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The “psychological rattlesnakes” parents miss but which bite their children

Even good parents often miss commonplace emotional, behavioral, or educational rattlesnakes that end up biting their children and causing significant damage.
By reading this blog you can prevent your child from being bitten by these nasty critters.

Many of you may think that pediatricians and teachers will let you know if your child is having any problems. This is a naïve attitude placing your child in danger. Pediatricians are best at detecting medical problems, and teachers are best at teaching their course area. And professionals in my field are best at catching the well camouflaged rattlesnakes everyone else misses but which are dangerous.

A stark reality: The issues parents have brought to my door for the past decade often have been operating for at least several years before the parents become aware of them. If parents (or pediatricians or teachers) had caught these problems when they were first budding, they could have had the luxury of being preventative.

Save yourself heartache, money, and pain (yours and your child’s) by focusing on what you can do to be preventative!

The most common rattlesnakes are the following: focusing problems, learning disability, depression, anxiety, and social skills delays/awkwardness.

Focusing Problems: How long can your child consistently focus on tasks (like homework) they do not enjoy? By the way, you cannot use their ability to play video games or be on the Internet as a reference. These are artificially rich visual fields that even children with ADHD can focus on for hours at a time. Most parents bring their child into me after they have been having homework struggles with her child for months to years. If you want to be preventative, and your having homework struggles, you need to more closely examine the problem.

There are a multitude of possible reasons for homework problems, demanding careful analysis of potential contributors to the problem. Most often homework issues are caused by multiple factors that converge.

Common contributors to this problem may include the following:

-too much videogame playing leading to ADHD – like symptoms because the brain becomes too accustomed to an artificially rich visual environment. You should significantly limit how much videogame playing your child does and ensure that your rule is they must get work done before video games can be played. Too many parents let their parents play video games too often leading to that child being socially awkward, physically out of shape, and not well-rounded due to overly intense and narrow interest in videogames

-poor work ethic/laziness caused by an inconsistent parenting approach related to the homework schedule for the week. If a parent does not stick with firm consistent approach, the child will exploit any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the parenting system.

-A camouflaged learning disability such as dyslexia, nonverbal learning disability, processing delays, working memory problems, or ADHD. Unfortunately, parents often assume that their child not wanting to do homework is because they are lazy, where is quite often they have a genuine learning disability. But what the parent sees are temper tantrums and low academic motivation.

Careful evaluation with a behavioral scientist can give you a precise understanding of what is really going on.

Learning Disability: Sadly enough it usually takes parents several years to see a learning disability because schools have many other goals and catching learning problems is lower on their priority list by necessity. Even if your child is gifted, they can have a learning disability as well! The most common learning disabilities students have are ADHD, dyslexia (there are several types), nonverbal learning disability (poorly developed skills with processing visual information), and processing deficits (slowed processing).

If caught early these problems can be solved, but the longer they fester, the stronger they often get and the more behind the student falls. Students who go untreated will often develop anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or get involved with drugs or substance abuse if their problems go on long enough. They learn school is a frustrating place where they often feel overwhelmed and/or fail. They turned to other simpler pursuits where they can get immediate satisfaction and find a peer group who accepts them.

Depression: Usually it takes more than being depressed for a parent to bring a child in a psychological treatment. In other words, parents often think their child will “bounce out of it” or “grow out of” a depressive episode or depressive personality tendencies. Some children are born with a depressive temperament, but this is fairly rare. More often, environmental events negatively impacting that child’s self-esteem turn into a depressive episode.

When untreated, that depressive episode often can linger and cause that child to develop a generally depressive outlook where they harbor certain internalized negative thought patterns that can operate for years undetected. Lower levels of depression can be very nuanced and yet internally crippling to a child who knows how to hide it well. The most common scenario is a parent will bring a boy or girl to me who was in high school and after careful assessment we come to find out there is been a depression operating for years.

Trust me, if your child has a pattern of being in bad moods at last more than one day, you should seek professional advice!

Anxiety: Because anxiety can look like normal worry, parents often ignore it to their detriment. While worrying is a normal part of being human, consistent worrying and or a coping style infused with debilitating anxiety is a red flare you need to attend to. Luckily, behavioral scientists have developed numerous affective techniques to solve anxiety based problems. Anxiety can be treated quickly by a skilled and caring clinician.

One problem is many caregivers with lower levels of training do not utilized advanced techniques in the anxiety remains a problem. You should shop carefully defined the right caregiver who has a broad and deep toolbox of advanced skills. One way to know if that professional is credible is to ask them how they conduct assessment of anxiety. If they say they conduct an interview only, they are likely not the person to work with. Why? Because anxiety is not a simple phenomenon. It requires precise assessment because it has so many facets and types. You want someone to nail down exactly what kind of anxiety your child is struggling with, leading to a targeted and cost-saving treatment plan.

In other words, “talk therapy” does not solve anxiety problems as well as specific and precise assessment and techniques leading to a child learning specific skill sets to the anxiety can be prevented and/or managed optimally. Anxiety problems are very common among adolescent girls who self-esteem is often much more based on what peers think of them.

Social skills/social awkwardness: because children have much less interaction with each other than they used to, largely due to the predominance of technology as a pleasure pursuit , children are growing up with poorly developed social skills. Parents have to work harder to ensure their child grows up with the “social grease” they will need to work with teams, succeed in organizations, and handle peer pressure. Problems with handling peer pressure are one of the most common reasons why even good children “go bad”.

The best parents I work with err on the side of being overly cautious and will consult me even if they’re not sure there is a social skills problem. In other words, they are preventative. You must be preventative if you want your child to have the best chances of entering adulthood as a healthy, well-adjusted person ready to survive in the “civilized jungle” we call Society.

In one of my most recent blogs where I talk about a book you can refer to understand better what normal development looks like: https://www.doctorbrunner.com/accelerating-your-childs-development-by-understanding-their-developmental-stages/

If you do want to consult a professional, I highly suggest you consult someone with a deeply caring manner coupled with appropriate scientific credentials showing they will go far beyond “talk therapy”. 100 years ago talk therapy was the gold standard, now the benchmark for quality counseling/psychological treatment is someone who will use a mixture of interviewing and precise questionnaires to determine what specific skills need to be developed to identify a lasting solution. That person may even interview not just the parent but a teacher as well. I do that regularly because it helps the job get done!

Don’t shy away from consulting a counselor or behavioral science coach if you are unsure whether your child is having a “normal problem” or a significant problem in need of assistance. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but unfortunately the cure costs alot more. Be preventative!!!

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Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.