Scaredy Cat Parents

May 7, 2012

Too often for my liking I have parents that come into my office that really do not act like parents. They are too afraid to be parents and instead choose to act like a friend to their child(ren) or even worse, they act like the child and like the kids are the parents. I’m sure they did not intend for this to happen. In fact, I think that many times it is brought on by circumstances that they never even saw coming.  Many times it is a divorce. With divorce many parents feel like they have to win their child’s affection and make up for the pain and hurt they have caused in their child’s life. Other times it is due to the parent being stressed and not being able to handle what is going on and the child ends up taking over as the authority in the house. Still, there are just some parents who are afraid of alienating their child, or are afraid their child’s threats such as never talking to them again will come true if they show their authority.

Of course you are not very likely in the moment to hear a lot of complaints from the child in these circumstances, but it never fails that I hear the complaints in my office once they feel safe enough to talk openly. Children are looking for boundaries, for their parents to be present, and to set limits. All of these things show kids and teenagers that they are cared for. Although you may be the “cool” parent if you do not give your teenager a curfew, they will begin to wonder why all their friends’ parents want to know they are home and safe and you do not. Or if you are the type of parent that makes threats of certain appropriate discipline but then backs down when your child gives you a hard time about it, what do you think you are teaching your child? The lesson they are learning is that they can do whatever they want without consequences, that the world should bend to their every whim. This is not a very productive lesson for their future and again, is not going to win you any brownie points with your kids because they will only see you as a pushover and continue to take advantage of you.

So what is a parent to do? Incorporate appropriate rules and discipline. It may be hard at first and you may need to make small changes to start with, especially as they will push back, expecting you to give up and let them do what they want. But it is important to hold your ground and be firm with them. They will thank you in the long run!

 


Creating Appropriate Boundaries with Children- 5 Tips

August 15, 2011

         Boundaries are important for all types of relationships. They help us ensure we are acting and interacting appropriately with other people. If you do not have healthy boundaries with your children, this can negatively impact your marital relationship, especially if it is a step family situation. A common problem within families is that one parent becomes allied with a child instead of with their spouse. This can negatively interfere with the marital relationship by splitting apart the couple, making it impossible for them to be a united front. Here are some tips for establishing proper boundaries with your children.

1. Create rules and make sure they are well known and follow through on them. This includes age appropriate and healthy discipline that is reinforced consistently.

2. Don’t let children run the house. Ask opinions of your children when making decisions but make sure that it is clear that the final decision will be made by you and your spouse.

3. Make sure that you have time alone with your spouse. Help the children to understand that this time is a priority and that although they are loved, they are not always going to be a part of their parents activities.

4. Make sure children are not a part of adult conversations. Although it is important to teach children life skills, there are some conversations that they do not need to be an active participant in. These will need to be up to your discretion based on the topic, your child’s age, and your child’s personality.  

5. Let your kids know you will be open and honest with your spouse. This means no keeping secrets! I will note that at times it may be appropriate to keep a secret if there is a history of abusive behavior, however.

         By implementing these tips, you should be on your way to establishing appropriate boundaries within your family. If you are in theBrevard County area and are looking for a family counselor, please feel free to contact me. You can also like us on facebook.


Causes of ADHD- Pesticides, Discipline, or Genetics

April 14, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

       I was in line waiting to pay for some produce at a farmer’s market today and struck up a conversation with the lady in line behind me. I mentioned a study that I just recently heard about that found a link between high levels of pesticides ingested through foods and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. I believe this study is very important but is pretty self explanatory so I won’t go into further detail about it. (Hopefully we do not find out that it has been falsified like the one linking immunizations and autism, although I really do not see any downsides to limiting the amount of pesticides you and your family ingest so I would follow it anyways.) The thing that surprised me though, was this woman’s response. She stated something to the effect of ADHD is just an excuse for parents who do not discipline their children. I tried to explain to this woman that ADHD is a real disorder but quickly realized I would not be changing her mind so easily, especially not in the time we had to wait in line.
        The point that I want to make today is that although ADHD is sometimes overly diagnosed and people make jokes about being ADHD when they are a bit hyper, forgetful, or distractible, it is a real disorder. Parenting techniques are not to blame, as with most mental health disorders, a person has a genetic predisposition (simply meaning it is in their genes) and then from there it may or may not surface. There are definite differences in brain functioning/structure between individuals who have ADHD and those who do not. And as I previously stated, it has been more recently linked to pesticides as well. For more information on the causes of ADHD (which there is not definitive answers on) you can check here. Please note, there is nothing about discipline mentioned!
       If you are looking for a Brevard County counselor or therapist give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.

www.discoveryinstitutepa.com
jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com


Taming the Terrible Twos (Part 3)

February 22, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

              Another important step in lessening tantrums is to help your child feel like they have some control over their life. Toddlers may throw a fit over what are small things for adults such as which cup they drink out of. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor thing and by allowing a child to make this decision they will feel more autonomy and confidence. When they are able to have some control, they are less likely to fight back on the issues that parents decide are bigger issues.          

           Keep in mind, even feelings such as anger or sadness have a place in our lives and are not problem emotions. The problem becomes when people experience these emotions in a negative or destructive fashion. Since tantrums are often a form of expressing feelings, this is a good time to begin helping your child express their feelings appropriately while also working to show them that it is okay to experience these feelings. As much as you can, name the feelings your child is most likely experiencing. For instance, you have to leave a play date and you state to your child “I know you are sad that we have to leave now, but we will come play again another day.”

         A child as young as two years old does not have the ability to reason. It is best not to try to talk with and reason with a child this young on why they should behave. This will not have any positive effects on your child’s behavior and may have a negative impact as some children take this as attention and are reinforced by the negative attention. Also very important, keep in mind that allowing your child to throw a tantrum and then giving them their way will encourage them to continue this behavior as them getting their way will reinforce the tantrum.

       No matter how well you know your child, there will still be times when an unexpected tantrum occurs. In these cases, you will need to experiment with different techniques to get your child to comply with your requests. There are different strategies such as counting to three, time outs, and ignoring the behavior that you can choose from. Pick what appeals to you most first, try it for a couple of days, and wait to see if you notice any difference in your child’s behavior. As with anything else, not everything will work for every child.

      If you are in the Rockledge area and looking for a therapist, please give me a call.

jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com
www.discoveryinstitutepa.com


Taming the Terrible Twos (Part 2- Prevention)

February 20, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

          Here are a few suggestions to help lessen the effects of the “terrible twos”. Please remember that there is no cure for the terrible twos, but by changing some of your actions, you may be able to help tame them and prevent them in the first place!

       First and foremost, the best thing that you can do is learn about your child. Pay attention to what situations make your child throw a tantrum and you may be able to change your behaviors in that situation in order to make it easier for them to handle. For instance, if your toddler tends to throw a tantrum when you tell them it is time to go home from a play date, or when changing from one activity to another, your child may need more time and warnings that a change will be occurring soon. Or you may notice that tantrums are more likely to occur during certain times of day. In this case you may want to schedule activities that are less likely to induce a tantrum during those times.

       Another important approach to preventing negative behaviors is to reinforce positive behaviors. For children this young, rewards should be immediate and small. When your child handles a situation in a positive way, give them attention and praise, or even a small sticker to wear. This will help them to feel good about themselves and their behaviors and will make it more likely they will behave in a similar fashion again in order to receive more positive attention.

      Be careful not to misuse the reinforcement technique. Bribing your child may have the negative side effect of teaching them that the only reason they should behave is to get something out of you. Also, when you first start using reinforcement for positive behavior, you will need to reward good behavior more often. As you child gets the hang of this, you should make the rewards further apart (this is not necessary with praise as you should always provide positive words to your children).

      One more installment of Taming the Terrible Twos will be coming so keep your eyes open for it! If you are in the Rockledge area and looking for a therapist, please give me a call.

jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com
www.discoveryinstitutepa.com


Taming the Terrible Twos (Part 1)

February 19, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

      Children’s behavior can become quite challenging once they hit around two years old. This is such a common phenomenon that it is frequently referred to as the terrible twos. Although it can be a challenging time for parents, there are things that can be done to make this time a bit easier. Let’s first take a look at what is going on developmentally at this time. According to Erikson, the developmental stage of the toddler years is Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt. This means that toddlers are trying to learn what they can do and enjoy trying to do things on their own. This is why many parents of children this age begin to get tired of hearing their toddlers say “do it myself!” And if they are not allowed to try on their own, it is likely a tantrum will follow. Tantrums are also likely to occur when children do not feel like they are getting their way, which relates to this developmental stage because they want to make some of their own decisions.

      In addition, we say that babies cry because they cannot communicate in any other way. Toddlers are able to speak, but they still do not have the vocabulary or knowledge to effectively communicate their needs, wants, and feelings. Tantrums are merely another form of communicating. Some people say that tantrums are a child’s way of testing the parent or caregiver. This can be true, but not in the way that most people tend to think. Children are trying to learn boundaries and are testing those boundaries to see where they fall. Remember, you can teach your child appropriate boundaries in a positive way.

       In the future, I will discuss discipline techniques for the toddler years. If you are in the Brevard County area and looking for a marriage or family counselor, please give me a call.


Hot Saucing- Acceptable Discipline??

February 4, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

      Most people have heard of the innovative discipline technique of giving hot sauce to a child for indiscretions such as lying or cursing. This technique has been in the news recently due to a mother, Jessica Beagley, having her 10 year old daughter record her punishing her 7 year old son by giving him hot sauce and a cold shower and sending the tape into Dr. Phil. You can see her video here, just be forewarned that it may be difficult for some to watch. This mother is now being charged with child abuse for her use of hot sauce and cold showers as punishment.

      There are many people who have used this technique over the years for their children and believe that it is not only not abusive but that it works. Physical child abuse encompasses any activity that causes physical harm or injury to a child. Some may interpret this to mean inflicting any pain on a child whether for discipline purposes or for other reasons and others may say injury only occurs when a child has had some lasting effects such as bruising or broken bones. If we go with the lasting effects rule, the question then becomes how long must the effects last. As a counselor, I am unable to answer these questions even though I am mandated to report any reason I have a suspicion that child abuse may be occurring.

      Although I would discourage using this technique, it is important to note here that if you do want to use it, you need to do so in an informed manner. First, choose an appropriate hot sauce that is not very hot. Second, use only a very small amount. Third, this should not be used on a regular basis, if you have to use it often for the same behaviors, it’s not working. I would also follow the legal proceedings of this case as it may set a precedence. This mother also uses a cold shower, which I agree resembles torture tactics. In her video, control seems to be more of a motivating factor than love. For more pros and cons of the hot sauce technique, you can view an interview from Good Morning America with Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”, a family that has used hot saucing, and Lisa Whelchel, author of “Creative Correction”.

      Dr. Karp makes a very valid point in the interview, stating that we need to learn more effective ways of being parents and disciplining our children. The point of discipline is to teach a child right from wrong. Inflicting pain on another person is wrong, and if parents use techniques such as these on their children, parents are not being good role models for this lesson. There are several aspects that need to be present in order for discipline to be effective. Parents need to make the rules and expectations clear as well as the consequences of behavior. Parents need to be calm when administering discipline, be consistent, and make sure the “punishment fits the crime”. Once a parent gives an appropriate “punishment”, it is important for the parent to not back down. Parents also need to learn about their child in order to find the best techniques as not every discipline technique will work with every child. In future posts, I will discuss discipline rules and techniques in further detail.

     For those of you in the Merritt Island area that are looking for a therapist, please call or email me. It would be my pleasure to give you more information on my services and to work with you in the future.

jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com
www.discoveryinstitutepa.com