A number of students are referred to me exhibiting signs related to behavioural and emotional challenges. More times than not, I will see clients who are moderate to severe in their behaviours. So we’re talking about students who are involved in disruptive behaviours or illicit activities, atypical behaviours, and consistent violators of school policies. To be more specific, these are children who were referred to the multidisciplinary team, for the following issues at school and at home:
- verbally abusive
- fighting with fist and weapons
- uncontrollable sudden outbursts of anger
- constant stealing
- excessive lying
- drugs and alcohol abuse etc.
Generally, I will begin with a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA) on the student. This will include a number of observations, interviews with teachers, parents and the student, along with checking reports from other stakeholders. The objective is to get as much information as possible.
Over the years I have come to notice that behavioural or emotional challenges do not always exist in isolation (in this case only in one particular setting), but, sometimes their expressions do.
Some years ago, after graduate school, as I was starting off as a psychologist working with children with emotional and behavioural disorders, at the time I did not realise there was so much more I had to learn. I remember taking the approach that clients will be consistent in their behaviours, regardless of the environment they were placed in. But human beings are not like programmed robots. For instance, if we install software on our laptops, then regardless of where we are in the world, it should work the same. So, if I take my laptop to Europe, Africa, United States or the Caribbean, when the icon for Microsoft Office Word is clicked, the program will open. People should be the same, right? No! This approach will be so wrong.
Behaviour is affected biochemically, but environmental factors (or lack of specific ones) around us, also influences our reactions or expressions.
It is therefore very important, that to reduce or to completely eradicate an unwanted behaviour, we look at things which maybe contributing as fuel to the behaviour. When this is identified, we should manipulate it to modify the behaviour.
Now, the understanding that children are affected by their environment has vital importance on the way they learn as well. For this reason, as an educational psychologist working with teachers and students, I encourage teachers to create an environment with things that acts as positive stimuli. These positive stimuli may include:
- a library,
- adequate space for group work and other social interactions,
- proper lighting and temperature,
- and a reasonably outfitted soundproofed room etc.
What are some additional features you believe can be used to act as positive stimuli to our children learning?
Children that do not listen are exhibiting a challenge to authority rather than a listening problem. Get through to your child with the assistance of a licensed psychologist in this free video.
After jumping down from a tree at the park my son stood up, did a little victory dance and then ran off to play on an obstacle course. It’s a pretty tricky course that requires balance, agility and coordination. It looked like it would take him a while to have it mastered.
Sure enough my son struggled for a while. I saw him fall and get stuck many times but eventually he completed the course.Then he came running to tell me about his adventures. He was excited, recalling many details, like a rope that caught his shoe and a scary moment when he struggled to clip the safety. But one thing he said stood out to me the most.
“I almost fell down like a hundred times mom, and then I finally figured out the whole thing. It was kind of tough. But it was awesome!”
“I saw you!” I told him smiling. It was nice to see this budding confidence coming through, especially because in the toddler years, he was often very frustrated when things didn’t really go his way.
Self-Esteem: It’s Important For Healthy Development
Children with positive self-esteem tend to recognize their abilities and feel proud about what they are able to. When a child’s self-esteem is positive and well balanced, they aren’t afraid of making mistakes because they recognize within themselves the ability to try again (or to quit because it feels right to do so). Most of all, they are able to manage worries, frustrations and the learning process pretty well. Especially when parents are able to encourage and support them along the way.
The way we parent and communicate with our children can certainly have an impact on their self-esteem. There are parenting practices we can strive towards that can help our children maintain (and boost) a positive sense of self.
Here are Ten parenting practices that promote healthy self-esteem:
1. Use Encouraging words: It’s tempting to shout out “You are amazing! You are so smart!” When you notice your child doing something well. But this puts all the focus on outcomes. Self-esteem is actually reinforced when children feel confident in their abilities, even when things are tough. Encouraging words help children stay the course. It might sound like:
- “You fell but you kept going.”
- “You weren’t sure and then I saw you figure it out.”
- “Not yet, it’s true, you haven’t been able to finish yet.”
2. Welcome boredom into your home: It’s really OK for kids to feel like they have nothing to do, and to feel like they are bored. When boredom shows up, children start to get creative. They tap into their inner resources, discover their interests and learn to rely on their own abilities. Allow for plenty of (screen free) unstructured time for your child every day. Even better if you can get them outdoors!
3. Validate feelings without eliminating every obstacle: Every child will face struggles and challenges as they grow. It’s tempting to brush these off or to rescue our children to lessen their burden but this isn’t helpful at all. In fact not letting children face obstacles is worse.
Jane Nelsen D.Ed. and Author of the Positive Discipline Series reminds us of how important it is not to rescue our children from their struggles with this anecdote:
A little boy was watching a butterfly try to break out of the chrysalis. As he watched the butterfly struggle, he felt sorry for it. So he decided to help. He broke open the chrysalis and was so delighted to see the butterfly soar into the sky. But then he watched in horror as it fell to the ground, because the butterfly had not developed it’s muscles.
So, when your child is struggling, try to validate and listen. Have faith that your child will be able to feel a full range of emotions and get through their feelings. You can give them space or stay close and listen. If they are open to it, help problem solve. Just avoid rescuing or shutting down feelings.
4. Teach Self-Care skills: Children are very capable, especially when we allow them to develop skills gradually. Without expectations that are set too high. Show your child how to care for their body, belongings and home. Allow your child to participate in tidying up the house, cleaning their rooms and helping with other life skills such as cooking, writing a shopping list and so on. Self-esteem really starts with knowing you are able to care for yourself, so allow your child to be an activate participant in their care from the very start.
5. Listen: Children need someone to listen to them so they know their voice matters. Strive to make time to be together each day so you can listen to your child talk about accomplishments, fears, worries, ideas and more. A fun way to do this is to end each day with a game of Highs / Lows where you invite your child to tell you some of her favorite and least favorite moments of the day. You can take it a step forward and ask your child how they might change those least favorite moments if they had a do-over.
6. Acknowledge Worries: It’s pretty normal for children to have worries and anxieties. When a child feels like her worries are being understood she is better able to deal with them and move forward. So, try not to dismiss worries and instead acknowledge them. It might sound like “You aren’ t sure if you can do it? Did I understand you?” Or “This is really worrying you. Want to tell me more?” Talking about worries and feeling acknowledged is an opportunity for a child to find and use her inner resources as well.
7. Have Courage & Be Kind: Our children really are watching us and reflecting on the choices that we make. So face your own obstacles, fears and worries with courage. Be kind to yourself, don’t speak badly about your failures or general abilities. Highlight the good and how you worked things out. Of course it’s ok to be authentic and admit defeat, but strive to do so with general compassion and kindness towards yourself. I would encourage you to remember that what you are modeling makes a big impact on your child. You might think you are not good enough, but your child really does look up to you.
8.Welcome mistakes and imperfections: Sometimes we have to try, and try again. Chances are you and your child will both make many mistakes along the way. See these as opportunities to learn, to persevere or to know when to quit and move on. Each mistake can be a chance to learn something new, or at the very least to model what it takes to problem solve.
9. Spend time together: Play, fun and laughter are incredibly powerful ways to connect to your child’s heart and mind. Seize the opportunities that you have to enjoy each other. Children that feel connected to their parents feel good about themselves. (I know parenting is not all sunshine and rainbows – there are many challenging moments but I cannot stress enough how important it is to make time for play and laughter. This practice has tremendous potential to reduce stress, misbehavior and increase your child’s well-being.
10. Use connected, positive discipline: When your child is having a hard time listening, following rules and not cooperating, skip blame and punishments. Focus on working together, on understanding the root of the problem, setting limits well and being present. A respectful, kind and clear approach to discipline helps your child feel secure, loved and understood. A great mix for growing up with a healthy and with balanced self-esteem.
The art of conversation is a necessary skill for almost everything in life. Conversations introduce you to people, important people who could be your mentors, employers, employees, partners or friends. Without conversations as the foundation for those relationships, you’ll have a hard time building a social circle, starting a business or advancing your career.
Once a conversation gets going, you should have little problem maintaining that momentum—but for most of us, getting it started is the hardest part. Master these “talking points” to get (and keep) a conversation going:
1. Lead with a compliment.
Compliments are the best possible way to begin a conversation. Not only do they provide a perfect opening line and a possible door for discussion, they also make the person feel good about themselves. Starting the conversation off on a positive note is crucial to keep the conversation going.
Just remember, the more specific your compliment is, the better—for example, commenting that a person is well-dressed is nowhere near as satisfying or flattering as saying something like, “Your shoes are cute.” It’s concise, sincere and specific—and now you’ve opened the conversational door because your partner has something to talk about.
2. Embrace small talk.
Small talk is taboo to some people, and while it’s not the most fulfilling type of conversation, it is both functional and necessary. Small talk is what leads the way to deeper conversation, much in the way that a car must gradually accelerate to a certain speed rather than hitting 60 miles an hour instantaneously.
Small talk topics are easy to pull—you can talk about the event you’re attending, comment on a food or drink item, point something out about the venue, or if you’re desperate, you can talk about the weather. These are all shared experiences that anyone can relate to, so they can work for any individual.
3. Ask lots of questions.
If you want to move from small talk to real conversation, you have to look for any opportunity that leads you to change the subject. Don’t try to abruptly change gears and talk about something deep or substantial; instead, patiently wait for the opportunity to present itself.
Questions are conversational lubricant. Pay attention as much as you can to the conversation and use them to move it forward. You should be scouting the entire conversation for “tell me more” opportunities. Keep potential questions in the back of your mind. Try to be as specific and inquisitive as possible.
4. Be nice.
This should be obvious, but don’t neglect it. Your level of friendliness can make or break the receptiveness of the other party involved. Walk into the conversation with a big smile and open body language, and keep yourself open, receptive and smiling politely for as much of the conversation as you can.
Try not to cross your arms, appear distracted or let your eyes wander. Maintain eye contact when you can and go out of your way to show that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.
5. Let the other person do the talking.
This is another major point. If you go into a conversation and immediately begin dominating it with your own anecdotes, comments and explanations, the other person may immediately become disinterested. Instead, try to keep the focus on them as much as possible.
Utilizing frequent questions is a good strategy to this end. If you find that the conversation is dwindling, or if the person simply doesn’t respond well to questions, feel free to jump in yourself. Tell an amusing story or a personal anecdote—it may be exactly what the conversation needs to keep going.
6. Keep it light.
Try to keep the conversation as light and approachable as possible. If you immediately start complaining about your job or talking about what’s wrong with your life, people will want to avoid you. If you tell a joke or an amusing story, they’ll be far more likely to stay.
People tend to gravitate toward others with a positive attitude, so keep your conversational material positive. If you struggle with this, try memorizing a handful of good jokes or good stories to use when you meet new people.
These tips are written from a practical perspective, so they can be used in almost any environment, from a professional networking event to a bar or restaurant. The key is to get over your preconceived notions and hesitations and to embrace the reality of small talk. With a little practice and more confidence, you should have no problem starting a conversation with anybody, anywhere.
Learning new things engages your prefrontal cortex, which operates via your working (i.e., short-term) memory. Your working memory is used for conscious decision-making and planning, directed at the attainment of your goals.
However, once you automatize a skill, it becomes subconscious; and thus, you free up by 90 percent your working memory, which allows higher-level functioning. For example, you can drive for minutes at a time without even thinking about driving.
In the context of learning and performance, automaticity allows you to apply and deepen your learning in novel and enhanced ways. Developing automaticity is the process of going from doing to being–empowering you to become an expert and innovator.
As Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, has said, “Just as the yin-yang symbol possesses a kernel of light in the dark, and of dark in the light, creative leaps are grounded in a technical foundation.”
Here’s how it works.
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. –Earl Nightingale
The first step toward automaticity is repetitiously learning small sets or bits of information. If you’re learning a new language, it’s repeatedly hammering the same word types and roots. If you’re golfing, it’s practicing the same shot over and over.
However, automaticity goes beyond the initial point of mastery, to what has been called overlearning. To overlearn, you continue practicing and honing long after you know something inside-out.
Becoming grounded and proficient in the left-brained technical rules and skills frees up your right brain to creatively break or manipulate the rules. As the Dali Lama has said, “Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”
2. Find your zone and stay there as long as you can.
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”―Richard Marcinko
The second step toward automaticity is making the practice or training progressively harder. If you’re at the gym, increase the weight and intensity. If you’re giving a speech, include elements outside your comfort zone.
The goal is making the task increasingly difficult until it’s too hard. Then you drop the difficulty back down slightly to stay near the zone or threshold of your current ability.
3. Add a time constraint.
The third step toward automaticity is making the training more difficult while adding a time restraint. Do the same activity (e.g., writing an article), but give yourself a shortened timeline to do it in. Your focus should be process, not outcome on this. Quality over quantity.
Adding a timeline forces you to work faster while at the same time it requires you to think about the time, which loads up your working memory (think Chopped on Food Network).
4. Load up your working memory with purposeful distractions.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”–Sun Tzu
The final step toward automaticity is working/training with an increasing memory load. In other words, doing the task with greater levels of distraction. Math teachers leverage this strategy by having students learning an obscure fact and having them recall it immediately after completing a math problem.
Eventually, you can perform the activity in a flowlike state, where the external distractions and pressures no longer influence your unconscious ability to act.
Watching our 8-year-old foster son learn how to read is teaching me a lot about the development of automaticity. For months, he did everything he could to avoid reading. Yet, we were persistent in working with him.
Eventually, he developed confidence himself and began to see the utility of reading, and his motivation shifted from extrinsic to intrinsic. Now we have a difficult time stopping him from reading.
If you want to become world-class at what you do, you must get to the point where it becomes unconscious and automatic. Once you get to this level, you’ll be able to innovate and make your craft your own, because you’ll be operating at a higher frequency.
When you’re treating any illness, making mistakes is inevitable. After all, making mistakes is how you learn, grow and get better.
Depression is a difficult illness, which colors how you see and feel about yourself. So, if you find yourself making the “mistakes” below, try not to judge yourself. Rather, view these mistakes as stepping stones, as signposts that lead you in a more helpful direction.
Below are five beliefs or behaviors that are ineffective in managing depression, along with insights into what works.
- Telling yourself to snap out of it. “When you’re depressed, it’s common to think that there’s no good reason that you’re having trouble getting out of bed, struggling to concentrate, or feeling so low,” said Lee Coleman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.So you might try to motivate yourself by being self-critical or using shame, he said. After all, when you’re depressed, it can feel like you’re swimming in negative, shame-soaked thoughts.While your intentions may be good — you’re trying to motivate yourself to do your best — “the language of criticism, guilt and shame isn’t helpful and usually makes us feel even worse.”If these thoughts arise, Coleman stressed the importance of responding to them and reminding yourself of these key facts. “[D]epression is an illness like any other — one that affects not just your mood, but also your sleep, energy, motivation, and even the way you look at yourself.”
Remind yourself that “nobody ever yelled themselves out of feeling depressed.” Instead, take small steps and stay active, he said. Getting better from any illness takes time.
- Not revealing what’s going on. When you have depression it’s also common to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Depression “can feel like a fundamental flaw with who you are,” said Coleman, assistant director and director of training at the California Institute of Technology’s student counseling center.Consequently, you may cover up how you’re feeling, which might lead others to get frustrated with you or simply become confused about what’s going on, he said.“Remember that others, even the ones who love you the most, aren’t psychic and may still be operating on old information.”When talking about how you’re feeling, you don’t need to divulge the details or even use the word “depression,” he said. What’s more important is letting them know “what you need while you’re working on feeling better” (some people may automatically ask how they can help). For instance, you might need more time to complete a project, he said.
- Underestimating depression. “While many appear to realize that depression has a medical origin, some underestimate exactly how depression impacts their life,” said Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the booksLiving with Depression and Depression and Your Child. Some of Serani’s clients don’t realize that depression affects their “personal, social and occupational worlds.” But depression affects all facets of a person’s life.She shared this example: Personally, you might struggle with significant sadness, self-doubt, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and hopelessness. These symptoms might cause you to withdraw from your relationships or become irritable and impatient with others.At work or school, fatigue, self-doubt and an inability to concentrate might lead to incomplete assignments, poor performance and difficulty remembering important information.
When you understand your depression and how it affects your entire life, you’re able to address those symptoms and support yourself with effective techniques.
As Serani said, “Having knowledge about an illness that touches your life empowers you.”
- Getting lax with treatment. When clients start to feel better, they may become “too casual with their treatment plan,” Serani said. This may start with missing medication doses or skipping therapy sessions, she said.Serani often hears clients say: “Why do I have to keep coming for therapy if I feel better? What’s the big deal if I miss a dose of my antidepressant?”However, it is a big deal. Research has shown that if you stick to your treatment plan and view your illness as a priority, you can become symptom-free, Serani said. But if you don’t, it might take you longer to get better, or your symptoms may worsen.To convey the seriousness of depression, Serani sometimes substitutes the word “depression” with other illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
“Though these are very different illnesses, they all have one thing in common: The need for the patient to respect the seriousness of the illness.”
She further noted: “If you had cancer, would you skip chemotherapy? If you had heart disease, would you cancel your appointment with your cardiologist? As a diabetic, would you ignore your blood sugar levels?”
Make a commitment to your depression treatment for at least a year, which research suggests, Serani said. “For those with moderate or severe depression, treatment will be longer.”
- Not being self-compassionate. Being compassionate to ourselves is important every day, and it’s especially vital when we’re sick or struggling. However, as Coleman said, “Unfortunately, because depression casts a negative light on our thoughts, it’s easy to see compassion as just feeling sorry for yourself, or as giving permission to lie around all day.”On the contrary, genuine self-compassion involves being honest with yourself and responding to your needs. It means acknowledging that you’re currently struggling, accepting that you’ll need time to feel like yourself, and realizing that it’s absolutely OK to lower your expectations of yourself, he said.“It’s not a judgment about yourself as a person, and it’s not giving yourself a blank check to feel bad forever.”If you find it hard to be self-compassionate, think of what you’d say to a loved one who was feeling the same way, Coleman said.
“Your tone would probably be caring and supportive, not blaming or attacking. That same tone may not come as naturally when you talk to yourself during depression, but it’s absolutely worth remembering and trying to draw from, even if it takes a little effort.”
Again, depression is a serious and difficult illness. But remember that you’re not alone, Serani said. “Depression can often leave a person feeling hopeless and isolated, but there are many out there who know your struggle and can support you along the way.”
She suggested connecting with a “health professional, a mood disorder organization, support group or a compassionate friend who understands you.”