Anger Management: “Jump!”

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Four frogs were sitting on a log and one decides to
jump. How many frogs are left? Still four. Deciding to jump does not
mean that the frog actually did jump. Managing our anger is often the
same. We decide to make a change in our attitudes and behaviors but
we never “get off the log.” The difference between the person who
succeeds in managing anger in their life and the one who doesn’t is
commitment. One must be committed to change if it is to become a
reality. There are no easy alternatives. Stopping the destructive
path of anger is hard work and takes courage and discipline. 

Today, write out a statement of commitment to
changing the role of anger in your life. Make it strong and make it
clear. It can be as long as you like but there can not be any
ambiguities in your language. No “maybes.” No “trying.” Just “doing.”
Oh, you will mess up and you will fall a few times but you have to go
back to your statement and do it again. How many times? As many times
as it takes until anger is your slave and not the other way around.

Dear ANGER Diary

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Have you ever kept a diary? Maybe as a child you did. I still do although I am not as diligent with it as I used to be. Using a diary is a simple way to manage your anger. Anger triggers and solutions are very predictable. Unfortunately, we miss the clues to both of these anger management tips and continue to repeat the negative process of outburst and tantrums.

Every day for two weeks, write in a diary using this four step anger management process:

1. List what made you angry.
2. List how angry it made you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, one being cool and calm and 10 being a major rage.
3. Put a plus sign (+) down if you handled it well and a minus sign (-) if you didn’t.
4. Write what you will try next time this situation presents itself.

After two weeks are over go back and see what you have learned. You will be surprised by how much info you gathered in a short time and how much insight and change you have accomplished.

Get more help on anger management by Ron at http://inner-healing.tumblr.com/anger

Helping a Worrier Become a Warrior

Is your child a warrior, or a worrier?

That cute — and memorable — phrasing comes from “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (famous for “Nurture Shock” and now the authors of “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing”) in The Times Magazine. It’s shorthand for a problem most of us are familiar with: some people seem born to take tests or compete. For others, the whisper of pressure can trigger the seeming disappearance of everything we ever learned.

In their magazine piece, the authors look at what lies under that difference: “how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses.”

But while understanding the causes may help promote eventual changes in standardized testing, there’s no way to entirely avoid the need to perform under pressure — and no way to avoid it on behalf of our children.
For the parents of worriers, one question hovers over the topic: how can we help our children learn to both perform better, and feel that stress just a little less? I asked the magazine piece’s authors to help me pull out what they learned in researching their article, and to share some other ideas and background that might help.

Embrace the anxiety. Students who read a statement declaring that recent research suggests “people who feel anxious during a test might actually do better” did, in fact, do better on tests, in the lab and outside.

Find competition that’s fun. Spelling bees, chess teams, sports, science fairs: when the pressure is predictable and comes with friends and excitement, even worriers build up their tolerance for the stress that doesn’t include those benefits (like the SAT exams). These competitions “give kids the chance to make that connection between feeling a little anxious and performing at their best,” Mr. Bronson said.

Emphasize success. Even when competition is fun, getting through it is a victory for a “worrier.” Help your child focus on the ebbs and flows of the competitive anxiety, and then remind him to celebrate the accomplishment — and think back to it the next time that anxiety rears its head. Parents comfort children when they feel insecure, but we also need to foster exploratory behavior. “By destabilizing children, pushing them, we help children be brave in unfamiliar situations, stand up for themselves, and learn to take risks.”

Watch for when “stress” turns into “distress.” For many children, short-term stress can be energizing. But when it goes beyond the short term into a larger problem, “parents need to try to find the triggers that change test taking from a challenge state to a threat state.” The child who lost sleep for a month over standardized testing (described in the article) had heard from teachers that school funding and teacher pay is partly tied to these tests now, so he felt an enormous burden to score super high on the standardized tests, to help buoy the school’s averages.

Change the story. “Right now, the story is that college spots are really hard to get,” Mr. Bronson wrote in an e-mail. “Cary Roseth, assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, classifies the race to college as a ‘scramble competition,’ like a huge game of musical chairs – except with too few chairs. This is somewhat of an illusion. Every year, U.C.L.A. runs a national survey of incoming college freshmen; last year, they collected data from over 204,000 frosh who attend 270 different bachelor’s colleges. 83 percent of them were attending their first or second choice college. U.C.L.A., all by itself, admitted almost 16,000 applicants. Over 10,000 of them turned U.C.L.A. down. Nationally, 59 percent of all admittances are turned down by the students. So who is rejecting who here? Maybe we all need to hold our tongues when we’re tempted to scare the kids, ‘You know, you have to study harder if you want to get into a U.C.’ And maybe when we say, reassuringly, ‘There’s a good college for everyone,’ we have to convince ourselves first.”

Follow KJ Dell’Antonia on Twitter at @KJDellAntonia or find her on Facebook and Google+.

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Real-world Stress Saving Tips

This blogger, from Huffingtonpost, has some very sane, sanity saving tips:

“I did search for what experts say when it comes to "timesaving tips for busy parents”, but I found their advice to be unreasonable and cumbersome. One site advised to “never come home angry.” Well sure, that is a fine goal, but if we can’t come home angry, some of us would never come home at all.

My tips, on the other hand, are practical suggestions to save twenty seconds here, a minute there, and a massive headache later. These are the hidden methods to my madness:

Wear day/night clothing. It may be time to ditch the cute pajama pants and matching tank and invest in a wardrobe that meets your daytime and bedtime needs. A flattering pair of black yoga pants can easily transition from the bedroom to the playground. Not only will this save time crucial time in the morning, but it can cut down the laundry loads quite a bit.

Utilize those babywipes for more than your tot’s tush! Instead of washing my face in the morning, I use baby wipes to clean the sleep from my eyes. Don’t be so appalled, I do buy the chlorine free ones.

Never prepare an unnecessary meal. When my husband has one of his many dinner meetings, instead of making my own evening meal, I eat the leftovers on my daughters’ plates. Yum… carrot sticks and uninspired chicken on Disney Princess plates.

Make Sprout your new BFF. I know, I know, admitting that I let my children watch the occasional television program may likely send Children’s Protective Services to my home, but it’s true, we do. The girls love Dora, Max and Ruby, Olivia, and a good half-dozen other annoying cartoon characters. Do you know how many task I can get done during one 30-minute cartoon? Clean the dishes, put away the laundry, have a quickie in the bedroom with my husband…

Cut your daughter’s hair. On principle I keep the hair on my two young daughters’ heads well trimmed. I have yet to meet the parent of a girl that doesn’t suffer from the tiresome tangle battles. Neither of my girls readily allow me to brush their hair, nor do they have the ability to do this themselves. So, in my effort to avoid chasing them around the house, wrestling them to the ground and holding them in place with my thighs while I attempt to detangle the rat nests cultivating on their domes, I simply keep their hair no longer than chin length.

Pretend you don’t notice. Some days my husband will arrive home from work shocked at the state of a room. “What happened?” he exclaims, the anxiety spilling from his ears. “Gee, I just took out the garbage and when I came back…” I answer, where in reality I have carefully stayed clear of the two girls who were ever so diligently painting the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste. Sure, the clean up will be bothersome, but it took them a solid 25 minutes of cooperative play to make this mess!

Pajama Day! Is it really so horrible for your preschooler to show up to school in last night’s pajamas? I’m sure his teachers have seen it before. With my 2-year-old, the morning tasks are some of the hardest to get accomplished, so I often bring an outfit for her to change into at school if she so desires. Again, this also saves time with the laundry.

Socks? What socks? Fortunately we live in the moderate Bay Area climate, where the temperature rarely drops below 48 degrees. Because of this, and Crocs made for toddlers, my girls almost never wear socks. They each own less than ten pairs and only wear them when we visit my parents in Oregon, during the winter … if it snows. By foregoing this extra layer of footwear, I save approximately thirty seconds each morning, in addition to a good ten minutes each Sunday desperately attempting to match pairs of tiny toddler socks.

Skip the extra-extracurricular activities. My children are allowed one, two at most, lessons a week. In my opinion, their swimming classes are mandatory, but if we don’t make it out of the house for their 9 AM Saturday morning ballet lesson, we all kind of benefit.

Stop picking up the toys. Whenever the clutter in children’s bedrooms begins to trigger my panic attacks, I close their doors and remember the mantra of the iconic Phyllis Diller: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”

Now that I’ve shared mine, tell us, what are your time saving secrets for an easier day?“

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Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rhiana-maidenberg/mom-shortcuts-timesaving-tips_b_1363911.html?ref=topbar#

17 Hugs A Day

My wife and I have a joke that we tell each other and family members: It takes a minimum of 17 hugs a day to feel normal. I will confess that there is no scientific research that supports 17 hugs per day therapy…at least not yet. Nevertheless, we have come to recognize that need for touch and have adopted the idea that hugs, at least 17 is what gets us through the daily life hassles.

At a recent conference on Attachment Theory, where there was some real scientific data, a presenter on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stated that data suggests that the little stressors of everyday living can add up to the same effects of someone who has undergone a single, major life trauma, like a robbery or death of a loved one or car accident. We let these little incidents of life go by without any real concern. Perhaps we feel embarrassed to admit how much a poor marriage or teenager defiance or even workplace stress really does affect us.

Can parents acts as prevention specialists for our children. As adults, we need 17 hugs just to maintain normal living. Our children need them to counter the cumulative effects of stress on their lives to avoid PTCS – Post Traumatic Childhood Stress. If you don’t believe there is a such a thing, just observe children interacting on a play ground. There are some mean things thrown back and forth on the jungle gym, let me tell you! Add to that some homework pressures and the constant media bombardment of negative words and images and what child wouldn’t feel slightly traumatized? As parents, the least we can do is give some touch therapy with a few hugs a day.

John Bowlby, the great attachment theorist, stated that attachment is essential to normal development (see my blog post on this here). Guardians are supposed to be our safe haven from life. Home should be a place of refuge from the constant stress of school and work. Granted, there are chores and homework to be done but how can you carve our 30 minutes a day for some connection. Parents are quick to use Time-Out, how about some Time-In? It might be good for mom and dad too.

Starting today, give a few more hugs than usual. It is OK to start slow and work your way up. And yes, teenagers love them too. You just have to be a little more crafty in your approach.

 

Power of Silly

There are a lot of very good parenting techniques available to parents in the form of parenting books, videos and classes. I have written and taught them myself. What you don’t often hear about is how to “do” parenting when the rubber hits the road. How do you get through the daily grind of life and keep a cheerful face and engage your child (or for some us multiple children)? My best parenting advice is this: Be silly. I know, parenting should be serious, shouldn’t it? The truth is that it is serious way too often.

Silliness is a useful way to lighten up the mood in the home and to engage bored or irritable children. Over the years I have used variations on the silly theme with mostly good effect. Here’s a few to try on and see how they fit for you:

Change the game rules Parents can get exhausted playing the same old game of “Go Fish” or “Sorry.” Anything done hundreds of times can be hum drum. Spice it up by changing the game rules. Use a pirate voice when playing a card game. “Argh, give me your fours!” Narrate the characters in the book you read at bedtime every night. Act it out instead of reading it. This weekend I played my niece, nephews and grandson Ping Pong Poetry. Every time you hit the ball you have to rhyme a word: Ping, sing, ring, thing, king, etc. It resulted in several belly laughs.

Tell a joke This is perhaps the simplest silly strategy. Have a long car ride? Tell a few Knock-Knock jokes. OK, you might have to do a google search first to come up with a few but it will be worth the research! I have one I told me kids over and over again. They groaned every time I would start to tell it but I could tell by their smiles they loved the “tradition” of it as well. Want to hear it? “How do you make a hanky (hankerchief) dance? Put a little boogie in it.” Made you laugh? I know it is a little irreverent but isn’t that the point here?

Make up a song Need to get your kids to focus and march in a file through a store without touching everything? Come up with a marching song and sing it (quietly) as you go down the aisles. Preschool teachers do this all the time to get kids to clean up their mess and move to a new classroom activity. Use it at home too.

Food can be fun Got a picky eater? Dinner time always turns into a fight? Use the food to create some fun. Put coloring food into the milk. Make a game out of how slowly you can eat. Wiggle your nose at others around the table and see who can catch who doing it. Eat in courses, switch seats for each one or use your opposite eating hand to do it. Make faces out of the foot as you place it on the plate. We often use special pancake forms on the griddle to make dinosaur shapes. A lot of food is package in shapes of animals or other character. I enjoy bitting their heads off. Sorry, but I do. Have a crunching contest – keeps kids focused and eating mom!

Wear funny slippers My sister-in-law came over for the weekend and wore fluffy pink slippers most of the weekend. She was comfortable and the kids loved making fun of her. Keep a full house of people energized and in good humor. Alternate this strategy by wearing bright clothing, mix patterns or act cool in your shades. I am sure you have a few silly tricks up your sleeve.

Share them with us by leaving a comment or Facebook post or Tweet us! Let’s pool our silliness ideas together and use it to increase cooperation, enjoy each other more, and decrease stress levels.