice and you will never accomplish anything.
How to stop bullying strategy groups
There’s one more very effective how to stop bullying technique that has been proven in a scientific study to work well. The down side is it is very expensive in time and resources. It involves setting up a series of group therapy sessions with the peers of the child who is being bullied, including some of the bullies in the group, and encouraging them to come up with solutions to help make the bullied child happy in school. It has proven to be a very helpful solution over several months, but requires a serious commitment by the school, and is maybe only possible in small specialized schools with a lot of resources.
It is remarkable how well Play Therapy interventions for ADHD work! I have seen wonderful results with many children, and abundant research supports its effectiveness.
Play therapy operates with three main mechanisms: 1) Helping the child process distracting emotions, 2) Improving the power of decision and executive functioning, and 3) reducing impulsivity. Together with Parenting Counseling, it is doubly effective.
By Joseph Sacks LCSW
Although I generally advise in my blog a more gentle, flexible parenting approach, in considering how to have authority over your child, obviously sometimes exercising a bit of parental authority it is necessary and best for everyone. The question is when and how much? The answer is that parental authority is much more happily accepted by a child when he truly feels that the parent is doing what's best for him or her. That means he needs to have faith that although what they're asking him to do right now might not seem pleasant and he might not understand it, since he sees that most of the time they do good, pleasant things to him and generally make him happy, he can trust that the present unpleasant thing will be best for him too. You need to generate in the child a habit of presuming “Everything my parents say or do for me, it's for my own benefit.”
How do we create that? By striving to always be a source of pleasure to our child and never a source of stress.
Be gentle, flexible, lenient and generous with your child most of the time, and then when the occasional time comes to lay down the parental authority he will accept it, thinking, “Mommy and Daddy always make me happy. This rule will probably make me happy too.” Even if he resists in the moment, stand your ground and insist on compliance, knowing full well that your general spirit of generosity towards the child will carry the day. In addition, we must remember that the less often we apply parental authority, the more likely it will be accepted. No one likes to be told what to do all the time and too many rules will create resistance and rebellion, but generously letting the child have his way most of the time will give him the strength to comply with the rules that minority of the times when we must enforce them.
Is it really for his benefit?
The rule is that you need to think very carefully and honestly when exercising parental authority, is what I'm about to ask my child to do truly in his own benefit? or will I be sacrificing his happiness to fulfill my own needs as a parent? There is an exception. Sometimes you may ask a child to comply with a rule for the parents’ benefit because it will ultimately be for the child’s benefit. For example if a child has been banging on pots and pans for half an hour and is starting to give you a major headache, it is in the child's own benefit that you ask him to stop because if mommy has a splitting headache she's going to be in a very bad mood and is not going to be able to be a very good parent for the rest of the afternoon! You can even explain to the child that he needs to be quiet because it's very important that mommy doesn't get a headache because it mommy gets a headache she won't be able to be a good mommy and make you happy. The wisest course is to help the child to understand that what you're asking him to do is actually in his own benefit. Over time he or she will begin to trust you thinking, “Mommy always does what's best for me, I trust her.”
Let's say you have a 12-year-old wants to go to an event which you judge to be too dangerous and inappropriate for your child to attend.
We must understand that if you spent all day of the entire week leading up to that event being kind and gentle and generally making the child's day pleasant, he will have the strength to tolerate your denial of permission to go. But if he's been constantly hit with all kinds of overly strict rules and regulations and no longer feels you're truly doing everything for his benefit, you may have a full-scale rebellion on your hands.
The same idea applies to a five-year-old. If you've been flexible and generous with him for the past half hour, then you may ask him to hold your hand tightly while crossing the street and he will gladly comply. But if the answer was no to the last five requested activities then he is going to be in no mood to hold hands and you're going to get dangerous resistance.
This doesn't mean that you have to give in to your kids all the time. It just means that I recommend you be 20 percent more flexible and generous across the board and you will see wonderful results.
Don't fear that only exercising your parental authority say once a week will leave your child with too few limits and structure. When the child knows that firm limits are there even if only occasionally, their influence will always register in the back of his mind and it will keep him in line.
In addition, there is a deeper dynamic to understand.
If a parent is constantly trying to enforce rules that are not truly for the child’s benefit, then the child will sense the injustice. You will be in effect teaching him, “Your needs as a child are not what's important, it's my needs as a parent that are important, and I'm going to use my parental authority to force you to fulfill my needs.” This teaches the child that one should use his power to get his own needs met at the expense of others. So then later when you ask the child to do something that really is for his benefit, like going to the doctor, and the child doesn't want to go, he may refuse, saying, “In fact I don't believe that going to the doctor is for my own benefit. Many things you do don’t seem to be for my benefit, therefore I will use my power to get my own needs met by having a tantrum and refusing to go to the doctor.”
For example, let's say a 6-year old child finished dinner and goes to play, and you say if you want to have dessert, you have to clear your plate.
This may sound surprising, but the truth is it is of very little benefit to 6-year-old to get in the habit of always clearing his plate. You may be trying to teach him some kind of responsibility or manners, but he is simply too young to benefit from such instruction. It is much more beneficial for a 6-year-old to enjoy his dinner, leave his plate and then go run and play. When he's 12 he'll learn to clear his plate. The truth is, the parent is asking the child to clear his plate for the parents own benefit, so that the parent can have a sense of order in his house, and have the proud idea that “My child clears his plate.” In addition, threatening to take away his dessert if he doesn't comply is also a very negative and unpleasant punishment that is doomed to fail. The child knows intuitively that all this is no good for him, and if you enforce it he will think, what's good for me is not important. They only want to control me to fill their desire for power and authority. Therefore, I will do the same thing. I will try and use whatever power I have to get them to fulfill my will.” This may take the form of tantrums, defiance and rebellion. If you make a habit of forcing the child to comply with such rules he will begin to resist you even when you're clearly doing things for his own benefit, such as trying to get them to take some medicine.
The above applies to a child with a strong, independent character.
On the other hand, if the child is of a more softer, gentler character, and he is forced to comply with many rules that are not for his own benefit, because of his gentle nature he may obediently comply. However, you'll be teaching him, “Your needs, feelings and desires are not important. Those of your parents are,” and this will generate low self-esteem, low self-worth, repressed emotions and a whole host of emotional health problems.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you always strive to help the child to truly see that everything you're doing for him is really for his own benefit. This involves doing a lot of research on Parenting and finding out what truly is in the best interest of a child. However, if you have good intentions but you simply are mistaken as to what's good for child, he will intuitively sense that you're not benefiting him and you will have problems.
For occasional, important issues, stand your ground.
Now, if you have been being generally flexible and generous, giving in on the small stuff whenever possible and making the child happy as much as possible, and an important issue comes up such as going to the doctor, not running into the street, or going to a dangerous party late at night, you can and should be very firm and not take no for an answer! You must be firmly decided in your mind that your child will comply no matter what, and not entertain any thought of disobedience. Do not plead or negotiate, just firmly state the limit like you mean business. You can explain to the child that it’s for his own benefit, and you mind is made up! When used only occasionally, the child will appreciate the security provided by such structure.
Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, download one of my informative free reports, or view my video. If you are struggling with how to have authority over your child, and would like guidance or treatment from a child psychotherapist in NYC, you may call me directly at 646-681-1707 for a complementary phone consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!
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