Archives for posts with tag: self-esteem

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The cases below are entirely fictional and based on many years of clinical experience.
Sibling_rivalry_theupbeatdad_com

[ Toronto ] How do they come up with this stuff?¬†Whether that’s truth or more likely, fantasy, it hurts, badly. ¬†In¬†Siblings Without Rivalry,¬†Adele¬†Faber & Elain Mazlish, ¬†nicely reined-in Alfred Adler’s ¬†idea that the ‘will to power’ among sibs was always the big deal. —¬†It depends. ¬†Then Melitta Schmideberg ¬†opened our eyes to the¬†parentified child¬†who gets to be boss, but suffers for it in the end. ¬†Most recently, thoughtful minds like Kristin Caspers and her colleagues have been unfolding mysteries of¬†sibling attachment.¬† One reason it’s still a bit of a schmaz is that we haven’t seriously looked at sibs through the lens of their inborn differences; that first layer of personality which we call inborn¬†temperament. ¬†Wouldn’t you love to know your child’s¬†inborn layer of personality? ¬†Try this: ¬†¬†http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/insights/profile¬†

To get a quick read on each of your offspring, be they alike in temperament or not at all, you can complete the above, New York University 38-item online questionnaire WITHOUT giving any identifying data. ¬†Click SUBMIT and you’ll see a four-column chart that just may become a go-anywhere mnemonic for you. (There’s also a teachers’ version, on the same site.)

Temperament is a latin word that suggests different ‘colourings.’ To put this another way, as babies, we come in different emotional flavours. And that, fellow parents, plays mightily into how each of us responds to our own “little, live-in Zen Masters” (as Jon Kabat-Zinn once called them).

SUCCESS STORIES

Most of us can remember at least one pair of sibs who shouldn’t be allowed to get along so darn well. It makes rest of us feel bad.¬† Odds are that both of them felt safely connected to at least one of their parents.¬† These two sibs are among the fortunate few who enjoy a secure bond (as an attachment psychologist would say). They may have sibling tiffs, but their war games never extend to that classic, calculated, surgical strike against self-esteem, which so shocks parents and dismays peers. A friend who grew up as the eldest once confessed to me that he, along with his second sib, convinced Sib 3 that she was adopted‚ÄĒAs if that would be a problem. ¬†But, to an innocent four year old, you bet.¬† Their parents dealt with that one, mighty quick.¬† Much healing ensued.¬† And it seems that some sib pairings in this family got a little stronger, once kids realized how serious their parents were, about treating everyone equally.

I SAWED YOU GET BORNED! YOU WERE DISGUSTING!

Why would an elder sib aim so low?¬† Because, at least in the formative years, their own self-esteem is the flip side of their security with parents.¬† The less secure we feel, the less valuable we feel, and so, the more we try to cut that seemingly favoured sibling down to size.¬† Enter parental problem-solving.¬† Most of us will be tempted to say to our child, “That was really immature/low/beneath you/small of you.” Here we go, saying this to the very child who almost certainly feels, despite our most loving efforts, less valued right now. They are just choosing an inappropriate way to fend off that feeling.¬† This situation is so common for elder sibs, in relation to the next child, that most psychologists once thought it was inevitable. (Hence the ‘dethronement’ concept.)¬† That was before John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth changed our view of child-parent bonds forever.¬† As the Gershwin brothers would say, It Ain’t Necessarily So.

“MY KIDS FEEL SECURE WITH ME.”

“So they won’t be doing that.”¬† You may be bang on. Enjoy this great blessing. Your grandchildren stand a good chance of inheriting this blessing as well. Quit reading now and send this post to three friends who are a bit less lucky. In Canada and the United States at least, most of us are wrong when we assume that our kids feel consistently secure with us.¬† It’s tricky stuff, for most parents, to build durable security with each child. It’s especially so, if our kids are born different from each other. That usually means one child’s inborn temperament is more like the parent’s, while another child’s temperament is unlike the parent’s. Psychologists call this ‘temperament goodness-of-fit.’¬† Having a difficult fit with our child doesn’t prevent us from building attachment security.¬† It just makes it trickier.¬† Child and parent don’t really ‘get’ each other, at first. A parent with strong emotions may, for example, have to work harder to tune into Sarah, than to Samir . . .

SARAH & SAMIR ‚Äď INTO THE BREACH

Samir freaks out at the sight of their common friend’s blood in a serious injury. ¬†Bravely, shakily, tearfully, he helps open the bandages and dials 911. Sarah thinks everyone’s being rather dramatic about it all.¬† She doesn’t help until she’s directly told to, as clearly and calmly as possibly, being told the exact steps she must take, right now:¬† “Sarah, you need to get a blanket from the closet and come straight back. Good. Now open the blanket and put it over your friend. Good. Now stand at the door and watch for the ambulance. And Sarah, this is going well, because you’re helping.”¬† Neither child acted out.¬† Both deserve equal recognition.¬† Sure, it was harder for Samir, emotionally.¬† But Sarah probably learned more, ethically. She’s now a better team member. Let’s not take that away from her, by asking ‘why’ she needed to be ordered (gently) into it. ¬†She just did.

MACKLIN & DION: WHY CAN’T YOU TWO JUST LEARN TO GET ALONG?

Sib to sib, inborn differences can be confusing and frustrating. They have a lot less experience with this stuff than their parents.¬† Macklin loves sports and contests and kids’ novels and chess. ¬†Dion can’t stand any of those. Dion draws and paints and asks deep questions at dinner‚ÄĒwhereupon Macklin rolls his eyes and tries to leave the table. One of the worst parenting responses we can make is to insist that Macklin and Dion spend more time together, find some common interests or ‘just learn to get along.’ (What does that even mean?)¬† In a way, we are telling both of them both to please, not be themselves.¬† Polite, considerate and distant may all they ever are, with each other, for decades.¬† That is not a failure of parenting. It is a success.¬† If both of them reach some level of security with at least one parent, odds are, they will both grow up to have friends, understand themselves somewhat, and achieve at their potential.¬† As adults, if they care, and they work at it, they will discover unsuspected, interesting aspects of each other‚ÄĒand therefore, of themselves.¬† No blame in coming late to that party. As kids, they simply weren’t meant to be so close.

SOMMAYAH & JULIA:  THE PLOT SICKENS

Sommayah (16) and Julia (14) were not on equal footing.¬† Julia was falling behind in school.¬† Her parents reduced her screen time on all devices to two hours a day and bought her the cheapest !@#$%^&*! cell phone EVER, with only texting and calling. It would be confiscated if used in class.¬† Sommayah, doing well in school, had no such restrictions.¬† She loved her sister but didn’t quite ‘get’ her, emotionally.¬† At lunch time, Sommayah neglected to introduce her sister to a group of her new friends when the two sisters ran into them.¬† After a few agonizing minutes, Julia left, hiding her tears.¬† Getting home first, Julia hid some of her mother’s best jewellery in Sommayah’s room (usually a much younger child’s stunt, but Julia was really losing it here).¬† She was expressing her view of Sommayah as seemingly the ‘thief’ of parental affection‚ÄĒand of course, trying to get her in trouble. Fortunately, Sommayah had a change of after-school plans and discovered the stunt before her mother did, but felt deeply hurt by her sister. Their parents arrived home to find both girls in tears, and trading loud litanies of past hurts.¬† They would not speak to each other, for weeks.

Once in a while, sibling rivalry may contribute to truly unhealthy child or teen behaviours.  This family may have a need for evidence-based behavioural consultation. (In more involved cases, one child might also have a diagnosable, treatable disorder.) The rivalry itself can be treated too. But it is neither the symptom nor the cause. It just is. When the treatment team includes a psychologist who understands temperament and attachment, then treating the behaviour (or disorder) will almost always strengthen child-parent attachment, too. Then the rivalry has fewer emotions driving it, and becomes likely to respond to behavioural work (or just fade out).

Sommayah and Julia both went to therapy with separate therapists, but Julia, more-so. Both had the option of inviting a parent to sit in, any time. Both did.  In two months they were ready to take on full-fledged family therapy with an attachment-aware social worker.  Gradually they became peaceful siblings for the first time. One could begin to see that, when they truly need each other, they will always be there.

familiesonline_comBut who felt they learned the most?¬† The parents, of course.¬† They learned how very different their two daughters’ needs are, in emotional parenting terms.¬† Sommayah shrugs off public display of affection and is perfectly happy just knowing that her parents will listen, lovingly, whenever the need arises.¬† Emotionally, what Julia needs most from her parents is expressed warmth every day, frequent firmness (though soon she needed less-and-less of this) and well-timed, smiling, full-on reminders of parental confidence in her abilities.

Finally, they learned how Julia positively thrives when her different, emotional needs are understood as core aspects of who she is; and who she can become.  Julia became interested in social work because she recognized in the family therapist a person with strong emotions very like her own, and these actually made her pretty effective at her work.  And oh yes:  Julia DID eventually earn an upgrade, from that cell phone.

The above cases are entirely fictional and based on years of clinical experience.  

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc (Ontario)

ūüĒíCONFIDENTIALLY MESSAGE THE PRACTITIONER

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ūüĒíCONFIDENTIALLY MESSAGE THIS PRACTITIONER

WHERE DOES ATTACHMENT ‘COME FROM?’

son & mother - attachment

(ONTARIO) From the heart, of course. But so many parent who have lots of heart still struggle with it.¬† Take comfort in the fact that you are in the majority.¬† ‚ÄďA large majority actually, at least in Canada and the U.S.¬† Blame it on technologically focused society, hyper-mobility or the six-day corporate work week, for decades now (at a minimum) most of us have been growing up with overriding, child-parent ‘issues.’¬† That is: Most of us as parents have our own attachment¬†

These are typically the big pieces, in how each of us manages the relationship, with¬†each child¬†we have.¬†For most of us, our own uncertainties about ‘how to be’ just plain get in the way.

WHAT? ARE YOU SAYING WE’VE ALL BECOME SELF-ABSORBED PARENTS? No.¬† It would be amazing if every one of us could always feel good about ourselves and about our child‚ÄĒand at the same time! ¬†But unless you’re among the fortunate few (and it has very little to do with economics) who have grown up feeling over-archingly secure and con-fident your-self, or you have done some very advanced personal growth, that often turns out to be one !@#$%^&*! challenge.

WHAT IS CO-REGULATION? 

Father and son - attachment

How we learn to handle the toughest times and how we figure them out, as a child-parent ‘team’ makes all the difference.¬† How can two such unequal people truly be a team? That is the emotional genius of parental learning. We¬†don’t have to be born to it, or be experts in anything, just to get there with our own child. No honest parenting expert out there got to be so, without paying their dues. But for most of us, it takes time. And it’s trickier if child and parent happen to be ‘born different.’¬† Child and parent can have different, inborn temperaments (from the latin for colouring‚ÄĒas in tempera paint.)¬† It’s quick, easy and enlightening to get a read on your own child’s temperament just by going to Prof. Sandee McClowry’s website at NYU’s School of Nursing:

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/insights/

SATI Blank Profile - Cropped

You won’t have to give any identifying information and you’ll immediately get a parent-friendly, memorizable profile that looks like this, with X’s where your child’s¬†four basic temperament factors stand.¬†You’ll also strike a blow against the tyranny of psycho-logical tests that only clinicians can give and interpret.

–In truth, these tests are invaluable, when needed.¬† But, as parents, many of us feel empowered when we realize psychologists do NOT have a monopoly on guided insight. There’s simply no need to keep all of it behind the jewelry counter. McClowry’s book, Understanding Your Child’s Unique Temperament helps us take next steps.

Bonding is much easier when child and parent both have the same, inborn, foundation layers of their personalities. But how many times have you heard a parent exclaim: “OMG, what is with Kid-2, here?‚ÄĒ¬†My first one was so easy!” (Or the exact opposite.)¬† We simply come in different emotional flavours, right from the start.

OK, SO WHERE’S THE QUICK ‘N’ EASY PARENT TEMPERAMENT PROFILE? ¬†

Great idea!¬† But our temperament gets overlain with other layers of our person-alities, throughout life:¬† our own¬† childhood bonds with either parent; our social learning with peers; and finally, what we each build on top of all that:¬† our adult self-concept. Still, in our closest relationships, where we truly must be, or can’t avoid being our truest selves, our natural, inborn differences re-emerge. Stuff that our colleagues would never guess would push our hot buttons can be ridiculously easy for a family member to target if they’ve had too much stress (and for some reason, you seem to be part of it).

Bonds - Market Share- best resolution

Now, none of us would like to admit it, but we can find ourselves doing the exact same thing with our own kids when we’ve had too much stress. That can confuse both child and parent. But as parents, we can learn to bridge that gap. When we do, we show our child: Not only can I comfort you when you’re scared; not only do I too recall having that kind of disgusted, overexcited or stunned feeling, but even when I mess it up as your parent, I can still figure it out. (Or if you can’t, at least now you know what kind of help will actually help.)

Mother & Son - Pat-a-Cake

Through co-regulation, we show our child that growing up never ends. Self-regulation is the magic of how kids can then keep building, more independently, on that.

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc

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WHAT, WE’RE MAKING BUZZWORDS AGAIN?

Chimp bottle-nurses tiger cub RTR2VPTI_RTR2PG91_640

[TORONTO] We are right to be leery of each and every new psychological term that tries to invade our lives.¬† We’re not about to fall for a repackaging of something we already bought.¬† Nor do we need to live up to some diabolical new yardstick for job performance, school progress or (worst of all) self-worth. And in truth, emotional intelligence (EI) is not new. It is simply a neglected part of ‘intelligence’ itself, even as IQ test-builder David Wechsler defined it, back in 1940.¬†¬† He meant this concept to include all abilities we need, to develop and to achieve, on our own terms.¬† But he never presumed to pack all that into one handy test kit. Others began filling gaps. Today, measures of emotional self awareness, other-awareness and problem-solving are much stronger predictors of school success, career success and social satisfaction than any cognitive test you name. Now, the ‘testing’ of EI is in its infancy, but the work thus far by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso on their measure dubbed the MSCEIT at least demonstrates proof of concept and seems to have some actual problem-solving usefulness in adults’s lives. (Building child and adolescent versions of any whole new type of test tends to be trickier and can take longer.) The MSCEIT ahs not yet reached the status of an ‘evidence-based intervention’ to which your clinician should conscientiously turn, every time you or your friend or your adult child comes in feeling tortured by interpersonal emotional miscommunication or just realizing they can barely name their feelings after living with them for 40 years.

 SO, CLEAR SELF-EXPRESSION IS IMPORTANT. NOT NEW!

True, but reptiles can do that.

panther chameleonWhat our cold-blooded cousins are not so good at is managing the complex interplay of each other’s emotions, in ways that lead to supporting child development and later, to achieving shared goals.¬† That’s a triumph of the mammalian mind. We can take the most unlikely,unpromising situations and turn them to the benefit of all parties‚ÄĒor not.

ASK ANY  SEASONED PROJECT MANAGER,

much-loved parent or happy classroom teacher.¬† In fact, ask the U.S. military. Using EQ-i testing to select recruiters saved the Air Force nearly 3 million dollars.¬† (Maybe you thought an idea that sounds so warm and cozy just had to be a feel-good campaign; a consultant’s boondoggle.)

HAVEN’T WE GOT RELIGION, FOR THIS?

religions_symbolsm

Good point. In fact, Daniel Goleman, a key author in the field, has heard from faith leaders across a broad range of traditions, that EI looks like one way to measure the human qualities

that their faith teachings and community inspire. Sadly, the EI of self-defense is just as important as community. So don’t blink.

WHAT IF MY ADMINISTRATION WON’T BUY THIS, MY CHILD’S TEACHERS CAN’T GET TRAINING AND I’M NOT FEELING SO AMAZINGLY ‘EI’ MYSELF?¬†

Then you would¬† be in good company with a lot of folks. But there is much you can do, on your own. If you already practice traditional, Indian yoga, traditional martial arts (such as Tae Kwon Do) or mindfulness meditation, then you’re probably already good at recognizing and managing many of your own emotions.¬† If you’ve gained ground in a psychological therapy that promotes recognizing of others’ emotions, and emotional problem-solving (such as emotion-focused therapy, child-parent attachment work or interpersonal therapy) then you have also increased your skills in perception of others’ emotions; your reach and depth of reflective thought; and your total range of responses from which you can wisely choose before speaking or acting.

talking mouth thCA981SLW

Book-clubbing a major EI author or two (see below) or reading-up with a trusted friend or your partner, then discussing how EI skills play out in your daily lives, can help. Journaling about situations at work or home, predicting outcomes of your response options, is invaluable. And remember:

SCHOOLS NEED VOLUNTEERS AS MUCH AS PARENTS NEED KIDS TO HELP AROUND HOME.

kindergarten hard at work - clipboardThoughtful, adult team-work in a ‘safe’ place where you are not being constantly evaluated, and don’t have to focus on parenting, is a great proving-ground for new EI skills. Most parent volun-

teers feel appreciated‚ÄĒhugely. And you may find an educator on a similar journey of growth.¬† And by the way:

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL)

is just school talk for teaching EI skills in the classroom. SEL programs improve student behaviour, reduce peer-on-peer aggression and raise academic achievement levels.¬† And EI level itself better predicts the student’s career trajectory than top marks.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK.

psycho-babble muscle_brain colour adjustedIt can be, especially if one had a parent (or two) who had their own trouble cult-ivating EI skills of any kind. And some of us are just plain born with greater challeng-es around developing EI.¬† So-called ‘trait’ EI does not come naturally to all.¬† The great news is that over time, ‘skill EI’ can be learned by pretty much anyone. It can go a long way in compensating for lack of trait EI.¬† People who make progress in skill EI report stronger self-esteem, trusting bonds and work effectiveness.

POSITIVE LEADERSHIP =  LOADS OF EI

School TeamIf you’re struggling in a leadership role, bring forward, in your reporting relationship, the track record of corporate EI training. There’s no down-side;¬†just a startling¬†upside.

 

Business Case for Emotional Intelligence  http://www.eiconsortium.org/reports

Women in Leadership http://t.co/PgiBRNSPD3

EI predicted success levels in nursing school  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23660239

Social-Emotional Learning in Schools  http://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning