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Review of "Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions"

By Pat Harvey
New Harbinger, 2009
Review by Tijuana Canders on Sep 21st 2010
Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions

Pat Harvey and Jeanine A. Penzo  graciously help parents who deal with a highly emotional child, most commonly known as emotional dysregulation to  grasp  foundational methods of thought processes, and the usage of dialects (thinking in a positive way), through their own exposure and  Marsha Linehan's Dialectical Behavioral Therapy framework.  They note that most of us either think with  an emotional or reasonable mind and need an overlapping of the two minds in balance, "a path to thinking wisely", "the  wise mind" of which according to Linehan, "Helps the parent to feel calmer, and comfortable with their decisions, helping them to make necessary changes in  response to the child" (1993a).

Harvey's and Penzo's examples of dialogue scenes between parent and child with referencing techniques, aid parents in the workbook sections to revise pertinent information learned throughout each chapter.  It will teach them to remain calm, implement wise mind techniques, and understand their child's story of emotion in order.  In turn, this will help parents to carry out concrete workable reinforcers, the use of each helping to minimize the child's possibility of reacting with an emotional outburst when in intense situations, while helping the parents to subside from high emotion to their child's overwhelming behaviors, "learn to step back from a situation and to see things with new eyes and a different point of view."  The methods spelled out in the bookn include applying valuable DBT Assumptions ("Your Child is Doing the Best He Can", "Your Child Needs to Do Better", "Your Child Must Learn Behaviors for All Situations", "Family Members Should Not Assume the Worst", and "There Is No Absolute Truth") enabling parents to retain confidence in their child's behavior for easier transitions of communication.  The authors emphasize that "a person must feel heard in order to hear" and "a person must feel accepted in order to change."   

Not obscure or overbearing, Harvey and Penzo bring parents to the realization that both parent and child have a part in this process, parents must realize a person must feel heard in order to hear, and must feel accepted in order to change.  Parents will come to see that although behaviors can be changed, they will not be changed overnight, so it does take patience and endurance, along with shifting family goals and expectations, in correlation with creative calm activities in order to modify old molds of parenting with new ones in parenting.  A child with intense emotions both parent and child will eventually start to see results and gain  a visional sense of a better future,  encouraging parents that, "They are not alone as parents, nor are they bad parents, they have done the best that they could have done from the skills they knew", but also makes it clear that new skills can be learned.     

Parenting a Child With Intense Emotions is an invigorating 225 page book and well presented due to the authors' warmness and transparency.  It challenged my convictions as a parent, and it will help caregivers and parents to acquire skills of sound parenting in relation to intense emotions and DBT skills. Not only is this is a good source for parents, but parenting groups, youth group homes and mental health facilities could benefit as well.  A resourceful appendix of support and psycho-educational groups are provided for further help on the subject.


© 2010 Tijuana Canders



 Tijuana Canders, Canal Winchester, Ohio