Category Archives: ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)

What Kids and Teens Are Capable Of! (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, counselor and author, believes strongly that kids and teens have great capacity to be self-reliant if given the opportunity. He shares here what he has observed, learned and encouraged.
Every Tuesday, Greg posts, through his website blog (link), an inspiring story about a self-reliant youth and their contribution to others. He also invites your questions and input on how we can best “set the life stage” for self-reliance building in all youth.
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Ask yourself this question, as you consider if you are open to having your beliefs challenged:

What do I truly believe kids and teens are capable of in the arena of self-reliant action and contribution from the earliest ages?

In my most recent book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, I explain how I hold an unshakable belief in the capabilities and wisdom of young people, knowing that they can indeed manifest their “I-am-a-one-of-a-kind-human-masterpiece” status!

A FIRST STEP

As a counselor, I strive to see that my work stays rooted in dignity, respect, and compassion. In turn, I’m frequently privileged to watch the process of self-directed change begin to take place in my office. As an example, consider the day when a 12-year-old said this to me:

I was sitting in church the other day and started thinking, if I don’t start acting different I’m going to have a miserable life.

That was a first step on a remarkable journey of self-empowerment for that child. I wish for you, also, a part in a inspiring and fulfilling adventure like this one.

Raising self-reliant children is more important than ever. Change and confusion are constants; there’s no doubt this modern world is increasingly difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, our culture provides little in the way of a tangible, practical, and comprehensive road map for the child traveler. Honestly, that was my mission with this book … to provide a kind of road map.

Rebecca

I had not been counseling long when I met a small, freckle-faced, nine-year-old girl named Rebecca. She did something during our first meeting that I will never forget, and I want to share her story as a way to introduce the power of these ideas.

To begin the conversation about the trouble at home, I said:

Rebecca, your mother is calling the trouble “crying and tantrums.” Is that what you call it or do you have a different name?

“I call it ‘having the fits,’” Rebecca said. From then on, we used Rebecca’s words to describe the trouble.

To gauge her willingness, I asked Rebecca:

Do you think having the fits has taken over your life, or do you think you can still fight against the fits?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonIn the next moment, only about ten minutes into our first meeting, Rebecca jumped out of her chair, stood up straight and announced:

I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up!

Just as quickly as Rebecca had made up her mind, I began to get in her way with my doubt. I thought how my professors didn’t teach me about the possibility of change occurring quickly … and certainly not instantly!

I wondered how this nine-year-old girl had figured out what to do about her very troubling behavior within the first few minutes of our first meeting. I began asking her, in a variety of ways, if she was sure that this is all it would take for her life to be better. Within a few minutes, I could see that she was certain.

Fortunately for Rebecca, I had the good sense to stop asking her more questions and just be quiet.

Interactions like this launched my What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! blog-post series. Content also will be related to taking some pressure off parents, teachers and counselors by providing a box full of practical tools as they engage in the adventure of “creating” self-reliant youth that can contribute to the world all along the getting-on-with-growing-UP pathway.

It is my hope you will find this resource helpful and inspiring, and that you will tell others about it. ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work, his book and the blog mentioned in this article, go to his website, selfreliantkids.com.

 

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Self-Reliance: What Are Our Children Capable Of? (Greg Warburton)

The Changing Behavior NetworkIn this article, Greg Warburton, experienced counselor and author of Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, offers great insights into redirecting behavior problems by encouraging youngsters to become more self-reliant. This account comes from the book.

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Children instinctively want to do things by themselves at very early ages. Remember the “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” call of the toddler?

Self-Reliance: What Are Our Children Capable Of? Greg WarburtonHow can parents foster rather than diminish their children’s early interest in self-reliant action and lead them toward a life of positive contribution? You will read in this story how self-reliant thought and action emerges for a six-year old when I set the stage with creative language, curiosity, quality questions and a belief in their capabilities.

Mary

I had been asked to meet with six-year-old Mary because her crying and inconsolability were increasing as her mother left for work each day. Mom had recently gone back to work because the family needed the extra money, but she was thinking of quitting her new job so she could again stay home and take care of Mary.

Three Special Questions

At our first meeting, Mary looked so small she almost disappeared as she sat on the edge of my office couch, feet dangling far above the floor. She earnestly listened to my three foundational questions. These quality questions, in which I used word-picture language, put the light of attention on Mary’s getting-on-with-growing-up challenge and instantly provided some practice for self-reliance, as viewed in her responses.

(Question #1) Have you made up your own mind about whether you plan to get on with growing up or growing down?

Growing up.

(Question #2) Are you the kind of child who likes to do your own thinking, or do you let others think for you?

Do my own thinking.

(Question #3) Are you the boss of your own life, or do you let others boss you?

(appearing amused): I’m the boss.

In an effort to understand Mary’s interpretation of the behavior trouble at home, I asked, “What do you call what you are doing that has your mother so upset?”

Mary’s word for the troubling behavior that was jeopardizing the family’s financial plans was CRYING, so I asked, “Can you be the boss of crying, or is crying the boss of you?”

“I can be the boss of crying,” Mary said.

Her answer was one indicator that, although this was only our first meeting, this young lady was starting to make up her mind to get on with growing up.

Another Question

As we began our second meeting, however, it was clear that the troubling behavior was continuing. Mary sat in my office with her head down. I asked her a very challenging question:

Mary, how much longer do you plan to practice crying when your mom leaves for work?

She was silent, still looking into her lap.

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonBelieving that she heard my question, I waited beyond the point of comfortable silence, yet she remained silent. I was getting ready to check in with her when she suddenly looked up at me with bright eyes, then clearly said, “I know I can’t keep crying for my whole life. I know I can’t always have my mom.”

At our next meeting, I asked Mary if things were better, the same, or worse with the crying trouble. Mary told me that she had stopped crying when her mother left for work, adding, “It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.” Telling herself the truth and admitting to herself what she had been experiencing led her to life-changing awareness at age six.

Recording “Growing Up” News

During a follow-up meeting with Mary’s parents, Mary and I had put her big ideas on big paper. (I playfully use chart-pack size paper to record growing-up news.) One of her parents took the big paper filled with her growing-up news out to their car, because Mary had said she wanted to put it up at home.

As we were discussing her progress with her parents, Mary announced that she had another idea to write on her paper. Neither of Mary’s parents were eager to go back out to their car to get the paper and bring it back into my office. They suggested they could just add the idea when they got home. But Mary stood firm and convinced us that she was serious and wanted to add her idea right then.

Given her insistence, we were all quite curious about why this was suddenly so important to Mary. Her father went out to the car and brought the paper back into my office. When we were all resettled, I asked Mary what idea she wanted to add.

“Do My Own Thinking,” she exclaimed.

I still remember feeling excited and emotionally moved by the fact that Mary knew that she could take charge of her life. No one asked her to do her own thinking about adding “Do My Own Thinking” to her list of big ideas; rather, she had begun taking charge of her life at age six! She now had a road map for how to help herself get on with growing up.

Children have the resources and innate abilities to handle whatever comes along. A parent’s task, then, is to assist children in getting clearer about their capabilities and practicing, practicing, practicing “I Can” thinking. They develop self-reliance when they are allowed to practice thinking and deciding for themselves, plus the successful completion of the tasks and activities they choose. ###

Speakers Group MemberGreg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].

Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

 

Addiction and divorce can both cause confusion and conflict in the lives of children. Rosalind Sedacca has insights that can help. The Changing Behavior Network presents, “Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset.”

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Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset, Rosalind Sedacca Getting divorced and exploring the realities of co-parenting ahead? Life after divorce can be enormously complex; it’s especially challenging for parents who are coping with addiction issues and their consequences.

Cooperative co-parenting is always best for your children. It is easier for them to accept life after divorce when they have access, love and attention from both parents. Post-divorce co-parenting with an addict makes this process more complicated, especially if one parent is not fully dependable, trustworthy or responsible.

Common Parental Issues Following Divorce

Difficulties can be compounded by the many issues all parents face following a divorce:

• Both parents are bringing the raw emotions resulting from the divorce into a new stage in their lives.

• Mom and Dad are also bringing previous baggage from the marriage (ongoing conflicts, major disputes, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations) into the mix as they negotiate a co-parenting plan.

• Both parents are vying for the respect and love of the children, They are easily tempted to slant their parenting decisions in the direction that wins them popularity with the kids.

• Anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement can impact and influence levels of cooperation in the months and years to come.

• Parents may disagree about major issues ahead that weren’t part of the parenting dynamic in the past: visits and sleepovers with friends, scheduling after-school activities, handling curfews, new behavior problems, consequences for smoking, drinking and drug use, dating parameters, using the car, and scheduling vacation time.

• Parents may not share values and visions for the children as they grow, and they may also not agree on the plan of action required to honor those values.

Challenges

When challenges appear, parents might find themselves struggling to find ways of coping. Agreement on how to co-parent effectively in the present and the future is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication, both verbal and written, as well as regular connections via phone, email or in person. It also takes a commitment to make co-parenting work because you both want it to.

The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are very likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement or unity, pitting Mom and Dad against one another while they eagerly take advantage of the situation. This is a danger sign that can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent is prepared to handle.

Addiction: Another Layer of Confusion

Addiction problems bring another layer of confusion. The addicted parent may not be granted shared custody and may have limited visitation. I encourage these parents to take advantage of video chats, emails, texting and other options today’s technology offers to support close parent-child connection.

It is essential that both parents always keep their promises and show up on time. Disappointments deeply hurt children. They will lose their trust and respect for a parent, which is hard to earn back. Don’t make agreements you can’t live up to. And never show up intoxicated or unprepared to parent, but be fully focused on your children and their needs.

When Mom and Dad are on the same page, they can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. These parents agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and shared intentions regarding their children. They discuss areas of disagreement and find solutions they can both live with, or agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.

If meals with Mom are vastly different than food offerings during time with Dad, that can still work if both parents respect the differences and let the children know it’s all okay. When differences become an area of high conflict, that’s when the kids can get hurt, being caught between battling parental egos. Children are confused and often feel guilty in battling parent situations, which rarely leads to any good within the post-divorce family structure.

Rosalind Sedacca, Parenting Beyond DivorceWhen to Consider Professional Support

Get professional support to guide you if you’re uncomfortable when the kids are with your co-parent. Discuss your options objectively. Sometimes we’re so caught up in past situations we can’t create workable solutions for co-parenting success without the assistance of a divorce mediator, therapist or mentor experienced with addiction and its challenges.

Keep in mind that when you’re more open and receptive to your co-parent, you are more likely to get what you really want in the end. Good listening skills, flexibility and the commitment to do what’s best on behalf of your children are part of a smart co-parenting mindset. Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults. ###

 

Speakers Group Member, Rosalind SedaccaRosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach/Mentor and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She’s author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? and co-host of The Divorce View Talk Show and podcast. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her mentoring services and other valuable resources on mastering child-centered divorce, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters (Dr. James Sutton)

BTCounselorEvery counselor, clinician or therapist knows of the challenge of working with a youngster that is determined to be uncooperative and resistant. Here’s a strategy that can get things started; it come from Dr. James Sutton‘s book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. We present, “10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters.”
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Let’s face it. If you happen to be working with an oppositional and defiant youngster, it’s highly likely the child will show up at your door with a bit of “encouragement” from some authority figure that has maxed out on this kid’s behavior. They are not exactly candidates for self-referral.

10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters (Dr. James Sutton)Most of these youngsters are expecting just about anything except a positive experience from you. The bright ones have already planned their next three or four moves based on how they assume things are going to go. Here’s an idea that shakes up what they expect while it stack more control on your side. In the process, it also supports a stronger counseling relationship (what clinicians call a “therapeutic alliance”). I call this little intervention the “10-Minute Solution.”

10-Minute Solution

The “10-Minute Solution” recognized that short visits, especially initial ones, can be more productive than longer ones. Ten minutes skillfully used by the counselor can cover a lot of ground and build a bond with a child or teen. I’ve used it many times.

How It Works

Here’s how it works. When a youngster shows up for the session, the counselor (clinican, therapist, etc) says something like this:

You know, I’m VERY sorry. I have a meeting I must to go to in ten minutes, so this visit will need to be a short one. I only have ten minutes to spend with you today. Is that alright?

clock(This example mentions a meeting to go to, but it can be anything that presses on your time. Obviously, a little planning here can make this an authentic statement.)

Is it alright? OF COURSE it’s alright. This kid didn’t really want to be there in the FIRST place. He’s already anticipated a ton of questions he didn’t want to answer. Shorter to him definitely is better. Heck, I’d even seat him where he can watch the clock click down those ten minutes.

Why It Works

It’s always amazed me how much a youngster will say and share when he knows there’s already an up-front limit to it. In other words, he’s thinking: “However tough this gets, I only have to tolerate ten minutes of it.”

It’s been my experience that a youngster will share a lot in a short period of time using this approach, and he generally will be more direct and honest in those responses. As always, my aim with this approach is to collect material that can be addressed in subsequent session.

The best interventions are always high in “next time” value. ###

 

SixtyWaysCounselDr. James Sutton is a semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child, the source of this intervention, CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

How to Be A Great Parent (Guest: Dr. Nancy Buck)

Dr. Nancy Buck, Peaceful ParentingThere is plenty of evidence to show that the brain processes negative factors quicker, longer and with more gusto than it processes the positive. We tend not to reflect on things that are going well, but just look at what we do when events and circumstances cause us concern.

What does this mean regarding how we communicate with our children and students? Answer: Just about EVERYTHING. Welcome to “How to Be a Great Parent.”

A Clash of Priorities

According to our guest on this program, developmental psychologist Dr. Nancy Buck, we want our kids to be SAFE. Our children, however, want to have FUN. These distinctly different priorities can clash into conflict. (It happens often, doesn’t it?) Nancy will show us how our typical responses in these situations can take a toll. In the process of unintended difficulty, relationships suffer.

How to Be a Great Parent, Nancy Buck

Understanding Wants and Needs

In this fast-paced and stimulating program, Nancy provides the research and rationale for better understanding a child’s wants and needs, as well as methods for redirecting youngsters in ways that are more successful and more pleasant. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it.

Dr. Nancy Buck

Dr. Nancy Buck is the founder of Peaceful Parenting, Inc. She blogs regularly for Psychology Today, and she’s an in-demand speaker and presenter on the topic of effective parenting. Nancy is the author of the acclaimed book, Peaceful Parenting, as well as a just-released work, How to be a Great Parent: Understanding Your Child’s Wants and Needs. (29:17)

htpp://www.peacefulparenting.com

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Great Interventions Take Practice (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, Ask More Tell LessFor years, I have been encouraging people of all ages to consider diligently practicing changes in thinking and/or behavior, ideally, with an attitude of mastery. Indeed, great interventions take practice.

We seem to be clear about the value of diligently practicing physical skills and technique in athletics, music and art. At the same time, however, we seem to be much less clear, or even unaware, about the need to practice using different parenting interventions or changes in thinking. Making a decision to diligently practice in these arenas will pay off.

A Need for Change

Let me share an example from my book, Ask More, Tell Less (Chapter Ten, “Drastically Decrease Lectures and Speeches”). Perhaps you have heard a child say something like, “I’m dumb,” or “I’m stupid,” or “I can’t learn.” In lecture mode, the conversation might go something like this:

(Parent) No, you’re not. You can do a lot of things and you’re smart. I don’t want you to keep saying those things about yourself. You know you won’t ever do well thinking that way. Besides, I don’t like seeing you so upset, so stop talking that way. Why do you keep saying such negative things about yourself anyway?

(Child) I don’t know.

(Parent) Well, please stop talking like that.

 

Here the beginning practice is noticing to build awareness; this type of parental communication shuts down the conversation and leaves the child powerless to think and decide for himself? Who is doing the thinking and talking in this example?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonA New Framework

To create a framework for practicing in this arena of thinking/belief change, you might think in terms of the work-out language of physically “doing reps.” So one should begin parental practice by thinking in terms of doing thought-and-feeling-watching reps and mental-shift reps just like the reps in physical skill practices. You can decide to notice your thoughts and feelings 10, 20, 50 or 100 times a day, plus whether or not you need to make a mental shift from DON’T lecture unnecessarily to DO ask quality questions. Based on what thoughts your noticing practice produces, you can ask one additional question: “Will this thought/belief work for me or against me in achieving what I want in this situation with my child?”

Quality Question-Asking

As you practice building awareness of the long-term impact of thinking and doing too much for a child, imagine practicing shifting from giving a “lecture” like the one noted above, to practicing what I call quality question-asking. Right now, as you are reading this, practice noticing the felt mental-and-emotional shift when a parent stops lecturing and telling their child what to do and think and begins practicing asking thought-provoking questions like these:

How much longer do you plan to practice believing you’re stupid?

Does saying “I’m dumb” and “I can’t” help you make friends or lose friends?

If you stopped believing you’re stupid for just one second, what one new thought might sneak into your brain?

 

Rather than spending a lot of time telling your children what you think, spend the time skillfully asking them what they think. When some different action or behavior is necessary, begin by asking them what they plan to do.

Time to Reflect

Take a moment to practice reflecting. Here are some questions to get you started:

Can you imagine making this shift from telling to asking?

Can you see the efficacy of asking a single question which replaces the typical lectures children are given when the desire is for the child to change?

Can you see how this question-asking practice takes some of the pressure off of the parent who is anguishing over figuring out the just right thing to do or say?

Are you the kind of person who sticks with new practices or do you notice you give up and revert back to old, known ways? ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].

 

 

The Joys and Challenges of Foster Parenting (Dr. John DeGarmo)

Dr. John DeGarmoIt would be difficult for us to ever fully realize and understand the value of foster parents. Their contributions are ongoing reminders of the resilience of the human spirit and the impact of love, support and assurance when it is needed most. Indeed, there are many successful men and women who were raised in foster families. This program is about the joys and challenges of foster parenting.

It’s a serious thing to remove a child or teen from their biological home, yet circumstances can dictate just that. Through no fault of their own, youngsters’ lives can be changed dramatically as they are placed with a foster family, for not to move them could expose them to serious, even life-threatening, physical and emotional risk.

Although folks who have “been there” will tell you the blessings of being a foster parent outweigh the troubles, it’s understandable how a child or teen going into foster placement might not be happy about it. Patience, insight, understanding, and sometimes a pretty thick skin are needed to help these kids find their footing on a better road. So, according to our guest on this program, foster parent and foster parenting expert, Dr. John DeGarmo, being a foster parent takes a substantial amount of grit in addition to love and compassion.

Fostering Love, Dr. John DeGarmoIn this program, Dr. John explains the nature and process of foster parenting, and he freely shares some of the ups and downs he and his wife, Kelly, have experienced in their 12 years as foster parents. He also discusses some of the behaviors and characteristics of youngsters coming into foster placement (especially for the first time), and how they are best addressed. (These could include hoarding of food, boundary issues, poor school performance, difficulty with conflict, problems in exercising trust and fear of rejection.) Dr. John also shows how we all can best assist foster children and their foster families.

Dr. John travels extensively, speaking and training on foster care. He also hosts a weekly radio show, Foster Talk with Dr. John, and he’s the author of a number of books on foster care. In this program, we’re featuring one that has been especially well-received, Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone thinking of becoming a foster parent. (28:50)

http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com

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Straight Talk about Learning Disabilities, Part 1 (Guest: Laura Reiff)

The subjectLaura Reiff, Straight Talk About Learning Disabilities, learning disabilities, special education of learning disabilities can bring as many questions as answers. What are they, and how do children and teens “get” learning disabilities? What do parents and students need to know about learning disabilities, and what happens after a youngster is diagnosed? What are the responsibilities of the school to students diagnosed with learning disabilities, how are identified students to be taught, and how is progress measured and documented? In other words, what is the straight talk about learning disabilities?

And what about behavior? Does the child or teen with a learning disability ever present emotional or behavioral issues? If so how are they best addressed?

These are all good questions. Laura Reiff, our guest on this program will assist us in removing some of the mystery associated with learning disabilities, and she’ll replace it with insights gained from years of teaching learning disabled students.

The Adventures of Naomi Noodles, Laura ReiffSome insights might surprise you. For instance, did you know that many learning disabled students are quite bright? Did you know that federal law directs the effective education of children and teens diagnosed with learning disabilities?

Laura has a heart for helping students and their families to better understand learning disabilities and to lift what can be a negative stigma associated with Special Education. As a coach, guide and consultant, she operates a special website (posted below) that supports the needs and concerns of parents of children with learning disabilities. Laura is also involved in the writing of children’s books that help youngsters better understand learning disabilities and how they are addressed. Her first project, The Adventures of Naomi Noodles, is a book about a young girl coping with learning disabilities. (23:50)

www.about-special-education.com

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Respond to Your Child’s “Getting on with Growing Up” Responses (Greg Warburton)

The following article is excerpted from Greg Warburton’s book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.

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Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell Less

I can live for two months on a good compliment. —Mark Twain

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Responding to the child’s response is a dynamic, interactive process between parent and child. Begin your continuous praise practice now. Children behave in myriad ways; sometimes what they do is troubling, and at other times it is positive, exciting, and transformative.

Getting Out of The Compliment Desert
Unfortunately, our busy, attention-fractured world can lead us into a compliment desert because we often take our children’s positive behaviors for granted. Or parents may believe that their children just know how to do certain things and behave in certain ways and no longer require any recognition for their positive ways of being. Vigilantly practicing responding (verbally and nonverbally) to your child’s getting-on-with-growing-up behavior response, and no longer taking good behavior for granted, can quickly put your family on a positively different pathway and provides an esteem-boosting oasis. Begin right now to consider how you too can move your family onto this pathway as you review the story below.

Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell LessThe Meeting
I had been asked to meet a family with four children, ages five, seven, nine, and 11 who had been removed from an abusive home while living with their father and stepmother. They were now living with their mother, she seemed frantic and overwhelmed. She started our meeting by telling me that the children were not behaving for her and she didn’t know what to do to “bring them back into control.”

Picture me sitting in a room with all four children and their mother to talk about troubling behavior and adjusting to their new home, when all the children really wanted to do was play. How do I begin to engage them, to cause them to become attentive, curious, and active participants and, most importantly, begin to change the direction of their lives?

I started by noticing all of the growing-up things I saw them do or heard them say from the moment we began our meeting, and told each of them about what I was seeing. The instant anything positive happened, I responded with verbal praise.

Early in the meeting, I heard seven-year-old Abby say, “I have an attitude.” I immediately asked, “Did you notice the growing-up thing you just did?”

She shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know what I was referring to, but she seemed curious and engaged by my language and my excitement.

Me: Well then, I’m sure glad I saw it so I can tell you about it. Are you ready to hear what it was?

Abby: (Nods her head to mean “yes.”)

Me: I just caught you telling yourself and your family the truth about how you act sometimes.

To help her identify how this behavior connects to successful growing up, I continued:

Me: Does telling the truth help kids grow up or grow down?

Abby: Grow up.

Once I had acknowledged and reinforced her positive behavior with verbal praise, I moved on to externalizing the problem (from Chapter 13):

Me: How big does this attitude seem to be?

When she didn’t answer right away, I suggested candidate sizes:

Me: Does it seem bigger than you, as big as the room, as big as the world?

Abby (seeming amused): As big as the world.

Me: How much do you want to shrink the attitude?

Abby (clapping her hands together with excitement): All the way to ZERO!

As you analyze all that happened in the moment of interacting with one of the children, imagine the path we would have traveled had I responded to Abby’s statement by asking, “WHY are you having an attitude?”

My experience teaches me that Abby would typically have responded, “I don’t know, and  I don’t care!” This predictable response usually leads the adult to telling the child what will happen if she doesn’t change her attitude and/or believing the child is being resistant: “Well, you know what will happen if you keep showing this bad attitude. You will stay in trouble and you won’t get any privileges, and you won’t have any friends” (and so forth). Instead, Abby was now engaged and curious. She was listening, thinking, and deciding about what she was going to do to fix the attitude trouble.

Build Awareness

One thing parents always have complete control over is which behavior they pay attention to. As you build your awareness, you will notice that there is always some good and appropriate behavior occurring, no matter what troubling and inappropriate behavior may be going on at the moment. But in our always-too-busy modern world, it is easy to take compliant, cooperative behavior for granted and confine the big energy and attention to behavior trouble. The problem with this approach is that any behavior that gets a parent’s main mental and emotional focus will tend to be repeated.

Remember, you do get to choose what behavior you will respond to day in and day out throughout your child’s adventures in growing up. In my 30 years counseling with kids, teens and parents, I have vigilantly chosen to see the socially successful behavior(s) and “catch them and praise them for getting-on-with-growing up.” ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].