Ya Know, You’re Just Like Your Father!

June 13, 2012 1 comment

As autonomous individuals we all strive to find our own form of independence, distinct and separate from our parents. This may come out in many forms, including the way we dress, our hair style, our taste in music or our interests and hobbies. However, there is a piece within us all that also strives to be somewhat like our parents. To be able to relate to our caregivers. Typically, our morals, beliefs, and coping skills are heavily influenced by what our parents teach us and model for us growing up. Our parents play an important role in the way we view ourselves and interact with the world around us.

However, what happens when our parents do not get along? Divorce plays a crucial role in a child’s development. What’s more is when a child is left in a predicament in which one parent is constantly degrading the other in front of the child. Parents, especially when divorced, can sometimes be left with a sense of bitterness that the child is left to hear and cope with.

Let us take this idea a step further. I’ve worked with many families of ugly divorces and I’ve noticed one thing that parents do that can be detrimental to bond development and behavior.

What happens when a parent dislikes the other parent so much that they compare the child’s negative behavior to that of the disliked parent?

 For example, a mother I had worked with in the past was left by her husband for a life of drugs and petty crime. The mother felt abandoned and betrayed in that the man she loved and stood by would leave her and her family for something like that. Her daughter, who grew up idealizing her father developed negative behaviors because she had trouble dealing with the loss of her dad in her life. Mom, who was desperately trying to protect her from what she thought was a similar path of her father, compared her to the father in saying that she, “was going to be a loser just like her father.” Or, would say, “what you’re doing is something your father would do.”

Another example, is of a mother who divorced her husband because he was locked away for 2 years due to drug distribution. The child was 7 at the time and was 11 when I began seeing the family. The mom admitted that she felt resentment towards her child because he looked, spoke, and even wrote like her ex-husband (their signatures were eerily similar). It got to the point at which every time the child would do something she considered wrong, she would be unable to tolerate him because of the similarities of the two.

So why do parents compare their child to the negative parent while speaking so poorly of them?

When a parent speaks negatively about the other, that parent typically believes they are doing it to provide proper guidance for the child and protect them. In discussing the negative aspects of the parent they wish to keep their child from harm by outlining for the child what their lives could look like. These parents believe that they can instill good judgment and proper behavior simply by vocalizing their anger and distaste for their ex. However, these parents are unaware of how counterproductive this method truly is. In fact, parents typically mistake their child’s increased negative behavior as rebellion and opposition which can, and typically does, perpetuate the situation.

So what do parents needs to know when they find themselves engaging in this type of behavior?

First:

Your child to some degree idealizes you both.

Although children try to establish their own identity by doing things that rub you the wrong way (dying their hair green and growing a Mohawk comes to mind) they still get their values and morals from you. Your parents are you caregivers. No matter how bad or neglectful a parent can be a child only has two parents. Sometimes we don’t get the parents we want, but children still hold them to their idealized standards. When a parent speaks so poorly of the other and then compares the child to the “bad” parent you are destroying the vision the child has for that parent and they can then internalize themselves as being “bad.”

Second:

By degrading and negatively labeling the other parent you are telling your child that half of who they are is “bad.”

Remember that genetics plays an important role in the creation of your child. Your child gets half of their genetic material from you and half from the other parent. When you tell your child that their other parent is “no good” you are telling the child that half of them is “no good” too. When a parent tells their child that their mother or father was a “no good, drug dealing, loser” we forget that the child does understand that they have inherited a portion of their mother/father’s genes. The child then can believe that they too are a “no good, drug dealing, loser.”

Third:

If you compare your child’s characteristics to a disliked parent, your child must live with that reminder for the rest of their lives.

Suppose your child barely knows or even dislikes the other parent as well (as in the second example above). The mother then points out that the “bad” parent has a similar signature to this parent. By coupling the child’s negative view of the parent to their own signature, it could be a daily reminder of a dark side of their being. They have inherited something they dislike, but must live with.

Knowing what your child might be thinking, where do we go from here?

When working with families of messy break-ups, especially those with children involved. It’s important for the parent to be honest with themselves and identify some of the counterproductive behaviors they are engaged in. Keeping these tips in mind when you feel yourself getting caught up in comparing your child to something you view as bad can help save your relationship with your child and keep the child thinking positively about themselves.

First:

Never verbalize that you’re comparing your child to someone you dislike.

When you do that the child will own the negative behaviors and resent you for the comparison. Keep the thoughts to yourself if you have them and seek out help to assist in dealing with these feelings. I don’t want to minimize the importance in recognizing that something about your child reminds you of someone you dislike. It’s important to be honest about it to yourself, but never take it out on your children.

Second:

If you find yourself having to be honest with your child in communicating something negative about the other parent, keep the conversation light. Do not insult the other parent and do not make the conversation heavy and angry. Take time to explain your viewpoint and leave harsh negative language out.

Third:

Remember that when you’re talking to your child they may still have positive feelings for the person you dislike. Validate those feelings for your child and don’t try to change their mind. Work with what your child is saying to you and make it a learning opportunity. The idea is not to have your child on your side. There is no winning team with families. Work together and let the child know it’s okay to have positive feelings for someone you don’t like as long as the thoughts are positive and cause no harm to anyone.

As your parents undoubtedly told you, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Keeping this in mind you can have a beneficial conversation with your children even if you dislike the other parent. Comparing your child to someone you dislike can only hurt your child and even though you may think that you’re saving them from future failure and distress. You may be causing more harm now than you think.

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Family Conflict: What Were We Fighting About Again?

April 11, 2012 2 comments

To get where you are going you have to know where to begin. This is the same for families in conflict. Often, in my work, I come across families that are in some state of conflict. However, the common complaint that every family has is that they don’t know where to start or how to begin the healing process. This often perpetuates conflict and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Realizing that there has to be a starting point is only a piece to this complicated puzzle. Another major caveat is trying to understand the underlying cause of the conflict. Conflict can take many forms, whether it is due to disagreements in wants or needs, a struggle for control in the home, or a difference in overall opinion on a given topic. These, although valid in their own right, are typically the tip of the metaphoric iceberg that is family conflict. In my experience, there tends to be something more hiding beneath the murky waters. Something that is much bigger and much more profound that has yet to be discovered or touched upon. Sometimes, conflicting families use the aforementioned common arguments to distract from “the untouchables” of the family conversation. In other words, families use these more superficial arguments as a means of distracting or excusing themselves from having the truly difficult conversations about the underlying issues. Typically this is an unconscious act. Smoke screens are created to dim and shade out the more emotionally charged underlying issues.

For example, the family has a common close relative that has recently passed away. All members of the family are feeling strong emotions and are trying to navigate the grieving process, but are having a difficult time communicating their emotions and providing support for one another (underlying issue).   For one child, the tragedy of the situation is causing him to perform weaker in school. This causes an argument in the home that escalates into fighting because the child is showing some signs of behavioral and academic problems (superficial). The family then becomes focused on arguing about the child’s grades because as long as they are fighting about the academic performance they are momentarily distracted from the grieving process and emotions associated with grief. For the time being, the family has something else to worry about and focus on.

In this instance, the family is using their current arguments to ensure family survival. The act of superficial conflict creates a means of expressing frustration, but keeps them from having to confront the underlying pain. “I don’t have time to grieve the loss; I’m too worried about Timmy’s grades!” “I can focus on the divorce later. Right now I’m focused on paying the bills. Everything’s so expensive!” Families tend to focus on using distraction as a coping skill and as long as the pain is averted for the time being, the family can function with relatively little emotional damage.

The challenge, then, becomes twofold. First, assisting the family in identifying the difference between the superficial and underlying arguments by clearing the smoke. The second, assisting the family, in communicating effectively to reduce the use of negative coping skills and foster communication and support.  In doing so, the family can minimize or extinguish distractive conflict and focus on personal growth and understanding, improving the overall dynamic.

It’s one thing to work on conflict in families, it’s another to attempt to identify and understand it. As with anything else, understanding conflict takes time and an ability to introspect (a talent that improves with practice). As the proverb states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” as does the path to understanding and resolving family conflict.

I’m An Individual, Just Like Everyone Else

“Oh my God, did you see what the Smith kid was wearing today?” How many times have you been out in your community and saw a teen wearing clothing that just doesn’t fit, whether it be physically or socially? Have you ever wondered what kind of parent would allow their son to go out with a dog collar and pink highlights, or their daughter with a T-shirt that is 3 sizes to small? Before you go and call the Department of Children and Families for parental negligence, think about what is actually going on. When a child dresses drastically there are a few possible causes, but the most common is the need to set themselves apart. When a child starts the change into a teen and eventually into an adult, there are emotional and social changes to go with the voice cracking and growth spurts. Teens develop a need to become an individual, usually by dressing just like their friends. The pattern within their dress is a balance between dressing like their friends and different from their parents. These two avenues provide a scope for kids to create a wardrobe. The checklist goes as follows, “Jerry” is wearing non matching neon socks, Check. My dad would never wear non matching neon socks, check. I need non matching neon socks. This mentality is common among teens but why?

How does one go about attaining individuality? What makes a person an individual? For many it’s a journey that takes years if not a lifetime, but in the beginning it often starts as a superficial experiment of trying new things out. In its most basic understanding, individuality is the separation from others on some scale. At age 13, who do you really know well enough to effectively create separation other than your parents? So that is often your starting point. As it is a superficial study in human behavior, most of the differences are on the surface, such as dress, music, and even food. These are choices that can be easily changed and are not necessarily deep reflections of an individual. For a lot of parents it can become extremely frustrating and the root for many arguments. It is a hard aspect of parenting to deal with an oppositional child who does everything they can to separate themselves from you. It is even harder to watch and listen as other judge your child for their outward appearance when they don’t know them. So here are a few tips for a parent dealing with a teen seeking individuality:

1)      Be supportive – Just because your son is dressed up like a gangster rapper, or your daughter is in all black doesn’t mean they are not your child anymore. Acknowledge the changes they are trying to make and support them. Don’t ignore them, or overemphasize them, but acknowledge the change. This helps to keep the line of communication open, and also exhibits the parent as a resource despite it all and will strengthen the relationship.

2)      Have thick Skin – Some parents will get upset when their kids act out and do everything in their power to separate themselves. Don’t take this as a personal affront. They are pushing you away because they know you will stick by them. It’s that trust in their parents that allow them to take the chances to become the independent individuals every parent wants to raise.

3)      Understand the root – Try to understand that your child is doing this to establish their own roots. Having the knowledge that your child is doing this to further themselves will help ease the pain of seeing your son newly vegan son on the couch in his new wizard cape watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

4)      Don’t Freak out – Remember that this is most likely a stage and as long as your kid is safe then it is beneficial to their growth. If your child is dressing funny and listening to bad music, but not doing drugs or partaking in other risky actions, things are going well.

We all go through stages, but they help us develop into functional well rounded adults. It allows us to really understand what we like and what we don’t. It can be extremely hard to deal with a teen, who is defining themselves, but just remember what that Monty Python phase has taught all of us and “always look on the bright side of life.”

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A Great Way to Define Who You Are

March 2, 2012 2 comments

Our Second Psych Nerd: Dr. Kenneth Texeira Ph.D.

Kenneth Texeira Ph.D. Is a coordinator and Psychology Professor at Quincy College in Plymouth.  His PhD is from Fordham University in Applied Developmental Psychology.  He has worked with research teams from Johns Hopkins University, Duke University and he has published academic articles in the areas of end of life care, spiritual needs, and bioethics. His primary focus is on personality and spirituality and how they are associated with mood.

 

I am a researcher and a professor of psychology.   When people find out what I do I am often asked if I am reading their minds or analyzing them.  In the past I used to say no, however I have  never found a way to make people feel at ease by explaining that I really can’t do that unless they tell me a great deal of personal information.  So, after many a skeptical reception to why I cannot read minds, I have given up, and now I just tell people I can read minds and  am doing it to them at that very moment.  I usually make a very intense face and do a Freud impression which looks something like a mad scientist (evil genius hand gestures are helpful), and I listen very carefully and shake my head at some imaginary information I sucked telepathically from their unconsciousness.  After a few seconds, people usually see how awkward and impossible it is and we have a good laugh.

Recently, though, it dawned on me that I do read people and the idea is not that farfetched at all.  Everyone does this.  When you meet someone for the first time you automatically process a ton of information about them.  You probably know fairly quickly whether if you like the person or not and if you ever want to deal with that person again.  What we are doing is forming impressions about personality.  The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with a theoretical framework to help provide insight into ourselves and to learn to categorize other people in a deeper and more meaningful way.  I hope that this will give the reader a perspective into how to better predict behavior and sharpen the skills that you use all of the time.

The internet is awash with many personality tests.  Every so often I have observed  waves of tests through social media that tell you what type of superhero you are, what celebrity you are and even which type of snack food you represent.  There are other tests that are more serious sounding, but just about as accurate.  I get asked what sign I am pretty often.  I usually say a “yield sign,” but in all seriousness astrology is another way people try to gain insight about themselves.  There is a even a personality test on my placemat every time I go to my favorite Chinese restaurant.   I recall that I am a snake so I should beware the monkey.  From my decade of research in the area I have concluded that there are better ways to understand personality.  The tests described above are flawed and inaccurate, but they provide some entertainment.

If everyone that was born on the same day or on the same year was similar maybe there would be some truth to these tests, but I don’t think there is any foundation to the prediction of behavior in astrology or on the Chinese zodiac.  So what is a good and useful psychology test of personality?  First, lets define personality.  Personality refers to an unobservable quality present within the individual that is thought to be responsible for that individual’s observable behavior (Whitbourne, 2005).  Prediction of behavior is the goal of psychology so it is no wonder that most of the famous psychologists were also personality researchers.  Freud, Erikson, and others were all interested in personality.

Perhaps the most dominant theory in personality today is trait theory.  McCrae and Costa (1988) define personality traits as a set of characteristic dispositions.  There has been a great deal of research over the last 60 years on how many factors (or pieces) there should be in personality, but the following five factors tend to work pretty well.

The five factors include extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness (Costa & McCrae, 1992).  An easy way to remember these is to think of the word OCEAN.  Each of the five factors begins with one of these letters.  Now let me explain what these factors are and what they represent.

Openness to experience refers to an active imagination and preferences in variety in the environment.  In an earlier version of personality a researcher named Eyesnick wrote of this trait in a very fond and interesting way.  He believed that openness to experience was an important part of the personality in order to learn new things, and even to have religious and spiritual experiences.  Each trait is on a continuum. For example, my father is very low in openness.  My dad loves routine; if he goes to a restaurant he always orders the same thing.  He would not want to try an exotic food and when asked if he will eat squid he always says, “no I won’t eat anything that won’t let go of my plate first.”

The next personality trait is conscientiousness.  Whether you realize it or not, when you show up to a job interview you are trying to look as neat and organized as possible.  We want to be on time, dress nicely, bring a nice mistake free resume, and even take notes.  Conscientiousness is a quality you would want in an executive assistant, the person preparing your taxes, and hopefully the auditor that files them at the IRS.  Attention to detail is a big part of this but so is achievement motivation.  People who want to do a good job on something because they have to,  will have a high dose of this.  If you are struggling with a teenager (or spouse) who doesn’t want to find a job you may wish that this trait could be given in pill form.

Extraversion is one of my favorite personality traits because there is no other psychological theory that is more associated with positive mood or happiness than this one.  People who are high in extraversion have emotional stability.  They tend to be warm, outgoing, and like positive engagement with people.  On the other hand people who are low in this trait tend to have more difficulty in themselves and with other people.  I happen to be really extraverted and teaching classes for me is fun and exhilarating.  If you don’t like meeting new people, or simply really need a large amount of alone time you may not be high on this trait.

Agreeableness reflects a tendency toward being open and straightforward.  Those who are high on this trait tend to nurture others and are sensitive to interpersonal conflict.  If you like to debate points and find yourself disagreeing and in interpersonal conflict you may be on the low side of this continuum.

The last personality trait is neuroticism.  Every character in the show Seinfeld was very high in this trait.   People who are high in this trait have an increased sensitivity to negative stimulus in the environment.  If you think about it, most of the information that you receive on a daily basis is neither good or bad.  We have to decide whether or not we see the information as good or bad.  If you order coffee and they are out of your favorite sweetener you will lose your mind if you are high in neuroticism.  Grey (1991) theorized that extraversion and neuroticism may reflect a part of your brain responsible for approach or avoidance.  Someone high in neuroticism has extra sensitivity to this avoidance system so they process information as negative and withdraw from situations more frequently.     Being very low on any of these traits including neuroticism is not necessarily a good thing.   Adolescents who get into trouble with the law tend to be very low in neuroticism.  It’s ok to have a healthy fear of consequences but if fear cripples us then we may want to get some help in this area.

Now that you have all of the five big factor traits in a understandable format let’s take this one step further.  I like to think of the late and wonderful Bob Ross when I explain this theory to my students.  Remember the guy who painted the happy little tree? That was Bob, if he is not a good example for you, think of a painter.  What if each one of these traits were like a color on a painters pallet?  We can paint a person’s personality.  We will have combinations of any of these traits and it makes us all unique.  These tend to be stable and not very changeable, so since we cannot do much to change our personalities, we can examine how our personality fits into the world we create for ourselves.

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Finding the Beauty in the Unexpected

March 2, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently met with a mother who is currently having trouble trying to understand her child and some of the reasons why he does what he does. During our session she expressed how difficult it can be to raise a child with a disability. We discussed some of the ways in which she categorizes disability and what the concept of “disability” means to her. She expressed a feeling of sadness, but also stated that she feels as though she has accepted some of the difficulties that her life may bring. She mentioned a poem by Emily Pearl Kingsley entitled, “Welcome to Holland.” The theme of the poem is how being the parent of a child with a disability is unexpected and challenging, yet special and rewarding. The poem compares raising a child with a disability to planning a trip to Italy. The family waits their whole life to take this one trip. A trip to a place they have planned and dreamed of. The family makes sure they plan every minute. Hours of research and time goes into planning for this trip. Then, they get on the plane, fly for hours, and once they touch down the stewardess greets them at the door and says, “Welcome to Holland!” The family then becomes upset and confused because they were supposed to be in Italy. They’ve waited their whole life to get there, only to have something different happen. The family, in the end, sees the beauty of Holland, and although it may not have been expected, they find value in their new destination.

Hearing this story makes me think of some of the struggles that families must go through when trying to make sense of how their lives have turned out. Sometimes we may feel as though we’ve been cheated in some way; that somehow our life hasn’t turned out the way it was supposed to.

Keeping this in mind, I wonder what it is that you value in your life? How are you able to show yourself that there is beauty in some of the things that may not seem so special? Do you ever take time to sit back and work on yourself?

As you read this, I want you to think about the very first post ever written on this blog. It discusses resolutions for the New Year and things to keep in mind when making a New Year’s Resolution. Take some time and reflect on how far you’ve come. Have you continued to make progress towards those goals? If no, then why not? What’s getting in the way of making that precious step towards a better you?

The idea behind Emily Pearl Kingsley’s poem is to help put into perspective what it is like for parents who raise kids with disabilities, but it can be expanded upon much further. It is really a metaphor for anyone who feels as though things just didn’t work out the way you wanted them to.  As a result, let us take a first step towards getting you there!

1.)    Identify what is bothering you or something you’d like to change about your life.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to. SO WHAT! Make your own fate. If things don’t work out there is always a way around it! Stay positive and be innovative. Sitting down and accepting this is not going to get you anywhere closer to your goal. In some cases, it’s as simple as changing your attitude towards the situation.

2.)    Stop with the negative self talk!

We call this ruminating. Stop talking yourself out of things. Keep yourself positive and shut down that inner voice that tells you how bad or how hard something is. We already know it’s hard, but if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it right?

3.)    Take that scary first step.

Nobody is going to do this for you. Move forward with confidence. In fact, it’s normal to feel scared – it would be weird if you didn’t. Accept the fact that the worst that can happen is you fail (use that as a learning experience), the best thing is that you will succeed and achieve your goals.

4.)    Take a moment after to praise yourself.

As adults, it is hard to find positive reinforcement. While we were growing up, our parents and teachers gave us gold stars when we did something nice. As adults, our bosses expect that a paycheck at the end of the week is good enough to say job well done. So, that being said, adults must put in effort to allow ourselves to be rewarded. If you don’t do it, then nobody will.

The poem may discuss the outlook of raising kids with disabilities, but it does much more in communicating the feelings associated with having your life turn out a bit different than what you had anticipated. So the next time you’re coming off that runway, upset that you won’t have the opportunity to visit the Coliseum, remember that if you take a moment to really look around, Holland’s a pretty beautiful place too.

Effective Goal Setting: How To Make Your Goals More Attainable

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Effective goal setting is the key to success. However, we often make goals for ourselves that are counter-productive to what we truly wish to achieve. Setting goals ineffectively can lead to adverse outcomes and can sometimes cause more confusion than relief.  Here are some tips on how to successfully make goals.

1.)    Clearly define what you want to accomplish.

Don’t make goals that are ambiguous. Clearly define what it is that you are looking to do. If goals are too vague you won’t have a place to start, let alone know how to get there. By making goals that are easily defined you can then take the proper steps to understand how and where to go.

2.)    Make goals that are realistic and accomplishable.

Too often individuals make goals that are too idealistic and, quite frankly, hard to attain. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a goal of one day living in a 1.8 million dollar home with a fleet of high-end Mercedes in your driveway (if that is what is important to you). However, how about starting off small? How about we start off with goals that may include getting a job in a field you enjoy, gaining the proper education or skill set to gain proper experience, or simply, setting a priority list (which is the perfect segue into the next point).

3.)    Set priorities (Make To-Do lists!)

Although you may have a nice set of goals that you would like to accomplish, there may be too many to choose from. Why not set priorities to help you organize what exactly you would like to achieve? Try not to list, as your first priority, achieving your vision of an ideal family. Why not set a goal of having a family get-together at least once a week? Ask your family members to not schedule anything in their planners on one specific evening per week and have the family gather. Then, work from there. Make a tangible set of goals for your family to accomplish. Now that you have the family getting together once a week, try to focus on another aspect of your family functioning, such as the conversation in the home. Then maybe set a goal of having a weekly movie night. As you progress through the list of goals, it will help facilitate a new dynamic in the home, and may make your top priority an easier and more fluid transition.

4.)    Set timelines/deadlines

It is one thing to have qualitative goals to work towards (that is, observational goals that cannot be touched or gauged numerically), but being able to quantify portions of these goals (having goals that you can set a numerical value to) helps to set the pace and give you something to work for. Deadlines and timelines provide consistency and give the goal maker a sense of organization, predictability and consistency. If your attitudes towards goals are more “laissez faire” than “get me there,” it becomes harder to stay motivated and involved. Setting timelines and deadlines also helps you stay focused. For example, if you know that a school paper is due on a particular date, you are more likely to get that paper accomplished by or before that date. On the other hand, if a teacher states that you can pass in a paper at any point during the semester, how many people do you think will be writing their paper the night before the semester ends?   Setting timelines and deadlines to accomplish goals assists in helping the goal maker more properly organize and prioritize their ambitions.

5.)    Do not set goals that overlap or negate one another.

In other words, you should not set goals that may have a negative impact on one or more of your other goals. If your goal is to buy a house for $400,000, but you only make $50,000 a year, than the goal that you set does not align with the practicality of your life. It may be reasonable to set a goal of obtaining a $400,000 home, but if you are basing this goal solely off of an incomparable income, than your goal is missing a few steps. You need to realign your goals and set smaller steps in between.

6.)    Your goals should have a positive attitude.

Try and stay “strength based.” Focus on the positive side of the goals. Do not set goals with a negative connotation. Negative thinking leads to negative experience. If you feel dark emotionally, the day may feel a bit more cloudy than usual. However, the opposite works as well.  If you attack your goals sheet with a positive outlook, you will feel better and more motivated to accomplish these goals as you progress.

Goals are an important aspect in one’s life. Goals are what help us organize and achieve some equilibrium in our lives. Although these are not listed above, here are some other very important facets of getting goals accomplished. First, WRITE THEM DOWN. Write down goals so you can not only remember them, but you can also organize them into a more tangible list. USE SUPPORTS, if necessary. Although there are many goals that you may be privately working on, don’t be afraid to ask others for help or support in accomplishing some of them. You have friends and family in your life for a reason. Don’t forget they are there! REWARD YOURSELF. You’ve accomplished some goals, you deserve something special. Positive reinforcement is a great way of continuing positive behavior. However, don’t reward yourself with something that will, again, negate one of your goals. Just because you’ve obtained your goal of losing 10 pounds through proper eating and exercise does not mean you should reward yourself by binge eating because “you deserve it.” Find other ways to constructively reward yourself.

Use these techniques and you will find that setting and attaining your goals is easier than you thought.

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A Faceless Crime

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking scenarios for a parent to experience is the bullying of their child. Add the internet to the equation, and bullying becomes a formidable foe for any parent trying to protect their child’s happiness and innocence. With the advent of Myspace, Twitter and the almighty Facebook, the internet gave bullies an anonymous avenue in which to attack others. Cyber bullying can take the form of a fleeting post for others to see, or it can be tenuous ordeal which may lead to a heartbreaking outcome. There is a shocking growth in the consistency of national news stories where children are taking their own lives in reaction to bullying. The battle against online bullying is especially troubling to parents of the current generation as it is in an unfamiliar realm. Although there are a fair amount of parents who are literate in these online sites, there are many others who struggle. This article was written in hopes of educating parents both in the warning signs of cyber bullying and in ways to help their child deal with it.

1)      Be aware of your child’s mood – In many cases, the first indicator that can clue a parent into a bullying problem is a marked change in their behaviors and moods. Parents often dismiss child mood changes as just being another symptom of teenager-hood, but there could be a cause for the mood discrepancy that’s more concrete than teenage hormones. Have conversations with your kids, especially if you see changes in their mood.

2)      Keep an open line of communication – This is often an underrated aspect of identifying the issue at hand. Being available for your child to talk about what is bothering them will undoubtedly expedite the process in identifying bullying troubles. It goes without saying that teenagers are tough to talk to and can shut down easily, but reassurance that you are a sounding board for any issues they are having will help.

3)      Educate Yourself – One of the biggest issues parents face in dealing with cyber bullying is ignorance around social networking and other online aspects of a child’s life. This is not to say that parents must create a Facebook account and maintain it with the religious intensity that their teens do, but increasing awareness is always useful. Parents should be aware of how these websites work, and, if possible, have a way to keep tabs on their child’s activity. This point needs to be clarified: although parents have every right to monitor their child’s activity, it is a lesson in trust that makes it effective. Parents know best about their child, but if they prefer their privacy, be respectful of that and keep online interactions to a minimum. Keep the requests of bags of seed for you farm to your friends and let your child have their own space.

Now that you have identified that bullying is an issue for your teen, how are you going to help them through it?

1)      Always take the high road – Bullies are looking for a reaction, and when they get one, they will continue to exploit it. If you or your child is being bullied take what the bullying is saying with a grain of salt and ignore it. Like a hungry animal, once bullies realize they won’t get what they are looking for, they will usually move on.

2)      Never retaliate – It can be easy to think of a great dig for that short kid in chemistry class who posted that you smell like a bag of week old hot dogs, but it only hurts the situation. Responding to a bully not only keeps the cycle alive, but responding can easily turn from defense to bullying in return. Don’t stoop down to their level; remember that you are the victim.

3)      Always save incidences of bullying – The one good thing about cyber bullying is that it leaves a trail. It is important to make note and save the bullying incidents as they can be presented to authorities later on.

4)      Go to the authorities – With the recent increase in awareness of cyber bullying most schools and organizations have procedures in place to stop bullying. Let the teachers and authority figures utilize their training and put the ball in their court.

5)      Be thankful for what you have – In most cases cyber bullying is rooted in the insecurities of the bully. Bullies see what another kid has and attack them in order to make them feel better about themselves. It is important to not lose sight of what you have because it is often what causes you to be a victim. Bullies try to make strengths into weaknesses in order to brighten their outlook in their own mind. So the next time you have an issue with a bully, remember that it probably has way less to do with your 4.0 GPA and way more to do with their 1.3.

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