As Alfred said to young Master Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall?” To which Bruce replied, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

A recent discussion with friends raised the question as to whether the current generation of children are over protected by their Gen X parents? The criticism being that in protecting children from failure and praising them for every action (deserved or not) they are in fact making them ill-equipped for later in life when the reality of the ‘real world’ kicks in.  Parenting effectively can certainly feel something of a balancing act that we don’t always get right.  There is no doubt that the intentions of most parents are to give their children opportunities to experience life in a positive, rewarding and enriching way, we do need to be careful however that our intentions don’t in fact harm our children in the short and long term.

There are two parenting styles that don’t do our children (or their parents) any favors:
The helicopter parent – hovers on the periphery of their child’s activities and at the slightest hint of disappointment or disapproval being directed their way, the parent swoops in and attempts to rectify the situation. This may include telling the child they were wronged (“the judge is hopeless, you were clearly the best”); manipulating behind the scenes (organizing for the child to get another opportunity when that is outside the scope of the rules or Imagewhat is fair); or giving the child feedback that is positive, yet unwarranted or undeserved.
The lawn mower parent – spends their time smoothing the path of life for the child, pre-empting what may go wrong and fixing it long before the child comes anywhere near it.  Such as speaking up for the child (for example to a teacher), when the child really needs to take that responsibility.  Often the child will be ‘protected’ without even knowing what has happened in the background.

So if these are the approaches in parenting that we need to avoid, what is the preferred way for us to speak to our children?

The way we understand and subsequently explain our world is known as our causal attributions.  It is these attributions that result in an emotional response and drives our subsequent behaviour.  Broadly, the explanations of our behaviour will fall into one of four categories: ability, effort, task difficulty and luck.

Ability is a characteristic that can certainly change, but may do so at a relatively slow pace.    The difficulty of a task will vary according to who we compete with and the situations we are placed in. And luck, even when considered the combination of preparation meeting opportunity, is at times exactly that, luck.

What then of effort?  Well effort is within our control.  We decide the intensity with which we engage with an activity.  We decide whether our effort will be high or low.  And in a world where people frequently struggle when life feels out of control and unpredictable, effort is our best shot at feeling like we are making a difference.

So when offering feedback and encouragement to our children, this distinction is important to remember.  Our children can not on any given day do too much to drastically change their ability, they can however completely control their level of effort.  So with your feedback, encourage and recognize effort over ability.  Certainly it is a great moment when children demonstrate success and mastery within their sport or academic endeavors; however self-esteem is best encouraged and enhanced when effort is acknowledged.

The important point to remember in setting goals, and setting out to achieve, and trialling new things is that with that effort invariably comes some level of disappointment.  Whilst many would react to using the term ‘failure’, the reality is that not achieving our intended goal can bring about some level of disappointment.  And in building our resilience, this is the most important part!  When we fall down, when we ‘fail’ we have an incredible opportunity to reflect on why it didn’t work and what we can do to be more successful next time.  As parents our role is usually not to make it all better and make the hurt go away, but rather to be the soft place to land so that our children can dust themselves off and have another go.  We only learn from our mistakes and if we deprive our children from this opportunity, we are not helping them in the long term.

The evidence is clear that in the long term, a healthy self-esteem facilitates performance.  So encourage your children to give their all, to strive for their personal best and let them make mistakes.  Through their best efforts, this is their best opportunity.

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The psychological effects of diet pills

This article was first published in Inshapenewsflash.com

In addition to the physical effects of taking diet pills, the potential psychological consequences should also be considered.  For most people, the necessary loss of weight results in feelings of happiness and increased confidence from working towards a weight goal.  However if this is not carefully monitored from a medical perspective, things can soon get out of hand.  One of the more concerning is psychological addiction to diet pills.

Unhealthy weight gain can occur for a multitude of reasons (hormonal, inactivity, over-consumption of calories, and social and psychological factors).  For some people, insufficient physical activity and an unhealthy diet may be in response to coping with some form of stressor for the individual.  A loss of job, relationship break up, and depression are all reasons why people may turn to the pantry and the couch for solace.  So when resolving to lose weight, the person may include diet pills as part of their strategy.

Diet pills also feature prominently as a weight loss strategy for those with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.  If the person experiences success with the diet aids, a psychological dependence can soon develop.  Diet pills do not keep you under control over the long term; they can be addictive, and potentially very dangerous.  Most of these products act as a stimulant to the central nervous system, with common side effects including mood swings, chest pain, and tremors.  More serious reactions may include increased anxiety, hallucinations, insomnia and cardiac arrest.  Its effects can be serious, even fatal.

When addiction occurs, treatment from a trained professional is necessary for recovery.  Part of the treatment will be in uncovering what is being masked by the use of the pills.  Healthier and more productive means of coping will need to be taught.  When seeking treatment you should source an appropriately registered professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.  It would also be advisable to ensure the person has sufficient expertise and experience in working with weight-related issues.  A multi-disciplinary team that includes the mental health professional, a dietician and your GP will enhance your likelihood of success.

How can I stop people picking on me about my weight?

This blog was originally posted on InShapeNews

This month’s question is asked by reader

Peta Hendrick:

“Hi. I have a problem. I get picked on about being overweight. I was just wondering how I can stop this? It makes me feel really bad about myself and the way I look.”

Hi Peta. I am saddened to hear you are picked on about your weight.  People often underestimate the impact of their words and the cruelty of their message can be long lasting.

Unfortunately we can’t control what others say to us, only our reaction to it.  I have often been approached by people asking me how to deal with people who are difficult, either through their

actions, words or their attitude.

Most of us have someone in our lives whose behaviours we don’t appreciate.  People who perhaps act or speak in a way that doesn’t make us feel valued or appreciated.  So how best to handle these situations?

Unfortunately to manage this kind of scenario we have to turn the mirror back on to ourselves and ask ourselves an important question: What is it that I am doing, that is allowing this to happen? Because the truth is, that we teach people how to treat us.  If someone is continually doing something to us and we let them, don’t be surprised when the behaviour continues.

So, if someone feels they have free reign and can make comments about the way you look I would be interested to know how you are responding in that situation.  I know that it is challenging, but being assertive in this situation is the best way to communicate your needs and minimise the likelihood of repeat occurrences.

To be assertive you are exercising your rights, without impacting on the rights of others.  Being assertive is very different to being submissive and aggressive, which are both manipulative forms of communication.  Such phrases as, “It hurts my feelings when you speak about me like that.  Please don’t do it anymore”, take courage to say, but their impact can be substantial.  When you communicate assertively, try to

1. Use ‘I’ statements: this is about you and how you’re feeling and how you communicate that message – “I feel hurt …”

2.  Describe the behaviour: “…when you say I am lazy …”

3.  Specify the change you wish for: “I would like you to stop commenting on my weight and behaviour.”

Be mindful of your body language when being assertive. Use open gestures and warmth that is appropriate.

Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that the person’s behaviour will stop.  However, it will put you in to a position of knowing that you have done all you can.  Assertiveness takes courage and practise, however you will feel better within yourself the more you use it.