Monday, May 16, 2011

words from a mini-shrink

I have learned some lessons both in life and in my practice. Here are just a few things to consider:

You may not be able to change a strong-willed, hormonal 12-year-old or a stubborn, angry adult, but you can change how you respond to them. You cannot control what another person does but you can control how you respond. Imagine someone throwing lit matches at you. Are you going to respond like paper and catch fire or are you going to respond like water and diffuse their attacks? The first way, (i.e. fighting back) will often lead to an escalation of anger with no productive resolution. The latter of the two, you respond to what they are throwing at you rationally, even if they are being irrational. There is more of a possibility of resolution this way. Incidentally, this often indirectly facilitates change in the other person.

When you argue back with a child, you have already lost. It takes a lot of patience and rational discussion to communicate effectively. When there is opposition from a child, give them two or three options (all of which are ones you'd be okay with them choosing) and let them make the decision. This gives them a sense of control (which lowers their frustration) while still getting results with which you would be satisfied seeing.

Self care, self care, self care. Life, even under the best circumstances, is stressful. You need to take care of yourself before you can fully take care of others.

Don't underestimate the power of breath. Slow steady breathing keeps the blood pressure down and the mind focused.

Be very concrete and clear with expectations and consequences when they are not met. This way there will be no question in the other person's mind as to what you want. No point in being vague or wishy-washy.

Acknowledge other peoples' feelings, even if you don't agree with them. "You look like you are really angry with me. Is this true?" (let them agree or disagree and tell you what is really going on with them.) We all want our feelings validated. Avoid that infamous statement "I know how you feel" because even if you believe you do, you only know it through your realm of experience. Their perception is uniquely their own.

Adolescents and teens are learning about themselves and testing the waters. Give them guidelines but let them figure things out for themselves. All of us need to travel our own path.

Adolescents very much experiencing a second terrible twos. This will pass with nurturing and LOTS of patience. Their brains are not developed fully. They don't have the cognitive ability to rationalize fully, instead they are being driven by emotions and hormones.

When all else fails, take a vacation by yourself to a remote tropical island to get away from it all and take a few deep breaths.

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