Therapy That Works...

How To Help Your Anxious Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss school anxiety on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Anxiety about the new school year is a normal reaction for many children at this time of year. But what happens when your child’s anxiety becomes excessive? Keeping up with assignments, complying with teacher directives and even attending school can be difficult for some kids who are over anxious.

So, why are our children so anxious?

Anxiety is like an oversensitive alarm system. In children anxiety should be temporary and fleeting. Being temporary fearful is a normal part of handling change and stress that comes with new beginnings. Children have a great ability to internalize the comfort of their parents. However, the fear becomes an anxiety disorder when it begins to dominate the child’s thinking, emotions and behaviors. It becomes a behavioral problem when it interferes with the child’s ability to function effectively in the school setting.

The essential feature of anxiety is fear of a targeted danger and the avoidance of that perceived danger. Once the fear takes command of the mind, it builds in intensity.

The child will experience an increased heart rate, his breathing becoming shallow and quick and he may experience acute sweating.

Ironically the anxiety seems to create what the person fears the most. With children, a fear of school or of separating from home can magnify and actually produce the negative experience. Catastrophic thinking begins to dominate his mind. Anxiety is at the most basic level self-fulfilling.

One in eight children suffer from anxiety. Anxious children are at a higher risk of compromised school performance, social awkwardness and behavioral difficulties at home and in the classroom. The tragic part of childhood anxiety that the child is often unable to tell us what is bothering him. All he knows is that he sees the world as a scary place and cannot find a safe place to hide.

The most common type of anxiety at this time of year is separation anxiety:

Separation Anxiety

Normal Anxiety in the Young: Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, separation anxiety is a normal response to separation from the mother. The child lacks an internal image of the mother and feels adrift when she is physically absent. However, by the time the child is school age, the cognitive apparatus is in place to hold the mother in permanent memory even when she is physically absent.

Returns with a Vengeance: Separation anxiety can return with a vengeance between the ages of seven and nine. The child shows an inability to separate smoothly from the primary caretaker and fails to calm down once the parent leaves. We see this anxiety at camp, on over night sleepovers and then when school begins.

Constant Worrying: The child will articulate enormous worry about something happening to the parents or a great calamity traumatizing everyone when separated. The child cannot calm and soothe himself. He cannot differentiate between realistic and unrealistic fears.

What should you do if your child is too anxious to go to school?

Things can get very serious very quickly. School refusal is most common between the ages of 5 to 6 and then again at ten and eleven. However, it can occur at various other times when there is a dramatic transition (going to middle school, high school, college). It is the ultimate expression of a child engrossed in anxiety. Physical complaints before school are common but they soon resolve if the child is allowed to remain home with the parent. Again, the child cannot tell us why he is fearful, only that school is seen as a frightening arena. There is usually a series of changes in the family that precipitates the school refusal but the child rarely sees the connection between his anxiety and the changes in his life.

Another rampant form of anxiety in kids is social anxiety:

Children often develop social anxiety especially if there has been any type of bullying in the past. He becomes hyper-vigilant with other children and fearful of embarrassment or ridicule. The child seeks to narrow his world and to withdraw from the social environment to avoid a problem.

Unfortunately, social anxiety seems to continue into adulthood and has deep roots in childhood with 15 million adults suffering from this disorder throughout the life cycle. It typically begins at age 13 and most of us suffer with it an average of ten years before we seek help.

Here's what you can do if you are concerned that your child is suffering from anxiety:

Seek to Understand: First of all, remember that your child may not be able to fully tell you why he feels fearful so be patient with him. Begin to build a mental map of your child’s life. Where does he go, whom does he like or dislike and which teacher is his favorite? Creating this map requires time and effort but it is essential if you are going to help your child overcome anxiety.

Emotionally Relating is the Ballgame: Remember that the basis of your power and influence with your child is how well you emotionally relate to your child. If you maintain an empathic, cherishing relationship, you will have an enormous ability to engage the child in exploring his anxiety.

Engage in Emotional Coaching:

1.) Engage the child in exploring his anxiety.

2.) Recognize the emotion as an avenue to conversation and problem solving. Remind him that he is bigger than the problem.

3.) Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings. Do not dismiss or discourage him from saying what he feels.

4.) Help your child label emotions—scared, afraid or nervous.

5.) Set limits while helping your child problem solve the anxiety. Parents often forget about this last step. Feelings are often not accurate interpretations of reality so make sure that your child is coached to face his anxiety and to continue going to school while learning how his thoughts inaccurately create the anxious feelings.

Seeking Professional Help: If parental intervention does not get the job done, find a good psychologist who can evaluate your child’s anxiety and teach him skills to calm and focus away from the anxiety and to replace negative thinking patterns and behaviors with positive ones. A great psychologist will teach you how to coach your child in the home and at school in resolving his anxiety.

Resources:

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias by Aaron T. Beck, M.D.

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Ph.D.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America - www.adaa.org

Women & Divorce Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss this on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Kennedy heir and award winning journalist, Maria Shriver’s headline breaking divorce from former California governor and megastar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has dominated the summer celebrity news. The pending divorce settlement will leave Maria with millions of dollars but it may also leave some psychological trauma.

So, how does infidelity trauma affect most women?

Most of the time it is devastating and there are few resources for women to turn to that explain what they are going through.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically for women. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the husband since that is supposed to be the one person she can count on.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the woman who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your husband becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage.

But do all women endure long standing trauma after infidelity?

I think that most women go through some phase of trauma as they regroup and regain their emotional strength. Because women identify so fully with their relationships, their entire life is fundamentally affected. Happily, most women do move past it and are wiser for it. However, they have to be mindful of how damaging infidelity is on their self-confidence and sense of order and control in the world.

Here are the can make infidelity and divorce trauma better or worse:

There is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the woman.

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child as in this case)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover - Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended woman. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.

Without a doubt, the betrayed woman is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage.

According to the research, Maria leaving Arnold is very predictable. A profound discontent seems to disrupt her faith and allegiance to her husband and over time, she may become disillusioned. Although the woman may often agree to stay in the marriage initially, she usually does not get the right treatment for trauma which sets her up to gradually detach from the marriage. However, sometimes the betrayal is so hurtful, as in this case, that the woman cannot stay in a marriage she now finds intolerable. Remember, that the erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed woman finally calls it quits.

Here's what women can do to cope with betrayal in their relationships:

First of all, we need to be compassionate with ourselves. Women are incredibly compassionate with others but often are hard on them. We often do not acknowledge our pain and do not process where we are. Infidelity is something that we survive but that we do not ignore.

Here are the three steps:

Kinder To Ourselves: Stop beating ourselves up all the time but don’t ignore the pain. Recognize that being sad and confused is a normal part of recovery and that things will get better. This doesn’t last forever.

Recognizing our common humanity with other women

Mindfulness: focusing on the blessings we have right now and not indulging in catastrophic views of the future.

We need to remember that after trauma there is always the potential of growth. In fact a substantial number of women show depression and anxiety but they move on and become wiser and better people. They have more self-confidence, are more aware of their personal strengths and they are more insightful with others.

For More Information:

"Flourish" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Trauma and Recovery" by Judith Herman M.D.

"Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Relationship Stress Can Affect Health - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watch the story on CBS by clicking here.


The health benefits of a good marriage are undeniable with married people making more money, enjoying better health and living longer. But new research reports that some marriages can be bad for your health, especially over the long haul.

This study reveals something entirely new about how marriage can affect our health. Here's what they found:

One of the strongest findings in psychology is the link between our relationships and our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that conflict with your partner can affect your physical and emotional well being over time. It’s not just a “today” thing since your mental and emotional health can be severely impacted by a challenging relationship. Your mood the day after a fight will fall especially if you are already uncomfortable with being emotionally close with your partner. The more anxious the relationship makes you, the more emotionally expensive it becomes. The real take away from this study is that being in a stressful relationship leads to longer-term health risks.

But what about the age old question -- are women affected more than men by a bad relationship?

They absolutely are and there are several reasons why this occurs:

More Sensitive: Women’s minds and bodies are more sensitive to hostile comments and behaviors from a male partner. Especially when men are verbally contemptuous, the female partner not only internalizes the label, but her body remains anxious for up to 24 hours longer while he is just fine.

Emotional Memory: We have unpleasant capacity for remembering every detail of a fight and we dwell on it over time. Women just have a hard time letting things go.

Women Are Highly Observant: We are also excellent at picking up those little meta messages in nonverbal behavior—how he looks at us, whether he seemed interested, did he look at her—and if the relationship is framed in negativity, we tend to assemble the worst case interpretation.

Quietly Suffering: Women are excellent assessors of the relationship and are more willing to face it when things aren’t going well. The downside is that women are more willing to adapt to a failing marriage than men are. We tend to become quietly miserable.

So, what happens when one partner becomes more negative about the relationship than the other partner?

Negative Emotions are Contagious: First of all we know that just like a virus, emotions are contagious. Negative emotions can penetrate a relationship and undermine the basic regard we have for one another. We share a home, bills and feelings on a daily basis. The good thing is that positive emotions are much more powerful than negative emotions.

Negative Perspective: Disappointment can become habitual and the entire relationship is framed within disappointment.

Emotional Disengagement: A dying relationship descends into emotional disengagement. The silent killer of marriages, it is often invisible even to the person experiencing it. They are aware that they are withdrawing and that they feel more helpless to effect real change. But their hearts often close up before they really understand how powerful a change this can be. They withdraw to protect themselves from further hurt and pain.

Here's what you can do today to stop negativity from harming your relationship:

Communication breakdowns are a part of loving someone else. But when arguments become gridlocked, the relationship over time will falter.

Stay Present and Remain Calm: As the conflict escalates, remind yourself that you are going into a negative downward spiral and that you have a choice to stay present and calm. Use these tips:

  • Be Concise (don’t whine)
  • Complain but Don’t Blame
  • Start with the Positives
  • Start your Sentences with “I”, not with “you.”
  • Describe what is happening respectfully
  • Talk clearly about what you need and hope for
  • Don’t Store things up—remain focused on a specific item or items
  • Be Vulnerable—express your pain and disappointment
  • Work for Compromise
  • Remain polite and appreciative

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - By Chris Gearing

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shortly before midnight last night, President Obama informed the nation that Osama bin Laden had been killed after a ten-year manhunt. Finally, a fatal blow had been dealt against Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations around the world. So what do these historic events mean for Americans going forward?

So, why is the death of Osama Bin Laden so significant to so many Americans?

Osama Bin Laden inflicted the greatest crime against this country in our history. But he also inflicted one of the greatest traumas in our history. There are several reasons why these atrocities have had such a long lasting and profound effect:

Nothing We Could Do: Traumatic reactions occur when actions don’t help—there was nothing we could do immediately to change the events. The lack of predictability was particularly damaging—what had we missed, why didn’t we see it coming? When you can’t fight back and you cannot escape (the events of 9/11 had already happened), your usual self-defense strategies become overwhelmed and disorganized. That’s when trauma gets a grip on your mind.

Trauma Lasts Longer: Trauma makes you feel powerless. However, when you have traumatic events that occur without warning, involve violent death and destruction and are engineered by a person who deliberately sets out to harm you, the trauma is more intense and more long lasting.

Intense Anxiety: If we cannot resolve the trauma by seeing justice done immediately, the body begins to encode the trauma. Physiological arousal increases—we are more anxious, on edge and agitated. Traumatized people feel like their nervous systems are still connected to the traumatic events.

Disconnection in Our Minds: Our minds begin to encode it too. We are affected in every area of our minds—our emotions, our thinking and our memory. Worst of all, trauma divides our mind—we feel but we can’t remember everything or we remember everything but we don’t have any emotions.

What would have happened to our country if Bin Laden had not been brought to justice?

He would have become more powerful in our own minds since he did not have to answer for his crimes. People who have been victimized need to see their victimizer held accountable. Without that, the perpetrator assumes an unfair advantage in our minds—he did the crime and got away with it. This can be extremely hard for everyone since we want to see our country as a just country with but one that insists that criminals face real consequences. His apprehension last night helped everyone breathe a huge sigh of relief and it will be very healing for the country.

Now, how will these events speed up the healing from the trauma from 9/11?

There are three broad stages or recovery that apply to both us as individuals and to the country as a whole:

New Sense of Safety: Seeing Bin Laden brought to justice gives all of us an incredible sense of safety and closure. This is a game changer because we can now begin to feel that our security is at least, somewhat in place again. We no longer have to think of this particular terrorist as free and plotting against us. We can embrace a feeling of renewed control and predictability.

Narrative of What Happened: Trauma recovery always involves coming to terms with the events, our part in them and creating a new outcome to those events.

Emergence as Victorious: Many Americans will feel safer now since we sent a clear message that terrorists will see justice, even if it takes us a decade to catch them. This is the final stage of trauma recovery—one of victory.

So here's the take away from yesterday's events:

Perseverance Leads to Achievement: This was a long battle to find a single man and sends a clear message to the Taliban. Our country was built by people who went the distance to achieve the goal and did not stop even if there was a setback. We persevered in the face of impossible odds and we did not back down. We hunted him down until we caught him. These events are a demonstration of pushing through until you win. Current generations that emphasize feeling good at the expense of achievement and hard work need to remember these core American values.

Seeking Justice: Most of all, Americans need to remember that our country seeks justice, even if it takes us a decade to achieve it. Once again, our military showed us why we are the best country in the world.

Princess Diane & Kate Middleton - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brides and Mother-In-Law Blues

Inevitably the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton cause many of us to remember Princess Diana and her fairytale wedding thirty years ago. As the wedding countdown continues, the press has been full of comparisons between the two women leaving many of us to wonder if we would want to be compared to our own mother in law, especially at our wedding?

First of all, why do we all think about Princess Diana’s memory at her son’s wedding?

We are still in love with the princess who was so much like us-- rejected, misunderstood, and betrayed by her husband and his lover. We identified with her failures as much as with her successes. We also still have enormous compassion for the sons she left behind so William’s big day is somewhat healing for us all—we like to think of him as comfortably partnered. But there are several reasons why Kate will be compared to Diana:

Both Larger than Life: Both women will have married the heir apparent to the British throne. We all love meteoric rises and we will enjoy seeing their lives transform from routine to royal.

Both are Open and Humble: Both of these women share an uncommon friendliness despite their great stations in life. They both enchant us in by their humble demeanors.

Dreams Versus Real Life: Diana enthralled the world with her dramatic life and we journeyed with her from Cinderella dreams to the stunning reality of betrayal and divorce. We don’t want Kate to suffer a similar fate so we are studying her similarities and dissimilarities with her mother in law to reassure ourselves.

How will Diana’s legacy impact the marriage?

Prince William has already been quoted as saying that “no one is trying to fill my mother’s shoes.” He will, no doubt, be highly protective of Kate since he does not want her to be pursued and hunted by the media like Diana was. This is ultimately a chance for William to do what he could not do for his mother—protect her. Diana’s example has also made this couple much more careful in committing since they know that the spotlight can be tough on a marriage. Diana’s legacy will make them much more likely to move as a team and to put their marriage first before their royal positions.

So for the rest of us, why are mother in laws often so challenging for daughter in laws?

There are several reasons:

Confused About Roles: There can be natural tension because these two women have to share the same man. Many mothers are reluctant to move from being the top female in his life to a secondary position. On the other hand, many women enter the marriage demanding that they “own” their husband and the mother in law is seen as interference.

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. The woman initiates eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When his mother is the issue, this habit on his part can be especially frustrating since he shuts down and disappears into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law or your daughter-in-law today:

For Mothers:

Respect her relationship with your son, don’t criticize her parenting even if you disagree, don’t criticize your grandchildren to her, and please do not compete with her mother. Keep your boundaries and focus on your grandchildren—they are your ultimate legacy!

For Wives:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Hold your boundaries with grace. Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are. Don’t compete with her, please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious and don’t cut him off from his family. Your children will suffer and you will regret that loss.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

The Health Benefits of Giving To Others - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is Humiliation A Proper Punishment? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eating Disorders In Older Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Eating disorders affect up to 70 million people worldwide with 24 million Americans suffering from this disorder according to the National Institute of Health. While current studies indicate that 95% of eating disorders affect girls between the ages of 11 and 25, new research reports that record numbers of older women are now affected by eating disorders.

So, why would an older woman develop an eating disorder at this time of life?

There are four principle reasons that women develop a midlife eating disorder:

Control and Eating Disorders: Control is the common denominator between all eating disorders. A current trauma or dramatic change in her life that makes her feel vulnerable and helpless can precipitate an eating disorder. Husbands leave, parents die and friends move away leaving her without the support system she has known for years. An eating disorder can become a comfortable, familiar “friend” during these dark times. Micromanaging your food intake either through restricting food or binging with food can leave you flush with a momentary exhilaration in an anxious life.

Social Pressure: Women are subjected to continued pressure to look young and being super thin is associated with being young. The $40 billion dollar diet industry is all too willing to help her strive for the ideal body type found in only 5% of American females. Most eating disorders begin with body dissatisfaction and shedding pounds gains her enormous social approval.

Undiagnosed Depression or Anxiety: Depressive and anxiety disorders commonly co occur with eating disorders. Eating disorders are cruel masters and the constant striving for perfection can wear any woman out. If binging is the disorder of choice, the extra weight causes increased self-loathing and depression.

Previous Eating Disorder Returning: Eating disorders are complex, chronic mental health illnesses that can lie dormant during the childrearing years to return at midlife when there are fewer distractions and less applause.

Why are these disorders so difficult to detect in older women?

We associate eating disorders with a young girl’s struggle. By midlife, most people think you should be over those vain concerns about your body. But tragically, highly negative beliefs about your body never leave most women. We develop a self loathing toward our bodies early in life (78% of 17 year olds despise their bodies according to one study), we never consider if we are logical or rational in our self appraisal and we reinforce our negative self appraisal constantly by comparing ourselves to all the celebrities that have obvious eating disorders!

Most midlife women tend to escape notice from medical professionals since we are so adaptive in so many other areas of our lives. We often do not realize that we even have a problem. In addition, our friends and colleagues praise us when we are razor thin. No one ever stops to ask if all that exercising, food restriction or binging are really healthy for us.

Do the same eating disorders affect both young and older women and what are the signs?

Both age groups seem to develop similar disorders. However, the older woman may evolve quicker to the binge eating disorder than her younger peer. But there are important facts to keep in mind about eating disorders in any age category:

Deadly Disorders: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder. These disorders can be deadly since the malnourishment strikes at the very metabolic and cardiac systems that are foundational for good health.

Three Distinct Disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa: No one sets out to develop an eating disorder. We “back into them” usually in response to a growing dislike for our bodies. This disorder usually begins at age 17 just as she is headed out into the world. Symptoms include a relentless pursuit of being thin, obsession with being perfect, an obsessive fear of gaining any weight and a denial of emaciation.

Bulimia Nervosa: The woman engages in binge eating and then inappropriate methods of preventing weight gain including purging or excessive exercising.

Symptoms Include:

  • Rituals built around eating large amounts of food within a 2 hour period
  • Feels out of control with the eating.

Binge Eating Disorder affects about 3 percent of Americans. Some experts believe that the disorder is rising faster than anorexia and bulimia. Women who binge hide their disorder and ask for help much later in life.

What should we do if we are worried about a woman we love?

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders first and acknowledge that they are dangerous. Remember that these disorders gradually build and are much easier to treat the earlier they are diagnosed.
  • Approach her with compassion and support when you express how concerned you are for her. Lead with empathy before you give advice.
  • Remind her of her lifetime of accomplishments—the children she has reared, the career she has built and tell her that this is a surmountable challenge.
  • Encourage her to get a professional evaluation with a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

More Older Women Suffering From Eating Disorders - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing the new trend of eating disorders in older women and what you can do to help!

Click here.

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A recent best selling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, illustrates how fundamental parenting strategies can be so violently misunderstood. Written by an Asian American Yale Law School professor, Amy Chua, the book argues that western mothers are undisciplined, over gratifying and only care about their children’s individuality. She predicts that most western children never reach their potential and live a directionless life of non-achievement.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here are the myths perpetuated by the author followed by reality:

Myth: Parental Authority is Supreme

The premise is that children require micromanaging and constant direction that includes fear based parenting. Chua argues that kids are unable to grow without being controlled. The mother must be in the middle of their lives and has the final word, always.

Reality:

When kids are over-controlled by a parent, they learn to deny their own wisdom and intuition. Often, they become great achievers but are stunted emotionally. To survive a controlling parent, you learn to focus on the parent’s perceptions of you instead of your own thoughts. You miss the vital lessons of taking calculated risks in relationships, achievement etc. and then recalibrating your behavior based on what happiness.

Myth: All That Matters is Compliance

The child is an extension of the mother and must be commandeered into compliance. Nothing matters but the outcome and the child must blame only himself if the goal is not achieved.

Reality:

When you are over controlled, you over-emphasize how you are perceived by others. You pursue activities that will result in high achievement, praise and applause from others. However, you pay an enormous price for this. You don’t learn the basic tenants of emotional intelligence that can only be mastered by years of having a separate experience from your mother where you figure things out for yourself.

Myth: Nothing Matters More to Child’s Future than Achievement

Chua conjectures that all that matters in the world is achievement that in turn, honors the sacrifice of the parents. The parent’s duty is to financially facilitate opportunities that they choose for the child.

Reality:

Achievement creates self-esteem, but there are many valuable ways to define what achievement is. Emotional stability based on a well-developed and accurate view of yourself is invaluable in the world. Navigating the world without emotional stability is like sailing on a ship without a rudder and a compass--you could end up shipwrecked before you know it. Childhood should equip children with the following capabilities:

Failure: The ability to fail and bounce back from a setback

Self-management: A willingness to disappoint authority figures if you disagree with them

Decisiveness: Making the best call with the information you have even if you discover later you were incorrect

Understanding of Others: Emotional perceptiveness of others based on your own keen understanding of yourself

Self-confidence: Kids build an inner strength from thousands of experiences in which they made a decision on their own, self corrected and did better the next time.

Self-effectiveness: This is an essential part of managing in the world since it’s hard to assert yourself if you see yourself as ineffective and helpless.

Myth: Verbally Berating A Child Is Helpful

Chua argues that kids must be threatened to perform, which is the top goal in her parenting model. Calling a child, “lazy, cowardly, self indulgent and pathetic” somehow is motivating according to the author. She justifies her strategy by the achievements of her kids—if she hadn’t verbally assaulted them, she predicts they wouldn’t have achieved.

Reality:

There is no psychological research in the world that supports verbal humiliation, name-calling and threats as a viable parenting technique. The constant contempt of a parent out of control is damaging. The younger the child, the greater the emotional damage.

Myth: Parents Should Micromanage their Children’s Emotions

In Chua’s paradigm, there is minimal instruction in handling the inner dialogue in our heads that all children have. That inner dialogue doesn’t matter since it’s not something Chua is thinking.

Reality:

Longitudinal research shows that emotionally dismissed kids grow into adults who cannot articulate what they feel or how to manage it. They are often exquisitely sensitive to others, since they had to be that strong to survive in childhood. They tuck their feelings away and they dismiss their normal reactions. She insists that the child should meet the parents’ demands since they know better. Focusing on the parent handicaps the child’s need to measure his own reactions, learn to manage his own behavior and monitor his reactions.

Myth: No External Activities

This model of parenting rejects the usual features of Western childhood—weekend sleepovers, play dates, TV, video game, choosing their own extracurricular activities, and any grade less than an A. The child must conform, at all times, to the desires of the parent.

Reality:

Childhood is an extended practice arena for adulthood during which the child learns how to effectively communicate, to navigate conflict and to fail and bounce back. Parents need to provide the optimum environment for these skills by helping the child learn about himself and his own interest.

Myth: Western Mothers Are Slackers And Over-Indulge Their Children To Meet Their Own Needs.

Western mothers are relentlessly devoted to their children and buffer them against all forms of stress, adversity and failure.

Reality:

America has been the strongest country in the world for generations due, in part, to the work ethic and fortitude of American mothers.

We have taught our children how to fight against their fears, how to join with others against tyranny and how to accord all Americans the same civil liberties and rights. Such virtues require enormous courage and strength which are found in a people reared to define themselves as individuals, not as extensions of others. Obedience to authority at all costs, which Ms. Chua celebrates, can only get you so far. Our dedication to individuality, independence and creative thinking built this country and will continue to shape the world.


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