Tag Archives: parents

Hanging out with the Virginia School Counseling Association in Richmond: The Extra Handout

Richmond Statue

I just had an awesome day with about 260 Virginia School Counselors. You know who you are, and you know you’re incredible.

Just FYI, the state of Virginia is making a big investment in adding school counselors. . . which IMHO, is a very smart and reasonable decision. Other states might want to take note and follow their lead. The problem is that many school age youth are suffering from extremely challenging home, neighborhood, and school situations. Having more competent school counselors available to support student success, student mental health, and teachers is a wise move.

For all of the VSCA members I met today, thank you for coming, but more importantly, thanks for the deeply important commitment you make to the well-being of students in your schools. You are amazing!

Here’s the extra handout, with more details than the powerpoint slides: VSCA 2020 Extra Handout

 

Inspiring Cooperation in Your Children

Moose

**Photo courtesy of the amazing Dudley Dana**

As Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sang in 1957, it’s “Summer time and the living is easy.”

In fact, if you’re a parent living on planet Earth (or the Missoula valley) and you’re trying to regulate your children’s access to electronic devices, the living may not be easy; it may be infuriating.

Way back in 1998-2000 I had a biweekly Missoulian parenting column. One of the most popular columns I ever wrote was about a popular and challenging phenomenon among children in 1999. It started . . .

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Here’s a quick parenting quiz.

Question: “How do you spell opportunity?”

Answer: “P-O-K-E-M-O-N.”

As if you didn’t know, Pokemon paraphernalia – the movie, action figures, and yes, Pokemon trading cards – are red hot items among many grade-school children.  Some adults question whether Pokemon obsessions are healthy.  Others contend that Pokemon monsters are evil.  Still others fuel their children’s Pokemon desire through unchecked spending.

When parents ask for my professional opinion about the Pokemon phenomenon, I put on my psychologist face.  I cradle my chin in my hand and look upward in a sort of reflective way.  Then I slowly speak Latin (not bothering to mention that I’m using ½ of my Latin vocabulary).  I say,

“Carpe Diem!”

Then, just in case the person I’m talking with speaks even less Latin than I do, I repeat myself in English.

“Seize the day!”

This is a precious moment in history.  We have at our fingertips – thanks to Pokemon monsters – frequent, repeating, and unparalleled parenting opportunities.

It doesn’t matter whether your child is into Pokemon, Furbys, Heavy Metal music, whining, or chocolate, limit-setting issues will undoubtedly arise.  And limit-setting is absolutely essential.  Parents must set limits — because their children won’t.

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Here’s the new question: If Pokemon monsters were all-the-rage and immensely challenging back in 1999, what monstrosities are plaguing Montana parents THIS SUMMER??

Cell phones and other electronic devices!

Even though your children’s relationships with their electronic devices is filled with crazy-making energy for parents, I deeply believe that my carpe diem advice from the 1990s still stands. All this points to using knowledge about your child, limit-setting, and logical consequences to transform the pain of dealing with electronic devices into the pleasure of having well-adjusted children.

If you want to take advantage of your child’s obsessions, consider making a short list of mutually agreeable rules (based on your family values or principles). For example:

  • Tell your child that rule violations will result in a warning or consequence
  • Follow-through and use empathy as appropriate
  • Remember that children need to learn from mistakes
  • If your child throws a fit or behaves aggressively, NEVER give in

Here’s an electronic device limit-setting example:

Let’s say you’ve talked with your son or daughter and decided that everyone in your family needs time free from all electronic devices. You make it clear that there will be no phones (or other devices) during family meals, during family chores, and during the hour before bedtime. The agreed upon consequence for violating this rule might be something like loss of phone privileges for 6 hours (if you make the consequence small, it will be easier for you to enforce and easier for your child to comply without completely freaking out). Then, if your child violates the rule, you can either give a warning-reminder (“I notice your phone is out. Please put it away or I will put it in our family phone lock-box”) or simply remind your child of the house rule and put the phone in the lock-box.

The cool thing about giving your children warnings is that it gives them a chance to change or improve their behavior. If, upon being warned, your child puts the phone away, you can praise the excellent decision-making by saying something like, “I noticed you put your phone away when I gave you the warning.” If your child makes a poor decision and temporarily loses phone privileges, then you can be empathic and encouraging, “I’m sorry you lost your phone for a while. That’s must feel upsetting. I bet you’ll make a better choice next time.”

Rather than droning on about the virtues of limit-setting to teach your children well, I’m stopping here to point out yet another fantastic opportunity.

The featured Practically Perfect Parenting episode of this week is creatively titled, Inspiring Cooperation in Your Children. And so, for more fun and entertaining information on this parenting topic, you can go to one of the following links.

On Libsyn: https://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

On Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304

As always, feel free to comment, share, like, or shun this blog and the accompanying podcast.

Bozeman Workshops on Parenting

I’m just about to hit the road to Bozeman to provide a short class and evening presentation for Thrive and the Big Sky Youth Empowerment Program (BYEP). These are two fantastic organizations and I’m honored to make the trip and spend time talking about youth and how parents can move toward being the parents they want to be.

The 1:30pm presentation is titled, “Strategies and Techniques for Influencing and Motivating Children and Teenagers” and the powerpoints are here: Thrive Bozeman Motivation 2019

The 6:00pm workshop is at the Bozeman Public Library and is titled, “Transforming Explosive Tantrums Into Cooperation: Strategies for Helping Children (and Caretakers) Achieve Emotional Regulation.” Yep. . . that’s a mouthful. Here’s the powerpoint: Thrive Bozeman Explosive Solutions 2019

I also have a summary handout for participants here: Thrive Explosive Handout 2019

If you want more information about Thrive and BYEP and the cool and important work they do, you can find Thrive information here: https://allthrive.org/

And BYEP here:  https://www.byep.org/

Okay. Now, on to the important stuff: Go Griz!

Hatches B

 

Helping Children Deal with Fear and Anxiety

Shark in Pool

Facing fear and anxiety is no easy task. It’s not easy for children; and it’s not easy for their parents. Here’s a short piece of historical fiction that captures some of the dynamics that can emerge when you’re helping children face their fears.

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“I’m scared.”

My nephew turned his pleading fact toward me. He was standing on the diving board. I was a few feet below. We had waited in line together. Turning back now meant social humiliation. Although I knew enough to know that the scene wasn’t about me, I still felt social pressure mounting. If he stepped down from the diving board, I’d feel the shame right along with him. My own potential embarrassment, along with the belief that he would be better served facing his fears, led me to encourage him to follow through and jump.

“You can do it,” I said.

He started to shake. “But I can’t.”

Parenting or grand-parenting or hanging out with nieces and nephews sometimes requires immense decision-making skill. I’d been through “I’m scared” situations before, with my own children, with grandchildren, with other nephews and nieces. When do you push through the fear? When do you backtrack and risk “other people” labeling you, your son, your daughter, or a child you love as “chicken?”

This particular decision wasn’t easy. I wanted my nephew to jump. I was sure he would be okay. But I also knew a little something about emotional invalidation. Sure, we want to encourage and sometimes push our children to get outside their comfort zones and take risks. On the other hand, we also want to respect their emotions. Invalidating children’s emotions tends to produce adults who don’t trust themselves. But making the decision of when to validate and when to push isn’t easy.

I reached out. My nephew took my hand. I said, “Hey. You made it up here this time. I’ll bet you’ll make the jump next time.” We turned to walk back. A kid standing in line said, “That’s okay. I was too scared to jump my first time.”

Later, when the line had shrunk, my nephew wanted to try again. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll walk over with you.”

He made the jump the second time. We celebrated his success with high-fives and an ice-cream sandwich.

Like all words, the words, “I’m scared” have meaning and provoke reactions.

Sometimes when parents hear the words, “I’m scared” they want to push back and say something like, “That’s silly” or “Too bad” or “Buck-up honeycup” or something else that’s reactive and emotionally invalidating.

The point of the story about my nephew isn’t to brag about a particular outcome. Instead, I want to recognize that most of us share in this dilemma: How can we best help children through their fears.

Just yesterday I knelt next to my tearful granddaughter. She was too scared to join into a group activity. She held onto my knee. We were in a public setting, so I instantly felt embarrassment creeping my way. I dealt with it by engaging in chit-chat about all the activity around us, including commentary about clothes, shoes, the color of the gym. Later, when she finally joined in on the activity, I felt relief and I felt proud. I also remembered the old lesson that I’d learned so many times before. In the moment of a child’s fear, my potential emotional pain, although present, pales in comparison to whatever the child is experiencing.

If you’d like to hear more about how to help children cope with their fears, you can listen to Dr. Sara Polanchek and me chatting about this topic on our latest Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast. Here are the links.

On iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

On Libsyn: http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

And follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PracticallyPerfectParenting/

 

 

Sibling Rivalry: Episode 26 of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast

This is Captain America, fighting with his younger sibling.

Sibling Rivalry II

Yesterday, morning my phone pinged me about a new episode of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast (PPPP). At first I ignored it, realizing of course, that this ping was about my very own podcast, so why pay attention. But then I thought, I should pretend I’m not the podcaster and just click into the podcast and start listening. So I did.

Much to my surprise, I didn’t hate it. Maybe that sounds weird. If you’ve ever listened to an audio recording of yourself, you probably know what I mean. Typically, I feel uncomfortable and dislike the way I sound (on audio) and look (on video). But I actually sort of liked the opening sounds of the PPPP. I thought both Sara and I sounded pretty darn good. Then I realized, of course, that all the credit goes to Mike Matthews, our sound guy and his fancy microphones. Thanks Mike, for making us sound far more sophisticated and smart than we actually are!

I should also say thanks to Joey Moore, because he reviews the audio recordings, deletes some of our “Ums” and other verbal problems, and then posts the podcasts on Libsyn and iTunes. Thanks Joey!

But now I’m worried. I wonder if Mike and Joey might feel competitive with one another. Maybe they feel like siblings (even though they’ve never met). Maybe I should have said thanks to Joey first? Could I be stoking a sibling rivalry?

Speaking of sibling rivalry, that’s the topic of this, the latest episode of the PPPP. And here’s the blurb Sara wrote about this episode (Episode #26, just in case you’re counting).

Two brothers, ages 7 and 9, were arguing over an imaginary cookie.  In a dramatic turn of events, the older brother brought the invisible cookie to his lips, and took an imaginary bite. Immediately, the younger brother fell to his knees, crying and wailing over the loss of this imagined—yet highly coveted and presumably scrumptious—cookie.  In this Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast episode, Dr. John and Dr. Sara attempt to unravel the mysteries of sibling rivalry and discuss how it can serve an important purpose.  They remind listeners that, although an understandable fantasy, eliminating conflict is not a reasonable goal.  Instead, by accepting a certain amount of sibling rivalry, parents can help children adopt life-long conflict management skills.

If you want to listen to the PPPP click on whatever link below that fits your needs.

The Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast is a bimonthly podcast by Department of Counselor Education Professor John Sommers-Flanagan and Clinical Director Sara Polanchek. The PPPP is sponsored by the Engelhard Foundation, the National Parenting Education Network, the Department of Counselor Education, and listeners like you. The 26th episode, titled, “Sibling Rivalry and Relationships” was released last Wednesday. Subscribe or listen on: iTunes, or Libsyn and follow on Facebook.

 

Working with Parents Across Cultures

This morning I have the honor and privilege to present an ACA Education session on working with culturally diverse parents. Part of the presentation is business as usual. Sara Polanchek and I will take turns talking about some of the ways in which we work with parents. This content is mostly linked to the “How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen” book.

But what’s exciting this morning is that two of our U of Montana doc students will intermittently offer cultural commentary on how to work with parents who are culturally diverse. Maegan Rides At The Door and Salena Beaumont Hill are the doc student co-presenters. I have already learned much from them . . . and will be learning more this morning. To share the learning, the powerpoints are here: ACA Parenting 2018 REV #274

Doing Behavior Modification Right

Toilet Drinking Ed

Opposite Day was on January 25th and, sadly, I forgot to celebrate it. Maybe that’s for the best now that it feels like we’re living in an opposite world where, as parents, we need to constantly monitor and compensate for what our children see and hear on social media, television, the news, and from the President.

About a decade ago I “invented” the term: “Backward behavior modification.” It’s sort of like Opposite Day in that it captures the natural (but unintentional) tendency for parents to provide positive reinforcement for their children’s negative and undesirable behavior. As a part of backward behavior modification, parents also often ignore their children’s positive behaviors.

Celebrating Opposite Day requires creativity, mental effort, and planning. Saying the opposite of what you mean is difficult. In contrast, backward behavior modification is all natural, but unhelpful. As parents, we seem to do it automatically. It requires creativity, mental effort, and planning to do behavior modification in the right direction.

The latest episode of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast is all about how parents can do behavior modification in the right direction. Now, don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not a BIG proponent of mechanistic, authoritarian behavior modification. However, as Dr. Sara and I talk about on the PPPP, behavior modification is a tool that most parents, at least on occasion, should have in their toolbox.

Here’s a link to the podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Here’s another link to the podcast on Libsyn: http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

Here’s the official podcast description:

Behavior Modification: To Use or Not to Use—That is the Question!

Parenting is difficult. Parenting is also wonderful. As parents, most days we’re reminded of parenting challenges and joys. In today’s episode, Dr. Sara and Dr. John talk (and John dons his professorial persona and talks too much). Sara and John they talk about adding the crucial tool of behavior modification to your parenting toolbox. Don’t worry, we know how the idea of “behavior modification” can feel to parents; it can feel too sterile and mechanistic. The expectation isn’t for you to use behavior modification all the time, but instead to be able to use it when you need it. Even more importantly, our hope is for you to learn how to use it effectively. To help fulfill our hopes, Sara tells a story of behavior modification gone wrong and John and Sara share tips for using behavior modification effectively.

Don’t forget to like the PPPP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PracticallyPerfectParenting/

And now we’re on Twitter. You can follow us there:  https://twitter.com/PPParentPod

Weekend Listening: The Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast is BACK!

John and Ry and Photo

You know you’ve been waiting for this moment, ever since Season 1 of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast ended with a thrilling cliffhanger.

And now, your long wait is suddenly over.

Today is the world premier of Season 2 of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast. You may be wondering: Did Rachel get back together with Ross? Who shot J.R.? Will carnage ensue in GoT Season 8?

As important as they are, the PPPP promises to answer none of the above. Instead, we will rivet your attention with a swashbuckling episode titled, “Technology as a Barrier or Bridge to Family Relationships”

Here’s the trailer (er, description):

This OPENING episode of Season 2 of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast is positively packed with information and tantalizing tips. TECHNOLOGY and SCREEN TIME is a huge issue for many parents. In this captivating episode, Dr. Sara and Dr. John are talking back to technology; they’re saying, “Hey technology, we’re taking you down! Well, not really. But the episode does include a range of AMAZING insights and tips to help parents understand and deal with the dangers and opportunities of technology and screen time. When you tune in, be sure to listen for:

  • Sara’s obsession with using contracts to manage her children’s screen-time
  • A clip from Dr. Dimitri Christakis’s TEDx Ranier talk where he provides a fun critique, partially narrated by Dr. Sara, on Baby Einstein (to watch Dr. Christakis’s full talk, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo
  • How much a baby’s brain grows from birth to age 2 (can you guess?)
  • John’s four tips for raising children with healthy brains
  • Christakis’s three stage theory about how constantly changing screens contribute to children having attention problems
  • Sara’s and Dr. John’s thoughts on the appropriate use of technology and screens for families

Don’t wait. Sit your children down in front of the television (not serious here), grab your favorite personal device, and listen to your favorite podcasters launch themselves into SEASON 2!

To listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

To listen on Libsyn: http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/technology-as-a-barrier-and-bridge-to-healthy-family-relationships

Email your ideas, reactions, hopes, dreams, questions, and commitments for underwriting support to: johnsf44@gmail.com

 

 

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/