CTFD: A Viral Condition That Parents Need to Catch

12556985_sIs your child involved in the recommended 2-3 extra-curricular activities per week?  Are you keeping their diet gluten-free?  Are you a Tiger Mom?  Are you adopting a no-punishment parental strategy?  Is your child contributing to their personal growth on their free time?

Don’t have the answers to these questions?  It’s okay.  If these prompts got your heart racing and your brain spinning, you may need a healthy dose of CTFD.

What is this CTFD phenomenon?  It’s a growing trend on the web, and stands for “Calm The [email protected]#$ Down”.   It was formed by a parenting blogger named David Vienna in response to the state of parents perpetually feeling not good enough about their child and assures people “whichever way you choose to parent — your child will be fine (as long as you don’t abuse them, of course).”

Parents naturally feel a tremendous amount of pressure to successfully raise their children to be safe and healthy from the point of conception to adulthood. This is the definition of parenting.  Most animal species have some mechanisms for keeping their young safe and protected until they have learned skills are capable enough to handle the world on their own; parents are their children’s most important teachers.

While human parents may have always been inundated with advice by caring grandparents, judgmental peers, or expert professionals on how to best rear children, now we are constantly bombarded with (at times seemingly contradictory) information via television, social media, internet, and each other, on how to be “the best;” perfect at everything from “no-punishment” parenting and  “gluten free” eating, to “how to wear stripes and still look slim.”  The barrage is confusing, maddening, and often leaves people feeling like they do not measure up. Constant comparison to others can leave people feeling anxious, helpless, overwhelmed, and depressed, and CTFD is here to remind us that whichever methods and activities a parent chooses for their child, he/she will be fine – maybe even better off than with the parent in constant worry-mode!

There are plenty of scholarly articles that support the need for parents to CTFD; parent anxiety is correlated with child anxiety, child depression, and conduct problems. What this well-meaning acronym does not explain, however, is how exactly parents can, in fact, Calm the Eff Down.

Birmingham Maple Clinic pulled together a couple simple tips that can help you catch this CTFD craze:

Shift Your Perspective

People who are anxious and depressed tend to think more negatively about themselves and their situation. They also have greater difficulty setting and achieving reachable goals. When it comes to parenting, social learning theory recognizes that parent focus and attention on negative or problematic behaviors actually reinforces them and makes them more likely to return. An important strategy to CTFD is to shift your focus to what is going well and encourage it. Looking at your child’s small successes, as well as your own, is a great place to start. A helpful reminder is to “Shine the light on what you want to grow.” Negative behaviors and negative thoughts will multiply with the slightest bit of attention whereas positive behaviors need more TLC.

Try identifying 5 positive statements about your own actions or your child’s to remind yourself you are all doing a good enough job. Instead of looking at what your child may be doing that is upsetting or nerve racking to you, look at what is going right. Start very small, like the littlest sprouts that come out of the ground in spring, and encourage small positives by shifting your focus to them. Instead of saying something vague like “I wish my child got better grades,” you can note:

“My child has brought his homework home 4 days this week,”

“My child sat at his desk 1 hour each day this week,”

“My child told me about something he learned without me asking,”

“My child was awake on time this morning,”

or “My child has an interest in science.”

Instantly by shining your light on what you want to grow you may feel more relaxed. Your focus has shifted from the weeds to the gorgeous flowers and lo and behold…your garden looks pretty great.

Even better, when you verbally encourage your child, give positive affection like high fives, thumbs up, hugs, or small tokens like stickers or points.  By doing this you are actually conditioning them and making it more likely that the positive behavior will return, leaving less room for those nasty weeds to occupy your garden—and your mind.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

You deserve the same encouragement as well. The more you acknowledge and give credit to yourself, the more you will see a fuller picture of who you are and how you are doing as a parent. You may think, “I am such a bad mom, I yell all the time.” Remind yourself 5 positives for each one negative. Some examples may be

“I use a calm, clear tone with my children often,”

“I use polite language like please and thank you,”

“I avoid using physical consequences,”

“I show my children love and affection daily,”

or “My kids and I spend lots of fun positive time together.”

By acknowledging the positives you paint a picture that is far from being a bad parent at all. This should remind you that you have nothing to worry about in the parenting department and you have no need to even #CTFD because you are doing fine!

Some of the suggestions in this article are derived from Parent Management Training-Oregon Model (PMTO). Parent Management Training-Oregon Model (PMTO) is a behavior intervention program designed by Dr. Gerald Patterson at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), a world renowned research center in the area of problematic behavior in children. The behavior interventions used in PMTO are based on over 30 years of research on families with children and adolescents who have serious mental health problems. Carrie Krawiec, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic, learned the PMT-O model in 2008 and uses these techniques to teach families to identify and encourage adaptive behaviors and routines by focusing predominately on the positive.

Birmingham Maple Clinic employs expert therapists that can help individuals, couples and families to CTFD. Individual therapists can help identify and replace negative thinking that contribute to comparison to others, therapists trained in child mental health issues can evaluate if more concerning issues are present for your child and how to alleviate, family therapists can help parents tailor their style to meet each child’s unique needs. To make an appointment at Birmingham Maple Clinic you can visit www.birminghammaple.com or call (248) 646-6659.

Do you need some CTFD in your life, or have some good suggestions on how you can help parents let go a little?  Let’s talk about it using the #BMC or #CFPD hashtags via Facebook or Twitter, or respond in the comments below.  Our BMC parental counselors will be monitoring and waiting to talk with you!

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