Coach Menachem offered his 33 interactive shiur hosted by Chazaq and TorahAnytime, featuring Matis Miller, LCSW, ACT, DBT-LBC, Founder, Director, and Supervisor of the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy of New Jersey. Hundreds watched this hands-on shiur live, where many were able to email or call in important questions and receive practical, beneficial advice from an expert. Matis Miller referenced his new book, The Uncontrollable Child, which is filled with valuable strategies, skills, and ideas to help parents on their journey of raising their children. The strategies and skills taught are helpful for any relationship.
Coach Menachem introduced the speaker with a quote from the book: “You are all doing the best you can and you can do better.”
Matis Miller spoke first about his book. “I wrote the book because I do lots of consulting with parents and children, and I get requests for book recommendations. I felt that there was a lack of synthesis of discipline-centered books and books that emphasized a loving connection. I wanted to give parents step-by-step instructions with loads of practical examples and direction in concrete skills and how to implement them.”
He acknowledged that “parenting is really hard. It’s a gift. It’s a struggle. No one is perfect at it. We all work on growing and becoming better and better at it.”
He shared that we sometime end up judging ourselves and our children, and we feel hopeless. “Children are complex, and as humans we are complex.” At the same time, there are evidence-based skills and techniques that can improve our interactions with children. My book focuses on the balance and finding the balance that works with children. “The root of the word “dialectics” is dialogue. Two ideas can appear opposite and be true at the same time. Through dialogue, the tension of the two can lead to clarity. “Parenting is full of opposites. The key is acceptance and change.”
He said that we are opening our minds in the moment. We’re doing the best we can; but at the same time, we are working towards change. We need to let go of judgment and accept change. With an emotionally sensitive child, we need to find that balance of acceptance and change. He spoke about using acceptance, mindfulness, validation, change strategies, and finding the balance with limits and consistency.
The bulk of the program was a Q-and-A with live questions and some email questions thrown at Matis Miller, who took the time to sensitively respond to each query.
A parent asked how to help a child overcome anger, and he said that first you have to accept that “everything is as it should be.” This will take away that frustration. When the parent gave a positive statement about the child and added the word “but” for the next phrase, Mr. Miller said, “Change the word ‘but’ to ‘and.’” He also taught: “We can’t change other people.” In an interaction with a child, we have four options: 1. Fix the situation. 2. Change how we feel about it. 3. Accept where they are. 4. Stay miserable and angry.
He taught that we should start with real validation and get to the point where the child feels that you understand her perspective. Once the child feels validated, then this may move the child to change. If the behavior is out of control, there should be consequences. The key word is: Does the strategy you are using work? If it’s not working, don’t continue using it. “It’s important to have conversations at the right time and in the right place.” You need to know where your child is and your own emotional place. An important part is to be aware of your own emotions. Techniques don’t work if your emotions are high and you will act in an emotional mind. It’s okay for the child to see some emotions.
Next, Coach Menachem role-played various scenarios with a child demanding a different supper or that his parents buy him a toy. Mr. Miller first showed ineffective responses and then more effective ways to respond. He emphasized that you have to keep yourself regulated and not get sucked into their emotions. Be aware of your emotions. Again, he advised to validate and to ignore inappropriate behavior. He also used the broken-record technique. He repeated again and again that this is what’s for supper, or, in the second scenario, we are not buying that toy now. It helps you to keep repeating and not get caught up in the child’s emotions. After the role-play, he explained, “I was clear, assertive, and I maintained a limit.”
The next question involved a child hurting someone or damaging property. Mr. Miller explained that finding the right consequences is a skill. “Make sure if the child has a habitual behavior that he knows an alternative behavior and how to use it.” He added that rewards have to be meaningful and appropriate. Praise children when they use that alternative behavior. Intrinsic reward is statements like “Wow, I saw how you used that skill and conquered that anger.” He emphasized that consequences are needed. If there are no consequences, then children end up with the inability to self-regulate. Punitive parenting is also ineffective. We need to find a loving balance. If a child broke a cabinet in anger, then he needs to fix it or pay for a repair. He cautioned, “Don’t continue any intervention if it’s not working.” Also, he explained, “Change is constant.”
Parents asked how to handle a situation where a child is dressing in a way you don’t approve, or doing things that don’t match your value system. Mr. Miller emphasized the idea that you should not validate something that’s invalid. It’s important to name your child’s emotions for him. You can accept what your child is doing and it’s not approval. You’re not saying what he or she is doing is okay if you don’t approve of it. “When you move from anger to sadness, that means you are moving to acceptance.” He noted that it’s a process like stages of grief.
He explained that roadblocks are thoughts or emotions we possess that can prevent us from implementing skills. Dialectics is changing the way you think and how you think about yourself and your children and letting go of judgment. It means being mindful and throwing yourself into what works. He taught, “I can’t make change until I accept.” He also explained that you only validate facts. You can validate thoughts and emotions but don’t validate something that is not reality. When you validate, it can help children regulate their emotions.
He then spoke about preventing problems. Make space and time for your child. Observe your child and have loving communication with him. He taught that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. Parents have to embrace the reality but know that things won’t always be this way. “There is hope because our brain is always changing. Change is transactional. When we become more accepting and understanding and less judgmental, that does affect the child. “Always keep in mind that your long-term goal is a loving relationship with your child. Also, he stressed that we have to find what’s right for that child. There is no one way. If a teen is involved in extremely dangerous behavior, it is not helpful to keep him in the house or give him money if he’s addicted. We don’t want to enable him. It’s a case-by-case basis. Also, he taught that there is a place for consequences and rewards.
He concluded that we are all in this journey together. There aren’t any perfect right answers. There are many effective skills we can learn.
The book can be purchased on TheUncontrollableChild.com and on www.Amazon.com.
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber