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Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Why is upgrading the way we parent teenagers of concern to everyone?

If you are a parent, teacher, social worker, counselor, nurse, family court attorney, or anyone else who interacts with families and teenagers, you need to upgrade your understanding of what is behind the behaviors in the children and teens you are working with.

Without that upgrade, you will continue to do what you have done, which doesn't work because science and research have proved that the assumptions you are working under have changed. Assumptions become judgments, which become rules and laws, which lead to our current methods of operation. The growing number of incarcerated youth and, later, adults; the growing number of unhealthy children, teens, and adults; the continuing number of high school drop outs and other social problems; are big red flags that keep getting missed.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

"Come Here Go Away"

"Come here go away" is a familiar message I received from my teenage foster daughters. I was to stay away from them at the mall or when they were having a make-over with their friends. I needed to go do my own thing while they were doing theirs or I was accused of "not trusting them" or being "overprotective." However, when it came time to pay the bills, they wanted me close at hand. As with most adults, I felt rejected and used by the teenagers I parented.

The teen years look like a time of self-absorption and selfishness, yet what I have come to understand about those years is there is so much more going on inside. The adult world's lack of understanding of human development, growth and maturity continues during the teen years. As far as the brain and nervous system are concerned this is the second busiest time of development. It is a time of pruning of some brain cells and strengthening of others depending on repetition of experience.

Deborah Chelette Wilson 531247

For children who have undergone trauma, transitioning from a caregiving environment to an educational environment, is, at best, a challenge, and at worst, a daily nightmare.

Going to School

In the early years, screaming and clinging children are expected to cease and desist from this behavior as soon as mom is out of sight. So often, they don't. Instead they collapse in a heap on the floor or lash out physically against teachers, caregivers and other children. Unless the child has trauma-understanding teachers and caregivers this will begin their descent into an ongoing childhood of one difficulty after another in their school career until they drop out, age out, or barely graduate.

Teachers Are Key to Reaching Children of Trauma

Teachers are not being taught how to work with the child of trauma and they are under the gun to teach in classrooms full of children whose brains are not ready to learn. Whoever is making policy has ignored the body of knowledge about stress and its effect on our children, which is sabotaging our educational system. The teacher/child relationship makes a difference; one way or another.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Child Development Ages Six to 12 Years

Those early school years, when children ages 6 to 12 are transitioning from a caregiving environment to an educational environment, are challenging from a child development standpoint. Children are learning academic skills, socialization (how to get along with others), structure and boundaries (how to follow rules) and, perhaps for the first time, are influenced by adults other than their own parents.

Primary or elementary school is a time to find out about how people are different in so many ways: race, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, culture, upbringing, values, etc. A child's self-esteem develops based on academic and social successes or failures. Adult expectations for responsible behaviors increase as children are expected to need less adult interactions to maintain established routines at home and school.

The adult world looks upon this transition from home to school as a natural part of what it takes to grow into a competent, capable, responsible adult. It is a time to learn what to do and how to do it. Most children make the transition easily, get into alignment with learning and do what is expected of them with the usual glitches or hiccups along the way. This is normal in the world of child development.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Stress Is Not a Calming Interaction

We are a stress and child developmentally illiterate society. We don't understand our own adult stress. As adults, we are able to ignore and deny our bodily sensations and emotions. Because we are able to get through our day and accomplish our survival needs, we seem to think we don't get stressed. That is, until late at night we wonder why our shoulders are so tense and tight or we can't sleep and we need "something" to relax us.

A stressed-out parent cannot calm a stressed-out child.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Understanding an infant and child's development and the impact of stress and trauma on that development helps parents to choose teaching and comforting over punishing and disciplining. The first five years establish the humane (or inhumane) foundation for what we believe about relationships with ourselves and others.

As I have defined in other articles, punishment is designed to inflict suffering on a child so they won't do the behavior again. The collateral damage of punishing parenting practices (based from fear, rather than love), is that the child learns to fear making mistakes, rather than learning what about his/her behavior was a problem and what to do better the next time.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

What are we teaching?

When we discipline our children, the most important question is: What is being taught?

Children learn from us (and others), when we model a particular behavior, not from us telling them what to do. Ironically, we do much more telling than modeling.

What sense does it make to punish a child for taking another's toy if they have not yet learned the concept of sharing? Responses such as slapping their hand, sitting them in the corner in time out, or jerking the toy from their hands and giving it to the other child, aren't going to teach them to take turns and share if they haven't yet understood the concept of sharing or taking turns.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Punishment and Discipline Are Not the Same

As I've mentioned in previous newsletters, parents have been taught that children need to be punished for their misbehavior to teach them right from wrong. Over the years many fear-based tactics such as spanking, making a child stand in the corner for long periods of time or going to bed without any supper, and severer methods have been used in the name of "for your own good."

It is true that in the short-term these punishments may stop the behavior in question; however, in the long run they often teach children to be manipulative, lie, distrust adult authority, and turn to the peer group for life's answers.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Spanking and lying

Using spanking as a punishment leads to the repetition, escalation, or alteration of problematic behaviors. The child becomes accustomed to spankings, but is afraid and confused about what the adult is trying to teach about their behavior.

Why do children lie? To avoid punishment. They do this even when they have gotten in trouble before for lying. When we are stressed our thinking becomes confused and distorted and our short-term memory is suppressed. After a few spankings, the child may be in such a fearful confused place they cannot rationally remember that lying leads to spankings. So they lie again.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

To spank or not to spank continues to be a controversial issue. Many believe that the lack of "spare the rod, spoil the child" is the reason children are running amok in our world today. I grew up with and understand their beliefs. Like so many other people who got spankings I grew up to be a competent, responsible adult, which is part of the rationale for believing that spankings work. Yet, the down side of the 'spankings' many receive is that they learn to fear authority and fear their own decisions and abilities.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Familiar words that parents, counselors, and teachers hear multiple times a day from children in their care. Adults do not seem to believe that children should forget. Adults seem to believe that children don't want to do what they need to do; what adults want them to do; or they want to do something else more fun, so that is why they forget. Partially this is true.

The other day one of my teen clients did not show up for her appointment. I was surprised because her parents have been very consistent in getting her here. Earlier, I had realized that this Monday was a holiday for some school districts and federal offices. Of course, not for me, so I was expecting my regular schedule. I wondered if that had anything to do with her not showing up. However, why no phone call?

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

During a recent session with an eight-year-old client it became clear that how a child understands of what adults say is not always what we intend.

We were talking about the decision of her parents and physician to try some medication to help her with her hyperactivity and focusing. According to the family, there was a significant shift in her behavior and attention span after a couple of weeks on the meds. I asked her what if anything had she noticed in her body since she has been on the medication.

She said, "I feel calmer. I can focus on my work at school. But I have been very scared about taking it."

Deborah Chelette Wilson 531247

This Thanksgiving story is for anyone who sometimes feels they don't make a difference in life. Especially those who work with the most challenging children, whether a bio parent, foster parent, adoptive parent, counselor, social worker, judge, attorney, etc., need to know that your undivided attention and love make a difference whether you see it or not. We may not be able to 'fix' things for our children but we can and do influence them. They know when they are in the presence of love or stress. As adults, it is our responsibility to decide which we want our presence to "feel" like. I have found that it is a decision I must make consciously every moment of every day. That is a tall expectation so I can tell you I don't make it every moment of every day.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

It is undeniable that the world has changed. Well, maybe. Some people are in denial about that because the stresses of the changes we have experienced in the last 10 years are overwhelming and they're rocking all our boats. If the world has become overwhelming for adults, who are the 'regulatory agents' for children? Who is in a regulated oxytocin-enriched calm place and able to nurture children in the ways they should go?

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

Decide to have a baby because you need someone to love you.

When you are pregnant make sure you don't get prenatal care.

Stay in relationships that aren't supportive and that cause you stress and pain.

If you are with a man who is abusive make sure you stay even if he hits you in the stomach where your baby is growing inside of you. He'll be different after the baby is born.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

As a Licensed Professional Counselor working with children who have behavioral and emotional issues as well as their caregivers, since the early '90s I have noticed a disturbing trend. Children's problem behaviors seem to be getting more complicated. They are not responding to what worked in the past. I keep hearing, "I've tried everything and nothing seems to work." "I spank them, ground them, send them to bed without any supper, take things away, and they just keep doing the same thing over and over."


Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

February, is considered the love month. I went to the dictionary to see what it said about love. I found it very interesting. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined love as a strong affection for another rising out of kinship or personal ties. The second was attraction based on sexual desire. The first example of love that was given was that children need unconditional love from their parents. But why do so many people feel they didn't get it? The dictionary doesn't explain how this unconditional love would look.

Due to Valentine's Day in February, we know how the second definition of love looks. Anyone in a relationship knows that if the guy doesn't get something for the girl like candy, jewelry, or flowers, there will be no attraction happening for a while. This speaks to the importance of symbols.

Expert Author Deborah Chelette-Wilson

The other day I noticed that like magic the dry brittle coffee-colored grass has transformed into soft swaying greenness. Trees that appeared dead and naked dotted with light green leaves. To add to nature's painting the countryside has become filled with yellow, pink, and purple flowers. It was only last month that Winnsboro was blanketed with six inches of snow and cold winds. Nothing appeared ready to be reborn.

Working with difficult children is like this, one day the cold wind blows and no growth can be seen. Then in the next millisecond you see the possibility of spring. What we need to remember is that underneath the iceberg of their challenging behaviors is their beauty yet to be expressed.