Therapy That Works...

Social Skills - Three Types of Social Deficits - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain the three types of social deficits in children and how they can affect your child at school - click here.

One of the most important skills for your child to learn is how to relate effectively to others.

Success at school, with friends, with boyfriends and girlfriends, and even in their future jobs will rely heavily on their ability to accurately read and interpret social cues. When a child misinterprets someone else’s behavior, they can’t respond appropriately and they’ll have difficulty decoding social situations. When they reach high school, social interactions will only get more intense and complex, and your child may fall behind their peers.

Many kids with social skills issues know that they struggle with peers and maintaining friendships, and these challenges early in life can have a profound impact on how they feel about themselves. We live in a world made up of relationships and the ability to communicate effectively with others is an essential life skill.

Social skills challenges are usually different for each child. The work of Dr. Frank Gresham describes three distinct types of social deficits:

Skills Acquisition Deficits:

Children lack the specific steps and strategies for successful social interactions, and they often don’t know what they need to change.

Performance Deficits:

Children know how to interact successfully with friends and peers, but they fail to use the skills at appropriate times or they may be too anxious to seize social opportunities.

Fluency Deficits:

Children understand the strategies and timing of social interactions, but their application of skills in social situations is awkward or inappropriate.

Growing Kids Strong - Introducing Self-Efficacy - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the concept of Self-Efficacy and why it's important for your child's future success - click here.

We all hope that our children will have a safe and happy childhood.

As parents, many of us spend much our lives and most of our resources trying to make sure our children’s lives are as easy as possible. We want them to have the advantages in life that may have eluded us. However, we know that our children will inevitably encounter adversities in life. It’s important to find those key skills that will equip your child to handle anything they encounter. You want your child to view challenges as surmountable and survivable rather than as a defining negative event.

One of those key skills is a concept called self-efficacy, a term created in the 1970’s by Albert Bandura.

Self-efficacy describes your child’s ability to see themselves as capable of organizing, planning, and executing the necessary steps to succeed in any situation. They will feel empowered and confident in their ability to creatively solve problems. They don’t need any external help – they have the internal resources to generate solutions. When children look to external factors either for help or to blame for their helplessness, they can fall into scattered thinking and indecisiveness. This kind of thinking can knock even the most promising life off track. The best part of self-efficacy is that all of the courage, self-reliance, stamina, self-assuredness, and tenacity will continue to flow from their basic belief in their own self-efficacy.

As a result, unpredictable situations will not frighten your child and new environmental challenges no longer cause anxiety. Instead, novelty is often greeted with enthusiasm and new, unknown opportunities are met with resolve and singular focus. They stand tall since they are convinced that they have the resources to handle any challenge.

Sources:

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Depression - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 11, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia describe childhood depression and how it can affect your child's future success - click here.

Childhood depression can be an overwhelming concern for parents and educators who witness young children retreating into depressive, anxious behaviors.

Often our children are stuck in full clinical depression before we really understand what is happening. Even though we may have experienced depression ourselves or had a friend or family member that was depressed, it is painful and confusing to see our child developing a full scale mood disorder. Unfortunately, children cannot always articulate their thoughts and feelings. They are unable to tell us why they are so sad. It’s important that you educate yourself on the signs of childhood depression to prevent it from damaging your child’s life.

There are several reasons why childhood depression needs to be taken so seriously:

Life-Long Beliefs:

In childhood, most of us are learning how to interpret our environment and to be as accurate as possible. During this critical point in life, kids are creating belief systems and coping skills based on what they are experiencing in the moment. If life is regularly tumultuous, if there is severe anxiety due to trauma or loss, or if there is an underlying endogenous depression that goes unaddressed, the child may not accurately develop the explanatory view. Such inaccurate beliefs can last a lifetime and cause tremendous heartache.

Misinterpreted Behaviors:

With an underlying endogenous depression, a young child can be overwhelmed with their crushing negative beliefs. Many adults who developed depression as kids report that the world turned dark and gray at an early age. Parents can misinterpret such suffering as normal shyness or withdrawal. Depression robs a child of the chance to develop better coping skills and to face developmental challenges.

Social and Academic Withdrawal:

Children with depression often feel tired and depleted, and they are reluctant to engage with their peers socially. School avoidance is another common problem for kids with depression. If your brain is sad, it is difficult to focus and deal with all of the social and academic pressures of the classroom.

Permanent Labels:

Kids are already quick to label their peers, and depressed children tend to act grumpy and avoidant. Unfortunately, labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies as the child struggles with depression and how they feel about themselves. The negative labels become a familiar identity and children are prone to increasingly shut out their peers in an effort to avoid further criticism.

Now if you are concerned about a child, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Feeling persistently sad
  • Talking about suicide or being better off dead
  • Rapid mood swings such as becoming irritable all of a sudden
  • Showing a marked deterioration in academics or home life
  • Attempting to avoid school by making up illnesses or visiting the school nurse too regularly
  • Stopping previously fun activities or no longer seeing friends
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Childhood and adolescent depression are very serious. If you are worried about you or someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

The National Alliance on Mental Illness website (www.nami.org)

How Parents Can Overcome The Empty Nest - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how parents can cope with the empty nest - click here.

Talking To Your Children About The Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how to explain to your children about the terrible school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT - click here.

Horrific School Shooting At Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 14, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the terrible shooting at a school in Connecticut - click here.

Does the shooter fit the profile of a mass murderer?

Mass murderers intend to inflict suffering and death on as many people as possible—a lethal strike—and may have no articulated agenda except to inflict death.

Sense of Revenge: Mass murderers kill for revenge. They are convinced that someone or something has wronged them, and their acts of violence are retribution against others. This kind of “punishment mentality” stems from a pattern of systematic grandiose thinking and narcissistic tendencies.

Grandiose Thinking: Grandiose thinking is a reflection of a narcissistic personality disorder, where a person believes that they are special and infallible. When they perceive an abuse, they overreact and lash out. Such revenge can become violent as we saw in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Scale and Single Event: Mass murderers have a specific target and want to take down as many people as they can. They often realize that their murderous acts will most likely be the last thing that they ever do. They plan to inflict as much suffering as possible. In a delusional mind, this was a manly exit and a final statement of revenge and anger.

Why would he turn the guns on the children?

The children were regarded as collateral damage and he justified their slaughter through his deranged and delusional thinking. Obviously, he regarded the children as an extension of his mother’s influence. To kill the children, in some awful way, was to hurt his mother in the most fundamental manner.

You are most likely wondering, “Why would someone engage in such irrational behavior?”

Highly Regressed Thinking: Clearly, he was not thinking with a clear mind. His online diary indicates fragmented thinking, cognitive distortions, delusional ideation and paranoid thinking.

Anger As An Approved Emotion: Anger is a socially approved emotion for men. You can’t be sad but you can be angry. Anger is also energizing. Anger feels empowering and it protects them momentarily from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience.

Normal Façade: It is important to remember that severely mentally ill people can assume a normal façade. This is especially true when there is paranoid ideation of any kind. They may harbor delusional beliefs that they carefully hide from others. Skillful at promoting one version of themselves to the public, they tend to engage in a private world of fantasy, defend themselves from perceived threats and even commit violent murders, as in this case.

Pervasive Distrust: The essential pattern is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others. They assume that someone—and individual or a group (as in this case) will harm or exploit them even if there is no evidence to support their argument. Reality simply disappears.

Under the Radar: They generally do not come to the attention of the mental health system since they consider themselves perfectly normal. They fly under the proverbial radar.

If you are worried about the potential violence of those around you, here are some warning signs to look out for:

People need to know that forensic psychologists argue that mass murders come with warning signs. There are predictive characteristics to these crimes including the following:

- Typology of Language: Meaning and perspective behind words are the chief indicators of murderous intention.

- When someone is planning to commit violence, they tend to use one of these types of words or statements.

  • Rejection
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity
  • Attention Seeking
  • Revenge
  • Irrational Attachment (Behaviors like Stalking)

Reasoning for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they perceive four issues in a justifying light.

  • They believe that they have justification
  • They have no alternatives for the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • That they have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out the mass murder.

Coping With The Empty Nest - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia on KTXD Channel 47 discuss how empty nesters can cope with their new found freedom and their kids returning home for the holidays! click here.

Courageous TV Anchor Responds To Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discusses the courageous response from a TV anchor to her bully - click here.

Why would someone write an email like this?

This is a classic example of workplace bullying. This man was shaming, disrespectful, and embarrassing to this woman. His comments emphasized the imbalance of power—he could reprimand her from a distance without direct response. I doubt if he ever dreamed that she would respond live on the air.

This is the pattern that we see in online bullying. Bullies feel like there are no consequences. I can slam you and lie about you without any consequence for me. In a fair fight, the victim gets a chance to respond, but this man chose to humiliate her anonymously over nothing except his own prejudice.

What about her response?

It was a masterful, eloquent statement that directly discredited his attack. She pointed out what all women know—we come in all shapes and sizes and they are not only acceptable but beautiful. She did the right thing by speaking up since silence perpetuates injustice. Injustice then builds helplessness, and this anchor was by no means helpless. She used the very tools of her own professional success—her verbal agility, on air presence and organizational skills—to make this man look ridiculous. A great lesson for children in America.

Why was she targeted?

We live in an epidemic of eating disorders. Around 40% of college aged women engage in some sort of eating disorder behavior. Being thin is sadly linked with being powerful or attractive, and this myth has gathered momentum over the decades. Appearance is still too defining of our worth as women. But change starts with us. Women need to refuse to buy into silly prescriptions of who we are and how we should look.

Is this kind of bullying increasing or are we just more aware of this kind of harassment?

I think both statements are true—bullying is increasing AND we are more aware. With the infiltration of technology and social media into our lives, we all go online to express our opinions and to share with the community. However, such access to others can turn ugly, as we see in this case. A shot at another person, especially a woman with notoriety and power, is easier to do than ever.

Remember that bullying flourishes in an environment of anonymity. This man hoped that she would internalize what he said and feel badly about herself. He tried to offload his own prejudices onto her and she refused to take it. Good for her and good for all of us!

A generation ago, we lived in a society that was more accountable. There was a community that reinforced that accountability. Now with the Internet, you can be savage without your community really knowing how poorly you behaved.

What can women do to support her?

Please support women who choose to stand up and speak out about this kind of prejudice. Refuse to be a victim of others who tell you how you should look. Remember that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman who knows who she is and refuses to be silent about her gifts.

SOURCES:

www.APA.org

The Back To School Bullying Epidemic - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss Back To School Bullying and what you can do about it - click here.

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in some sort of bullying as either the bully, the victim, or a bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can turn deadly with 2/3 of school shooters reporting that they were being chronically bullied at school.

What are the specific characteristics of bullying?

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying peaks in middle school. Seventh grade is the worst year.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

Popular Kids Often Bully: Kids use the bullying of others to gain status and to exhibit their intimidation skills.

Here's why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who tend to intimidate others rear kids who do the same. Bulling others becomes a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, entitlement, the intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They simply lack a conscience. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

But what about the recent surge of online bullying?

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person by emphasizing the imbalance of power. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

We all know that bullying can have life long traumatic effects on a victim, but research shows that bullies and bystanders are also deeply effected by the act of bullying:

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Here's what you can do to help your child with bullying at school:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

"Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups," Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003. Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S. (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D., Napolitano, S. "Bullying: Prevention and Intervention," 2009

Are Teenage Girls Getting More Violent? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss why teenage girls are becoming more violent - click here.


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