Natural Consequence, Results of Actions, Absence of Control

In our home, we don’t teach our kids that there are consequences for their behavior – we don’t fabricate a world for their learning of the negative, or for the purpose of giving them lessons.  In our home, results of behavior occur for the child just as they do for the adult.  Of course, if a result would be harmful or damaging, we buffer, but otherwise we do not.  When a result should occur for the purpose of them learning something, and in fact nothing related really happens, we either simply verbalize our relevant thoughts or we let it be, trusting that the child will acquire the necessary understanding at a later time when the child is ready.

Parenting like this requires trust in the mind of the developing child, openness in communication and raw relating from parent to the child, and a complete lack of fear of losing control – because there is no “controlling” in the first place.

Does this lack of control mean my kids run my home? Actually, to some it may seem that they have too much influence because we choose to accept and accommodate their wants, preferences, and needs as equal to our own. Yet, if someone were to be a fly on the wall, they’d see that this respect we bestow upon the children is returned without force.  I don’t need to control my child because I trust her ability to reason, I don’t fear her making a mistake because I trust in her ability to accept herself and learn through experience, and I am willing to be inconvenienced for the duration of her childhood when necessary.

There are exceptions, when I must enforce something out of practicality.  Even then, however, my prevailing mentality is not to direct but to allow her to explore and learn through her own understanding and experiences.  Tonight my kiddo (4) decided to set a square box (cushioned cube) to sit upon, right in front of the tv.  Initially, I talked with her about the decision as she was too near the tv and the tv isn’t securely mounted as of yet (it’s new).  I asked her to make certain that if she was going to leave the cube to sit on so near the tv that she not bump the stand (or make the tv move) at all.

A few minutes passed and before long, she’d stretched herself between the cube and the tv stand like a bridge, and needless to say, the tv was jostled and wiggling in time with her own movements.  I watched for a few moments, to determine whether she’d correct the situation on her own.  She didn’t.  I stepped in.

I knelt near her, paused the program she was engaged in, asked for her eye contact, and said in a flat and gentle tone, with respect and not condescension in my voice, “Bugz, your feet on the stand are causing the tv to move too much.  There’s a good chance the tv might get damage because of how much it’s moving, and how close you are to it.  I mentioned to you just a few moments ago that if you were going to sit on the cube so near the tv you’d have to make sure not to bump the tv or the stand…  (She reflects, then I continue.)  I see the tv is still moving a bit even after you’ve now taken your feet off the stand.  I don’t want our new tv damaged and this concerns me.”

Her response, “Why does the tv move so much?”

My explanation, “Because the stand is meant to allow for some movement safely that won’t damage the tv, but we don’t have the tv in a good place yet and so it’s not secure.  It’s my job to mount the tv and I haven’t done it yet.  I know.. if it were, then we wouldn’t be talking about it..”

She responds, “Yeah, so can you fix it cuz I want to make a bridge but I don’t want to mess up the tv.”

I simply told her at that point that I wasn’t going to mount it at this time (I’m sick today, the room isn’t ready, the wall isn’t ready… I’m procrastinating… etc, etc.) and that the she was welcome to continue using the cube to sit on, but that it would need to be moved back a few feet from the tv.  She responded with some annoyance and disappointment, but she acknowledged me and picked up the cube, moved it to the center of the room (6′ or so from the tv) and resumed watching her show.  Shortly thereafter, she found herself climbing on the back of the couch, mimicking the cat on the tv, and was quite pleased.

I acknowledged her interest in the physical elements of the placement of the cube.  She likes to climb, stretch, jump, and teeter on things that are entirely not stable but she manages.  She also actively interacts with the tv, as we don’t use it except for education and/or entertainment that she physically responds to/with.  It’s unfair of me to restrict her just because I am too lazy to take care of the reason I am compelled to restrict in the first place.  If I took the time to mount the thing as it is meant to be, or at least set it onto a surface that was safer than what I have chosen, the entire conversation would never have happened.  She knows this.  She knows I have chosen to procrastinate, and that as a result I have had to ask her to forgo something she finds enjoyable.  Yet she doesn’t throw a fit, doesn’t intentionally defy me.. She also (this time) didn”t refuse to respect my request even with my own laziness being the cause, and her being well aware of it.  She chose to acknowledge the real concern I had for preserving the electronic equipment, chose to respect my request because it made sense to her and she happened to value the same that I did in tihs case, and she chose to modify what she could do to suit her desire to use her body to enjoy what she was watching on the tv.

Does she always make these decisions that go my way?  No.  But most of the time she does, and most of the time, I make decisions that go hers.  Though, if I demand something I can almost guarantee her respect and consideration of me, my wants, expectations, etc., become the very last thing she is interested in honoring.  Is an adult any different?

So, I don’t demand, and I don’t control.  I guide, educate, share and communicate very openly, demonstrate empathy and equal respect, respond out of compassion, and gently smile as the amazing things really impress me and the not so great just fade a moment later out of importance.  I screw this up a lot too… but the more I mess up, the more aware I become, and the I can choose how I interact, and what being in the position to parent really means.

Listen to My Heart

Yesterday I talked about the concept of how our society uses the term “Listen” with our kids.  In our home, we use ‘listen’ differently than what I have observed in the majority of families with whom I’ve come into contact.  In our home, when one of us says ‘listen’, what is actually being said is, “Please stop a moment, I want to share my heart, the thoughts that are really big in my mind right now.  Please, look at me, hear me with your ears, and hear me with your heart.  I want to connect.  I want your acknowledgement.  I am needing your validation of my feelings and thoughts at this moment/on this topic.  And once I finish sharing my thoughts, I want to receive your response and share a conversation about this…”.

So, you won’t hear us say “Listen to me” unless it’s important and we expect to have an in depth conversation (kid to adult, kid to kid, adult to adult). Further, the “listen to me” aspect will be with a “please” because it is a request.  Always.

In limited instances however, you will hear one of us say, “Please do/don’t  _____________; I expect you to comply/expect your compliance.”  Then, immediately following (or as soon as possible), we will provide a concise explanation for the expectation if it is beneficial or requested.

When a communication is delivered in our home without the “expectation of compliance” as a part of the entire message, everyone knows that a request is being communicated.  Everyone also knows they have the right to deny any request, or grant any request.  This is universal; there is no double standard where the parent can deny a request but the child can’t, for instance.

Do we always interact with this concept being the underlying and motivating factor?  Are we explicitly consistent?  No.  We (big people and little people) screw it up sometimes.  Humans ability to use manipulation is uncanny… And we are not perfect, nor do we intend to be.  However, each person (and dog) in our home knows deep within them the value we hold for one another, as well as the value of consistency and forthrightness.  We each know that it does not feel good to be on the receiving end of manipulation, and it is our responsibility to make the conscious choice to not allow ourselves to be in the position of delivering an attempt at manipulation.

Sometimes we fail.  When that happens, acknowledgement is what makes the difference.. That acknowledgement begins as an internal acceptance of something that requires adjustment, followed by that same awareness being communicated outwardly to all involved.

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When compliance is expected, the communication is never delivered as a request, it is always delivered as a command, and phrased in the format the child is accustomed to.

The command is always communicated with the expectation of compliance as a part of the entire communicationThe “comply” aspect is not one that is resorted to (or tacked on) in the event the child doesn’t give the adult what is expected/wanted.  This is crucial.

Our communication doesn’t look like this –
Kid, I want you to do/not do something.
Kid hesitates.. doesn’t choose to do as the communication indicates.
Ok Kid, since you didn’t decide to give me what I want, I’m going to now say, “comply”.

This sort of approach is unfair and does not uphold the child.  Why?  Because the adult is retaining an upper hand that they perceive they have due to their size/age/status/etc. By phrasing as a request what is actually a command for which compliance is expected, they are being manipulative.

When the child, who interprets the communication as a request (because it wasn’t clearly delivered as a requirement initially), and chooses to deny it (for whatever their reason), is then forced to accept that the autonomy (self-governing) and right to choose he believed was his was actually never there, he can experience everything from confusion, to betrayal, to a much decreased sense of self. When the adult uses manipulation and then resorts to dominance to force compliance, they are stripping their child of his autonomy.  It’s insulting and demeaning, and undermines the child’s internal reasoning and sense of self.

That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” (or other imperative) in time to prevent harm, and the child’s safety depends on his compliance. I’ll discuss this situation in a separate post. ~>

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In the mean time, what scenarios can you recall when you and your child successfully interacted on an almost innate/intuitive level – where they sensed your dire need for their compliance, and they granted it (whether threat of physical or emotional harm – which is equally valuable). Please share your experiences.

Punitive Timeouts & Spanking: Equally Damaging

As you read this, if you are unaccustomed to my beliefs or written tone and rhythm, please go here first.  Then, as you read, keep Ken’s comments in mind.

I am in a state of aggravation, spurred by injustice, impossible scenarios, no sleep, trepidation over the damage I may be causing my child with all this transition (moving, traveling), and struggling through a significant crevasse between my husband and I.  Right now, I am not whole.  I am torn in two, with a thread of goo left dangling in between. Please forgive my attempt at coping by using sarcasm instead of sheer wit and completely pure communication.  I’m jaded and in protective mode right now… and as if life isn’t large enough as it is at the moment, I have found myself being expected to conform or defend some of my core beliefs to some very real and large, tangible people (outside my home’s walls, but not far from them).  One of the topics is the use of timeouts.

Somehow, me saying that timeouts are torture in my opinion isn’t enough to get the various people to which I refer above to leave me alone.

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What is the point of a time out?

From the adult’s perspective, if we’re honest, first and foremost, hopefully the answer to that question is to insist a child realize they have evoked your disapproval by their actions and behaviors.  Second, to be completely honest, it is to give the adult a moment’s peace, during which they do not have to contend with the child’s behaviors and actions that are causing frustration.

We accomplish our task by forcing our child to endure rejection, isolation, and dehumanizing “space to think”, which if they had managed to “think” in the first place, they would never have allowed themselves to be forced into the position they found themselves in – the experience of ostracism by a trusted, loved, care giver.

Below you will find links to subsequent posts as I complete them related to the subject, picked apart concept for concept, and sometimes sentence for sentence.  I hope you will summon your curiosity and continue the learning process, open your mind to your child’s world view, and soften your heart so that a greater knowledge and understanding might enter your parenting and the future health of your child (and you).

Too spiritual, mystical, out-there talk??

Ok, here’s the same thing without the flowers and fairies:  Timeouts cause the brain to sense physical pain because it is in fact, a deliberate action of forced isolation, rejection, and detachment, even at the most “dutiful and appropriate” level. What’s worse, that isolation, rejection, and detachment is being forced upon a child powerless to prevent it by the very entity that is supposed to represent a safe, secure, and protected place/person (be it a parent, teacher, etc).

The betrayal, on multiple levels, is astounding and horrifying.

It’s real.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: Cause those around you to purposely ignore your presence, the other adults you see as valuable for one reason or another, in your daily life. Now, make it so you cannot stop their lack of or refusal to acknowledge you (otherwise known as “removal of positive reinforcement”) until you conform to their will and wishes, or until you regain their approval in some way (if you are capable).  Tell me this is not damaging.  Tell me this doesn’t hurt you. Tell me that it doesn’t make you squirm, angry, resentful, vengeful, and ultimately needy.  I dare you to try.

Now, take that one step further and view the same scenario through the eyes of an under/undeveloped child, inexperienced in social and emotional behavior patterns, still forming a fundamental sense of self and confidence, not capable of fully understanding why, or what they have done to loose the approval of others that resulted in this forced rejection and isolation. (May bet is that if you use timeouts, or spanking for that matter, you do not fully disclose pertinent thoughts to your child, as that might just give them too much knowledge to use against you at some point, so there is a good chance that the child is not fully aware of all aspects of their infraction.)

My take?  Smacking a child may possibly cause less scarring than using timeouts/ostracism, and you all know what I think about using violence and spanking, smacking, hitting, whipping, or using any sort of like action – that being to strike, in any manner.   The reason is simple: Spanking causes humiliation, fear, and physical pain.  Ostracism causes all the same, in addition to a loss of perceived self value, loss of approval, pain of rejection, fear of isolation, and the prevention of remedy (while they sit there thinking about what they’ve done, they are effectively prevented from generating a resolution or remedy).  The amount of psychological scarring and damage is doubled.

Please understand that if I am made aware of your choice to hit your child, and you’re within arm’s reach of me, I will hit you in the exact manner and force you used on them.  And then… maybe I’ll ignore you after, just to make sure you get the full effect of the devaluing and dismissal.

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Ok, here we go……

I have had parents tell me that using timeouts is an excellent option for them, it gets great results.  I cringe.. if you understand anything about me, you know that first and foremost, I believe it paramount that we raise our children with intelligence, the ability to reason and understand their world, respect for their world (this includes those who are in a position to care and provide for them), and a curiosity to explore, develop, and learn.  THE moment I hear a parent tell me that they’ve figured out a system to manipulate their child, for the sake of their own will and desire, regardless of why or what, I start to ache for their little one.  Then, I find out they hit them (ok, spank – really, show me what the physical action of a spanking is, now repeat the action with the same force using the same tool either against a piece of foam like the kind you use in the base of a fake plant, or a brick wall if you’re brave and dumb enough.  It’s the same action as hitting, and when the object makes contact, let’s see what happens).  OR I find out they faithfully don’t spank, “would never dream of it, that’s awful and abusive”, but oh yes, they definitely use timeouts, otherwise known as rejection, which includes the transmission of obvious disapproval, and then of course the torturous forced isolation aspect.  Yes, that’s a great solution.

That same parent, in their next breath, ridicules their child passively, dishonors their child’s autonomy and dignity by speaking about them as if they are less, and typically though standing right there, the parent behaves as if the child is not in the room. Then, as if to redeem themselves in the face of, well, my face, which is typically by then contorted and unable to hide the pain it feels due to the unavoidable sense of compassion and dismay I feel for the child, they begin to offer semi-relevant praise “about” their child, that they sort of direct through their child in hopes that I’ll buy it and encourage them that they’re really a great parent after all.  All the while, their child is standing there knowing full well that the praise is empty, that it has a hitch or some sort of catch and they’ll hear about it as soon as I’m not in the room, and that their parent will insist they acknowledge the efforts and praise offered, as if it is an obligation for the child to also validate the parent, as the parent insisted I do.

But I don’t. And to date, only one parent has stood their ground long enough to start asking me why I won’t buy into their ploy and help them feel good about themselves, so that their kid is forced to do the same thing… Only one parent has ever had the courage to question my refusal to help them make their child feel inferior, of course that’s not really what they want, they just want to be superior.

The parent that asked me why it was that it seemed as though I appeared to think they were full of shit, is the same parent that an hour later broke down in front of their child, crying, while sitting on the floor in front of the child, begging the child to forgive him for his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and gross oversight of the true value of his child.  The child responded with compassion and bewilderment, and didn’t say much.

The two left that night, together, connected in a way they’d never been, with a mutual respect present that was brand new.  The child admired the parent, though he was confused and didn’t seem very trusting or certain of the situation.  The parent discovered the immense worth and complexity of his child, and found that he too held a high level of admiration for the child, it had just been hiding under the surface for years – 9 years to be exact (the child was 10 years old).

I heard from this father about a month ago, his child is now 12.  This father is still struggling with allowing himself to truly acknowledge and respect his child’s autonomy and worth. He is driven to seek reasons and actions that justify him feeling and thinking this way, before he demonstrates this belief to his child.

We talked about this concern and the father indicated that he, himself, held a deep resentment toward his own parents and other care givers for never allowing him to feel as though he was a legitimate and useful contributor, simply because he was nothing more than a child.  He grew up assuming that all children were nothing more than something to be dealt with, tolerated until they’re grown, appreciated for what they do that pleases the adult (and in truth, mimics the adult’s preferences), but not too highly appreciated lest the child become arrogant… it goes on and on.

It’s a simple point of attributing a lessor worth and diminished degree of legitimacy to a person, simply because of their age.  We, as a human race, do this to each other based on ethnicity, language, religion, wealth, and gender. We’d be truly crazy hypocrites if we didn’t do the same thing because of age too. Come on, really.. we’re not that dumb, are we?

The positive side the father reported, however, was that his child and he shared a mutual respect for each other, and instead of punishment for error, the father had learned to use logic, reason, natural consequence, and give his child room to error, room to disagree, room to explore and discover, room to question and seek guidance – instead of shoving it down the child’s throat, and room to return respect and admiration for the father that can so deeply love, if he allows himself to be that vulnerable.

The real catch is, this father changed not only the dynamics of his relationship with his then pre-teen child, but that decision affected his relationship with the child’s mother immensely and brought the two parents back together in a mutual love and respect that neither had ever experienced in their former relationship together. Now, each member of this family knows they are valued, appreciated for who they are and what they think, admired for their efforts and dedication, and respected because they are, not because of what they do or don’t. Love found a place to call home and it took root. And this kid, let me tell you, is one emotionally healthy, intelligent, and confident kid, with a boatload of personal integrity and ability to demonstrate compassion and dedication like none I’ve recently seen or known, of the same age.

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Now, to discuss specifically the harm and damage that is the actual result of using a timeout punishment system – quite possibly the most poignant and intelligent perspective I have ever come across regarding the use of timeouts:

What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.

The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say.

S O U R C E

Then, we take a look at this from another angle –

Numb to the pain

It turns out that “hurt feelings” may be a more valid term than most of us think. Research by Williams suggests that ostracism triggers the same area of the brain that’s active when we feel physical pain. He and his colleagues used FMRI to examine what happened in the brain when people played several versions of “Cyberball”: Participants were either included in the game, excluded having been told their computer wasn’t hooked into the network, or intentionally excluded.

Each time participants felt excluded—even when it was unintentional—the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex lit up, according to findings published in Science (Vol. 302, No. 5643). This area is well-known for being part of the brain’s pain detection system, says Williams. Participants also reported feeling emotional pain.

Williams’s findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective, argue Leary and Geoff MacDonald, PhD, in a 2005Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 131, No. 2) article. They propose that social pain piggybacks on nerve pathways in the brain originally laid out for physical pain. The two now share many of the same pathways, resulting in similar responses to the two seemingly disparate phenomena, they say. It makes sense, says Leary, a Duke University professor of psychology, because social rejection and pain serve the same purpose—alerting an organism to a potentially life-threatening risk.

It may also support a counterintuitive theory proposed by Baumeister and his colleagues: that social rejection leads initially to emotional numbness. They have conducted studies in which they tell participants that based on a psychological evaluation they will end up alone later in life. They’ve found that the participants’ behaviors are affected by the news, but their moods aren’t. Baumeister compares this emotional numbing with the analgesic effect that can happen after an injury. We don’t feel pain until we’ve gotten to safety. This same pathway, he argues, may cause emotional numbness after rejection to allow the brain to begin to cope with the pain before it sets in. In fact, in a series of studies, Baumeister and colleagues find that after rejection, not only are people emotionally numb, but their threshold for physical pain increases.

Williams agrees that emotional numbness can happen. In qualitative interviews he conducted with victims of long-term ostracism, many people described their trouble engaging emotionally. However, he says, it’s not clear yet when or under what conditions people feel numbness versus pain.

Rejection’s link to aggression

Regardless, it’s clear from the research that ostracism and rejection have very real consequences. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism.

S O U R C E

In fact, long-term rejection can have disastrous consequences in the form of anger and aggression. Leary examined cases of school shootings and found that as many as 80 percent of shooters suffered from prolonged peer rejection. These are, of course, only correlations, but many lab studies support the idea that rejection can lead to aggression.

“There seems to be a failure of self-regulation in people who feel rejected,” says Baumeister. “And this allows a shift toward anti-social and aggressive behavior.”

But aggression is only one reaction people can have, says Williams. He and others find that people may also become more socially attentive in an attempt to win approval. Aggression, he argues, is more likely to occur when people have lost a sense of control. They use aggression to reassert themselves—a motivation that becomes more salient than any desire to be liked.

If you use timeouts, any chance you see the correlation here with either the aggressive response, or the opposing passive response? Do I need to draw to connect the dots or can you?

… on his first day, I witnessed the teacher giving a 4 yo boy a time-out for grabbing a toy from another child. They made him go and sit by himself on a chair away from the other kids and told him to “think about what he had done”. Then they eventually led him back to the group, and said, “next time you want a toy, you will use your…” and he said right on queu, “…words”. So obviously this is not the first time it has happened. I was just shocked. I was told in my tour they didn’t use time-outs. Apparently they do. They didn’t speak meanly, they were calm, but everyone was staring and I felt bad for him. I felt he was humiliated a little, ostracized, singled out.

S O U R C E Go read the rest of this.  The article is a bit choppy, but insightful.

Research suggests that ostracism is an effective form of controlling contranormative behaviors, punishing deviance, and increasing in-group cohesion (Alexander 1986; Barner-Barry, 1986; Basso, 1972; Boehm, 1986; Mahdi, 1986). For example ostracism is still one of the more common methods used to discipline young children, by parents and teachers alike. The issue of enforcing time outs, in schools and special education programs alike, has been discussed at length by social psychologists. The common denominator of most forms of time-out is the reduction of social attention. But this can be carried out in a number of ways, from physically relocating the child to a time-out room, to systematically ignoring the child who remains the same social environment (Brooks, Perry, & Hingerty, 1992; Heron, 1987). It has yet to be determined as to whether time-outs are a beneficial form of discipline.

S O U R C E


Note #2 – the ancient Greece part – I added a bit of something to the definition.

os·tra·cism
–noun

1.

exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance,privileges,friendship, etc.

2.

(in ancient Greece, and in most contemporary homes and schools where children spend their time, across the United States and other countries) temporary banishment of a citizen,decided upon bypopular vote.

Beautifully Read

Why African Babies Don’t Cry:
An African Perspective
by Claire Niala

S O U R C E

I was born and grew up in Kenya & Cote d’Ivoire. Then from the age of fifteen I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman with two university degrees and I am a fourth generation working woman – but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing it would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house / country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do – I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by the Searses – the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books – and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

I (Angie) read very little while pregnant, mostly because I would simply fall asleep.  However, I share this woman’s thought pattern.  All the books, information, science in the world can only help you to understand your little one better, and make better decisions for her growth IF, and ONLY IF, you understand her in the first place.  To do this, you must slow down, get out of the way, and listen.  Observe, pay attention to everything, it will connect itself if you do.  She will tell you exactly what she needs, how  to help, how to nurture, and how to grow her into the strongest, most intelligent and capable woman she can be, if you’ll just listen.  See the world through her eyes, come along side her, be the wind, let her open her sail as she sees fit.

Educating oneself is crucial, but if the subject matter for which all the education is obtained is unknown and not understood, it is all for nothing but to create aggravation and dissatisfaction.

See her world as she sees it.  Listen.  She’ll tell you, and your job is to make sense of it for her until she can do it for herself.

Seeing Through to Validity

Validating Children
Their Thought Patterns, Feelings, and Perception of Their World.
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We are still traveling. My daughter has become a Little Traveler. I have become a wreck of an excuse for a woman, to say nothing of a wife or mama.

On the upside, we are finally under contract on a house, but won’t close until the end of the first week of September; posts between now and then will be minimal, though likely therapeutic. We have basically been carting the clan around from Grandma’s, to a furnished condo for a month, to a hotel for a couple weeks, and who knows what in between, for the last 7 weeks. So, like I should expect anything else but turmoil and difficulty from my two year old who understands so much, but not quite enough, and very little when it comes to abstract things like the future.

Wanting to keep discussions going however, I thought I’d throw out my latest topic of the week.   Monsters.

Yep, my daughter suddenly sees monsters. They’re everywhere. I ripped her from her foundation, her stability, and from the security of “home”, and to say the fallout compares to that of Chernobyl would be an almost fair comparison. Perhaps I should have seen the Monster thing coming.

This is a nightmare.

She never saw monsters before and was certainly not afraid of those she did see on tv. She liked them in fact, especially the Sesame Street variety. Now she and her baby are constantly demonstrating insecurity and trepidation. I am so grieved that I can’t make it through a single day without tears or silently breaking down. Her Papa and I have both worked so hard to instill confidence, security, and strength in her and we knew that this “move” was going to be really tough. But none of our plans have worked out the way we’d hoped, so we’re just sorta winging this day to day, and that is the single worst thing we could have allowed to become reality at this stage in her development.

Let’s talk regression. Let’s talk no longer will she poop because she wants to go home and won’t poop anywhere but home, and she refuses to tell me when she has to pee… AND since she doesn’t have a home and her bathroom, or the run of her environment, etc., she won’t just go pee on her own because well, the toilet is too tall, the seat is split and her legs get hurt, and the Bumbo actually tore a few days ago. Oh and she’s terrified that “this” toilet (insert toilet model/location of choice) is going to either flush on its own and thereby send her into an instant and horrified panic, or it will be so loud when it does flush on command that she doesn’t want to go anywhere near it. Pick an issue (the bucket is full), or combination thereof, or random reason (like she’s stuck in a damn car seat for hours on end as we traipse across the state trying to make this work somehow). No surprise she just doesn’t see the point in tending to her pottying needs effectively.

It’s horrible.

And I can’t let her think for one second that I have no clue what I’m doing. Or can I?

If she sensed that I am floundering just as much as she is to grasp this situation, just from a different angle, she will likely fall apart at the seams, or so I thought. But, I learned something this week. I learned that my kid has a perceptiveness and awareness light years beyond even what I thought, and I had already given her a pretty high ranking. Her cognitive development seems to have chosen now to kick into high gear. I’m not sure this is a good thing, but here we are.

I lost it the other day, couldn’t keep up the facade, and just broke down and told my little kid what I was dealing with. She asked why I was sad and why I was crying. I told her that I was so sad that we couldn’t just go home right then, as she’d asked me to. I was sad that she was struggling with the environment I had placed us in, and all the stress (details of this in part two of this post) that her little self seemed to be dealing with. I was very sad that she was scared of monsters and that she couldn’t just have her room, her house, and her Papa right then! (He was working a couple hours away for a couple days and stayed at a hotel.)

She told me that she was also “Scrug-gul-ying a lot because (her) baby was afraid of the kabooms (thunder) and the monsters (that are everywhere now, in the dark, the light, otherwise), and that she (her baby) needed her (my daughter), but that it was hard”. Which, of course, brought a new flood of tears from me. The ache is unable to be ignored.

She has decided to choose this period to first become very attentive to a doll, her “baby”. She has also decided to personify her own needs, thoughts, and feelings through those of this doll, and in her tending to it. The really positive side of this is my husband and I get to see first hand, tangibly demonstrated, how she sees our parenting of her, and her life. Particularly, as she is a girl (she says) she is the mama (she says), and so she mimics with her doll what she and I share and do together. I am humbled and so pleased because I know from this that I’m doing what this little one needs. BUT I am also horrified because in the same vein, I am forced to see exactly what harm and damage I have allowed to occur to her through all of this.

I cannot adequately explain all of what our life is like right now, but basically, we have chosen to make a career path modification that will eventually lend the opportunity for all of us (Mama, Papa, Bug 1 and maybe others, and canine kid) to spend a much greater amount of time together. No more of Papa having to leave for an office at 8am, not to return until at least 6pm, work from home half or more of the time, overnight a good amount, and basically be at the beck and call of the company around the clock, all the time. – Not so good for family…

We have chosen this path to give us the opportunity to live in an area that is diverse culturally (though some would question the validity of that statement, it is true nonetheless). It is also an area that provides for more real estate for less money than we are accustomed to struggling through, less population and stress than we’re used to tolerating, and views as far as the eye can see. In fact, the only objects that obstruct those views are mountains 50 to 100 miles off.

This path will allow for more time and energy to be given to our creativity, our craft, our passions, and her education and growth. Basically, it is a dream come true in that it pays more, living costs are less, and as a whole, our family will just simply be together a lot more and Mama and Papa get to equally raise and parent, instead of Mama’s work being parenting and Papa’s work being something else that leaves no time or energy to give the parenting gig a fair chance.

So, in the end, we will be much better than where we have been, but the getting there is a monumental effort and lesson in a thousand things that go in as many different directions, and my little tiny person is stuck right in the middle, being pulled apart.

I have had a lot of people tell me recently that I am making too much of this, that my daughter will adapt just fine, and that she won’t remember any of it anyway. Unfortunately for them, and more so for me, they’re wrong. I will write later about how I know her memory is undeniably accurate and undiminished, and in the mean time, I will tell you she is adapting only in that she is becoming cynical. And as far as this situation not being the impact in reality that I am “making it into”, I will let her voice speak for her reality (will follow this topic throughout this thread, which will likely span a few posts in the next week).

Seeing through the mess to validation. Facing the face of insecurity, crumbled foundation, and the calloused need of others to make less of everything as a method of assisting the guilt and grief ridden mind of the responsible adults, who aren’t asking for relief, but empathy. This is my daily task. This is my little bug’s daily misery.

In the midst of this, as if it’s not already enough, I am being forced to defend the validity of the very real feelings, thoughts, and new found experience with fear my daughter is struggling with to those with whom we are interacting in person (and not so in-person, for that matter). These people have an influence on her daily activities and existence, to one degree or another. They believe they are helping, but one key factor is forgotten and/or overlooked in their method, my daughter’s legitimacy. They don’t want to allow themselves to acknowledge the grief and guilt, as it might strike at them too, so they tell her (and me) that she’s just fine and that she is actually quite oblivious, or at least won’t remember any of this turmoil.

But I am here to tell the entire world that – if only – my daughter WERE just fine and blissfully oblivious, I would go to, and HAVE BEEN TRYING to go to such lengths as whatever were necessary to continue her being able to exist in such a state. Alas, that is not the case. My kid is too aware to miss a single detail, too sensitive to miss even the tiniest hint of expression, and too discerning that she could possibly sail through this mercifully unaware. So instead, I have to be brutally honest with myself, and accept the consequences of this journey. I must be omnisciently, selectively, intuitively honest with her (since I hold this power…). And I must summon an emotional stability beyond anything I can comprehend just to keep her eating, sleeping, pottying sort of, and playing in her safe and happy world to some decent duration on a daily basis. And where am I in all this? My husband and I have our own issues, relational challenges, and where am I? I can’t exist, except in theory and performance.

See why we so desperately need this to be concluded? In all of it, one benefit I have gained is the perspective I now have of just how immensely aware of her world my little bug really is. This compels me to never loose site and never become careless of the reality that absolutely everything I do, we do, or that happens within close enough proximity that my baby’s bubble is bumped, has an effect on her.

We’ve tried pretending everything’s fine.

We’ve tried acknowledging her concerns, but trying to either distract or encourage her to see them in a lighter hue of ominousness.

Neither worked. Neither are working. It doesn’t work to tell her she shouldn’t, isn’t, or can’t feel what she is fully capable of communicating she is feeling and is her reality. She tells us exactly what’s going on in her mind and it brings me to my knees, usually literally (that’s about where I have to be to get face to face).

As a result, we have reluctantly, and with extensive consideration for the long term effects, chosen to instead deal with each comment, each nuance of body language, and each whimper in her sleep as directly and with complete and utter validity, on her level and our own, as we can muster. We’ve decided to leave ourselves completely open, exposed, and vulnerable to her, and she seems to be willing to accept nothing short of this. She sees through anything else and tells us about how we’ve made her feel like she is not important, intelligent, or old enough to fully and openly acknowledge at a core level. Children don’t buy it… they don’t know how to play the game much less want to. Furthermore, they aren’t even aware that there is a game until we (the stupid adults) decide to force them to become aware and learn.

I can’t say yet what good I hope comes of all this, but I do hope something useful and beneficial reveals itself.. I know the end is near and worth the journey, but my daughter didn’t have a choice in whether she was going to join us on this journey. She is too young to think in future terms, her mind hasn’t developed that function yet, but she sure can think in the present and tangible, and she’s mad at me. And in my utter sorrow, she has every right to be.

Spank Him Again! If he keeps crying, spank him again! Rebelious 2 Year Old – BE QUIET!

I’d like to encourage you to take a moment and read a short dialogue that discusses the value of valuing others, and the value of validating children.
An Example of Validating a Child’s Feelings – “I want Mama!” – Click for article

And now, the opposing example: A bit of background.. The child in the story that follows from the NGJ site is two years old during this event.
This story describes abuse, and is horrid, so please be warned.

Blog Author’s Note: A child of this age cannot grasp fully what is happening during most of his day, especially when he’s tired, hungry, in need of comfort or security, in a strange or uncomfortable place, or otherwise simply needs the reassurance and love of those he trusts. This is the worst time a parent can betray the trust of the child by terrorizing him instead of attending to his needs. The responses and results this child produces are not due to what Mr. Pearl believes; this child is not a brat, or a manipulating little rebel, but a child with some need that he’s trying to communicate. Due to the terror this method (NGJ) produces, and the child’s loss of trust of the most precious kind (that of his parents), he cannot do anything but try to self-console and SURVIVE this trauma and horrible event, with his undeveloped brain that cannot properly comprehend any of it.

Source

Late one night we were riding back from a seminar when the little fellow noticed that he was on the other end of the seat from his mother—with other siblings between them. He was riding in a restraining seat and whined to sit in his mother’s lap. The father SUGGESTED that it would be best if he stayed strapped into his restraining seat. The mother began to sympathetically explain why she couldn’t hold him. Based on past experiences, he knew that this was just the opening round. Their rejection of his proposal was only tentative. He was just testing the waters to see if they would yield. If by continual insistence he should demonstrate how very important this issue was to him, they would eventually come around to seeing it his way. As he pleaded further, asking for water, I could see that the mother was feeling guilty for not being close to “HER BABY”. Didn’t his tears demonstrate how important this was to his emotional well-being? After six or eight rounds, it finally reached the brokenhearted crying stage.

Mother was reaching for her baby when the father turned to me and asked, “What should I do?” Again I explained the principle: by allowing the child to dictate terms through his whining and crying, you are confirming his habit of whining and consenting to his technique of control. So I told the daddy to tell the boy that he would not be allowed to sit in his mother’s lap, and that he was to stop crying. Of course, according to former protocol, he intensified his crying to express the sincerity of his desires. The mother was ready to come up with a compromise. “He was hungry. He was sleepy. He was cold.” Actually, he was a brat, molded and confirmed by parental responses. I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a louder protest. This is not the time to give in. After two or three minutes driving down the road listening to his background wails, I told the father to COMMAND the child to stop crying. He only cried more loudly. At my instruction, without further rebuke, the father again stopped the car, got out, and spanked the child. Still screaming (the child, not the rest of us), we continued for two minutes until the father again commanded the child to be quiet. Again, no response, so he again stopped the car and spanked the child. This was repeated for about twenty miles down a lonesome highway at 11:00 on a winter night.

When the situation began to look like a stalemate, the mother suggested that the little fellow didn’t understand. I told the father to command the boy to stop crying immediately or he would again be spanked. The boy ignored him until Father took his foot off the gas, preparatory to stopping. In the midst of his crying, he understood the issues well enough to understand that the slowing of the car was a response to his crying. The family was relieved to have him stop and the father started to resume his drive. I said “No; you told him he was to stop crying immediately or you would spank him; he waited until you began stopping. He has not obeyed; he is just beginning to show confidence in your resolve. Spank him again and tell him that you will continue to stop and continue to spank until you get instant compliance.” He did. The boy was smart. He may not have feared Mama. His respect for Daddy was growing, but that big hairy fellow in the front seat seemed to be more stubborn than he was, and with no guilt at all. This time, after the spanking, when Daddy gave his command, the boy dried it up like a paper towel. The parents had won, and the boy was the beneficiary.

Now you may wonder why I did not tell the father to tell the boy that he was going to spank him until he stopped crying, and not resume driving until he had stopped. Never put yourself in the place where you may lose the contest. What if the boy didn’t stop? Would you spank him forever, or would you stop when it bordered on abuse, in which case the child would win? Your word would fall to the ground; you gave in before he did. You would have actually hardened his resolve to rebel. Furthermore, when a child is being spanked and shortly thereafter, he may be too emotionally wrought to make responsible decisions. Our concern is not just to silence the child, but to gain voluntary submission of his will through respect for our command.

Blog Author’s Note: Silencing a two year old… the best way to do this is to assess what they need, determine their cause, and act accordingly.  Not terrorize and hurt them.  They are not out to make your life horrid, even if it feels like it sometimes. They are tiny people without the skill or ability to cope and manage in an adult world.  Why does this group seem to think that we must begin in infancy to destroy our children, so that they will not become embarrassments and inconveniences.

Father tells the boy to stop crying or he will stop the vehicle and spank. Father stops, spanks; the child cries, and the father resumes the drive. He waits three to five minutes, ignores the crying and continues to talk as if all is well. Five minutes later, the father again commands the child to stop crying. By this time there is no lingering pain and he has had time to quiet his emotions and reflect on the parental mandate: “Stop crying or get a spanking.”

Again the father commands the child to stop crying or he will receive a spanking. The child continues crying only because he assumes that the status quo continues. That is, he is not at all convinced that the father means what he says. Judging from past experiences, he is sure that he will win this contest eventually. By breaking it up into several sessions, the father is reprogramming the child—Father commands with a threat; child disobeys; Father carries out threat; child loses and suffers the consequences; it is an unpleasant experience; repeat all of above five to ten times. The child concludes: There is a new order; Father is consistent; he always means what he says; I cannot win; there is no alternative to instant obedience. Get smart, be a survivor, just say no to self-will.

Blog Author’s Note: The value of breaking the will and spirit of our children.  Please refer to this entry, which contains a story of a woman who writes of her own experiences.

I, for one, do not believe my child should have to become a survivor – that’s my job.  I will not only keep her alive and surviving in every way I possibly can,  but I will endeavor to allow her to thrive in every way I can.  In fact, I can’t even fathom having this thought of my own child. BUT if the child were an abuse victim, an orphan on the streets, or in a situation of extreme poverty, I would probably have the thought that this was an extremely strong child, a “survivor”, with an amazing self-will.  And if in my power, I would do anything to change this little person’s circumstances, love them dearly, and teach them to love.

I will seek additional material related to the all encompassing harm and destruction that occurs when a parent or care-giver, or abuser, is bent on, and accomplishes breaking  a child.  I will go one step further, step out of my character, and even find Biblical references that instruct in an opposing manner – to never destroy a child’s spirit.

The beauty of this kind of contest is that when the parents conquer, it applies across the board. The child is not just yielding to the circumstances; he is yielding to his parents. The rebel in him is dying. This submission will translate into every aspect of their relationship.

Blog Author’s Note: That isn’t all that is dying… Early Childhood Trauma

The child has learned that the parents have more resolve than he does. They are not liars. When they say stop or else, they mean it. There is no way to bend the parents; their word is final.

….There are those of you who will think that the twenty miles of spanking was cruel. Remember, this was not a daily event; it was a war to end all wars. The spankings were not wild, violent affairs. They were not greatly painful—to the child, that is. They were done in quiet calm and dignity. It is not the severity of the spanking but the certainty of it that gives it persuasive power. Our object in spanking is not to cause the child to so fear the pain that he obeys. It is to gain the child’s attention and give him respect for the parent’s word. I know that there are abusive, angry parents out there who, through their own inconsistency, find themselves in a position where they excessively spank every day. Spanking should just be the early part of a training program. It is our consistency that trains. The rod just gives credibility to our word. If your word is not credible, no amount of the rod will ever be effective. You will become abusive. If you feel abusive, you probably are. Get counsel and advice from a close friend who has a Biblical perspective on child training.

First, if you feel you are bordering on something that feels abusive with your child, do not seek the counsel of a close friend because this is not going to result in an objective review and perspective of your situation. Close friends allow sex to continue between the parent-figure and child, they allow mothers to terrorize their children by pulling their hair and flinging them around in the name of obedience; they permit abuse to continue. Close friends won’t likely tell you they disagree, at least not sternly.  Chances are, they’re close friends because of your commonalities, and this does not lend itself to any sort of objective review.

The certainty of the spanking is not what causes the child’s behavior to become modified, but instead it is the certainty of the terror and pain they know they will experience at the hands of those they are meant to trust openly and deeply, on every level that is needed by the human mind.  To treat a child in this manner is to betray them at their core.

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I do not believe in allowing a child to rule my life or run my day in its entirety (well, some days I am perfectly fine with it actually), though the priority I place with my child and her development and well being often dictates that my day be centered around her.

I believe in a parent’s instinct, and that the child is the priority. My marriage is not suffering because of this priority, nor is the rest of my life or work because all are balanced accordingly, but while my child is young and totally dependent upon me for her survival and development, she will remain my utmost priority.

She cries because she needs something. Sometimes, at 28 months, she cries when she hasn’t gotten her way, and her cries are how she expresses the feelings associated with her not getting what she wanted, just as she wanted it. These cries are not rebellious or wrong. They are her expressing her frustrations, her disappointment, and all the other emotions that she can’t understand yet, but that are there and need an outlet so that she can move on to the next thing her tiny little focus find to dwell on.

If she is prevented from expressing and experiencing her emotions, and allowing them to run their course, at this young age, she begins to turn inward and without any mechanism within her mind to accomplish this inward reflection (that adults and older children have), she experiences an inner turmoil at the deepest part of her.

As she grows, and her mind matures from year to year, with each episode of experiencing emotional response, her mind begins to understand and learns to examine and utilize these emotional responses. In time, instead of outbursts that include crying and fits/tantrums, she is capable of processing these emotions in a more subtle, internal manner. This is not the unhealthy sort of internalizing that is a result of forced coping and survival. This is the sort of internal thought and emotional process that is found in an emotionally healthy, confident and socially functioning adult. This process begins of growth begins at birth (or prior) and completes itself somewhere along the way to adulthood. The timeline for this completion is unique to each individual.

In the case where a child this young persists in crying.. there is a reason.. He is not simply being a “brat”, as Mr. Pearl would have you believe. If he’s 10 years old, he will communicate his reason, and if there is crying, it will only be brief (unless he knows this is the best technique to force his preferences) but at two, his cries are his communication method. He is not manipulating you to the point where you need to strike him, or strike fear in his heart.

If the child is perfectly provided for, you have already addressed all his concerns, he is comfortable and not tired, and is simply crying or throwing a fit in effort to get you to give in to his desires, there is a very simple, non-violent solution. Do not withdraw from the child, do not isolate him by setting him in time-out or off on his own, stuck in his room, etc.. Stay with the child, in visual or audible range, while he/she works through the emotions experienced in response to their desire being refused.

Tell the child, while the child is screaming, that you’re there. Tell them that it’s ok for them to be upset, but that their response is not going to cause you to change your mind. AND don’t let it. If you decided, for instance, to not allow your toddler to play with a certain toy, do not relent and give it to her just to stop her crying or screaming. Just remove the object from where she can see it, or where she will be reminded that she cannot have it, and allow her to be upset.

Within a few minutes, sometimes 30, (I have seen the fits go on for this long on days when the tension in the house is particularly thick, or if she is too tired) and stay with the child. That does not mean you sit there and stare at them, aggravating them further. And that also doesn’t mean you continue to plead your case to them, hoping they will grasp your reasoning; they can’t grasp your refusal of the toy in the first place, there is no way they’ll grasp the abstract thought of why you have refused, etc…

Once the episode dwindles, and they become calm, you can remind them of what they cannot have, by simply stating that you have put it away for the day (or more) and that you will bring it back for them to play when you are ready to.

Then be loving, affectionate, and change the subject/focus to something that they CAN do and will enjoy, without a bunch of restrictions. Now is not the time to engage them in some complicated task where they are doomed to fail somehow and end up in another emotional battle with you.

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What Is Childhood Trauma?

By Bob Murray, PhD

Nearly every researcher agrees that early childhood traumas (i.e. those that happen before the age of six) lie at the root of most long-term depression and anxiety, and many emotional and psychological illnesses. Severe traumas can even alter the very chemistry and physiology of the brain itself! Among mental health professionals, and even some childhood development specialists, there is sometimes a lack of understanding over exactly what constitutes childhood trauma.

In addition to physical, sexual and verbal abuse, this can include anything that causes the child to feel worthless, unlovable, insecure, and even endangered, or as if his only value lies in meeting someone else’s needs. Examples cited in the report include “belittling, degrading or ridiculing a child; making him or her feel unsafe [including threat of abandonment]; failing to express affection, caring and love; neglecting mental health, medical or educational needs.”

The AAP also includes parental divorce in the list of potentially harmful events which can traumatize a child.

Many things on the AAP’s list of factors leading to childhood trauma benefit from further definition. For example, what do “belittling” or “degrading” mean in terms of a child’s development? What actions–or inactions–on the part of parents or child carers would lead little Tommy to feel degraded? Under this category I would include criticism, and even failure to praise him (for accomplishment, for effort as well as just for being a “great kid”), listen to his opinions, and take an interest in his activities or friends. Praise and encouragement are essential to a child’s sense of competence and emotional security, and absence of positive feedback can be extremely damaging to a child’s self-esteem.

Other stressors include parental fighting, domestic violence, and bullying, including failure to curb bullying behavior by siblings or peers. An absence of consistent rules and boundaries also makes a child feel unsafe.

According to the AAP, childhood trauma can also include witnessing community and televised violence. So Tommy may also grow to feel unsafe if he is allowed to watch violent movies or traumatic news footage on TV. In fact violent TV is seen by many researchers as one of the causes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The important point is that a traumatic event or interaction must be a “repeated pattern” to cause lasting damage. The occasional slap on the wrist probably won’t cause permanent harm; an ongoing pattern of corporeal punishment, or threat of such punishment, almost certainly will.

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Effects of child abuse and neglect

All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. Some effects include:

  • Lack of trust and relationship difficulties. If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child—that you will safely, reliably get your physical and emotional needs met by the person who is responsible for your care. Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of being controlled or abused. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.
  • Effects of child abuse and neglectCore feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged.” If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. You may experience them as reality. Adults may not strive for more education, or settle for a job that may not pay enough, because they don’t believe they can do it or are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often especially struggle with a feeling of being damaged.
  • Trouble regulating emotions. Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings.