Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Part 3: "Parenting a Child Who has Intense Emotions"

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.

I thought I would list the rest of the chapters, so I you know how much longer until this is over what's coming:
  • We finished Part 1:  You, Your Child, and Emotional Intensity
    • Chapter 1:  Emotional Intensity and Your Child's Feelings
    • Chapter 2:  Effective Parenting
  • Part 2:  Responding to Your Child's Feelings
    • Chapter 3:  Understanding What Your Child Is Telling You (because there is another interpretation of the angry things the child is screaming LOUD AND CLEAR?)
    • Chapter 4:  Responding When Your Child Is Overwhelmed by Emotions
    • Chapter 5:  Teaching Your Child to Manage Feelings
  • Part 3:  Responding to Your Child's Behaviors
    • Chapter 6:  Behavioral Principles and Intense Behaviors
    • Chapter 7:  Maintaining Expectations, Limits, and Routines
    • Chapter 8:  Decreasing Tantrums, Aggression, and Other Problem Behaviors
    • Chapter 9:  School-Related Difficulties
  • Part 4:  Helping Your Whole Family:  Minimizing Collateral Damage  (That just MAKES ME SICK!  "Minimizing Collateral Damage"?!  From something a child, WHO CAME FROM YOUR BODY is doing?!  I could throw up right now.)
    • Chapter 10:  The Impact of Intense Emotions on the Entire Family (because you don't feel like enough of a failure already)
    • Chapter 11:  Caring for Yourself and Living Your Life
Hmmm, I was planning on reading the chapter about taking care of yourself, but looking at part 4 is making me feel ill, so I think I'll pick a different chapter for tonight.....I guess I'll start on Part 2:  Responding to Your Child's Feelings.
Chapter 3:  Understanding What Your Child Is Telling You
  • The "story of emotion" describes how an emotion develops until it is expressed verbally and behaviorally.  "Understanding the steps in your child's story of emotion will help you understand your child's feelings with acceptance and without judgement.  Knowing the steps in her story will enable you to intervene before your child has escalated to the point of uncontrollable behaviors."  (The steps are:  Vulnerabilities/Risk Factors, Triggers, Thoughts/Beliefs About the Event, Body Sensations or Responses, Identifying Emotions, Behaviors/Actions)
  • "Your Child's Vulnerabilities or Risk Factors"
    • "Knowing when your child is vulnerable to negative emotions enables you to help her prepare for or avoid difficult or stressful situations until she is better able to manage them."
    • How to figure out when your child is vulnerable
      • "Hypothesize why your child's emotions seem more intense at this time" (since it is so quiet and peaceful while you duck and cover, trying to avoid the objects thrown your way fallout during the latest meltdown)
      • "Figure out what makes this day different from another"
      • "Begin to discern patterns"
    • "Possible Risk Factors For Children"
      • "Lack of sleep"
      • "Not feeling well"
      • "A change in routine"
      • "Tension in the house (even tension about positive events)"
      • "New people or situations"
      • "Stress from playmates, friends, or siblings;  being picked on or teased"
      • "A perceived sense of having done something wrong or having upset a loved one"
      • "Difficulty in school or in completing homework"
  • "Your Child's Triggers:  The trigger for your child is anything that causes or leads to an intense emotions response."
    • Possible triggers:
      • something in the environment
      • something the child is thinking or feeling
      • bedtime
      • vacation
      • asking your child to do something
      • setting limits
      • separation from a parent
      • change in routine or circumstance
      • losing in competitive activities
    • "Your Feelings as Triggers":  becoming tense in anticipation of your child's reaction to something can trigger the child's reactivity since children are supposedly sensitive to your moods and feelings
    • "Siblings as Triggers"
    • "Your child's sibling may be a trigger for emotional outbursts for any number or reasons....This presents a dilemma for parents, and each parent must find his or her own most effective way to resolve it.  Even while you try to avoid triggers for one child and try to keep her calm, your other child(ren)'s needs and feelings, even if they are triggers, need to be acknowledged and validated as well.  We will discuss siblings further in chapter 10."  (So, basically, WE ARE SCREWED this is looking GRIM.)
    • "Minimizing Your Child's Reactions to a World Full of Triggers":  Your child cannot live in a safe bubble, free from triggers, but you can spend your life walking on eggshells try to minimize the impact of the triggers by
      • avoiding or lessening problematic situations that are not necessary (example:  if your child becomes more aggressive after watching cartoons, limit cartoon time and increase time for programs that are more calming)
      • Making certain accommodations for things you know are going to be a problem (example:  if your child takes a long time getting ready in the morning, wake her earlier so that she'll have the time she needs)
      • preparing the child in advance by discussing what is going to happen, asking her what will make it easier for her, try to find ways to minimize stress and anxiety, validating her feelings and remaining calm and nonjudgmental when in the situation
  • "Your Child's Belief System and Concrete Thinking":  Children think in a literal, concrete way 
  • "Body Sensations":  be aware of the physical signs that your child is becoming distressed  (examples:  looking as though she's going to cry, speaking louder or faster, not looking directly at you, becoming more active or jumpy, looking like he is about to explode from the effort of holding his rage inside)
  • "Communicating Feelings":  When you are familiar with your child's risk factors, triggers, and body sensations, you can more easily understand what he is feeling.  Helping your child name the feeling is a way to help him gain some control and reduce negative emotions.
    • You can find a mood chart to hang up so that your child can see a picture of a mood and identify with it.
  • "Behaviors and Actions:  The Outcome of the Story":  The outcome of every story of emotion is a behavior.
      • "In DBT, behaviors are seen as ways to manage difficult emotions...Your child learns ways to help her feel better.  The stronger her negative feelings, the more she will search for ways to get rid of those feelings and the more intense her behavioral response will be.  Yelling, for example, may release some emotion, but if her emotions are very strong, hurting herself (or someone else) may be the only way she can find to feel better.  Ironically, her attempts at feeling better may become more destructive as the intensity of her emotions increases."
    • "Teaching Alternative Behaviors":  parents need to teach the children different behaviors to replace those that are "less effective" (Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Let's not tiptoe around this!  The things you do that get you grounded/suspended/listed on Cr@igslist!)
      • Examples:  telling someone what has happened, having some time alone, hugging a stuffed animal, pounding on clay or a soft cushion (Those are lovely ideas, but what are you supposed to do when your child REFUSES to do ANY OF THOSE THINGS or ANYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE SUGGESTED?!)
      • Encourage the use of alternate behaviors early in the incident "story"
    • "Modeling Effective Behaviors" (because your child is not going to head for some time alone when he is angry if you like to slam things and yell when you are angry)
      • Help your child understand that everyone makes mistakes
  • "Finding Your Child's Truth":  try to figure out what your child is trying to tell you
    • "Know Your Child":  accept your child the way he is
    • "Accept Your Child's Truth:  Your child's truth is real to her...Sometimes the specific words your child is saying are ineffective ways she has found to express herself...If you can let go of the truth of the words ('You love him more than me!'), you will be much better able to recognize and respond to your child's feelings effectively."
    • "Acknowledge When Something Is Important to Your Child":  try to validate your child's feelings even if you don't understand why something is so important to him
  • "Helping Your Child Express What She Is Feeling":  the best way to do this is to talk to her about her feelings and behaviors when she is calm
    • "Create a Validating Home Environment"
    • "Talk About Your Own Feelings"
    • "Acknowledge Positive and Negative Emotions in Others"
    • "Share Positive Activities"
Next up at some future date if I do not drown myself in ice cream!  Chapter 4:  Responding When Your Child Is Overwhelmed by Emotions

Summary Part 1
Summary Part 2
Summary Part 4
Summary Part 5


Josefina said...

Hmmm, sounds like you are not enjoying this book at all. Do you think it will be helpful to you?

Emily said...

I was wondering the same thing as Josefina. Is it worth finishing?

Doing My Best said...

Josephina & Emily: I don't know =(! The psychologist recommended it because she wants to start working with [un-named child(ren)] using this method, so I think I need to keep reading. For some reason, this book is really bringing up some, uh, (negative) strong feelings on my part...something to do with how very difficult it is to have the kind of children they are talking about, I think....maybe that's a sign that this book is going to be applicable to my situation after all.

Trevmiesterj said...


I purchased "Parenting a Child who has Intense Emotions" after my 7 yr old DD blew a fuse at a Science Fair because she didn't win with her mediocre display. It was a nice public terminal meltdown and sadly, this is a common theme with her. The kid simply cannot deal at times and will LOSE IT anywhere over anything.

So....I absolutely understand what you have in your family because I have a kid that cries all the time, gets mean, negative and unreasonable if a butterfly in Singapore flaps it's wings wrong and I have NO FREAKING IDEA how to help her.

Going to take a long look at your chart but wondering if there is a color below red I should add.

Been buying Ice Cream sandwiches lately out of nowhere-perhaps there is a correlation.

Doing My Best said...

Trevmiesterj--I hope I haven't given anyone the wrong impression about this book with my summaries! I think it is a useful book, especially if you don't already have a shelf of parenting books at home. I'm afraid my frustration at needing to read ONE! MORE! BEHAVIOR! BOOK! may, ahem, have come out in my summaries.

You know your child best! If you think she needs more spaces on the chart, you can either add another color under red, or add more spaces in the other colors. I hope the chart will help! In my experience, it did not immediately change my child's behavior, but it did provide him with much-needed structure, and it HAS changed his behavior with consistent use over the years. Feel free to email me at stilldoingmybest (at) gmail if you have any questions/comments about using the chart =)!

Tara said...

just discovered your 3 part post on this book as i was looking online for more info about it. i cried all the way thru your posts from the relief of finally finding another mom who understands my life with my 10-year old son. i truly thought i was alone, i was the problem, and we've seen countless therapists but its only getting worse as he gets older. i am afraid of what will happen when he hits puberty & his anger takes over & he lashes out at me. he physically comes at me now, tho he stops just short of hurting me, will he be able to conrtol this when his testosterone is raging thru him? and i applaud you at your bravery in posting the truth about what its like to parent these children becuz the shame i feel (of him, of me) & the fear that people will hate my son or think ill will towards him (cuz he can also be so loving, gentle, kind, intuitive & funny) keeps me from being able to share with friends verbally let alone writing it in the blogosphere. yet it is that courage that has helped me so thank you thank you thank you!

i am curious to know if you continued to read the book & if it was able to help at all. i understand all too well the hope & the dread of reading yet another book that proclaims to be the one to change it all for the better. i have many on my bookshelf & have gotten rid of many. the ones i've ketp have helped me in some way but they haven't been the life changer they claimed to be.

thanks again for your blog & posts & sharing. i am following you now & look forward to what is to come!

Doing My Best said...

Tara--I'm so sorry you are having this experience, but I'm glad I was able to let you know that you aren't alone!! This is SUCH a hard thing!
I have not finished the book because I've been sidetracked by other things, but I will make an effort to get to that soon since it has been helpful for other people.
I think this book has been helpful for me because it has reminded me of things I have previously learned, and I think it would be a great resource for someone who hadn't done extensive reading on this topic or doesn't feel like they are responding well when their child has an outburst. I believe the things this book suggests ARE helpful for the child, but I have come to see that it take YEARS of consistent responses on my part, combined with time and maturity for the child, to see a difference in the child's behavior. And it has stuck in my head that I learned that boys NEED large motor activity/physical exertion especially as they approach and enter puberty, so I try to give mine the chance to take the dog for a long walk, or go on a long bike ride around the neighborhood, or something like that early in the day to try to avoid problems.
A therapist you are comfortable with can make a BIG difference, so keep trying that route if you can. Also, there was a point when I WAS concerned that my son was going to hurt someone when he was angry, and, when we reached that point, I took him to the doctor, told him my concerns, and asked him if there was any medication that might help. It was VERY hard for me to choose to medicate my child because I wasn't sure what the long-term effects of that would be, but I knew that the long-term effects that would come from him hurting someone when he was angry would certainly not be good, so I chose to try medicine (he was regularly going to counseling at that time too).
Good luck! This is a hard thing, but it is helpful to know we aren't alone, and it is a GREAT RELIEF when we know it isn't our fault!