Monday, September 10, 2007

Welcome Back

You will no doubt be receiving lots of messages about coming back to school after this long summer vacation. I hope you had a relaxing one. Some of the kids that see me have been to off to sleep-away camp, some in town with lots of one week camps like swimming, surfing, computer, dance, art - you name it, there seems to be a camp for it. Others have been traveling the globe - visiting family across the states or seeing Europe for the first time. Not one child has said his vacation was too long; a bit boring at times, but no one has actually wanted to go back to school early. They are worried about the pressure to do well, about the homework that seems to take hours, and about falling behind before things even begin.

Going back to school presents an opportunity to improve last year's ways. One of the most effective is to help your children organize before they are overwhelmed by their work. Those large poster size "month a page" calendars at Staples or Office Depot do wonders for organizing subjects and assignments. Some kids really enjoy color coding - you can color code by subject or activity. For example, each subject can have a different color (e.g. Math - green, Science - blue, English - red) or use a different color for each required activity (e.g. homework- green, tests - red, reading assignments - black). Use whatever appeals to your kids.

Then have your child write down every assignment and test the day it comes in. Depending on their age they may need more or less help from you. Then break down the requirements of the assignment and write the bits up in each daily box. If your child must read a book and then write a book report in three weeks, then ask how many pages are in the book? 250? Okay, if she wants to finish the book in two weeks so she has a week to write the report, she must read 20 pages a day. Have your child write that down in each calendar box (e.g. pgs 1-20, 21-40, etc). It's fun to cross off when you've completed a task. Want to finish the report 3 days early? Then write a first draft the first day, leave it for a day (maybe have someone read it to edit or suggestions) then she'll have another couple of days to write a second and perhaps third draft. I usually like to build in some wiggle room for emergencies (which seem to always come up). You get the idea.

Let me know how you do with this organization - what works for you, what other ideas you have, and if you would like further support.


Dr. Charlotte

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Heart of Discipline

The California Psychological Association generously asked me to write an article on discipline for their July/August issue of The California Psychologist (CPA Psychologists Doing Exceptional Things). I felt to be true to the way I work best with children and families, I needed to address the importance of the heart. The following article is the result. I invite you to start reading below and click the link at the end of the paragraph to go to the full posted article on my website.

I'd love to hear from you - comments, thoughts, your own personal experiences.

"An enraged mom pulls her son into my office. At her wits end with her 10-year-old’s acting out behavior at school, she demanded to come into his private counseling session without notice. Across town his dad had a different reaction – on his son’s weekend visit, while staying very calm, he put his misbehaving boy over his knee – and whacked him."*

Click here for the rest of the article.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Child's Plea for the Environment

A young girl from Vancouver Canada delivers a touching and poignant plea for saving the environment. With three other 12- and 13-year-old friends, she formed the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO). I just received this link today and invite you to watch this 7 minute video. Although this was taken at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, it is even more valuable today.

Please email or post your thoughts and reactions.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Healing Power of Nature

It's so easy to be busy these days - with kids, with work, with just about anything. How often do we take time to slow down and stop? Really stop and connect with the healing power of nature. Today I had the pleasure of spending the entire day up in Soltice Canyon, just a 45 minute drive on the outskirts of the city. Being with friends, family, and children in the spectacular gorgeous greenery was postively healing. Seeing big, beautiful blue jays on arrival, listening to the woodpeckers peck at the trees, hearing the frogs sing by the stream, and just lazing my eyes and body on such natural beauty was a delicious joy.

So here's my healing advice for the week. Pick a day on the weekend. Give yourself and your kids the day off. Take a vacation in your local park or nearby mountains. Spend the day outdoors in nature and for sure you and your kids will feel better. Forget the taxes, the bills, the homework. And then do it again - take another trip to nature - next week, next month, but very soon. It's absolutely worth it!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

From the President, International Council for Self-Esteem

I enjoyed your writeup of the Twenge article and appreciated your position and defense of the California Task Force. I was anticipating a press release of her findings which were reported earlier in Kernis's book Self-Esteem: Issues and Answers. In her book she points out that other factors such as permissive parenting, increased materialism, the fascination with celebrities and reality TV shows, and the culture in general all seem to contribute to this trend. So there is no evidence that self-esteem programs are the primary cause of this trend. She hypothesizes that only some of the blame for the increase in narcissistic scores may be due to self-esteem programs that emphasize the self-worth aspects of self-esteem. However, I believe the study is valid and significant, but it is only a small part of the problem.

Unfortunately, here is another example of researchers and college professors taking different approaches to the topic of self-esteem. It is evident that she takes the same position as Baumeister and Crocker and equates self-esteem with self-worth with her use of the Rosenberg Scale. This is in contrast to those sociologists who study self-esteem from a behavioral perspective (James, Harter, Pope), and those who believe that authentic self-esteem is a balance between worth and competence (Branden, Mruk). As you might suspect, I subscribe to this later position on self-esteem for those that base their work on self worth disregard actions and demonstrated behavior which I feel are important. I believe there are dangers in over-emphasizing self-worth and Mruk in his book Self-Esteem Theory, Research and Practice does a great job of explaining how self-worth and competence balance each other and keep each of these elements from being developed to an extreme as in the case of narcissism.

It is too bad when we have to keep educating others about these problems of definition, especially when it seems that the majority of college professors continue to use Rosenberg's scale only for their research. Thanks for your efforts.

Robert Reasoner

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Self-Esteem: A College Student's Perspective

Can you really measure a person's self-esteem through a questionnaire? In my experience those who self promote usually have larger inadequacies than those who don't. My assumption is that they are making up for the issues. They are constantly bringing it up because it is something they deal with, and they are making comments that reverse their feelings to hopefully send the facade that they are what they say they are.

As far as whether or not self-esteem is good or bad, it's just like any quality (or thing in general); there must be a balance. Too much of anything is bad.

Even if you care for the wellbeing of others, if you care to the point where other's health/problems/etc. matter more than your own, than you are not living a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, if all you care about is yourself, well then, obviously you lack moral values that the majority of society believes are valuable and unique to the human species.

Same is true for self-esteem. You can only tell if reports of self-esteem are negative if there are corresponding reports on negative behavior. I might buy the argument that trends in increased self-esteem lead to worsened personal relationships if there were questions/tests that offered those kinds of statistics as well. Even then with vague statistics riddled with confounding factors it would be hard to prove causation.

University of Berkeley

Monday, March 5, 2007

Self-Esteem: Good or Bad For Kids?

There have been so many confusing and conflicting reports on whether self-esteem has been bad or good for kids this week that I'm exhausted trying to keep up. Stories have been all over the news, the Internet and TV. If you google the subject you'll be reading for weeks. And here are some more thoughts...

It all started (again) with a research study, the lead investigator being Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, giving over 16,000 college students a narcissistic questionnaire (the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, NPI) back in 1982 through 2006. The results of the study were made public pending the release of her book in paperback. Its merits are still being considered for a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

If you haven't already read any of the articles around, then here are some of the basics.

1. NPI scores have risen since 1982. By 2006 two-thirds of the students had above average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

2. College students answered questions such as "I think I am a special person," "I can live any way I want," and "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place.

3. The researchers say these kids are "narcissistic" but not "clinically narcissistic" so they don't all have to seek counseling.

4. Students' more positive responses on the NPI are equated with higher self-esteem, a tricky assumption to make because it depends on your definitions. Wouldn't a more comprehensive definition of self-esteem include feeling good about yourself because you know the value of responsibility, hard work, character, and the common good? In fact, the California Task Force on Self-Esteem in the mid 1980's created a document outlining just these characteristics (the opposite of what Twenge would call narcissism) as being part of what self-esteem means.

5. The study's results support the idea that higher self-esteem leads to "negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others, reacting aggressively to criticism, and favoring self-promotion over helping others." And that it leads to more crime, higher teen pregnancy, more drug use (see Twenge's earlier findings).

6. The researchers conclude that problem stems from the beginning self-esteem movement in the 1980's and telling our kids they are special. (See my comments in #4 above re what the movement really said.)

These last two assumptions are hard to swallow. Twenge quotes different research to support the study's conclusions. Other researchers quote opposing stats. For example, an article by authors Neil Howe and William Strauss on the Op Ed page of the LA Times March 2nd point out just the opposite trend. "Millennials have much greater regards for each other, their parents and the community than other Gen X's or baby boomers had at the same phase of life." Howe and Strauss go on to quote statistics that support their viewpoint and directly oppose Twenge et. al's saying crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse all have actually lower not higher rates today for those under age 25 and volunteerism has gone up. (Twenge dismisses the higher help rates by saying kids are just doing it to look good on a college resume.)

I wonder if we go along with Twenge's suggestion and stop telling kids they are special, is that really the answer to many of society's problems? I don't believe such a flip response is the answer. There are so many layers to this issue.

For our youngest kids, parents’ thoughtful praise is critical - their view of themselves comes from their parents, because parents are their world. They haven't developed the skills or experience to nurture or appraise themselves. And too many kids just hear what they are doing wrong, not right. We want our kids to develop an inner sense of self, and perhaps always hearing they are "great" from outside sources doesn't ultimately do what we'd like it to. That is, to develop an inner sense of worth so kids can comfort themselves when they need to, realistically appraise what their talents really are - where they have to work harder, where they can help others, and what they want their place in the world to be and work toward that goal.

It seems wise to praise for trying to do their best, not just achieving the highest honor. CBS News reported on Dr. Carol Dweck's research at Stanford University, which supports praising effort. "Dweck conducted experiments on fifth graders. After a test she praised one group for being smart" and "another group for the effort they put in." In a later "much harder exam, the kids who were led to believe they were smart folded. But the ones who were praised for trying performed much better." Research about "learned hopelessness" also shows if you don't think you can achieve something, eventually you won't even try.

All this fuel for the fire presents an opportunity to evaluate the study's broad implications for our children, the effect of throwing the "baby out with the bathwater", and how we think / feel about this subject overall. What is important to you? What values do you want children to develop? How are you helping them become the person you believe and hope they can become?

Why not make your own determination about the good and bad of self-esteem when you consider the children in your life? How are they feeling about themselves, and how are those feelings affecting the lives they are leading? Are they saying they are feeling good, but teasing or putting other kids down at school? Or are they reaching out and standing up for the kid who is being teased? Have they developed enough empathy and self-responsibility to understand that what they say and do affects others, and act positively on those traits? And if you don't appreciate what you see in their behavior, then teach them what matters - your value system. And remember kids learn best by example, so be true to what you believe in.

Please share your thoughts and feelings on this latest Hot Topic.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy New Year (Again)

Tonight is Chinese New Year. I love New Year's. Besides the obvious celebration, it's a chance to start again. And in the last several months we've been able to celebrate Jewish New Year, traditional New Year, and now Chinese New Year. (If there are others, write in.) I love New Year's because of this new beginning. We can choose to do it differently this time - whatever "it" is. We can start anew - be kind to ourselves and our kids - love ourselves, family, and friends in a healthier way. We can again aim to hit our mark and be the best person we want to be. We can put our mistakes in the past and forgive ourselves, our kids, our loved ones, even the stranger that cut us off on the road. We can let go of anger and resentment so it doesn't build up and cause us more stress. We can move on.

So, if we give ourselves permission for a fresh start on New Year's, why not give ourselves permission for a fresh start each day? And if we decide it's okay to start anew each day, why not every hour or minute? Imagine the kind of person you'd like to be? Imagine the kind of relationship you'd like to have with your family? What does it feel like? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How would this simple re-adjustment in attitude affect your feelings about yourself and your behavior with your family? How would it affect your relationship with your kids? Hopefully, happier, healthier, and more peaceful.

Please let me know how it goes...and Happy New Year ... again.

Dr. Charlotte

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Family Harmony for Valentine's Day

Dear Community,

Is love is in the air for your family? With Valentine's Day this week, it's a great opportunity to re-evaluate how your family is showing they care about each other. Lately, there's been a lot of focus with the famlies I work with to develop more positive, loving, and harmonious households. How we communicate with each other is key.

Heart Circle Talks are an easy way to build positive communication skills. Set aside some weekly family time to discuss concerns and share good feelings. You might pick a topic or just talk about "what's up" for each family member. Find a treasured small object (or, visit Imagery for Kids for a Heart Love: Imagery For Kids Heart Lovey so that the person who is sharing holds the object. Then follow these 8 simple rules.

1. Person holding the object talks.
2. Pass the object gently to one side when done sharing.
3. Don't need to share - have the right to skip your turn.
4. Talk about what you feel. Speak from your heart.
5. No put downs.
6. Maintain confidentiality (don't share what is said without permission).
7. Equal time for all (use a timer if you need to).
8. Stay in the circle (don't run off) till Heart Talk is finished.

Adjust the timing, situation, and topic based on your family's needs.
And let me know how Heart Talks work for your family.

Dr. Charlotte

Saturday, February 3, 2007

More Comments on Spanking Sparks Debate

Thank you Community for all your thoughts. Here are some more:

1. From Karen Sorensen

I enjoyed reading the article you had on spanking. I totally agree with your view by the way. We would be in line with European countries who have banned spanking. It will be interesting to see what happens. Since we know that children copy what they see and what they experience (0-7 years of age is considered the imitation phase), if we want our children to learn to handle their anger in appropriate ways, that is what we need to model. In addition, discipline is not about punishment or expressing our anger, which backfires, and tends to create anger in children and a desire to hurt back. Discipline is about teaching children specific skills about positively handling their anger (calming down) and how to solve problems with others in ways that are safe, fair, and take into account others' feelings as well as setting firm limits in non-punitive ways for inappropriate actions. Modeling and teaching the kind of positive behavior and values we want our children to have is what creates peaceful, productive citizens.

2. From Barbara Daniels

I think you cannot legislate behavior and I am tired making more laws to do just that. I feel parenting classes could be required for all who have children from their prenatal onward through till the child hits about ten. Educating the legislating is where you will find people more receptive still giving them the control they deserve. I would resent and do resent anyone trying to mind my business and I think it is time to STOP legislating everything to death.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A College Student's View - Spanking Sparks Debate

I read the article and I find the idea rather
intriguing. I have to say that everytime I was hit as
a child I sure as hell hated it and it scared me but I
do believe I deserved it. The only times I was ever
slapped/spanked were times that I was really acting
out and I was beyond verbal confrontation. I guess you
could say I was out of control. In this context I do
beleive that a spanking can be useful. I may not have
had the cognitive skills at the time to really
comprehend why I deserved to be spanked but it kept me
from acting out in that manner, which I think is a
good thing. It's unfortunate to think of children as
dogs (who have to be spanked in order to teach right
from wrong) but in this case, as long as there is no
legitimate physical abuse (which is a little
ambiguous) I do not really see it as a problem.

I agree with Professor Goldstein, in that it is a very
frightening thing for the government to regulate such
parental behavior. ... I also think the
legislation sounds more appealing if you apply it to
infants. Obviously no infant should ever be spanked in
any way.

The real reason I oppose the legislation is that I
don't see the damage that is occuring when children
are occasionaly spanked on the rear end. Unless of
course it escalates to abuse. To me, it is a little
more frightening to think that the government
(especially as it currently stands) would regulate how
we treat our children to that extent.

The idea that spanking children at a young age gives
them the idea that they can use physical power against
others is very interesting. It may be true that when I
was spanked I thought it is how I could possibly get
my way in the future. But that is extremely hard to
prove. It may be good to get spanked every once in a
while because you are confronted with that kind of
punishment and it may help you deal with others
outside the household. As a male, I deal with this a
lot. Ever since a young age physical dominance in
social circumstances presented itself. It still does
today. Fights still break out and at times you have to
hold your own. You could argue (and im not sure if I
agree with this) that being spanked allows you to deal
with these issues in a more mature and less-frightened
manner because we all know that bullies can smell
fear. Just a thought.


Your Comments on Media Article: Spanking Sparks Debate - and Legislation

Dear Community,

Below are some of the comments I received about the media article Spanking Sparks Debate - and Legislation. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. To see the article copy and paste the url:

In the future, because the Imagery For Kids Blog is here, you will be able to post directly - just click on Comment in the little green banner box below the actual post.

Warm regards,
Dr. Charlotte

1. From Marta Uffelmann-Ledezma MA

I believe spanking comes as result of frustration and lack of strategies to deal with a child that is pushing limits and it is not effective or positive, on the contrary it teaches a child that is acceptable to act aggressively when you are mad instead of teaching ways to manage the frustration and anger.
Parenting is a difficult job and it is true that we learn with our children; however in the age of information that we live in it is not excuse to act inappropriately claiming lack of information. For that reason, I am supporting you initiative and please accept my congratulations for being an active advocate of children safety.

2. From Jim Blumenthal DC

In my practice, I work with many kids labeled ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, autistic, LD, BD, etc. Frequently, the biggest challenge the (non-autistic) kids have is that their parents have abdicated the role of parenting. While I am not advocating abusive or cruel behavior on the parents' part, many of these kids exhibit a deep lack of concern over consequences because there have never, rarely, or infrequently been any. Parents who are more concerned with whether their children will like them than whether their children will grow into reasonable members of society, reminiscent of the recently past "self-esteem movement", are creating a self-indulgent and undisciplined group of monsters who either fail to develop theory of mind or are simply so self-absorbed that they don't care about hurting others.

Benjamin Spock is mercifully dead and gone after messing up the parenting of at least a couple of generations, including ours. If a child is raised in a caring environment and receives a swat on the behind for egregious behavior, I cannot believe that this will create a lifetime of emotional scarring nor teach the child to become an abuser. Atty Robert Goldstein made the point that child endangerment laws are already well established and enforced within DFS/DFYS resources. While we all seek to protect our kids and help them grow into the best people possible, this new legislation does neither and probably undermines both goals.

3. From Patrice Fisher

I think it's a bad idea for many reasons, but primarily, it's a slippery slope to a "government" raised society. I'd rather see more parent education and prevention of REAL abuse of all people. Sounds like another scheme to continue to feed the prison industrial complex.
Is there a epidemic of spanking abuse of children under three I don't know about? Of all the laws we could pass to improve the lives of children, it's a very sad statement if this is the best they can come up with.

5. From K.S.

Thanks for sending me this email. I read the article and do have some comments. First the government is going to far here. No we should not spank our children; it does say hitting is okay – which it is not. Is throwing someone in jail or fining them that amount of money going to help – NO! It is an education that is needed to help people understand this issue. I also do not believe that spanking is a parents right!!! And spanking does not tell your child you love them.

Now on the other side – I do understand why people spank. They are not educated to talk to the child to in the way that helps a child understand. Life is a learning process. Patience is another issue. As a human with emotions we tend to get to a level that we feel words don’t work and hitting speaks for us. My son has autism and I know I have felt that way many times. Did it help anyone, no, it only made me feel really bad and to him it was just hitting.

The legislature does not have a place in this issue. No fine or jail time is going to educate parents, it is only going to make then madder and take it out on the kid more and maybe even worse. Parents have killed their kids for wetting the bed, what do you think a huge fine or going to jail would do to them.
My opinion,

6. From Eva M. Spitz-Blum PhD

Spanking is an interesting issue and, as a mother, dog breeder and rancher, psychologist-psychoanalyst, with a byline as cultural anthropologist, I end up with conflicting views.
How do you get a mule to move? Get his attention!
How do you define spanking? There's where the skeleton lies buried

7. From Debbie Devine

I discussed your article with two bright children ages 10 and is what they had to say.
"It sounds like a good law not to spank little if they say don't hit mommy but then the mom hits them it is just wrong..."
As a Marriage and Family Therapist in training, and a former early childhood educator, I also agree that children three years and under should not ever be intentionally hit.(I would not support hitting any child)
However, I feel that a jail time of one year would be more harmful to a child in the case that they might be without their parent. (particularly if it is a single parent with the added stigma of the parent being in jail.)

Instead monetary fines and parenting classes sound like a far better consequence to me...even family therapy is a terrific option. In my motto was the punishment should always fit the crime. Taking away a parent and all the problems associated with that dilemma would not fit the crime to my would create another more serious family hardship and deeper pain to the child if enforced.

8. From Melanie Frost (Personal Comments not reflective of any organization)

In response to the article on drawing up a law around spanking young children, I believe this is a situation that does not have an easy one pat answer; therefore, it should not be a law that one size fits all. Having raised four boys who had enough energy for 12 kids, I believe people will take the liberty of taking situations out of context and good parents will be punished for minor displays of corrections to their children. It is a very different situation of a child misbehaving four or 5 times with the parent trying to redirect them, distract them and keep them safe at time and then on the sixth time giving the child a spank on the behind to get their attention. The common observer may not have seen all the times the parent did do the other ways of managing behavior but saw the last time he misbehaved and got a swat. Is this parent in the same category as the parent who does no corrective redirections and uses spanking as the only means of discipline? Is this the same as the parent who in anger hits his child with force and leaves hand marks on their behinds? And what about the child who says mommy spanked me? W here do we go with all of this. Do you put parents in jail? Why not come in the front door and when a women gets pregnant offer or mandate they take parenting classes prior to the birth of the baby. Give them tools to use before the problems begin. How do they discipline a child? Teach them the correct ways of dealing with children’s behaviors for we all certainly have been there if you have raised children. Where do they go for help? Are there resources for them to call when they cannot cope and do we make that easy for them to do? Parenting is one of the only jobs on this earth that is 24/7/life. We are given no direction or training, resources or help. Isn’t this more where we need to start?

IFK Media Article: Spanking Sparks Debate - and Legislation

Here's the email that sparked this Blog sent on January 27th:

Dear Community,

California is leading the nation again. Or is it? An anti-spanking law for kids 3 and under is about to be brought to the legislature. It's a hot topic and is stirring a lot of debate. I was asked to consult on the following article which presents some of the issues.

Although the author talks about children age 4 and under, my responses are about children age 3 and under, which is what the bill is geared toward. Probably just a misprint.

I'd love to hear how you feel about this proposed legislation and how you believe it might affect our communities. The aim seems to be a wake-up call, with parents being sent to parenting classes as a first line of defense.

Warm regards,
Dr. Charlotte

Welome to the Imagery For Kids Blog

Hello Community.

I've finally been inspired to start a blog and am absolutely thrilled. It was my last email sharing the recent article about no spanking kids under 3 in the upcoming California legislature that sparked this. I asked for comments and received many from parents and professionals expressing very different opinions. So I thought a blog would be the perfect venue to share ideas. Please feel free to add your comments to the ones I will post. And keep checking back as all kinds of topics around kids and parenting will be sure to crop up. Questions and comments welcome!

Warm regards,
Dr. Charlotte