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By Ron Huxley, LMFT
You walk in and find your child playing computer games instead of cleaning his room. You asked him an hour ago to clean it. In frustration, you blow up, yelling at him to get his room cleaned up or “else.” He scrambles around picking up dirty clothes and toys. You stomp off. There has got to be a better way, you think to yourself.
Fortunately, there is a better way. Yelling often gets opposite results and results in a lose/lose situation. Even if you win (get him to clean his room), you lose (feel horrible for yelling). Instead parents can try using
negotiation. While, it is not a perfect tool, it will increase the cooperation desired from your child.
Negotiation is a tool that allows parents and children to make a win/win agreement. It is a learned skill and no child, that I know, is born with it. It must be modeled and reinforced by parents. But, because most parents, that I know, were children at one time or another, they were not born with it either. Therefore, here are several steps for parents to teach negotiation to your child:
Step 1: Know what is negotiable and not negotiable ahead of time. If cleaning his room after dinner is not an acceptable time because company is coming and you need the room picked up now, state firmly but gently, why it is not acceptable to wait. If it is an acceptable time to do the chores, then be flexible and make sure you are both clear on what “after dinner” really means.
Step 2: Be open-minded. Be willing to listen and consider the other person’s viewpoint. Stephen Covey, in his book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that you seek first to understand the other person before you ask to be understood. If your child appears grumpy and depressed take a moment to find out why. Yelling will only increase the grumps and depression, backfiring on you in moments of revenge or decreased cooperation
Step 3: Set a time limit. Keep the negotiation time short to prevent the discussion from getting off track. Most negotiation ends up in the blame game where there are no winners, only losers. Keep things on the specific topic and not on what happened yesterday, last month, or years ago. If you do get off track, simply steer yourself back on the right path by stating, “Let’s get back to the issue of when you are to clean your room.”
Step 4: Keep it private. Don’t embarrass your child by negotiating in front of his friends. He will be more likely to react negatively if he thinks others are watching. Ask to talk to him in a private room or ask for the friend to go home.
Step 5: Stay calm and cool. Don’t try to negotiate when feeling you are over heated, tired, or preoccupied with a hundred other things. If the situation gets too hot, suggest taking a few minutes to cool off and then resume the negotiation. Set this up as a ground rule before negotiating if you think a heated discussion is likely.
Step 6: Acknowledge the others’ point of view. Even if your child is totally off base, acknowledge his feelings about the chores. Those feelings belong to him and are valid to him even if they are not to you. One way to do this is to say, “I can see how you could feel the way you do given your bad day at school.” You never said it was true, just bad for him.
Step 7: Restate the final solution once it is reached. Most failures to cooperate after a negotiation is due to a misunderstanding about what EXACTLY were agreed upon. Write it in contract form if that seems necessary.
Of course, negotiation may not be enough. Your child may still not pick up his room. If that happens set firm consequences for failure to cooperate. Remind him of the negotiation and, in the future, write everything down so there is no dispute on the agreement. When he fails to comply, point to the contract and state the consequence. This takes parents out of the uncomfortable judge and jury role. Most often, children will be testing parents to see if they mean what they say as parents have failed to follow through themselves, in the past.
Many divorced parents are frustrated about their co-parenting arrangements. No matter what they try to do to work things with their ex, all of their efforts end up in conflict. Co-parenting feels more like game where there are no winners.
In these situations, the best advice is “no contact is no conflict”. If it wasn’t for the shared children they would have no contact and then there would be no problem but since that isn’t the case how do you co-parent with no contact? The answer is Parallel Parenting!
The situation reminds me of small children who are learning to share. Before they develop the skills to play cooperatively, they engage in parallel play. Both types of play look alike but when you watch more closely you realize that they are in the same room, with similar toys, playing next to one another but they are not really playing together. They are quite disengaged. Eventually, development will help create the skills needed for cooperative play. In the case of high-conflict divorce, parents may have to let go of the more mature cooperative parenting and shift to parallel parenting.
Parallel parenting purposefully disengages from the conflictual partner and concentrates on connection with the child. It may involve one parent focusing on dealing with the child’s school and the other on their soccer games. While both parents need to agree on major decisions, they will differ on daily logistics about bedtime routines, acceptable television watching, choice of baby sisters, and church attendance. When the daily heat can be turned down between parents, it makes the bigger decisions easier to navigate.
Parallel parenting protects the children. Research clearly demonstrates that high-conflict divorce results in higher rates of behavioral disturbances and mental illness later in life. More commonly, when a child tries to have a positive relationship with both parents who do not have a positive relationship with each other, they experience a “loyalty bind.” When the child is with parent A, he misses parent B. The child might even feel that he is being disloyal to parent B when he is with parent A and vice versa. This is easily intensified by parents who talk negatively about the other parent in front of the child. It can also occur when one parent acts like a victim causing the child to worry about them. Another way is leaning on your child for moral support and treating the child like the co-parent instead of a child.
It is a delicate balance to parallel parent and break down loyalty binds. A parents natural inclination is to protect their child and if they believe the other parent is harmful then…
The truth is that both parents are important to the child. To really protect them and find some sanity in the relationship, try using alternative methods to communication than face-to-face, like email or a notebook. Keep the wording factual about the child’s health, sleeping patterns, school events, weekend schedules, medical care, etc. Request separate school notices or records. Avoid showing up at the same events without prior knowledge. When you do end up at the same event, make a huge effort to demonstrate working together. You might actually find you can do it all the time!
Great writers and painters have known this fact for decades: The body acts like a brain…
Walt Whitman understood that the flesh was the source of meaning; Auguste Escoffier discovered that taste is actually a smell; Paul Cézanne realized that the brain can decipher an image from minimal brushstrokes.
Jonah Lehrer has written a book called Proust Was a Neuroscientist
In my own trauma-informed trainings I discuss how our central nervous system, specifically the nerves surrounding our “guts”, acts as a second brain.
Did you know that there are 43 different pairs of nerves which connect the nervous system to every part of our body. Twelve of these nerve pairs are connected to the brain, while the remaining 31 are connected to the spinal cord.
Did you know that the gut has 100 million nerve cells that make up it’s own nervous system separate from the brain!
Did you know that one of the major nerve pathways from the gut to the brain is called the Vagus Nerve. The brain interprets signals from the Vagus Nerve as actual emotional information. It really doesn’t know the difference.
Did you know that there is more and more research on how the gut and gastrointestinal conditions are linked to depression, anxiety, autism, and ADHD. What we are talking about here is nutrition and not just medication can change our mental health.
And did you know that there is a reason we call certain kinds of food “comfort food”? Comfort foods affect our moods. Can someone say chocolate please?
Understanding the brain/body connection can help us overcome trauma in ways that traditional talk therapy cannot. This is because a lot of times there are no words to express what trauma is doing in our lives or the trauma is so far back in infancy and during pregnancy that there was no ability to form words.
This will require a new approach to doing therapy that involves movement, sensory processing, art therapy and my own NeuroResilience Play Therapy Approach. Click here for more info.
What is your body telling you? Perhaps its time to follow your “gut” instincts today and find the help you need. Hey, writers and artists have been telling us for years this truth about our body acting like a brain. Let’s listen to what it is saying!
by Ron Huxley, LMFT
How can we be full of mercy and open ourselves up to the hurt that is in the world when there seems to be so little justice to balance it? My faith calls me to help the broken-hearted but I will be honest, there are days when it just too much. Bearing witness to the trauma and pain in the world can be traumatizing to me. Is that true for you?
The problem comes when people have hearts of mercy but end up empty and burnt out from over giving. Sometimes this comes from our own brokenness and at times it is from simply not staying full of mercy so that we always have enough supply. Mercy givers are good at giving but not so much at receiving.
As a man of faith, it is easy to think about God acting through me instead of God working in me. There is a big difference between being called and being driven. Our acts of mercy can become performance-driven instead of heart reactive. We have to live our lives honoring our own emotional and physical needs. It is vital that we practice what we preach and have good diets, exercise regularly, make healthy connections, and take time alone with God.
The real secret is to operate from a place of “overflow”. It is far easier to give to others when are continuously full and overflowing. Operating from a place of excess is a healthier balance than continual lack.
Individuals with hearts of mercy are called to “guard their hearts”. Two practices that help us stay full of mercy to cope with the injustices of the world is gathering up little moments of mercy and to find time for silence and solitude every day. It is easy to believe that the refueling process it about filling up on knowledge, reading more scripture or memorizing more bible versus. These are beneficial but they won’t fill that deep inner space.
Discerning the glories of the world is crucial. What are the lovely, pure, beautiful, noble and sweet moments of our life that pop up around us? As the poet says, did you stop and smell the roses? You might find that divine moment of mercy seeing a sunset or catch a babies smile. Maybe you need to stop and listen to all the words of your favorite song on the radio when it comes on. You could even dance a little. Cherishing the little moments will add up to huge rewards in our hearts.
Guarding our hearts also refers to saying “No” to what drains you. It is such a little work but it takes so much effort for people with hearts of mercy to say it. The truth is that you will have to say no to some things if you want to say yes to others. There are only so many hours in a day and you are not superhuman. Make a choice.
Dallas Willard, the famous theologian, describes our first freedom as humans is the freedom to choose where we want to direct our thoughts each day. You have the power to choose well.
In my Christian faith, silence and stillness are hallmarks of the heavenly relationship. I am sure other faith traditions have similar invitations to inner transformation. Most faith goers hate silence and stillness. Be honest, you know you do!
Ruth Haley Barton, in her book “The Invitation to Solitude and Silence” comments: “Because we do not rest we lose our way…Poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest out lives are in danger.”
Ruth goes on to claim that our refusal to rest in spirit and body is an attitude of arrogance, that we don’t need what God has modeled as a need to take Sabbath rests in our busy weeks.
I have found that hurt people don’t want to stop and rest because they don’t want to hear what God might have to say to them. There could be areas of their lives they are neglecting and they don’t want God reminding them of the need to take care of areas of dysfunction. It’s easier to focus on others needs and not our own, right? People with hearts of mercy can be broken too. Wounded healers can answer the needs of the world without allowing God to heal them first.
I remember the time my own counselor/spiritual mentor told me that I can’t be a “father until I learned how to be a son.” Those words hit home hard. I wanted to improve my effectiveness as a leader, be a more involved dad, and have more influence in my business. Instead, I was continually burnt out and frustrated. I had to turn my focus to concentrate on my own relationship with God. As a result, I spend the next year not allowing myself to taking new leadership roles and adopting new projects. My focus was on being healed and taking personal retreats so that I could restore my identity as a “son”. This is what sustains my ability to be a good “father”. This time away increased my heart capacity and is the source of my merci-fullness.
My challenge to readers who have “hearts of mercy” is to list 5 things that you will do for your own Sabbath rests. How will you rediscover what it means to be sons and daughters? Set a time for silence and solitude. Be OK saying no. Others need to see that light in your life to balance the dark injustices of the world.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
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Cleaning Up Your Mess*
by Ron Huxley, LMFT
Every parent wants a child that is “responsible and fun to be around”. Children will enjoy being this way too. Unfortunately, traumatized children forget who they are and believe a lie instead. Trauma introduces the belief that “the world is a scary place, caregivers can’t be trusted and I am broken and damaged goods”. In addition, they believe that “no one could love me…People will get rid of me just like everyone else…I am stupid…I can only trust myself…Life is not safe”, and on it goes.
A big lie is that it is not ok to make a mistake. This is because a life of shame makes mistakes feel like a reminder that “I am a mistake too”. Fortunately, if we have believed a lie, we can also choose to believe the truth. This doesn’t always come easily. Attachment research calls this cycle “rupture and repair”. Every family has a rupture in a relationship. The healing for traumatized children comes in the repair. In that respect, a rupture is desirable. It allows the attachment relationship to be rebuilt. New Positive experiences can replace negative experiences from their past. A simple strategy is for parents to ask children: “How are you going to clean up this mess?”
A mess is a metaphor for a problem that children create in their relationships and daily living. For example, Hitting their sibling over taking a toy is a mess. Not following through on doing chores and forcing mom to repeat herself several times is a mess. Throwing a tantrum and refusing to brush their teeth is a mess. Forgetting their homework and getting a failing grade is a mess. You get the idea…
Our job as parents is to teach children how to clean up their messes and be more responsible and fun to be around. Instead of nagging, complaining or lecturing, trying asking how the child plans on cleaning up the mess they have made? This is also a way to increase leverage. At some point a child will want something from the parent. When they do you can simple refer the child back to the need to clean up their mess before you give them what they are wanting. This reinforces the concept of working together. You help me and I help you. This is how we do things in this family…
A typical response to the question is “I don’t know” to avoid taking responsibility. Don’t engage in a fight. That is how the child distracts you from the problem in front of them. In reply a parents offer some of their ideas on how the child can clean up their mess. The best idea from mom and dad are the tough, most undesirable ones. Children don’t want to do the tough ones. They want to do the easy ones. Offering the tough idea will force a child to engage in the discussion and present a better idea. This will get their thinking brains online so that they start to consider better ways to treat others and make family life more fun.
MESSES are Mom’s LEVERAGE:
Sometimes (OK, often) children will not follow through on their plan to clean up their messes. That’s fine. Parents now have another opportunity for “rupture and repair” by waiting until the child wants something from them…and you know they will.
Son: “Hey mom, can I go to Johnny’s house to play.”
Mom: “Oh wow, Johnny has that new video game you have been talking about, right?”
Son: “Yeah, it is so cool. Can I go?”
Mom: “It really would be cool but it is soooo sad!”
Mom: “Yes, there is still this mess you made with that tantrum yesterday and all those toys are still all over the living room. Remember how you made that plan to say you were sorry and clean them up?”
Son: “Kind of…”
Mom: “So take all the time you need to clean up that mess and then you can go to Johnny’s.”
You can only imagine the type of negotiation that the son might try at this point, right? He might even choose to get angry and throw another tantrum. More opportunities for rupture and repair. This is where mom MUST stand her ground and stay as cool and empathic as possible. Empathy has a way of keeping everyones brains level and focused on the problem on not in a heated game of “whose to blame”. With practice on how to clean up their messes, a child will learn to be more “responsible and fun to be around”.
- Original concept for this tool is from the book “Love and Logic”
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Art can be a way for us to heal from intense grief and trauma. Some things can’t be expressed complete in words and require the aid of images and sensory expressed movements.
It can help us transcend our emotional pain and find ways to regulate our nervous systems that encode trauma in our memories. Even when our minds cannot remember our traumatic pasts, our body still remembers.
The french painter, Charles Braque, stated that “art is a wound turned to light.” Art takes many forms. One contemporary form of art is called Altered Books. an Altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and meaning.
Ron Huxley, a family art therapist, altered a diagnostic and statistical manual along with a group of therapists to demonstrate how therapists can overuse labels to diagnose mental disorders and risk losing the essence of humanity each client brings to therapy. Therapists can take themselves too seriously and transforming a dry clinical manual with fresh artistic insights can make them better healers.
Click here to view the Altered DSM Book.
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I really can’t think of anyone who loves stress. Do you? A little stress is normal in life but it can range from positive, tolerable, or even toxic. When we suffer from toxic stress early in life it can effect how our genes express their programmed ability to manage it.
A new book on the subject of stress, called “Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity – and How to Break the Cycle, by Daniel P. Keating” reveals how and what happens when we are impacted by toxic stress.
The book discusses research on epigenetics which is the study of genetic expression and how it is altered by environmental events. Our genes are designed, by our DNA, to cope with certain levels of stress. Positive and tolerable stress can be managed by our stress programs. Toxic stress, experienced early in life, effects if our genetic programs actually get turned on or off.
Our bodies are designed to amp up or power down in reaction to the type and amount of stress we go through on a daily basis. For example, if we find ourselves facing an angry dog, our immediate reaction is to fight or flee in order to survive. If the dog runs off, we might continue to feel agitated for a short while after the encounter and then we will naturally calm back down. Our nervous system is designed to amp up to deal with the dog and then reset itself so that we can function normally again.
Children who have gone through chronic early life stress may have their normal genetic response to angry dogs or any perceived threat altered. If the genetic expression to stress stays continuously on, we move through life as if the dog is always in front of us. In the book, Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity – and How to Break the Cycle, Daniel P. Keating states the effects of early life stress makes individuals “born to worry.”
Some of the reasons for early life stress can come from internal sources, such as hunger, pain, illness, fatigue, and external sources, such as family conflict, divorce, poverty and natural disasters. Many children suffer from the toxic stress of prenatal substance exposure and parental neglect. This formative time can have prolonged effects on our feelings of safety and our genetic expressions of coping.
Get a number of parents in a room and ask them about their children’s behavior and you will begin to hear a common theme that boys behave differently than girls. It’s news in the media too; it seems, with all of the talk about our Emotional IQ (usually referring to a male’s lack of) or how men are from Mars and women from Venus. Sit in on an online chat room for parents or an email discussion list on male/female relationships and it won’t be long before you see some retort about how “men can’t express their feelings” or “boys acting out their aggression.” All of it focuses on how men struggle with their emotional self.
As a man, I won’t deny it’s true. Even the men I have talked with, be they friends or patients in my office, will agree with it. The rub is that while men accept this fact they feel helpless to change it. That’s because we are caught in a double bind, put on us by society, the other gender, and ourselves. The double bind says that we should be more in touch with our emotions and yet, at the same time, be tough, macho, Mr. Fix-It, and the Family Provider. We are asked to be in touch with our “feminine” side and still retain our “Male” strength.
Add the problem that most men never had adequate male role models in life, or if they did, they weren’t emotionally available one’s, and you end up with a fairly confused man or son about the emotional nature of manhood. William Pollack, Ph.D., in his book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of states that the consequence of this confusion for males includes higher rates of depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and substance abuse. It’s ironic that male’s confusion about expressing emotion leads to emotional problems. He goes on to state that in order to survive this confusion, boys learn “the code” that to be a man you must pretend to “feel nothing.”
Of course, it’s not possible to “feel nothing.” The best example comes from the biggest complaint about male’s behaviors, namely, that they are too competitive and aggressive. Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed as conduct disordered learning disabled, and attention deficit. Statistics are also higher for violent crimes and fighting among males. They are also more likely to be medicated for these disorders to decrease their aggressive behaviors. Dr. Pollack feels that males are given an “emotional funnel” to express their feelings. All of their emotions: sadness, fear, anxiety, and frustration is translated into one emotion: Anger!
Anger is the most common emotion expressed by males. That is because men and boys feel more accepted by society when they express anger over what is considered to be the more “feminine” emotions. Here is the double-bind again: we ask males to manage their anger which is the only socially acceptable emotion to express and that emotion turns out to be a cover-up for other emotions, such as sadness or powerlessness. Anger or aggressive behaviors, are just the symptom. The source may be any number of hidden, indirect emotions.
So what do males do with this double bind? If we agree that we have trouble expressing our emotions, and that creates trouble for us relationally and socially, how do we get out of trouble? First, we start with understanding the true nature of emotions and then society must demonstrate an acceptance of those emotions in boys and men.
The Emotional Brain
If we look at emotions from purely a physiological standpoint, they turn out to be some of the most fundamental parts of our brain. Researchers have determined that our emotions are controlled in the brain stem, which regulates our involuntary functions and the middle area of our brain, which controls our basic drives, such as eating, and sleeping. Emotions come from and are related to some of the most primitive and primary areas of our brains.
According to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., in his book, Emotional IQ, our emotions are designed to “motivate” or move us forward in life. Each emotion has a particular purpose in our personal evolution. Anger serves to give us the energy and strength necessary to change a situation, fear allows us to focus on the threat at-hand and evaluate a course of action, happiness increases energy and decreases inhibitions to achieve goals, love creates satisfaction and a state of rest or contentment, surprise allows us to take in more information about an unexpected event, disgust expresses a need to avoid an undesirable event or food, and sadness slows us down to adjust to a major disappointment and find solace in familiar people and places.
Dr. Goleman goes on to acknowledge that while males and females have the same emotional capacity, they are taught very different lessons about how to handle their emotions. Parents tend to discuss emotions more with daughters than sons. In studies of parents telling their children stories, girls are told stories more heavily laden with emotional words and situations than are boys. Mothers display a wider range of emotions when playing with their daughters than when they are playing with their sons. And even when parents talk to their children about emotions, they use more emotional descriptions with girls than with boys.
Research has also shown that girls develop language skills much sooner than boys and are more articulate when it comes to expressing themselves emotionally. This natural advantage and the de-emphasis on emotional training for boys, lead males to communicate their emotions behaviorally. This may be why so many boys get into fights, play competitive sports, or act aggressively towards others. It is their way of communicating their feelings. And anger is the socially acceptable spokesperson for all of those feelings, be they positive or negative. Perhaps the answer to the emotional double bind, experienced by boys and men, are to provide males with the missing Emotional IQ training. Teaching males to understand and express their emotions increases their Emotional IQ, according to Dr. Goleman and other researchers. It is this Emotional IQ that provides success at school, work, or home – wherever human relations are necessary.
Emotional IQ Training
Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Harvard School of Education, has suggested that there are many different types of intelligence, not just academic (linguistic and math) one’s. He refers to these as talents that all children possess, male or female. Being able to use these talents is what makes people successful and satisfied in life. Peter Salovey, another psychologist, refines Gardner’s talents into five main domains of emotional intelligence: Knowing one’s emotions, Managing emotions, Motivating oneself, Recognizing emotions in others, and Handling relationships. Making these domains a part of every boy’s daily curriculum is essential if we want to help boys increase their Emotional IQ and become the fathers and husband’s society desires. Another way of saying it is, if we want males to be more expressive emotionally, we have to give them the “right tools to do the job.”
Where do we start? The most natural place is the home. And the most natural person is dad. It stands to reason, that if we want to teach real boys to be real men, then we need to utilize our most natural and powerful resources. We also need to be more conscious about what and how we are teaching emotional literacy to our sons and take a more active approach in doing so. And these Emotional IQ skills must be socially sanctioned in order for the new skills to take root and grow.
Dr. Pollack suggests that we give our sons undivided attention every day. This means full attention, not partial or half. Don’t engage in cooking, cleaning, reading or anything else that might detract from the attention giving. Dads don’t always have to talk when giving attention either. Playing a game or working on a project, side-by-side, with minimal words is enough. Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D, in his book, The Measure of a Man: Becoming the Father You Wish Your Father Had Been, states that while men and women experience emotions similarly, they may share those emotions differently. Men, due to past Emotional IQ training, are used to indirectly communicating with one another. This is what, Dr. Shapiro calls “side-by-side” or “shoulder-to-shoulder” communication. Moms tend to prefer the more “face-to-face”, direct approach.
Dr. Shapiro talks about the different styles of communicating emotions by men and women: “Men have long been criticized for either having no feelings or having the wrong ones, or being unable to describe them. It is true that males in our society are trained to deny, ignore, cover up, and rise above feelings. However, we do have them all the time. It is important that we express our feelings to our children in male ways. It is customary for men to be most open, for example, while they are working on a joint project together (i.e., shoulder to shoulder).”
It is also important that mom’s and dad’s encourage boys to express the full range of emotions. Past social conditioning that only some emotions, namely anger, are acceptable need to be removed. All emotions are valid. Be receptive to a baby’s sadness and discomfort as well as his cooing and giggles. Ask toddlers and school-age boys if they are feeling sad or tired and empathize with those feelings. Tell older boys that it is normal to feel awkward or anxious and have open discussions about his relationships with girls, other boys, siblings, teachers and family.
When boys do express themselves aggressively or act rambunctious, look below the anger. While it is true that boys, on the average, do play more aggressively, don’t let that prevent you from checking for underlying emotions of sadness or anxiety. Remember that acting out means just that. Boys often act out their feelings of hurt and loss. Labels those feelings for them if they are obvious or ask them about their feelings if they are not. Reflect on their behavior by stating, “You seem to be upset about this situation. I wonder if your are feelings hurt/sad/anxious by it.” Model complex feelings by admitting you often get angry when you feel these other emotions too. It is often difficult for young children to understand that people can have more than one emotion at a time.
Be willing to express your love and empathy openly and generously. Loving your son will not “baby” him, “spoil” him, or make him a “sissy.” It will make him more self-assured, confidant, and secure. When a dad is openly affectionate toward his son, a very deep message about manhood and emotions is communicated. Tell you son that you love him as much as you wish. Give him hugs and take opportunities to play with him.
Fatherless Homes And Father Hunger
What is a boy to do if there is no father or positive male role model available? The answer is two-fold: Model emotions yourself and/or borrow a positive male role model. Although the most powerful model of emotional literacy is between a dad and his son, mom’s can model healthy functioning too. Any and all adults, not just the biological father, can teach Emotional IQ. And if dad is absent, physically or emotionally, from the home, have your son join a mentoring program like Big Brothers or the Police Activity League. Ask around about organizations that provide positive role models for boys and check them out to determine if they are able to provide Emotional IQ training. Of course, they may not understand it as such, but watch what they do with your son and other boys to see if they are teaching it, by their actions. Recruit an uncle, grandfather, or other male relative to get together with your son one-day a week to go to the movies, build a model, or play catch. It is also possible to find a male, child therapist for your son. A child therapist can address the child’s issues (aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, etc.), consult with the parent about how to increase a child’s Emotional IQ, and be an adequate male role model at the same time. While you are not trying to replace dad or build an unhealthy dependence on the therapist, a male therapist can provide that essential ingredient some boys needs and can’t get from a female therapist.
Dr. Shapiro talks about this essential ingredient as “father hunger.” Coined by James Herzog, a psychoanalyst, to describe the psychological damage in young children who were deprived of their fathers love and attention. These children were determined to be more aggressive and had trouble controlling their impulses. They also tend to be more immature and needy. Older children, who suffer from this “father hunger” are more likely to attempt suicide, run away, malinger, and manipulate others.
The satisfaction of this hunger is to find adequate father substitutes. Even men, who did not have emotionally available fathers or grew up in single parent homes without a father, can find other men who act as mentors or role models about how to be a high Emotional IQ dad. Even haphazard attempts at emotional functioning are better than nothing. Most children are fairly forgiving and willing to learn how to be healthy males together. Contrary to popular opinion, I think that children learn as much, if not more, from healthy male failures as their successes. Covering up our failures only reinforces the old “boy code” that we feel nothing or must always be right, tough, and macho.
The New Boy Code
Dr. Pollack suggests we adopt a new boy code. A code that respects emotions in boys and men, that is based on honesty rather than fear, communication rather than repression, and connection rather than disconnection. It’s time to stop complaining about boy’s aggressiveness and men’s lack of emotional availability by taking down the double bind. It is true that males have a problem expressing themselves. But it is also true that we hunger for relationship and affection. We tire of being cool, independent and always in control. Turn the emotional funnel around and let all of the emotions come out, safely and in a healthy manner. Maybe then it will be O.K. if big boys cry.
- learn how to report incidents of suspected child abuse,
- understand what occurs after a report,
- understand the role and funtion of the brain in Trauma-Informed Care
- learn to recognize the effects of trauma on the brain, behavior and development
- explore primary strategies for healing trauma in the lives of children and adults.
Presenter: Lisa Fraser, Executive Director, Center for Family Strengthening, the San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Council
Guest Speaker: Ron Huxley, LMFT will share,
The Beautiful, Wonderful, Broken Brain: Understanding Trauma-Informed Care.
Noted child and familiy therapist, speaker, and blogger Ron Huxley has worked in several systems of care, including community-based mental health, child therapy clinics, wraparound, County mental health, private psychotherapy practice, and faith-based counseling/coaching services. He has certifications in various clinical evidence-based and promising practices: EMDR, Incredible Years, Family Wellness, Love & Logic, S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting), TheraPlay, Love After Marriage, and Developmental Dyadic Psychotherapy (attachment-focused family therapy).
Student participants are urged to attend and will receive a Certificate of Participation. The training is free, but preregistration is required. Register here!
Friday April 28, 2017. 9:00am – 12pm
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Cuesta College Student Auditorium – #5401
CA-1, San Luis Obispo, CA, CA 93403
Free Parking Lot #2