Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Helicopter Parenting? New Book Advocates That Firmer But Fair Is The Way To Go

There are times when parents have to stay tough and Nigel Latta explains how best to do it

A COMMON question among parents of young children is: ‘‘ When does raising children start to get better?’’ The answer could be that it doesn’t get any better, it just gets different.

MADE TO ORDER: Keeping a firm hand but not rule by fear is the recommended way to go.It’s a theme Nigel Latta explores in his new book, Politically Incorrect Parenting. Latta will soon present a show of the same name on Channel 9.

While the issues he explores are hardly new, this is not your average parenting book. It doesn’t trade on a parent’s fear but on the reassurance that there are ways you can survive, keep a semblance of sanity and still enjoy the company of your little home-grown terrorist.

It’s battlefield wisdom from a therapist who’s seen more than most of us could handle and has some commonsense tools to help ordinary parents who need a hand.

Some of the chapter headings might give you a clue to his approach.

The preface ‘‘Never Mind the Kids . . . Save Yourself’’ is a pretty good hint, but there are also gems such as ‘‘How to Make Time Out and Sticker Charts Actually Work’’. Then there’s ‘‘Why You Should Never Negotiate with a Terrorist’’.

‘‘I just think parenting is such bloody hard work and the last thing you want to do is read a book on raising your children that’s boring and just makes you feel worse,’’ Latta says.

‘‘You want to read something that feels like a bit of time off.

‘‘What I try to do in the TV show and the book is to give people useful things that they can actually use to make things better but also just reassure people that life is not that complicated.

‘‘We all worry about damaging our children if we say the wrong thing, or send them to the wrong school, or don’t read them enough stories. It’s not about any of that stuff because it’s not stuff that matters.’’

Latta fears the modern world has done away with a lot of common sense. ‘‘I understand common sense as wise thinking,’’ he says. ‘‘If people have a problem with their children most will Google it and they come up with 26 million different opinions . . . and a lot of scare tactics.

‘‘Scaring people is a way to sell books because it works, but I just think it sucks. You don’t need to make parents any more afraid because as soon as you have children you start to worry and it never stops.’’

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After helping thousands of people crawl out of what they feared were bottomless pits, Latta has found a common theme running through the vast majority of cases.

‘‘By far the biggest issue is that people just need to toughen up and that invariably gets it sorted,’’ he says.

‘‘People come to me and say they have a four-year-old they just can’t control and I’m wondering if he’s a mutant six foot high fouryear-old.

‘‘And they become paralysed with all this modern doubt stuff that makes them wonder if they’re doing the right thing when really it’s pretty straightforward.’’

For example, what to do with a fussy eater.

Hungry children eat, Latta says, it’s as simple as that.

He has a key message for parents who are doing it tough. ‘‘Get tough on the behaviours you don’t like and praise them for stuff you do.

‘‘Do that and it fixes anything – a few simple things and it’ll all be fine.’’

Source: Tony Bartlett:  The Courier Mail news.com.au

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May 21, 2010 Posted by | ADHD /ADD, Books, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resilience, Resources | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emotional Binge Eating: Dealing With The Emotions Is Just As Important As Dealing With The Eating

This article highlights how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is being integrated into weight loss programs for emotional eaters.

How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream? It’s common for many people, but for those trying to lose weight, it can be detrimental to their long term success, and most weight-loss programs never even address it.

They focus on choosing healthier foods and exercising more, but they never answer a key question: how can people who have eaten to cope with emotions change their eating habits, when they haven’t learned other ways of coping with emotions?

Researchers at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research are trying to figure out the answer as part of a new, NIH-funded weight loss study. The new treatment incorporates skills that directly address the emotional eating, and essentially adds those skills to a state-of-the art behavioral weight loss treatment.

“The problem that we’re trying to address is that the success rates for long-term weight loss are not as good as we would like them to be,” said Edie Goldbacher, a postdoctoral fellow at CORE. “Emotional eating may be one reason why people don’t do as well in behavioral weight loss groups, because these groups don’t address emotional eating or any of its contributing factors.”

The study has already had one wave of participants come through, and many participants have seen some success in the short term, but have also learned the skills to help them achieve long term success.

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Janet Williams, part of that first cohort, said she lost about 17 pounds over 22 weeks, and still uses some of the techniques she learned in the study to help maintain her weight, which has not fluctuated.

“The program doesn’t just help you identify when you eat,” said Williams. “It helps you recognize triggers that make you eat, to help you break that cycle of reaching for food every time you feel bored, or frustrated, or sad.”

Williams said that the program teaches various techniques to help break that cycle, such as the “conveyor belt,” in which participants, when overcome with a specific emotion, can recognize it and take a step back, before reaching for chips or cookies, and put those feelings on their mental “conveyor belt” and watch them go away.

“I still use the skills I learned in the study,” she said. “I’ve learned to say, ‘I will not allow this emotional episode to control my eating habits.'”

Source:eurekalert

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May 6, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Addiction, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Eating Disorder, Health Psychology, Mindfulness, mood, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sticking To The Status Quo: Why Habits Are So Tough To Break

Read the original Research Paper HERE (PDF internal link)

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. @ Psychology Today (excerpted)

A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms what many confused shoppers, dieters, and investors know first-hand: when a decision is difficult, we go with the status quo or choose to do nothing. [..

..] Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London created a computerized decision-making task. Participants viewed a series of visual tests that asked them to play a referee making a sports call (e.g., whether a tennis ball bounced in our out of bounds).

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Before each test, participants were told that one of the responses (in or out) was the “default” for this round. They were asked to hold down a key while they watched. If they continued to hold down the key, they were choosing the default. If they lifted their finger, they were choosing the non-default. Importantly, the default response (in or out) switched randomly between rounds, so that a participant’s response bias (to make a call in or out) would not be confused with their tendency to stick with the status quo.

The researchers were interested in two questions:

1) Does the difficulty of the decision influence the participants’ likelihood of choosing the default?

2) Is there a neural signature for choosing the default vs. overriding the status quo? [..

As the researchers].. predicted, participants were more likely to stick with the default when the decision was difficult. It didn’t matter whether the default was in or out. If they couldn’t make a confident choice, they essentially chose to do nothing. And as the researchers point out, this tendency led to more errors.

What was happening in the participants’ brains as they chose? The researchers observed an interesting pattern when participants went against the default in a difficult decision. There was increased activity in, and increased connectivity between, two regions: the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and an area of the midbrain called the subthalamic nucleus (STN). The PFC is well-known to be involved in decision-making and self-control. The STN is thought to be important for motivating action.

The researcher’s analyses couldn’t determine for sure what the relationship between the PFC and STN was, but the observations were consistent with the idea that the PFC was driving, or boosting, activity in the STN.

These brain analyses suggest that going against the default in difficult decisions requires some kind of extra motivation or confidence. Otherwise, the decider in our mind is puzzled, and the doer in our mind is paralyzed

Knowing this can help explain why changing habits can be so difficult. If you aren’t sure why you’re changing, don’t fully believe you’re making the right choice, or question whether what you’re doing will work, you’re likely to settle back on your automatic behaviors. That’s why self-efficacy-the belief that you can make a change and overcome obstacles-is one of the best predictors of successful change. The decider and the doer need a boost of confidence.

It also helps explain why we love formulaic diets, investment strategies, and other decision aids. Formulas feel scientific, tested, and promising. They also give us a new default. We can rely on the rules (no eating after 7 PM, automatically invest X% of your income in mutual funds twice a month) when we’re feeling overwhelmed. A new automatic makes change much easier.

So next time you’re trying to make a change, figure out what your current default is, and remind yourself exactly why it isn’t working. Then look for ways to change your default (clean out your fridge, set up direct deposit) so you don’t have to fight the old default as often. And feel free to be your own cheerleader when the going gets rough. Look for the first evidence (a pound lost here, a dwindling credit card statement there) that what you’re doing is paying off. The status quo is seductive, and we all need a little encouragement to lift our fingers off the keyboard..

Study cited:

Fleming, S.M., Thomas, C.L., & Dolan, R.J. Overcoming status quo bias in the human brain. PNAS. Published online before print March 15, 2010. doi:10.1073/pnas.0910380107

Read the original Research Paper HERE (PDF internal link)

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March 30, 2010 Posted by | Books, brain, Cognition, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment