Monday, December 21, 2015

Where have all the perfect people gone?

Like most children, when I was a young girl, I thought that many people were perfect.  I went to church and assumed all the adults there were perfect because, well, they were adults.  My parents were perfect, and they were adults; so it stood to reason that all adults were perfect right?  As I got older, I understood more and more how imperfect people really are.... yet I didn't entirely let go of my assumptions that there were a lot of seemingly perfect people (particularly at church).  Yet, my perspective shifted and, instead of assuming adults were perfect and knew everything, I felt like they were perfect and knew nothing.  They were naive and closed-minded... and in my judgments, they were judgmental.  It took nearly a decade for me to realize how hypocritical it was for me to judge them for being judgmental. Ha! Imagine the insanity of it all!

And yet.....

I still, like many adults, make this error today.  I gasp when I find out the ward-Molly-Mormon-Saints have been divorced.  I am appalled when I learn that the overbearing uptight father of teenage girls used to have a pornography problem.  I'm disheartened to learn that the mother I look up to most YELLS AT HER KIDS.. just like me! How could they? How could he? How could she?

Isn't it funny? That I allow myself to be any level of broken and in need of repair, but that I don't allow others THE SAME LUXURY? I love this quote by Elder Uchtdorf I have heard oft repeated.

It's so true!!! We ALL need repair! We ALL need help!

I have been overwhelmed with responses to our book. It has been truly humbling in ways that words simply cannot convey. But one theme I have heard repeatedly is "Thank-you for being willing to expose your brokenness! Thank-you for teaching me about the atonement and unconditional love!" I've heard it countless times in these past few months.

I've also heard things like, "I wish others could be more real, more authentic, more honest!" These types of statements make me worry that, like me, others have the misconception that people are either perfect and not allowed to make mistakes or, (worse!) pretend to be perfect while slinging mud at others.  It's taken me a long time (of course I have not arrived... I'm certain I will be guilty of this again) to discover that both perceptions are erroneous. Neither is true and both are harmful.  People are ALLOWED to be broken even if they look like they aren't.  There is no such thing as a perfect person in this life, (unless you're hanging with JESUS... HE'S PERFECT!), and it isn't fair to hold others (or OURSELVES) to unrealistic standards! People are ALLOWED to hide their brokenness if they feel afraid or aren't ready to show their failings.  That doesn't mean they're judging me or others who are more public with their weaknesses. On the contrary, I find people are so consumed with their own trials that they rarely even notice others.  More often than not, when I have felt judged or been confided in by others about their feelings of being judged, I have had intimate knowledge that indicates the person or people being accused of judging, are fighting demons unknown to the accusers.  Most often, they could use support, assistance, and love. Instead, they are receiving the cold shoulder, or unkind words spoken about them because of perceived slights and false accusations.

I recently heard a young woman say that she didn't want to go to church because "everybody there judges" her! Ironically, I'm fairly certain 90% of my ward does not know who she is!

I heard another older women say that she was so sick of people like [so and so] who sit on their high horse looking down their noses at everybody else.  Ironically, I know [so and so] and her very real, very hard trial with depression and self-doubt.

So why is this so difficult for us to understand? Why is it such a challenge to feel accepted in our brokenness? To allow others to be broken and in need of repair? To allow others to put their best face forward and shield themselves and their families from public scrutiny? And how can we collectively put a stop to it?

Uchdtorf has another oft quoted, very important sermon:  Stop it!

Love more! Have more compassion! Stop judging!!! (And that includes all you people like me who are judging people for judging!!!) Give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt.  Give YOURSELF the benefit of the doubt.  Others' accomplishments do not diminish us.... please, let's stop letting their weaknesses diminish us!

Stop looking for perfect people and, instead, seek to BE the PERFECT person all the while knowing that YOU WILL FALL SHORT, and THAT IS OKAY!!!! Because Christ descended below all of us so that we could return to him DESPITE our imperfections. That is the real gift. The real perfection.  The real reason that we pick ourselves up with our big-girl/boy pants and go to church WITHOUT judgment, and form friendships WITHOUT accusations, and love WITHOUT conditions!

It has been years since I've felt judged by others. I just wrote a book giving all who read it about a million reasons to SEVERELY JUDGE ME! But guess what? They AREN'T! And the AREN'T judging you either! The sooner we can all decide that no one is judging us and instead offer our support and love and friendship to those we would condemn, the sooner we can all get a little closer to that perfection we seek.

xoxo Lenaya

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Parent Child Interaction Therapy

One of my favorite expressions is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  There are several things that we as parents can do to safeguard our children from addiction.  This is my third in a few posts intended to share some of the ideas that I use in my work with children and adolescents as well as their parents.

A couple of days ago, I engaged in a power struggle with my grumpy 5-year old.  The intensity increased until I had steam coming out of my ears.  Luckily, for both of us, I dropped her off at her babysitter's house a few hours later and went to work.  One of my clients is rethinknig pursuing a teaching degree, because he can't even handle his own children half the time.  I shared with him about my power struggle that morning and reminded him that our own children can be much more difficult.  He may not need to switch majors just yet.

Image result for PCIT

Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based therapy for children ages 2-7.  Four of the principles help to build a strong foundation that set the stage for parents to give direction.  Simply put, we make many deposits in their emotional bank accounts, so when we make demands, their account isn't overdrawn.  When I remember to use the principles with my daughter and all my kids, I notice that life goes much more smoothly:

1.  Praise:  Often when we interact with our kids we could find ten things to correct or criticize and one thing to praise.  Positive reinforcement is much more powerful at changing behavior then criticism.  Ironically, when we criticize children for a negative behavior rather then decreasing the behavior, it tends to increase.  If we consistently praise the one good thing and ignore the other 10, we encourage positive behavior.  On a good day I try to praise each child in 10 different ways.  (On a bad day, I try not to kill them).  Today I was talking to my friend with my 5 year-old nearby and intentionally praised how well my daughter helps clean the house.  That same daughter started to beam and wanted to go wash the dishes when we got home as a direct result of the praise.

2.  Reflect:  Reflect is similar to praise and describe, but it refers to their speech.  We reflect their appropriate speech and validate the things they are saying.

3.  Imitate:  For young children, this is actually copying their movements and sounds or words they make in a playful way.  It can be more subtle like mimicking their posture or stance and voice inflection.  Young children notice when others imitate and are validated by it.

4.  Describe: With young children describing can simply be stating what they are doing.  We all like to be noticedWhen we merely state what they are doing without assigning a positive or negative value to what they are doing, children feel better without pressure to perform a certain way.  For example, "You put the red block on top of the table."  "Now you are crashing it down to the floor."  With older children, it may sound like this:  "You are stressed that you have a lot of homework today."  Describing what they are doing shows that you notice them and care.

Image result for PCIT