Therapy That Works...

A Father's Influence Can Prevent Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Do your children think you work too much and don't spend enough time with them? New research from Vanderbilt University says that every minute that fathers spend with their children may actually be lowering their chances of becoming bullies.

How do you explain that the father’s time has more influence on bullying in kids?

This study has been a big surprise since most of us tend to think that the mother’s time with the kids would have the greatest effect. Not so, says this new study since the father is the key player here. But the crux of the matter is the child’s perception of the father’s interest and investment. If a neglected child feels valued and loved, they are much less likely to exhibit bullying behaviors. But if he felt neglected and marginalized by a busy dad, whether he was in fact really ignored or not, can determine whether he will show the following behaviors:

  • Cruelty to others at school
  • Disobedience at school
  • Hanging out with the wrong crowd
  • Having a bad temper
  • A lack of remorse for his misbehavior

Why would the mother’s schedule not have more of an impact?

While mothers are still centrally important to the child, they are often involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the child and his needs. Women still perform at least double the amount of childcare that men do although that number has dropped with the new economy that has centrally impacted men. But her tasks are often rote and non-inclusive—laundry, cooking, cleaning—that don’t include the child in dialogue or play. That’s where fathers come in.

Why are dads so important in preventing bullying?

Popular Through Humor: Often the father is the chief role model in resolving conflict without violence and in achieving social status without aggression. Bullying is essentially a strategy to gain social status through intimidation. We no longer think of the bully as the loner who lashes out. In fact, studies have found most bullies are among the most popular and socially connected children at school and torture others to raise their profile. Dads go a long way in helping kids socialize successfully through humor, repartee, and good-natured kidding with others.

Dads Teach Problem Solving: An attentive, competent father helps the child to reign in his aggression toward others and to play well with others by sharing, creating opportunities for group “wins”, etc. Dads can coach kids to solve problems, not create them.

Children Will Confide Through Activities: Dads are vital in just showing up and being present in their kid’s life. There is absolutely no substitute for putting in the face time with a young boy or girl. Dads are great at getting kids to talk through activities—throwing a ball around, building model cars or ships, and just hanging out watching the game.

Here are some specific suggestions for fathers who are worried about their kids:

If you plan to spend more time, make the interaction count. I always advise fathers to include planned, special activities with their son or daughter such as pancakes on Saturday morning or time at the gym together. Literally plan a “date” with your child.

It is also important that these interactions are one-on-one and you don’t try to cover all your bases by having one interaction with all of your children at once. Your absolute, undiluted attention on one child is an incredible influence and can really make the difference in their lives.

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Verbal Abuse - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 28, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Mother Knows Best - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Humiliation A Proper Punishment? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After years of frustration with the Tampa school system, a Florida mother is defending her decision to stick her teenage son on a street corner with a sign for nearly four hours that says, among other things, "GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education." Ronda Holder says she and the boy's father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically and made this decision with their son out of their frustration with the school system.

Is this appropriate parenting or did these parents cross the line?

This is absolutely unacceptable for parents to do this to a child. While their frustration is understandable, children who are humiliated in a public forum, even for seemingly understandable reasons, are experiencing a form of emotional abuse that can last for decades. You do not make a public spectacle of your child to make a point. This child was made to feel like a means to an end rather than a child who needed to be protected on matters that should have remained private and handled in other, more constructive ways.

Here are some signs of emotional abuse:

Remember that emotional abuse is invisible, often inaudible and usually committed behind closed doors. However, public displays of it as in this instance are even worse and have a more intense and deleterious effect on the child. Here are the top signs:

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.

Exploiting Trust and Good Will: Decreasing trust 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.

But what happens to kids who go through this kind of experience?

Invisible and Marginalized: They feel relegated to the role of an object. In the moments you are being emotionally abused, you are invisible and marginalized.

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 emotionally self regulating is by far the most serious of all outcomes. The child who is systematically emotionally abused cannot calm down without avoiding. They begin to turn to alcohol, acting out at school, 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.

Here's what you can 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.

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Compliance & Achievement - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Parental Authority - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are You A Tiger Mom? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Psychology In Black Swan - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Father Factor - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Psychosis In Black Swan - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 14, 2011

The movie Black Swan depicts the disturbing descent of ballerina Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, into psychosis. Most analyses of the film focus on Nina’s obsessive compulsive and anorexia symptoms and her preoccupation with physical and professional perfection. But I believe that some of the most important issues in this movie may have to do with a more common issue faced by millions of young women. Challenged by an already tenuous sense of herself, Nina falls into a deepening state of anxiety as she strives to define herself as an individual separate from the opinions and expectations of others – particularly her mother.

All too often, as young women emerge into their adult roles-either as a dancer, as a student or as a professional-they lack the pivotal skills to handle the anxiety that is a natural part of any positive change. Instead, as this character’s downward spiral illustrates, their ability to cope can falter and in some rare and extreme cases, they can become psychotic if certain factors occur at the same time.

Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

New Opportunities Create Anxiety: New environments such as going to college or getting a promotion require new coping skills or even honing the skills we’ve already been rehearsing. Anxiety often hits us and hits us hard just when we need to be the most independent, clear thinking and capable. Many girls sabotage themselves because of the unrelenting anxiety that causes increased impulsivity, carelessness and even reckless behavior. Sadly, they have absolutely no idea why they are faltering.

Independent Thinking Embraces Many Sides of Our Personalities: Most of all, these new opportunities require us to define what we expect of ourselves separate from the expectations of others. For example, in this character’s case, Nina’s mother kept her sheltered as a little girl – giving her baths, brushing her hair, and pretty much determining every second of her life outside of the world of ballet. When she landed the role of the Swan Queen, Nina had to recognize not only her sweet and tender side but to embrace her seductive, playful adult self – and it was tearing her apart. She failed to recognize that she could be a sweet woman who also enjoyed pleasure and seduction.

Lack Of Self-Definition: If you have grown up with parents who insisted on defining and controlling you, your ability to build an independent and strong reality is often challenged. If you’re paying constant attention to what they want you to feel and how they want you to feel it, your inner world retreats and you constantly orient to the outer world. You grow up without a fully developed ability to think and feel for yourself, often with disastrous outcomes--as the movie illustrates.

The World of Performance: Physical perfection at any cost is often the gold standard in professions that emphasize public performance. Whether the young woman enters the world of dance or corporate sales, she is rewarded for remaining rail thin, toned, and sexual. Caloric restriction that is often unsustainable over time gives her the control she seeks, but it can literally erode her body, her mind, and her sense of reality.

Sexual Harassment: Tragically, some men in power exploit the women in subordinate positions just because they can. The inequity in power disables the young woman’s confidence in supporting herself and in challenging his reckless, harassing behavior. Such stressors can be especially disturbing for a young woman who has been taught to substitute the opinions and expectations of others for her own thoughts – her own painful feelings are pushed aside as she focuses on the gratification and praise from the man taking advantage of her. She will ignore her own rights and view the harassment as her fault or will even defend his behavior.


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