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Monday, March 28, 2011

Building Self-confidence (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Building Self-confidence
            As a therapist, when I counseled parents, I used the metaphor of a house to describe effective parenting.  When building a house, you first need a strong foundation then you can work on the interior of the house.  For the purposes of this blog, the love a parent has for their child is assumed.  The principles I have discussed thus far: effective discipline, consistency, positive reinforcement, illusion of control, structure and limit setting are the building blocks of effective parenting as in the foundation of a house.  The interior of the house represent the independent factors of effective parenting, and this can vary from one household to the next.  For example, confidence may be an issue in one family whereas it may not be in another. Therefore, without a strong foundation, you can not fix the individual issues in parenting.
            Self-confidence is directly related to self-esteem.  So what is self-esteem?  It is the way one perceives his or herself internally.  Self-confidence is the external expression of one's self-esteem. Therefore, higher the self-esteem, higher the self-confidence. I have outlined below some of the characteristics in those with high self-esteem and ways to foster high self-confidence in our children.
          It should be noted that a parent's own self-esteem and confidence level has a major impact on their child's.  The good news is, even if you need improvement in the self-esteem area, you can still fake self-confidence! This, of course, has implications in areas such as social relations, work, school, etc. More to follow on this matter in future writings.  Stay tuned!

Definition of High Self-esteem
          Realistic and positive self-worth
          Act independently
          Assume responsibility
          Take pride in their accomplishments
          Tolerate frustration
          Handle peer pressure appropriately
          Attempt new tasks and challenges
          Handle comfortable and uncomfortable emotions
          Offer assistance to others
          All of the above build SELF-CONFIDENCE

Fostering High Self-confidence
          Positive Reinforcement
          Criticize behavior, not the child
          Good communication (active listening)
          Foster new learning
          Be realistic with expectations
          Seek help to treat any problems
          Shared fun/quality time
          Express affection
          Let children learn from mistakes
          Good discipline
          Expect perfection
          Compare with others
          Criticize the child
          Rescue from natural consequences (“helicopter parenting”)
          Blame the child for adult problems
          Assign adult responsibilities
          Bribe your child
          Be disingenuous with praise 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Structure and Limit Setting (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

This Week's Topic: Structure and Limit Setting
            Children need structure and limit setting to foster healthy social-emotional development. You may be wondering what they mean exactly. Together, they mean the general framework of how you want to parent your children and how your family functions.  Examples include things like house expectations or rules, schedules for different routines like bedtime, meal time, homework times, tv/computer times, etc. It can also include more abstract things like your values such as honesty, being responsible, being persistent, etc.  Children need structure and limit setting so they understand what is expected of them and to feel safe. This is also a way for parents to have appropriate control in effective disciplining.    
            If parents do not provide structure and limits, children feel anxious and insecure.  They will likely feel the need to impose their own structure and limits.  This is not healthy. Children learn what they can say and do from structure and limit setting.  All children misbehave at some point or another. They need consequences when they violate the house rules or expectations.  Such consequences can be timeout, privileges taken away, being talked to/explanation, etc. It should be noted that limit setting and consequences have to be age appropriate.  For example, timeout is appropriate for a 5 year old, but not for an infant or a teenager. 
            Also be forewarned that children will test limits. When children do this, I generally see this as a positive sign that they are smart for one thing, and they are asserting themselves for independence.  Therefore, it is important to stay calm and maintain perspective when children "push the envelope" rather than lose control by yelling or scolding.
           We want children to be assertive, but they also need to learn how to cope with things within given parameters.  Life presents with many, many rules and social norms of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  Parents tend to find themselves in this dilemma of whether they should encourage conformity or self-assertion in their children, especially in school-aged kids.  Parents play a crucial role in teaching their children how to balance between these two opposing principles. 

Discussion Questions:
1.      What are some limit setting strategies you use in parenting?
2.      What are appropriate consequences you use?
3.       How do you help your child find this balance between conformity and self-assertion?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Parenting Experiences (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

This Week’s Topic: Everyone has a story to tell about parenting that can help others. What’s yours?  I’ll share two examples from mine.

Light example: My 6 year old son is having a meal and he is constantly moving around in his chair. After repeatedly reminding him that he needs to stay still while eating so he doesn’t make a mess. Guess what he does?  He knocks a glass full of water all over the table, floor,and his food.  What do I do? Well, I give him a look and silently walk out of the kitchen and give myself a timeout in the bathroom.  Yeah, I sometimes give myself a timeout rather than him. If I don't do this, I will  lose control in front of him. Few minutes later, I return to the crime scene and find my son cleaning up the mess. He also apologizes with great remorse. We move on.

Heavy example: My second child was born extremely premature at 25 weeks abroad because I became ill. We were in a foreign land with a very small support network. To make a long story short, I was in and out of the hospital for two months before I had my daughter. She stayed 5 months in the NICU and underwent 5 major surgeries during her stay.  When she was four days old, the doctors and nurses had lost hope. A nurse called me in my hospital room around midnight to advise that we may want to call a priest to perform her last rites. I remember crying on the phone saying that I just moved to Australia 2 months ago and didn’t know any priests. My husband had already left the hospital to be with our then 4 year old son.  So, the hospital called in a priest from their directory close to midnight and my husband rushed back to the hospital.  An hour later, the priest came and performed the ceremony.  It was a surreal moment, in a nightmarish way. 
It was the longest 5 months of my life!  One of the things my husband and I did to cope with this trauma was to entertain people at our house on a regular basis. Some of our family and friends were quite puzzled by this and didn’t know what to make of it. My husband and I were very social people and had a large network back home in the States, but in Australia we knew only few people.  We made a concerted effort to make new friends in a foreign land even though we were extremely drained from the hospital visits, meetings with doctors and nurses, attending to our son, and the overall stress of not being with our daughter.  It was our way of coping. One of our Aussie doctors said it quite aptly: “You guys went to hell and back.”   
Our daughter is doing remarkably well, with minor issues, such as being hard of hearing and has to wear hearing aids, has asthma, and chronic lung disease.  She attends the state school for the deaf and we are both learning American Sign Language. She will be two years old next month and is a pure joy!

Illusion of Control (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Illusion of Control
            People get a kick out of it whenever I talk about the illusion of control in disciplining. It is when a child perceives they are in control of the situation when actually the parent is orchestrating this illusion of control.  So therefore, the adult is in control and you avoid a draining power struggle with your child. 
For example, let’s say you and your son are at the grocery store and he wants to buy a sugary cereal (e.g Coco Puffs), but you want him to eat a healthier option. The way to create this illusion of control is by giving your son 2-3 healthy cereal choices (e.g. Cornflakes, Special K, or Cheerios) and asking him to choose one while staying calm and composed. The key is to set parameters so the choices are within your range of acceptability.  This becomes a win-win situation since the parent maintains control of the situation and the child feels empowered as they make decisions within a given framework.   
            When I worked in one of the city's elementary schools, a first year teacher who was very enthusiastic about teaching came to my office overwhelmed about one of her students. This particular student was oppositional in every way he could be in the class.  He would yell, throw things, talk back, and fight during class, which of course, disrupted the class and got the other students riled up.  After listening to the teacher, I explained to her that this student was resisting authority figures in school because he wanted to feel in control, and very likely that he was in control at home.  I gave her a quick lesson on illusion of control and how to apply it in the class. We had a follow-up meeting, and she said that things are going so much better and when she has her own kids she’s going to use this strategy!  This is a powerful strategy if used appropriately. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Positive Reinforcement (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

                Positive reinforcement is another important concept in effective discipline.  So, what exactly is it?  It is when you recognize your child’s positive behaviors and encourage them through reinforcement.  By doing this, your child will more likely increase the positive behaviors and reduce the negative ones.  Contrary to what some may believe, focusing on the negative behaviors does not increase positive behaviors. Positive reinforcement strategies can be such as giving praise, hugs and kisses, high fives, stickers, special notes, etc.  This is where your creativity comes into play.
Many believe this is the same as a bribe.  I’ve heard too many times parents say: “You mean I have to bribe my child to do what they are supposed to anyways?”  Here’s the difference between a bribe and positive reinforcement.  A bribe is given before a wanted behavior occurs whereas positive reinforcement is given after a behavior has occurred.  Positive reinforcement has another added bonus!
Positive reinforcement that is given on a regular basis makes children feel good about themselves and over time,  increases their self-esteem.  Higher self-esteem yields higher confidence. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to be socially well-adjusted, comfortable taking appropriate risks, happier, and successful.  Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

        Here is an example to drive the message home, which one do you think will give you better results?

 Positive: Sue, you worked so hard on your Math homework. I’m so proud of you!
Negative:  Sue, what’s taking you so long to do your Math homework?  Don’t you pay attention in class?!

Remember: Catch them being good!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Parenting Styles (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Parenting Styles
                Current researchers have agreed that there are four parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved.  One’s culture, personality, education level, religion, socioeconomic status, family background, and parents’ parenting styles are some of the main factors contributing to our own parenting styles.  It is important to note that I am speaking in general terms, and that not everyone uses one particular style all the time nor are the outcomes always the same.

Always try to be in control and exert their control on their children
Strict rules to maintain order, without much expression of warmth and affection
Very critical of children for not meeting their standards
No explanations/options/choices provided
Tend to focus on the negative behaviors rather than on positive behaviors
“My way or the highway”/ “Because I said so”

Outcome: Children do not learn how to think on their own nor understand why their parents require certain behaviors. They may be high achieving, but low on happiness.  Also, they tend to be obedient, submissive, have low self-esteem, and  low social competence.

Give up most control to their children
Make few, if any, rules and the rules are not consistently enforced
Do not like to be tied down with routines
Want their children to be “free”
Do not set clear boundaries or expectations for their child's behaviors
Tend to accept in a warm and loving way no matter how the child behaves

Outcome: Overwhelmed children who do not understand what is right or wrong.  Children may seem “mature” but not developmentally appropriate.  Tend to have issues with authority, aggressive and acting out behaviors. Rank low in happiness, and school performance.

Help children learn to be responsible and think about the consequences of their behavior
Provide clear boundaries, reasonable expectations for their children
Explain why they expect their children to behave in a particular manner
Warm and loving approach
Frequently “try to catch them doing good”
Reinforce good behaviors rather than focusing on the bad
Democratic approach giving age appropriate choices/options

Outcome: Children feel secure and loved. Generally, responsible, competent, and confident. As adults, they tend to be confident, successful, and happy.

Places little demands on the child
Low responsiveness and little communication
Provides basic needs, but generally detached from their child's life
In extreme cases, these parents may be rejecting or neglectful

Outcome:  Children lack self-control, have low self-esteem, less competent than their peers.  These children tend to rank low across all life domains.



Friday, March 11, 2011

Effective Discipline (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

This Week’s Topic: Effective Discipline
                Effective discipline is an essential part of effective parenting.  I don’t know if it is my imagination, but whenever I use the word “discipline” it seems like the hair in people’s neck start to rise.   I wonder if they automatically picture spanking or hitting as definition for discipline. In any case, effective discipline is when a parent teaches what’s right and what’s wrong.  This is done by many ways such as setting appropriate boundaries or limits, giving consequences for negative behaviors, and reinforcing positive ones.   

Consistency, consistency, consistency
Above all in effective discipline, the most important ingredient is consistency. Without consistency, any discipline plan will be ineffective.  In real estate, they say location, location, location. In parenting, it is consistency, consistency, consistency. Here are some examples to send the message home.

                Example 1: I cannot tell you how many times I came across this situation during my clinical practice. A student gets into trouble at school for hitting another student. The parent is called in and she manages to hit the child for hitting another child.  “Do as I say, not as I do” is not an effective disciplinary method.  As important adults in our children's lives, we are role models and we have to consistently model what we want our children to learn.  
                Here, the parent was not consistent in teaching the child that hitting is a bad thing when the parent doesn’t practice this herself.  This idea stems from Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory which basically states that learning occurs in the context of what is being observed.
                Example 2: Your son wants to watch tv before doing his homework. The house rule is that you have to finish homework before watching tv. He asks his mother if he can watch it before finishing his homework and she says “no.”  He then goes to his father and his father says “yes” and ridicules his wife for being too strict.  The son takes advantage of the situation and you and your spouse get into an argument over this. 
                In this case, the mother and father were not consistent with each other. The son manipulated this inconsistent situation and also learned that his mother’s words do not matter as much as his father’s.  This perceived power imbalance between the parents is a recipe for future disciplining disasters and relationship problems.

               Example 3:  Our son started kindergarten this year and he was doing great academically and socially.  Then we got our first email from his teacher.   Yup, the child and family therapist mom and very involved dad get the note that their son is having a “rough week” in school.  He was having trouble listening, getting into disagreements with friends, and calling out.  After I went through a short- lived  “It can’t be my kid,” syndrome, my husband and I put the brakes on and discussed what went wrong. We had given him the same love, care, attention as always but something was not right.  My husband and I realized that we had fallen off the consistency wagon in our disciplining. 
                So what did we do? My husband and I both took responsibility for our recent inconsistencies and vowed to never do it again. We communicated to our son what he is expected to do at school and that we were going to hold him accountable for his behaviors.  We stayed on track with our discipline plan. Few days later, his teacher emails us again with good news that his behaviors have greatly improved!  Of course, we have made consistency blunders few more times, but we quickly pick ourselves up (even before our son recognizes it), and return on the wagon.  Our son’s behaviors are testament to the importance of consistency in parenting.
             The reason I say consistency three times is because in disciplining children: the mother has to be consistent with the child, the father has to be consistent with the child, and the parents have to be consistent with each other.  If one does not understand and implement this concept, then effectively disciplining a child will be a constant battle.  It's true that consistency is easier said than done, but if you practice this then it becomes much easier to effectively deal with just about any behavioral problem you are presented with.    

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Empowering Parents Everywhere (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Welcome!  This blog is designed to honor, support, and empower parents everywhere in their journey to improve their parenting skills.  As a therapist and parent of two children, I understand from the bottom of my heart what a challenging and rewarding role a parent has.  This is complicated by an ever changing and demanding world.  Over ten years experience working with children and families in schools, detention facilities, and clinics has taught me that every parent wants what is best for their child, but there are many who do not know how to go about it.  I know every parent can be an effective parent if they have some tools under their belt!
Effective parenting is a balance between Science and Art.  Science, because one needs to have some understanding of human psychology to be an effective parent.  Art, because it takes lot of creativity in effective parenting! I hope as different topics such as effective discipline, teaching kids money management skills, internet security, etc. are presented in this blog, you will take this opportunity to share your personal experiences and expert information to empower each other and find this balance!