I have weekly conversations with a parent who is always sharing with me the educational lectures she gives her child about his lack of concentration and idiosyncratic behaviors
and mannerisms. This parent is very big on techniques she thinks work but don’t. She parents by Logic, Lecturing, Educating, Explaining, Convincing, Proving and Pointing out.
All which are perceived by kids as criticism and pressure.
I can see she feels satisfied with how she handled things without ever really accomplishing a change or improvement in her child’s behavior. In the past I would try gently to suggest alternatives techniques but quickly stopped because she wasn’t in a place that was receptive to hearing new ideas. I also knew the school would eventually get involved in the child’s odd behavior. The child is now in weekly therapy at 500.00 a week and medicated for ADD.
Recently the moms short stories have started to change and she was questioning some of the things she was doing as a parent.
What made her start thinking differently, besides all the money she was spending was that, while her child got cured of His ADD, he was now starting to show some repetitive phobic behaviors.
When she asked me what I thought, I said “well now that they medicated him out of his lack of focus, without changing the parenting techniques used at home, he is developing alternative symptoms to express what’s not working for him.”
This time the mom was more open to hearing new techniques.
I suggested instead of telling him in explicit detail that a book isn’t toxic,or touching things or not touching things is safe, I suggested she should perceive his behavior as a unconscious message to her. A message the family is unaware of.
The message is about hidden feelings that are hard to cope with and parenting style-techniques that are not working for him.
The first few steps for every parent to make is:
One: a connection between parenting actions and a child’s behavior
Two: the connection between hidden feelings and a child’s behavior.
Three: Expert psychological help can really improve a family-child’s emotional health. (We wouldn’t hire a lawyer without a law degree yet the most important job in the world “parenting” is done without any degree’s )
If parents look at their child’s behavior as a message of hidden feelings plus emotional needs that aren’t being met, a parent can begin to solve the problems. I suggested explaining to her son “that germs and touching things or odd behaviors are a way of speaking up about things he didn’t like that his parents were doing. Or a message of concepts that need to be taught and learned in a helpful way. Behaviors are ways of expressing feelings one is unaware of that are hard!
Behaviors tell us what words cannot.
As Parents it’s important to learn from a child therapist how to translate odd behaviors into words and feelings, before you get to the diagnoses and medication place! Viewing odd behavior as a message gives parents a way out of the maze of symptoms, instead of going from one problem to the next.
Alternatives to Parenting by Logic,Yelling, Lecturing, Educating, Pressuring are:
Listening: repeating back! “love that you made new friend.”
Empathy: I am sorry that happened, that is hard.
Wondering: What can I do differently as a parent? Do I pressure my child too much to behave?
Do I spend enough emotional time with them ? Do I argue and disagree with what they tell me all the time.
Do I always tell them to do better?
Example ( You worked hard to make new friends! You can be proud of yourself!) Adding dont forget to keep it up is too much pressure and a criticism)
Teach Emotional Skills: spend 10 min a day with Feeling Town Map uncovering and talking about hidden feelings.
You will see a big change in your child’s behavior.
For the child
Name the symptom as a friend i.e. Tova Touch or Germy Germ etc
Tell child to bully the symptom say “no to it” ” leave me alone” start with once a day to say no leading to getting rid of it.
Create a time at night 15 minutes that they can do the ritual instead of during the day.
For more help on the topic please email me for a consult.
There are also many great books on the topic, I especially like the techniques in Tamar Chansky’s book.
The only issue I have with any of these books is they don’t get to the source of the problem.
There are great techniques to get rid of the problem but the books don’t give the parents the real solution that started the problem .
In the last two decades I have seen that without uncovering the underlying problem real solution will not be found.
Your child will just develop alternative symptoms after you cure one.
The idea is that behaviors are a message about your parenting: A message about your child’s emotional needs that are not being met and a message about hidden feelings that need decoding.
As always if we change our parenting our children will change!