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What You Discover May Just Change Everything

Ever wonder what makes you tick or why you may find yourself in a challenging relationship? Do you find yourself sad or concerned about things over which you have little control? Are you trying to kick a bad habit? Have you tried to limit your drinking only to find yourself back where you started? Are you worried about your parenting or at least how your kids will turn out? Do you find yourself the victim of other people’s behavior?

Those are just some of the things that bring people into counseling and once in counseling, people wonder how long it will take to figure things out and hopefully make things different. In most people’s mind, counseling is something they attend on a 50 minute basis, week after week. It is no wonder people concern themselves with the duration of counseling when they fear they cannot get their whole story out and then lose momentum from one week to the other, finding that the standard 50 minute session is just too short.

I certainly wouldn’t want my surgeon kicking me off the table saying, we’ll take the scalpel out next week and I wouldn’t want to end a counseling session in the middle of an epiphany hoping to get back to it the next week either. That’s why my approach to counseling and self-discovery is different.

I always set aside a good three hours for each and every meeting, however, I only bill for actual time used. That way we don’t need to end simply for running out of time. We get to end our meeting where it makes sense. There is no more worrying about not getting your story out or losing momentum from one meeting to the next.

The other thing my clients appreciate is that I don’t just sit there taking notes. I ask questions, direct questions about one’s one’s life experiences. I also provide feedback. I discuss and draw connections between one’s life experiences and current challenges. This is what leads to a client’s sense of discovery – putting together one’s life’s events in a way that clarifies the present and leads to making a difference on a go-forward basis. As for going forward, I typically offer guidance as to what one can do to improve matters.

By the way, I rarely set a second meeting the following week. I am of the view that given a good session, people need time to think about what was discussed and experience the effect of discovery before returning. More commonly if people do return, it is a good 3 to 6 weeks later. That way they have time to make use of the counseling experience and we can discuss the impact of that experience when we get together again.

This is a unique style of practice. My clients typically love it and can’t believe how fast the time flies in session. They really value that first meeting and that in many cases, only a few meetings are actually necessary to make significant change.

Are you looking to discover answers to the questions in your head? Are you seeking to change the trajectory of your life, an issue or a relationship? It would be my pleasure to be of service. It is amazing what can be achieved and what you can discover in a process that is guided and supported.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Call me.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

The Child’s Experience of the Parental Separation

In the throes and aftermath of a separation, emotions run high and parents can inadvertently spill out onto their kids without realizing their impact upon them. In the anguish and/or anger and/or even elation of the parent, the child can be an unintended victim intense feelings. Out of a parent’s intense feelings, the parent can say or do things that unwittingly create emotional harm for the children. The parent may minimize their thinking about the degree of impact upon the child or may convince themselves that the child is aligned with their feelings. However, there is a huge divide between the parent’s behavior and beliefs about their impact on the child and the child’s actual experience.

Here are some examples:

Parental belief and behavior:

My partner was barley around an didn’t have much to do with the kids, so either my partner doesn’t deserve to see them or limiting my partner’s time with the children isn’t a big deal.

Child’s Experience:

My other parent may not have been around often, but I love that parent and always missed that parent when not around, When that parent was around, I always felt better and special. Now that I can’t see that parent as much, I feel worse and miss that parent more. This is creating a bigger longing for the missing parent. The child may believe that when grown, more time can then be spent with the less involved parent. The child would actually love to have more time with the less involved parent, but is fearful of saying so even if asked to speak honestly.

Parental belief and behavior:

My child deserves to know the truth about their other parent. With this belief the parents informs the child of the wrongdoings of the other parent, placing blame upon that parent for the separation. The parent believes that if the child knows the truth about the other parent’s behavior, the child will think better of the parent who was subject to the untoward behavior and poorly towards the parent who is blamed.

Child’s Experience:

I am half of each parent. As one badmouths the other to me, I feel bad about myself and who I am as a person. I also want to love both parents. I feel like I have to pick sides and it tears me apart by choosing. This causes me to feel sad and worried.

Parental belief and behavior:

I can’t stand talking to my ex, so I will just ask my child to pass messages. Most of the messages have to do with the care of the child and both parents argue over what is best, decisions to be made and the time and place of transfer of the child between them. However, the belief is that the child is just delivering a message and that this is inconsequential for the child.

Child’s Experience:

The child is often secretly distraught by the parental animosity and feels caught in the middle. Under such stress, some children forget the actual message or at least some of the nuances. The know they have to deliver something, so they may omit important information or fill in the gaps by making up information. This leads to greater problems between the parents. Each parent believes the child delivered the message as intended and next believe that when the other parent doesn’t meet the expectations set out in the message, it is willful and mean spirited. The child will say they delivered the message, but the parent will not check with the child, the child’s version of what was delivered. The parents will take the view the child delivered it faithfully. The child knows they lied or omitted information but cannot admit to this. The child is terrified that the bad feelings between the parents could be directed to themselves. That is too overwhelming to consider so lying is easier and provides for emotional survival.

For parents to better appreciate the impact of their behavior upon their children, it is wise to put themselves in the shoes of the child. To do this, think about a workplace example. Pretend you have two supervisors, each of whom dislikes the other, but both of whom you must please for your performance appraisal and wage increase.

As each supervisor tries to induct you to their side, you know that you must make both happy in order to receive a positive appraisal and increase your wage. It is an impossible task and both add to your pressure by having you perform work in a manner contrary to the instruction of the other.

How long will you last in that work environment? What of your mental health? What of your stress and ability to mange under such duress? Will you cope? Will you run home each day to complain about your work life? Who will you go to for help or solace? If you cannot change jobs, because of a poor economy and you are locked in and have limited benefits to be off work, then what?

As parents you are to your child as the work supervisors are to you.

You can make children’s lives a living hell and pretend otherwise or you can seek ways of peaceful co-existence to limit the distress falling upon the child.

In view of the above, please recognize:

  1. It is the rare child who truly wants nothing to do with a parent. Don’t believe yours is that rare child. The likelihood is far greater that your child wants an ongoing and meaningful relationship with both parents as that is also tied to their identity and sense of self. Find ways to facilitate and promote each parent’s relationship even if you don’t like the other parent. It is less the child’s care or concern what each parent has done to the other. It is the child’s objective to be loved by both regardless.
  2. No child needs to know the dirty laundry of the parents, at least in childhood. As children they do not have the emotional or intellectual sophistication or life experience to truly understand and appreciate the causes of adult behavior. Thus adult behavior is confusing and distressing if known and rarely helpful to their own development. Better for their development is witnessing parents struggle to get along and act civility despite differences. This teaches conflict resolution or at least conflict management skills which serves for the development of resilience.
  3. It is important to keep children out of the middle and do not use as messengers. If you truly cannot stand the other parent, then don’t communicate directly, but use something or someone else other than your child. There are on-line resources, texting and emails with which to communicate. Again, keep it civil and remember, your communications form a permanent record. If you wouldn’t want it read out in church or court, don’t put it in a written or recorded message.

It is a challenge to consider one’s impact upon the child. For each belief or behavior you seek to engage in as a parent, consider how it would work for you personally in a work environment before imposing on your child.

Give your child the best gift of all. Peace in the home or between two homes.

Food for thought? I would love to read your comments. Please post them below and please share this blog with the links provided.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

Print this article as a two-page handout.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Who’s Left to Work With High Conflict Separated Parents?

So many of my colleagues are divesting themselves of working with high conflict separated parents. They are doing so quietly and subtly. They are providing other less intense counseling services and taking on fewer and fewer of the contentious cases. Here’s why and how things have changed since the 1990’s:

1990 – 1995: Parents would come voluntarily for counseling to sort out the care of their children between them upon separation. If lawyers were involved, they would then attend on the lawyer’s say-so and work with the mental health professional on a friendly basis. The parents would achieve an agreement, adjust to changing circumstances and carry on.

1995 – 2000: Parents were still coming for help voluntarily or on their lawyer’s advice, but the parents sent by their lawyers were increasingly unable to reach their own settlements. On a verbal agreement, they would take the suggestions of the mental health professional and then carry on. More and more this was referred to as mediation.

2000 – 2005: Parents were less apt to see a mental health professional and more apt to see a family lawyer to sort out their parenting differences. Those who sought the services of a mental health professional on the advice of a lawyer were more entrenched in their positions. Assessment services grew, as did arbitration and parenting coordination.

2005 – 2010: Services that used to be delivered on a verbal request or minimal service agreement now require extensive contracts that include dispute resolution clauses for when the client takes issue with the service provider. Issues addressed by the service providers are often more complex and include more allegations of abuse and wrong doing. Parental alienation is increasing as a stated concern.

When a parent is dissatisfied with the outcome of the service, they complain about the provider and evoke the dispute resolution clause. The likelihood of clients adjusting post-separation and carrying on is diminishing. We begin to see a greater number of people returning to re-open their dispute and parenting coordination as a solution develops in earnest.

2010 – 2015: The top 3% of challenging cases occupy some 95% of court time as well as other support services. There is an increase of reports to child protection agencies arising in the midst of contested custody/access disputes. Increasingly the service providers (lawyers, mental health professionals, parenting coordinators) are targeted by dissatisfied clients directly and are being complained about and sued personally.

2016: There is a general consensus among professionals in the field that decisions imposed upon separated parents are no longer providing long term solutions to parenting conflicts as in the past, but rather setting the stage for actually perpetuating conflict.

Throughout the years alternate peacemaking strategies such as collaborative law and mediation have increased in popularity as service providers willing to accept referrals of parents in intractable disputes decline. Litigators themselves are increasing suffering greater and greater mental health issues and are increasingly surfacing with issues of drug and alcohol use. Many litigators who remain litigating are seen to inflame matters between separated parents, yet are caught in the conundrum of earning a living and are fearful of opting out. Those who take the leap to peacemaking tend to feel relief and some do experience a decline in earnings, while others, after retooling their practice, find they are able to retain earnings.

Lawyers looking for service providers willing to work with court involved separated parents are needing to look further for well-experienced mental health professionals.

Mental health professionals with no particular knowledge or training in working with high conflict separated parents are increasingly being asked to counsel children affected by the parental conflict. They are then finding themselves pulled into the legal vortex and then they themselves are stressed, feeling pulled to take sides in the parental dispute. They too are now trying to divest themselves of these cases for fear of being sued or complained about.

The landscape in which we seek to support separated parents whose conflict is considered high, is indeed changing and becoming far more contentious. I, like so many others in response to the challenges imposed have restricted my practice to peacemaking services.

Ontario is in a process of looking at family law reform, as has occurred in many other jurisdictions. While Mandatory Information Programs have been in effect in Ontario for a few years now as in many other jurisdictions, we await other family law reforms. We wonder if strategies such as mediation will become mandatory for persons entering the family court system.

In the meantime, it appears that experienced assessors, parenting coordinators and family arbitrators may be a shrinking group.

Hopefully as more and more people voluntarily opt for peacemaking strategies, we can see a turnaround in the number of apparent high conflict situations. Hopefully my colleagues will still be around for at least the peacemaking services. This is a challenging area of practice. Who will be there to help if court is the route taken?

Food for thought? I would love to read your comments. Please post them below and please share this blog with the links provided.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Monkey See, Monkey Do: Is it really a thing?

It seems there is some scientific basis to the old adage, monkey see, monkey do. As parents and teachers we’ve certainly used that phrase often enough, usually to provoke kids into thinking twice about getting into trouble as their peers do.

But what if, with some scientific evidence, we could use that concept to advance our behavior management and emotional literacy skills?

Apparently through monkey research, neuroscientists have determined there is something in the monkey brain they refer to as mirror neurons. Those mirror neurons really do cause the monkeys to mimic each other. If the same is true of us humans, what then?

Clearly when one yawns, it prompts the other to yawn and so too with smiling and even other behaviors such as even crossing one’s arms or legs. When viewed by another, it seems to influence them to do similarly.

Applied to children escalating out of control, it is not uncommon to see that as the child escalates, so too does the parent or teacher. It is as if they are each mirroring the other.

If this is the case, let’s use it.

Rather though than escalating distress, what if the parent or teacher chose to exude another posture, something else for the child to mirror? What if we exuded calm? Would monkey see; would monkey do? It seems so.

As we model calm, we actually increase the likelihood of the child settling down. It is when we try to in a sense, out-escalate the child, the child gets on a track of trying to out-escalate us. Upset begets upset and calm begets calm.

This kind of thinking is consistent with principles of emotional literacy and consistent with facilitating emotional regulation in children. As we the parent or teacher manage our own triggers (think of our mirror neurons getting pinged by the behavior of the child), we are then in a position to choose our response separate from the reflexive monkey see, monkey do.

We can choose to remain calm. As we remain calm, we increase the likelihood of the child following suit. It turns out our influence in calming kids has less to do with cajoling, threatening or shouting at them to settle down and more to do with presenting ourselves as we would seek for them. Calm.

Once calm, then we can talk reasonably to understand what was at issue and provide support.

Need help remembering this in the throes of child behavior. Consider this line: Let them borrow our calm. Let’s have plenty to spare and share. It certainly is a benign intervention and in the end may help us with our stress levels too.

Need help? Borrow my calm.

If you know someone who might benefit from this information please scroll down and share this article.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Call me.

Download and print this article as a one-page handout.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Child Behavior: When nothing else works, consider these 7 strategies:

Parents are saying discipline, consequences, time out and stickers don’t work. Parents are presenting as more and more defeated when it comes to managing the behavior of their children. They have a long list of tried that – didn’t work scenarios including many of the more popular parenting programs. What’s up with that? Why does it seem near impossible to get kids to listen? What can parents do differently?

To know what to do differently, we first need to appreciate what’s at play creating challenges out of children’s behavior and undermining parental authority. This brief history of the world is needed – or at least a brief history of the past 70 years. It goes like this:

  • 1950’s: Intact two parent families with a primary breadwinner and a primary homemaker;
  • 1960’s: Women’s Movement begins and gender equality begins to be examined publicly;
  • 1970’s: No-fault divorce appears in many jurisdictions, divorce rate begins to climb;
  • 1980’s: Praise your kids was the new mantra in parenting;
  • 1990’s: As the economy tanks and rebounds, good paying jobs go and more families require two income earners. At issues is latch key kids;
  • 2000’s: From computers in bedrooms, to video games to the introduction of the iPhone and then android operating system, technology consumes our attention and this generation;
  • 2010’s: Technology abounds and usage has increased throughout all age groups, right down to infants with strollers adapted to hold iPads and wristbands to count our every step. We tell children the world is a dangerous place and they need to stay  electronically tethered to stay safe. We wonder why children generally are more anxious than ever before.

Consider the above from the experience of the child and its impact on child development. Despite the good that is brought about from these changes, there are still unintended negative consequences.

Children have gone from having continuous access to a parent to marginally direct contact nowhere near the levels of the good ol’ days. Now this is not to suggest that those olden days were necessarily good or bad, but that from a child’s perspective they have less and less access to support, supervision and a parental role model for the transmission of morals and values. These days, even when we have proximity to each other, with both parent and child answering the pull of the smart phone, we are not really with each other.

We are less and less available to help them when they do fall, keep them directly safe from harm and simply  enjoy each others company – all key to the child feeling safe, secure, loved and of value. To add, as we over praise and don’t hold children as accountable as before, their sense of they can do no wrong grows. Bring in a mix of parental guilt for lack of availability assuaged with consumer purchases and we add indulged to the list of growing concerns. All at once we appear hyper-vigilant, yet remarkably disconnected.

We are so removed from our kids as a society and all due to social, economic and technological change that we don’t realize the creeping disconnect that has infected child development. Society has shifted and children’s mental health is the price. Our kids are more and more footloose and fancy free independent and without the real maturity to direct appropriate behavior over the wants of impulses driven by immediate satisfaction.

Parents, feeling embarrassed or shameful or guilty about their child’s issues fear being blamed. Parents and teachers are pitted against each other as schools try to manage the fallout of all this in the classroom and parents seek to hold the educational system accountable to socialize their kids.

It’s time to stop the madness, take a step back and recognize that these seismic shifts in society yield unintended consequences. We have a generation of rudderless disconnected kids. Of course in this context the usual parenting strategies become ineffective. To begin with, our children don’t recognize our authority and many harbor an unstated resentment for our lack of connection. It comes out as behavior. Thus when we seek to punish, take things away, badger and discipline, from the child’s perspective we are only widening the disconnect and escalating the resentment.

Managing child behavior has and will always be determined by the quality of the relationship between the adult and the child. The degree to which we are connected to our children, provide directly for their sense of safety, security and love, we have greater influence and legitimacy in their lives. It is time to restore those connections. Bear in mind, it will seem a tad weird to the child for whom this may be a new experience given their upbringing in the past ten years, versus ours of some 30 years ago.

The parenting strategies to re-mediate child behavior and mental health concerns of this age and time are all about learning how to connect meaningfully as determined from an emotional and attachment perspective. Without going into the theory of this, consider these practices:

  1. Turn off your technology when you walk though the door. Hunt your child down and give them a kiss hello before anything else.
  2. Have technology free periods of the day/week with your child.
  3. Count the number of times you have a meal with your child. Going back some 50 years, and out of 21 opportunities a week, the number back then would have been near 21. Whatever your count, consider how you can increase it.
  4. Take your child’s face gently and directly between your hands and tell your child outright, you love her/him. Do so daily.
  5. Keep the tablet or smart phone out of the bedroom at least at bedtime. Buy an old fashioned alarm clock if needed.
  6. Resist consumer purchases when begged by your child or if to assuage your guilt. Instead, spend time with your child when you feel triggered to make a purchase on their behalf.
  7. When your child acts inappropriately, think less about the consequence you will levy and the fight to hold them accountable and think more about sharing a little disappointment and that you think they are better than that. Let your child know you love him or her but that seeing the misdeed makes you feel sad. Do not come from a place of anger or hostility, but concern and love. Label your feelings so that your child may come to understand his or hers. Connect emotionally.

Of course we value our kids and want what is best for them. The issue isn’t bad parents, but these societal shifts acting beyond our awareness. Societal changes have subtly interrupted parental availability, connection and influence. These 7 strategies are all about counter-balancing and reclaiming the parental role to enable connection. Parents can begin the process at home. The 7 strategies are a start.

As odd as it seems, your kids may find the change unsettling at first. They may try to resist. They are used to getting what they want, acting with limited accountability and believing they do not wrong. Those attitudes have been built in structurally through the fabric of societal change.

The challenge of parenting today is recognizing and working in the midst of that changing tide and not being driven off course by the resistance of the child who may not want to give up the trappings of an indulged lifestyle. It is as if the child needs to learn that good relationships and emotional connections really do feel better than stuff or things.

Finding ways such as suggested above is the antidote. Being connected to your kids through direct availability is key.  With an intact and meaningful connection, parents may not even need many of the discipline strategies we used to talk about. We will have settled the dis-ease and underlying resentment affecting so many children today. We may just all feel better and be better as we get connected. Give it a try.

Food for thought? I would love to read your comments. Please post them below and please share this blog with the links provided.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

Download and print this article as a 2-page handout!

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Special Students, Special Night, Special “Parenting” Workshop

I met with parents and students at Mountain Secondary School in Hamilton Ontario. This high school is dedicated to serving students with special needs. The context of the meeting was a parenting workshop. It came as surprise that of the nearly 40 people in attendance, there were about 14 students.

It went great.

As always, after introducing myself I immediately went to asking those in attendance why they came out and what they were hoping I would talk about. I explained by asking these questions up front, I would then gear my presentation to directly meeting their learning needs.

Parents and students alike raised questions:

  • How can I trust more than one person at a time?
  • How do we transmit values to our children?
  • How do we deal with our children’s anxiety and/or depression?
  • How do we get kids to show respect?

There were many more questions and each was printed on the flip chart. With that I launched in to a history lesson on the changing structure of the family over time; the influence of the economy; the influence of technology. I explained how since the 1950’s parents and children have less and less direct contact with each other. We are more separate than ever before in history, yet even when within the same family.

Next I discussed attachment theory. Then I connected the dots between our greater disconnection between parents and children over time and the increase of childhood anxiety and behavior problems. Societal, economic and technological changes have given rise to a generation of children with what appears as modest to severe insecure attachment disorders.

With the lessons over, I then provided strategy after strategy for reconnection, to help facilitate secure attachments, relationship all through which we could then feel better about ourselves and through which we could then influence our children instead of punishing them. I explained that punishment leads to greater disconnection when the underlying issues seen today is already too much disconnection. Our kids need us and we need to learn how to facilitate that connection and sense of security.

After offering strategy after strategy to reconnect, I then had the pleasure of bringing up one of the students for a role play. Spontaneously we demonstrated two ways of handling the same situation: one through an escalation of distress and the other through promoting engagement and attachment. I asked the student how he felt about the first and then second role play. He was awesome. He explained he felt angry with the shouting and threats of punishment yet felt loved and cared for through connection strategies. It was powerful, it was spontaneous. Everyone in the room got it.

Fantastic evening.

The title of the workshop is Raising Awesome Kids.

Thanks Mountain SS.

All questions answered.

If you know someone who might benefit from this information please scroll down and share this article. Need a workshop presenter? Call me.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

What is Emotional Literacy and How is it Important in Managing Child Behavior in the Classroom or at Home?

We see children act without thinking. We refer to them as having poor judgement. Underneath their behavior was a feeling state, typically an unsettling emotion. Not knowing how to interpret or what to do with the emotion, the child seeks to discharge it quickly in order to restore oneself to a better feeling state. However, having acted without thinking it through, the child inadvertently makes their situation worse by virtue of the poorly chosen behavior. This cycle continues and the child appears out of control.

Helping children to key in to their own feelings let alone those of others and in view of those feelings find a way to respond reasonably can be challenging. It is challenging for some adults too. It is as if we need to slow down the immediacy of a response so that the feeling can be better processed or understood and the response can then be better attuned to the situation. This is what is known as emotional literacy.

Teaching emotional literacy to children is less about a lecture and more about the parent or teacher engaging in the behaviors of emotional literacy through which the child may learn observationally. The parent or teacher creates the conditions for this incidental learning by their managing their emotions constructively first, then empathizing with the child and next responding in a manner that is respectful and nurturing.

Consider these two scenarios:

The teacher assigns some seat work that if not completed during class, will remain for the student as homework.

A student then appears agitated and distracted. The student fidgets and is disruptive to another student near by. The teacher looks sternly at the agitated student thinking to extend a non-verbal message  to settle down. The student’s behavior escalates. The teacher continues to give sterner and sterner looks to settle down. Eventually the student is sent to the Principal’s office.

Given principles of emotional literacy, upon the teacher’s recognition of the child’s agitation, rather than a stern look which may be felt as shameful by the student creating greater emotional distress, the teachers goes calmly to the student and crouches beside the student. The teacher breathes slowly and quietly exuding their calm. As the student settles, the teacher says quietly and privately, “I noticed you appeared upset, what’s up?” The student responds by saying she didn’t really understand the assignment and was afraid that even if taken home, by not being able to do it, would get into trouble with parents and teacher alike. The teacher reassures the student that she won’t get in trouble, re-explains the assignment until clearly understood and the student settles into work.

—————–

It is after school and near dinner time. The parent is making dinner and the aroma of the food beckons the child to the kitchen. The child is hungry and can’t wait for dinner. The child complains and the parent tells the child to wait. The child complains louder about their hunger and the parent sends the child to his room.

Given principles of emotional literacy, the parent realizes that the hunger of the child is felt painfully. Instead of telling the child to wait which to the child feels like the parent doesn’t appreciate his pain, the parent has the child stand on a chair and help prepare the meal. The parent holds the child near with one arm around the child’s waste and says, “I’m hungry too, it’s so hard to be patient when so hungry. With you helping me like this, we’ll both feel better soon.”  The child settles down and they enjoy each others company to make a dinner that now takes a bit more time to prepare, yet does feel better.

In view of the scenarios, the onus is on the teacher or parent to first manage their emotions constructively so as not to provoke an escalation in the child by creating more troubling emotions. Next the teacher or parent expresses empathy through their observation and then connects with the child to figure things out without creating shame, blame, embarrassment or resentment. The child responds reasonably and the underlying issue is resolved in a way that teaches how to manage feelings constructively.

Emotional literacy in the teacher or parent is key to facilitating self-regulation in children. Self-regulation is the ability of the child to sooth oneself when emotionally distressed and create solutions to that are functional. In the above examples, the student/child can learn to remain calm, express the underlying issue and seek resolution. The teacher/parent can reinforce those processes as observed simply by providing positive feedback in the moment or through reflection at a later time.

I am available to provide workshops to teachers for this and other strategies to manage children’s behavior in the classroom and to parents through counseling to manage children’s behavior at home.

If you know someone who might benefit from this information please scroll down and share this article. Help get the word out that help is available.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Call me.

Download and print this article as a one-page handout.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

 

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