Category Archives: Parenting

When Babies Fly

Nora Flies Crop

The plane vibrated, shook, rattled, and lost altitude. Passengers gasped. The seatbelt light illuminated.

Our pilot had said, “We’ll be having a few bumps.” But when I look out the window, I don’t see bumps. But the name doesn’t matter. A rose or bump by any other name still smells like nausea.

Those so-called bumpy plane rides usually trigger, for me, a mental image of turbulence ripping the wings off the plane. Then we all crash and die. This isn’t a helpful mental image. I know that.

Having repeated images of falling out of the sky to certain death has been unpleasant, but motivating. I’ve been motivated to work on countering turbulence with meditation, deep breathing, and calmness. I’m happy to report that I can keep my heart rate at under 60 beats per minute through the bumps. Is it dissociation or coping? I don’t care. Nausea is minimal and instead of dread and anxiety, I feel accomplishment. I decided that if I’m going to crash and die, I might as well be relaxed.

Until a couple months ago, I was sure I’d worked out the best method ever for flight turbulence. But then, during a particularly series of bumps from Portland to Missoula, I learned how babies fly.

The bumps started. Gasps followed. Then, about three rows ahead, I heard a mom comforting her toddler. I was expecting the typical, “It’s okay . . . we’ll be fine . . . hold my hand.” But this particular mom cranked the ball out of the park with Just. One. Word.

“Weeeeeeee!”

The plane transformed from gasps to chuckles.

“Wooooooo!”

It didn’t take a minute. Not even 10 seconds. The effect was immediate. No longer were we enduring a bumpy flight. We were transported to a fantastic amusement park ride.

I turned to the burly man next to me (I always get seated by another burly man; they like to put us in pairs) and said. “Wow. That’s cool.”

He was smiling. The toddler was laughing. The mom was oohing and ahhing. Several other passengers joined in.

We landed.

Later, I realized that in the midst of my admiration, I had forgotten all about breathing and meditating and tracking my pulse. Instead, I learned an even BETTER METHOD. Not only did this mom transform the flight for herself and her baby, she transformed it for everyone.

It was SO GOOD, I just had to share it with you.

“Weeeeeeeee!”

Pass it on.

The Fantastic Road to MBI in Bozeman

The RoadHenry James once wrote that you should never begin a letter with an apology. Oh well. Rules are made to be broken.

That’s not really true. Rules aren’t made to be broken. Yes, they get broken. But rules are made to be followed. Whoever said they’re made to be broken was clearly wanting to break the rules and engaging in some clever rationalizing to justify breaking them.

Which leads me to my apology.

I want to express my sincere apologies to the 200+ participants in my “Strategies for Dealing with Challenging Parents and Students” day-long workshop at the Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI) in Bozeman. After you all left, I was in the SUB Ballroom A at MSU, packing up my computer, when suddenly I was hit with the realization that I’d gone 15 minutes overtime. Very embarrassing.

Even though I knew (all day) that the workshop ended at 4:15pm, I just kept on talking until 4:30, when, in that particular moment, I thought I was ending right on time.

I’m still embarrassed. Mostly I’m embarrassed because I hate it when presenters go overtime and so I try very hard to end on time or a few minutes early.

My best explanation, which may be a convenient after-the-fact rationalization, is that I was having such a nice time with you all that my unconscious just decided (on its own and without consultation with my conscious brain), that we should spend a little more time together.

Or . . . maybe rules are just made to be broken.

At the bottom, I’ve inserted links to the ppt slides from the workshop and a link to the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast.

As I said in closing yesterday. You are all fantastic and I am immensely grateful for the work you do with Montana students.

https://www.facebook.com/PracticallyPerfectParenting/ [Please like the podcast on Facebook]

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2 [Please rate on iTunes]

http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

 

Challenging Parents and Students MBI Handout

Why Children Misbehave — The Adlerian Perspective

Mud

Alfred Adler believed that all human behavior is purposeful. People don’t act randomly, they engage in behaviors designed to help them accomplish specific goals. Adler believed that although individuals may not be perfectly aware of the link between their behaviors and their goals, the link is there nonetheless.

In this excerpt from our Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories text, we describe the four goals of children’s misbehavior. Rudolph Dreikurs, one of Adler’s protégés, developed this theory of children’s misbehavior. Over the years, Dreikurs’s ideas have been extremely useful to many parents and parenting educators. It’s also useful to consider these ideas when trying to understand adult behaviors.

Here’s the excerpt:

Why Children Misbehave

Adler’s followers applied his principles to everyday situations. Rudolph Dreikurs posited that children are motivated to grow and develop. They’re naturally oriented toward feeling useful and a sense of belonging. However, when children don’t feel useful and don’t feel they belong—less positive goals take over. In his book The Challenge of Parenthood, Dreikurs (1948) identified the four main psychological goals of children’s misbehavior:

  1. To get attention.
  2. To get power or control.
  3. To get revenge.
  4. To display inadequacy.

Children’s behavior isn’t random. Children want what they want. When we discuss this concept in parenting classes, parents respond with nods of insight. Suddenly they understand that their children have goals toward which they’re striving. When children misbehave in pursuit of psychological goals, parents and caregivers often have emotional reactions.

The boy who’s “bouncing off the walls” is truly experiencing, from his perspective, an attention deficit. Perhaps by running around the house at full speed he’ll get the attention he craves. At least, doing so has worked in the past. His caregiver feels annoyed and gives him attention for misbehavior.

The girl who refuses to get out of bed for school in the morning may be striving for power. She feels bossed around or like she doesn’t belong; her best alternative is to grab power whenever she can. In response, her parents might feel angry and activated—as if they’re in a power struggle with someone who’s not pulling punches.

The boy who slaps his little sister may be seeking revenge. Everybody talks about how cute his sister is, and he’s sick of being ignored, so he takes matters into his own hands. His parents feel scared and threatened; they don’t know if their baby girl is safe.

There’s also the child who has given up. Maybe she wanted attention before, or revenge, or power, but no longer. Now she’s displaying her inadequacy. This isn’t because she IS inadequate, but because she doesn’t feel able to face the Adlerian tasks of life (discussed later). This child is acting out learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975). Her parent or caregiver probably feels anxiety and despair as well. Or, as is often the case, they may pamper her, reinforcing her behavior patterns and self-image of inadequacy and dependence.

Dreikurs’s goals of misbehavior are psychological. Children who misbehave may also be acting on biological needs. Therefore, the first thing for parents to check is whether their child is hungry, tired, sick, or in physical discomfort. After checking these essentials, parents should move on to evaluating the psychological purpose of their child’s behavior.

For more information on this, see Tip Sheet #4 on johnsommersflanagan.com: https://johnsommersflanagan.com/tip-sheets/

 

The PPPP Season 1 Finale: Why Youth Sports Can Make Parents Feel Crazy

This is it! Season 1 of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast is in the books (or in the cloud or wherever you put those things). This last episode (Number 16) ends with a cliffhanger. Happy Memorial Day to everyone, but especially to the memories of the many known and unknown fantastic heroes to whom we are in perpetual debt.

You can listen to ALL of the podcasts on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Here’s the description of Episode 16

In this—the final episode of Season One—Dr. Sara and Dr. John talk about how youth sports can be the royal road to emotional problems for parents. Highlights include: (a) a discussion of how easy and natural it is for parents to get overemotional about their child’s athletic performance; (b) ideas for emotional preparation; (c) the sorts of bad advice parents can yell from the sideline (but shouldn’t!); and (d) insights from Coach Collin Fehr, who, with his newly minted doctorate, shares the “best thing” for parents to remember. Other highlights (in this episode the highlights just keep on coming): Dr. Sara asks: “Are we a couple of liberal pansies?” and John shares his all-time favorite sports dream. Being the good sport that she is, the show ends with Dr. Sara claiming victory and referring to herself as the “winner” and to John as “the loser.” To learn more about John’s response to this trash talk, you’ll have to tune back in for Season Two, which starts in September, 2017.

Aggressive Golfer

Youth Sports and Parents: How to Use the Words Unlucky and Brilliant to Your Advantage

Nora Golfing

Unlucky.

This is what the Brits would shout out when something didn’t go well on the football (soccer) pitch.

We were living in England for 5 months. Our older daughter was attending Oxford University and our younger daughter was a 7th grader at a local school in the county town of Northampton-shire. My wife had orchestrated a 5 month teaching exchange at the University of Northampton.

Living in the UK was hard. It rained nearly every day. Except when there was this thing they called “freezing fog.” I recall steadily hoping the temperature (in Celsius) would be higher than the wind-speed (in MPH). Typically, I was disappointed.

It was also hard to find a girls’ soccer team for my 7th grade daughter to play on. But we did. It was amazing and weird and good all at the same time.

What I liked best was the behavior of the parents on the sidelines. In the U.S. parents would often let off steam in rather unruly ways. And in response, the U.S. soccer refs (IMHO) behaved as if they had the proverbial chip on their shoulders. But in the U.K., when things didn’t go well, you’d hear shouts of “Unlucky” in a British accent. How cool was that? Not as cool as what they would shout out in response to good plays. Then, they yelled “Brilliant!” with their British lilt, and it was as if all was well with the world. Later, the refs and parents and coaches would share pint or two.

I have a lot to say about youth sports. And I even got to say some of it during our recent podcast. At least until Dr. Sara Polanchek put me in time-out for bad fan behavior. Yes, I lost my cool, but if you want to hear more, you’ll have to spend the 25 minutes it takes to listen to the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast. We’re in the process of making it big as podcasters, but until then, we’re still small. We’re also brilliant. You can listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Or you can listen on our Libsyn site:  http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

In closing, I have a favorite book and a favorite quotation about coaches. The book is The Brother’s K, by David James Duncan. Here’s the quotation:

“Bobby Edson, like most coaches, was a kind of mystic: he believed the cosmos was endowed with an ineffable muffling system that rendered all the racist, sexist, tasteless and denigrating remarks made by coaches inaudible to the students about whom they bellowed them.” 

I had some Bobby Edson-type coaches. I’ve also heard some Bobby Edson-type parents, yelling from the sidelines.

Unlucky.

 

Saturday Night (or Monday morning) Listening!

20150326_165823.jpg

Dr. Sara Polanchek and I have been cranking out podcasts at a dizzying pace. Well, maybe not dizzying for you, but as I get older, it hardly takes anything to get me dizzy.

Being dizzy is my excuse for why I’m just now letting you know that our latest podcast “How Parents can Help Children with Grief” even though it’s been available since LAST MONDAY!

This is a tough, but important topic. Because life and relationships are complex, often grief for children and parents can be complex and so getting some guidance is strongly recommended.

This episode, number 14 if you’re counting, is about 29 minutes and packed with critical information about how to help children cope with grief. Once again, Dr. Tina Barrett is the special guest and she answers my questions with grace and wisdom.

I hope you’ll listen. I hope you’ll let me know if you find it helpful. If you listen on iTunes, who knows, you could be the 20th person to rate our podcast.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

As always, feel free to post your ideas or reactions or email me with comments and/or recommendations for our next podcasting topics.

http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

 

Dealing with Your Grief before it Deals with You

Bulldog

When it comes to caring for our own mental health, most Americans are asleep at the wheel. There are road signs, signals, and exits everywhere, but most Americans are committed to keeping their eyes shut and snoozing right through anything remotely resembling mental health awareness.

Okay. This judgment is a too harsh. But, I’m thinking this way because, not long ago, I watched the film, Manchester by the Sea. Casey Affleck plays the lead character, Lee Chandler. Obviously the film got me a little worked up.

Early on, Lee Chandler’s negligence leads to his children dying in a fire. By any and every measure, this is a trauma and tragedy of immense magnitude. Chandler is emotionally desperate. He tries killing himself. He ends up choosing to live.

But how does Chandler handle his traumatic grief? He continues to drink alcohol and numb himself. He lives like an automaton. Who can blame him? His grief must be so huge that it can’t be addressed. Right? Well, not exactly.

Not long after his children die, Chandler’s brother dies. This is terrible and sad, but suddenly, Chandler gets a second chance. His 16-year-old nephew needs an adult role model. Chandler is the best option.

The film is about pain.  Chandler is devastated. I get that. But instead of showing a glimpse of what it might take to face grief, instead, the film shows Chandler studiously avoiding anything resembling counseling or psychotherapy or education or the possibility of any genuine human interactions that might be helpful.

To be blunt and unkind, Chandler is an emotional chicken. He doesn’t face his emotions or embrace an interest in improving himself or his relationships. He doesn’t do that before or after his traumatic grief. Why not? One reason might be because doing so would be against the cultural norm for real men. . . because real men avoid looking in the mirror and engaging in emotional self-awareness. Seriously? Is this all we expect of emotional development for men and boys? I hope not.

Chandler could have done better than that. We can all do better than that.

What do we know? There’s substantial scientific evidence supporting several ways Chandler might move toward addressing his grief, his depression, his alcohol abuse, and his damaged relationships. He could have been a better person a better man, and a better uncle.

Okay. I’ll calm down now. I understand this is just Hollywood . . . which is why I feel so free to attack Chandler for avoiding what might have been good for himself and his nephew.

All this brings me to my point. In the latest episode of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast, Dr. Sara and I interview Dr. Tina Barrett about how to talk to children about death and loss. Then, in the following episode (watch for it next week), we interview her again about how to help children through the death of a loved one.

If you don’t know who Dr. Tina is, you should. I met her in the mid-1990s, hired her at Families First in about 1998, and have followed her amazing work ever since. In our podcast, she provides wisdom and guidance and insights about death and dying. I hope you’ll take time to listen (and avoid being like the character Lee Chandler). Tina has some great ideas that might just contribute to your (and your children’s) emotional development.

As usual, you can listen at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Or you can listen on Libsyn: http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/