Note: I’m on leave for the summer. While I’m out, I’ll be reposting some of my more popular posts. See you again in the Fall.
Short post about going Back to School. 3 little tips…
When Should a Parent Seek Professional Help? Sometimes, therapy is most helpful before problems get entrenched.
Shyness and Your Child. A three-part series, actually! Shyness is so often misunderstood, these posts hope to prevent that.
Note: I’m on leave for the summer. While I’m out, I’ll be reposting some of my more popular posts. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do. See you again in the Fall.
Good For Him! Tale from my grad school internship with the sex offenders. So many stories, this is one of my favorites.
Oh, Good Question! An unpleasant experience with a medical provider sparks a post on encouraging questions.
My Sock Drawer, Circa 2001. This post isn’t even particularly old, but I like the story enough to repost it anyway. ;^)
We remodeled our kitchen (and then some) in 2001. It was a big job, and like all remodeling projects, suffered from project creep. There’s a great picture of me doing dishes at some point during the process. You can see me standing at the kitchen sink with my back to the camera, washing. It looks pretty normal, until you look above my head where the ceiling should be, and instead see the sky, and a tree, and clouds. My kitchen had no roof. No roof. No. Roof. While that part of the project was pretty brief, all things considered, the refrigerator lived in the living room for a long time, as did our entire collection of dishes, pots, pans, etc. Suffice to say, my house–my life–was a bit chaotic for a while.
So, you can imagine the context as I continue my story to tell you that one day during this chaos, I opened up my sock drawer and really looked at it for a moment. It was clean. It was organized. It had dividers. Things were lined up. Perfectly. Every sock had its mate. It was color-coded. Alphabetized, even.* It would have made Martha Stewart cry jealous tears of joy. It was the universal antithesis of chaos.
It was, one woman’s attempt to maintain some sense of control over some aspect of her (physical) home life.
Anyway, this is a story I tell sometimes to approximately illustrate the therapy concept called “displacement.” As in: “I really wanted to have a normal home that had a roof and a fridge in the kitchen where it belonged, but since I couldn’t have that, I settled for the durn-best-organized sock drawer on the planet.”
Sometimes, we fight for control over little things, even when it’s not really what we want. As parents, it’s good to remember this, and recognize it when we (or our kids) do it.
* No, not really alphabetized.
** Addendum: my kitchen did finally get finished, and my sock drawer soon went back to its normal–significantly lesser–level of organization. Thanks for asking. ;^)
(I’m excited to get to pull out 1 of 3 Latin phrases I know with today’s post.) ;^)
Wikipedia defines the “De Jure” versus “De Facto,” as what the law says versus what actually happens in practice.
I talk about this difference with parents frequently. We parents often say things like “She needs to understand that no means no” or simply “He doesn’t listen!” Behind these complaints is often a big ugly truth that just happens to have a Latin description: sometimes what we parents say isn’t what we actually do.
Mom: “Zachary, we’re leaving in 5 minutes.”
5 minutes go by unnoticed, Mom’s still chatting with friends, Zachary is still playing.
20 minutes later, Mom tells Zachary that it’s time to go and he resists. Mom feels annoyed that he isn’t listening, and gets frustrated with him for it. She yells, and then–only then–does he get up to leave.
But, what’s really going on here? Is it:
A. The child is really not listening, and/or needs to be yelled at to get his attention.
B. The mother is not being real about the messages she’s sending. She has taught her son that “We’re leaving in 5 minutes” is a throwaway comment, and that the real indicators of her meaning business are when she is (a) upset and (b) yelling.
Yeah, it’s B. And we all do some version of this. The hard truth is that if we want our kids to consistently do what we ask them to do, we need to be consistent with them first. First step to consistency–paying attention to what we say & do, and making sure that they are one in the same.
PS. The #2 Latin phrase I remember is “Rara Avis,” which is what the fun professor who taught my Latin class called herself. :^)
Probably more than you’ve ever wanted to know about parent coaching, therapy, magic, and apples & giraffes, too. Thanks to interviewer Nicole Basham!
On his travel blog, Rick Steves once explained the ‘secret’ of the Oracles at Delphi, saying this:
Two thousand five hundred years ago, movers and shakers from throughout
the ancient world went to Delphi to get advice from the Delphi priests.
The priests weren’t in cahoots with the gods. They just interviewed
everyone who came to them, thinking that they were. Because of that,
the priests knew what the competition was up to (politically,
militarily and so on) and could give divine-quality advice.
I was reminded of this explanation the other day, when I realized that I often repeat conversations from client to client. Mr & Mrs Smith might be in my office today for help with, say, bedtime troubles. The suggestions I offer to them come from different sources: some I probably got from a book, some from a friend, maybe one I ‘invented’, and without a doubt a few came from previous clients. Then the next week the Smiths come back and tell me which ideas worked/didn’t work for them, and invariably they’ll tell me a new solution that they themselves invented, or heard from a friend, or read in a magazine… and I promptly add it to my trusty bag of tricks.
Anyway, I’m no oracle, and I don’t think my advice is divine quality (!!!) but I can surely identify with the strategy. I am constantly listening and learning and sharing what I learn.
When our kids are sick and we don’t know what’s wrong or how to deal with it, we usually go to the doctor. We don’t feel conflicted about seeking that professional’s help, and we don’t wait until things are so bad that our child is comatose. But for some reason, with behavioral/emotional/relationship challenges, people can be reluctant to seek help, often waiting until the problems worsen and get cemented in place. John Gottman says that, on average, couples wait 7 years before they seek the help they need. I think that parents do better, and seek help much sooner, but it is so important to remember that therapy can be supportive at any stage, and can help improve relationships by resolving minor challenges before they become a major problem.
When a child has behavior problems, parents come in to my office, and say that they worry that “x” behavior might be a sign of something very serious. I understand that fear, I really do (I’m a parent, too.) But, it’s not just when something’s terribly wrong that we can get help from a professional. Even when “everything’s fine,” it’s possible for a professional to help parents identify and improve the small hangups in their daily life. A skillful child & family therapist can help parents tweak a particular area, and–via the magic of the parenting relationship–even if the parents had little to do with creating the problem, they can still be largely responsible for fixing the problem.
So what is a small area of your daily life that you’d love to see get better? Bedtime? Transitions? The dinner table? A difference of opinion between you & your spouse about how to handle something? Homework? Mornings? Chores? I encourage you to seek out a supportive, non-judgmental therapist who specializes in kids/families/parenting. Please feel free to email or call me if I might be of help!
Who has time to read an entire parenting book these days? It’s amazing how much time & energy it takes to chew through a 350 page epic on how you “should” parent. Even the really good books are tough to get through. It’s made me particularly appreciative of brevity, so to that end here are just 3 thoughts/comments that I frequently say in my role as a parent coach & therapist. It’s a little like a 15 minute parent coaching session, or a super, super condensed parenting book. ;^)
- It’s our job as parents to help prepare our kids for the real world. We parents typically want to protect our kids from the evils and heartbreaks that exist out there. That’s normal and healthy and generally encouraged. But. Our other very important job is to help our children acquire the skills, habits, resources, and strength to be able to handle the problems of the world on their own. We can’t protect them forever, so we’d better equip them. Start now.
- Kids intuitively know that they are half-mom and half-dad. When kids hear/see/perceive criticism from one parent to another, they internalize it and file it away under “things about MYSELF that
aren’t good.” While I say this one more to parents who are divorcing, it’s also true for married parents. Every couple has conflict (it’s healthy, actually) but the way we handle that conflict is
- The single best way to get your kid to change is to let them see you changing. I say this one so often that I joke I’m going to embroider it on a pillow one day. But it speaks to the power of
role modeling, the power of acknowledging that-even though we’re the parent-we’re still not perfect, and it also sends the message that in your family’s home-everyone is committed to growing. Such a powerful and positive message!
The New York Times published an article yesterday about the FDA’s recent criticism of the use of antipsychotic drugs in children. (For example: Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon.) Prescriptions for the drugs (for kids) are increasing, and despite their designation as anti-psychotic meds, they are also being prescribed for non-psychotic problems like ADHD! The side effects are serious and numerous–including fatalities (Risperdal alone has resulted in 31 child deaths since its introduction.) John Grohol at psychcenter.com said this about these “off-label” prescriptions:
The data don’t support such prescriptions, and the long-term data is
virtually non-existent. Docs (and parents pushing the docs) should stop
reaching for every possible new drug to help children when, especially
for a disorder like ADHD, there are powerful, fast non-drug treatments
available (such as psychotherapy).
I’m glad to see an increase in scrutiny in the use of these medications. Behavioral, psychological, attentional problems–they aren’t just a chemical problem–and the further we can move away from the mindset of “pill=solution,” the better.
Once upon a time, on a Monday, a man was walking down a road. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he found himself at the bottom of a big, dark place. It was scary! After several hours, he figured out that he had fallen into a very large pothole. He wasn’t able to get out on his own–actually it required a lot of help to get out, but eventually he did get out. It was awful.
The very next day–Tuesday, the man was walking down the road and fell into the pothole again. This time he immediately recognized where he was, but he still couldn’t get out. He needed help again.
Wednesday, when the man fell in the pothole for the 3rd time, he remembered how to get out, and–with much hard work–was able to get out on his own. Whew!
On Thursday, the man was walking down the street again. As he approached the pothole, he remembered his previous falls. He even saw the pothole when he got close… but unfortunately he fell in anyway. But he knew the way out pretty well this time, and got out quickly.
On Friday, the man saw the pothole from a good distance away. He felt so proud of himself for spotting it, and while it took a lot of effort, he did manage to walk around it safely, and didn’t fall in for the first time in a long time! Hurrah!
On Saturday, the man took a different road.
I love this story (it’s not mine, and I have no idea where it came from) as a metaphor for life change. I imagine the potholes as arguments or really bad habits that we find ourselves sucked into without meaning to go there! One of the first steps to change is always awareness, then hard work, and finally comes success. Eventually, living our lives the way we want to–having our relationships look like we want them to–stops being a ton of effort, and we find ourselves on a smooth path with no (okay, few) potholes.
Here’s to having a smoother path before you this week!