Category Archives: Parenting

“How can I teach my son to be respectful and caring and to love himself?”

"R E S P E C T" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“R E S P E C T” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“When my son was two, his dad went to prison due to his strong drug addiction. Because I felt so sorry for my son, I over-spent on material things and became his best friend. I was in denial that my actions would hurt my son, and myself.

Now my son is very selfish, rude, and angry at the world, and he is non-sociable. His world is restricted to video games on the internet. He has a very high IQ, but he is overweight, and while in school, he was bullied, which drove him almost to suicide. So I took him out of school, and decided to home school him. He didn’t learn any social skills.

I am disabled, and I am overweight as well. I am trying to save enough of money to get us an elliptic stepper exerciser, but they are expensive.

Now I have a selfish, angered, lazy son who is rude to me; he wants things and does not want to give. How can I teach my son to be respectful, show he cares and to love himself?”

Hi Tina,

You have plenty of challenges in your life without beating yourself up about the past. At this point, you need to focus on each day and look to the future.

Let’s look at four reasons teenagers and children at any age tend to be rude, disrespectful and uncaring, and what to do about each one:

1. The parent lacks self-respect. A parent who demonstrates little self–respect receives little respect.

Self-respect involves valuing yourself and not allowing others to treat you poorly. You need to value what’s best for your long-term fulfillment and work each day toward improving your own life. You also need to expect respectful treatment, and have appropriate consequences each time your child is rude to you.

For instance, when he demands things, say something like “If you want something you need to be respectful and contribute to this household.” Then make sure you give him what he wants only if it is necessary, he is polite, and he contributes to the family (chores, etc.) It’s important that you as the parent make such demands respectfully so as to set a good example.

2. The child knows no boundaries.
The second cause of rudeness in children is parents’ over-indulging them and neglecting to set boundaries. The parent needs to be able to say “no” and mean it, but without a condescending attitude.

Parents who need to be liked or become their child’s friend find it difficult to have reasonable expectations and set boundaries. Indulgence and lack of boundaries intended to prop up a child’s self-esteem do the opposite—they cause increased distress and anxiety in the child.

In contrast, parents who set reasonable boundaries and give reasonable consequences are teaching their child self-discipline in the face of instant gratification and temptation. Self-discipline is what enables children to persevere in the world despite set backs. Self-esteem is built on a foundation of perseverance.

3. The child needs more autonomy. All children strive for independence and separation from their parents and need to push the parent away if the parent does not encourage the development of independence.

If you give too much advice and keep them too close, they will not feel good about themselves and they will lose respect for you, often becoming rude, surly and more demanding. Over-protection angers children because implies that they are incapable and it restricts their ability to grow. Ironically, over-protection makes the child more vulnerable and incapable of taking care of themselves. As a result, over-protected children end up craving independence while fearing it at the same time.

In extreme cases when a child is at risk of suicide, there needs to be intervention and counseling. But continuous over-protection will only increase their vulnerability when they do have to venture out into the world.

In general, when we allow our children to deal with the normal difficulties of life, they develop their abilities to deal with the risks, dangers, and bullies that life has to offer. The parent has to realize that the child will get hurt, but will develop ways of dealing with painful incidents if given appropriate amounts autonomy. Ideally, autonomy, good decision-making, and self-preservation develop gradually as a result of the parent gradually giving the child more independence along with more responsibility and accountability.

4. The child seeks power. The fourth cause of rudeness is a need to lash out as a way to experience power because the child does not feel self-empowered in any other way.

A healthy way for a child to become self-empowered is to develop the ability to set goals and achieve them, which again requires perseverance in the face of difficulties. Parents need to have reasonable expectations that their children become more responsible and face reasonable difficulties on their own, while they also hold them accountable for their actions.

In summary, a parent sets the stage for a child to develop self-respect, a precursor to being caring and respectful, by doing the following:

1. developing their own self-respect,
2. setting reasonable boundaries and issuing consequences,
3. giving the child gradually-increasing amounts of autonomy along with responsibility, and
4. expecting the child to work hard, challenge him- or herself, and treat others well.

Recommendations

At this point, I would focus on improving your life, expecting more from your son, and not being afraid to say “no” to him. Avoid argument while focusing on daily improvement of your life.

Rather than buying an elliptic stepper exerciser, you may want to consider going for regular walks. Walking is free and it gets you outdoors in fresh air and among other people, which encourages healthy interaction with the world. You may want to download books from the library onto an mp3 player, which will make it easier and more enjoyable to take longer walks. By demonstrating to your son that your are learning, improving your life, and that you can leave the house frequently despite the discomfort you feel in doing so, you will role model your ability to pursue challenges on your own. I would also encourage or require your son to go back to school and/or work, or some other social environment where he challenges himself to grow and engage with other people.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen

https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Watch “How to Respond to Rudeness: ‘I TOLD you to get it for me!!!’”

Read “Angry Adult Child:
‘The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.’”

Read “My teenager is selfish and rude! How did I raise a child like this?”

“I better comfort her because she can’t handle this.”

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Validating others can backfire

Ironically, those who depend on another person’s validation to feel secure about themselves are causing their insecurity to intensify. If they depend on their partner, friend, or parent to validate them in order to appease their anxiety, they are allowing others to re-enforce their limitations. This will prevent them from growing and from developing a stronger sense of themselves when faced with difficulty, discomfort and anxiety.

Who is really the anxious one?

When somebody is upset, scared, or uncomfortable, are you the one that intervenes and tries to make it right? You may not think that you are the anxious one but generally what spurs somebody into quick action in an effort to validate others who are upset is their own anxiety.

People who find themselves frequently validating their partner, friend, or child think that it’s the other person who needs to be protected from falling apart or freaking out. Yet often they themselves are the ones who cannot tolerate their own anxiety in face of another person’s fear or problems. They focus so much on the other person that they are not even aware that their attempts to soothe the other person and to fix their problems results from their own discomfort with their own anxiety.

Dr. James Hollis holds that “the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” Thus, “the best thing we can do for our relationships with others… is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.”

How to handle another person’s anxiety

Avoid responding to other people’s anxiety with increased anxiety, which may express itself as validating them or fixing things for them. When you rush to soothe another person, you treat that person as a child, which prevents them from developing their own ability to stand on their own two feet.

Rather than soothing others who are facing some difficulty, it is more respectful to be with them or check in on them while allowing them to take care of themselves. Rather than validating them with efforts to appease, praise, and agree with them, tell them the truth, but do it with kindness. Rather than fixing the problem for them, be available for a conversation, and start by listening.

When someone’s emotions are running hot, the most effective way to be of help is to remain calm, and not allow your own emotions to be triggered. Allowing others to be responsible for soothing themselves and facing their own anxiety without propping them up allows them to grow, to develop self-respect, and to become a more whole and capable person.

Exceptions

Of course you must remain flexible. Babies and young children, for example, need to be soothed. But as children grow, we should gradually allow them more time to soothe themselves before we step in. In order for adults to handle big problems without falling apart they need to learn to handle small ones as they grow. If parents allow their children increasingly more responsibility to take care of themselves and fix their own problems as they grow, they will be able to handle increasingly more anxiety without falling down too hard. The key is allowing autonomy and responsibility to develop gradually.

Also, people experiencing real trauma may need soothing and help handling their problems.

The more we can be a calm presence for a person rather than a band-aid, the more we encourage them to become responsible for themselves, which is the only real way we can give them the gift of becoming more confident and secure.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen
https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Recommended: Dr. James Hollis’ Creating a life: Finding your individual path and The Eden project: In search of the magical other. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

Adult with an abusive parent: “I have gotten to the point now that I cannot even handle a phone call from my 80-year old father.”

"Forlorn Heart" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Forlorn Heart” by Mimi Stuart ©


I have gotten to the point now that I cannot even handle a phone call from my 80 year old father. I keep telling myself I’m being silly but every time I have any contact it upsets me so much I get very anxious and can’t sleep. Ever since I can remember he has always criticized me and upset me. As a child he would single me out and rage at me and hit me. I wondered “why me?”

Now his health is deteriorating but he plays mind games where he sounds like he’s dying on the phone. My sister gets angry when I try to say that he was less than perfect. Other people who haven’t seen this side of him think I’m hard and uncaring and he plays on this. I feel very guilty writing this down as I keep thinking maybe I’m being too dramatic.

Anne

Dear Anne,

In essence, your father was abusive and he is continuing in that vein by trying to draw you in using guilt as a hook. You need to set a boundary, not only with him but with the others in your life as well.

Vicious cycle of abuse

Being raised with constant criticism and hostility often leads a person to grow up doubting his or her own value and need to be respected. That is why it is so hard to leave an abuser. Raised in an atmosphere of abuse, you wonder whether you deserve the mistreatment or whether you are simply “sensitive” and over-reacting if you cut the perpetrator out of your life. That self-doubt makes you a target for further abuse—by your father, your sister, other people, and even yourself.

Your father continues to be manipulative, selfish, demanding and demeaning, and does not consider what is best for you. Unfortunately, when you have such a parent, it is more difficult to learn to value your own health and wellbeing. Now is the time to do so.

Misplaced guilt

The root of your guilty feelings appears to have little to do with what is best for your emotional and physical welfare. You probably learned to be accommodating as a way to handle the abuse targeted at you. Standing up for yourself probably would have incurred increased hostility. So you learned to become compliant as a defense against further abuse. You may also be subconsciously still seeking the love, acceptance, and protection you did not receive in your childhood.

It is this misplaced guilt and a subconscious desire for parental love that is hurting you now. I think it’s time to set aside your guilt and listen to your inner voice that wants to protect you. You must not allow that inner voice to be drowned out by the voices of your father, your sister and others who have not witnessed your very personal abuse at the hands of your father.

Setting boundaries guilt-free

It is clear from what you say that you need to set boundaries in your life. Where you set those boundaries is up to you. Just don’t let guilt be your guide.

You may want to avoid all contact with your father. Or you may want to send an occasional card. Or you could make a phone call and be direct: “Don’t suggest my taking care of you. As a young girl, I felt scared and anxious around you because you criticized me, shouted at me and hit me. As a result, I can’t be with you. I am simply not available.”

Whether you ever talk to your father again, have limited contact, or confront him openly, the most important step for you is to own the fact that you will not subject yourself to any more abuse from him or from others. You do not need the approval or understanding of your sister or others. Ironically, not until you stop hoping that those who disagree will support you, will they probably stop giving you hard time, and with time they may come to respect you for it.

If your sister or others ask you why you don’t visit your father, simply say, “My experience with him was very different from yours,” and leave it at that. Avoid arguing about the facts and getting into the weeds. Do not let them put you on the defensive.

Eventually, you may learn to understand that your father was incapable of being loving and that his abuse was an unconscious response to his own failures, fears and complexes – not yours. You may even forgive him.Yet understanding and forgiveness do not entail subjecting yourself to further abuse.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Rebuilding your Life: ‘How do I silence their abusive voices in my head, stop being hard on myself and start living?’”

Read “Abusive emails from an ex: ‘I keep defending myself against never-ending false, accusatory emails from my ex-husband, because I want to stay on good terms.’”

Read “Ending an Abusive Relationship: ‘I feel guilty leaving my abusive partner, because I have compassion for him.’”

Guest Sam Vaknin: “Is My Child a Budding Psychopath?” Don’t Let Them Pathologize Your Child! Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder

"Roar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Roar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

If you are a rebellious child or teenager and you have not been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, you are still at risk of being labelled and pathologized. The DSM informs us that “The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior towards authority figures that persists for at least 6 months.”

Unbelievable as this Orwellian, Big Brother text is – it gets worse. If you are under 18 years old and you lose your temper, argue with adults, actively “defy or refuse to comply with the requests or rules of adults”, deliberately do things that annoy said adults, blame others for your mistakes or misbehavior – then unquestionably you are a sick little puppy. And who is to make these value judgements? An adult psychologist or psychiatrist or social worker or therapist. And what if you disagree with these authorities? They get annoyed and this is proof positive that you are afflicted with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Did anyone mention catch-22?

And the charade continues, masquerading as “science”. If you are touchy or get easily annoyed (for instance by the half-baked diagnoses rendered by certain mental health practitioners), you are ODD (i.e., you suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder).You are allowed to be touchy when you are an adult – it is then called assertiveness. You are allowed to get pissed off when you are above the crucial (though utterly arbitrary) age limit. Then it is called “expressing your emotions”, which is by and large a good thing. So tell us the charlatans that call themselves mental health ‘professionals’ (as though psychology is an exact science, not merely an elaborate literary exercise).

The DSM, this manual of the Potemkin science known as clinical psychology, continues to enlighten us:

If you are habitually angry and resentful, spiteful or vindictive and these traits impair your “normal” social, academic, or occupational functioning (whatever “normal” means in today’s pluralistic and anomic culture), beware: you may be harbouring Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It is not clear what the DSM means by ‘occupational’ when Oppositional Defiant Disorder typically applies to primary school age children. Perhaps we will find out in the DSM V.

“The behaviors must occur more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.” – the DSM helpfully elaborates. If the child is psychotic or suffers from a mood disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder should not be diagnosed.

Why am I bothering you with this tripe? Because the DSM is ominously clear:

“The diagnosis is not made if … criteria are met for Conduct Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder (in an individual above the age of 18).”

Get this straight: if you are above the age of 18 and you are stubborn, resistant to directions, “unwilling to compromise, give in, or negotiate with adults and peers”, ignore orders, argue, fail to accept blame for misdeeds, and deliberately annoy others – you stand a good chance of being “diagnosed” as a psychopath.

Let us hope that the “scholars” of the DSM VI Committee have the good sense to remove this blatant tool of social control from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. But don’t count on it and don’t argue with them if they don’t. They may diagnose you with something.

Children and adolescents with conduct disorder are budding psychopaths. They repeatedly and deliberately (and joyfully) violate the rights of others and breach age-appropriate social norms and rules. Some of them gleefully hurt and torture people or, more frequently, animals. Others damage property. Yet others habitually deceive, lie, and steal. These behaviors inevitably render them socially, occupationally, and academically dysfunctional. They are poor performers at home, in school, and in the community. As such adolescents grow up, and beyond the age of 18, the diagnosis automatically changes from Conduct Disorder to the Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Children with Conduct Disorder are in denial. They tend to minimize their problems and blame others for their misbehavior and failures. This shifting of guilt justifies, as far as they are concerned, their invariably and pervasively aggressive, bullying, intimidating, and menacing gestures and tantrums. Adolescents with Conduct Disorder are often embroiled in fights, both verbal and physical. They frequently use weapons, purchased or improvised (e.g., broken glass) and they are cruel. Many underage muggers, extortionists, purse-snatchers, rapists, robbers, shoplifters, burglars, arsonists, vandals, and animal torturers are diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.

Conduct Disorder comes in many shapes and forms. Some adolescents are “cerebral” rather than physical. These are likely to act as con-artists, lie their way out of awkward situations, swindle everyone, their parents and teachers included, and forge documents to erase debts or obtain material benefits.

Conduct-disordered children and adolescent find it difficult to abide by any rules and to honor agreements. They regard societal norms as onerous impositions. They stay late at night, run from home, are truant from school, or absent from work without good cause. Some adolescents with Conduct Disorder have been also diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and at least one personality disorder.
===================================

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.


Inquisitive Parent: “My dad asks too many questions. Why is he so nosy?”

"Take Off"—Blue Angels by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

“Take Off”—Blue Angels by Mimi Stuart ©

It’s normal for parents to want to connect with their kids. Asking questions or wanting to give advice may be the way they attempt to connect with them.

It’s almost always best not to become reactive, angry or recalcitrant, particularly when your parent is well-intentioned. Instead, try to preempt your dad by finding a way to make that connection without having to answer questions that you don’t feel like answering.

You could find a way to approach him first. Have a few questions ready for him. For example, ask him about his youth, early jobs, school, friends, difficulties, challenges, movies, books, where he got his political leanings etc. before he gets a chance to ask you too much.

When he asks you something, give a brief answer without getting defensive, and then say, “What about you, Dad, when did you go on your first date?” You might not be very curious, but it will take the focus off of you, and the answer could be interesting.

You could also disclose some information about yourself that you don’t mind disclosing before he starts asking questions. Talk about an event at school, at work or in the news. If you make the effort to connect and converse on your terms, he may not be as interested in inquiring about the private details of your life.

If you persist in keeping everything completely private, that will only provoke his interest. For instance, if you never mention anything about whom you’re dating, he will be more interested than if you give him just the basic information in a nonchalant tone of voice.

The best defense is a good offense, although in this case we’re not talking about a fight, but about an attempt to make a human connection.

One day if you have kids, you too may stumble a bit in trying to make a connection.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Too Much Attachment: ‘Honey, you’re so smart and talented!’”

Read “Dreading intrusive questions at family gatherings: ‘It’s none of your business!’”

“I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

"Tempest" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“Tempest” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Fear is an important emotion that signals there is potential danger. Being aware of danger makes it possible for us to protect ourselves and others from jeopardy.

Worry

Worry, however, is an ineffective state of anxiety where we repeatedly imagine all sorts of negative possibilities. Once our children are young adults and off to college or work, worry on our part degrades the quality of our lives rather than helps our children. While unfortunate things do happen, there is a point where worrying about our children doesn’t help and in fact sometimes can make things worse.

Too much warning

When you continually warn your adult children of all the dangers in the world, it often causes them to be less careful. Even with young children you should make sure not to be overly anxious or you will lose credibility with them. Moreover, you will annoy them by infantilizing them and implying that that they are not capable of thinking on their own.

Imagine being a child. If an adult is constantly warning you of danger, you don’t take on responsibility and accountability for looking for those dangers yourself. Moreover, you soon see the warnings as being exaggerated. So the reckless part of you wants to act out. The degree to which someone focuses on telling you to be careful is the degree to which you will either become overly fearful or overly reckless, and sometimes ironically both.

Learning to evaluate risk

The best way to learn to evaluate risk is by having many experiences of evaluating risk, and sometimes making mistakes and facing the consequences. When you know that you are accountable for yourself, you tend to put more effort into evaluating situations and making decisions.

Children need to be able to make mistakes, sometimes painful, within the context of a safe environment. Of course, small children need to be kept safe. Over time, however, parents should gradually allow their children more leeway to think about the choices they make. Certainly by the time their children become adults, parents are only cultivating codependence, resentment, and rebellion by inundating their children with lectures and warnings.

Thus, if you tend to worry and frequently give caution to your adult children or excessively give warning to your younger children, you need to take stock, gain some self-discipline and resist focusing on your children. If you rarely give advice, the advice you do give will be taken more seriously.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I am overwhelmed by worry.”

Read “I fear something bad is going to happen. It feels like the end of the world.”

Read “I found out my daughter has cancer. All I can do is cry and worry.”