Child psychologist Dr. Tali Shenfield and other experts offer advice on child development, child mental health, and intelligent parenting topics. Their mission is to deliver psychological and psycho-educational services to children, adults, and families.
Having a sense of fairness is a great virtue and a sign that your child has a strong moral compass. Sometimes, however, kids become obsessed with fairness to an unrealistic degree. Toddlers, gifted children, and children with ADHD are especially prone to this kind of behaviour. When left unchecked, a deep preoccupation with fairness can lead to excessive tantrums, arguments on the playground, and other social issues. If your child is obsessed with fairness, you’ll need to work on balancing out his (or her) expectations while appreciating his strong sense of justice.
4 Ways to Moderate Your Child’s Fixation with Fairness
1. Understand that kids perceive fairness differently at different ages.
Separate parts of the brain are responsible for processing situations that are unfair to us and situations that are unfair to others. The part of the brain that recognizes unfairness that directly affects us (that is, situations where we receive less than other people) develops before the part of the brain that recognizes general unfairness (situations where others receive less than we do.) This can make small children appear very self-centered in their approach to equality: Your toddler might throw a tantrum if he gets less dessert than his sibling, for example, yet be completely unbothered when his sibling gets the smaller portion.
Interestingly, research shows that kids of all ages are aware that resources should be shared equally, but small children struggle to put this knowledge into practice. It isn’t until age seven or eight that children begin to correctly identify general unfairness around them and act on it.
Toddlers also have a poor sense of nuance, and this makes it hard for them to understand that equality and fairness aren’t always the same thing. Your toddler might have a meltdown over the fact that you get larger meals than he does, whereas older children know that adults need more food because they’re physically larger. This can lead to apparently irrational actions, like a child demanding more food even before he’s able to finish what’s on his plate.
When parenting a toddler, it’s important to avoid reading too much into these behaviours. Having a somewhat one-sided obsession with fairness doesn’t mean your child is greedy or unusually selfish; he’s just acting his age. Instead of getting upset, focus on teaching your toddler how to share and how to take turns. Developing these core skills will help him gradually learn to see situations from multiple points of view. You can also provide your child with calm, simple explanations for why certain inequalities exist; e.g., “Daddy needs more food because he’s bigger.”
2. Help your child see the greater picture.
Though children develop a fairly complex sense of fairness by the time they reach their preteen years, they may still occasionally struggle with perspective. Your older child might exclaim, “It’s not fair!” when one of his friends is allowed to stay up later than he is, or allowed to hang out at the mall even though he hasn’t done his homework yet.
In these situations, it can be helpful to explain why adhering to specific rules will yield fair results over the long term, even if it feels unfair in the short term. For instance, over time, being well-rested and completing homework consistently will make it easier to excel at school. This in turn will lead to more fulfilling career prospects. By following the rules, your child increases his chance of eventually securing fair rewards.
Explaining the bigger picture won’t always make your child want to follow the rules, but it will reframe the situation in a less personal light. Your child will understand that rules exist to help him – not to punish him unfairly.
3. Know when to consider counselling.
Having a rigid notion of fairness is normal for most small children (and usually nothing to worry about). When an obsession with fairness extends into late childhood or becomes extreme, on the other hand, it may be a sign of a deeper problem. If your ten year old is still having tantrums whenever he gets less than his siblings or peers, or he insists on counting and measuring items to ensure equal distribution, you should consult a mental health professional.
In some cases, having a preoccupation with fairness can indicate a mental health issue (like anxiety); it’s also a hallmark of certain developmental conditions, notably Autism and ADHD. More rarely, kids develop an intense need for fairness in response to a traumatic event. If your child has lost a loved one, for example, he might try to address his underlying sense of injustice by making everything else fair. Regardless of what’s causing your child’s preoccupation with equality, a therapist can identify the issues at hand and suggest behaviour modification strategies.
4. Connect your child with opportunities to address injustice.
Some kids – especially those who are highly sensitive, gifted, or have ADHD – have a very hard time coming to terms with the amount of unfairness they observe in the world around them. This can cause them to feel frustrated, helpless, and even depressed. If you’re parenting a child like this, you may feel equally frustrated and helpless owing to your inability to remedy the situation.
Rather than expecting your child to eventually accept the old adage that “life isn’t fair,” try to provide him with productive ways to act upon his desire for justice. Volunteering can provide an excellent avenue for kids to explore their innate sense of equity, as can helping friends and neighbours in need.
Watching your child’s sense of fairness gradually develop into robust morals and helpful habits is one of the great joys of parenting. Balancing your child’s wants and expectations with appropriate social skills and a broader perspective is often all that’s necessary to transform early notions of equality into a lifelong passion for equity… And that’s a trait any parent can be proud of.
Author: Rachel Cohen
This is a guest post by Toronto psychotherapist Rachel Cohen. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachiieCohen
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding the idea of attending couples therapy. In the media, couples therapy is portrayed as a “last resort” that married couples only engage in when they’re on the verge of divorce. The reality of couples therapy is, however, far different: Therapy can be used to improve nearly any relationship, and it’s better to seek therapy before issues become severe. Needing assistance isn’t a sign that your relationship is destined to fall apart, either. On the contrary, a willingness to engage in therapy demonstrates mutual commitment and a desire to make things work. Even when the stigma associated with therapy is set aside, many couples have a difficult time gauging when to seek help. How do you know where normal conflict ends and serious issues begin? Though every relationship is different, the nine situations outlined below strongly signify a need for relationship counselling:
1. A betrayal has occurred
Betrayal can encompass more than just infidelity (though infidelity is a definite sign that therapy is required). Making major purchases against each other’s wishes, for example, constitutes a form of betrayal.
If you or your partner feel the need to keep secrets for any reason, then you should absolutely consider relationship counselling. Counselling can help you figure out why you feel like you can’t be honest in your relationship. Your therapist will also aid you in processing your emotions (without resorting to blame or bitterness) so you can effectively communicate your needs to your partner.
2. The bad times outnumber the good times
Every relationship has its share of disagreements and periods of tension. However, when the overall “tone” of a relationship becomes more negative than positive (and stays that way for an extended period of time), something is clearly amiss.
To get a clearer picture of the patterns in your relationship, try keeping an “interaction journal” for at least two weeks. Every day, record whether your interactions with your partner were largely positive or negative in nature. At the end of the two week period, look at the ratio of positive vs. negative interactions. Ideally, there should be at least five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. If this isn’t the case, you should strongly consider couples therapy.
Note that negative interaction patterns don’t necessarily have to include repeated, fiery arguments. Partners being highly critical of one another, emotionally withdrawn, or passive-aggressive can cause as much damage to a relationship as outright hostility. Likewise, remember that you and your partner should be having fun together: If you seldom laugh together, spend time together, or share your interests, you’re likely to feel bored and unfulfilled. Without outside intervention, all of these issues can gradually create toxic emotional baggage.
3. You and your partner struggle to communicate
Without effective communication, there can be no compromise. Communication issues can also make one or both partners feel invalidated, unheard, or disrespected. Over time, this can cause a couple to avoid communicating with one another, increasing the likelihood of betrayal.
Through therapy, you and your partner can identify your individual communication styles and see where you’re misunderstanding one another. You’ll also learn how to open up to one another in an environment that feels safe, with the assistance of an external mediator.
4. There’s a major issue you can’t resolve
Do you feel like you have the same argument with your partner repeatedly, without making substantial progress? Whether you habitually fight about money, household responsibilities, or another issue, repetitive arguments can take a heavy toll on your relationship. They can weaken the sense of teamwork that should exist between you and your partner and create feelings of frustration and resentment. A therapist can help you and your partner agree on a compromise and develop a realistic plan to achieve that compromise.
5. Your goals in life don’t align
Most couples who connect with one another while young discover that their goals and aspirations change over time. One partner might change their mind about having children, for example, or decide they’d like to pursue a very different way of life. Objective advice from a therapist can help you and your partner find a middle ground between your conflicting goals.
6. You never argue
Though very painful, aggressive arguments don’t belong in any relationship, constructive conflict does. If you and your partner never debate important issues, you’re probably avoiding things you feel might be difficult to discuss. This is problematic because it signifies a state of emotional withdrawal from the relationship. During the therapeutic process, you’ll get in touch with emotions you may be repressing and learn how to debate issues in a productive, mutually loving way.
7. You’re frustrated with your intimate life
Intimacy needs vary from person to person, and it’s normal for intimacy levels to fluctuate as relationships grow and change. However, if either you or your partner feel unsatisfied with the amount of physical intimacy that’s present in your relationship, you should consider seeing a therapist. Even if a lack of intimacy doesn’t lead to infidelity, it can damage the sense of trust and connection between both partners.
During therapy, you’ll be able to assess whether your difficulties with intimacy are driven by emotional, physical, or lifestyle factors. If you and your partner are struggling to make time for sexual intimacy, your therapist can help you adjust your schedule to make your relationship a priority.
8. You’ve experienced a major life change
Any event that changes the dynamics of a relationship can potentially lead to instability. Having a child, getting married, facing serious illness or disability, buying a home, and even making a career change can all disrupt the normal patterns of a relationship and create friction. Talking to a therapist as soon as any major life change occurs can help you identify potential points of conflict; it can also give you a better idea of what to expect as you navigate your new situation.
9. You feel like you need couples therapy
If your gut instinct is telling you that you need relationship counselling, then there’s a high chance you do. Perhaps you’re not feeling satisfied with your relationship but you don’t know why, or you feel like a certain “spark” is missing. Therapy can help you process vague, confusing, or contradictory emotions, and from there, you can reignite your relationship.
Whatever your reasons are for seeking therapy, remember that it never hurts to try counselling. Through therapy, you’ll gain insight into yourself and clarify what your priorities are in relationships—knowledge that will serve you well no matter where life takes you.
While taking drugs has always been risky, the introduction of new, more powerful drugs in recent years has heightened the potential for accidental overdose. As the tragic death of Chloe Kotval (a 14 year old girl from Ottawa, Canada) demonstrated, teenagers- even very young teenagers- are not immune to the perils of today’s “designer drugs.” All it took was one pill laced with the potent opiate fentanyl to end Chloe’s life.
With the dangers posed by today’s narcotics (both illicit and prescription), preventing adolescent experimentation with drugs is of the utmost importance… But it’s no easy task. Drug taking is, after all, not a product of moral failure on the part of teens or their parents. Experimentation usually arises from natural human curiosity and addiction is a disease rooted in biochemical abnormalities, not personality. It’s a myth that all drug users come from broken homes or have character defects; many otherwise happy and normal teens simply end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re introduced to something that feels good, increases their social standing at school, and makes them feel sophisticated and grown up; before they know it, they’re hooked.
While there is no way to absolutely guarantee that your child will never fall into the trap described above, there is a lot you can do to give your child defenses against temptation. To effectively arm your child in the war against drugs, try using the strategies outlined below:
1. Start educating your child about the dangers of drug use at a young age.
Many parents make the mistake of waiting until their child is 13 or 14 to start discussing the perils of drug use. With children as young as 13 and 14 dying from overdoses, that is evidently much too late. Research shows that many children begin using alcohol as young as 9 or 10. A substantial percentage of these children (especially those who are biochemically prone to addiction) go on to experiment with illegal or prescription drugs.
Parents should therefore begin warning their children about the perils of drug use when they are 5 or 6 years old. Begin by teaching them the dangers of prescription medication: Warn them sternly to never take pills that are given to them by friends or strangers as this could lead to serious health consequences. Tell them to only accept medication from their parents or a doctor.
2. Support your child’s interests.
Drug use co-opts the natural “work and reward” cycle of the human brain because it provides an instant feeling of pleasure. This is why people who are unemployed or socially isolated tend to be more prone to addiction – they aren’t getting the affirmation they need to feel fulfilled, so they turn to the nearest chemical alternative.
Parents can use the above information to help protect their offspring from temptation: If your child is enjoying a healthy reward cycle, i.e., succeeding at something he’s passionate about, he will be less susceptible to drug use. You should therefore support your child’s hobbies and interests; encourage your child to do what he loves and remind him frequently that you’re proud of his achievements. The more involved you are in your child’s life, the better able you will be to protect him from negative outside influences.
3. Provide clear, calm, and consistent discipline at home.
Children have to learn early on that negative actions have consequences. If they don’t, they will be more likely to see drug use as something “harmless,” regardless of any warnings they are given by friends, teachers, etc. You are the most important authority figure in your child’s life, so it’s up to you to imbue your child with a healthy sense of boundaries.
4. Don’t hesitate to give your child a drug test if you suspect he or she
has a problem.
Generally, experts recommend that parents resist the temptation to search around their child’s room, go through his knapsack, etc., as this is a deep invasion of privacy. Your child may have personal diaries and various other items he wants to keep private in his room and that should be respected. You can, however, administer a simple drug test if you’re concerned. This will confirm or rule out your suspicions quickly and easily, without invading your teen’s “space.”
5. Familiarize yourself with the signs of drug addiction.
There is no one “type” of drug user. Some drug-addicted teens fit the rebellious archetype while others may be quiet loners or high-functioning students who manage to mask their problem. It’s therefore a good idea to familiarize yourself with the many different changes in behaviour that can imply drug addiction. Likewise, if your child is behaving strangely and you don’t know why, it’s always worthwhile to keep drug use in mind as a possible explanation.
6. Realize that addiction can happen in any family.
Addiction can strike anyone, regardless of their social, economic, religious, or cultural background. Many parents want to believe that their child could “never” fall victim to drugs, but this denial invariably does more harm than good. Remember that it can happen to your child, but he need not be alone in the process: If you’re aware that he’s struggling, you can help.
7. Remain vigilant for signs of bullying and abuse.
Children who have been bullied at school or abused by family friends or relatives have a higher risk of addiction. If your child seems frightened to go to school or be alone with a specific adult, take his or her fears seriously – it could be a sign that something dangerous is going on. Remember that bullies and abusers often threaten their victims into keeping the abuse a “secret,” so your child may hesitate to tell you about the abuse directly.
8. Work at building up your child’s self esteem.
Low self esteem and drug use are a lethal combination. Many under-confident children start using drugs to gain peer acceptance, only to end up feeling worse about themselves. The guilt and remorse that comes with hiding their drug use, lying about it, and stealing to support their habit further destroys their fragile self-image.
Healthy self esteem, on the other hand, has a protective effect against drug use. Confident children are less desperate for peer acceptance and have an easier time saying “no” to others.
9. Never use drugs with or around your children.
If your children see you using drugs, even legal or “soft” drugs like marijuana, they’re going to want to emulate your behaviour. As such, you should never do drugs in front of your children. Furthermore, it goes without saying that you should absolutely never do drugs with your children, not even if they’re in their late teens. (Remember that even marijuana can cause significant harm to the brains of those under 21 and its use should not be encouraged.)
As a final note, if you suspect that your child is using drugs, seek help from an addiction specialist or other mental health professional immediately. Never wait for the problem to get better on its own or assume your child is just going through a “phase.” Addiction is far more treatable if it’s caught in its early stages, so getting help quickly is of the essence.
No matter how well you think you’ve prepared yourself for parenting, moments will arise that stress you to your breaking point. You will inevitably react unfavourably at times and make mistakes. The good news is that this is usually nothing an apology, explanation, and change of course can’t fix. The bad news is that if these short-sighted responses begin to form a pattern, you could very easily fall into a damaging parenting “trap.” And, because habits become harder and harder to break the more we repeat them, these traps can prove very difficult to get out of. The solution? Recognize them and correct them early on. The following list of common parenting traps will help you to identify harmful patterns before they have a chance to become fully developed:
1. Teaching your child – or yourself – that escalation produces desirable results.
A child who learns that begging, whining, or throwing tantrums eventually gets him what he wants is a child who will behave badly repeatedly in order to get his own way. Most parents fall into the habit of caving to these demands because, at first, doing so feels like taking the path of least resistance. Think, for example, of how many parents will give in and buy a candy bar for their screaming child because it feels easier than enduring a lengthy public spectacle. Unfortunately, because the human mind instinctively repeats behaviour that leads to rewards, the next time your child wants something—big or small—he will use the same tactic. What’s worse, if at first he doesn’t succeed, he’s likely to up the ante and whine more or throw a bigger tantrum (or multiple tantrums) until he finally wears you down. It’s therefore better to stop this cycle before it can properly begin: Teach your child that “no” means “no,” period. Rather than giving in to your child’s bad behaviour, take a “time out” to calm down, think of an appropriate punishment, and then stick with it.
Understand that taking the aforementioned time out is important—otherwise, you may fall into an escalation trap yourself. Parents who learn that shouting is the only way to make their children listen to them seldom have a happy family life, for two reasons: One, feeling and displaying anger regularly is distressing. Two, children who get used to a parent yelling every time things are “serious” assume that they don’t have to obey commands spoken in a normal, calm voice. The end result of this is a dynamic wherein the parent has to yell just to be truly heard.
Instead of getting into a habit of raising your voice, when your child doesn’t listen to your first request, calmly tell him what the consequences will be if he doesn’t obey your second request. If he still doesn’t listen, follow through with the punishment. If he does listen, reward him with verbal recognition and praise.
2. Ignoring problematic behaviours in the hope that they will pass.
Small children are baffling creatures. Parents are often at a loss to explain why their toddler has, for example, begun randomly hitting other children on the playground. When the child fails to stop the troubling action after several reprimands, many parents shrug in bewilderment and assume their child is just going through a “phase.” He will, they hope, simply grow out of it. Not wanting to fuel the behaviour with any form of attention, they usually begin to ignore it.
While it’s true that yelling and other forms of “negative attention” are seldom helpful in these instances, giving up is just as ineffective. At best, your child will engage in these problematic behaviours for longer than he would have with proper discipline. At worst, they will form entrenched habits that become much, much harder to control as he gets older. The correct approach is to remain calm but set firm boundaries for your small child. If your child is hitting, for instance, get up and physically restrain him. If this does not curtail the behaviour, remove him from the playground and punish him at home. Do this as many times as it takes to make him stop hitting other children.
3. Taking your child’s behaviour personally.
As frustrating as children can be, they seldom behave in the ways they do for the express purpose of annoying or upsetting their parents. In fact, most children deeply dislike seeing their parents unhappy. Although it may be hard to believe at times, your child’s actions probably result from motivations that have little or nothing to do with you.
When your child behaves badly, she’s usually either testing boundaries (in order to learn about the world around her) or obeying her inherently selfish nature. Sometimes your child might be trying, in her own underdeveloped way, to address an emotional need. A child who is anxious about staying at a relative’s over the weekend, for example, may refuse to put on her shoes and throw a tantrum when you insist. While it might feel like she is trying to make you late “on purpose” and ruin your plans, in reality she is simply reacting to a feeling she isn’t able to vocalize properly.
Why is it so important to make this distinction about the intentions of a child who is behaving badly? Because the more “personal” you believe your child’s behaviour to be, the more likely you are to respond emotionally. If, on the other hand, you see your child’s actions as essentially separate from you, you will be better able to separate yourself from your reactions. Remember, while emotions have an important role to play in parent-child bonding, they have no place in your disciplinary strategy: Punishments should be logical and administered calmly and consistently. Likewise, you’ll need to be convincingly calm in order to reward a child who has suddenly started behaving properly with authentic praise.
Contrary to popular belief, children are not inherently manipulative, cruel, or difficult—just short-sighted, self-focused, and sometimes desperate. As a parent, it’s your job to model the opposite set of behaviours: Rationality, empathy, and self-control. By returning to these core principles on a regular basis, you can prevent harmful patterns from forming and successfully avoid common parenting traps.
Children today are growing up under immense pressure thanks to the competitive intensity of social media. Older children and teenagers especially spend a lot of time comparing their lives to the lives of others, inevitably deciding that other people have some intrinsic quality they lack. They see other young adults leading “perfect” lives and decide they’re not smart enough or outgoing enough to succeed.
Children therefore need to be taught that no one is born automatically predisposed to being successful. Success and happiness are a product of making the right choices: For example, the choice to take a risk and approach others in the pursuit of friendship, the choice to work hard and get good grades, the choice to keep trying even when challenges make our lives difficult, etc.
Underlying all of these choices is one guiding light: Courage. By teaching our children to be courageous, we arm them with the tools they need to survive and thrive.
8 Steps To Building Courage In Your Child
Parents and children alike need to understand that courage is a learned behaviour—not something you’re born with (or not born with, as the case may be). Courage can be taught, built upon, and expanded over the years until it becomes a habit. The secret lies in learning how to be courageous early on.
If you’d like to get started teaching your child how to master the art of bravery, try utilizing the eight strategies below:
1. Explain that brave people don’t always feel brave
inside. Children are incredibly literal creatures. As such, they assume that if
a person is acting courageously, he or she must not be feeling fearful. They
then assume that because they do feel fearful, they are not brave. This
perception subsequently shapes their behaviour and self-image. You can prevent
this from happening if you explain that brave people are frightened even while
they are being brave—they just choose to override their fears, and it’s this
choice which is really the essence of courage.
You should also explain that courage comes in many different forms, many of them non-aggressive. Being nice to an “uncool” classmate in front of other students, for example, is a form of courage.
2. Affirm your child’s bravery. Remind your child that you
see her as brave; this will encourage her to see herself that way and reflect
it in her actions. Try saying things like, “You can do it—I know how brave you
are,” and, “I really respect how you make hard choices and do the right thing”
to show your child how you see her.
Even when your child is being “difficult,” you should try to
work these affirmations in. If she is arguing with you, for example, say that,
“I love that you have the courage to express your own opinions, but you would
be a lot more effective if you didn’t shout and use insults.”
3. Give your child permission to “mess up.” Nothing breeds timidity like a fear of failure. By telling your child that it’s okay to fail you will help her rebound when she isn’t successful. Remind your child that every time you fail at something, you learn what doesn’t work. If you keep trying, eventually you will rule out everything that doesn’t work and find a successful approach to the problem at hand.
Additionally, you should never expect flawless bravery. Let
your child know that it’s fine to hang back or take time to regroup while
getting psychologically prepared to tackle a challenging situation.
4. Encourage your child to try new things. Prompt your child to try a range of different activities (e.g., drama, sports, music, art), whether she thinks she will be “good” at them or not. Teach her that the end goal of these activities isn’t to be better than others—it’s to get to know herself better. Note that this also applies to allowing your child to experiment with new ideas: Don’t limit her ideologically and allow her to disagree with you.
Make trying new things a regular part of your family life,
too. Try new foods, go to new places, and cultivate a sense of adventure.
5. Set a good example. Share stories of times when you felt
scared or nervous or had to stand up for yourself against others’ opinions.
Remember, your child looks up to you and wishes to emulate you—if she knows you
have had fears and conquered them, she will try to do the same.
6. Allow your child to make her own decisions. As long as your child’s safety isn’t at stake, you should let her use her intuition to guide her own choices. Indeed, you should actively encourage her to follow her “gut instincts.” Parents who are too heavy-handed with advice undermine their children’s confidence in their own decision-making capabilities. This causes them to hesitate more and be less courageous.
Instead of trying to over-protectively control your child’s choices, teach her how to make wiser decisions on her own. Tell her to examine her choices before she makes them, verifying that they will not break a rule, hurt her or someone else, and that they actually do feel “right.”
7. Teach your child the art of positive self-talk. The
things we tell ourselves shape how we see ourselves. If your child is continually
telling herself that she “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do the things she wants to do,
her self-esteem will eventually suffer for it. You should therefore tell your
child to make a habit of saying, “I can” and “I should” instead. Help her
practice saying these things to herself each day until it comes naturally to
her. Additionally, you should have a family gathering each week where each
family member shares something brave they did that week.
8. Help your child understand that it’s never too late to change an outcome. The path to success is seldom linear, so children—being short-term thinkers—tend to get discouraged quickly when an act of bravery does not immediately lead to victory. Likewise, if your child has a prior history of being unsuccessful in a given area (such as when making friends) she’s doubly likely to succumb to defeat if initial attempts to reverse the trend do not work. You have to guide your child into seeing that bravery is a process, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship. You have to teach her to repeatedly go back to the “drawing board” and think up new plans for how to succeed. Remind her that no matter what, you have faith she will get there in time.
Remember, courage is about consciously directing our lives in a way that is true to ourselves—not grand, periodic gestures of heroism. Every day, your child is fighting the monsters of self-doubt, peer pressure, fear, and anxiety. Let her know that you’re there for her and that, with your support, there’s nothing she can’t accomplish.
Though the human brain is incredibly complex, until recent years, the popular perception of intelligence was strikingly simple—and antiquated. Indeed, both standard IQ tests and SAT tests are still based largely on the work of Alfred Binet, a French psychologist who developed the first “intelligence test” in the year 1900.
Though Binet’s work was useful during its time, modern researchers like Howard Gardner (author of Frames of Mind) feel that it’s inadequate to measure the sheer diversity of human capabilities. While modern IQ and SAT tests assess only two types of intelligence, verbal and mathematical (visual-perceptual), Gardner believes that there are actually seven distinct areas of aptitude. His theory is referred to as the Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory.
MI theory also states that while each of us has a “dominant” intelligence, we contain all seven intelligences to varying degrees. MI theory leaves room for growth, too, suggesting that we can elect to improve our ability in any of the seven areas at any time. Furthermore, Gardner has stated that he sees all of the following seven intelligences as being inherently equal.
1. Bodily-kinesthetic: People with this form of “physical intelligence” use their bodies to convey ideas and feelings. Actors, athletes, and dancers are all excellent examples of people with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
How to detect bodily-kinesthetic intelligence in your child:
Does your child love physical activity and have a hard time sitting still? Does
he or she love tactile pursuits and learn best by touching and handling things?
Does your child “talk with her hands” and/or enjoy hobbies like finger-painting
and model-building? Does she spend most of her free time outdoors and seem
unusually coordinated for her age?
2. Interpersonal: People with strong interpersonal (or emotional) intelligence are excellent at interpreting the needs and feelings of others. They typically make excellent teachers, therapists, charity workers, and salespeople.
How to detect interpersonal intelligence in your child: Does
your child love to socialize with others? Does he or she empathize easily with
the emotions of friends and appear to give them advice regularly? Does your
child enjoy mentoring others or joining organizations? Does he or she seem like
the “leader” in social situations or someone other children naturally gravitate
3. Intrapersonal: People with well-developed intrapersonal intelligence are highly introspective and use their self-knowledge to generate broad wisdom. They make skilled scholars and philosophers.
How to detect intrapersonal intelligence in your child: Does
your child seem highly independent by nature? Does he appear to be “wise beyond
his years,” with an unusually keen sense of his strengths and weaknesses? Does
he work better alone? Does he cultivate unique ideas that do not reflect the
trends embraced by his friends? Is he adept at expressing his thoughts and
4. Linguistic: People with linguistic intelligence are gifted at using words effectively (either spoken or written). Writers, politicians, comedians, and public speakers all have linguistic intelligence.
How to determine if your child has linguistic intelligence:
Does your child write very well for his or her age? Does she enjoy telling stories
and have an easy time memorizing them (as well as names, places, and dates)? Is
she a real “bookworm”? Does she have a love for word games and demonstrate a
very well-developed vocabulary? Does she have a knack for putting her thoughts
5. Logical-Mathematical: People with logical-mathematical intelligence both work very well with numbers and have advanced reasoning skills. They make excellent mathematicians, accountants, scientists, and IT professionals.
How to detect logical-mathematical intelligence in your
child: Does your child seem very interested in figuring out how things work?
Does he or she enjoy math or science? Does she like number games, computer
games, brain teasers, puzzles, and strategy games? Does your child seek out
opportunities to do independent research, e.g., she often asks to go to
6. Musical: People with musical intelligence have an innate ability to work with sound, understanding its nuances and using it to express feelings and ideas. Those with musical intelligence may work as musicians, music critics, composers, or performers.
How to detect musical intelligence in your child: While most
children love music, if your child easily picks up songs “by ear,” can
recognize off-key music, and seems to have a natural gift for singing or
playing an instrument, it’s likely that he has musical intelligence.
Furthermore, he will probably have a strong emotional response to music and
demonstrate a general sensitivity to noise.
7. Spatial: People with strong spatial intelligence excel at working with visual-spatial information. They can, for example, often manipulate three-dimensional objects in their minds and vividly recall images they have seen. People with this form of intelligence can be found in a wide variety of fields that appear to have little in common at first glance. They may work as hunters, engineers, sailors, inventors, architects, or artists, among other careers.
How to detect spatial intelligence in your child: Does your
child have an excellent visual memory? Does he or she have a knack for reading
maps and understanding charts? Do his teachers report that he “daydreams” a lot
in class? Does he enjoy the visual arts, even to the point of doodling
obsessively on available surfaces? Does he seem to learn better with visual
In addition to the seven types above, some experts have
posited that an eighth type of intelligence also exists:
8. Naturalist Intelligence: People with naturalist intelligence are inherently in tune with the natural world. They have an innate understanding of natural phenomena and/or animal or plant behaviour. They may find work as botanists, ecologists, biologists, or veterinarians.
How to detect naturalist intelligence in your child: Does
your child love having pets and/or being out in nature? Does she love the zoo,
nature reserves, the beach, or natural history museums? Does she express a
desire to help preserve the natural environment?
Nurturing Your Child’s Unique Intelligence
Unless your child has a linguistic or mathematical intelligence, it’s probable that his or her learning style will not be fully appreciated or nurtured at school. You should therefore speak to your child’s educators about finding ways (either in the classroom or in the form of extracurricular activities) to encourage your child to exercise his or her unique strengths. You can also make the home environment an enriched learning environment by researching more about your child’s intelligence and how to develop it fully.
Author: Rachel Cohen
This is a guest post by Toronto psychotherapist Rachel Cohen. Rachel is very knowledgeable in giftedness, after completing her Master’s Degree in Psychology at the University of Nevada, she worked for 3 years at the Davidson Academy for Gifted Children. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachiieCohen
At some point, every parent has to deal with disrespectful behaviour from his or her child. Whether it’s something as minor as ignoring your requests or as upsetting as a string of curses and insults, your child will sometimes express himself in unproductive ways. When this happens, first and foremost you must understand that you’re not alone and your child’s behaviour is not your fault. Furthermore, know that with the right approach, disrespectful behaviour can usually be corrected.
While defiance is unpleasant, it’s usually not a cause for alarm: Your child is probably just trying to work through feelings of frustration and powerlessness. As children grow older, they often feel confined by rules and expectations. They desire more autonomy but they’re not sure how to get it; as such, they act out as a means of asserting control over the situation. If your child doesn’t want to do his homework, for example, he might try to draw you into a lengthy argument. If he succeeds, he’ll be getting his own way (albeit temporarily): You’ll both be so busy arguing about his attitude that his homework will become an afterthought.
However, while it’s important to recognize and facilitate your child’s need for independence, you should never condone or encourage hurtful, rude behaviour. The key to managing a disrespectful child lies in allowing him a healthy measure of autonomy while simultaneously curbing inappropriate methods of self-expression. The five tips below should help you strike such a balance:
1. Don’t take your child’s behaviour personally.
The more you internalize your child’s words and actions, the more likely you will be to overreact. This both escalates the situation and encourages your child to keep behaving disrespectfully. After all, by showing your child that he can get a rise out of you, you’re proving to him that his techniques are effective.
Instead, most experts recommend that you let the “little things” (such as sighs and eye rolls followed by obedience) slide altogether. Furthermore, you should objectively analyze which of your child’s disrespectful behaviours are really disruptive. Focus on correcting these behaviours through the use of calm, consistent discipline.
2. Model respectful behaviour for your child.
Where do kids get the idea that acting in a disrespectful way solves problems? Usually by observing someone they respect using similar methods to handle their annoyance and upset. One of the best ways you can curb disrespectful behaviour is therefore to demonstrate healthy anger management strategies. Avoid speaking badly about others behind their backs and be polite and courteous in front of your children even when you’re dealing with a difficult person.
3. Don’t give your child “permission” to be disrespectful.
Although no parent intends to encourage their child to be disrespectful, some do unwittingly condone this behaviour—until it’s aimed in their direction. Think, for example, of the following situation: Your child is being given a truly burdensome amount of homework by one of his teachers. Naturally, you sympathize with his plight. So, when he starts complaining about how unfair his teacher is, calling her names and otherwise making a fuss about her, you agree with him (at least in part). What message do you think your child will receive if you do this? He’ll understand that it’s acceptable and even helpful to treat someone disrespectfully when you don’t agree with him or her.
A better way to handle these kind of situations is to, as a first step, empathize with your child. Validate his feelings, e.g. by saying, “I understand that you’re feeling tired and frustrated right now; that’s okay.” Once you have done this, remind him that while his feelings are acceptable, being rude is not. Discuss respectful ways you and your child might handle the situation, such as by going and having a polite discussion with the teacher about her homework policies.
4. Remind your child of the good he does.
Many parents who are dealing with an especially defiant child try to rectify the situation by becoming increasingly strict. In doing so, they forget how important positive feedback is to guiding and correcting behaviour: Your child has to know what he’s doing right or he’ll have no positive behavioural goals to aim for. Furthermore, constant criticism will make your child resentful of you.
When your child does make an effort to obey you, reward him with praise. Likewise, you should proactively look for good things your child is doing. If your child doesn’t lose his temper when dealing with a moody sibling, for example, tell him that you noticed his act of self-restraint and are proud of him.
5. Don’t try to force your child to respect you.
As tempting as it is to assert yourself by saying, “I’m the parent, so you have to respect me!” demanding respect from your child is likely to backfire. Why? It’s simply impossible to make someone respect you, so you’re setting yourself up for failure when you make these ultimatums.
Rather than trying to control how your child feels about you, keep the focus on his behaviour. Remind him that while he may not like a rule, he has to comply with it, and calling you names won’t change that. Emphasize the fact that rudeness is wrong, no matter how one is feeling.
What To Do If Disrespectful Behaviour Intensifies
The five strategies above should be sufficient to curb, or at least manage, most cases of mild to moderate disrespectful behaviour. In some rare cases, however, a child’s defiant behaviour may continue to worsen. If this happens to you, it’s important to recognize that your child’s persistent, severe acting out may be symptomatic of a deeper issue (such as a Conduct Disorder). Seek support from other parents and the assistance of a mental health professional in the event that your child’s behaviour becomes truly unmanageable. With the correct treatment, your child should be able to stabilize and overcome his issues with authority.
For many parents, having a child who seems unusually introverted is a relief. There’s little need to worry about him sneaking off to parties, staying out past his curfew socializing, or getting into many other common forms of mischief. A quiet child is, according to conventional wisdom, a “good” child. If you’re the parent of a gifted kid, however, it’s worthwhile to take a second look at your child’s low-key social life. Not all bright children naturally wish to avoid their peers; for many gifted kids, fitting in is a struggle—one that can leave them feeling isolated and vulnerable.
A failure to fit in is more than just uncomfortable for gifted children who want to make friends. As these sensitive children get older, they often develop a low self-esteem as a result of their social isolation, and this can lead to a number of problems. Their lack of confidence holds them back where they might otherwise succeed, for one. Some children even go so far as to reject their giftedness and intentionally under-perform in an attempt to blend in with their peers. And of course, like all children who struggle with feelings of rejection and unworthiness, socially isolated gifted kids are more likely to go to great lengths to impress their peers and “fit in.” They may become more susceptible to drug use and risk-taking behaviour in their desperation to find an accepting niche. Alternately, some kids completely withdraw from their peers and sink into depression.
Evidently, it’s important to differentiate between children who are naturally (and happily) introverted and those who crave social interaction but have trouble relating to others. Generally, intrinsically introverted kids express a strong need to be alone in order to recharge from a very young age. If your child has always liked to sit by himself and immerse himself in his hobbies and creative pursuits, he’s most likely content on his own. Similarly, if your child seems to prefer hanging out with just one or two like-minded friends rather than large groups, he’s probably just exhibiting typical gifted traits. Some gifted kids strongly gravitate towards other bright children and dislike trying to conform to mainstream social expectations… And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Spending time alone becomes problematic when it’s extremely excessive (as in, your child seldom spends time with anyone, even close family members) or uncharacteristic. If, for example, your child was fairly sociable in grade school but has turned into a “loner” almost overnight after entering middle school, there’s probably something amiss. Additionally, any time social withdrawal is accompanied by a loss of interest in hobbies, general apathy, anxiety, or other signs of distress, parents need to stop and take the situation seriously. Furthermore, if your child starts to show signs of disordered eating, substance abuse, depression, or other self-destructive tendencies, you should seek out professional assistance immediately. Never assume these behaviours are just part of a “phase.”
Other risk factors for unhealthy social isolation include social anxiety, bullying, incidents of trauma, or complicating conditions like autism or asynchronous development. If your child is dealing with one or more of these issues, you should remain vigilant for signs of social problems throughout his development.
Finally, remember that online relationships are not an acceptable substitute for “real time” friendships. If your teen is unhealthily obsessed with the internet and forms connections only via online games, messaging services, etc., he’s probably using the internet to address his unmet social needs. Because internet culture tends to be more fickle and unforgiving than in-person socialization, this reliance can dramatically backfire. Parents should therefore attempt to limit their teen’s “screen time” to something reasonable and encourage interpersonal bonding instead.
How To Help Your Socially Isolated Teen
If your teen seems socially isolated, it’s important to intervene quickly. The more time your teen spends feeling rejected and unworthy of his peers, the lower his self-esteem will become.
The best way to begin helping your socially isolated child is to talk to him. Ask him how he feels about his social life, and if he expresses dissatisfaction with his ability to make friends, inquire about what’s creating the difficulty. It may be something temporary, like a falling out with his old friends, that you can help him resolve. Alternately, if he’s having problems with bullying in particular classes, it may be possible to drop or change those classes. Finally, if a lack of like-minded peers seems to be the issue, accessing local or school-based groups for gifted children can help your child connect with others who are on his “level.”
If the above steps don’t work, you should probably enlist outside aid in the form of a school counselor or therapist. Your child might have mental health concerns or undiagnosed developmental issues that are crippling him socially. It’s also possible that he’s holding back when discussing his social struggles with you. Many teens are not comfortable talking to a parent about the issues they’re having with their peers. This isn’t necessarily because they’re secretive; many teens just want to protect their parents from distressing subject matter. It’s easier for them to open up to an objective third party because they’re not afraid of hurting him or her.
With timely intervention, social isolation can often be resolved before it leads to further issues. It’s important that your child knows a healthy social life—whether it’s large and bustling or close and connected—is more than possible for gifted children. Knowing and experiencing this will help your teen embrace and accept not only other people, but himself as well.
Many of the most rewarding things in life come with their fair share of challenges, and relationships are no different. Every couple experiences ups and downs, whether they’re driven by adverse events, differing values, or periods of poor communication. However, it can be difficult to put these challenges into perspective and assess the overall health of a relationship: How do you know if you and your partner are experiencing normal conflict, or if there are deeper issues present that threaten the longevity of your union? Could you benefit from relationship counselling, or do you have the tools you need to overcome obstacles on your own?
Though the definition of a healthy relationship is subject to individual interpretation, there are general guidelines that can help you differentiate normal conflict from a serious problem. The ten traits outlined below are strong indicators that your relationship is solid and mutually nourishing:
1. You feel heard and understood by your partner, even when you don’t agree
No two people will agree on everything. Sometimes, different tastes, preferences, and problem solving methods can lead to heated debates that aren’t resolved easily—and that’s okay. While compromise should always be your ultimate goal (especially when you and your partner are navigating important issues), how you feel during disagreements is more relevant to the overall health of your relationship. Do you feel like your partner truly listens to what you have to say? Does he or she respect your point of view, even when he or she doesn’t share your stance? Ideally, you should walk away from conflict feeling loved and valued, even if you’re frustrated at the same time. If, on the other hand, arguments regularly make you feel invalidated (or worse, belittled), then you almost certainly need outside assistance to learn new ways to communicate.
2. You’re not facing any insurmountable hurdles
Some problems are too big to be handled alone, no matter how hard both partners try to make things work. If serious issues—like addiction, abuse, or adultery—are present in your relationship, then you should absolutely seek help from a mental health professional.
3. You’re growing together, not apart
Successful couples learn from the challenges they face together and apply what they learn to their relationship. If you and your partner have used conflict and adversity to learn how to communicate better and work together as a team, then you’ve proven you have the ability to grow together. By contrast, if you feel like you constantly run into the same issues (only to reach an unhappy stalemate) then you probably need to seek objective moderation.
4. You can work together to manage financial matters
Though many people want to believe that love and money exist in wholly separate realms, this is seldom the case in serious long-term relationships. Financial problems are the leading cause of divorce and marital disharmony, so getting on a firm financial footing is one of the best ways to ensure a lasting, happy relationship. If you and your partner are living within your means, agree on a saving strategy, and have a realistic long-term financial plan, then you’re on the right track. If you feel like you can’t trust your partner with money (or your partner doesn’t agree with your spending habits), then you should seek help.
5. You and your partner trust one another
Without trust, love can’t thrive. The cornerstone of any healthy relationship is the knowledge that your partner has your best interests at heart, keeps your secrets, and is honest with you—even when telling the truth is difficult. You should feel confident that you can tell your partner anything and be met with empathy.
6. Your relationship has healthy boundaries around it
Relationships, like individual people, need boundaries. Friends, relatives, and other outside parties shouldn’t be allowed to unduly influence what you and your partner do or how you both feel. While it’s okay to get feedback from others when you’re having a hard time compromising with your partner, no one outside the relationship should be integral to your mutual decision-making process.
7. You and your partner hold one another in high regard
Mutual respect is as important to the health of your relationship as mutual trust. You and your partner should see one another as being fundamentally competent, valuable, and insightful.
8. Your intimate life is satisfying
Every couple has their own definition of what constitutes a satisfying intimate life. How often you have sex with your partner is less important than how fulfilled you both feel by your sexual relationship. If either partner is experiencing prolonged sexual frustration, then it’s important to seek counselling before feelings of resentment develop.
9. You can see a bright future for your relationship
Do you feel like your relationship is headed in the right direction? If your overall feeling about your future with your partner is one of hope and optimism, then it’s likely that you have any problems you’re facing under control.
10. You and your partner are grateful for one another
Strong mutual appreciation and low levels of resentment are both indicators that your relationship is a nourishing, productive union. It’s important not to start to take your partner for granted as your relationship progresses: Be grateful for the little things he or she does and remember that you both need to put in effort to make things “work,” whether you’ve been together for one year or twenty years.
A relationship that doesn’t match all ten of the criteria above isn’t doomed to failure. On the contrary, the vast majority of couples require counselling at some point during their lives, and in some cases, even serious hurdles can be overcome through therapy. As is the case with most of life’s problems, early intervention is the best way to stop relationship issues from becoming worse. Seeking help before feelings of bitterness or anger become entrenched will allow your relationship to evolve and thrive over the years to come.
Author: Joe Accardi
This is a guest post by Toronto psychotherapist Dr. Joe Accardi. Joe practices couples and marriage therapy in his private practice in downtown Toronto. Dr. Accardi is an expert in different treatment modalities incl. Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), Psychodynamic Therapy, and Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT). You can visit his website at consultinghealth.com and follow him on Twitter at @JoeAccardi
Article reviewed by Dr. Tali Shenfield on Dec 21, 2018
Along with growth spurts, acne, and a strong yearning for independence, adolescence often brings on bouts of depression. For parents, this situation is often doubly worrying: Not only are they concerned about their child’s mental health for what may be the first time, they’re frequently confronted with feelings of helplessness. Their child has, after all, reached the age where he (or she) cannot simply be “rescued” from whatever is frightening or troubling him.
If you find yourself in the aforementioned situation, the first thing you’ll need to understand is that a balanced approach is key to success. You shouldn’t attempt to minimize your concerns (or your teen’s) by assuming that depression is simply a “phase” he’ll grow out of. Conversely, however, neither should you attack the situation too aggressively and force help on your teen before he’s ready (assuming that he’s not a danger to himself, of course). Your role as a parent should be a supportive one: You should monitor your teen’s condition closely (while remaining as respectful of his boundaries as possible), empathize with his struggles, provide positive reinforcement, and make sure help is available should your teen want or need it.
Recognizing The Signs Of Depression
In order to support your teen, you will need to learn to recognize the signs of depression. These include:
– A prolonged period of sadness and/or irritability. If your child appears to be upset or unusually withdrawn more often than not for two weeks (or longer), you should begin to suspect depression.
– A loss of interest in previously engaging hobbies and activities.
– Sustained changes in eating or sleeping habits.
– A persistent lack of energy and motivation (this often includes a decline in academic performance).
– Feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness. (If your teen reports also feeling suicidal, seek help from a mental health professional immediately.)
If your child experiences more than one of the symptoms above for a period of weeks or months, professional help is strongly recommended.
3 Steps You Can Take To Help Your Depressed Teen
In addition to seeking professional help, there’s a lot you can do to support your teen at home. Though depression is challenging, as a parent, you are never truly powerless to help your child. Teenagers need love, compassion, and guidance just as much as younger children do—they simply require a more nuanced approach. You can develop such an approach using the techniques described below:
1. Be empathetic and compassionately curious
Dealing with a depressed teen can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that your moody, irritable teen is simply in pain. Rather than reacting defensively when he’s being difficult, try to put yourself in his position and understand what he’s feeling. Ask him to elaborate on what is troubling him and don’t rush to give advice—put the emphasis on listening instead. Be aware that your sensitive teen is likely to intuit advice as a form of criticism unless it’s delivered compassionately, carefully, and on request.
If your teen feels as though you are actively trying to “fix” him, he’s going to assume that you see him as broken. If you accept him, on the other hand, and listen without judgment, he will almost certainly come to view you as an ally.
2. Recognize what your teen is doing right
Worried parents all too often fall into the habit of pointing out what their depressed teen isn’t doing (hanging out with friends, enjoying hobbies, etc.) in an attempt to prompt him to engage in these activities. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned attempts to motivate your teen are likely to backfire. If your teen is constantly being reminded of his “failures,” he will of course only feel worse about himself.
Instead of falling into the above habit, try pointing out what your teen is doing. Praise him for the “little things” he does, such as going to school each day or doing his chores. While you shouldn’t completely exempt your depressed teen from constructive criticism, it’s important to make sure that your positive remarks outweigh the negative. Your teen needs to know that no matter what, you love him and are proud of him.
3. Be there for your teen, but don’t push him to open up
Adolescents both crave independence and dislike exhibiting vulnerability. This is a perfectly normal part of their development, so try not to take it personally if your teen rebuffs your offers to talk about what he’s feeling. Remain calm and say something like, “I understand that you’re going through a difficult time right now and may not be ready to talk about it. When you are, I’ll be here.”
When your teen does start to open up to you, remember to ask him if he has any ideas about what might help him. Likewise, you should permit him to choose his own therapist when the time comes. This will allow him to retain a sense of control over the situation. Finally, discuss the different types of therapy available (e.g., interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and behavioral activation therapy) and ask him what he thinks of each option. Listen to your teen’s input if, as his therapy progresses, he feels that the process needs to be adjusted. Remember: If your teen is not committed to therapy, it’s unlikely to be effective.
There’s no debating the fact that caring for a depressed teen is difficult. In addition to dealing with your teen’s mood swings and your own worries, you may be faced with tough choices, such as whether or not to medicate your teen. As you join your child on the long journey back to wellness, make sure to take care of yourself, too. Just as small children internalize their parents’ unhappiness, if your teen senses you are overwhelmed due to him, he’s likely to feel guilty and try to mask his symptoms. By accessing support for yourself as well as your teen, you can maintain a healthy, balanced home—exactly the kind of environment your teen needs.