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When Little Ones Play Dress-Up

Periodically I am asked about a toddler/preschooler who prefers to wear clothes aligned with the gender other than physically presented at birth.

At times it creates a source of conflict for the parents. Where those parents are separated, that conflict can escalate significantly.

Here is a recent response I provided a family law lawyer whose client was involved in such a situation:

—————–

At that age, we don’t know if there is truly a gender issue for the child or if the parents are sensitive about the child’s role playing.

It’s not uncommon for kids that young to play dress up, pretending to be one or other parent.

If a parent is rigid about gender and role and the other very flexible, it can create issues where there needn’t be any.

Even if there are cross gender preferences for the child, we prefer the parent to be neutral yet supportive as the child discovers themselves.

Hopefully they (the parents) can meet with a therapist to come to understand child development and that gender is expressed on a continuum, that their child will be best served by allowing the child to be their authentic self.

Hope this helps.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Think You Need a Pitbull Lawyer?

She wanted to hire a pitbull lawyer. Afterall, his was a shark.

I explained that was the fastest way to ratchet up conflict, confuse the judge, and prolong the dispute.

She listened. She hired a lawyer trained in settling disputes respectfully.

The lawyer deftly addressed the lies and explained the situation without resorting to threatening or intimidating demands or replies.

Indeed, the lawyer ignored the nonsense from the other side and simply stuck to the facts of the matter and what was required by law.

It still took much time to wind through the court system, but as it did, one judge after another commented and found in her favor.

It was somewhat easy given the contrasting styles.

None of this changed the disposition of her ex.

It did however lead to a less costly resolution in the long run.

Over the years, their children grew.

Her reasonable disposition and continuing to set reasonable limits, boundaries and expectations with the kids created the conditions where over time and by their adolescence, they chose to see their dad infrequently and live predominantly with her.

She played to the long game and learned there would be skirmishes along the way.

Initially it was difficult to adopt the new mindset, fending off constant bullying.

The coaching and support throughout paid off.

It sure wasn’t a fairytale ending. The kids did have their issues from time to time too.

It’s just that given the whole situation, it could have been disastrously worse.

She relaxed into the mess, took things in stride and mostly, disengaged emotionally from his behavior. With that, she regained her power as he lost his.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Parenting and Politics

Parenting these days is such a greater challenge then from when we raised our son.

These days it takes two or more jobs just to make ends meet… and for some, barely at that.

Then, housing.

Before we can even talk parenting style, the stress of these other real life challenges must be acknowledged, lest we only lay blame upon parents for merely seeking to survive and provide for their families.

Of course kids miss their parents as a result. Of course it is more difficult to address emotional needs when consumed by physical needs. Of course it is more difficult to facilitate homework when rushing from place to place, job to job.

These are structural issues beyond the parents’ control that still does affect parenting and child rearing.

Then beyond that, educators are stretched beyond capacity, turned into that for which they are not trained: social workers and therapists.

Thus even the education system fails to meet the needs of students, no fault of the educators or parents.

It is so important to keep these challenges in mind when assessing child behavior issues.

So often the solution is not within the parent’s control.

These are issues that need to be addressed at the political level.

Politics is all about the distribution of power and wealth.

Today’s politicians have focused on the creation of wealth to the detriment of the working poor and all with the belief that those with power and wealth will create jobs to enable all to prosper.

Well… that’s just not true.

Greed is the variable not accounted for with that political thinking. Wealth begets more wealth. It creates a perspective that those who do not succeed simply aren’t trying hard enough.

That BS is just wealth using blame to justify and hide their greed.

Here in Ontario, an election is coming.

I do hope people see that the conservative party is one that puts personal wealth ahead of social good, despite their smoke and mirrors.

We must invest in the needs of parents and for that, education and mental health (child and adult).

Let us not be distracted by the shiny objects held in front of us. Look beneath the veil.

Please, this election.

ABC. Anyone But Conservative


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Taking Over From the Little One

Not all parents understand what is meant by permissive parenting.

It is essentially a style that in the end, enables the child to get away with things they shouldn’t.

It can come about the result of neglect, but very often it is also by well-intentioned parents and even those who are quite active in their approach.

Three-year Missy throws her food at the table.

The parent approaches and explains why it is not acceptable.

Missy protests what is provided for her meal.

The parent negotiates another selection.

Missy takes the new item and throws it too.

The processs continues with parent explaining and continuing to negotiate.

This mealtime last 40 minutes with Missy having eaten little. Another 45 minutes later, Missy gets a treat as she is hungry.

The parent didn’t see an issue with their parenting although wanted things to change.

Indeed, having come from a background of harsh parenting, the parent was sure to be gentle in approach.

What the parent didn’t see in the interaction was that it was the child in charge of the outcome through resistance and throwing of food. In the end, the child didn’t have to eat what was provided and was able to hold out for the treat.

The goal of the parent was for Missy to sit and eat her meal reasonably without this daily turmoil.

Parent was instructed to remove the child from the table to have the child sit on a nearby chair quietly. No discussion, but also no negative mood or threat was to be directed to the child.

If the child left the chair, she was simply to be placed back. Time after time.

Eventually the child felt thwarted and cried. The parent stood beside, remained calm, but otherwise quiet. The parent was now modeling the desired behavior. Quiet, calm.

When the child settled, the parent helped the child, again calmly, back to the table and meal.

This went on six times. On the seventh time, the child sat nicely at the table and began to eat.

As instructed, the parent in a quiet voice, remarked at how nicely Missy was seated and eating.

Over the course of four days, Missy was siting and eating the meal provided within about 15 minutes.

Although not reported earlier, apparently the parent had similar processes in place for brushing teeth, bedtime and getting up in the morning.

The parent, without instruction, applied the same new process to those expectations.

The parent reported that not only was the child easier to now manage, but overall, a happier child. Indeed the mood of the entire household had shifted. It was lighter and more joyful.

Key to making this work was respecting the parent’s wishes for an approach that wasn’t harsh or punitive.

What was required was interrupting the child’s behavior to eliminate the chain of events and escalation of challenging behavior.

The parent also had to tolerate the child’s pushback and protest in the form of yelling and then crying.

As a result, the child learned to manage some basic frustration, self-sooth and meet reasonable expectations.

When the child was meeting expectations some basic negotiations was reintroduced but within limits determined acceptable by the parent.

Welcome to the Internet.

There is so much parenting advice available, some of which is contradictory. With that people can choose their approach and theory by which they make parenting decisions.

Each approach has its own language and perspective. Some parents adhere rigidly to a particular approach and some treat the approaches like a buffet, picking and choosing alone the way.

In the end, regardless of approach, we always want the parent to manage themselves first to bring a calm and loving disposition to the job.

With that, however you manage those limits, boundaries and expectations, your child should develop reasonably well and emotionally intact.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Safe Word for Family Gatherings

For some family gatherings you just have to have a safe word.

It could be a nod, a look, a gesture, a comment whispered in your ear.

Once seen or heard, it’s time to leave.

No discussion, no drama, no explanation. Just leave.

When someone is marching down trouble street, you don’t have to join the band.

Kids? Take them quietly with you and go.

Have that as a quiet agreement with your partner.

With that you quietly maintain your boundary and safety without getting into defending yourself.

Truth is, once your absence is recognized, most will get it.

From that they may learn too.

Therein you are only controlling yourselves. Others may do as they wish.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

When Your Emotions Betray You

There’s a reason it’s called anxiety DISORDER.

That’s because those feelings don’t really match the situation or are vastly greater than what the situation calls for.

In a world that states, trust your feelings, that is about the worst advice when those feelings are owing to a disorder.

As a disorder, your feelings are actually betraying you.

The whole thing about CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is about using your head to process the situation instead of your gut.

Think about it.

Seriously. Think about it.

Process situations with your head, not your feelings and you are less likely to be held hostage by the disorder.

That’s how CBT works.

You can even do that on your own.

Just start by acknowledging your feelings are betraying you and think it through. Then act.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Sometimes there isn’t a choice. We must call.

Trigger Warning. This post discusses violent child abuse.

——–

The lad was about 12.

Mom and step-dad in my waiting room.

The lad described the beating and kicks by step-dad as mother watched. This, according to the lad was recently.

I called CAS, keeping the lad in my office.

I went to the waiting room to describe the situation to the parents.

Dad stood up to me wanting to see the lad. I stayed put, standing between him and the door.

I explained that if he left the waiting room, he would have to move me. I further explained that of he did so, I would call the police and advise of assault.

He backed down. I went on to say that they could explain matters to the CAS from their perspective, but I had no choice but to call.

I left them to stay with the lad in my office.

I quietly told Arlene that while the parents were welcome to leave, if they scare her in any way for anything, that she call 911.

There was no further incident.

CAS arrived and spoke with lad and then parents.

The lad was taken into care from my home office.

It is not uncommon for me to hear from men that growing up, their dad or step-dad was abusive of them or their moms.

I ask if/when it stopped.

Also not uncommon is when the fellow is mid to late teens and physically capable of intervening which means they get into a violent altercation with the dad/step-dad to protect themselves or mother.

In some of these types of cases, their mom remains in the relationship. The teen lad leaves home. They may couch surf a while. Hopefully land on their feet.

I can only hope my involvement that night leads to a better outcome for that lad.

I will never know.

Please. No violence…. of any kind.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

The Hit that Reverberated to Adulthood

Trigger warning. This post describes domestic violence.

———

She said she only saw her dad hit her mom once.

With that she dismissed the impact of domestic violence and downplayed the fact that with that hit, she and her mom learned never to cross him again. They acquiesced to his demands and forever walked on eggshells.

He continued to be a mean bully, but never did have to hit again because the fear from the one episode was enough to maintain his control on them.

She didn’t think this all affected her but called herself a people pleaser.

What she hadn’t realized is that people pleasing was a strategy learned beyond her awareness to keep others happy so she never again had to deal with the fear of another’s upset. A fear that included things escalating to physical violence.

That disposition of hers maintained her in a position where she could be easily exploited by others.

Indeed, she was with a man who did just that.

She tolerated far more than most others would and always felt the need to accept and tolerate the abuse of the man she was with.

It wasn’t until we put it all together and she recognized the connection to the abuse of her father did she realize she didn’t need any additional excuse to leave her partner. She had wanted to do but felt she hadn’t tried hard enough or given enough chances.

Those feelings were also the result of her father’s abuse, making everything feel like her fault and responsibility.

She only saw her mother hit once.

She hadn’t figured in all the demeaning, put downs, yelling screaming , slamming doors, throwing things, name calling, stinginess, jealousy… all other forms of domestic violence too, had also affected her.

In a sense her set point for what is unacceptable behavior was skewed much higher the result of having to tolerate and live with such behavior.

Because of that she then tolerated more than others would without even realizing it.

She only saw her mother hit once.

Indeed others haven’t seen a parent hit at all.

However they may have witnessed the aftermath: the walking on eggshells, the acquiescing of a parent to the rigid demands or mood of another, the bruises or broken objects.

All these things affect the child developing in that environment.

They learn skills to survive in the moment.

Those skills applied in adulthood though, often work against their favor by maintaining themselves in new but unacceptable situations.

She did learn. She did leave. It was a challenge.

In the end, she was grateful.

Domestic violence. It has long legs and can carry the effects into adulthood.

If you are in such a situation, please get help.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Child Between Separated Parents

The child was six or seven. I was seeing this child as part of an assessment to help the courts determine a parenting plan.

The child entered my office full of determination to tell me something, to get something off their mind.

The child told me who their preferred parent was and how much time they wanted to spend with that parent. The child offered their rationale, disparaging the other parent.

I told the child that was a lot to say and asked if anyone helped them remember.

It was the parent who drove the child to our meeting.

When I asked if they practiced during the ride over, the child indicated with big eyes, the whole ride over.

I told the child they did a good job and good tell their parent so. The child relaxed.

After that beginning, I then engaged the child in a conversation about the parent they had just disparaged. They loved that parent too and offered much information contradicting what they told as practiced.

I wrote the entire dialogue into my report.

FYI – I have used gender neutral terms because I have had this kind of conversations multiple times regarding kids and parents of all gender and sexual orientation.


Are you following me on Facebook yet? If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

That Sense of Abandonment

That sense of abandonment doesn’t mean someone left you intentionally.

It can also arise from a parent’s lack of availability.

That can be work, mental illness, hospitalizations, the distraction of life events.

It tends to be particularly impactful on the younger child, the infant, toddler, preschooler.

The child that young cannot make sense of the parent’s absense. They have yet to form the cognitive capacity to understand the circumstances. The child just lives through experience.

Then if it occurs time after time, it is difficult for that young a child to form a stable image of the parent.

The coming and going itself can be traumatic to this young child only seeking to be cared for consistently.

Although the parent is well-intentioned and even if reasonable when present, the child can still develop a sense of abandonment that haunts and brings concern to adult intimate relationships.

These issues can arise with the best of parents yet under challenging circumstances that affect availability.

With that we want to be mindful if there are numerous and extended parental absences.

That is also why for the child this you, we want frequent and regular contact between separated parents.

For the infant or toddler or preschooler, that week about parenting plan while perhaps good for the parent can wreak havoc on the little one’s mental health.


Follow me on Facebook! If not, you are missing many more posts!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.