Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dinner Table Discussions

One of my favorite holidays is right around the corner…. Thanksgiving.  I enjoy Thanksgiving for a number of reasons: food, family, football, reflecting on the things that I am thankful for in my life, etc., but perhaps the thing I enjoy most about Thanksgiving is the experience of sitting around the table talking and laughing with loved ones.  The thought of that opportunity coming up next week reminded me of the many enjoyable conversations I had around the dinner table as a child, as well as the many enjoyable conversations I have had with my own children around the dinner table.

Research studies have shown how important it is to sit down at the dinner table for meals with our children because of the consistency and opportunities that are provided to relate to and connect with our children.  One of the challenges that I have faced in doing this as a parent is sometimes not knowing what to actually talk about with my kids outside of the standard “how was school” type of questions!  I found the following article helpful in that it reminded me that we can try to be creative in the conversations that we have with our children.  Some things they might not be real interested in, but there will also be those moments when a topic or question really catches their attention and we end up having a great conversation with them.  Good luck!

Mont Criddle, LMFT

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Learning to Get Back Up

I recently had a parent lamenting the fact that their son was “struggling to do what he needed to do.”  As we explored this fact it became clear that the parents had spent much of their son’s life doing for him what he probably should have had some experience doing for himself.  We spent some time discussing this and how parents’ desire to help in some ways hindered their son’s progress, specifically his independence.  It reminded me of a story I shared with them.  Below is that story.  It is good to think about as we walk the difficult path of having a struggling teenager.

“Bringing a giraffe into the world is a tall order. A baby giraffe falls 10 feet from its mother's womb and usually lands on its back. Within seconds it rolls over and tucks its legs under its body. From this position it considers the world for the first time and shakes off the last vestiges of the birthing fluid from its eyes and ears. Then the mother giraffe rudely introduces its offspring to the reality of life.

In his book, A View from the Zoo, Gary Richmond describes how a newborn giraffe learns its first lesson.

The mother giraffe lowers her head long enough to take a quick look. Then she positions herself directly over her calf. She waits for about a minute, and then she does the most unreasonable thing. She swings her long, pendulous leg outward and kicks her baby, so that it is sent sprawling head over heels.

When it doesn't get up, the violent process is repeated over and over again. The struggle to rise is momentous. As the baby calf grows tired, the mother kicks it again to stimulate its efforts. Finally, the calf stands for the first time on its wobbly legs.

Then the mother giraffe does the most remarkable thing. She kicks it off its feet again. Why? She wants it to remember how it got up. In the wild, baby giraffes must be able to get up as quickly as possible to stay with the herd, where there is safety. Lions, hyenas, leopards, and wild hunting dogs all enjoy young giraffes, and they'd get it too, if the mother didn't teach her calf to get up quickly and get with it.”

Krys Oyler, LCSW

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bullying & Working to Prevent and Stop It

Bullying is a common term that we hear now, and as common as the term is, Bullying is also that common.  There are many forms of bullying that we see in our society that negatively affect individuals, groups, etc. 

I remember watching the karate kid when I was a kid.  There were great lessons in this movie and very vivid examples of bullying.  Daniel had to learn how to handle a bully in a proper way.  At some points in the movie he chose tactics of getting even, which only escalated the abuse, making things for him worse.  Ultimately Mr. Miyagi enters Daniel into a contest where he can “battle the bully” in an appropriate way.  Because this other option was available and used, Daniel gained the respect of the bully and the dynamics of the relationship changed.

So one might ask what is classified as Bullying?  Bullying is any repeated aggressive behavior that can be physical, verbal, or relational.  All of these types of bullying are emotional for the victim of the situation.  Boys frequently bully using physical threats and actions, while girls are more likely to engage in verbal or relationship bullying.  Both types have similar effects on an individual.
Since bullying is often a learned behavior that comes from the experiences that an individual has at home or even outside of the home, it can become a negative pattern that an individual develops.  Research shows numerous ways that individuals learn aggressive behavior, including seeing a parent or siblings examples, peer examples, playing violent video games, watching certain TV programs, observing conflict between others, etc.  These things numb our senses to how our actions affect others.  It becomes easier to bully others and not feel any remorse for one’s actions. 

In society it has even become acceptable to verbally abuse another person.  I was walking through a Costco one day and observed an interaction between two men.  One man was much older and had his little granddaughter by his side.  He was pushing a large cart with a piece of furniture on it.  As he pushed this cart up to the front of the store to check out, another man walked in front of the cart and got his foot ran over by one of the wheels.  Immediately this man began to yell and swear at the grandfather and threaten to beat him up.  What a pathetic scene this was to watch as a grown man was unable to control his reaction to this accident (especially since he was at fault) and become aggressive with an older man with his granddaughter in the middle of a store.

Bullying is prevalent in schools, work environments, at the store, and throughout society.  Bullying greatly affects the victim, who at times may even choose the extreme option to end their life.  They may get to the point that they feel as if there is no way out, there is no end to the bullying, and the only safe place is not being alive.  This has become more common and easily seen as we watch the current events in the world.

It is essential to work with our youth by first being great examples for them.  If we can learn to have good self control and teach this to our youth, we will already be a step in the right direction.  As our society becomes more violent with what is portrayed on TV, video games, etc., we as parents, examples, and leaders of our youth should work to better guide them to be involved in the things that are healthy for their developing brains.  It is our job to initiate this process.  Individuals, groups, and societies have lost respect and continue to spiral away from this key element in how we treat ourselves and others.

Remember that our words are very powerful and that the old saying of “Sticks and Stones my break my bones but words will never hurt me” couldn’t be more untrue.  This is reflected in the following poem.

It starts with us…what are we willing to do?

Jeffrey Openshaw LMFT