by Barbra Danin, LMFT, Clinical Art Therapist
When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out. – by Erma Bombeck
As parents, we have a mission to raise our children be independent, strong responsible and resilient. In order for children to be successful and happy, they require tools to assist them in achieving their hopes and dreams. Many parents find that they cannot fall back on the child rearing strategies they learned from their parents. Children’s issues, needs, and understanding of themselves are different today, and they require different parenting approaches.
Ongoing positive encounters and meaningful communication between parents and children are some of the most effective means of building trusting relationships. While limits and consequences are helpful for many children in order to help them learn to function in the world, for many children those strategies are ineffective, because children’s negative behaviors have emotional underpinnings. When a child is upset (or most of us, for that matter), the emotional part of the brain takes over, blocking the ability to think clearly. When a child is acting out, they are incapable of thinking clearly and logically. Often consequences, imparted when children are upset, are experienced as punishment, which makes them feel more upset. This can cause an escalation of the negative behavior. Conventional wisdom has touted “Time Out” as one of the most effective and necessary strategies for disciplining children. When a child is sent away, however, many feel rejected and ashamed, leading to an escalation of their negative behavior. The child often feels rejected and misunderstood. Additionally, many children forget why they have been sent to “time out”, and are left with confusion and resentment. These feelings all impact the child’s self-esteem, and the consequence fails to achieve the intended goal.
While it is important to confront negative behavior immediately when it occurs, for many, a more effective way to do so is with “Time In”. Rather than sending the child away, the focus of “Time In” is connecting with the child to help them calm down and then gain an understanding of their feelings and behaviors. During a “Time In” the child and parent sit together, while the parent offers support and understanding, and helps the child to self soothe. Many worry that “Time In” strategies reinforce the negative behavior; however, the goal of “Time In” is to simply help the child calm down, so that they can think more clearly. After the child has calmed down and can be rational, a productive discussion of what occurred can be effective. Appropriate consequences can then help teach the child valuable lessons.
Barbra Danin, LMFT, incorporates Art Therapy & EMDR in treating children as young as 3, and keeps parents very involved in the process. “As children’s brains are still forming, they quickly absorb the tools and interventions offered with Art Therapy & EMDR.” Barbra can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 477-8585. Learn more at www.barbradanin.com