Month: September 2009

How Kids Control You With Their Behavior

“My son can be the sweetest, most awesome kid in the world,” says Tracy of 10-year-old Jarrett. “But he has ADHD, and he totally uses it to his advantage with us. He would have huge meltdowns when we asked him to go to bed and shut off the light.” The Phoenix-area mom recalls the night Jarrett’s meltdowns went over the top. “One night he had the biggest fit ever. He wound up throwing everything out of his room, including his mattress. He punched a hole in the wall and broke the door. We had just started The Total Transformation...

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When is it Helpful to Apologize?

“When it is helpful to apologize?” asked Patricia, a client of mine, in one of our phone sessions. Her husband, Brent, often expected her to apologize and she was confused about when it was appropriate. The answer to this question is a little complex, because there are two different reasons that people apologize: Sometimes people apologize to try to have control over the other person. If the other person has indicated that they expect an apology and you give it to them, whether or not you feel apologetic or feel that you have anything to apologize for, then you...

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The Difference Between Irresponsible And Responsible Exercises Of Parental Authority

For six years I assessed the mental health treatment needs of adults who get caught in the revolving door to a state criminal justice system in New England. In piecing together the histories of these clients I spoke with their parents when opportunities arose. What was often the case during these interviews is that these parents pled ignorance as to how events in the lives of their families impacted their children. Clearly, these parents were either unwilling and/or unable to empathize and build bridges to their children’s rich inner worlds. This is why these parents remained at a loss to chronicle the emotional histories of their grown children. These interviews have been instructive in teaching me how these parents lost control of their kids when they were old enough to survive outside the home. The desire to please their parents in order to receive valuable nurturance was extinguished early on. Their children may have paid lip service to them but, for all intents and purposes by age 14 or so most of these kids stopped listening to their parents altogether. By that time, as they probably saw it, they had nothing left to lose. These victims of parental indifference and abuse were soon primed to demand reparations from an unsuspecting community that was about to pay dearly for what these children felt robbed of growing up. One doesn’t behave...

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Does Psychotherapy Work?

Many years ago, when I became a psychotherapist, all I knew was the traditional psychotherapy that I had learned in school, and that I had personally experienced with many different therapists and many different forms of therapy. For 18 years I practiced what I had learned, and I was never happy with the results. I saw that people often felt better for the moment, or resolved a particular issue, but that when new issues came up, they didn’t have a process for dealing with them. In all the years of my own therapy, I had never learned a process...

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Are You at War with a Defiant Child?

Do you ever feel as if your relationship with your child has become one long, drawn-out (and exhausting) power struggle? If you’re in this situation, it probably seems like you simply progress from nagging your child over dirty laundry on the floor in the morning to arguing over bedtime at night. As they get older, power struggles get more entrenched as your child pushes against the rules: they start asking for things like the keys to the car and permission to go to all-night parties, “because all their friends’ parents said ‘yes.'” In Part I of this two-part series by James Lehman, MSW, you’ll see why the struggle for power is an inherent part of growing up, and learn how to tell if the resistance you’re getting from your child is normal or if it’s crossed the line into defiance and needs to be addressed. (And stay tuned for Part II, where James will give you hands-on advice about how to defuse defiant power struggles!) Power is one of the strategies people use to get their needs and wants met. As children grow, you will see them trying to gain power in order to get more autonomy and control over their lives. When your child was an infant, you had almost all the power. He communicated that he was hungry or uncomfortable by crying; that was the only power...

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