Therapy That Works...

Could Baby Names Negatively Affect Your Child? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss whether a baby's name could negatively impact them - click here.

Is Reality TV Bad For Your Daughter? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how reality TV affects your daughter's development - click here.

Why Are Some Kids Killers? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss why some children kill on CBS 11 - click here.

What would drive an adolescent to kill someone?

Emotions are Contagious: In the heat of the moment a group of kids can turn into a vicious mob with little provocation. The negative influence of the group can override the good common sense of even a good child. In some cases, such as in this crime, the actions turn deadly very quickly.

Developing Brain: The adolescent brain is still developing and as a result, it is highly vulnerable to the influences of the crowd. The emotional centers of the brain are not fully connected to the logical analytical parts of our brain that tells us to “turn back” or “get out of there.” Instead, the emotional centers begin to fire, the bullying behavior begins, and the anger and taunting become contagious. The crowd of kids literally feeds off of the fear of the victim and things spiral out of control.

How common is this kind of crime?

We do know that teens tend to kill other teens. Here are the numbers:

Boys between the ages of twelve to nineteen commit one third of violent crimes.

Homicides are the second leading cause of death of this same age group.

Young males are FOUR TIMES more likely to be murdered than are females.

Eighty five percent of murdered teens are male and most were involved in some sort of physical fight that led to murder.

Are adolescent males more prone to this type of violence?

Anger is an Approved Emotion: Absolutely they are since anger is a socially approved emotion for young boys. 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. Group violence has become a ritualized outlet for boys to express their frustration.

Group Bullying Behavior is Rampant: This event that resulted in the death of a child is currently in the news, but bullying happens everyday to millions of children. Bullying behavior is almost always a group activity and it is rampant among males.

Violence is Normalized: In a group of adolescents, boys are normalizing and even glorifying the physical violence they exert against one another. They think that by pitting themselves against an adversary, they demonstrate their machismo, defend their honor, and show how tough they really are. It is a futile attempt to connect with each other and to give them an illusion of being tough, invincible and undefeatable.

What happens over time when a child engages in this kind of group bullying behavior?

Blood Sport: They become increasingly more violent because they become desensitized to violence and it becomes a sport. They have to “up the ante” to get the same thrill. Getting away with it this time means that you may get away with it next time. The violence tends to escalate to bond the group, provide a larger thrill, and display the power and domination of the bully.

Viral Violence: Violence is symptomatic of the basic problem American boys and men are experiencing. From early childhood, they are socialized to express themselves primarily through their actions and achievements instead of careful introspection and verbal expression.

Lack of Emotional Intelligence: Over time, many boys fail to develop the age appropriate emotional intelligence necessary to manage themselves effectively. They can’t communicate, they can’t recover from failure, and they sink into a scrambled, childlike view of the world on a dime. They become disconnected from what they feel and use a limited number of emotions to navigate their relationships and to make their decisions. This doesn’t just impact their friends in high school, but also future employment, family relationships, and basic beliefs about the world.

What are the warning signs if parents are concerned about their child?

Homicides are highly predictable if we pay attention to what we are observing. Learning to predict violence is the first step to preventing violence.

Here are the warning signs in teens:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Tendency to follow others 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

What pushes a teen over the edge into homicide?

A person arrives at a tipping point and decides to act violently when four conditions are met:

  • They feel justified
  • They perceive few or no alternatives
  • They believe that the consequences will be minimal
  • They believe that they have the ability to get away with it

What should parents know if they are worried about their children?

The worst mistake parents make is to ignore what they are seeing right in front of them. Intuition is the warning system built into our brains to allow us to predict violence and to avoid it.

Here are normal signals from your intuition:

  • Nagging Feelings and Persistent Thoughts
  • Black Humor—Jokes such as “He’s just going to shoot us all!”
  • Hunches and Gut Feelings
  • Hesitation and Suspicion
  • Uncontrollable Fear

Many adults prefer to view violence as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please educate yourself about child violence and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.

What Is Complex Trauma Syndrome? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What To Do If Your Child Is Being Sexually Harassed - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sexual Harassment In Your Child's School - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 21, 2011

How To Protect Your Children From Predators - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why do we miss predators in our own back yard so often?

First of all, we often use a lot of denial to explain their behavior. We want to believe the lies and we fill in the blanks of information that a skilled liar carefully leaves out.

A person of conscience has difficulty translating the behavior of a predator, and the sociopath uses that advantage to make the normal person feel paranoid and even crazy.

Here are some signs that someone you know may be a predator:

1. Charm and smoothness that covers a cunning, deceptive self

2. Natural actors who are adapt at reading and using others

3. Constantly studies the motivations of other people in order to manipulate them

4. Enjoys dominating others and taking control

5. When confronted, will use anger or tears to manipulate accusers

The worst part is that many predators are unable to acknowledge their actions and what they have done to the child.

They also refuse to acknowledge the consequences of their decisions, even when the facts are right in front of them. The refusal to see their part in their own wrongdoing is what psychologists call “consistent irresponsibility.” If something goes wrong, it is always someone else's fault—the child, the community, whatever. Tragically, the predator never learns from what they have done.

Parents, here’s what you can do to protect your kids:

Believe Them: All to often, parents dismiss what their kids are saying as fantasy and don’t believe them. When it comes to this kind of behavior, always take it seriously and talk to your child about what happened.

Educate Them: The Penn State tragedy has started a national conversation that parents need to utilize to educate their children on self-protection. Our children are often the only ones “face to face” with the potential pedophile and we need to teach them how to use their own common sense and intuition to speak out and fight back. Learning about sexual predators and their characteristics will help you guide your children and protect them from the dangers in their lives. This is not meant to scare them but to educate and empower them.

Protect Them: Always know where your kids are and whom they are with. Whether it’s a family member, a family friend, or friend from school – make sure that you know the people your children are around and keep a record of where they are. If you feel uneasy about the person or the place you are leaving your child, listen to your intuition and get them out of there. As an adult, you know more of the signals and signs of potential predators and are much better at picking them out and protecting your children from them.

If you are worried that your child may have been a victim of a sexual predator, please contact a licensed psychologist for help. This kind of trauma can fundamentally change your child’s life and have lifelong devastating effects.

Sources:

"The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout

What Jerry Sandusky Was Really Saying - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 18, 2011

In Coach Sandusky’s interview with Bob Costas this past Monday, he acknowledged showering and playing with young boys.

But what was he really saying between the lines?

Highly Distorted View of Reality: Obviously this man is presenting his own highly distorted version of reality. What was most striking is that he continues to try to justify and even legitimize the actions that he admitted to in the interview.

Authority Figure: As a man in authority, he wielded enormous influence over these boys. The behavior that he did admit to—showering, wrestling, some touching on the leg—was fundamentally wrong in and of itself. Sandusky seems totally unable to understand if and how he crossed a line. He has no insight into his behavior and certainly has shown minimal remorse.

Different Kind of Abuse: In my opinion, what he did admit to crossed such a serious line that it was abusive. A grown man showering and horsing around with boys is highly inappropriate and confusing for those children. Somehow he views his actions as normal, but showering with and touching children can have lifelong effects on their development.

Some pundits are saying the his interview answers seemed rehearsed or pre-written.

Absolutely, the conversation on the phone call seemed rehearsed, controlled and premeditated. Some of the hesitancy in phrasing, the monotone of his speech, and the obvious avoidance of certain questions lines up with scientifically proven lying behaviors. People who are telling the truth do so instantly and don’t answer a question with a question.

For example, his answer to the question of being attracted to children was very odd. First, he restated the question back to Mr Costas twice. He then hesitated and replied that he enjoyed young people and that he loved to be around them. It was as if, in his own mind, he was normalizing his behavior. It took him over 15 seconds to deny that he was attracted to young boys.

Innocent people say no emphatically, emotionally, and repeatedly. Liars are more careful and analytical. They are trying to control the pacing of the conversation to buy themselves more time to come up with a good answer.

Coach Sandusky's Interview With Bob Costas - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss the Penn State scandal and Coach Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas - click here.

Sexual Harassment In Your Child's School - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 07, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss sexual harassment in your child's school on CBS 11 - click here.

Being sexually harassed has become a way of life for millions of young teens. We knew that sexual harassment and bullying increased enormously in middle school but now we understand what form it takes. Attacking someone’s sexuality, attractiveness, appearance and relationships with the opposite sex is a devastating blow at any age. However, our appearance and sexuality are at their most vulnerable in this age range.

Having a bully repeatedly harass you about these things—that often you cannot change--can create longstanding beliefs that may linger for years. Kids struggle with questions about "how attractive am I really?" and "what kind of self confidence will carry me forward?" Such behavior can rearrange the beliefs of an otherwise normal child.

Such harassment can also lead to clinical depression. We know that depression strikes a full decade earlier in this generation of children compared to 50 years ago, and they tend to fall back into depression sometime during childhood a shocking 50% of the time. This study may explain in part, why our kids are getting depressed so early and so seriously.

Why has sexual harassment started to plague our kids at school?

Children in their middle school years naturally focus on their appearance and social status. However, they have never been more focused on their appearance and sexuality than they are today. Our kids live in the era of the adolescent celebrity culture and most of these celebrities are provocatively dressed with glamorous lifestyles that are highly misleading to an impressionable kid. Kids like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez present a slice of life that is just not possible.

I think that this study’s results highlight the enormous preoccupation with appearance and adequacy that starts much earlier in our children than it did a generation ago. The type of bullying and sexual harassment that we are now seeing is a direct reflection of the mixed messages our kids are getting.

Do boys and girls react differently to the sexual harassment?

This study indicates that girls suffer more. Girl were more frequently the victim with 52% of them reporting that they were harassed in person and 36% reporting online bullying. The girls were the recipient of being touched in an unwelcome way while their sexual orientation was raised as a question. We know that girls can descend into an internal dialogue that renders them helpless. They may not know what to do and as a result do nothing. While 34% of the boys were victims of in person harassment and 24% online harassment, the figures were still significant. Neither gender needs to hear this kind of bullying at school or anywhere else.

The effects of sexual harassment are devastating to a child's development.

The kids tend to get helpless. That is very typical of a bullied child—they do nothing, put their head down and perhaps the bully will go away. Indeed, the study reported that half of those who were harassed did nothing about it. Again, this kind of experience is very confusing. Most kids emerge out of childhood into early adolescence trusting that others will be nice to them. They do not start out believing that their peers will traumatize them. Sexual harassment is unexpected and there are no rehearsed strategies for dealing with it. They may be embarrassed to report it to their school counselors or parents.

The bigger question is how a child could even begin to harass others.

The research indicates that most kids use bullying and harassment to gain social status. Remember that this kind of behavior is often public and for the entertainment of others. The bullies know exactly what they are doing and it is intentional. Most of the time, these kids know exactly what they are doing is wrong.

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.

The common denominator of all bullying and harassment is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. 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.

If you're worried about your child being sexually harassed, here are some things you can do:

First, Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view this form of bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of kids who are being sexually harassed who are losing hope.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of harassment and bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Our non harassed kids must learn to speak up, refuse to be an audience, label harassment publicly, and to go and get help when the situation is out of control.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about harassment. This study is proving that this is a reality for young teens. Children who are sexually harassed are likely to withdraw, deny what is happening, and suffer these horrors in silence. Such behaviors “feed” the harasser’s control. We cannot allow that as parents. Start a conversation today with your child about this issue. She needs to be reassured that you will take this seriously and will intervene if you have to. Get your child training in social skills and communication. These skills are teachable and will help to protect her.


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