Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why should I focus on the cause rather than the symptoms?

I remember when I first entered into this world of attachment and trauma therapy I was so excited to be finally receiving some answers. But I did have a few questions...What about discipline? What about consequences? It is all confusing. They don't work and how is my child going to learn right from wrong? Are they going to end up in jail?

The answer lies in a couple of paradigms.

One: Focus on the cause, not the symptom.  When your child is acting out, first stop yourself and think about what might be driving the behavior and talk about that.

Example: Let's suppose you found a huge wad of ice cream wrappers under your child's bed and know that your child was up in the night and ate an entire box of ice cream bars in one sitting. This has become a problem because your child is refusing all meals and then sneaking junk in between. Is this a made up scenario. No. : )

Mom: "Taz it must bring up a lot of big feelings when you want to go get that food. I know sometimes you didn't get food you wanted when you were little."

Taz " I was hungry."

Mom "I'm sure you were. And being hungry brings up some fears of not getting food. I will always make sure you will get enough to eat. In fact, I want you to be so sure of that, that I have filled this goody bag of food, packed full of yummy food and love. You can keep this in your room and whenever you get hungry you will always have something to eat. Now the other kids don't have this bag, because they are not worried and know we have food. Let me know when you don't think you need it any more."

Pack this bag with things that are good but have some nutritional value such a granola bars, cereal bars, protein bars.

BUT, what about the ice cream bars?

"Now Taz, you know you can have ice cream here. In fact, that is why I buy the ice cream, is for snacks. But I have a couple of things on my mind.  I am wondering about the other kids and I'm wondering if they might want snacks too. What do you think? "

Taz" They are not as hungry as me."

Me: "I know sometimes it does feel like that. But what can we do to make sure it is fair? They don't have any snacks now for this week. What do you think would make it fair?"

Taz " I don't know."

Me. "Should we ask them?"

Taz " NO. I could do a chore of theirs. Or make some cookies."

Me: "Great idea.  You run and do one of their chores and I'll get the stuff out so we can make them some cookies. Won't they be surprised?"

Consequence. Not a punishment. The purpose of a consequence is to teach and to guide, not to punish. I am  a big believer in Love & Logic. One of our boys asked if they could paint their bike last summer. I told him that it really wouldn't turn out well. He snuck out and did it anyway. His bike looks BAD!!! He lied and said "When I came out of the Y someone had painted it." Bummer. "Well Taz, I'm sorry your don't feel safe telling me what happened, but you know what. What you just did to yourself is bigger than any consequence I would have done. I'm sorry your bike looks like that." (Don't spend a bunch of time trying to get him to confess. Won't work!) He had even done it with the bike laying in the grass and left it there to dry so it has these nasty long drip lines hanging off one side. Poor bike.

Hang in there. It is a tough job. There are no easy answers, but there is healing.

Never, never ,never quit.

PS Just found this at Christine's place. It is so fitting to today I had to include it.
This article is found at House Calls Counseling. Very fitting.


Lisa said...

Can you hear me screaming????

I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you!

Brenda said...

I wondered what that was!! : ) Thanks! I'm adding a little on to it though.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

I have always struggled with hoarding and night eating! Thank you for the advise!

Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD said...

Very well said. focusing only on symptoms (or surface behaviors) is a lot like plying the arcade game of Wack-A-Mole. The only real way to stop it is to unplug it; to eliminate the causes not the surface actions.


Brenda said...

Thanks Dr. Art. Wack a mole. Great visual picture!

Ryan said...

This is a very interesting post. I've been deciding on where to take my post-grad education, part of which was inspired by Lisa Espich's Soaring Above Co-Addiction, and I came across this site. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Brenda said...

Thanks Ryan. Good luck in your educational pursuits!