Who broke you? Socialization and difficult children

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Feral cat.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

As a baby did someone have to “break you?”

A ran across a passage in an older self-improvement book in which the author was talking about the need for children to be “broken.” Most of us today would be a bit taken back at the idea that children need to be “broken.”

This used to be a common term; I am inclined to think that the meaning has changed. People used to call it breaking an animal. Sometimes this was simply a way of referring to the process of training an animal to behave in the way we want it to. Snarling and biting is not an acceptable behavior for a dog so they need to be taught to not engage in this kind of activity.

Now by referring to the idea of “breaking” a small child I am in no way encouraging or condoning any form of cruelty. Even though the application of the term “breaking” is now largely confined to the training of horses, and applied to horses, I would hope, is the belief that this training of horses ought to be done in a humane manner.

But what about children? Should they be broken?

When you think of this process in a more modern way, we might say a child needs to be “socialized.” Why?

Because there are certain social norms we expect of people who live in our society. You should pay for the things you remove from a store. Some people do not seem to have learned this truth as children and are now surprised, even shocked when they are arrested for stealing.

Some people still have not gotten the message that there are things they just are not allowed to say and do. If you assert your right to do as you please, then I assert the right to call the police and have you arrested for that behavior. Calling the police might even be a mild response for some of the “unbroken” behaviors people are exhibiting these days.

So do parents have a duty to teach their children right and wrong?

Might that duty also include the duty to get their kid to stop doing socially unacceptable behaviors? If your child has developed an anti-social habit, I suggest that you as a parent have the duty, to yourself and the rest of society to “break” you child of this anti-social habit.

Now if no one taught you the difference between right and wrong. If you grew up in an environment where anything and everything goes, you may be forced to conduct some of this “breaking” activity on yourself.

One thing we learn as we get older is that if we are unable to control our lives the state is all too willing to appoint someone, a probation officer or parole agent, to manage our lives.

Have you found that you have habits you wish you had never started? Do you do things that get you in trouble with the law and society?

Then you might not yet be “broken” or “fully socialized.”

In that case, you have some “breaking” to do for your own good. Learn to break those bad habits and to conform to social norms. And make sure to pass those things on to your children.

It is a lot less painful to learn the word “NO” from a parent at a young age than from a judge or prison guard later on.

Who “broke” or trained you in the skills you need for life?

If that hasn’t happened yet, find a good life skills trainer and get to work. If your children embarrass you in public, if you get too many calls from the school about your child’s behavior, they may be sorely in need of some socialization and some “breaking” of bad habits. You owe it to yourself, your children and society to discard those bad habits and develop some new socially acceptable ones.

People have difficulty developing new pro-social habits when they still have old bad habits in place. Out with the bad and in with the good. Break that old habit or behavior and create room for some new positive behaviors.

Here is wishing you the best at changing old bad habits and developing new ones that will speed you on your way to a happy life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Lady Diana, Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Lady Diana headstone.
Photo courtesy pixabay.

Did Lady Diana have Bipolar disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or what?

Some interesting questions from reader Gledwood about Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder and Lady Diana. See the comments after Levels or Types of Borderline Personality Disorder.

I never met Lady Diana and am not so much a follower of royalty, so I can’t give you a specific diagnosis about her. In fact, it is considered unprofessional for therapists to give opinions on someone they have not assessed. But maybe I can give you some general answers on these two conditions and on how psychiatric labels may not fit celebrities very well.

1. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Bipolar are very different conditions.

There may be some small similarities and someone could have both but my thinking is there are quite different conditions.

BPD is like a volcano erupting. Huge uncontrollable emotions. They love you – then they hate you, sometimes the emotions change in the same hour. BPD has a huge pain component. Most people with BPD were abused, molested or had a non-affirming childhood. People with BPD often self-harm and they do it to relieve the pain not to find pleasure. They have trouble coping with negative emotions and will frantically try to find ways to stop having to feel bad.

Medication may help BPD and so will therapy but it is a slow process.

Bipolar is like a ride through the mountain in a car.

Sometimes down in the valleys in the shade and other times up near the top in the sun. Bipolar also involves some irresponsible impulsive behavior when manic but it is more about impulsive over-seeking of pleasure than anger driven. The ups and downs happen more slowly and someone with Bipolar can have years of depressed behavior and mouths or years of overactive pressured behavior. Bipolar Disorder often responds to medication. Over-responding to antidepressants is one characteristic that makes us think – Bipolar.

Someone with Bipolar can be trapped by depression for long periods of time and stay stuck there.

Diana Spencer and Lady Diana were probably very different people.

Public figures are often very different in their personal lives than their public lives. The Royals can’t very well hang out at the local bar (or Pub.) Take that press about what someone is like based on their public appearances with a lot of salt. Many comedians and singers are very shy in small groups but once on stage, they can assume a whole other “persona.”

Fans need to be careful to not confuse the person with the character they play. Celebrities have the same problem and start thinking they are their character. There is a difference between being “type cast” and always portraying the villain and those performers who play themselves while on stage. My guess is that having to play the role made it hard for her to maintain old friendships and relationships.

The diagnostic criteria professionals use and the popular meaning of terms are not the same.

I see way too many people who are being called “Bipolar” who are moody, irritable or just plain hard to get along with but they do not necessarily have periods of either depression or mania.

The DSM descriptions are a lot longer than the oversimplified description in most blog posts. There are 11 factors listed for mania and mania is only one factor needed for a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. Professionals need a lot of information before making these decisions.

Symptoms of both these and other disorders are normal traits that get out of control.

Despite the fact that I get paid to treat people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders I think we are trying to turn a lot of normal human emotions into diseases.

Everybody gets sad sometimes. Most of us do impulsive things. If you have never acted on an impulse we think you may have a problem with being obsessive or compulsive. Lots of us get into disagreements and don’t want to be around or talk to others who annoyed us. Someone who has BPD has a pattern of lots of unstable relationships their whole life.

The labels Bipolar and BPD apply to people with severe forms of these conditions; there are a whole lot of other people who have a few characteristics, sort of like one of these conditions. If you have just a few symptoms, counseling or other preventative measures may help you avoid developing a full-blown disease.

Other posts on Borderline Personality Disorder include:

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Hope that helped with the case of Lady Diana, Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why ignoring them doesn’t work- or does it?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Bad behavior.
Photo courtesy of pixabay

8 rules for extinguishing bad behavior – Part 4 in our changing others series.

Parenting coaches tell parents to ignore bad behavior. They call this process “extinguishing.” They warn that paying too much attention to the child who is misbehaving only rewards them and increases the targeted behavior. Professional’s tell parents to use extinguishing a lot. Many parents say it doesn’t work. Why?

Parents hate it when their child throws a tantrum. They try lots of things to make the kid stop. Fresh from the therapist, they decide to take the professionals advice. The kid starts to scream. They ignore him. Eventually, he has to stop right? Four hours later the parents give up on the extinguishing method as their child is still screaming.

Rule 1: Bad behaviors are likely to get worse before they get better.

Most parents give up before the bad behavior ends. Kids can be a whole lot more stubborn than most parents. Isn’t it the reasonable person in a relationship that ends up giving in to the unreasonable one?

Rule 2: Kids will pick a place for their bad behaviors were you don’t want to make a scene.

If you chose to try to extinguish a bad behavior, in the early stages avoid places where you won’t be able to stick to your guns. Taking the kid with you to the store is sure to result in a tantrum in the early stages. It is easier to extinguish bad behavior at home than at the in-laws.

Rule 3: While extinguishing a bad behavior, make sure to reward any behavior change.

Just make sure not to fall into the bribe trap by offering positive rewards for stopping the bad behavior. We all have urges to do something positive to distract the misbehaving person, but if the distraction comes to close to the bad behavior it looks like the bad behavior got the reward. Wait till the child stops the tantrum for twenty seconds or so and then reward them for stopping.

Rule 4: Be sure you are not extinguishing a desired behavior.

A child crying can be annoying at times but they should cry when in pain. Make sure you check that there is no legitimate reason for the “bad” behavior before you decide to try ignoring it and play your “extinguishing” game.

Rule 5: If you want to stop something you need to always stop it.

Of and on actions are called intermittent reinforcement. But out food once for a wild animal and it will come back for a while until it is convinced that there will be no food. But if you feed it off and on it will keep coming back almost forever. People are like that also. If you want to extinguish a bad behavior, don’t give in, not even once. If you are not consistent the person you are trying to change won’t know which answer to expect and they will keep trying forever.

Rule 6: This is not a one-person job.

If one person in the home tries to extinguish a behavior but the rest of the family gives in it will not work. Make sure all the people who might reinforce the bad behavior are on board with the effort to extinguish the bad behavior.

Rule 7: There will be ups and downs.

Bad behavior that has been extinguished may return after a time. Why shouldn’t a child, or adult for that matter, try something again that had worked in the past. The person who has lost the advantage of their previously useful bad behavior is also likely to get frustrated. Sometimes they even get aggressive or violent. A tantruming child who is ignored long enough, may up the ante and come over and hit you. Consider how you will respond if the aggression increases.

Rule 8: Good behavior extinguishes also.

Good behavior that is not reinforced will start to fade quickly. While trying to get someone to cut down on or stop bad behaviors, you need to keep praising good actions or the good things stop also.

Our series on changing other people’s behavior focused here mostly on children is about to change direction. We talked about getting more good behavior and we have talked about how to reduce or stop an undesirable or bad behavior. But what do you do when the behavior you want from someone is a whole new action? How do you get them to start doing something they have never done before?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Changing Others – Part One

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Change

Change.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes we really do need to change others.

Now I know I talked to you before about how hard changing others was and how we first need to look at ourselves. We have also looked at the way in which really lasting change happens. But sometimes we do need to try to change others behavior especially when it is not us they are harming but themselves and their acceptance in society. If your child is hitting other students you could wait to see if he outgrows it, but by then he may be expelled from school and you may be stuck with an unruly brat in your home all day. So sometimes teaching others to change is for their own good. There is a process for this way of changing others and it is called behavior modification.

Now I know I talked to you before about how hard changing others was and how we first need to look at ourselves. We have also looked at the way in which really lasting change happens. But sometimes we do need to try to change others behavior especially when it is not us they are harming but themselves and their acceptance in society. If your child is hitting other students you could wait to see if he outgrows it, but by then he may be expelled from school and you may be stuck with an unruly brat in your home all day. So sometimes teaching others to change is for their own good. There is a process for this way of changing others and it is called behavior modification.

Now I know I talked to you before about how hard changing others was and how we first need to look at ourselves. We have also looked at the way in which really lasting change happens. But sometimes we do need to try to change others behavior especially when it is not us they are harming but themselves and their acceptance in society. If your child is hitting other students you could wait to see if he outgrows it, but by then he may be expelled from school and you may be stuck with an unruly brat in your home all day. So sometimes teaching others to change is for their own good. There is a process for this way of changing others and it is called behavior modification.

Behavior modification began as largely experimental methods. It was used to change animals and later was applied to developmentally delayed clients. It has been gradually expanded to include all kinds of groups from kindergarten kids to college graduate students. And the great thing about behavior modification is that it works. But it does not involve what most people think it might include. Behavioral modification is not a shorthand name for brainwashing or manipulation. It is about helping people to change who don’t know then need to change.

Lots of behavior change methods have been criticized as manipulation. I cringe when I hear that expression. Don’t all kids manipulate? It is one way of getting your needs met when a direct method does not work. We need to teach others how we would like them to behave and then encouraging that behavior. For the “spare the rod” crowd I reiterate that physical punishment is the least effective method of teaching most of the time. It produces angry people who hit back or beaten people who stop trying. Real discipline is about training, not punishment.

Some people think the opposite of punishment is bribery. That won’t work either. If you bribe someone, particularly a kid, to do what they should do, next time the amount of the bribe will need to be increased. Eventually, the whole bribery method collapses when you can’t or won’t pay the exorbitant amounts demanded. Not sure about this, check with Washington.

The first step in changing someone else’s behavior is to get crystal clear about what behavior you want to change and why. Let’s take an example.

Mom brings in a child which we will call Clarence for want of another name. Mom is tired of getting calls from the school that Clarence won’t behave. She wants me to fix him. Sorry mom, I am fresh out of parts for that year and model. You want him changed, you as his parent need to do that. I will be glad to teach you how but you will have to do the work.  So mom what is Clarence doing? When you say he does not behave – what exactly does he do or not do?

At this point, mom pulls out her list. He won’t do his homework, does not stay in his seat, makes “mouth noises” did not clean his room and got in a fight. The fight might be anger management, but the mouth noises, that is a whole nother thing. So I ask the mother what is the one thing, the one most important thing she wants to change about her son. With behavior modification, we need to start on one thing to change and then progress to each item on her list one at a time.

Mom picks “won’t do his homework” I feel myself starting to relax. This is a case of increasing a behavior. We have more and better tools to increase desirable behaviors than we have tools to reduce undesirable behaviors. Also, this is something specific so we should be able to tell when we are making progress.

Sometimes I get things like I want him to be friendlier. What exactly do you mean by being friendlier? Bringing home a girl?  Giving away your stuff? Or would you settle for smiling more? A specific behavior like smiling more is easier to work on than the vague friendly thing.

The fastest way to increase a behavior is to reward someone for doing the thing we want them to do. Someone in the back of the class just yelled foul. You said no bribes. No, I am not saying bribe the kid. I said reward. What is the difference? A bribe comes before someone does the act. A reward comes after and the two things are connected. So my boss pays me if I show up for work a whole two weeks. He does not give me a bribe first and then hope I will show up. And the amount was clearly understood. It does not go up each time he wants me to show up.

Let me give you a hint here. For many kids, praise for something done well is even more reinforcing than things. Kids who have a close relationship with their families want to please their parents. Just make sure you let them know you are pleased. If my boss were to stop paying me I might get the idea he does not want me working there and I would probably stop showing up. I might also get really mad.

So next time we will need to talk about what things might be rewards and how to use these to increase positive behavior without falling down the bribe trap. Rewards are also powerful motivators in adult relationships. If you do not make each other happy more often than you make each other mad your relationship is headed for trouble. So very soon I plan to write a post about rewarding your partner to keep the relationship alive. Till next time

More on the topic of changing others can be found at:

Changing others part two 

Rewards gone wild

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why your child won’t behave

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Sad child

Sad.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Your child misbehaves.

The number one complaint that brings parents and children to most child mental health clinics is the complaint “my kid won’t behave, won’t mind, won’t do what I tell him to, or some variation of this theme. This is so common a complaint that I am tempted to tell a lot of families “Of course he won’t mind you, he is a child and you are his parent.” But that doesn’t solve the problem, and parents, most of the time, want their children to mind.

The occasional parent who could care less if their child behaved – well those parents come in too, referred by the school or the police. The symptom checklist almost always includes things like lies, steals, argues with adults, hits and so on. Usually, the parent wants us to find a way to get their child to behave. Sometimes they include in the symptoms “does not listen to adults, does not pay attention to what he is doing.” This could be ADHD, sometimes it is, but most of the time, the truth be told, the child is ignoring the adult. So what do most parents do about this situation and what should they do?

Children rarely grow out of bad behavior.

Lots of parents with poorly behaved preschoolers take the obvious path and do nothing. Their thinking is that the child will grow out of bad behavior. They often do grow out of it – the question is which way do they grow? Uncorrected, undisciplined, (read this as untrained not as unpunished) they grow out of it by turning into something worse, bossy disrespectful kids who tell the parents what to do. Why is it the universal nature of things for so many kids to grow disrespectful as they get older?

On simple reason for this issue is that growth in and of its self, creates conflict.  The baby who can’t walk does not get into very many things, the toddler does. As children grow up they try out new things, sometimes parents like the things their child tries, but other times the child does something really dangerous or irritating. Now when the kid does something wrong there are a few ways this can go. The worst one is for the parent to do nothing, give the child the impression that whatever they do is OK with you and you could care less. If you don’t care about what your child does why should she?

Throughout the child’s life, maybe the parent’s also, the child always wants to do things they are not yet old enough or ready enough to do. Their urges are always way out in front of their skill level. Very young kids don’t get it when you tell them “don’t do that” you need to get up and make sure they stop doing that.

Your relationship with the child matters.

One important determinant of how well-behaved your child will be is how close you are to each other. In technical terms, we call this attachment. The time to start being close to your children is when they are very young. If you have a close relationship with your infant or toddler they are much more likely to want to obey and please you when they get older. Don’t worry about spoiling your child. Just because you show love and caring will not make your child spoiled. The better the parent-child relationship is the easier discipline will be.

Even if you and your child did not attach as closely as you might now wish don’t give up. One way to improve the parent-child bond is to play with your children. Some parents got the idea that playing was a time waster that only children got to do. That is wrong. Some form of play and fun is good for humans regardless of the age. Play is valuable, especially playing games with rules because it teaches the child the ability to learn rules. Rules change from game to game and they also change depending on where you are and your role in life. Kids who are good at learning new games appear to be good at learning to adapt to new situations.

Separating is natural.

Most kids will go through periods when they push parents away. Sometimes they need to define who they are as a person separate from their parents. Other times they feel the need to align with friends and reduce their involvement with the parents. Don’t let these episodes of pushing you away be an end to your relationship. Try to stay connected and watch for a time when your child shows an interest in reconnecting.

Now some children are more resistant to discipline than others. Sometimes the parents do everything they can, play with their child, work on good attachment, praise them for successes and still, there are discipline problems. At that point, parents turn to professionals and the professionals recommend some form of behavioral modification.

Many people misunderstand behavioral modification. They have only two tools, rewards and punishments. So there is a temptation for the rewards to turn into outright bribes. And the punishments get increasingly stringent, often to the point of abuse. Behavioral modification has lots of techniques beyond the stick and the carrot.

In future blog posts, we will talk more about modifying behavior, your child’s and your own. I also want to talk some more about recovery and resiliency. This brings us right up to the current moment.

Soon it will be New Years and lots of people will be making resolutions. How do you make resolutions you will be able to keep? How do you avoid making impossible to keep resolutions? Before we can talk about changing our children we need to talk about how we change ourselves. How does that process of change work? Stay tuned for more on changing to have a happy, resilient life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

They’re misbehaving – again

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

People fighting

Bad behavior.
Photo courtesy of pixabay

Lots of conversations are going on about kids and their behavior, for good reason.

We see some mighty atrocious behavior every day. Sometimes the poor behavior is by teens, other times it is by their parents. It would be easy to blame the kids acting up on their parents, but that isn’t always the case. Good parents sometimes have poorly behaved children, and when that happens the parents start asking about how do I get my kids to behave. Just for the record, there is also a connection between children’s behavior and resiliency later in life.

Studies of resiliency – that ability to bounce back from trials or not be harmed by them report that relationships, especially with parents, have a big influence on future resiliency. One sometimes overlooked part of this parental influence is the way parents use discipline. Now don’t get excited just yet. The researchers use the word discipline in a different way that a lot of other people do. By discipline, they don’t just mean punishment. They also mean rewards and praise and all the things you do to tell the child when they are doing the right thing.

One analogy is that you don’t shape a garden plant only by pruning. You need to do some staking and directing in the way you want the plant to grow. Some adults think the way to make a child fit the mold they envision for them is to break them into pieces and then pour the parts into the mold. This does not work. It inspires resistance and rebellion and in the more severe cases becomes downright abusive. We might think of discipline more like sanding down the rough edges of a child’s personality so they are more socially acceptable. There are certain natural tendencies; some kids are more active than others, some like licorice etc. You can’t train all the personality out of a child. But then who would want to?

Now some parents think the way to have a good relationship with their child is to let the child do pretty much what the child wants. This does not generally make for a good relationship. Kids who have no or minimal rules don’t learn to follow what they are told. In short, the parents have no control over the child.  You might think this would lead to the child having more control over them but in most cases, it results in just the opposite. As adults, these people often say they are afraid they will not be able to control themselves. If your parent could not control you maybe you are uncontrollable. Kids need limits and structure so they will learn to stay inside the limits. They need parents to teach them how to control themselves and make good decisions. Kids need parents to teach them self-control.

Now one mistake new parents make is to try to teach lessons the child is not ready to learn. Coaches do not begin by teaching advanced skills, they start with the basics. In learning to play chess you are not taught multi-move openings – you start with how the pieces move. But parents often try to teach the proper use of silverware before they have taught the child not to climb on the table. This makes for upsetting dining out for the family and the people at the next booth.

Now the earlier you start training a child in good behavior the easier it is. I am not one who thinks that a person is ever too old to learn socially acceptable behavior but if you don’t teach it to your child someone else – like his parole agent, may need to step in and teach them.

One trap parents fall into is to yell, the worse the child gets the louder and longer the parent yells. This results in a condition called “parental deafness” this is similar to another medical syndrome called “married-man deafness syndrome” which I have written about elsewhere, only parental deafness develops at a much younger age. For a good description of “parental deafness,” you might want to check out “The Discipline Book” by Sears and Sears. They talk a lot about the way to teach a young child to behave. Most of the time I see older people, teens and even adults which were cheated out of their lessons on behavior at a young age and now need some remedial work on behaving.

So the conclusion is: Children who are taught socially acceptable behavior at a young age are more able to control their own behavior at a later point in their life. And good self-control is one factor in being able to recover from the bumps in life’s road.

In future blogs, I plan to write more about behavior, resiliency and what to do if you were absent the day these lessons were taught. We should also look at some of the things you can do if you are responsible for some remedial education on behavioral control. So what do you think about discipline, behavior and its relationship to resilience?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Treatment for teen’s risky behavior

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Teens

Teenagers.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

An amazing discovery in the treatment of risky teen behavior was reported over the last several weeks. It went largely unnoticed by most mainstream media.

Furthermore, one single treatment has been shown to have high efficacy in treating teen risky behavior. It is extremely inexpensive and can be obtained and applied without a prescription. The treatment, while often resisted by teens with high-risk behaviors, has been shown to not only be effective under a wide range of conditions but to treat a large number of undesirable teen behaviors at a very minimal expense.

In a startling report, two researchers for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia found after studying data for over 12,00 U. S. high school students that a single deficiency coexisted with a huge increase in teens risky behavior. While the government report was reluctant to say that this deficiency was the cause of risky teen behavior, they speculate that this one key ingredient might reduce overall risk-taking in teens significantly.

Unfortunate this key ingredient cannot be prescribed directly because it is not USDA approved for over the counter sales and is, in fact, available without a prescription. This one single item, not yet patented by a drug company, is available to almost all U. S.citizens for free.

High School students who were deficient in this one key item, and almost 70 percent of our teens were deficient, were almost two times more likely to be smokers. A continued deficiency if this ingredient, reported being necessary for happiness, resulted in a 50% increase in marijuana and alcohol use.

Long-term deficiencies in this factor were correlated with a huge increase in teen sexual activity. That was surprising since we most often have studied added factors that might cause an increase in sexual activity. Not many people would believe that a deficiency in a single ingredient necessary for life might increase the sexual activity of teens.

But wait – there is more, this deficiency doubled the risk for a suicide attempt. It was also related to getting into physical fights and being sad and hopeless. Kids who had this deficiency were also likely to be overweight, get less exercise and generally have a less healthy lifestyle.

So what was this deficiency? And how can we supplement teen’s lives to overcome this insufficiency?

The deficiency was a lack of sleep! Sleep deprivation was significant in kids with all these problems. And the one simple cure was more sleep!

Now teens will resist sleeping more, especially sleeping during the night. It appears that most teens are truly nocturnal creatures. More than one adolescent who was brought in to the psychiatric facility has confided to me that they rarely get much sleep at night. An increasing number of kids have T. V.’s and computers in their bedrooms. Many are online texting friends or playing games until close to morning. They have to set alarm clocks to wake up and even then they often can’t quite get it together in the morning.

Eventually, a teen who stays up most of the night finds they can’t function in the daytime. They are at risk to fall asleep at school, cut class or just plain be grouchy and get into fights and other negative behavior.

So it just might be that one thing a parent might do to improve their teen’s life is to make sure that child is getting enough sleep, even if that means restricting electronic avoidance of sleep.

Be careful if you teen has been avoiding sleep on a regular basis. If you suddenly try to take away their electronic addiction your teen may go into electronic withdrawal. During withdrawal from electronic sleep avoidance teens have been known to become grouchy, throw things break things, swear or even threaten to harm themselves or others. In extreme cases, you may need professional help to get the teen back on a night-time sleep schedule. But if your teen is having difficulties in life you just might want to examine their sleep habits and see if more sleep might improve their mood and behavior.

More sleep might improve your mood and emotions also. What do you think?

Till next time. David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.