What Causes Nightmares in Children and What Parents Can Do About It

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 15, 21. I couldn’t have been that young. Maybe I was 10 or 11 by then because we were in the new house. I would be sleeping but feel as though I were awake. I’d be looking at my room and it looked the way it always did—and yet, somehow different. Still dreaming, I’d get up, and feel my way along the hall in the dark, and it would look and feel the same—except different. I’d make my way downstairs to the kitchen for a drink of water, and there, too, everything seemed normal, except it wasn’t. If I was very, very lucky, I could wake myself from these horrible dreams of being awake when I wasn’t. The only problem is that since, in my nightmare I fully believed I was awake, that was hard to do. If I didn’t wake up, I’d experience intense anxiety as I got through that dream, and I’d remember the entire awful experience the next morning when I woke up. Although I kept vowing to somehow know that I was in a dream in the future, so I could wake myself up, it rarely happened. What Causes Nightmares? My take on nightmares is that they’re all about control—or the lack of it. On September 10, 2001, we lived with the ridiculous delusion that we know what’s going to happen next and, to some degree, we have control over our lives. Not so the next day. But children are smarter than we are in that regard. They know how precious little control they really do...

Common Enemy? – Not This Grandma!

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 15, 22. Congratulate me! I’m a grandma again. And for those of you who haven’t tried it, I recommend it. Seriously. Heck, adopt a grandchild if you have to. It’s sweet. But, I’ll tell you, I am perplexed about this “common enemy” thing. You’ve heard that joke, I’m sure, the one that goes: What do grandchildren and their grandparents have in common?—A common enemy. (The parent to one, the child to the other.) Ha, ha. Maybe you can help me out. Please. Write; call. I need to have this explained. What am I missing? When I think of my daughter, the new baby’s mom, my heart melts. It always did. She is the nicest, sweetest, smartest girl. Maybe you know her. If so, you’d surely agree. So how could she be my enemy? And my sons, when they have children, will they turn into an enemy, too? I don’t think so. I can’t imagine it. So what gives, here? My Kids Missed Adolescent Rebellion, Too You know, come to think of it, I remember being in this same confused place not so long ago. Just a few years ago, I had four teenagers living under my roof. At one time. And I distinctly remember people telling me about their teenagers undergoing “adolescent rebellion.” And I kept looking for it, but it didn’t happen. Each of my adolescents went on to develop a full-fledged personality without ever going through what people like to call “rebellion.” As a matter of fact, if we’re going to plumb my memory banks, I can’t say...

8 Causes of School Phobia and What to Do About Them

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION  from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 16, 22. Screams echo down the hall. Raised voices escalate in pitch. Enough already! Get this child to school! But she won’t go. You would think that two intelligent adults could figure out how to get an eight-year old to school without all that hysteria, wouldn’t you? Guess again. If only life were that simple. The problem is that it’s not a matter of being more intelligent than your child because the problem has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence. It’s about feelings. And unless you understand the heart of your child, you’ve lost the game. This article is about heart. If a child won’t go to school, the reason is frequently called School Phobia, and its essence could be fear, fear of something going on at school. But that may not be the only reason a child resists going to school. It could also be fear of what is going on behind his back at home. Alternatively, it could have nothing whatsoever to do with fear, but rather with gaps in parenting. Let’s look at all of these possibilities, starting with true School Phobia: Bullying Bullying has been a sleeper problem until recently. Thank God people are waking up to the severity and damage of this formerly hidden torture. Research indicates that it occurs worldwide with a higher prevalence in the schools than you would think: Between one child in twelve and one in fifteen report multiple acts of having been bullied in any given school term. Violence, threats of violence, extortion, put-downs, other verbal abuse, and exclusion from...

Disciplining Children in Blended Families

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from Florida Jewish News, September 2, 2005, p. 21, 23, 27 I never liked the term, “Blended families.” It reminded me of cake batter—sweet, maybe fun to snack on when no one was looking, but, frankly, not yet a cake. After all, which is better, the batter or the done cake? That term has the same uncomfortable feeling as “Reconstituted families.” Something like “reconstituted orange juice”—not quite the real thing. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a place for divorce. After trying to reconcile, trying to make amends, trying everything, the bottom line is that if the couple cannot get along, if there is neglect, abuse, or drug use, and counseling has been tried–with a highly qualified marriage and family therapist and it didn’t accomplish its goal, then divorce is an option. And when that option is selected, the individuals, once a couple, should be able to go their separate ways with their heads held high. They should not be condemned or looked down upon for choices that they could not help making. We, after all, don’t know what went on behind closed doors. Assuming the divorce goes fairly smoothly, the individuals are not ostracized, and they eventually remarry, the most critical question is: What approach to the children will assure their best emotional and spiritual health? Or, in other words, what can you, the parents, do to assure that your new family will be unique, special, and wonderful for your child? That it will not be a mere blend, but a delicious cake? Not something reconstituted, but a tasty original? Here...

DON’T Let Children Solve Their Own Problems

Picture the scene: Several 5 year olds are playing in the park. One of them thinks a toy/ball/whatever of his/hers has been unfairly taken by another. He/she starts to hit/attack the would-be thief. The parents are clustered at the edge of the play area, talking and laughing. The noise level from the group of children elevates and one parent looks around at the children screaming at each other. Her eyebrow goes up and she remarks that the kids are going at each other. Another parent, puffed up with his brand of wisdom says, “Let the kids work it out.” If that isn’t the most god-awful stupid parenting advice, none beats it. So, I decided that this parent, we’ll call him Jim, needs to learn a lesson. He needs to be the victim of his own “wisdom.” Let’s go back to last night: It’s 3 A.M. and Jim and his wife are sleeping. The doorbell rings. The police are at the door and they walk in right past him. They ignore his requests for information and proceed to search his house. He is pretty upset, frightened, and confused at this point. Next, they arrest him. He gets to the police station where his plea, “I want to speak to a lawyer,” is met with, “No, sir. You have to work it out.” Not the same situation? Wrong! It most certainly IS the same situation: Two people who don’t have a clue how to resolve a difficulty are left helpless, with no assistance, no advice, no TOOLS. One is 5 and needs adult guidance and one is 50 and needs legal...

How Do You Discipline a 20-Year Old?

Your child is not, technically, a child any more; he or she is 20, over age in a couple of states; past the age of consent in others. But he needs discipline; boy, does he. What do you do? There are two answers to this. One is: You better do it; it’s never too late. And the other is that you actually have a few things going for you that you didn’t earlier. So if the first answer is that you better do it, the real question is how? You certainly can’t yell, fight, threaten, or “lose it” or you may as well throw in the towel. How to do it? — With the least display of emotion, the most neutral tone, you take away what you can, such as the car keys and money. You don’t do his laundry any more or cook his meals. No explanation, no discussion, no threats, nothing. Now pay attention to the strategy here: If you don’t go lecturing and threatening, you just take it away, then he’ll have to come after you asking what’s going on. See? And your reply? — Very cool. Something like, “I’m really sorry. You know I wanted to lend you the car. I got a tickle out of thinking how you’d matured and you were responsible and all. And then you went out with that Rob, after you assured me you wouldn’t, and, I just don’t feel secure and safe lending you the car. Believe me, I’m more disappointed than you are.” When you don’t deliver the message with anger, he has nothing to fight about. When...

Fear of Discipline Backfires!

Do you have a wild child? Then this article may be for you. Do you just blow up when you can’t take it any more? Then this article is definitely for you. Abuse victims, when they become parents, are handicapped in two ways. One, they have no clue how to give good discipline because they never saw it done. A parent who knows how does not resort to abuse. Or, I should say, a parent who knows how deep in his/her bones, not just intellectually, does not need to resort to abuse. So if you were beaten, humiliated, yelled at, ignored, neglected, abandoned, criticized, or any of the hundred other ways of being abused, you never saw positive discipline in action. So you just don’t know what it looks like. Now, suppose you take a parenting course. Here’s handicap #2. Even when you learn–intellectually–what it is, many parents who have been abused have a gut-level abhorence of anything that remotely looks like violence. Any form of discipline that is perfectly “kosher” may look to an abuse victim like something harsh, mean, and hateful. And those parents just can’t seem to put it into action. That’s when the leniency paves the way for the very abuse they don’t ever want to be guity of doing: Because they have failed to discipline their child, the child, of course, gets out of hand, eventually. That’s what normal children do, if unstopped. So then, these sweet, lovely parents who couldn’t bring themselves to discipline their child lash out at them angrily. And they actually feel justified! “I’ve had enough!” They exclaim. Well, that’s...

Those Kids Must Be Doing SOMETHING Right

The saddest family walked into my room not long ago. The tension in the air was so great, I could hardly breathe. The parents smiled and were quite pleasant as they addressed me and their children, so what was I picking up? The daughter, a teen, had a glum expression and sat with her arms crossed. She, clearly, was unhappy. But was she just a manipulative person who was cross when she didn’t get her way? That seemed to be her parents’ thought as they argued and negotiated their way through the first 20 minutes of our session. Now, in truth, if these parents had been operating from the rest of this website, they would have gotten gold stars. They were not abusive. They were not putting the children down. They had good rules. They stuck to the rules (more or less). They tried to not let the kids walk all over them. Was it their fault that the children needed so much control? How To Create Low Self Esteem Without Abusing Your Child The answer is: Yes. Yes, it is their fault. The object of controlling a child is to foster self-control. The object of discipline is to foster self-discipline. If parenting is not accomplishing that then all the rules, all the consequences, are for naught. You will only foster rebellion. Or resentment, or just plain pain. This child was in pain. And the worst of it was that with all the rules and all the consequences and all the arguments, negotiations, and deals, she was totally convinced that whatever was wrong was wrong with her. Even when...
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