Understanding Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Development in Real Time
We want to raise children who grow up to feel confident and free to walk their own paths through life. Unfortunately too many children, youth, and young adults become twisted up and paralysed by the dominant messages of anxiety, fear, hatred, insecurity, and hostility which pervade media, academia, and other cultural institutions.
The best way to prevent your child from being programmed by the destructive emotional ambience of modern societies is to limit his exposure to mainstream nonsense and to follow his emotional development on a regular basis. Then it will be possible to intervene with useful projects and exercises the moment it seems the child is losing his self-direction to an invasive cultural meme attack of mass destruction.
How Many Ways Do Things Go Wrong?
David Burns MD, in the 4 million-copy bestseller “Feeling Good,” lists 10 common cognitive distortions which are often at the heart of modern misery and dysfunction. We are all prone to falling under the spell of one or more of these distortions. The sooner a child comes to recognise these mental parasites and how to deal with them, the better.
- All or Nothing Thinking —
Anything less than perfect is a complete failure
- Overgeneralization — a few negative events are seen as a never ending pattern of defeat
- Mental Filter — Everything is seen through a filter of negativity
- Disqualifying the Positive — Positive attributes are discounted when tallying the personal accounts
- Jumping to Conclusions — This can take the form of “mind-reading” and “telling the future,” believing strongly in negative attitudes in the minds of others and bad outcomes in the future, that cannot really be known
- Magnification or Minimization — Undesirable qualities are magnified and desirable qualities are minimized
- Emotional Reasoning — Allowing our feelings to define our reality
- “Should” statements — “should statements” involve many assumptions which are probably either not true or grossly exaggerated
- Labeling and Mislabeling — Attaching harsh labels to oneself or others which emotionally loads how one reacts to that person
- Personalization — You see yourself as responsible for something you are not responsible for; eg, a child feels responsible for the divorce of his parents.
__ David Burns MD in “Feeling Good”
The alternative to following the emotional and mental development of your children closely — and being ready with playful but effective interventions when needed — is to watch your child slowly become wrapped up in the contradictory and paralysing insecurities and hostilities of parent societies and their institutions.
Best Ways to Intervene?
David Burns has written several books for laymen and therapists alike, describing interventions that he has found helpful over the course of his career for helping clients out of the ditches they dig for themselves. The book “Feeling Good” is the best starting point for most people — including prospective parents of Dangerous Children.
I am not aware of any work by Burns that is applicable solely to children and child-raising. But any parent clever enough to raise a Dangerous Child, will also be clever enough to adapt the ideas in “Feeling Good” to the circumstances of his own family and child.
The David Burns Method Uses 50 Strategies
In order to “untwist” the distortions caused by the above 10 self-made delusions, David Burns utilises 50 methods to untie the knots of misery and dysfunction. Here is a short list of the first 10 out of the 50 strategies:
- Agenda Setting
- Identify the Distortions
- Straightforward Technique
- Double Standard Technique
- Examine the Evidence
- Experimental Technique
- Survey Technique
- Socratic Method
The average psychotherapist may use no more than 4 or 5 out of the 50 strategies in an average week of practise. And no one can expect a parent to study all 50 methods on the off chance that his child may require one of the less frequently used techniques. But it is good to be aware of the depth of possibilities when one is thrust into the psychotherapy profession — even as an amateur.
Observe Your Child Closely; Be Prepared to Intervene in a Timely and Responsive Manner
A child of 3 is different from a child at 6. Likewise, children change radically between the ages of 10 and 18. A failure to monitor mental and emotional changes of your children as they happen is like leaving your dream car in a back alley in Harlem unlocked with its keys in the ignition. Too many people are ready and willing to hijack the complex processes of self-development which your Dangerous Child is undergoing, to neglect regular close and thoughtful interaction with your child.
Sometimes an Outsider Can Spot Developments Which a Parent Overlooks
If it can be arranged, it is good to have friends and associates on the Dangerous Child path who are involved in effective methods of psychotherapy as a profession. Informal outings where such people can casually observe your Dangerous Children can yield important insights and avenues of change and self-empowerment which many parents might not see on their own, if an honest interchange of ideas is allowed to be comfortable and non-threatening.
Dangerous Children Are More Effective When Well Balanced
It is crucial that parents allow their children to develop the strength of character and emotional balance which allows them to make their own way through life according to a well informed set of maps, including opportunities and cautions.
U. of Toronto’s Jordan Peterson has a series of class videos titled “Maps of Meaning” which provides an interesting foundation of concepts for helping university students to assemble a functional set of personal beliefs which facilitate meaningful action for their own benefit and enrichment.
Here at the Al Fin Institute for The Dangerous Child, we always say that if you wait to educate the child until he reaches university age, you have waited too late. On the other hand, at university age not all of the windows of development have closed irrevocably. Much can still be salvaged, although much is also lost by that time, if not already somewhat developed.