What Kind of Parent Are You?

February 24, 2017



         I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. There should be a class you have to take first. I mean, after all, you even have to take classes to get a driver’s license!”

Where do we learn how to parent? And what are the different types of parenting?

Learning to Parent

            There are four main ways we learn how to parent.

  1. Our own parents. Some of us had great parents. We knew they loved us but we also knew what the rules were. Others were less fortunate. Their parents may have been too permissive, unloving or even abusive. Most people tend to become the kind of parents they had unless they work diligently to do otherwise.
  2. Watching others. Grandparents, neighbors, parents of our young friends, and even teachers provided examples of ways to guide and instruct others. Again, some good and others not so good.
  3. Asking for expert advice. There are countless parenting videos and books, as well as counselors and parent educators that can answer our questions.
  4. On-the-job training. As the years go by, we hopefully will learn from our mistakes.


What is Your Style of Parenting?

There are four main types of parents.

  1. Permissive Parents: These parents want to be close to their children – even to the extent of being their friends. Their desire for this results in homes with few rules and parents who give in to their children to make them happy. Since they are not used to following rules, these young people rebel against anyone who tries to tell them what to do – teachers, police, and employers. If they get in trouble, their parents rush to the rescue. Sadly, this often results in adults with life-long habits of breaking rules and disrespecting people of authority.
  2. Uninvolved Parents: Like permissive parents, these parents have few to no rules. The difference is that they show little warmth and love towards their children. It could be because the parents are stressed out by financial, health or other problems. It could also be because they simply became exhausted with their children’s disobedience and eventually gave up trying to be in charge. Again, we have children who have too much freedom and become the victims of their own immaturity and impulsivity.
  3. Authoritarian Parents: Authoritarian parents run their homes with strict rules and show little affection for their children.   They want obedience more than closeness. Some of the children in these homes become very rebellious and show it through the way they dress, act and speak.. Others may never try to become independent and end up relying on mom and dad for the rest of their lives.
  4. Authoritative Parents: Parents who are authoritative show affection to their children while still providing clear boundaries. They explain their decisions and invite feedback. Children learn responsibility through household chores and eventually privileges increase to match their maturity level. Meals together and fun times are frequent. These children feel valued, safe and loved. They have no problem following the rules at school and work and, therefore, find it easier to become successful as adults.

Is it Too Late to Change?

There is always time to improve your parenting.   Check out local parenting classes, read books or work with a parenting expert. I guarantee you – this will be time well spent!


Karen Wrolson, MS, MEd

Stein Counseling and Consulting Services, Ltd.

The Power of Equality In Marriage

December 30, 2013

By Diane Walker, December 30, 2013

In my practice as a psychotherapist, I have talked with couples about the importance of “maintaining a level playing field” within their relationship. I define this as an equal balance of power, each partner allowing the other to be true to their personality.  Couples often come to therapy with a marked imbalance of power, one partner has become discouraged with “always being the one who gives in to the wishes of the other”.  Marriages require a constant give and take, “I will, then you will” type of respect.  Couples often talk about not feeling “respected or noticed” in their relationships. Generally, this means they are not feeling validated; they cannot be true to their identity, their true personality.


Think of your relationship with your best friend (who is not your partner); is this different from your relationship with your partner? Typically, we can be completely forthright and honest with our best friends.  We can get angry, frustrated with each other, or not agree with the choices our friend makes but we still maintain our close relationship. Best friendships are egalitarian, characterized by equal dignity, they evolve over time, as we enter new phases in our own lives.  As with making friends, dating is often filled with hope, expectation, disappointment, and happiness. As the relationship evolves into a commitment, our own expectations and hopes evolve.  In a mutually respectful relationship, we allow each other the freedom to grow together, to say what we want to say, to act as we choose.


I often tell clients they have the freedom to be who they are without judgement in my office and hopefully in the outside world.  We all need to make rules that are of our own choosing to accomplish goals and meet with success.  Within marriage, partners must  be able to listen to each other and be heard, even if one is in disagreement. One must accept influence from the other, as much as you may be influential. We have to be able to talk straight and ask for what we want/need even though there are risks involved, such as disappointing your partner. Talking about the disappointment with honest communication creates this type of equality.


The relationship consists of two separate individuals who have had different life experiences. Often, the couple’s expectations are that we handle conflict, money, chores, child rearing, in the same way. Two people who allow for their differences can create fairness and lower the likelihood of establishing controlling expectations. Traditionally, women have maintained the household and raised the children while the men supported the family financially, often due to social norms. Gender roles have dramatically changed in the past several decades allowing for an increase in equality of domestic and financial duties.  More importantly to the relationship though, is the feeling that our identities and worth are affirmed and valued. This allows for each other’s vulnerabilities, which is a difficult but necessary component for a successful, long term relationship while allowing us to be completely true to our own personhood.


Personal happiness is a quality that can only be achieved through individual work. Your relationship enhances this quality if it is already present although we cannot make each other happy.  Elements of equality include validation, respect, allowing for differences, accommodation, influence, paying attention to, being fair, making repairs when necessary, and fostering well being. These qualities create a level playing field within a relationship which often leads to personal satisfaction and positive growth. This in turn leads to intimacy and connection; which together create all the necessary components to a relationship that lasts through life’s milestones.


Counseling can help establish this platform of equality within the relationship.

This blog was inspired by an article I read in Psychology Today, February, 2014.

To schedule an appointment with me, please call 608-785-7000 x221 or click here.




Choosing the Right Therapist

October 21, 2013

By Jerry Nelson October 20. 2013

What is Psychological Health?

I have spent the last seven years working with our military Service Members and their families as they contended with the cycle of being deployed, coming back and being deployed again. As you can imagine, their service to our country impacted every area of their life. This was especially difficult for our National Guard and Army Reservists who came back home to their community without the same resources available to active duty personnel.  Working closely with these individuals, reinforced for me that our daily life consists of four main areas, as illustrated below, and that there is a lot of overlap. Psychological health takes a holistic approach to wellness – recognizing we are an integration of mind, body, and spirit. Difficulties in any one or more of these areas can have a major impact on other areas. Psychological health is achieved with balance in these four areas.

4 spheres

When Should a Person Seek Assistance?

I also used to work as a surgical nurse and often assisted with cancer surgery.  Most cancers start as a small group of cells that can grow to produce a noticeable lump.  If caught early enough, the cancer can be stopped in its tracks. In our daily life we can have early warning signs, lumps if you will, starting in any of the four areas illustrated above. These can spread into other areas and infect how you view yourself and/or others. For instance, there may be a situation in the social aspect of your life where a relationship has gone bad, such a divorce, unforgiveness, hurt by a friend, etc. Soon you notice you don’t want to associate with others, your appetite has gone away, sleep is impossible, you’re grumpy and irritable and it seems life is spiraling downward. It doesn’t take long for all four areas of your daily life to be affected.  It may be time to do something about these signs and look for a change.

Need a Change?

Need a change

Often the longer we wait to do something about the warning signs, the more entrenched the problem becomes in all aspects of life. Perhaps there is a lot of uncertainty in your life and you feel like you’re in a giant maze.  My experience with military Service Members and their families, as well as private practice, revealed that often changing one area of life, (such as emotions, behaviors, relationships, or even a direction in life) can help bring back the psychological health that was once enjoyed.

How CAN a Counselor Help?

Counselor Help 1 Counselor Help 2

You can think of a counselor as someone who comes along side of you and helps you sort out the changes you want to make. Often this involves giving you a new perspective on an issue, or developing new skills to approach old problems in a new way. Maybe you need someone to be more directive and point out things you just can’t see. In the illustration above, can you see the young woman/saxophonist, or the young woman/old woman? Some people can see the images right away, but others need more direction to make the distinction.

Wrong Results?


I often hear “I tried counseling and it just didn’t work,” especially from men.  Perhaps the problem was you weren’t getting the results you were looking for after just one session. No matter who the counselor is, try to give it at least 2 to 3 sessions before you leave counseling with that individual. However, research shows that the best predictor of a positive outcome is being connected to your counselor. One way to avoid future conflicts is to interview several counselors before starting counseling sessions. I recommend you briefly describe your problem and ask the counselor how much experience they have with that problem. Ask them what their approach to your problem would be. Also ask them how they know when someone is done with counseling. You are listening for two things: the first is the actual answers the counselor gives you; and the second is how they answer you. Do you like what you hear and do you think you can connect with the therapist? You have a right to be proactive in your counseling.

The Bottom Line!

 Bottom Line Military

The military has a credo of leaving no one behind. Finding the right counselor to come alongside you as you work through some things in your life goes a long way toward having, and maintaining, psychological health.

Contact Jerry right now at 608-785-7000 x221 to schedule an appointment or click here to make an appointment request. 

Eating Healthy, Exercise, and Wellness

July 29, 2013

Wellness blog:    7/22/13 by Diane Walker

This past week, I attended the National Health and Wellness conference in Stevens Point, WI.  I have been out of the health and wellness world for quite some time; it felt very good to be back. There are tons of exciting and wonderful things happening in the world of health and wellness, including the creation and support of new jobs. There were physicians, nurses, therapists (mental, physical and massage), wellness coaches, retired people, college students, teachers, etc.. in attendance. The first keynote speaker was Larry Cohen, the guru of the smoke free movement. He is currently working on a project to bring refrigeration to poverty stricken areas. He believes, and research shows that if fresh fruit and vegetables are prominently displayed and accessible, more people will choose to eat them on a regular basis. I attended seminars in plant based eating, blogging for wellness, motivational interviewing, nutrition, Pilates, and yoga. I also completed a 5k run (without stopping) for the first time in a few decades!!


I have dabbled in the health and wellness world most of my life. I have coached numerous teams for both boys and girls, I was an aerobics instructor back when “step” aerobics was the thing to do, and have been a certified personal trainer. Since becoming a full-time outpatient therapist, I noticed that I have let some of the things I “used to know, go away”. After this conference, I am once again motivated to become involved in the wellness world. How many times has someone (or yourself) talked about needing to lose weight, or getting fit, or been told to make changes in your habits by a doctor or loved one? We all cope with health and wellness in our own ways and most of resent being “told what to do”. Our brains reject “being told”, or at least mine does. Weight and fitness are very personal issues; becoming healthy is an individual quest and can often be successful only after personal reflection. Reasons to make changes may include; I want to look/feel better, my clothes don’t fit anymore, my doctor says I am unhealthy, my spouse tells me I have gained, etc.. If we are able to decide on a health plan, course of eating and exercise, that we WANT and REALLY LIKE, we are significantly more invested in succeeding. Again, this is an individual choice.  The fitness “gurus” and “weight professionals” have tons and tons of answers for us, just look at the best selling books in the book store. There are entire sections devoted to weight loss and how to become fitter. How do we sort through all this information?  Where do we start?


First, find some time to sit and reflect about why you want to make changes in your lifestyle. This can be done in a few minutes, or over several quiet sessions. Sometimes, writing down ideas and thoughts can be helpful, this allows us to rule out things that might not work or we don’t really like. Support during this process is important, but choose carefully. Make sure your support system is truly that, supportive.  Once you have determined your reasons for making changes, recognize that change is very difficult and takes time. All the sessions I attended this past week emphasized that our brains go backwards in times of stress; we revert back into old patterns often without realizing it. Be true to yourself and begin slowly. Set goals that are reachable and can be relatively quick; this provides encouragement to keep on track.


Watch our website for tips as a health and wellness section will be added and updated regularly. Also, feel free to call and set up an appointment with Diane as you begin to make changes. Our bodies don’t really like change; it may become difficult to maintain and continue on our chosen path. Research shows that positive physical health has a direct and influential link towards positive mental health, to become “happy”.


Click here to schedule an appointment with Diane and begin living well again!

Unleash the Power of the Positive in You….

April 25, 2013

The power of the positive…….by Diane Walker

What really happens to us when we get “stuck in the negative”; what does our body experience as a result? Conversely, how does our body react when we have a more optimistic outlook, believe in the good?

Research shows that men in unhappy marriages/relationships have a shorter lifespan of 10-15 years compared to those in happy marriages. For the purposes of this writing, we’ll define a happy marriage as one in which both partners exist on equal footing, emotional safety is present for both partners, and the ability to be completely ourselves is constantly present.

Negative thought patterns can lead to depressive symptoms, lack of energy, physical illness, unsatisfactory relationships, anxiety, anger, and that feeling of “just wanting to stay in bed all day.” It is often very difficult to maintain positive relationships when we don’t trust or believe in the goodness of others. Negative thought patterns can be instilled when we’re kids, by parents, school experiences, “life” in general. Most of us have some type of trauma in our childhoods, experiences and perspectives are individual and varied. We view our pasts through our own rose colored glasses, our own perspective, which has to be as important as anyones.

Let’s look at recent events in this country such as the Boston bombing a few weeks ago. We think about the victims with sadness, horror, and anger. We ask “why does this have to happen”; we want answers and feel like someone has to pay. Sometimes, we may get stuck in thinking we can’t explore the “unsafe” world, we don’t want to leave our houses. We may start or continue viewing other’s intentions as negative, wanting something from us, “why would you want to spend time with me”. We may look at the incredibly terrifying experience as a whole, not the incredibly compassionate events that take place within the tragedy.

What happens when we see the positive in this world; we acknowledge the negatives and violence, but do not let them define our own life’s parameters. Positive thinkers live longer, are healthier, are quick to smile, see the best in others, are motivated and believe in the power of change, and have deeper and more satisfying relationships.
The research surrounding positive thinking is prevalent and everywhere. Some people are born with natural optimism, others learn the secret of positiveness as they age. This is a skill that can be learned, that can transform your life. What about the people who help the victims of the bombing, the vast numbers of people who send cards, donate prosthetics, time, money, and smiles. How do some people get to forgiveness and begin the process of moving on with their lives?

How do some people learn the power of hope, despite everything they have been through in their lives. One Sunday, there was a story about a guy who never learned to read. He is a World War II veteran who survived the landing at Normandy. He worked as a civilian after the war until retirement age. His wife and co-workers covered for him so no one ever knew he couldn’t read. His lifetime dream was to read a book before he died. He is now 90 and has finally read several books; he tries to explain his intense feelings related to accomplishing his goal. He said, “Get in there and learn, you ain’t going to learn in that pine box”. How simple would it have been for him to just forget about this and live his life the way he always had. Change is possible at any age, in any environment, in any circumstance if we want it badly enough.

We can all learn the power of positive thinking and embracing positive change. Counseling can help with your outlook.

To schedule an appointment with Diane, click here now or  call 608-785-7000 x221!


Here is a great video on Mental Health Wellness vs Mental Illness…


Online and Telephone Help Now Available

April 10, 2013

Click the link below to get help fast! Get scheduled with a provider today!

Online or Telephone Help!!

Evidenced Based Practices for insecurely attached children and trauma

February 20, 2013

I am frequently asked about “attachment therapy” and “attachment parenting” and various treatments. Many books and others claim success with their approach and individuals often write glorious reviews of these approaches. Yet, we know that these approaches are NOT supported in the literature and withstanding the scrutiny of peers. As such, I wanted to just briefly compile a short list of assessments, tools, treatments and theory approved by Advocates for Children in Therapy that is evidenced based (researched and replicated with a control group) and a list of unsupported assessments, tools, treatments and theory. These can also be found on the Advocates for Children in Therapy website as well as literature such as Handbook of Attachment, Disorganized Attachment, Disorganized Attachment and Caregiving, Parenting Representations, Clinical Applications of the Adult Attachment Interview and others. I have also included a list of accepted assessment tools for assessing attachment quality.


Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child

Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up Intervention

Circle of Security

Incredible Years

Adult Attachment Interview

Strange Situation

Attachment Q-Sort 

Attachment Story Telling Completion Task

Attachment Doll Play Assessment

Adult Attachment Projective Picture System

Caregiving Helplessness Questionnaire

Working Model of Child Interview

Parent Development Interview

Circle of Security Interview

Attachment Script Sets

Ainsworth Maternal Sensitivity Scales


Below is a list of treatments and interventions, tools and theories  NOT recommended:

  • Attachment Disorder
  • Attachment Therapy
  • Attachment Therapy Parenting
  • Beyond Consequences
  • Cline/Helding Adopted and Foster Child Assessment
  • Cline/Helding Adoptive Parent Attitude Assessment
  • Complex Trauma
  • Corrective Attachment Therapy
  • Critical Care Parenting
  • Dr Post’s New Family Revolution
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
  • Emotional Deficit Syndrome
  • Family Centered Regulatory Therapy
  • Holding Therapy
  • Holding Time
  • Humanistic Attachment Therapy
  • Integrative Dyadic Psychotherapy
  • Nancy Thomas Parenting
  • Family Attachment Narrative
  • Pre and Peri Natal Psychology
  • Rage Therapy
  • Rage Reduction Therapy
  • Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Stress Model
  • Theraplay
  • Z-Therapy

On the Advocates for Children in Therapy Website, they list the names of proponents of the above treatments.  When entrusting your care and the care of your children to someone following one of these models, caution and care must be taken. While there may certainly be some benefits, there is a possibility of doing more harm than good. Remember, the motto of the creators of the Circle of Security state “Parenting in 25 words or less: ALWAYS be BIGGER, STRONGER, WISER, and KIND. Whenever possible, follow the child’s need. Whenever necessary, take charge.” Ensuring proper  treatment for your child is a take charge moment!!!

Back to School Special! A “Wing and a Prayer!”

September 4, 2012

For the past two decades, much research has been done on the student-teacher relationship. Attachment theory proposes that that a child develops a hierarchy of caregivers and that it is the caregivers role to perform the necessary tasks of becoming a haven of safety from which a child’ explores and a base of security to which a child returns. A close and supportive relationship between teacher and student would assume that a teacher performing this role would allow a student to focus on the tasks at hand – peer interaction, academic performance, and interaction with other adults; however, few studies have been able to examine this directly. One study by Ahnert and colleagues (2012) has provided clear and substantial evidence that a teacher who provides a haven of safety and base of security directly influences a child’s ability to regulate stress in a classroom setting.

The challenge that is currently being faced by researchers is finding interventions that are effective. Reflection based interventions (teacher reflects on their behaviors, feelings, intentions, and thoughts) have been promising, but inconclusive. Interpersonal Skills interventions (skills for communicating and interacting with others) have also been promising, but inconclusive.  Hughes (2012, p. 322) suggest that “teachers’ goals and teaching philosophy, teaching self efficasy, and self awareness of their own emotional states and capacity to use this awareness to regulate one’s behavior likely affect their responsiveness to different interventions.”

As I sent my daughter off to school this morning to begin third grade, she was so excited and a bit anxious about school. She set her alarm, got herself dressed and groomed. She came into the bedroom excitedly pronouncing her feats with a big smile on her face and the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. It was delightful! We had breakfast together and played as has been our school morning rituals since kindergarden. When it was time to go, we took all the pictures we could until she gave the proverbial ,”UGH” and then it was off to school!

This year, she has her first male teacher. There is also a boy in her class that pulled her hair once two years ago that makes her anxious as well. Truthfully, I found myself a bit anxious wondering if this male teacher will provide the haven of safety and base of security that I know her previous teachers were able to provide. Certainly, I am gender stereotyping, but I am a worried protective father sending his daughter into the world. This week, my prayers have been filled with themes of protection and safety for her!!

What I take comfort in at these times, are God’s promises He has made to us:

Psalms 84:11 states “The Lord God is like a sun and shield; the Lord gives us kindness and honor. He does not hold back anything good from those whose lives are innocent.”

Isaiah 43:2 states “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you cross rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flames hurt you.”

Psalm 61:3 states “You have been my protection, like a strong tower against my enemies.”

What is most comforting, is my daughter knows Jesus at her age. All the promises He has made He has graciously offered to her as well. I take refuge in knowing He is watching over her when I cannot, he is protecting her when I cannot, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, He is supporting her her when I cannot and comforting her when I cannot. I believe in Him and His word. I trust Him. I pray to Him. Praise the Lord, God our Savior, who helps us everyday (Psalm 68:19)

Ahnert, L., Harwardt-Heinecke, E., Kappler, G., Eckstein-Madry, T., & Milatx, A. (2012). Student-teacher relationships and classroom climate in first grade: How do they related to students’ stress regulation? Attachment & Human Development, 14, 249-263

Hughes, J.N. (2012). Teacher-student relationships and school adjustment: progress and remaining challenges. Attachment and Human Development, 14, 319 – 327




Addiction: How to Recognize It and What to Do about It

June 15, 2012



Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a chronic disease. It is progressive, continuous, and long-term. Alcohol or drug abuse means that a person has control over whether he or she drinks or uses but uses it to excess – experiencing emotion, physical and sometime, legal consequences. Alcohol or drug dependence means that a person has lost all control over his or her drinking or using behavior.


Addictive Behavior

People who suffer from addictive diseases engage in compulsive behavior and gradually lose control of their lives. They continue to drink or use drugs, even when they know it will lead to negative consequences. They tend to have low self-esteem and almost inevitably suffer from anxiety and depression.


If someone in your life suffers from addictive disease, you have experienced his or her extreme behavior, ranging from depression to exhilaration. You probably have also experienced the person’s state of denial (“I can quit anytime” or “I don’t have a problem”), dishonesty, frequent disappointments, and the series of ruined relationships. These are the hallmark behaviors when a person suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs.


Who Is Affected by Addictive Disease


Alcoholism and drug addiction affect people from all parts of society. Addictive disease affects rock stars, writers, artists, and homeless people. Victims also include stay-at-home moms, teenagers, and corporate executives. There are addicts who are students at top universities and physicians in your local hospital. They may be teachers at your neighborhood school or salespeople at the local hardware store.


Studies have shown that there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. About half of all alcoholics had an alcoholic parent. Men seem to be more vulnerable than women to the alcoholic traits of their parents. Women may be more affected by factors in the environment (such as financial and life circumstances) than by inherited factors.



The Physical Side of Addiction


Chronic alcohol abuse produces long-lasting damage in many areas of brain function. It damages the capacity for abstract thinking, problem solving, memory, and physical dexterity. It also impairs verbal, visual, and spatial ability. The extent of damage to brain tissue depends on the extent of heavy alcohol abuse. When the drinking stops, a certain amount of healing is possible.


Prescription Drugs


Prescription and illegal drugs with psychoactive side effects target the brain and can change a person’s mood. This causes these drugs to be potentially addicting. Some people think that if a doctor has prescribed a drug, it is not addictive. This is not true.

It is important to tell your doctor if you:


•            Are an alcoholic (using or in recovery)

•            Have ever been addicted to any drug

•            Have taken more than the prescribed dose of a prescribed drug

•            Have taken a prescribed drug for a long time

•            Take a prescribed drug with alcohol


Addictive disease is often progressive and can be fatal. Thankfully, with proper treatment, recovery is possible.




The first phase of treatment of addictive disease focuses on the physical effects of alcohol or drug use. This phase can include detoxification or treating life-threatening disorders such as liver failure.


Since addictive disease is primarily a brain disease that results in behavioral symptoms, the main treatment is psychosocial therapy. Treatment usually focuses on the irrational feelings and distorted thinking that accompany chronic alcohol or drug abuse.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are chronic diseases that require a lifetime recovery plan. Most successful treatment plans include a focus on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and involve ongoing, long-term participation in self-help groups. Patients who have been hospitalized for treatment may continue group and individual psychotherapy after they leave the hospital, in addition to attending 12-Step meetings.


Treatment of the Family


Addiction affects every member of the patient’s family. As the disease progresses and the patient continues to drink or use, it causes a range of emotional, spiritual, and financial problems for almost everyone involved, including family, friends and coworkers. When the family is ready to begin the recovery process, Al-Anon and Alateen are excellent resources. A qualified family therapist who understands the process of addiction and recovery may also be consulted to work with the family.


What to Do When an Alcoholic or Addict Won’t Stop


Sometimes the alcoholic or addict is in such a strong state of denial that the best alternative is to arrange an intervention. This process involves arranging for a professional interventionist to organize a meeting of the family, friends, and employer of the patient. The interventionist helps the group prepare a confrontation that will be followed by the patient entering a treatment center. The patient’s family and friends usually write a brief statement describing how the drinking or drug use has affected them. The interventionist and the group then meet with the patient and read their statements to the patient with the guidance of the interventionist. These interventions, when managed by professionals from respected treatment organizations, often result in successful treatment of the addiction.


If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance problem, call us at 608-785-7000 or click here for an appointment request. 

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Predicting Harsh Parenting In Toddlerhood and Beyond….

April 1, 2012

Observation and research data shows that level of parent sensitivity during the first year of life can predict harsh parenting during toddlerhood.  These early predictors , while not in and of themselves the cause, put children at risk later in toddlerhood and school age for behavioral and emotional problems in both the home and school setting. These caregiving patterns, without intervention, have been shown to remain constant and stable through the child’s development into later childhood years.

Attuned sensitive caregiving involves a three task process for caregivers: 1) perceiving a child’s cue 2) interpreting the child’s cue accurately 3) responding to the child’s cues promptly and appropriately. Many internal (what is going on in the caregivers head and heart; depression; anxiety) and external factors (marriage distress; social support network; if a daycare, number of other children) are involved regarding how well a caregiver accomplishes the tasks of providing sensitive and responsive care-giving.

Harsh caregiving may include subtle and blatant acts, either verbal and/or physical ranging from ill timed tone of voice (caregiver is irritated) through physical aggression (slapping or worse).

Parents at risk for harsh and/or abusive parenting may display a challenge in one or more of the above three areas. Milner (1993, 2003) describes four stages involved in parenting strategies that  put children at risk for physical abuse.

Parents at risk for abusive behavior to children often display the following (Milner; 1993, 2003):

1) Less attentive and attuned to their children’s behavior when compared to average, non-abusive and low risk parents

2) Interpretations of the child’s behavior are often negative, including hostile intent (they are doing this to me) and generalized (they always do this; it is how they are wired)

3) Exclusion of the context of behaviors (bad day at school, sad because their friend was hurtful, it is late and the child is tired, etc).

4) Rigidity to parenting strategies and lack insight into how well their strategies are working and the emotional/physical impact of said strategies

Furthermore, other studies  have shown a lack of respect for the child economy and “physical” interference with the child’s behavior, especially during periods of exploration, are also a characteristic of some parents who demonstrate harsh/abusive parenting as a pattern.

The suggested intrusive as well as harsh/abusive parenting as a pattern seem to share a lack of empathy or understanding for the child behavior and motives in both average, daily interactions and discipline moments (Joosen, Mesman, Bakermans-Kranenburg & van Ijzendoorn, 2012).

Caregivers may be misattuned to their own thoughts and dialogues and may or may not be aware of these strategies, often using justifications for their own behavior. This adaptation may often be as of a result of their own history of being cared for, current environmental or relational conditions, and/or their own mental health issues.

For example; in a custody situation, the caregivers may be already stressed and while their has been no historical evidence of harsh caregiving, the threat of the marriage ending may produce enough stress that a parent becomes less attuned and sensitive to their child. They may read the child’s cues properly, but may attribute this cue to something that the other parent (acussed) has done to the infant/child. While the parent may respond appropriately to the child, the attribution of the child’s cue may inadvertently cause the the parent reading the cue to begin to act subtly hostile towards the other parent. Over time, this may become a full blown need to “protect” the child from the other parent and over the years resulted in intrusive caregiving to the child – questioning everything and acting very anxious – which the child would pick up on and adapt accordingly.

Meanwhile, the “acussed parent” over time experiences the child withdrawing due to the anxiety and rather than address this miscue (has a need but is expressing it indirectly, not at all or the opposite of what they need), acts on it, becoming more harsh and resentful towards the child or withdrawing from the relationship with the child.

While sometimes harsh parenting is intergenerational, sometimes it brought on by the situation and environment, and sometimes it is both.

This is why in a custody or placement decision an important part in an assessment is to evaluate the attachment of the child to each caregiver and gain a deeper understanding into the complexity of these dynamics, how to arrange a placement schedule that is beneficial to the child, and help the parents be the best versions of themselves they are meant to be. Parenting is forever – in the eyes of a child. Contact us for more information at 608-785-7000×221 or email info@effectivebehavior.com

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