Do We Have To Be Honest With Children?

My school-age grandson was filled with the importance of the story he was telling me. He paused as someone flew a paper airplane over our heads and their mother had to put a stop to that. She made a remark; I made another one back, and before you knew it, my grandson’s conversation got derailed. “Gram!” He said, with a note of irritation in his voice, “you aren’t listening to me!” It is right here that we all have a choice to make. Do we protect our egos or take a hit? “You are right!” I replied, “I am so sorry. Go on with what you were saying.” Here are some wrong choices: “Can’t you see I’m talking to mommy?” “Oh, all right. What did you want?” (irritated tone) The worst choice, of course, is to not even hear him, to not notice his existence and just go on as if he weren’t there. How many of you are guilty of any of those? What these last three options all do is de-value the person in his own eyes. You see, to a child, your view of the world, is like God’s view. They don’t have a concept of questioning and critical thinking yet. They certainly may – and will – object to mistreatment, but they don’t know why they’re objecting. They don’t realize that YOU have actually done something wrong and that they have been ignored, dismissed, invalidated, and minimized. So instead of realizing YOU mistreated them, your response holds up to them a mirror of who they are. That’s not good because in this case the mirror...

What To Do With Your Child’s Anger

I was rereading a therapy magazine from 1999 — so the problems were full-blown even back then– and it related the following: In a difference of opinion between a child and her mother who wanted the TV shut off, as the mother’s demand became stronger, the child finally used a swear word on her mother, something like, “F-you, mommy.” That child was eight years old. And this is not an inner-city family. It is a socio-economically privileged family whose mother spends time toting her daughter to after-school activities and the like. This young girl also does well in school and is liked by her peers. What’s going on? Why the language? The article was filled with similar stories including those of kids who hit and kicked their parents when they didn’t get their way and another young child who didn’t like anticipating the arrival of a new baby and smashed a baseball bat into her mother’s belly. The author, Ron Taffel, was compelled to interview parents to try to find out what was missing in their approach. It turns out that parents — who may have suffered harsh discipline themselves growing up — are afraid to do the same to their children. So they do nothing. Maybe their child needs to “get out” their anger, they’re thinking. If so, then letting them vent should be a good thing. No, it isn’t good. First, because the venting never ends. But this is only the beginning of the problem. What Taffel found is that these same parents who are afraid to injure their children by punishing them also don’t like their...

What Motivates Mass Murderers?

Wait! Don’t rush to say, “Silly question, Dr. Deb. Mass murderers are crazy. That’s all.” Let me explain why I pose the question “What Motivates a Mass Murderer” by asking you another question: Would you rather be able to take control of your life or would you rather think that your own life is in the hands of whim and chance? The more you understand human nature, the more control you have over things that come your way. Here’s a list of things that you can get control of that you never thought possible just by learning what motivates a mass murderer: 1. why you, your spouse, or your kids lack self esteem 2. why you, your spouse, or your kids are angry more often than you wish 3. why you, your spouse, or your kids feel lonely, isolated from humanity 4. why you, your spouse, or your kids never seem to get things right 5. why you, your spouse, or your kids seem to have things going well yet are unhappy 6. why you, your spouse, or your kids seem to be distant and unreachable, hiding behind a wall 7. why you, your spouse, or your kids just can’t seem to agree on anything Put these questions aside for a moment. We’ll get back to them all. If you study the lives of mass murderers (I discuss the Columbine murderers in my book) here’s what they have in common: They are lonely and isolated. Their only “friends” are people who feel the way they do. As children, they were never validated. They were not told, “We love you...
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