The Edmond Sun

Features

November 22, 2013

Parents need to take care of problems before they get out of control

EDMOND — The mother of a 4-year-old boy shared an interesting story with me the other day. At age 2, her son began chewing meat to the point where it became liquid, but would not swallow. The parents became worried and began attempting various means of persuading him to swallow. Nothing worked, which increased the parents’ anxiety and, likewise, the energy they put into the swallowing project.

Finally, the mother read a book of mine in which I describe a technique I developed called “The Doctor.” It’s actually a modification of an approach to children developed by Milton Ericson, an outlier psychiatrist whose offbeat, creative work has never been given its due in the mental health community.

Full disclosure: Whenever, in this column, I have written about this technique, mental health professionals have complained that it may well cause children to be anxious about real doctors. To that, I can only say that over the perhaps 20 years that I’ve disseminated this recommendation concerning various problems involving young children, not one parent has ever reported that a child developed doctor anxiety. Furthermore, the “cure” rate of childhood fears, anxieties and even major behavior problems has been remarkable.

The method involves simply telling the child in question that The Doctor has said that the problem, whatever it is, is due to lack of sleep. Therefore, until the problem has completely disappeared for a certain period of time, or on any day that the problem occurs, the child must go to bed immediately after the evening meal. Other privileges can also be made part of a package of consequences, but early bedtime usually does it.

Concerning the meat-chewing 4-year-old, the parents told him, “We visited with a doctor today and told him that you chew meat and won’t swallow it. He told us that this happens when a child isn’t getting enough sleep. He told us that when you chew meat and won’t swallow it, that you have to go to bed right after supper.”

That evening, the child had to go to bed right after supper. From that point on, he has chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed. No problem since.

There are four points to the story, the first of which is that if the parents’ had consulted a mental health professional, there is some likelihood the child would have become afflicted with a disorder of some sort — sensory integration disorder, perhaps. When a problem becomes a disorder, it is rarely, if ever, cured in a day.

The second point is that the mother now realizes her anxiety was one reason — perhaps THE reason — why the problem worsened over a two-year period. When children develop problems, they need parents who are authoritative, not anxious. Anxiety and authority are incompatible. The former cancels the latter.

The third point is that the mother’s anxiety reflected the now-ubiquitous tendency of parents to “think psychologically” about problems that arise in or with their kids. This sort of thinking prevents problem-solving — not sometimes, but always — because the question “Why is this happening?” prevents a parent from focusing on what to do about it. The “Why?” question induces what I call “disciplinary paralysis.”

The fourth point is that we seem to have forgotten that children do odd things sometimes. These odd things do not necessarily indicate a problem. Sometimes, odd is nothing more than odd.

FAMILY PSYCHOLOGIST John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at parentguru.com. His column is distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

1
Text Only
Features
  • MS_Andy Billups.jpg Local man relies on experience in July 4 emergency

    Andy Billups just happened to have gained experience as a combat zone firefighter/medic while he was serving as a civilian contractor in Iraq.
    The Edmond businessman just happened to have a friend with a place on Grand Lake where he has been viewing Independence Day fireworks for a number of years, and he just happened to be there July 4.
    And he just happened to be relaxing on a hammock when he heard a some kids making a commotion.
    Located two blocks east of Disney on State Highway 28 in the foothills of the Ozark Mountain Range in northeast Oklahoma, the 59,000-plus surface acre Grand Lake is known for its state parks, marinas, restaurants, motels and fishing.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • -1.jpg 5-year-old learns valuable lessons

    It is never too soon to learn about giving and receiving. An Edmond 5-year-old recently learned about both.
    Kendall Kingry will be entering kindergarten at Will Rogers Elementary this fall and she is already looking forward to November.
    “I get to go to Disneyland in November,” Kendall said.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • peach formatted.jpg Hard year for peaches doesn’t dampen summer tradition  

    A rusting, silver-colored water tower tells visitors to this rural town between Muskogee and Tulsa that they’ve come to the “Peach Capitol of Oklahoma.”
    Residents of Stratford, the state’s other self-proclaimed peach capital, might beg to differ. Even so, Porter is known for its peaches, and every year thousands of people flood this town of about 600 residents to taste and celebrate the local crop during the three-day Peach Festival.
    Like the aging water tower, Porter’s peach industry isn’t as vibrant as it once was.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Final step to train toddler with baby on way

    Q: Using your advice, I successfully toilet-trained my daughter by age 16 months. It is now three months later and we are still using diapers at naps and nighttime. At her nap, which lasts several hours, she fully soaks her diaper. At night, she is taking off her diaper prior to falling asleep, wetting the bed after she goes to sleep and then crying for us when she wakes up in a pool of pee. Is this a sign that I should begin night training? I'm hesitant to do this because I am 8 months pregnant and don't relish the idea of waking up several times a night to take her to the bathroom and tending to a newborn as well. I would prefer to continue using diapers until she is old enough to get out of bed and take herself to the potty (even a potty in her room). Is this unrealistic? Or should I just deal with the extra night wakings and start taking her to the potty a few times a night now? If not, how do I keep her diaper on at night?

    July 25, 2014

  • Living Smart: How landscaping can deter intruders, pests

    Done right, landscaping can do much more than attract compliments and boost your property value. It can help you repel intruders, both human and natural.
    Landscaping experts who’ve earned high marks from Angie’s List members say overgrown bushes and shrubs are like welcome mats to burglars. Keep plants and trees trimmed. Place thorny but attractive bougainvillea or barberry bushes under windows, sending would-be thieves a sharp message to go elsewhere.

    July 25, 2014

  • 7-26 YARD OF THE WEEK.jpg Ganns earn Yard of the Week honors

    This week’s “Edmond Yard of the Week” winner has been in existence for 44 years at 105 Barbara Drive, but looks fresh and new thanks to longtime residents Betty and Gordon Gann as they fill their garden spaces to overflowing with colors and textures.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Discard the boredom of family game night

    We’re all about families having fun together, and game night is one of the best ways to do that. But playing the same games over and over can get a little stale. So in the interests of injecting a little more fun into your family’s game night, here are some great choices that will keep you and yours engaged and laughing.

    July 25, 2014

  • What’s normal age for voice change?

    Q: When is it normal for a boy’s voice to change? My son is 10, and his voice is getting deeper every day.
    A.: “It’s a very variable process,” says pediatrician Bonnie Miller, associate director of general pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.. “Puberty will begin as early as age 9. Generally with the advent of puberty, the voice box changes.”

    July 25, 2014

  • IMG_2996.JPG Krazy Daze hits downtown Edmond

    Newly transplanted Edmond residents Hannah Brenning, Cheyenne Middle School 8th grader; Jordan Brenning, Cross Timbers 4th grader; and Sydney Brenning, North High School freshman; check out the items in front of Sterling's in downtown Edmond during the Krazy Daze Sale lasting through Saturday. Businesses will open their doors at 10 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Living history presented at metropolitan libraries

    Hear stories of pace setting women in different eras throughout history. Biographies of Wild West trailblazers, The Harvey Girls, WWII assembly line champion-Rosie the Riveter, mail order bride Mary Elizabeth Walker, and Oklahoma society lady Stella Louise Wilson-Johnson will be reenacted by gifted and prolific storyteller Barbara Byrd.
    Stella Louise Wilson-Johnson was the wife of a prominent Guthrie attorney who shares her experiences and adventures during the early days of Oklahoma statehood. Her presentation will be at 7 p.m. Monday, July 28, Edmond Library, 10 S. Boulevard. For more information, visit www.metrolibrary.org

    July 25, 2014