Is your behaviour hurting your children?

Some of the greatest dangers for children are found in their own homes. Competent parents and caregivers are of course alert and take precautions. Gates on stairs, locks on low cupboards, toxic substances out of reach, lifejackets around the pool. Often forgotten though are the harmful effects of some patterns of parental thinking.

Some of the greatest dangers for children are found in their own homes. Competent parents and caregivers are of course alert and take precautions. Gates on stairs, locks on low cupboards, toxic substances out of reach, lifejackets around the pool. Often forgotten though are the harmful effects of some patterns of parental thinking.

It is widely understood in psychology that children are highly influenced by the attribution styles of their care providers. How we talk to ourselves, about ourselves gets passed on. How we interpret what happens in our lives, teaches children the same interpretive skills. Granted, and in some cases thankfully, it isn’t a one-to-one correspondence. But generally children soak up what is said by adults. They not only learn the content but they learn the style too. When I forget something I hear my dad’s voice in my head saying, “Robert, you’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on.” (His tone was never mean, more like “silly boy”.) This is content. On the other hand, I realize that I can interpret things stoically (like my dad) and optimistically (like my mom).

Given the energy we put into protecting children it’s surprising more attention isn’t focused on how caregivers inadvertently teach children how to interpret events.

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the main scientifically proven psychotherapy for depression and anxiety, patients are taught to examine automatic negative thoughts that contribute to their worries and depression. The treatment process is analogous to getting braces on teeth. Over a period of months there is a slow tweaking of the braces as the teeth move more towards the preferred configuration.  In CBT, over time the negative thought processes that were once automatic slowly recede and new neuronal thought pathways are created. As with braces, where there are typical patterns that need correcting (overbite, wide space in the front teeth, crowded overlapping teeth), there are typical unhelpful thought patterns that CBT can fix. These patterns are just as intransigent as teeth because they have been practiced since we were children; usually passed down from our parents.

Let’s say you were taking the family to Chilliwack’s first “party in the park”.  You get downtown and can’t find a parking spot. Out loud you say, “why does this always happen to me?” This is known as “personalization.”  First, it likely doesn’t always happen to you and secondly, you likely aren’t alone, others likely had a hard time finding a spot.  The kids, sitting in the back seat have learned, “when you are frustrated, consider that the universe is out to get you and you alone, you are a special victim.”

Here’s another scenario. So you found a parking spot and are having a great time but drip mustard onto your new white blouse. Frustrated you say,  this night is ruined. The truth would be more like, this was frustrating but in balance the evening was a success. What the kids learned was “all or nothing” thinking. It’s perfect or no good.

Over the summer my colleagues Eryn Wicker and Marie Amos and I plan to write about some common “cognitive distortions”. We hope that you’ll think about your own thinking. Cognitive distortions can make the difference between misery and a full life.

 

Dr. Rob Lees, R.Psych  is the Community Psychologist for the Ministry for Children and Family Development in Chilliwack

Just Posted

Chilliwack man feeling helpless about puppy stolen while at church

Evidence of neighbour trespassing and accusing him of dog neglect not enough for RCMP

UPDATE: Missing Chilliwack man has been found

Chilliwack RCMP is thanking the public for keeping an eye out

UPDATED: Chilliwack councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read