Dealing with parental anxiety

March 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Worry, anxiety, headaches and misbehaving kids. Alternative non-medical treatments you can do at home to help you find relief!

Dr. Mark Steinberg has worked with children, adolescents, and adults for over 33 years. He is a licensed psychologist and educational psychologist who remediates and heals attentional, behavioral, emotional, and learning difficulties.

For more information or to contact Dr. Steinberg go to

Behavior Modification Tips

Be specifically prepared for the child's avoidance, distractions, and excuses - key tips

You know your child's typical moves. Make a list of these. When your child displays one of these, calmly show him the list and ask his help in checking off which excuse or avoidance this one is. Reward him for cooperating with the checkoff process. (The helps to establish a working cooperation, even if it begins by agreeing about excuses.)

Do not argue with your child. Be calm (you should work on this ahead of time), and remind him of the rules, agreements, and consequences.

Using a baseline of his avoidance or distractions, reward him for doing less of this each time. (For example, if your child gets distracted or gets up from his work five times during a homework session, reward him for lowering that to four, etc.)

Focus your child on sitting down on time at a designated place and staying there for the specified homework time (planned ahead by agreement). Do not attend to complaints, whining, etc.

Remind him of the basic agreement you made with him about homework (again this takes some planning and advanced legwork) and hold him accountable by consequences.

Turn frustrating encounters into successful outcomes - key tips

Define small successes along the battlefront. If your child hates sitting down to homework, try rewarding just showing up at the table with materials. That could be a major start for a few days.

Challenge your child to make an agreement with you that homework will produce no yelling or tears, regardless of the work that gets done. This is a basis for emotional bonding, support, and cooperation.

Figure out how long your child can go before becoming frustrated or avoiding (this may be only a few minutes at first) and reward him for time-on-task before that point. For example, if your child has a 50% probability of sustaining attention for 10 minutes, but has an 80% probability of sustaining attention for 3 minutes, plan the initial reward at 2 minutes. Thus, you build upon and extend his entering behavior.

Bargain with your child to increase the value of your help. For example, if your child can't solve a problem and needs your help, or if he complains, "That's not the way the teacher showed us," make a deal with him that exchanges your help for his respect and follow-through. Try the "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" approach on a very small scale when your child itches for your help.

Teach consequences, not subject matter - key tips

Unless you are homeschooling, your job is not to teach subject matter. Your job is to monitor and supervise your child's increasing skills, habits, and independence regarding assigned work. Give your child a helpful hint, a word of encouragement, and then walk away.

Have a clear plan of consequences for all potential homework outcomes. For example, "If all your work is completed on time, you get this. If the work is not done, you don't get this. For each time I help you, it costs you this."

Recognize that (incredibly) the difficult child gains substantial reward by observing your frustration. Also, reminders and nagging quickly become cues to signal when you really mean it (e.g. you really have to to it the fifth time I raise my voice). Cut out these unproductive reinforcers.

Allow consequences the time and cumulative power to exert their effects. Your child needs to learn consequences through his experience, not through words and threats.

You can also apply these strategies to household chores and other responsibilities.

Self-help Through TFT Tapping (How to Eliminate Anxiety and Negative Emotions)

By performing tapping sequences on yourself while thinking about your anxiety or negative emotion, you can feel better very quickly. Often, you can eliminate the bad feeling in minutes.

Use two fingers on either hand to tap; you can tap on either side of your body. Generally, you should tap each point eight times (except for the gamut spot, as described below).

1. Rate your anxiety or negative emotion.
It is important to rate the degree of your urge on a 10-point scale in order to guide the treatments. Write down the number from 1 (no urge at all) to 10 (the urge is as high as it can get) that best expresses the degree of your distress right now, at this very moment.

2. Treat the anxiety or negative emotion.
Throughout the treatment, you should think of your problem.
a) Tap on the outside of your hand (where you would do a karate chop).
b) Take the first two fingers of either hand and tap underneath one of your eyes. Tap solidly and firmly, but do not hurt yourself.
c) Now, tap (8 times) the collar bone point (this is the soft area approximately 2 inches below your collarbone and about 3 inches from the center, on either side.
d) Next, tap under one of the arms at the top rib
e) Then, tap the collar bone point again.

3. Do the 9-gamut treatment sequence.
The 9-gamut treatment will result in your negative emotion being reduced even further. Continue to think of your distress and tap solidly (with two fingers) the gamut spot on the back of your hand (this is the soft area between the tendons about 3/4 inch above the knuckles on the ring finger and the tiny finger on the back of your hand). It doesn't matter which hand you use, but many like to tap with the dominant hand on the back of the non-dominant hand. Keep your head straight with your nose pointed ahead while you do the 9-gamut. Tap about eight times for each one of the nine gamut positions while you continue to think of your negative emotion throughout the whole series: Tap gamut spot on back of hand, keep your ahead straight with nose pointed ahead and ...

a) close your eyes
b) open your eyes
c) point your eyes way down and way over to the right
d) point your eyes way down and way over to the left
e) whirl your eyes around in a circle
f) whirl your eyes around in the opposite direction
g) hum any tune - more than just one note (for about five seconds)
h) count aloud to 5
i) hum again (it is important to repeat this)

Now, repeat the tapping under the eyes, collar bone point, under arm and collar bone point, while you think of any negative emotion.

4. After you have completed one sequence, rate your anxiety or negative emotion again. If it is not completely gone, tap on the side of your hand and repeat the procedure. If you need further help, call Dr. Steinberg at (408) 356-1002