Saturday, November 19, 2011

Part 2: "Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions"

*If you have ever struggled with the feeling of not liking your child, and you don't want to read this entire summary post (no one would blame you...), scroll down towards the bottom and read the part in bold.

This is part of a summary of the book: Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts & Aggressive Behaviors. My comments are generally in italics; the rest of the information comes from the book.
Chapter 1:  Emotional Intensity and Your Child's Feelings
  • Primary and Secondary Emotions
"Primary emotions are biologically based and virtually automatic, while secondary emotions are created when we react to our own primary emotion..."
  • Emotion Dysregulation:  “These children react immediately and intensely to emotional situations and have a hard time calming down and returning to how they were before the situation occurred.  A child with emotion dysregulation is then unable to modulate her behavioral responses to the intense emotions that she experiences as overwhelming.”
  • Parents must be careful not to invalidate the child's feelings when trying to soothe her.  Statements such as "It isn't a big deal," or "Don't worry" could be "unintentionally minimizing an issue that is of great concern to her."  
  • "Thoughts Lead to Feelings, Which Lead to Behaviors"
  • "Your Child Is Not Her Behavior"  This is such a hard thing to believe when your child is behaving ALL OVER YOU, ALL DAY LONG!
  • If parents develop an awareness of the way their emotions affect their own behavior, parents can change the way they respond to difficult situations with their child.
  • "Throughout this book, we will continue to emphasize that (1) there is no blame and no fault in the fact that your child has intense emotions and behavioral difficulties, and (2) there is hope for change in the future."
Chapter 2:  Effective Parenting
The author continues to refer to DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) but still hasn't explained exactly what that is.
  • "In DBT you are asked to accept two facts that may seem contradictory:  that you are doing the best you can and that you can do better....This is a no-fault, no-blame framework for change."
  • "These are assumptions we're asking you to accept as an important part of the DBT learning process.  They are:
    • Your child is doing the best he can
    • Your child needs to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change
    • Your child wants to do things differently and make things better
    • Your child must learn new behaviors in all important situations in his life--sometimes a child will behave fine in one place (at school) but awful in another (at home)
    • Family members should take things in a well-meaning way and not assume the worst
    • There is no absolute truth--The truth of any situation is based on the perspective of each person and is therefore relative and changeable.  When you accept that someone's point of view, memory, or understanding may be different from your own, you will no longer feel the need to prove that you are right or the other person is wrong."
  • Although the above assumptions may be hard to believe, it is vital to behave as though they are true in order to think and respond differently towards your child (which will then affect the way your child is behaving).
  • "Using the DBT assumptions is one way you can begin to respond to your child more wisely.  To further help you learn to respond wisely, DBT teaches several skills that involve learning to step back from a situation and to see things with new eyes and a different point of view....These skills also involve learning to focus, to think in a nonjudgmental way, and to do what works (what is effective)."
  • We need to describe ("He interrupts his siblings when they're doing their homework.") instead of evaluate/judge ("He's very disruptive.")
  • We need to respond ("well-planned and reasonable...") instead of react ("based on your emotions")
  • It is important for our child to feel validated ("validation refers to the act of letting someone know that you understand, acknowledge, empathize with, and accept his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the context of his own life experiences...")
  • "A person must feel accepted before he can change..."
4 steps to practice (and practice and practice and practice) to learn how to make validating statements:
  1. "Find a way to act wisely"--Hee, hee, hee.  The description of this step reminded me of the Blue's Clues episode about frustration:  Steve taught us the kids to "Stop, Breathe, and Think" when we they were feeling frustrated.
  2. "Look at your child with new eyes"--"Remember, your child is doing the best he can...", try to figure out what your child is feeling or why he is acting the way he is
  3. "Explore what may be getting in the way"--Why are you having a hard time validating your child in this situation?
  4. "Make a validating statement"--say something that shows you understand and accept your child
Okay, none of this is ground-breaking information, right?  Aren't these the things we know we should be doing but don't always do because we're tired/busy/need more ice creamWORN DOWN?

Next section:  "Parenting Roles, Goals, and Expectations"
  • "Interacting and Communicating in Ways that Work"
    • "Assess your goals"
    • "Develop priorities"
    • "Feel effective"
"Balanced Parenting"
Aha!  Now we learn what Dialectical thinking is!
"Dialectical thinking enables a person to (1) view behaviors within a whole context, (2) entertain different perspectives in others and within himself, (3) recognize that two things that seem like opposites can both be true, and (4) find less extreme and more effective ways to think...When parents are able to accept, incorporate, and synthesize other, conflicting points of view, they become less rigid, become more balanced, and are able to develop entirely new ways of thinking..."
So, "dialectical thinking" is basically looking at the whole situation and having an open mind?

In order to think in a "balanced way" we need to be:
  • "Using phrases like 'sometimes' and 'some people' and avoiding extreme words such as 'always', 'never,''everyone,'and 'all the time'"
  • "Thinking in terms of both/and instead of either/or, such as 'I am angry, and I still love you,' and 'This is hard for me and I'm going to do the best I can"
  • "Reminding yourself that other opinions can be legitimate even if you don't agree with them"
  • "Describing situations by making 'I feel _______' rather than 'You are_______' statements"
  • "Asking questions to clarify what others want and telling people what you want them to know"
"Examples of Balanced Thinking...that are especially relevant for parents of children with intense emotions:"
  • "Acceptance and Hope"--accepting your child the way they are now and hoping they will change in the future
  • "Independence and Assistance"--helping your child to learn independence while knowing that you will help if needed
  • "Choices and Limits"--you can give your child choices AND limits
    • It ACTUALLY SAYS, in this section:  "Learning to negotiate is a valuable skill for you and your child." but I'm CERTAIN that sentence involves some MAJOR typos and SHOULD read:  "Negotiating is a skill that your child will acquire effortlessly (unlike the skills of bathing, flushing the toilet, or picking up his own belongings) and use to drive you OUT OF YOUR MIND *EVERY* time you ask him to do ANYTHING or give him ANY choices."
  • "Giving In and Choosing Priorities"--you can let your child win some battles without worrying that by doing this you are losing the war you never wanted to fight in the first place and do not remember signing up for
"Loving a Child with Intense Emotions" (bold added by me)
"You may wrestle with your own feelings toward your child.  You know you love him and there may be some days, especially when your child appears to be out of control or when his anger is directed at you, when you don't like your child very much.  There may be days when you question your love for your child, and this can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.  Again, think in terms of balance.  You can, indeed, have mixed feelings for your child.  You can also have different emotions on different days.  Not liking your child at times does not negate your love for your child;  you can hold two different truths at the same time.  You can love your child and be angry at your child.  You can love your child and want your child to disappear at times.  You can want to be with your child and not like being with him.  Accepting that you can have different emotions at different times---or even at the same time---will make it easier for you to parent and to love your child."

Well.  The introduction said that we could skip to the how-to-take-care-of-yourself chapters if we were overwhelmed by this point.  Any votes?  I would vote but I need to go find some ice cream to drown my reality sorrows....

And:  do you want me to keep summarizing, or do you feel like you have a pretty good idea of whether or not you are interested in reading this book for yourself and we should move on to something less realistic less discouraging more pleasant?  I've tried to hit the main points, but there is, of course, more information in the book.

Lastly, I need a hug.  It is discouraging to think how many hours I have spent reading books like this AND YET I still must get to read this one.

Summary Part 1
Summary Part 3
Summary Part 4
Summary Part 5


Emily said...

Is this book really painful to read? I'm kinda getting that impression. I'm also not seeing how the DBT stuff is much different from the "popular" parenting advice that's floating around there right now. (Or maybe this is all stuff our OT told me and I'm just misremembering where I learned it.)

If this one's rough to get through, maybe you should put it down for a day or two, grab some ice cream, and regroup before tackling it again. Maybe this will be the one that keeps you from reading any more books like this in the future. *Hugs*

Doing My Best said...

Emily--I think it's more... unpleasant. But not because of the book itself...because of what it represents: YEARS of struggling with children's behavior, doing my best, and wishing it didn't have to be this hard.
Thanks for the support =)!

Anonymous said...

Argh. This sounds so HARD. And the book is giving reasonable advice, but - like you said - it's nothing we all (even non-parents like me) haven't heard before. Sometimes I don't mind books that give me advice I've already heard... If they present it in a new way or if they give really easy, practical ways for putting it into action. But thinking instead of reacting is HARD TO DO. And constantly struggling with someone without losing your mind is ALSO DIFFICULT. What is missing here - at least so far - is something simple and actionable that makes all this LESS AWFUL.

You know, I am enjoying the summaries. Well, mainly I enjoy your THOUGHTS on the summaries. But I wouldn't ask you to continue unless you find it useful (possibly in a venting sense). If the book is so horrible that you are dreading having to write about it TOO, well, then write about something ELSE!

Anyway, I'm sorry you have to deal with the frustrating behavior AND the so-far unhelpful book.

Doing My Best said...

lifeofadoctorswife--That's IT! I couldn't put my finger on it, but I am frustrated because none of these books are making things LESS AWFUL, and THAT is what I want to happen if I am doing all the work of reading the books and following their instructions!

Yes, writing about the book, or feeling like I have some accountablity (people are WAITING to find out what this book says!) makes it a tiny bit easier to read. Well. Maybe if I keep reading, I will come across something helpful....