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May 24, 2012 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-05-24

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metro >> family counseling

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18 May 24 • 2012

hen I was about 7, I
wanted to see what
would happen if I put
my finger into an electrical socket.
I may not have realized it then, but
I was experimenting. I started with
a hypothesis: The socket won't hurt
me. I tested it by inserting my finger
into the socket. The resulting data
revealed: Yikes, that shock hurt. We
all have learned what can or can't
hurt us from similar experiences.
Our lives offer many opportuni-
ties to experiment. When
we meet someone, we
already have formed initial
impressions based on past
occurrences. We experi-
ment by challenging these
past impressions with
new information. When
we greet the person, do
we smile or attempt a joke
_or story? Make direct eye
contact or look away? That
person's response provides
us with information or
data that guide us in future
encounters in order to make the best
If you are a person who is uncom-
fortable in social situations, experi-
menting creates options to test ways
to be more effective. People who are
anxious or shy find it hard to initiate
a conversation or even say "hello."
They need to conduct their own
social experiments; carrying out
such experiments can teach how to
fight negative messages and doubts.
They allow you to become more con-
fident. Deciding to take the risk may
be your first experiment.
Another place where experiment-
ing can be beneficial is for parents
with children who will not change a
specific undesired behavior. Parents,
whose reflex is to reprimand, scold,
deny privileges, or take away elec-
tronics or cell phones, can restruc-
ture their reaction patterns to find
new ways to deal with a variety of
Consider siblings who bicker to
the point of distraction. In such
situations, parents tend to react to
what they observe without consider-
ing what may have happened before
they came on the scene. As a result,
parents form premature or Mac-
curate conclusions without knowing
the facts.

To get out of this habit, the parent,
as he or she enters the room, can
subtly tap on his or her leg or hand.
This "tap into reality" prompts the
parent to challenge preconceived
suspicions or hypotheses. Moreover,
not reacting immediately gives par-
ents a thought pause, time to inquire
about what really happened —
gathering data. It also helps parents
identify repetitive patterns, such as
one child blaming the other or never
taking responsibility. The experi-
mental goal is to change
parents' bewildered reac-
tions into a dispassionate
As parents change their
reaction patterns, the
children learn that Mom
and Dad are less likely to
be manipulated or dis-
tracted. Each time parents
alter expectations, change
occurs — in both the child
and the parent — enhanc-
ing parental influence and
showing the children that
there are always alternatives to deal-
ing with problems.
Like good scientists, parents need
to think about the experiment's
design. One problem occurs when
more than one objective is imple-
mented to change a behavior, such
as giving a reward at the same time
as imposing a punishment. While
the experiment may produce posi-
tive results, there is no way to know
which component created what
effect, because both are in play at
the same time. So when developing
an experiment, identify one thing
you want to remedy and focus on it.
The goal of experimenting is dis-
covery, seeking new ways to bring
about change. It requires a flexible
attitude and a creative approach.
Experimenting means rejecting what
was done in the past in order to look
at the present for new ideas. Taking
opportunities to experiment can
lead to rewarding conclusions. Seek
new possibilities in your life; experi-

Dr. Daniel Rosenbaum is a clinical social

worker at Counseling Associates Inc. in
West Bloomfield, where he counsels chil-

dren, teens and adults experiencing fam-
ily or personal psychological problems.

Reach him at (248) 626-1500.

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