Therapy That Works...

Does Attachment Parenting Go Too Far? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, May 11, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss the new TIME Magazine cover about Attachment Parenting and whether or not it goes too far - click here.

When Child Abuse Becomes Murder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss how child abuse can lead to murder - click here

Why would a parent do this to their own child?

Abusive parents have a lack of conscience along with a lack of self-control that combusts when the child does something that frustrates or angers them. The child is often just being a regular kid and the parent takes his own irritation out on an innocent child who is utterly helpless to defend himself. Remember that parents who resort to such heinous behavior (such as starving a child to death) lack the fundamental tools to parent effectively. The starvation of this child was most likely the end point of a lifetime of abuse and neglect.

What are the characteristics of these parents?

Cycle of Abuse: Abusive parents have often been abused or neglected during their own childhood. One study estimated that approximately one third of abused children will grow up to become abusers themselves. Remember though, that two thirds of kids who are abused do not grow up to abuse others.

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is highly correlated with the parental mistreatment of a child.

Harsh Discipline: Harsh interactions with the child are typical. They do not reward the adorable things that children do and remain either detached or critical. Studies find that physically abusive mothers are more likely to use harsh discipline strategies such as hitting, isolation and verbal aggression.

Isolated, chaotic, and financially challenged families are more likely inflict harm on a child who is both invisible and marginalized.

Unrealistic Expectations of the Child: A parent’s negative attitudes, misunderstanding, and attributions about a child's behavior may contribute to the abuse. Moms who physically abuse their kids have higher and more negative expectations for their children. These expectations are inaccurate and unjust. Unmet expectations can lead to lashing out at a helpless child.

Viewing the Child as an Object: Tragically some parents relegate a child to the status of a mere object in their lives. The child has no rights, no voice and is never shown compassion in the face of frustration. Such parents are devastating in the life of a child.

What are some signs that concerned adults could look for in the child we’re concerned about?

Remember that many kinds of serious child abuse are often invisible, inaudible and almost always usually committed behind closed doors. However, there are specific signs that you can detect to if you are concerned about a child:

Acts of Humiliation: The active belittling of a child with contemptuous language and behavior. The child is the focus of reprimands and criticisms that make the child feel unworthy and helpless.

Abandonment and Rejection: The child is pushed away either with words and actions.

Isolation: Often the child is alone in this abuse, unable to really explain what they feel or articulate what is going on at home. It is very difficult to complain about your parent who is supposed to be the guardian of your welfare.

Exploiting Trust and Good Will: Child abuse is the ultimate betrayal of a child at the hands of a parent. Our parents are charged with our protection and any abdication of this role—in any way-- is unacceptable.

What are the long-term effects on children who go through this kind of experience?

Invisible and Marginalized: They feel relegated to the role of an object. In those invisible moments you are being emotionally annihilated. You do not develop the sense of yourself that originates in the interactions with others. Normal developmental milestones-- emotional, cognitive and physical are not completed.

Social and Academic Delays: Academic and intellectual delays are common in kids who are treated this way. Social relationships are often immature.

Emotional Scars: Problems in emotional self-regulation is most common and the most significant. If you cannot control your reactions—both emotional and behavioral, you cannot achieve anything. The child who is systematically abused cannot calm down without avoiding. As they grow up, they begin to turn to alcohol, acting out at school or at work, oppositional behaviors and a host of other problems that indicate a basic problem in emotional self-regulation. They cannot tolerate ordinary stress and underperform in life and in relationships.

What can our parents do to avoid all types of emotional abuse?

Accountable to your Child: First of all, audit your own choices and behaviors. It is easy to harshly turn on our kids in lives overrun with stress and discord. However, your first and final responsibility is to your child. Remain accountable to yourself by maintaining strict standards on verbal and emotional blowups and over reactions with your child.

Parents Must Self-Regulate Emotions: Emotional abuse by parents always comes from either a sense of helplessness or a lack of conscience about the welfare of the child. Do not allow your helplessness to morph into verbal and behavioral unkindness to the child who is under your care. If you perceive your own lack of self-control in this area, see a psychologist and learn the emotional regulation skills that you must in turn, teach your child.

Profile of the Ohio School Shooter - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 27, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the tragic Ohio high school shooting - click here.

With the tragic news of a school shooting at an Ohio high school this week, many Americans are shocked that shootings continue to occur in a post-Columbine world.

Since the tragic Columbine shootings in April 1999, psychologists have assembled a list of common denominators between school shooters.

Teenage Males: They are usually Caucasian males between the ages of 11 and 18 with the average age being 16 who are engaging in their first act of lethal violence. Boys between the ages of 13 and 19 commit about 1/3 of violent crimes.

Rural Settings: School shootings usually occur in the rural or suburban areas outside larger cities. The kids are from a blue collar or middle class backgrounds.

Seasonality: Time of year has a lot to with this kind of crime with most of them occurring between December and May (usually in the Spring).

Tough Home Life: Family background is usually highly dysfunctional and attachment to the parents has been compromised in some ways. The family often looks fairly normal to the community and people are often surprised that the child becomes a murder. Discipline is overly harsh and applied inconsistently.

Cold Blooded: Premeditation is a central part of the crime. Smuggling a gun or guns into a school takes forethought and cunning. There is a plan that has been carefully constructed somewhere along the way. Acquisition of firearm—almost always from the home-- is necessary as is the requisite clothing to hide the firearms as the enter the school.

What would push a teenager to engage in this type of lethal crime against his peers?

Vengeance is the primary motive for almost all of the school shootings and again, this teenager has a history of being bullied and being socially isolated. The second motivation is to achieve notoriety.

The shooters are often perceived as nerdy and physically unattractive and are the common targets of ridicule from other children. Anger and resentment build up over time.. Suddenly there is a precipitating event that forces them to lose control and to lash out in a murderous rage.

If the target is a school official, then a teacher or a principal has had to take disciplinary action against the child.

If the targets includes peers, those who are deemed responsible for the torment are targeted almost exclusively. Many of the kids who have been shot in the past are the more popular or successful kids who are perceived as having wronged the shooter at some point in time.

What are these kids like emotionally and psychologically?

Socially Withdrawn: Most of the time, school shooters are emotionally immature, isolated and socially withdrawn. The emotional centers of the brain are not fully connected to the logical analytical parts of our brain that tells us that “no injustice is worth taking someone else’s life.”

Violence Unites Them: If they do have friends, the friendships generally revolve around their dark view of the world—militaristic, violent, “dog eat dog” kinds of views that justify their social isolation and bond them to one another. They enjoy bragging about their interest in violence and killing and are fascinated by the weapons of violence—guns, bombs, knives, and online or media depictions of violence or death.

Hypersensitive to Criticism: Cognitively these kids are very rigid and simplistic in how they view others. They don’t examine their judgments of others and are quick to assume that others are criticizing them. They are distrustful and view themselves as victims of others. Hypersensitivity is common and they anticipate rejection. They do not usually trust adults.

When does the child cross the line to violence?

Prior to the crime, the child begins to:

  • Feel justified to kill
  • Perceive few or no alternatives
  • Believe that the consequences will be worth it

Here are some warning signs if you are concerned about your child:

Learning to predict violence is the first step to preventing violence. Remember that most of the time, these crimes are well rehearsed. The school shooter fantasizes about revenge against those who are perceived to have harmed him. They often have protracted mental and behavioral rehearsals of their acts of violence in which they carefully select the victims, the time, location, means of killing and how it will play out.

Remember that their violence is calculated--it is not a crime of impulse or passion. It is a crime of intentional revenge.

Here are some warning signs of school shooters:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Depressed, Sullen Behavior
  • Tendency To Follow "Leaders" No Matter What
  • History of Oppositional Behaviors
  • Actual Threats—Written or Spoken
  • Past Acts of Violence
  • Access to Weapons
  • Past Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Violence or Bullying
  • Cruelty to Animals

Sources:

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

The Classroom Avenger by James P. McGee Ph.D. and Caren DeBernardo, Psy.D.

How To Protect Yourself From Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 27, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube explain how you can protect yourself and the ones you love from domestic violence - click here.

A recent study released by the CDC found that one in four American women have been severely beaten or assaulted by a romantic partner.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from a violent partner:

Denial Is Your Biggest Liability: Most women underestimate the threat and do not recognize the warning signs such as a history of possessiveness, intimidation, and overly jealous behavior. These are psychological "red flags" warning you of potential danger. Pay attention.

Intuition Is Your Best Defense: Thirty one thousand women die each year in America and the majority die at the hands of a romantic partner. Respect your own intuition about your partner and don't talk yourself down or normalize violent behavior. Stop debating and prosecuting your own observations. Your brain is hardwired to protect you, pick up on signs of danger, and tell you to run.

Speed Is Your Best Strategy: If you are threatened, respond quickly. Do not hesitate and remain frozen. Experts estimate that you have approximately five seconds to make a difference in your own self-defense and potentially save your own life. Move quickly and get out of the dangerous situation.

If you fear your partner, you must surrender your life to getting away from him and remaining safe. Remember that you cannot reason with him, convince him, or change him since he is intent upon reclaiming you as a possession. He only wants to regain control.

Make sure to not take this step on your own – please contact a local group, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or visit TheHotline.org. These organizations can help you find a safe place to live, set up new jobs and bank accounts, and can help you take care of your kids. They all have the strategies and knowledge to help you leave safely and successfully.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

Do You Have A Bad First Name? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 20, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on YouTube explain what to do if your first name is holding you back in life - click here.

A recent study in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science found that your first name could have unintended ill effects on your future life! The effects were felt in everything from job searches to the dating scene!

With findings like that, many people are wondering how to change or downplay their names. I have seen three trends that work:

Abbreviate: Abbreviate your name and make it more common and traditional in social settings. For example, you can use your initials or part of the name as a handle.

Adopt Your Last Name: Use your last name as your nickname or use a similar name such as substituting Jack for John. People who have pleasant last names can shorten it and add a “y” to the end – names like “Sully” and “Scotty.”

Give Up on Your Name Entirely: The final option is to change your name completely -- sometimes people despise their name so much that they lose the name. They legally change the name to one that reflects who they are now. If a dramatic name change is done in adulthood, it can be unsettling for the parents. However, putting up with a name you can’t stand is unfair in the long run.

Sources:

Parent Magazine

“Generation Me” by Jean Twenge

“Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Why Your First Name Is More Important Than You Think - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube describe why your first name may be more important than you think - click here.

A recent study in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science found that your first name could have unintended effects on the rest of your life! The effects could be felt in many different arenas from your love life all the way to your job search!

Here’s why your first name may be more important than you think:

Typecasting: Remember that your name is the first impression that you make on someone. It sets the stage for how people will view and treat you because like it or not -- people have preconceived ideas about names, both good and bad.

Generational Names: Because names are so generation based, many people have preconceived notions about you based on what generation your name came from. For example, Barbara gives a very different impression than Emerson.

Target of Bullying: Kids can be cruel and children with odd names often have an extra burden in the classroom and on the playground. Your name can also affect how you feel about yourself. If you always have to explain your name, it can be socially challenging.

Job Prospects: Highly unique names can make it even harder in the job market. Research finds that there is a prejudice in responding to job candidates based on their first names, usually from some personal experience with someone who shares the name.

Source:

Parent Magazine

“Generation Me” by Jean Twenge

“Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The Baby Naming Boom - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses why baby names are such big business now - click here.

Naming your baby has become big business in recent years with hundreds of baby naming websites, books, and even baby naming experts! Here are some of the larger trends in baby naming today:

Family Naming: Families pass down traditional family names from relatives that honor that family member and generations past. A popular trend is for many parents to name their daughters with the last names of their forefathers or foremothers. Many parents think that the daughter to carrying the family name as her own first name is empowering.

Cultural Naming: The larger cultural background is the guiding value and parents strive to either invent a new name or borrow an established name from that culture or religion. The name ties the child to their country of origin or an important family cultural value.

Inspirational Naming: Parents decide to give their kids the names that reflect an important value. Names like Liberty, Promise, and Freedom are all examples of this type of naming.

Whimsical Naming: Names like Apple, Blue Ivy or Bronx Mogley are all examples of the creative, utterly new name that sets their baby apart. They prefer that the name be different, rare, and even odd rather than something plain or common.

Sources:

Parent Magazine

“Generation Me” by Jean Twenge

“Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

What's In A Celebrity Baby's Name? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube discuss celebrity baby naming trends - click here.

With the recent news that Beyonce has named her newborn daughter “Blue Ivy Carter,” many Americans are wondering why celebrities choose unorthodox names for their children.

Big Personalities: Big personalities love big names for their kids. People in the spotlight are usually larger than life, artistic, and highly independent--and they want their child’s name to be a reflection of them.

Obsessed with Being an Individual: Our society at large is obsessed with being an individual and unique. For example one study found that over a 40-year period in California, there were 228 different spellings for the name “unique.”

Generation Me: The younger generation of parents love any symbol of individuality. They choose to express themselves in a very personal way with things like tattoos, piercings, clothing style, and music. Baby’s name is extension of that philosophy for many young parents who walk their own path.

Source:

Parent Magazine

“Generation Me” by Jean Twenge

“Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Suicide and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 16, 2012

With the shocking news this weekend that a Texas teenage committed suicide by jumping off the 18th floor of the Dallas Hyatt hotel, many Americans are worried about their own teens and the risk of suicide.

So, why would a teenager choose to end his life?

Feeling Hopeless: Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the attitude most highly correlated with those who attempt to end their lives. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 and 24.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and loss, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to their own interpersonal conflicts.

Are our children more depressed or are we just better at detecting depression?

Both statements are true since this generation's children are more depressed but we also have more safeguards in place to detect the depression. That being said, depressed kids are vastly underserved in our society with very few being seen by a psychologist. We know that depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. Severe depression reoccurs most of the time—about 50% of the time. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. We are much more likely to battle depression and other mental illness for our entire lives.

What about those teens who are depressed and make attempts to hurt themselves but are never brought to the attention of medical professionals?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 150, 000 kids between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical attention at the emergency room because of self-inflicted injuries. But that is when the denial kicks in. Very few of them actually follow up with psychological treatment or counseling. They tend to downplay what happened. They feel that they just need to get their child home and figure this out. No matter what recommendations are made by doctors or other healthcare professionals, families tend to blow it off. Kids can be very depressed and hide it well.

However, the numbers do change after the second attempt. Families do seek treatment after a second suicide attempt as they begin to realize that this is more of a chronic issue and is not a fleeting crisis.

Are there gender differences in completed suicides?

Eighty four percent of completed suicides are committed by boys, even though girls are much more likely to attempt. Suicide remains a health threat for men throughout adulthood with four times as many males dying by suicide as females. The reason for this large gap is that boys and men use much more violent and lethal means of committing suicide with guns, cars, or in this case - jumping off of a building. Girls and women choose much quieter means of suicide such as poison or overdosing.

This country has a double standard of masculinity. We want our boys to be strong and courageous and virile and yet have access to their emotions. Too many boys are confused about how to express their feelings. Anger is the only emotion some boys feel that they can express. When depression strikes, they are more reluctant to admit that they are vulnerable and that they are struggling. Depression is a progressive illness and can lead to suicide if it becomes too severe and too intense, but it can also be treated and success rates rise exponentially depending on how early in the depression the child begins treatment.

Here are some warning signs if you are worried about your teen:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of Depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • More angry outbursts
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Dramatic Mood Swings

Teens On Fad Diets Can End Up Gaining Weight! - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 describing why fad dieting may actually make American children GAIN weight - click here.

Why do our adolescent girls struggle so much with their weight?

Images of Perfection: Previous generations of girls have always struggled with body image but these issues are at an all time high. Our girls are inundated by images everywhere of physical perfection especially with our celebrity culture. The demands for excellence on girls have gotten worse over the past two decades leading to weight concerns in girls as young as six years old. But channeling energy into appearance and away from normal developmental tasks can disrupt, if not sabotage a young girl’s self esteem and ability to tolerate stress.

Helicopter Parents: The current generation of parents is full of parents who are well meaning but who are micro- managing their children's emotions and lives. Being "ordinary" or just “okay” has lost its allure for too many of today's parents who insist on their child not experiencing the ordinary problems of living. Frustration, rejection and even failure seem to be harder on the parents sometimes than it is on the kids. They project their own anxiety onto kids who just need to figure it out sometimes on their own. Over focusing by the parent makes the girl more anxious and the weight is one more report card she has to face.

Mothers with Eating Issues: Many mothers have struggled for years with their own weight so those issues are easily taught and inherited.

Epidemic Rates of Anxiety and Depression: Girls get depressed at twice the rates of boys when they enter puberty so eating problems flourish when mood disorders hit. Depression hits a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago and it re-occurs 50% of the time.

Why would girls get into this kind of fad dieting so early in life?

Trying To Compete with Other Girls: Many girls are influenced not only by the images in the movies and on TV of women, but also their peers. Many parents are paying for plastic surgery and liposuction for their children these days, and many young women can’t keep up. They instead turn to fad or extreme diets to drop the weight.

Get Slim Quick! Many young women find fad and extreme diets alluring. They just have to suffer for a short amount of time to be beautiful – they can tough it out for that kind of reward. But many girls don’t realize what kind of serious physical effects these diets can have on them and how on-again-off-again dieting is actually very unhealthy.

Why don’t fad diets work well?

Short Term Weight Loss: Many fad diets may actually work, but what girls fail to realize is that once they are off the diet – they will usually gain back the weight with a vengeance.

Lifestyle Change: Without a change of lifestyle and most importantly, without a fundamental change in attitude, any diet that works will only work while you are on it. The only way to truly lose weight and never find it again is to adopt a completely different, healthy lifestyle that combines food, rest, and exercise.

What can parents do to help their children?

Positive Example: Model what you want them to see and be. Mothers especially are incredibly influential for their daughters so be careful what behaviors you are modeling. What you say and how you handle yourself emotionally and with food will set the gold standard for your daughter.

Educate Your Daughters: Most kids don’t truly understand nutrition and positive eating habits. Make sure that they have all the information and understand how what they eat truly affects their bodies and their lives. Introduce healthy foods that are lower in calories but filling, and encourage him to drink a ton of water! Teach your children what is good to eat and how to stay away from foods that will pack on the weight.

Positive Eating Messages: Encourage positive attitudes toward your child's new self-image. Do not shame or embarrass him, but focus on the new body you can build together.

New Self-Soothing Techniques: For many kids, food is an escape from anxiety and stress. Emotionally coach your child to deal with his negative emotions by talking them out. Remind him that setbacks are temporary and that he can cope with whatever he is facing. Overeating no longer has to be a coping mechanism when you are more emotionally resilient.

Distract From Hunger: Begin to spend time with your child to develop new coping skills that will distract him from his hunger. For example, before dinner, go out for a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk. It is a great appetite suppressant and will increase his endorphins.

Source:

The work of Dr Martin Seligman

"Generation Me" by Jean Twenge


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