Christine Kutzner M.Ed., RCC - Counselling Services

Parenting Matters Printable PDF version

Volume 6, October 2008

I hope every parent on the ezine list is settling into their fall/school activities! There is always so much organizing and planning and then getting into a routine about dinners, homework, free time and extra curricular time. It really is amazing how the “September New Year” event draws on our energy levels, and certainly explains why we need a vacation or break by Christmas time!

In my own life, my family and I are still living the renovation experience! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have no energy to embrace it yet as there always seems to be some part of my house that needs extra cleaning. The dust is unbelievable!

I gave a talk to parents at the Burnaby Core Education & Fine Arts (CEFA) school and absolutely loved their junior kindergarten setting. There were twinkling lights in one of the class rooms, and lots of bold art projects hanging throughout the building.

I am now writing a regular monthly parenting column for a community paper called the North Shore Outlook. The first two articles are now listed on my website and offer some tips on managing your child’s anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model

For this month’s Parenting Matters, I want to continue describing aspects within the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model and look at how irrational beliefs keep one stuck emotionally. Children’s irrational beliefs are being developed by their life experiences with their family and their world, and school age children already exhibit cognitive distortions. Here’s how it all works.

The irrational beliefs which humans adopt formulate our world view. This includes how we react to requests made of us, and how we relate to personal obstacles that push us to the wall. Events themselves do not cause a person to feel depressed, angry or anxious, but rather it is our beliefs about the events which cause our unhealthy feelings and self-defeating behaviours. So if you or your child feel seriously disturbed or act out in a self defeating manner, it is very likely that you are operating on a dysfunctional thought about you and the world. For example, some self defeating thoughts include:

  • Perfectionism: “I must never fail or make a mistake.”
  • Approval Addiction: “I need everyone’s approval to be worthwhile.”
  • Conflict Phobia: “People who love each other should never fight or argue.”
  • Entitlement: “You should always treat me in the way I expect.”
  • Hopelessness: “My problems could never be solved. I could never feel truly happy or fulfilled.”
  • Emotophobia: “I should never feel sad, anxious, inadequate, jealous or vulnerable. I should sweep my feelings under the rug and not upset anyone.”

When a person makes a mistake or something goes wrong, a negative belief about themselves and the world is triggered. The message they give themselves depends on what their self defeating belief is. For example,
Susan is upset because she failed her math test. Her belief is that she must have good grades to be worthwhile. Susan feels depressed. The goal would be to help Susan reframe her negative view of herself to where she can believe that it is not necessary for her to have good grades to be worthwhile.

Sam and his wife have just had an argument over their Visa bill. Sam’s belief is that people in relationships should never be angry at each other. Sam worries that his wife will leave him now that he has raised his voice at her. The goal would be to help Sam see that a good relationship can weather some hardships and that he is not a bad husband for raising his voice.

One characteristic of the self defeating thoughts listed above is that each involves the word “should”. This is a clue that you or your child/teen are stuck in a negative thought that can be anxiety provoking or cause feelings of helplessness, or incompetence. Writing out your negative thought on one side of the paper and then writing down all positive or realistic thoughts on the other side, is one way to help yourself challenge a rigid style of thinking.

For example the negative thought is:
I must have good grades to be worthwhile

The positive thoughts are:
I am a likeable person whether I pass math or not.
I can’t expect to pass every test I ever write.
My friends will still like me even if I don’t get a high mark in math.

The example for Sam’s negative thought is as follows:
I am a bad husband for arguing with my wife.

Some positive thoughts are:
I had some strong feelings about our Visa bill, but I know my wife still loves me.
There have been many times in our marriage where we both have had similar feelings and we worked through it.
I am not a perfect husband, but that doesn’t mean my marriage is a failure.

I often hear children who are frustrated say, “how come things never work out for me”, or “life isn’t fair.” These examples are similar to “should” statements, where the child’s comments highlight a negative belief about their lack of personal power in the world.

If you hear this type of comment, ask your child for proof of that statement being true. Ask if this is true ALL THE TIME. Help you and your child to embrace imperfection, and normalize that making mistakes is human. This will go a long way to start toward shifting a negative outlook on life.

Christine Kutzner Counselling Services 604-339-5774

Christine Kutzner, M.Ed. is a Registered Clinical Counsellor providing services to children, parents and families in North and West Vancouver. To inquire, contact Christine.

Copyright Christine Kutzner, 2008. All rights reserved.


Christine provides counselling services to children, parents, and
families in Vancouver, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.

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