Month: July 2009

Another Study by Captain Obvious: “Parental Death Has Major Impact on Depression Risk in Youth”


by: Dr. Dathan Paterno

Hold on to your seats. It seems as though the psychiatric community has discovered another gem. Here’s the shocker: when a parent dies, children often become depressed.

I know, it really is amazing. Thank goodness we have millions of dollars funding this kind of invaluable research. I’m sure most of us have been running around supposing that parental death would have little or no impact on today’s youth.

Another key phrase that one finds in just about every study published: “There is an urgent need for research to understand the course and consequences of childhood bereavement in order to guide interventions”. This essentially is begging for more money to continue funding the researchers critical work in psychobabblizing the pain and experience of youth.

I do have a serious criticism for this study. “The most common problems kids have are depression, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], and intense grief,” said the lead researcher. The problem here is that Depression and PTSD are supposedly mental disorder; the inherent assumption in the definition of these supposed diseases is that they are not normal responses to life stresses. But who in their right mind can distinguish between grief that is “healthy, normal, regular” and that which is inappropriate or abnormal? Isn’t depression a normal response to severe loss and trauma? Isn’t depression a function or manifestation of grief? Why must the mental health community insist on pathologizing normal human behavior and emotion?

Let’s just call grief and the depression, anxiety, confusion, dysregulation, lack of focus, lack of drive, sense of purpose, and meaning that ensues from that grief something radically new. Let’s call it normal.

Related articles by Zemanta

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

To Boys Who Hurt Their Girlfriends


Abusive boys,

We wanted to tell you what we think of you. Believe us, it is tempting to call you names. It is difficult not to just spew insult after insult at you, hoping to reduce you to tears or even worse. Withholding our hatred and disgust takes enormous self-control. But we are not going to do it; in spite of what you have done and who you are, we believe that you deserve enough respect to be spoken to; we also do not want to mimic your abusive tendencies.

Abusing girls is not cool. It is not manly or masculine. It is not acceptable, civilized, a show of power. It does not earn you respect. In fact, it shows the exact opposite; boys who abuse their girlfriends by hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, kicking, forcing sexual activity, restraining, pinning, violating boundaries, threatening, manipulating with money or divulging secrets, calling names, demeaning, devaluing, joking coarsely, and/or controlling a woman devalue themselves and prove themselves to be unworthy of respect. We want you to know that most men find abusive behavior to be deplorable and sickening.

We believe that you abuse girls for many reasons, primarily because you are weak and have been abused yourself. Neither of these excuses or legitimizes what you do to anyone else. A real man will rise above his experience and make it better for himself and those around him. A real man can look in the mirror, see weakness, and still love and respect himself. That is what real power can do.

We hope that you not only understand how your abuse isolates and marginalizes you; we hope that you decide to put away your abusive tendencies and commit to treating women—all women—with dignity, respect, honor, and sacrificial love. We hold hope that you can and will make the transformation from abuser to lover.

Sincerely,

Moms, Dads, teenage girls, teenage guys…basically everyone in our society
Related articles by Zemanta
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Dating The Enemy


Why do young women date abusive boys*?

One reason some young women learn to tolerate abuse stems from their witnessing it in their parents’ relationships. Girls who witness poor treatment of women are for more likely to develop the sense that that sort of treatment is normal and acceptable.

Mothers, if you want to teach your daughters not to tolerate abuse, start with your own relationships. Are you tolerating abuse from your husband or boyfriend? If you are, don’t expect your daughter to behave differently.

What do I mean by tolerate? Tolerate means to loathe something yet no nothing to stop it. Hating the abuse you receive does nothing to stop it. Complaining about it to your friends, co-workers, children do nothing to stop it (although may also be invaluable for your emotional support). You must act to stop it: leave, speak out, confront, approach law enforcement…any and all of those things that you possess as leverage to change your situation.

Some adolescents tolerate abuse because they put too much stock in having a boyfriend. Most of you have heard the term “boy crazy”. It’s cute when a girl is 5 and talks about marrying her Daddy or her Kindergarten classmate; it’s not so funny when she is 13 and is willing to do anything to achieve “boyfriend/girlfriend” status. These adolescents tend to then tolerate anything—even abuse—in order to maintain that status. It is crucial that parents and others downplay the importance of dating at an early age. It shouldn’t be “cool” to date until later in adolescence.

A third reason teenage girls often tolerate abuse from boys is that they simply do not know how to assert rights and boundaries. They know they are being disrespected and can even see the relationship slipping into misuse and finally abuse, but they simply lack the tools necessary to assert their right to being treated better. The boy perceives no challenge to his abuse of power and continues headlong down the road to abuse.
Girls must be taught by their parents (fathers and mothers, when possible) how to negotiate relationships, especially when they begin to go sour.

The final reason some teenagers begin to tolerate abuse at an early age is that they are simply spending too much time alone with their boyfriend. Unsupervised time between a boy and girl under the age of 18 holds significant risk. It makes sense that if your daughter spends the vast majority of her dating time with or near a supervising adult, the risk for abuse will plummet. Allow your daughter to spend inordinate amount of time unsupervised with a boy and you are asking for trouble.

This is why I am convinced that one-on-one dating should not be allowed until 16. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I know I’m right.

*Notice I do not refer to their dating partners as men; that is a term that I exclude from boys who verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abuse a woman. A real man would never do or even consider such a heinous and cowardly act.

Related articles by Zemanta
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

For Parents Who Choose Not to Keep Their Teens Locked in a Cage


Bring up the issue of adolescent dating and out will pour a plethora of responses:

“As long as they don’t get pregnant, I don’t care what they do.”
“Oh, it’s cute to see them start dating; it reminds me of when I was 14.”
“Time to polish my shotgun collection!”
“I’m not letting my kids date until they’re 18; it’s too dangerous out there.”

Parents have a very broad range of values, expectations, and styles when it comes to their adolescents and dating. This is why it is crucial that you develop your own set and being communicating them with your child early on.

One of the most important factors to consider regarding teens and dating is safety and one of the key issues surrounding safety that your adolescent needs to be aware of is dating violence. It is not a rare event. Just ask Rihanna—or look at the pictures of her busted face. Teen violence in the context of dating is quite common. In fact, women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of violence in the context of a dating relationship—nearly 20 per 1000 women.
Here are a few keys to preventing dating violence:

First, it is imperative that before your adolescent begins dating, both parents (whether you are divorced or not) speak candidly about dating violence.

Second, many parents today do not insist that they get to know a child’s boyfriend/girlfriend before they go out together on group or one-on-one dates. This is nothing less than foolish. In my home, no dating will occur until I meet my child’s crush at least a few times. In my opinion, one-on-one dating should not be allowed until the age of 16; until then, group dates are allowed if responsible adults are supervising.

Third, teach your adolescents that they have rights in dating relationships. Just as they have rights in their relationship with you, they have certain rights with their dating partner. A good compilation of these can be found at the Alabama Coalition Against Dating Violence at http://www.acadv.org/dating.html

I will be discussing this issue in more detail this week; watch for future blogs on this important topic.

Related articles by Zemanta
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Modeling Honesty for Your Adolescents

by Jessica Fox, M.A.

What do parents do when they have little reason to trust their teenager because they have caught them in a lie so many times? Many parents’ first thought is “I’m not going to let them pull one past me again!” Today, parents have ample opportunity to catch their adolescent in a lie. Years ago it was not so easy for parents. But now there are Facebook statuses, Twitter, and all kinds of ways to check where your teen is or says he or she is.

Unfortunately for the teen, it is all too easy for their parents to figure out a computer password or make a privacy settings prohibited. It is unfortunate for these same parents because while parents think they are being smart and resourceful, they are actually modeling deceitfulness and dishonesty for their children and reinforcing that going behind somebody’s back is acceptable. Of course parents should monitor what their children are viewing on the Internet, but there is a fine line between “monitoring” and just plain spying. If you want your teen to stop lying it would be more beneficial to have consequences that fit the crime. Or, if you are going to go behind your teenager’s back and checks or her text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook, etc., then tell them that you are doing it and at least model what the truth looks like!

If your teenager has given you reason not to trust them it would be a good idea to reevaluate what discipline looks like in your household and come up with some creative consequences. However, if you are one of the few lucky parents with teenager who is compliant, follows the rules, and meets his or her family responsibilities, then giving your teen a little freedom and privacy will most likely enhance his or her decision-making skills, increase self-esteem, and promote a healthier relationship between you and your child. They will probably be more likely to tell the truth if they feel you trust their abilities as well!

Jessica Fox is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Park Ridge Psychological Services.

Related articles by Zemanta
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A Children’s Bill of Rights


by: Dr. Dathan Paterno

Chapter Two of my book Desperately Seeking Parents is entitled “Playing your Wii is not in the Bill of Rights. The idea is that Parents in Charge differentiate between their children’s rights and their privileges—those things that must be earned.
If you search online, you can see all sorts of organizations who support the rights of children. The advocate all kinds of things, like no corporal punishment, no homework, full voting rights, basic human decency, and the right to choose dessert. Some seem to want to make everything a right for children, while others seem to focus on certain areas where children have been abused and neglected.
I’m all for children’s rights, but there should be reasonable limits. When I work with families with rebellious or out-of-control children, I instruct parents to tell their children that they have a few basic rights that will never be denied:
  1. A roof over their head
  2. Enough clothes to be warm and comfortable
  3. Enough food to be healthy
  4. Medical care
  5. Transportation to school
  6. An audience to address grievances and requests—IF and only if they are expressed respectfully
  7. No physical, sexual, emotional abuse
  8. A bare minimum of privacy (more can certainly be earned)
Can you think of any others that you strongly believe should be included in a Children’s Bill of Rights? Feel free to comment and explain why you believe what you do!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Want Some Cheese With that Whine?


Raise your hand if you love to hear your children whine when they don’t get what they want! No, no takers?

There is almost nothing more aggravating to me than the mind-piercing timbre of a good whine. I think there is a part of the brain that receives whining and turns the sound into a toxic substance that then initiates the violent emotional center of the brain. Or at least it feels like that…

I know it may sound picky, but whining is against the rules in any Parent in Charge home. Almost all children three and above should be expected to speak requests or disagreements without a whiny voice. If they start to whine, it is imperative that the parent not reinforce the behavior by paying attention to the child, except to give the child a Time Out.

Remember that the following are all reinforcing to a child: yelling, giving reminders not to whine, lecturing about whining, mocking the child’s whining voice (one of my favorite pastimes), asking “Want some cheese with that?”, and giving in to the child’s request/demand in spite of the whine. These should all be strictly verboten for the Parent in Charge.

If your child has a pattern of whining, have a short meeting where you clearly state the new rule: “Whining is not acceptable and is against the rules. It is not respectful. You may not whine when asking for something or when you don’t like something. If you are upset, you may use your words to tell us.”

And most importantly, whenever your previously whining child speaks sans whine, praise her for her appropriate, grown-up sounding voice! Remember, positive reinforcement teaches and solidifies new behaviors far faster than punishment or negative reinforcement.

What’s Next—a Choke Chain?


My family and I went for a walk uptown the other evening for some ice cream. When we got to the ice cream store, my 6-year-old noticed a young boy, maybe 2, who had a leash. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, there is a harness that the child wears that is connected to a real leash, which the parent holds onto.

My daughter looked at me to explain what she clearly perceived as something bizarre. I simply said, “I guess some parents feel that they need a leash to keep their kids close and safe.”

As I thought about it, I was aware that I was feeling pretty judgmental about these parents. Who the heck needs to tether their child—especially inside an ice cream store? I can understand in a crowded festival or an airport or something like that, but an ice cream store? If anyone needs to be tethered, it’s our U.S. Senators. Anyway, I thought to myself, “Do they know how silly they look?”

On the other hand, I acknowledge that some parents do not know how to (or even recognize that they can and should) maintain control of their children in public and so a leash makes sense to them. Maybe their child ran into the street once and was almost turned into a kid pancake. That would be enough to make a normal parent paranoid.

So I’m struggling with how I feel about the leash. I mean for young children. If you’re putting a leash on your six-year-old, then you’ve really got problems.

Let me know what you all think of leashes for children. I’m curious what collective wisdom and experiences are out there.

Now that I think of it, leashes for teenagers doesn’t sound like such a bad idea…

Photo by: niimo

Artist’s Comments

We had just sat down for a bite at this beachside/streetside grill when this child and her mom came strolling by, both of them munching on some snacks. My camera sat on the table in front of me. I instantly clicked it on, didn’t even take it from the table for the sake of time and remaining unnoticed. I swivled it to face them. The height of the table was perfect, the distance was ideal.

I don’t mean to criticize this mother in particular, I don’t know her circumstances, I don’t know her life. But this photo makes me wonder how she intends to help guide her child once she is too old to be leashed, too old to be controlled. Unfortunately a leash is not the same a discipline… I think it is summed up well by a statement I heard recently: We in America are seeing a major problem with four year old terrorists because parents won’t discipline their kids.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Why Psychiatry is Irrelevant


There is a principle in science called parsimony. It refers to the idea that the simplest explanation for an observed event is most likely the best explanation.

An example would be when I tuck in my children to sleep and ask if they had brushed their teeth. If they say “Yes” and then I go in the bathroom and notice that the toothbrushes are dry, I can consider several possibilities:
  1. They didn’t brush their teeth at all.
  2. They brushed their teeth but then took the time to meticulously dry their toothbrushes.
  3. They brushed their teeth but my wife then came and dried the toothbrushes.
  4. The children were bought a new type of “quick-dry” toothbrush.
  5. Aliens intruded our home and dried out the toothbrushes.
The rule of parsimony suggests that the simplest explanation—that they didn’t brush their teeth at all—is the likeliest explanation.

This same principle can be applied to the question, “Why do some children misbehave?” There are several possible explanations for this phenomenon:
  1. The child has a biochemical imbalance in the frontal lobes, which makes him unable to make good decisions, except of course when the child is watching TV, playing video games, or building with Legos.
  2. The child is possessed by the spirit of Sponge Bob Square Pants, which mysteriously releases its grip from the child when the child is watching TV, playing video games, or building with Legos.
  3. The child possesses the ability to behave, but has not yet learned how to inhibit his impulses or obey his parents, and will when his parents properly motivate him to do so.
Explanation #3 is more than sufficient for the vast majority of children with behavioral and academic problems. We don’t need any other explanations.

Sometimes a medical explanation—even a scientific explanation—is unnecessary, because common sense offers a sufficient explanation. The same can be said for the most common mood disorders (Depression and Bipolar Disorder) and anxiety. There are plenty of sound, sensible explanations for these struggles that do not require a medical diagnosis.

Let’s stop looking for brain dysfunction in our children and start seeing the functionality of their behaviors and emotions.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Reason #117 Why ADHD Is a Baloney Disorder

一起旅行 travel together #2

by: Dr. Dathan Paterno

If ADHD is really a mental illness, a neurobehavioral or even neurological disorder, it should not be cured so simply by parents. But it is cured that simply*.

Many clinicians have worked with children diagnosed with all three types of ADHD—Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined—by equipping the child’s parents to enact and enforce consistent, strict, fair, and loving limits and boundaries. Dr. David Stein is one psychologist who has gotten astounding success with children formerly diagnosed with ADHD. Howard Glasser has taught scores of schools how to provide appropriate behavioral intervention to radically change children who once seemingly could not behave properly in a classroom.

I have worked with children for 18 years in a variety of settings, including schools, residential homes, inpatient hospitals, and private practices. It is a joy and pleasure to work with parents who want to be the agent of change in their child’s life and who commit to doing so without a diagnosis. Almost every one of those families—when they consistently and properly employ reasonable discipline—have transformed their child from one who “has ADHD” to one who does not. Many of the children had been diagnosed ADHD by professionals who are eminent in the field of child psychiatry.

Heck, if I can train parents to make such fundamental change in their children and cure a “serious neurological disorder” in such a short time and with such simple principles and techniques, I should be up for a Noble Peace Prize. I’m not holding my breath.

*Notice I did not say “easily”, but “simply”. Reasonable discipline is simple. Enacting and enforcing it can be very difficult for parents who do not know how or lack the will or ability to do so. Some parents are so locked into permissive parenting or rely on methods that worked well for one child that they can’t conceive of another way to do things. Others are so overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed that they simply do not have the will. Yet others are stuck parenting on their own with no support from spouse and other adults. This makes reasonable discipline genuinely difficult, but it does not change the reality that if proper limits are enacted and enforced, the child will respond to them—usually rather quickly.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]