Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Friday, November 27, 2015

PARENTING: How to Control an Extreme Public Tantrum

At a recent soccer game for my six-year old daughter, I witnessed one of the messiest child meltdowns I have ever seen. The tantruming six-year old, fortunately, was not mine, and all the parents watched it unfold with Halloween-like horror across their faces. Yes, I had empathy for the mother as her daughter screamed and then pushed and punched her, but I also thought about how the mother was doing things that made the situation worse.

Take a look at the following simple steps to control a public meltdown in your child, and remember that the extreme tantrums are largely controllable.

Don't pick up your school-age child as if she's a toddler.

The first thing this stressed mother did when her daughter started screaming was to pick her up. Picking your child up is terrific if your child is a baby or a toddler, but parents shouldn't be carrying their six- and seven-year old children, no matter how upset their children are! At this point, parents should be encouraging independence as opposed to the kind of dependence seen with babies and toddlers.

Remove your child from the crowd.

The next thing this parent did was to hold court in front of the many other kids and parents, and to get into a full-fledged argument with her daughter while everyone watched. If this happens to you, remove your child from the environment and move to a place where there is nothing stimulating or distracting.

At first, don't talk to or touch your child.

In the first couple of minutes of a bad meltdown, don't talk or try to touch your child in any way. The littlest thing can trigger your child in this situation, so simply act as a mirror and don't do anything to add to the problem. Get down to your child's eye level if your child is small and say this: "Okay, I am listening to you now. Tell me from the start what happened that made you upset." Listen until they are done talking, and then say this: "Now I am going to talk, and it's your turn to listen." If your child will listen, tell them in two or three sentences what the lesson is. If your child won't listen and starts to talk again, stop talking and listen again. Very soon they will have said everything they need to say, and they will calm down and listen.

Distract them by mentioning something fun or positive that will happen later in the day.

Distraction is one of the most helpful coping techniques for parents dealing with a nasty meltdown. Say, "I know you're upset now, and I'm actually upset now, too, but in the back of my head I am also thinking we'll be better later when we're sitting on the couch and watching a movie with some popcorn [or insert something else positive that you can be doing later with your child].” Then get back to the point. "Anyhow, we can talk more about this later, but this is what I want you to do: I want you to go back and [insert what you want them to do]. If you can do that, I am not going to give you a consequence for screaming and acting up just now. This is your choice. Can you get back to normal now?" In most situations, the child will be ready to get back to what they were doing because they've had a chance to vent their frustration; they've been reminded that they have something to look forward to later in the day; and they have been told they won't be punished if they make the good choice to control their mood and behavior.

Wisdom to remember: The goal for parents isn't to prevent any meltdowns from ever happening. Instead, the goal is to prevent a meltdown from getting out of control. If you follow these simple steps, you can save yourself and your child an awful lot of stress and anxiety.

RELATIONSHIPS: Why Some Men Talk Only About Themselves On Dates

One of the most consistent frustrations I hear from women who are dating is the fact that some men want to talk only about themselves on dates. A female client in her 20s recently vented to me, “Why can’t men ask me questions about my life? All they want to do is talk about themselves.” A female friend in her 40s who is dating recently said something similar when I asked how her date went with a wealthy tech investor: “I don’t think he asked me a single question about myself in three hours.” Most women won’t agree to a second date when a man engages in such self-absorbed behavior, and that’s a good thing. What is going on with these men?

Deconstructing the self-absorption

There are two ways that men show self-absorption on dates: men don’t ask their dates enough questions about their life and interests, and men talk too much about themselves when their dates ask them questions. In other words, some men love to be asked questions and to talk at length about their own lives, but they don’t want to ask a lot of questions or to hear about their date’s life. Have you lost your appetite for date number two? Yeah, I thought so.

Why don’t men ask their dates questions about their life?

In some cases, men are nervous and they don’t feel at ease enough to guide the conversation on a date. These men may be afraid of saying the wrong thing or of asking something too personal, so they just respond passively to questions instead. But for the vast majority of men who talk only about themselves and don’t ask their dates question about their life, they prefer to talk about themselves because that makes them feel good. The problem, of course, is that they are focusing entirely on their own feelings, and not thinking about the feelings of their dates.

What to do when this happens to you

The next time you are on a date with a man who is talking only about himself and who is not asking you questions about your life, I am going to suggest something absolutely crazy: Point it out to him, but do it with humor and a smile. Say, “I feel a little worn out because I feel like I’m asking all the questions!” and then smile and gently laugh. The goal isn’t to express your anger or to scold him, but rather to help him see what he may not be able to see on his own. Another way to use humor in this situation is to make a joke in the following way: “Tag, you’re it. Now it’s your turn to ask me some questions!” and, again, smile and laugh. As long as you learn how to convey your feelings in a socially appropriate and non-attacking manner, you can address the most awkward issues in a not-so-awkward way.

If you are debating about whether to take date number two

If you handled this problem on date number one in the grownup way (addressing it directly and giving him a chance to correct his behavior for the remainder of the date), how he responded to the redirection should determine whether you take date number two. In other words, if he responded well to your redirection and gave you a chance to talk about yourself, having a second date may sound pretty good. If you didn’t point out his self-absorption on the first date, though, should you write him off entirely and forego the chance for a second date? As a therapist who specializes in relationships, I encourage you to give him a second chance with a giant asterisk. The asterisk involves you having a phone conversation with him in which you say something like this: “I would like to go for a second date. I think last time I got a good sense of your life, but maybe this time I can tell you a little about mine, too.” The point of this conversation is to actively let him know that you’re not interested in sitting in the audience as you watch his one-man dating show. How he responds to your redirection will tell you a lot about who he is. The emotionally healthy guy who deserves a second chance will say something to this effect: “Oh no, did I talk too much about myself the last time? Please tell me to shut up if I ever do that again!” The emotionally unhealthy guy will get annoyed, say nothing, or get defensive, and each of these traits indicates that this is a man who is probably not worth the trouble for date number two.

Dr. Seth on TV: Crime Watch Daily

On Monday I'm filming a segment in studio about psychological trauma in children. Make sure to tune in!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dr. Seth In "The Huffington Post:" Signs of Marital Unhappiness

How do you know if your spouse is unhappy? There are definite signs. I'm featured in a new article in The Huffington Post which describes the specific signs of marital unhappiness. Check out the article here!

Monday, November 2, 2015

PARENTING: 3 Ways Parents Escalate Their Children's Outbursts

There's no question that children can trigger their parents when their children act out, leading to overwhelming frustration and anger. The key for parents is to make sure that there is nothing they are doing that escalates their kids' defiant or otherwise annoying behaviors. Check out these three behaviors parents sometimes engage in which accidentally reinforces the bad behavior, and causes the kids to take the outburst to an even higher level. The last thing we want to do is make a problem worse, so watch out and avoid all of the behaviors below!

Matching your child's negative feelings

Hands down, the worst thing a parent can do when their child is upset is to react with the same level of frustration or anger the child is showing in the first place. Picture it: Your 12-year old daughter yells that you lost an article of her clothing, and she refuses to get in the car for school until she has it. A common - but faulty - reaction for the parent is to get angry right back and say something to the effect of, "Why can't you manage your own things? You need to find it now, or else!" While it's understandable that the parent gets angry, showing the anger only ignites the fire further. When your child has an outburst, you must remain cool and calm above all else. Try saying this instead: "I know you're frustrated, but getting angry with me only makes me angry. I will agree to take two minutes now and help you look for it, and if we don't find it by then, you will have to go to school without it. I'm sorry, honey, but that is the best I can do on such short notice, and appreciate the fact that I am offering to help you." (You want kids who aren’t bratty or entitled? Well, then, when you do something nice for them, remind them to thank you if they don’t think to thank you on their own.)

Labeling your child

When your child is having an outburst, their emotions are spiraling out of control and they simply don't know how to calm themselves. The good news: That's something you can help them with! But too often, parents get frustrated and label their child in an already-heated moment. I’ll share some of the ways parents label their kids which end up escalating the crisis: "You lose everything. What is wrong with you?" "Are you angry again? You're always angry about something!" "I'm sick of your tantrums. Why can't you just be happy?" When parents make any of these comments, they frustrate the child even more, and this is often when the tears start. Avoid using labels or generalizing too much, especially when your child is already upset.

Comparing your child to another child

Parents, please don't ever compare your child to another child. When parents do this, it often takes the following form: "Why can't you be more like your brother?" "Your sister never gives me a hard time like this. Why do you always do this to me?" "My friends tell me their kids never treat their parents this way. Why can't you be more like them?" No child ever - in the history of the entire world - improved their behavior because their parents pointed out to them that another child was a better child. Instead, these comments make the child even angrier to the point that the parent becomes an opponent. Even though it's perfectly normal – or even inevitable? – to compare your child to another child in your head, never say these hurtful words out loud. There is simply no better way to screw up a child’s self-esteem than to suggest that there is something inherently wrong with them.

The takeaway:
Parenting is the most challenging job in the world, especially if you have a child who is hyperactive, defiant, or overly emotional. Make sure that you avoid these behaviors above, and simultaneously build in time with friends for much-needed venting. Odds are that you probably need a break today or sometime very soon!

Feel free to check out my book on relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love Deserve, here!

RELATIONSHIPS: Should I Date Someone Sober If I'm a Social Drinker?

Conventional wisdom suggests that approximately ten percent of adults are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, which means that there’s a decent chance you’ll come across some of these men and women in the dating world. If you enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink but aren’t an alcoholic yourself, can you date someone who is stone-cold sober? The answer, in short, depends on how central a role alcohol plays in your life. Let me explain.

You know how some people call themselves “foodies?” There’s not an equivalent term to describe men and women who are connoiseurs of alcohol, but they certainly exist. Leaf through a glossy magazine, and you’ll likely come across at least a few advertisements for glamorous wine festivals or beer-lover events. Because I live in California which is home to endless vineyards, wine is all the rage, and it’s common for those who can afford it to head to a weekend in Napa Valley or a local vineyard for a little R & R. If you are someone who doesn’t just drink alcohol but actually celebrates it as a lifestyle choice, dating someone sober means that many of the activities you enjoy won’t be shareable with your partner. Ask yourself: How would this feel?

On the other hand, scores of men and women enjoy an occasional drink but, overall, alcohol is a take-it-or-leave-it thing for them. The point of this article isn’t to designate which way is better or healthier – because we already know that alcohol in moderation and making wise choices is fine and good – but the point is to know who you are.

If enjoying drinks is a staple of your social life, consider how drinking would be if your partner isn’t feeling the same buzz. Would you be fine with that or would you feel like you’re not having as much fun as you would if you were dating someone who was sober?

What it would be like for your partner: Some sober men and women don’t want to be around someone who is drinking because it reminds them of what they can’t have, or it could trigger alcohol cravings. Other sober individuals don’t have a problem being around others who are drinking. If you date someone who is sober, you need to clearly ask the following question: “Are you comfortable if I drink in front of you?” Sober individuals know themselves well enough that they will tell you the truth.

What it would be like for you, the social drinker: Picture yourself having a drink or two, and sitting across from your sober boyfriend or girlfriend who’s drinking, say, an iced tea or soda. Would you feel guilty? Would you not enjoy drinking as much if your partner isn’t joining you? Some social drinkers who date sober individuals choose to drink when they’re out with others but not in the company of their sober partner. If you refrained from drinking with your partner, would you secretly feel like you’re missing out? Even worse, would you start to feel resentful that you have to make this sacrifice?

Keeping it all in perspective
As much as people preach about there being lots of fish in the proverbial sea, we all know the reality: It’s not every day that you meet someone to whom you feel sexually and emotionally attracted. When you meet someone you really like, you shouldn’t give up on that person for a trivial reason. Sure, drinking may be a part of your social life, but are you sure that it’s worth giving up the chance of a trusted relationship because you can’t share a pitcher of margaritas together? Ultimately, these are decisions that you have to make for yourself.

A few quick tips

The best thing you can do when you meet someone sober is to talk about the possible issues with your new date; run the issue by a few friends and family members; and listen to your instincts which will tell you whether someone is worth the sacrifice. At the end of the day, I find that some of the best romantic relationships are some of the least codependent. In other words, two people can have a fulfilling, lasting relationship even if one member of the couple chooses to pursue certain activities – say, a night out over cocktails – while the other person does something different. No relationship will ever be perfect and every relationship – even the best ones – involve some degree of sacrifices.

Feel free to check out my book about relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition and Find the Love Deserve, here!