My life as a therapist

I hate T.V. It always portrays therapy as elusive or creepy. I sometimes wish a camera crew could follow me so people could see what it’s like. I’m a human, just like my clients. I yell in my car in traffic and watch reality television when I should be sleeping. But do you know what else I do when no one is looking? I plan sessions in my calendar and imagine what my clients would look like when they are healthy. I research helpful articles and tools that are just right for them. I drink lots of water so I’m energized and alert. I play Hay Day like 8 times a day because it makes me happy. I seek balance. This helps me to be an impactful helper. I’m saying all of this because I hope that parents reading this can see that being a therapist is just like being you! I am trying to balance out my bad habits with improvement. I am frustrated but also trying to help. I am a trapeze artist doing their best in life just like you are. Balance is important to make progress. It’s not easy and changes day to day.

So parents, adults and humans please be kind to yourself as you try to be a better parent and person. Remember that trying is more important than anything and your best is good enough! Keep trying, keep failing and keep learning. Your doing great. Keep going!

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But I feel bad

The guilt trip, the worry or as I like to call it the parent trap. When you want to discipline your child but you feel bad about it and just let it go. Fast forward to 6 months later and your child or tween or teen is throwing a tantrum because you didn’t stop by the drive thru or because you didn’t buy what they wanted at Target.

Feeling bad is normal. When you love someone of course you feel bad. The thing is that feeling bad has nothing to do with addressing the negative behavior and it doesn’t teach your child an appropriate response. As a matter of fact letting them continue the behavior just makes them escalate. What started as a “please mom, don’t you love me” turns into “you have to and I hate you.”

The truth is your child loves you, even when they say or behave the opposite. They just want what they want and will push limits to get it. Your job is to remind them of those limits with as much love as patience as possible. When you stay firm about that toy not being necessary and throwing a tantrum not being a healthy way to obtain what they want then the receive that message.

Ask yourself how important is this item in the grand scheme of things? How necessary is this to their health? Will their happiness bucket really be filled with this toy or food item? Will they get over it? And if you give in what does that do?

Love doesn’t have to mean saying yes every time and letting a tantrum or words that hurt lead your decisions. Think it over before saying yes.

For your LOVE

I felt driven to write about this as many families have come in with a broken relationship that stems from love. This love has been viewed negatively, mistaken for dis respect and turned ugly. I always hear “I really love them and that’s why I do it” or “I don’t mean to say that or do that.” Love is often misconstrued and diluted. All that is left is the negative and I would like to change that.

I would like to see all family members openly discuss their feelings and fears as that is usually behind the misrepresentation of their love. We often respond out of anger, fear and control. When our children break the rules or our parents say no, it’s too easy to lash out instead of thinking about the big picture.

A. We can love our family members but not like their choices and behaviors. The 2 are different. Keep the separation between them. When you say “I hate you” or “I don’t like you” the message you give off is that the other person is bad. The truth is that their behavior is the problem not the person. Instead say something like “I don’t like it when you yell” or “I don’t like it when you ignore me and stare at your phone.”

B. Use the words “I feel.” I know this is said a lot but when you express how the behavior makes you feel it clarifies your message. For example, “I feel angry when you ignore me and stare at your phone can you give me eye contact and your attention?” This sounds better than “I hate when your on that phone.” When we express our perspective it doesn’t automatically blame the other person. It doesn’t put them on defense and cause an argument.

C. Stop and think before you react to an emotion. Far too often we are driven by our feelings and regret the word vomit once it has come out. Unfortunately as humans it’s easy to respond when we feel attacked but what is the end result? If we can take a few seconds or minutes to really formulate an appropriate response than not only do you diffuse an argument but you can find a resolution faster.

If we stopped and thought about the reason behind our actions it’s often love. It gets lost and that message isn’t often received. We argue, wound each other and end up unhappy. If love drives us than let love guide with these helpful tips.

NO!

What a word that is used more often than we would like by parents and children. We say no to get a point across and to meet our needs. The tough part is when no becomes a daily word that gets in the way of task completion.

I’ve met quite a few youngsters who love to say no to almost everything that they don’t like. No to brushing their teeth, no to broccoli and no to turning off the Ipad. I’ve also met their parents who accept the no’s and the lack of listening. Here are a few tips to turn the no’s into yes!

  1. Give them at least 3 chances to say yes. Kids test boundaries, lose track of time and would rather play than complete a silly chore or task (that’s what they think of it at least). They may need a minute to get the job done. Chances to me is showing them that parents can be flexible and want them to succeed. It can go something like this: “Jacob, go brush your teeth” pause for a 1-2 minutes and check if he’s doing it or at least walking to bathroom. Then say “Jacob this is the 2nd time i’m asking you to brush your teeth. If you don’t do it than you will lose 15 minutes of play time tomorrow.” Then pause again. If he still isn’t working on completing task then, “Jacob this is the last chance, go brush your teeth.” As exhausting as this may sound you are giving your child a chance, telling them what the consequence will be and trying to get the task completed. If he completes it than praise the behavior but if he doesn’t than complete the consequence and be consistent. Your child needs to know that you mean what you say. Otherwise he will continue doing whatever he wants because he knows you won’t do anything about it.
  2. Be firm when giving your child a command. Make sure you have his eye contact and his attention when talking to him. A firm tone of voice sends the message that you mean what you say. If they say no don’t yell, just stay firm in tone of voice and body posture.
  3. Discuss with your child what respect along with family rules and expectations are. Explain to them that when they say no and don’t listen that it not only hurts your feelings but it’s not nice and isn’t part of the rules.
  4. Use a timer. Some tasks just seem painful for kids so when we set a timer on the oven or phone it gives them a sense of importance and urgency to finish. It also makes it fun like a race to finish. Don’t forget to make it interesting and fun. This might make the task easier to complete.
  5. Sometimes I analyze where the no is coming from. Did the child have a hard day, poor sleep the night before or a long day. Is he cranky which can make him less compliant? Sometimes helping your child relax and self soothe can help them be more compliant. This is also an opportunity to discuss with your child healthy emotions and expression. For example, “How are you feeling?” “If I’m cranky or having a bad day that is okay but it’s not okay to take it out on mommy and daddy and not follow the rules.” “Would taking 3 deep breaths or thinking of a happy memory help you feel better?” “Now lets brush our teeth and mom would like to read with you before bed.”

Now it’s very hard to deal with a non compliant kid and easy to get upset but sometimes the no isn’t personal and it’s an opportunity to help your child. Who wouldn’t love to get away with saying no and doing whatever you really want to do? But it isn’t realistic especially in a family where everyone is responsible for doing their part. Every member is a piece of the puzzle.

The parent and teen battle

This is an epic battle that is ensuing between parents and teens world wide. There seems to be a power struggle between the growing teen and the parent. I almost wish there was a handbook to tell you what to do but instead I will provide some helpful tips that have proven effective with families struggling to enforce the rules on a teen who wants to make their own rules.

First thing I remind my teens is that it’s not their house. If you live under your parents roof than you must follow the rules. NOW this doesn’t mean that parents don’t have the choice to include you in them or be flexible if you are doing your part. What I mean is if a teen doesn’t contribute to the household than they aren’t doing what they are expected to than that’s not okay. It’s a commitment in any family to do your part and if you don’t than the natural consequence is losing privileges.

Second thing is respect. This is a tricky one because as parents you assume this applies only to you but a growing teen also likes to receive respect. The trick is making sure respect is going both ways. You can’t expect to receive it if you aren’t giving it. That’s just not fair. If you respect me than I will want to respect you. Now this requires a conscious effort to do so. Often times we don’t realize that we are being rude, short, aggressive or dis respectful. This is for both parents and teens. I’ve witnessed both and had to point it out. AWARENESS is the key to seeing both the negative and positive behaviors.

3rd and super important is APPRECIATION!!!!!!! I don’t mean you have to throw confetti and break out the band every time your teen does the dishes with little prompting but saying thank you or something goes a long way. And for teens, shockingly your parents like to know they did good too. Again its the back and forth that a relationship needs to grow.

4th is also a biggie. Pick your battles!! What is more important that your teen does their bed or that they get to school on time. The power struggle doesn’t help and you end up knit picking on your teen which doesn’t help, EVER!!! Teens if your parent can’t drop you off to the movies with your friends tonight but can do it tomorrow night, than take it! You can’t make a big deal over everything. Be grateful that they can do it at all.

Most teens are creating their identity, developing their independence and growing into an adult. This is a challenge for parents who want their teen to do well. It takes a lot of planning, communication, mistakes and effort. This comes with growing pains but doesn’t have to be a battle royal. It’s a choice you both make to make it work. Do it together!!

The me, me me epidemic

This applies to everyone, parents and kids alike. Something happens and both parties are pointing fingers. If someone makes a mistake instead of being honest and facing the consequences we blame and make it about ME!

Instead of trying this approach lets try this:

Stop and think about the big picture. Ask yourself what role did you play in the outcome? What could I have done better? How can I make an effort? Sometimes it’s not about you and what you want and feel. If you make a mistake it’s okay. We all make them. Sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves and think about the other person and what changes we can make. Some situations require us to admit that we messed up but are willing to make a change for the better.

Sometimes I write down what happened and give myself time to think about it. I let the feelings subside and when I’m thinking clearly I can better address the situation.

I might also call a trusted friend to hear me out and give me another perspective about the situation.

I might even replay the situation in my head with a different outcome.

It’s easy to think about ourselves and our feelings but it’s not always about ME. As a parent or child we have to compromise, admit mistakes and work as a team to make it better. Your family isn’t your enemy but your ally.

It’s not a ME but a WE

The fall start for families

So now that Fall is here it makes me think of harvest time and planting seeds to grow. It’s a time to curb behaviors and get the family on track (or back on track). Lets talk about ways to make the fall work for you and your family.

A. If you don’t have a schedule developed try implementing one. Having morning and afternoon/evening schedules written down for children and parents to follow can help you have a smooth day and remind you of what to do and expect. Visual reminders are a great way to remember and accomplish in a timely manner. This also decreases the annoyance of having to remind and be reminded.

B. Get to bed on time. This applies to all family members. Not only does this help energize and increase mood but it also helps parents and children to have a good morning, start on time, be less rushed and less cranky with each other. A rested night can make a difference.

C. Consider having family time at least once a week. This can be a few minutes at home or an outing. Family time increases your bond and increases positive interactions. We spend so much time preparing, reminding, reprimanding that family time can be a welcome time to just be together. I would let the kids choose an activity (within reason) and then next week you can choose the activity.

D. Praise each other. Take a minute and tell or write your family members what you are grateful for. How good would it feel to know that your kid loved his lunch or for a kid to know that they were appreciated for taking out the trash without being reminded. It feels good so try it!

This is the perfect time of year to plant seeds that will grow into something bright and beautiful. Happy fall!