Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

  • Blog
  • May 5th, 2012

How to Set Limits in Five Very Difficult Steps: The Internal Process

Setting limits with children and adolescents is HARD. It is a difficult process and for most of us, we don’t like to have to respond to limits, nor do we want to have to set them with our children and adolescents. Here are some steps to follow.

First, setting limits starts with an internal process, which involves setting a limit on ourselves. By this I mean our body and psyche, either gradually or abruptly, tells us that we can no longer tolerate a certain behavior or “attitude” from the other person. Listen to your body and mind. We may find ourselves gritting our teeth, raising our voices, obsessively thinking about the other person, or notice our stomach growling, as we ruminate about “what to do”.  Please pay attention to these signs or signals. They all indicate that you cannot tolerate a certain behavior any longer. So we must take action: “I cannot tolerate this any longer and I must do something.” Step one is complete by setting your limit from within.

Second, THINK, and target the behavior or attitude you want to address. For example, “You may not curse at me. I will not tolerate that language any longer.” Before you set the limit, pause, reflect, target the behavior you want to address, and state it to yourself and another supportive person, if available.

Third, calm and soothe yourself. Setting a limit is a very difficult process. Walk, pace, pray, meditate, and do whatever it takes to avoid being angry before you confront and set your limit. In this process, you are soothing the signals your body and psyche experienced and that emerged during the unpleasant interactions that occurred, which resulted in your need to set a limit.

Fourth, prepare yourself to mean what you say when you say it. Therefore, it is imperative to know beforehand what the consequence and directive will be. For instance, if you are going to remove a privilege, make sure you have control over the resource. Hint: we cannot control other people; however, we can control a resource. For example, “I will no longer tolerate cursing at me, and I am removing your privilege to have a cell phone.”

Please be confident that your child will give you the phone, and be prepared to remove the device and/or eliminate the service. Be confident and prepared that you will do whatever it takes to ensure that this will happen. Fortunately, most children know or sense that you mean what you say and what action you are willing to take. This is the benefit and result of your preparation in the previous steps of listening to your body and psyche, calming and soothing yourself, and targeting the behavior to confront and the action you are taking.

Fifth, follow through with your limit AND allow for restitution. You have control of the resource (e.g., cell phone), and will return it when appropriate language is used for a certain length of time. “When you use only appropriate language for three days, I will return your phone. However, if you help me wash the car (directive) this afternoon and have a good attitude, you may have the phone back in two days.”

Washing the car is allowing for restitution to be made, gives the child some “control” in the situation, and enables your child to alleviate some guilt and shame they necessarily carry for behaving in offensive ways.

Setting limits is almost always a difficult process, as they (the limits) are almost always challenged. It is inherent in a child to test; therefore, it is essential to prepare and to be calm before you confront and take action.

I learned a long time ago that we cannot control other people, however, we can learn how to set limits when someone else’s behavior is inappropriate or offensive.

Read More
  • Blog
  • April 29th, 2012

Self-Esteem: We Wear it Like Our Skin

From my perspective, self-esteem is a very critical issue in emotional well-being. In thirty years of experience in residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, schools, and 24 years in private practice, I have never encountered a situation, a person, a case, nor written treatment plan that did not include the improvement of self-esteem. It is a critical issue to our well-being. With every challenge that we meet in life, self-esteem becomes a factor, and it is shaken as we approach each challenge. The struggle with challenges and the completion of a challenge is an important concept in the process of building self-esteem. Of course, successfully meeting a challenge fosters confidence.

Obviously, everyone struggles with self-esteem from moment to moment, day to day, week to week, and month to month. The self-esteem is in a constant state of self-regulation moving up and down on a fluid basis. For some people, it moves on a continuum, going from high-highs to low-lows. For other people, that continuum is smaller and there is not a great fluctuation from highs to lows. However, the point is that everyone does struggle with self-esteem, and on an ongoing basis. It is something that is incorporated into our selves. We wear it like our skin.

There are three critical components in the development, maintenance, and restoration of self-esteem: 1) a sense of competency; 2) relationships with others, both peers and adults; and 3) receiving empathy from other people. Following, I will address these three components:

Sense of Competency. Mastering a task fosters competency. An A on a grade in school, scoring a goal in soccer, or loading the dishwasher and being told, “Well done!” —such accomplishments are stored in our emotional bank accounts and are useful when we inevitably experience failure, disappointment, or criticism. Gradually we develop a sense of being competent in the world.

Relationships with Others, Both Peers and Adults. How other people feel and think about us is critical. Being praised, acknowledged, and validated by others, in genuine ways, is invaluable to our sense of self and self-esteem. This external reinforcement needs to be incorporated by each individual in order to be taken in from the “outside” and gradually internalized. When I hear, “I don’t care what others think of me”, it is usually a warning sign of poor self-esteem and a defensive posture regarding relationships with others.

Receiving Empathy from Other People. Empathy is the balm or salve that soothes emotional wounds. Real and genuine empathy, the kind of empathy that hits the right note, helps us to restore and sustain our sense of self-esteem. Genuinely placing ourselves in the other person’s shoes, when they have experienced a hurt, failure, or disappointment, and reflecting their experience in a soothing manner, helps the other to restore self-esteem. The capacity to receive empathy gradually will lead to being able to provide it to others. There is a simple formula: Empathy from a parent to a child results in the child being able to provide empathy, resulting in a reduction in the child being angry, critical, or judgmental.

Maintaining our own self-esteem allows all of us to be more open, present, and giving — in the world, in our home with families, and in our work and social environments.

Read More