Guest: Dr. Laurie Hollman
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy. She has been on the faculties of New York University and the Society for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, among others. She has written extensively on parenting for various publications, including the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation, The Inner World of the Mother, Newsday’s Parents & Children Magazine, Long Island Parent. Her new book is Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior.
Segment overview: Dr. Laurie Hollman, PhD, a parenting expert, shares an example of a parent carrying out the five steps of Parental Intelligence where the misbehavior vanished and underlying problems emerged to be solved.
Health Professional Radio – 5 Steps to Parental Intelligence
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us. As parents, we often wonder why the kids do what they do. What’s going on in our children’s minds? And as parents we want to get into their inner world and find out exactly what makes them tick thereby making us better parents. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Laurie Hollman a Psychoanalyst with a specialized clinical training in infant, parent, child, adolescent and adults’ psychotherapy with more than 30 years’ experience, her brand new book entitled Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. Welcome to Health Professional Radio Dr. Hollman.
Dr. Laurie Hollman: Thank you so much for having me.
N: Thank you. You’ve been with us before in other segments and I’m happy that you’ve returned with us today to talk some more about your book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence. Talk about parental intelligence, is it how intelligent you are as a parent, are some of us more intelligent than others, are we even talking about that type of intelligence?
H: It’s a concept. It’s a term parental intelligence that I coined to describe an approach to parenting. In the subtitle Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, that’s really the definition of parental intelligence.
N: Okay, so when we’re talking about finding meaning it sometimes a temper tantrum isn’t just a temper tantrum. There are messages in the child’s behavior?
H: Exactly, in other words you take ten kids with temper tantrum, well a 2 years old, or 2 and 6 and 10 and 15 and the meaning behind the temper tantrum is different for each child depending on what they’re going through inside of themselves. In fact temper tantrums are great example because it’s so dramatic and it’s such a picture of disorganization and I like the word disorganization because the child is really in a state of mind where they’re not thinking, they’re just in action, in motion and if you think of that as a painting, as a picture what goes on inside of them is disorganized and you want to help them organize and regulate those emotions that had become dysregulated, does that make sense?
N: It make sense. There’s an aspect of I guess better communication skills that you’re trying to not only impart on the child but begin to implement on your own communication with the child, is that correct?
H: That’s right. I mean parents when they see a temper tantrum, they’re at a loss of what to do and that’s a hint. The child is also at a loss of what to do. They’re just out of whack, totally out of whack. So the simple thing to do with a temper tantrum is to say “What’s the matter?” and parents don’t think of saying that, instead they think of “Go to your room.” They start yelling at the child and it all escalates, instead what I want them to do is throw the whole atmosphere down or quietly to the child, if the child accepts touching, hug the child. So in other words you become the soothing agent because the child doesn’t have at that moment an ability to soothe themselves. You want to transmit to them, you want to give that to them, you become the external soother for their internal disorganization.
N: Now you’ve got at least 30 years of experience in psychotherapy, talk about how Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior allows us to implement, I guess not a one size fits all but some steps that are easily implemented no matter what your child maybe going through when it comes to paying attention to their behavior.
H: Yes. Well, I’ve created five steps that, was my goal really to… down what I do in a way that could give these parent tools. So I came up with five steps that you follow and one flows into the other, if once you do step one you naturally want to do step two, they kind of work together till you get to a solution to the problem.
N: Well we’re all about educating those folks that are gonna be implementing these concepts. So let’s talk about step number one.
H: Okay. Step one, I think that parents are interested to storytelling just as kids do. So I’m gonna tell you a story about a little boy called Clive with his identical twin brother Harry and they’re 6 years old and Clive is the good kid during kindergarten and the teachers were surprised to see that Clive is hitting his brother. She talks to him, he apologizes very politely but he continues hitting and his brother by the way, they are really are close brothers and his brother doesn’t retaliate. He’s confused, he does understand but he doesn’t do anything back. He tries to take something away which is very natural, you try to do something about it right away and he takes away the privilege of painting, his favorite activity but that failed, it does not worked because she doesn’t really understand what’s going on yet. So she talked to the parents and the mother admit that hitting is happening at home so they decide that they’re going to use parental intelligence and the first step is called Stepping Back, which means…research for meaning behind the hitting, so that you eventually get to a solution. It means slowing down, pausing, taking no action with your child, taking time to think, review the behavior, you go over what your child did when he did it. You look for a sequence and track the behavior, what’s important is that you suspend your judgement as you accept that what happened maybe meaningful. It means suspending judgement not only about your child’s behavior but also about your parenting behavior. It gives you permission and I really want to highlight this, it gives you permission to not know what to do.
N: Ah, because as parents, we feel, we don’t, we never want to feel like we’re stupid. We don’t want to feel that we don’t want to transmit that to the kid.
H: Right, but instead I want you think of that as normal. That you see something, you don’t understand it so of course you don’t know what to do. I was watching a sitcom on a medical show and it says to the patient who’s very reluctant and difficult, “If you don’t tell me your symptoms, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong how do I know how to treat you?” And it’s the same idea, if you don’t understand what’s going on how can the parent know what to do? It’s just not possible. If you don’t understand something how in the world can you know what to do about it? So stepping back allows you to say that to yourself “This is normal, I don’t understand. I’m gonna take my time now and try to understand.” Nothing…terrible, terrible is happening and I mean there is something dangerous happening obviously…but that’s not the case in this situation.
N: So it flows right into, each step flows into the next?
H: Yes, what you’ll find first of all is that by stepping back the parents take their time and there’s a calming effect on them and so there’s a calming effect on the child. So to return to Clive and Dad stepping back…realize that the hitting started after you began taking long business trips and he wonders if that has anything to do with it. You also realize Clive hit his brother after dad’s bed time with Harry alone after a bike ride with Harry, Clive hit Harry, after watching TV together Clive hit Harry and so we began to see this pattern and all that was learned from stepping back and so after he did that the next natural step is to start thinking about how you feel and this is called step two, Self-Reflecting and it entails thinking about your feelings and your reactions to the situation. In other words you’re allowed to stop and think “How do I feel when this happens?” “What is it like?” and learn from your feeling. Clive’s dad realized that since Clive was an infant, he was breast and breast with his twin, in fact Clive was in the NICU as the infant care unit because he was a more fragile infant and dad took a back seat to his care leaving Clive to his wife and as the years rolled by, that persisted and dad was close to the Harry. So reflecting on his feelings in the current situation, dad realized that Clive was distant before and after those business trips. It dawned on him that he faced his feeling which is something he really didn’t do, this was not a mushy dad, he wasn’t the type that really talked about his feelings, so this was new for him but he raised and he felt rebuffed and rejected by Clive. He come home from a trip and Clive was kind of back off and going in another room or he’d leave for the trip and Harry would ran after and say “Oh daddy I really missed you” and hug him. Clive wasn’t doing that and he started realizing that he was feeling rejected by Clive and he wondered if he was feeling rejected with that a clue to how Clive was feeling.
N: Ah, okay so putting himself in his son’s position?
N: Okay. And that rolls into step three?
H: Yes. Now step three is really the crux of the matter for Clive and dad because it opens Dad’s eyes to what is Clive’s point of view about his wife at the time. So understanding your child’s point of view is crucial. So one day Clive was supposed to be doing his reading homework and dad happened to see he was making a picture on a computer. He didn’t even know he knew how to use Microsoft Paint. And he came over and he was really interested and in the book actually you can see the painting but it suffice just now for me just to describe it to you. So dad saw the picture on the computer and he said to him “Can I take a peek at your painting?” Clive shut the computer and he said “I can’t show you, you’ll be mad at me.” Dad says “I don’t get mad at you, I promise I won’t be mad about a painting.” And Clive shows him the picture with hesitancy but he trust him and he does and dad says “I see you and I see me. What am I doing, can you tell me?” and Clive in the picture Clive is sitting at a desk doing his homework and dad’s back is to him and he’s walking away. So dad says “What am I doing? Can you tell me?” and Clive says “You’re going away for a long time.” And that says “Okay, where am I going?” now dad’s very curious but also getting a little worried and Clive says “I don’t know, you’re going away because I’m bad. My teachers think I’m bad.” Clive climbs on dad’s lap, something he never really does, that’s more of a mommy thing and dad spoke really close to his son now and he says “Why Clive does the teachers think you’re bad?” and Clive says “Because I hit Harry. That’s really bad and you went away, far away.” Dad says “Clive, do you think I went away because you hit Harry?” Clive says “No. you went away because I can’t read, you like smart boys like Harry who can read.” Now dad understood what was on Clive’s mind and he clarified he knew he had to very carefully and he said “Clive, I went away to make money for all of us, not because you don’t read yet. I never go away because I don’t like you, I love you. Lots of kids don’t read in kindergarten, it’s not a race to see who can read first. You’re such a great son.” So in this scene yet you can see that Clive had very convoluted 6 year old thinking about why his father went away, he didn’t understand and his father’s job was really to help him understand why he went away and to clarify what was going on. So now he knows Clive’s point of view, he knows the meaning behind the behavior.
N: Not only does he know what’s behind his behavior but he knows what the alarms going off in his head we’re trying to tell him at the same time. So it was unlocked as your title suggests, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior?
H: Yes, exactly, precisely.
N: As we wrap up this segment, let’s talk a little bit about, just shifting gears a bit, about chapter 12 in your book, The Meeting Ground in Part Three, The Future.
H: Yeah, okay. I had to think what Chapter 12 was. Chapter 12 is the idea that if we had gone through the whole sequence, you’d see that they’d have a self…problem and they had…the parents and the child have a meeting ground, they get to know each other better and this sets the tone for future problems that they have. It also has another meaning which is somewhat critical, my son, the younger son I was telling you about, he had the idea that a child who is raised this way and this fits him, so it’s… learns how to be empathic. They learn from their parents how to think from other points of view and to understand that people have different opinions and ideas that they need to understand that might be different from their own and then teaches the child really had to think and his thought was that if the child were so inclined to become a leader that this is the kind of child rearing that would lead someone to become a diplomat or a negotiator. Now we have a lot of political campaigns going on right now in our country.
N: Yeah, absolutely.
H: But we can see if we think about it, which candidate, I’m not asking you to answer but we ask ourselves, which candidate can think from another country’s point of view? Who can go to Africa and think that person’s point of view? Who can go to Australia, who can go to China, if you want to negotiate and understand someone and workout as a global solution, you have to be able to think from their point of view and point was that if you’re raised with parental intelligence, the future of the world, now of course it sounds kind of grandiose but if you think about it, if the future of the world would be in a much better hands if everybody could really try to understand the meaning behind the behavior of everyone else.
N: That’s a noble and I guess almost sounds impossible, almost too good to be true to be, to be raised like that and have everyone have these practices implemented in their rearing.
H: Yeah, yeah. It does, it is grand but that was his hope. He’s an optimistic fellow.
N: Absolutely. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. And we’ve been in studio with Dr. Laurie Hollman, internationally acclaimed parenting expert with over 30 years of treating infants, children, teens and adults with extensive writing experience as well on parenting including the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, the International Infant Observation, Mom’s Magazine, The Huffington Post among many, many others reaching over twenty thousand parents a month. She’s been on the faculty of the New York University and the Society of Psychoanalytic Study and Research and others, teaching psychotherapy and she’s been with us this afternoon to talk about her new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior and giving us just a glimpse into maybe the future of this new concept of parental intelligence. It’s been great having you here with us Dr. Hollman.
H: Thank you so much.
N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.