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Posted: Sep 13, 2006 10:29

TO THINE OWN SELF, BE TRUE!!

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Or Am I Really Acting Like A Two-Year-Old?
By: M. Jerome Ennis, M. Ed.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
205-523-1967

To thine own self, be true. We all have heard this or similar statements, such as "The Truth Will Set You Free." Socrates, a Greek Philosopher, made the statement, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

In connecting these thoughts, you have the ingredients for facilitating worthwhile and lasting change in your child's life.

From the time of our birth until the day we die, we go through developmental stages of emotional and psychological growth, and it is important to meet each milestone as it arises if we are to be prepared to meet future milestones. Unfortunately, most people do not meet these naturally occurring milestones in each stage adequately, which explains why it is not uncommon to see a 15-year-old behaving like a toddler emotionally when he or she does not get what they want. A two-year-old goes through a developmental phase where he or she tries to get what he/she wants by "pitching a temper tantrum", which if successful reinforces the negative behaviors. Consequently the child fails to reach the next stage of more mature emotional and psychological development.

As life goes on, this child grows into an adult who never learned how to achieve the emotional and psychological development needed to find healthy and satisfying ways of dealing with life's problems. If these problems go unattended, the consequences persist and usually get worse, thus the importance of recognizing and correcting this problem at an early age.

Although self-help techniques are available, in most instances these self-help models do not offer the supervision and structure adolescents need to succeed. Even though it is up to each individual to make the necessary changes and put forth the effort to create a healthier lifestyle, the adolescent needs help to do that. Emotional growth programs for youth are the best way to help with these phenomena because they utilize concepts such as experiential learning in a structured and supervised setting.

For several years I worked in an Outdoor Therapeutic Program (OTP) where young males lived in peer groups of 10 students with 2 counselors for up to 18 months. I discovered this was an effective approach. After I left the wilderness program, I incorporated much of what I had learned into running self-contained classrooms in public schools. In fact, I made it part of my curriculum to take my class on two, week- long OTP type backpacking trips each year. The first trip occurred early in the school year to build a positive peer group that would transfer back to the classroom. This increased the classroom progress tremendously. We took the second trip in the spring and it was amazing to see the emotional, psychological, intellectual, behavioral and academic progress these students had made in such a short time. Many of my students progressed so well in all areas, including academics, that they frequently caught up to or surpassed their expected grade level proficiency. I found that an OTP enabled them to return to the regular classroom or something less restrictive than what they had been in before.

I cannot say enough about the benefits of emotional growth programs and schools for youth who are experiencing emotional and behavioral problems. In fact, if I could "wish upon a star" and get what I wanted, I would have all youth at some point during middle school or at least high school attend an emotional growth, experiential education type of program or school. I believe that if this happened, we would see a dramatic change in our schools and our society. If your child exhibits mild to serious emotional and/ or behavioral problems, I would strongly advise taking advantage of these types of programs. These problems do not simply go away. In fact, the problems will most likely worsen as time passes.

I now work with many adults in a homeless program run by an agency of the Federal Government. All of these men, and a few women, have serious life problems that include no money, homelessness, joblessness, hopelessness, various mental health problems, and alcohol and/ or other drug addictions. Due to these addictions, immature emotional/ psychological states and associated behaviors, many have legal issues or are repeatedly incarcerated. What is the common factor between these men and women and your children? These men and women also never achieved their emotional growth milestones in a natural, normal and healthy fashion, and for the most part their problems went unattended. Don't believe that old tale of "oh it's just a phase, and he or she will grow out of it." Rather than growing out of it, the child is likely to become more adept at "fronting" and hiding fears, inadequacies and behaviors, but the child will not be as happy, contented, balanced, stable and able to lead a meaningful life as he or she otherwise could have been. Therefore, it is critical to get help now, before it is too late to help them make these emotional and psychic changes in their thinking, feelings and behaviors. If you are not sure of where to look for programs of this type, I would suggest finding a good Independent Educational Consultant. A skilled consultant can be worth many times their fee in finding a good emotional growth school or program for your child.

Honesty is the most important part of establishing a more meaningful, satisfying, contented and productive life. These young people have to be brutally honest with themselves and closely examine their thoughts, feelings and behaviors to determine if they lie or are dishonest at times. Once children become completely honest with themselves, they can "consciously" begin working on telling the truth and progressively moving forward.

The self-help models do not work well for most young people, especially adolescents, who experience mild to serious emotional problems since they lack the self-discipline and structure to be successful with them. The solution is placing these youth in a structured emotional growth type of program or school to help them achieve the skills and support they need to change these behaviors through positive peer group activities.

In short, as teens learn to be true to themselves through an emotional growth structure, they are less likely to act like a two-year-old.



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