Tuesday, January 31, 2012

5 Love Languages Assessment





The link above helps you determine what your love languages are. Understanding how you and your spouse feel most loved can help you to meet their needs and feel more satisfied in your relationship.

What's your genius?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Be Slow to Judge- Autism




According to the center for disease control and prevention 1 in 110 children have some form of Autism. Autism is sometimes difficult to identify to an untrained eye. Autism is marked by varying degrees of difficulties with social interactions, communication and repetitious behaviors.

Have you ever been in a grocery store and seen a child have a complete melt down, screaming, hitting, and throwing things? Then to your disgust the parent gives in and gives the child what they want? It is possible that child was on the Autism Spectrum and on that particular day that parent was not up for a two hour tantrum. It is common for children with Autism to have very long and elaborate tantrums that could wear out the best of us.  

One child I worked with was not in the mood for therapy one day and yelled and screamed for the entire two hour session. His parent later told me he finally stopped yelling at 8 pm. This was four hours of screaming that his parent endured.

Autism can create an isolating effect for parents because they have a hard time finding a qualified babysitter and it can be very stressful for them and their child to be taken to certain public or social outings. For parents out there of typically developing children do you remember when you could not hold a conversation in a public setting because your toddler didn’t want to hold still but if you let them go they would run away or get into something dangerous? It was so much easier to just stay home but staying home was also draining. For a parent of a typically developing child this stage only lasts a few years. For a parent of a child with Autism this isolated stage can lasts past teen age years or longer.

Having a child with Autism can also come with heartbreak. I worked with a parent of a child with Autism who was 5 years old that could only say a few words. When sitting down with his mother to set goals for therapy she stated, “I just want to be able to ask my son how his day was, and for him to be able to respond.” Another mother shared with me that her heart broke when her typically developing nephew got a prom date. She stated, “My son doesn’t even have one friend. I don’t know if he will ever have a prom date.”

If you know someone affected by the Autism spectrum please find a way to be a blessing to them. So often people judge their parenting, call their child a brat or just avoid them all together. If you are a parent of a typically developing child please cherish the conversations you have with your child. Cherish their ability to interact with you and others. We are blessed in ways we often do not see. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anger Management




At times it can be hard to see your progress when you are working on personal goals. If you go off of how you feel you are doing, you can get discourage because each slip up feels like a complete failure and it is hard to remember the times you were successful, especially in the case of anger management. If you just broke your door down, it’s hard to feel like you are making progress.  That is why charting your progress is an important tool. With the chart above you can measure how often you are having angry episodes and how severe they are. 

Here is how it works:

1 means you calmly communicated your concern.
2 means tension was rising but you were able to control your words and actions.
3 means you were able to control your actions but you raised your voice.
4 means you destroyed or wrecked an object of some kind.
5 means you hurt a person.

The small marks on the bottom indicate days. There are 90 marks on this chart. Establish the start date and write it on your chart, and then each mark indicates a day.
Now every time you have an incident, mark it on your chart.  The goal is you will eventually only mark 1 or 2s on your chart.  Charting data like this can help keep you focused on your goal and actually see your progress. This can be a very encouraging tool. 




Thursday, January 19, 2012

Token Economies



This is a simple explanation of what a token economy is and how it can work to change your child's behavior. At times consequences can be ineffective with certain children but a reward system can be extremely motivating. You are then working with your child instead of against them. There is a time and a place for consequences but there are times that you can get the behaviors you want without the punishment.

The idea is a child should get a token (poker chip, ticket, penny, sticker, cotton ball) for desired behavior. Then they can turn in their tokens for a bigger prize. This method has helped motivate children to clean their rooms, use the toilet, share, decrease inappropriate language, follow directions and more!!

Important Tips to Remember:

The big prizes must be motivating.
Make sure the number of tokens required for the prize is short enough that it still holds value. Some children can wait a week or a month for a prize and some children can only wait a day and stay focused.
Clearly define the behavior earning the tokens
Be consistent with your plan.
To establish a behavior give a token for each time the behavior happens
To keep an established behavior going varying when you give the token (every time, every 2 times, every 4 times, every 2 times) Varied reward systems are very effective in keeping a behavior going. That is part of why gambling is so addictive.
Once the behavior is firmly established start fading the tokens (every 4 times, every 6 times etc..) Do this gradually so the transition is smooth.
Never take away tokens that were previously earned!! This can kill the motivation of the program.

Examples:
EX: Every time a child pees on the potty they get a sticker. When they get 5 stickers they get a prize.
EX: Every time the children do a whole activity without anyone crying, arguing or fighting they get a cotton ball in their jar. When the jar is full they get to go on a date with mom or dad.
EX: Every day that a child sleeps in his bed he gets a penny. When he has 5 pennies he and trade them in for a toy from storage.

As you can see it is quite simple but the part that gets difficult is deciding how long a child is willing to work for something and how to effectively fade the prizes without fading the behavior as well. At times having a consult for that part of it can be helpful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Am I a bad parent?



Do you fit into this category?

 “I have tried everything!! I have tried reward systems, I have tried consequences and I have tried talking it out!! Nothing works!!! I don’t know how to get my child to stop ______!”
First of all I want you to know almost every parent has felt that way at one point or another, and if you are a parent reading this and haven’t felt that way consider yourself lucky. Second I want to say behavior is complicated and parenting is even more complicated. There is no set way to do things and children don’t come with a hand book.

So let’s break this down.

Consequences:

The key to consequences is consistency. If you are good with consequences one day and then let it slide the next day most kids are willing to take the gamble. If you let things slide but your partner is strict, your child might behave around your partner but not you, or resent your partner for their strictness. You could also undo the progress your partner made. Being on the same page with how you discipline will help you get the results you want. If you and your partner don’t agree find a middle ground because neither one of you will win if you do things differently.


Natural Based Consequences

When using natural based consequences a parent tries to provide consequences that parallel the real world. For example, if you miss use the phone, the phone gets taken away until responsibility is proven. If you cannot get ready in time for an event you go with what you could accomplish in the given amount of time or you miss the event all together. If you cannot play nicely with a toy, the toy gets taken away. If you break a toy, it does not get replaced. This method helps children learn the consequences of the real world and prepares them for what’s to come.


Chore Based Grounding

Chore based grounding means when a child does something wrong their consequence is that they have to do a certain amount of chores and can do nothing fun until the chores are complete. It is important that parents do not let any fun activity happen until the tasks are complete or this will not be as effective. An example would be, if a child swears at you, he would have to scrub the kitchen floor. If a child misses curfew, he would have to clean the bathroom cupboards and organize the book shelves. If a child is caught drinking she would have to clean the curtains, organize the book shelves, clean the basement and sweep the driveway. In all these examples the child does not get to have sweets, have electronics, socialize, or any other fun activities until the chores are completed.
The positive of this consequence system is they are using good behavior to earn their privileges back.


Withholding Reinforcements

Withholding reinforcement just means you pick a preferred item or items to take away as a consequence of their bad behavior. You determine how much you take away based on the severity of the behavior. 
This is a positive consequence method because you are letting your child know you do not approve of the specific behavior.


Talking to your Child

Sometimes talking to your child is amazingly effective. Simply talking is not always enough but some times it is. In this situation you sit your child down and you ask them what happened and you make a plan to prevent the behavior from happening ever again. You should be doing this with the above mentioned consequence methods as well, but some times this is all that is necessary.
Ex: While talking to my 4 year old I asked, “Why did you poop your pants today?
“Because I was having too much fun.”
“How can I help you to not poop your pants anymore?”
“Just tell me to go potty.”
After this conversation my child went a month without an accident.

Like I said parenting is difficult. Shaping behavior is also difficult. Do not be afraid to seek help if you feel like your child’s behavior out of control. Some times a person can offer a lot help from an outside perspective and training in this field. Remember being ineffective with your consequence system is common and does not make you a bad parent! 
The next article will be on reinforcement schedules and how to encourage more of the behaviors you WANT. So check back in a couple of days if you are interested in learning more about that. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Basic Behavior Solutions


Do you feel like your child is the boss?  This is a common occurrence in many homes but unfortunately this often leads to bad behavior and insecurity in children. When parents provide consistent boundaries for their children, children feel secure and confident.  Transitioning from children being the boss to parents being the boss can be stressful but the benefits are worth it.

How to get your children to listen:
·         Give your instruction
o   ex-put away your toys
·         With hold reinforcements until task is completed
o   Ex: no snacks, toys, tv or any fun thing until the child completes the desired action
If your child screams, hits, kicks or does any other undesirable behavior make sure you are not reinforcing it by allowing it to be effective. If your child yells and screams and then you give them what they want, they are likely to do that behavior again. 


What to do when a child disobeys or breaks a rule:
·       When a child disobeys determine the severity of the action and assign chores accordingly  
o   Ex: child lies- child has to scrub the kitchen floor and no reinforcements until task is complete
o   Ex: child skips school- child has to sweep drive way, organize the closet and clean the car and they may not socialize, eat snacks, have electronics, or anything fun until task is complete (no reinforcements)


Be prepared for children to challenge you on this if they are not used to you being this assertive. It is important you follow through with this. It will not be effective if you are inconsistent.  Remember it will be stressful at first but once your children understand this is the new normal and boundaries are clear, your home will be more at peace.  With this method there is no need to ever raise your voice or argue. The rules are black and white.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anxiety Preventing You From Sleep?



Do you lie awake at night with your thoughts racing? Does every attempt to shut off your thoughts only cause you to feel more stressed out?  You are not alone. This problem haunts a large population of the world.  This problem is particularly difficult because the sleep deprivation you generated now increases your vulnerability to anxiety, causing the cycle to grow and repeat. There is hope. There are things you can do.
1.    During the day do things that increase your dopamine levels:
a.    Doing things that line up with your values
b.    Eat small amounts of sweet and salty foods
c.    Exercise
d.    Spend time with people who you are in a healthy relationship with
2.    Practice Thought Stopping
a.    When a negative thought comes into you head change the subject in your mind to something that is a good distracter, so you are not thinking about the previous negative thought.
3.    Challenge your thoughts
a.    Play out your anxiety producing thoughts and ask yourself:
                                          i.    What is it that I am afraid of?
                                        ii.    What would it be like if that really happened?
                                       iii.    Could I recover?/Would I be ok?/Would it really be the end of the world?
4.    Evaluate what you have control over
a.    If you determine that you have control over some of the items you are concerned about make a plan to resolve those conflicts.
b.    If you do not have control over it practice letting it go and being ok with any possible outcome, focusing on the pieces you do have control over.
5.    Look for the silver lining
a.    Even the worst of situations have positive things about them. Try and find what is positive about the situations that cause you worry
b.    When the negative thoughts come in replace them with the positive aspects of that situation. You will be retraining your brain.
6.    Try alternative methods to fall asleep
a.    Counting sheep
b.    Katie Saint’s personal unproven Star Method :
1. Close your eyes and picture a star
2. Follow the lines of the star with your eyes 
3. As you get tired of moving your eyes picture a ray of light tracing the edges of the star
4. Do this until you fall asleep
c.    Practice deep breathing
d.    Journal
e.    Meditate/Pray

Anxiety is causing people problems all over the world but it can be treated with medication and behavioral techniques. If you are willing to be intentional about your recovery, you can see progress but be warned it is never a quick easy fix.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Stress Anxiety and Depression


Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Dopamine Levels: How They Connect

Have you ever come home from a stressful day and just wanted a big bowl of ice cream? Chances are your dopamine levels were low and your  body was naturally craving something that would increase it. 

When you are faced with stress it drains your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a chemical in your body that helps you feel good about life, motivate yourself, remember things, and focus. When you are low on dopamine you often feel depressed, and anxious.  It is hard to motivator yourself and concentrate if you are low on dopamine. Often times people have a hard time getting out of bed, and don’t want to go to work or school.

There are several ways to get dopamine. Some of them are healthy and some of them are not. Cutting, and drugs and alcohol are unhealthy ways to get dopamine. Those methods can become very addictive if they are your primary way of getting dopamine. Exercise, doing things that line up with your values, sex, and sweet and salty foods are healthier ways to get dopamine.  Sex, and sweet and salty foods should be used carefully because the negative side effects could deplete your dopamine gains.  The biggest, longest lasting source of dopamine is HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. Connecting with another person is the best way to deal with stress. Go out to coffee with a friend, spend time on facebook, call your sister, and/or go on a date! Once a week isn’t enough. You need a daily dose of this to feel well connected and battle stress.  It is hard work battling stress.



Monday, January 2, 2012

Bullying



Bullying can happen whether you are an adult or a child. It happens at home, in the work place and in schools. According to http://www.bullyingstatistics.org  “One out of every 10 student’s drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.” Bullying can lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide or homicide.

How do we stop bullying?

If you look at bullying from the prospective of the bully’s intention is to get an emotional response out of their victim, then it becomes easy to conclude what the solution is. DO NOT GIVE AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE. Hide your emotions in response to the bullying.  If the bully is not being fed the response they are hoping for the bullying is likely to stop. Research from Horner and Ross (2009) supports this adding casually walking away or ignoring the bully is the best response if you want the bullying to stop.

Be warned bullying is likely to get worse initially when you stop feeding it an emotional response. They will feel like they just need to try harder. You must stick to your guns and remain calm and neutral. If you can stay consistent for an extended time the bullying is likely to go away.

References:

Bullying Statistics. (2009). Stop Bullying Harassment and Violence. Retrieved on January 2, 2012 from http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/.

Horner R., Ross S., (2009) Bully Prevention in Positive Behavior Support. Retrieved on January 2, 2012 from  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791686/?tool=pmcentrez.