Why Some People Are Doubtful and Others Are Confident

Have you ever spent time with a person who doubted nearly everything they did or how about a person who is confident in their speech or actions?  What if they grew up in the same household yet there this huge difference between the two of them?  How can this be?

Erik Erikson in his eight stages of psychosocial development explains that between the ages of two and four a child learns either confidence or doubt.  His second stage of development, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, recognizes the importance of the toddler to learn to do things or make choices on his/her own.  Too often, this time is marked by the toddler’s repeated statements of “I do it” or “by myself” as an attempt to gain what little control they can.  It is also marked by temper tantrums that seem to come out of nowhere, or do they?

The Psychology.  A toddler is trying new things such as potty training, putting on their clothes, eating without help from a caregiver or pretending to read a book.  They also like to mimic the behavior and attitude of the caregiver or other siblings in an attempt to learn more or do more on their own.  But if the caregiver insists on doing everything for the child because they take too long or don’t do it the right way, the child learns to doubt their own ability.  The child may choose mismatched clothing but the sense of accomplishment that they did it allows them to gain confidence.  On the other hand if the caregiver reprimands the child, they feel a sense of shame and doubt.

The Child.  As the child grows, this confidence allows them to continue to try new things and even though they may not do it right the first time, they have learned that they can keep working at it and eventually get it right.  If however they develop doubt, they may be fearful of trying new things, insist that others help them, or throw temper tantrums when there is too much control or too little control.  Either way, the child is not capable of controlling him/herself so they enlist the help of others using whatever means necessary including negative.

The Adult.  An adult who has learned to be confident is willing to go after the promotion, be bold when asking someone out on a date, or be comfortable in a room full of strangers.  An adult who has learned to be doubtful questions the logic of even the most basic level of decisions, seeks other domineering people to make decisions for them or is insecure even in parties where they know almost all of the people.  This trail of indecisiveness and insecurity can sometimes cause them to feel shameful unnecessarily even when they have not done anything wrong.

The Cure.  Once a doubtful person recognizes that they do not need to feel shame for their decisions, that they are entitled to make a decision and fail, or that they do not need input or approval from others they can begin to heal.  While an overly controlling caregiver can stifle the growth of a two to four-year old, the now adult child can gain confidence from trying things in a manner different from how they were once trained.  For instance, if the child was told they must match their clothing before leaving the house, the simple exercise of wearing mismatched clothing to the grocery store can become a new foundation.

One more thing to remember is that as a Christian you are not called to live a life of fear but rather a confident life secure in knowing that Jesus is your Savior.  It does not matter what tragedy happened to you as a child during these formative years, what does matter is that you realize you are not bound to a life of doubt and shame but rather a life of freedom and independence.

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Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Parenting the tough stuff

 

 

If the small stuff like bad test grades, periodic fights with siblings, friendships that come and go, or occasional defiance with food does not faze you as a parent, the tough stuff will.  Sometimes it is a gradual progression, sometimes it comes in waves, and sometimes it hits you all at once.  Whatever the method, the tough stuff of parenting can catch you off guard and leave you questioning yourself, your family and your child.

Perhaps you are dealing with a child who has uncontrollable anger with outbursts so intense that they say hateful things, are uncharacteristically mean, threaten to harm themselves or others, or physically take their anger out on others.  Perhaps you are dealing with a child who stays out all night, comes home acting differently, has questionable friends, lies frequently or displays other signs of potential substance abuse.  Perhaps you are dealing with a child who has withdrawn from most social engagements, has no desire to be with any friends, whose grades are slipping, spend most of their time sleeping or has no interest in things they enjoyed before.  Or perhaps you are dealing with a child who threatens to commit suicide, has marks on their arms and legs indicating cutting, has lost extreme amounts of weight, or seems to do things to gain excessive amounts of attention.  Whichever situation you are dealing with, this is the tough stuff.  So what do you do?

 Don’t deny.  A common philosophy is to blame yourself for your child’s behavior.  This is encouraged in psychology with Freudian beliefs, in society where to admit your child has a problem means that there is something wrong with you, and in our own internal thoughts when we rather blame ourselves than to be honest with the situation.  While your child’s behavior is at some point their responsibility and choice and not yours, there is something to be said for a little self-reflection.  What is your child’s behavior telling you?  Are they acting angry because you are suppressing anger?  Are they demanding attention because they don’t feel loved?  Are they withdrawing because they have been hurt by someone they trusted?  Be honest with the situation and listen to the clues from your child’s behavior.

Deal with yourself first.  Remember the instructions on an airplane, put your own mask first and then help your child.  If your teenage child’s two year old temper tantrum is because they feel overwhelmed with all of the expectations placed on them, then look at the expectations that you have placed unnecessarily on them.  More importantly, look at why those expectations have been placed.  Are you placing expectations on your child that were placed on you?  How do you feel about that?  Or are you placing expectations that are inconsistent with your child’s talents and abilities just because others do the same to you?  Again, be honest with yourself and see your child’s behavior as a reflection of the things you need to address that perhaps you have not addressed.

Do get help.  More often than not, parents bring in their child to therapy to deal with their behavior but do not go to therapy to deal with their own behavior.  It is so much easier to point the finger at your child and drag them into therapy instead of the dealing with your own issues.  Therapy is most effective when the entire family admits that there is a problem and each person deals with their own issues separately and together.  Your child will do far better in therapy when they see you doing better because of therapy.  Be the example that your child needs and get help for your issues.

Many parents will admit that they need help parenting but few will actually take the first step of getting help.  Even fewer will go into therapy for themselves before they send their child however; this is the best method for healing.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.