Therapy That Works...

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

Is Public Embarassment Proper Punishment For Kids? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Copy and paste the URL below to watch Dr. Sylvia's CBS 11 appearance!

http://video.dallas.cbslocal.com/global/video/popup/pop_playerLaunch.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=5593798&at1=News&h1=Is

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 Father Factor In TRON: Legacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 10, 2011

In the new movie Tron Legacy, Sam Flynn has been fatherless for since he was a boy. But when he is transported into the computer world created by his father, he finally discovers the relationship he has desperately been missing for years.

So, how important is a father in a child’s life?

I find that fathers have a profound impact on their kids and can even be the difference between success and failure, particularly when it comes to work and education. We learn the "ways of the world" with our dads, and that knowledge translates into whether or not we enter the world well prepared.

Now, I know that this seems counter-intuitive since mothers are the primary caretakers in most families.

But much of a child’s academic experience and his eventual career in the workplace involve considerable focus on succeeding in a hierarchical world in which we are incentivized to compete, even at the sake of consensus. Learning how to navigate the workplace and all the implicit rules inherent in such environments is central to the growth and flourishing of careers. Men and women who are close to their fathers tend to have a tremendous advantage in life because they were mentored in the unspoken rules of the male world.

There seem to be several distinct fathering styles and the kinds of children they rear:

1. Super-Achieving Fathers: This style of parenting emphasizes appearance and achievement. Kids grow up knowing that they must look good, perform well, and win. Money, position, and power are all emphasized. These dads imbue their kids with a strong work ethic, ambition, and the children often make excellent entrepreneurs and leaders. The down side is that kids often feel disconnected and misunderstood by a father who wants them to “run with the bulls,” at the expense of the finer points of relating and living. These kids have difficulty establishing separate identities from their overbearing fathers and often prefer to go into a service industry such as the ministry, teaching, or health care as a way of living a life that values the welfare of others.

2. Time-Bomb Fathers: This style is based on fear, intimidation and emotional instability. Without hesitation, the father will lash out toward others and these outbursts are terrifying for kids of all ages. Threats of leaving, abandonment, and emotional and physical violence are common. Keeping the peace and managing the father is all that matters and these kids often develop into masterfully perceptive people since they had to manage their dad so carefully. These children are hyper sensitive to the emotions and needs of others, and have to develop their own ability to protect their self interests with others who try to take advantage of then. Diplomats, advocates of others, and health care professionals often have dads with this kind of temperament.

3. Passive Fathers: This kind of father showed love through his actions, not through relating or through verbal statements. He was stable, consistent, hard-working, calm but emotionally reserved. This man would never engage in unkind behavior and often surrendered his power to the mother and was a peripheral member of the family. Emotional distance is the hallmark of this type of father. Children of this type of dad doubt their ability to communicate emotionally and to have deep relationships. Like their dads, they understand the importance of commitment and hard work, and they are generally stable, temperate, and reliable. However, learning to understand and manage their emotions is a lifelong challenge.

4. Absent Fathering Style: The absent father is "missing in action" and has abdicated his role and interest in his children. Paternal rejection is horrific for the child’s sense of worth. These kids often harbor life long pain and resentment. Even in the case of marital dissolution, a child wants her father to fight for her. If he walks away--no matter what his rationalization may be--the child is impacted. The upside is that these kids learn the value of loyalty, support, and commitment to others and can become extremely committed to social welfare and justice. Careful to not create dissension, they may be overly accommodating with others in negotiations and in their personal relationships. Slow to trust, they often develop very intense, lifelong relationships with a small, elite inner circle. Some of our greatest presidents and world leaders have experienced this kind of father and have transformed adversity into a triumphant life of contribution.

5. Compassionate-Mentor Fathers: Think of Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and you have a pretty good idea of the gifts of the compassionate mentor dad. Although this is the dad we all want to have, few of us are ever gifted with this kind of father. This kind of father is astute in reading others, committed to values greater than himself, and holds himself and his children to ethical, loving standards. He spends time with his children, nurtures them with attention and understanding, and is, above all, emotionally connected. He empowers his children to pursue their dreams, triumph over setbacks, and to envision their success. Children feel safe, understood and adored. These children are fully capable of healthy, balanced, and compassionate lives and often engage in a life of contribution to society. They are excellent partners and parents since they learned from a young age to value themselves, to handle emotions responsibly, and to engage in life fully.

Now the final point is that many of our fathers are blends of these different types and many men transform from one parenting style to another as they grow and mature over the life cycle. Hopefully, we all embrace the best parts of this vital relationship and learn from the challenges that only made us stronger.

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 04, 2010

As America’s teens are applying to college this fall, millions of parents are wondering if their children are ready for the transition to college. Do they have something to worry about?

Most neurophysiologists report now that the changes taking place in the teenage brain are profound. The teenage brain is like a house that’s being built—there is a steady building of neurological connections that create an often subtle but abrupt refinement in self-control and judgment. There can be a stark difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Their emotional maturity can consolidate and stabilize in just a few months.

Are parents putting too much pressure on kids when we ask them to commit to college, in some cases when they’re only sophomores and juniors in high school?

Without a doubt, we are putting a ton of pressure on kids when we ask them to make an adult commitment in the middle of adolescence. Again, we know that the emotional and cognitive development of the teenager is a complex and lengthy process. There are profound differences between fifteen and eighteen. Sophomores and juniors are being asked to make decisions that are literally, in adolescent development, life-changing.

Here are a few things I would recommend for parents:

Remain Involved: The main issue is what kind of input parents will have at such a profound and intense time of maturity.

Consequences For Life: We know that kids are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. What the child experiences is encoded much more intensely in late adolescence, and parents need to be very mindful of what they allow their teenagers to do.

Caution Around Substance Abuse: Be very cautious about what you enable your child to experience. For example, the teen years can be a devastating time for the brain to be exposed to drugs and alcohol since it is still developing. Parents, be very careful.

Parents, are you wondering if your child is ready for college?

Emotional maturity is a central factor in deciding college readiness for the child. You need to evaluate the following factors in your child:

  • Risk Aversion and Impulse Control
  • The Ability to Self Sooth Appropriately (with exercise, conversation, or distractions like music or movies)
  • The Ability to Self-Correct and to Remain Self-Aware
  • Skills in Self-Regulation such as time management, organization and persistence in task completion.
  • The Capacity to Identify Emotions In Others Accurately
  • The Ability to Understand the Complexity of Emotions and Motivations

What To Do About Your Self-Mutilating Teen - By Chris Gearing

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dating Violence Among Teens - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dating Violence Among Teens

CBS 11 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

With the start of school, parents need to be aware of when they need to be concerned about violence in their teen’s relationship.

Depression is Rising:

Dating violence among teens is a very real phenomenon that has increased enormously in the last five years due to the increasing rates of depression and anxiety in teens and twentysomethings. A new study reports that more cases of severe mental illness are being reported among college students than a decade ago.

Parents Should Be Aware:

Parents should be aware that domestic violence in adolescent dating relationships peaks in high school with around 45% of all kids experiencing violence at the hands of a partner. Once a teen is abused or becomes the abuser, the pattern tends to continue with both sexual and emotional violence increasing in high college.

Here are the specific signs to look for if you're worried that your teen is a victim of violence:

Avoiding The Truth:

Teens who are being abused are generally shell shocked. They are literally frozen by the stress. They have no idea what is going on and fail to protect themselves. Many kids from good homes are naive about what abuse is, normalize the actions of the abusive partner and make excuses for the abuser until it is too late.

It Begins with Verbal Violence:

Parents should be on the lookout for verbally abusive texts, emails, phone calls or outright face-to-face shouting. Emotional violence is usually the first type of abuse in a relationship and is the most common type of relationship violence.

Teen Becoming Isolated:

Abusive partners prefer that their partner remains isolated and unable to turn to others for help. In addition, the abused partner isolate herself from friends and family. She seems to shed her former relationships—best friends, family connections, socializing patterns. She stops responding to others and denies she is being victimized.

Increasing Anxiety and Depression:

Domestic abuse victims show signs of anxiety and depression such as agitation, sadness, withdrawal, low energy, emotional mood swings, tearfulness and a decline in functioning at school.

Progressive Pain:

Look for signs of increasing disconnection from others, less responsiveness and avoidant behavior. She is locked in a cage of agony and doesn’t know how to ask for help.

When you hear "domestic violence," you probably think of a man hitting a woman. But that's not always the case:

These days, it seems that neither gender is safe. On average, about half of women have been a victim of domestic violence along with 27% of men. However, this number is probably low for men because of under-reporting of abuse. In fact, we’re hearing more and more about women stalking men who have rejected them.

The causes for each type of domestic violence seem to be quite different. Male-on-female violence seems to be much more about control and domination while female-on-male violence is more verbally expressive and is used to communicate pain, jealousy, frustration, and other emotions.

Parents, here's what you can do to help:

Many family and friends prefer not to get involved out of respect for personal boundaries. However, this is one time that you need to speak up as a parent. Caring about your child now involves compassionate intervention. Do not turn your back.

Gather Evidence:

Collect the observations you have had and organize them into a coherent conversation. Specify behaviors you have seen and conversations you may have overheard or read online or through texting.

Stand Your Ground:

Domestic violence at this age is especially lethal since adolescent brains are often immature and impulsive. They literally lack the critical thinking skills to put it all together. That’s where a smart parent comes in.

Get the Community Involved:

If you present your evidence and they are still resistant, go to their community of friends, family, religious leaders and ask them to help. For more serious cases, please seek out a psychologist. However difficult these steps are, they may very well save your child’s life.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

Sources:

JAMA

Archives Journals (July 8, 2008) Relationship Violence Appears Common Among College Students

Teens Who Murder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Teens Who Murder

CBS 11 News

by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

This summer has seen a rash of parents murdering their children. However, a new demographic is on the rise - children and teens who kill their parents.

But is this common?

Teens tend to kill other teens. Homicide is the leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 overall, and the leading cause of death for African American teens. Eighty five percent of murdered teens are male and most were involved in some sort of physical fight that led to murder. Males are 400% more likely to be murdered than females.

Homicides are highly predictable if we pay attention to what we are observing. Learning to predict violence is the cornerstone to learning to prevent violence.

Here are the warning signs in teens:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • History of Oppositional Behaviors
  • Actual Threats—written, spoken
  • Past Acts of violence
  • Access to Weapons
  • Past Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Violence or Bullying
  • Cruelty to animals

But 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 favorable
  • They believe that they have the ability to succeed

Do peers have any influence on a child's decision to murder?

Sinister Looks:

The withdrawal, the surly attitude, the overreactions about normal issues, the dark and sinister looks are all indications that something is terribly wrong with the teen.

Generation Me:

The child who is grandiose, self centered, exhibitionistic, entitled, shameless, arrogant and defiant may also feel justified in turning to violence if it suits his purpose.

No Conscience:

The sociopathic child who delights in the pain and suffering of others, who has no moral compass, who is paranoid and fearful of others, who is vengeful if slighted is a prime candidate for becoming homicidal and for taking your child with him.

Parents, here's how to know if your child is in trouble:

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

Here are the signs of 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

Stop Denying:

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 this pattern of trauma and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.

Bystanders Are Key:

Research now argues that the bystanders of potential violence are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem with teen violence. Speak up, speak out and get your teen the professional help to evaluate his potential for violence. You may save his life and the lives of those you love.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Source:

"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker (GET THIS BOOK!)


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