When a child misbehaves or exhibits behavior that becomes problematic, their behavior is telling you something, but what?
A child that misbehaves is trying to communicate that they have an unmet need, but how do parents determine what that need is?
Parents can look for clues that might tell them how the child is feeling. When parents figure out what is wrong or missing, they can then follow to assist the child to take care of themselves.
What are some of the reasons that a child might misbehave?
They may be hungry, tired, ill or bored.
They might not know or understand what is expected of them.
They might be held to expectations that are beyond their developmental level.
They may have experienced trauma or abuse.
They may be copying the bad behavior or their parents or someone else.
They may be trying to cover up feelings of pain, fear or loneliness.
They may be experiencing feelings that are overwhelming to them.
They may feel bad about themselves.
They may be experiencing bullying.
They may be experiencing dietary issues.
They may be trying to get attention from others.
They may be testing whether parents will set limits, boundaries and enforce rules.
They may be asserting themselves and seeking to be independent.
They may have an untreated disorder such as:
Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder
General anxiety disorder.
Sensory processing disorder
It is important to remember that misbehavior does not mean that a child is “bad.” They should never be labeled as such. There is a difference between a child’s character and how they behave. What a child does is not who they are.
Maybe you’re frustrated and having difficulty determining why your child is misbehaving. Maybe you have an idea of why your child is misbehaving but don’t know how to approach the issue. Maybe you’re wondering if your child has an untreated disorder. If so, call us at Wasatch Family Therapy (801.944.4555) to schedule an appointment for a parent consultation with one of our trained providers. Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child’s well being.
Change is something we all do. This may include confronting new challenges in relationships, moving, starting a new job, or welcoming a new addition to the family. Changes, whether big or small, can be a difficult adjustment for anyone.
Let’s try a simple experiment. Tonight, I want you to change the way you brush your teeth.
As you are brushing your teeth, switch from brushing with the hand you usually do and use the opposite hand. I know that some of you will be thinking that will be quite easy, but you may be surprised by how difficult this simple change can be.
Some attempting this change might notice that your brush strokes feel uncomfortable, your arm is not operating in a manner you are accustomed to, and when you finish (if you finish brushing your teeth with your opposite hand), your teeth may not feel as clean! I know, I know ,some of us are blessed and are ambidextrous and this may be easy, but for me this task was not.
Changing brushing your teeth, just like any change in life, will feel uncomfortable, awkward, and difficult, but it is when we continue to work through those difficulties that we improve and grow. These changes may come by choice or can be unexpected.
Changes occur in many different ways; such as, changes in our mental state, making changes in a relationship(s), or even changes in our behavior can be difficult without any help. Where do we find help for changes? The simple answer to that is in therapy. Therapists are like an athlete hiring a coach or trainer. The therapist is trained in helping individuals, families, or couples make changes or achieve their goals. We all know that many athletes have natural abilities, but often they require another set of eyes to give them the guidance that they need to hone those abilities and develop to their greatest potential.
One of the most important factors of making change with therapy is the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship is the trust you have with your therapist. It what makes you feel comfortable with him/her as you come frequently without judgment of what you have going on. This relationship can take time to develop, but depending on your therapist, you could feel comfortable right away. This relationship means that your therapist is there to have what some call “real talk” with you and help you develop and improve. This means that at times, therapy might make you feel uncomfortable as you explore different aspects of change, but because of this therapeutic relationship, you keep coming back.
Your current or future therapist can be male or female, short or tall, and can even be a new or experienced therapists. The relationship with whichever therapist you choose is crucial. Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most important indicators of therapy success (1). If you wanted to be a successful Olympiad, you find a coach or a trainer, right? So, when seeking to make real changes changes or improve, why do we not seek out a therapist?
The first step for many is reaching out to a therapist, which can be difficult. Going to therapy is often stigmatized as making the individual weak, helpless, a failure, or broken. Going to therapy does not make you any of those things, as we all have our individual struggles. Just by coming to therapy, you are showing strength and a desire to achieve and improve.
If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch Family Therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555. Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.
(1) Horvath, A.O. and Symonds, B.D. (1991) Relation between working alliance and outcome in psychotherapy: a meta-anaysis, Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38 (2), 139-149.
Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”
Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.
These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.
Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:
The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:
For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg
For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer
For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler
For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio
On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski
On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld
For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs
There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.
Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name. This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard. This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group. The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.
The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk. Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.
The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”
If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.
Most divorcing parents are greatly concerned about how their child will take the big change. Many expect sadness and worry but do not always feel equipped to help the child cope. Understandably, it is hard for moms and dads to offer ample emotional support to their child if they feel overburdened themselves. Parents are typically overwhelmed with grief, anger, financial concerns, residence changes, custody arrangements, and co-parenting issues, to name a few. Yet children cannot put their needs on hold until parents have fully adjusted. So in the meantime, something simple, like sharing a carefully selected book together, may offer some connection and understanding the child needs for that day. The following children’s books have been valuable in my work with child-clients, so I share them hoping they can help others too:
“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst (Ages 3+)
Children whose parents divorce typically experience repeated separations from one or both parents. This versatile book reassures children they can still feel connected even during times apart.
“People who love each other are always connected by a very special string, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love” (The Invisible String by Patrice Karst).
:Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss” by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen (Ages 8+)
When a couple divorces, all family members usually experience grief to some degree. This book tells the story of a woman who makes “tear soup” after she suffers a great loss. She shares some essential ingredients of the healing recipe: feel the pain of loss, accept that it takes time, and recognize that grief is different for everyone.
If your child experiences distress due to parental divorce, call to schedule an appointment with Melissa at Wasatch Family Therapy – 801.944.4555.
It seems that teens are tethered to their phones and they are reliant on them to help them navigate the world. As parents, we look back and wonder how in the world the kids of today would have survived without the buffer of social media. Would they be able to function if they had to speak face-to-face and have regular interpersonal communications without the crutch of a phone, ipad, or computer? Modern teens have grown up in a world where the technological advances of phones and other devices is constantly evolving. Phones and computers are made more intuitive to anticipate the user’s next move, and there seems to be an app for everything. The world is at our fingertips, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. However, with all of these advances in communication, parents and teens still complain that they don’t communicate or understand one another. Why?
Parents say that kids today just don’t know how to carry on conversations or talk to one another without a phone in their hand, and even then, they don’t talk. Look around next time you are somewhere that has a mix of both teens and adults and observe what you see. Is it just the teens on their phones, or are the parents on theirs too? Guess what parents? We are part of the problem! We are using our electronic devices to avoid in-person communication, too. It’s a lot easier to sit and scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or watch a funny video or a Snap than it is to carry on a conversation with an acquaintance.We have become device dependent., and our kids are learning by watching us.
“But, I need to just check this email from work really quick!”
“But, I need to send off this text really quick before I forget.”
“But, I’m using social media to communicate with my kids.”
Obviously, these are all good reasons to use our devices. Life in our world relies on technology, but what is it costing us in our relationships? How can we strengthen relationships and communication with teens in the environment of social media?
Turn It Off
Actively unplug, take the devices off the table, literally, if even for just a few minutes. Eat a meal together, take a walk, hike your favorite trail, anything that enables conversations to happen organically. Giving your child your undivided attention lets them know that they are a priority to you.
Create Opportunities For Connection
Make space for a conversation to happen. Teens are faced with a lot of internal and external pressures, so they need a safe space, emotionally and physically, to vent their stress and frustrations. Teens are learning to self-regulate their feelings and parental support can bolster their efforts by validating what they are feeling.
Listen To Your Children
Don’t just hear them, but really listen to them. Sounds easy right? We are surrounded by sounds, but how often do we really listen? Listening takes practice; it is a skill. We often want to “fix” the problem, but often times advice isn’t the answer. They aren’t asking for the solution, they are asking for us to listen to their struggles. They are asking us to see them as capable of finding their own solutions and supporting them in trying.
So, let’s all put our phones away for a while and talk!
Most of us grew up hearing the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While the intent of this quip perhaps was to toughen kids up, in more recent years we’ve clued in to how false this message is! Name calling, harsh words, verbal bullying does hurt. Aggressive words and/or harsh tones can inflict emotional pain just as real as getting physically punched. And when such verbal punches are thrown in the home, it is especially hurtful. As parents and/or the adults in a child’s life, most of us are quite clear about the need to protect children from the bullying that can too easily happen among groups of children. But are we aware that when we speak harshly or critically to our children or spouse it is potentially even more harmful than schoolyard bullying?
What is the verbal climate in your home? How do you communicate with your children or spouse, especially when the pressure is on? Do you yell when you’re frustrated or angry? Do you use harsh, cutting, or condescending words with your family or with others within their hearing? Does this happen frequently? Occasionally?
A growing body of research is demonstrating how verbal hostility negatively impacts a child’s brain in much the same way as does acts of domestic violence including sexual abuse. The greater the intensity of the verbal hostility, the greater the frequency of it, and the occurrence of other forms of abuse in combination with it are factors that determine the degree of the damage inflicted upon the child’s brain. In short, yelling at your children can cause actual, measurable brain damage (Teicher, Samson, Polcari, & McGreenery, 2006; Teicher, 2016). To be sure, this damage can be healed, but the abuse has to be stopped first—the child’s climate has to be changed.
If the verbal climate in your home is “hot,” the therapists at Wasatch Family Therapy can help you reset your emotional thermostat and change out old, broken down communication styles for healthy, refreshing ones—ones that create a safe climate for your family to live in. Give us a call at 801-944-4555 and make an appointment. It’s one of the best things you can do for your children, your spouse, and you.
Teicher, M. H., Samson, J. A., Polcari, A., & McGreenery, C. E. (2006). Sticks, stones,
and hurtful words: Relative effects of various forms of childhood
maltreatment. The American Journal Of Psychiatry, 163(6), 993-1000.
Teicher, M. H., & Samson, J. A. (2016). Annual research review: Enduring
neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 57(3), 241-266.
I recently took a trip and stayed in a hotel with many floors. Of course, many floors mean an elevator with many buttons! During one of my visits to the elevator stood a 4-year-old child and his mother, inside the door, discussing the “buttons,” and where they went. I entered and smiled at this toddler’s curiosity as two other individuals entered. As the door closed, the boy began pushing all of the buttons! I looked to see the responses of the other passengers: one man shrugged, while the other gave earnest looks of annoyance. The mother clearly was embarrassed, and she quickly moved the child away from the buttons.
I couldn’t help but think about how this can be a metaphor of how people “push buttons” in relationships. “Pushing buttons” means to intentionally bring up topics that will leave an emotional sting and often brings about negative emotions of the receiver. This response happens almost instantly, and the intention may be the most irritating part.
I’m sure we can all think of moments that we have experienced where someone has “pushed our buttons.” What were the feelings you felt in that instant? Anger? Embarrassment? Disgust? Perhaps you had wished the floor had opened so you could jump in? It often takes a person who knows us well to be able to push our buttons with such preciseness. There’s no one that can do it quite like family; parents, siblings, children, and spouses are the best button-pushers!
In her book “Daring Greatly,” social researcher Brené Brown suggests that the reason these close relationships pack so much power is because of the attachments we have to one another. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This dynamic of close relationships can get buttons pushed in ways that less intimate relationships can do.
The question that is often asked in therapy is: How do I avoid it? While there are people who are button pushers, there are ways to avoid having these annoyances grow and become destructive. There will always be someone standing nearby willing to embarrass, annoy, assume power over, or just be a mean tease. The antidote is perspective (which can be hard to do when someone has just taken a concerted stance against you!). Here are 10 tools to help you gain perspective and soothe your emotions in the moment:
Chew on a piece of ice
Take a time out
Talk to your Higher Power
Imagine a place of peace
Use powerful coping thoughts: “It’s OK to feel this way.” “So what?” “This sucks, but it will pass.”
Squeeze the handles of arm of the chair 5 times.
Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
Write your name in cursive with your toe, while you’re seated with legs crossed. (Don’t laugh, it works!)
Count your breathes
Use your 5 senses: Notice what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.
For the mother in the elevator. . . good job taking 50 deep breathes, as the elevator stopped at each and every floor!
To schedule an appointment with Andrea, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555
According to John Gottman, in every interaction in our significant relationships, there is an opportunity to attune or turn away. We have many experiences where we notice our partner, and we make a choice: “Do I ATTUNE myself to what is going on,” or, “do I turn away?” Pay attention to what happens when you turn away. What are your thoughts? What happens to the other person? What does your body feel like? What do you choose instead?
A-T-T-U-N-E is an acronym for just how to turn toward our partners in a supportive and empathetic way. Our job with each other is to create emotional safety, and it is through small moments, like attuning, that create stability and ongoing romance. When we feel acknowledged, we feel secure and safe.
T- Turn Toward
Here are some fun ways to practice attuning opportunities:
Go for a walk with a spouse or child.
Plan a picnic.
Cook dinner together.
Call each other during the workday.
Volunteer in the community.
Plan an outing together: hike, bike, or drive.
Visit the beach.
Go dancing together.
Plan to attend brunch.
Get away to a secret location.
Whatever you decide, remember the importance of attuned engagement and the strengthening power it has.
For extra support or help making repairs in your relationship, make an appointment with Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555.