The Art Of The Reframe

In my work as a child psychologist, I often turn to the skill of "cognitive reframing" to teach kids and their parents a more positive way of thinking about situations, relationships and even their own characteristics as a way to cope with their feelings. Reframing can be a catalyst for change in that when people think about something from a more positive angle, that thinking produces a sense of hope and empowerment.

For example, many of my new clients have "meltdowns", rages that take over the family on a regular basis, often seeming to come out of nowhere. This in turn causes them to develop a view of themselves as "bad" kids, even though they hate having the meltdowns. The parents, tired of walking on eggshells all of the time, are usually frustrated and angry at the child, and see the child as manipulative, unappreciative and "always ruining everything". I give these parents a simple homework assignment, the book that changed the way I do therapy with these kids:
The Explosive Child. It is the only approach I have found that really and truly works to eliminate meltdowns.

What Dr. Greene has done is to reframe meltdowns and help parents and kids see that the meltdowns are not merely tantrums (which are a different kind of behavior), but that meltdowns are the result of stress that the child doesn't have the skills to recognize or manage. Once the parents understand that the child isn't doing this deliberately, lightbulbs go off, the parents can reframe the situation and are mentally and emotionally prepared to attack the problem in a more effective way. The child is motivated because they too reframe the situation and see themselves differently so are usually willing to try more appropriate behaviors to solve problems.

It's a brilliant approach that produces meaningful changes in a somewhat short period of time. It is some of the most satisfying therapy that I do, and it all starts with reframing the situation. (Now if anyone reading this has a meltdown child, please do not ask me to answer specific questions because, by law, I can't give direct advice to non-clients. But I would strongly encourage you to get this book and find a therapist who is familiar with it to help you put the plan into action.)

This is just one small example of the power of reframing. Over the years, I have learned to reframe many challenging situations and how I was responding to others, but still don't always do this when it comes to myself. Instead, I get stuck on something I am doing (or not doing) and then beat myself up mentally. I have been doing this lately when it comes to my knitting, because, as indicated in my last post, there has been waaaaay too much frogging going on and when actual knitting proceeds, it is often full of mistakes.

Since the last post, I cast on for the Baby Surprise jacket twice, frogged both attempts and then gave up (and yes, a little meltdown may have occured). With apologies to those EZ fans who may be reading this, if Ms. Zimmerman wasn't dead, the feds should have sent her to Guantanamo to torture the suspected terrorists - make them try to knit this devil of a tiny sweater and they would all have been spilling their secrets and crying for their mamas. The only "surprise" is that people can actually translate her "instructions" and finish the little evil piece of fluff. (I actually admire EZ - she knits the way I cook). Although the instructions for the Baby Albert and the Mason-Dixon baby kimono are more clear and straightforward, anything that requires me to keep track of left/right/back/front and do something different from straight garter stitch gets my brain as tangled as the yarn gets when I am ripping out vast rows of the stuff and not winding as I go! It took me four additional tries to get something as simple as a K2tog, yo buttonhole to turn out on the right side, right edge (technically the left edge of the right side of the coat). And lets just pretend the 7 (!!!*$%^@%!&^) episodes of ripping back the sleeves/left (or is it the right?) neckline of the kimono never really happened.

So as I sat down night after night this week to try and find even a small success with my attempts to branch out beyond simpleton scarves, I got deeper and deeper into the belief that I am too addled/distractible/stupid/incompetent/etc.etc.etc. to be a knitter. I was ready to quit. But then I found RandomRanter's blog and read about her recent misadventures with the Mystery Stole 3. What??? I'm not the only knitter who has to frog something a kazillion times? As reassuring as that felt, even better was the way she very cleverly reframed the problem for me. And a lightbulb went off. And once I changed my thinking from Frequent-Frogger-Slow-Bee to "One Who Decides To Put An Original Flair In The Design", I picked up the needles and lookee here:

Baby Albert's bottom

That's not a wonky row on the right side, it's my original flair

The M-D kimono - I think the uneven stitches create a nice texture

No surprises here - I decided to go with another interestingly textured kimono

Do not underestimate the power of the reframe.


Nichole said...

Great baby sweaters coming along!

Sonya said...

I love the book Raising Your Spirited Child. It helped us understand so much.

I am all about the design elements, accidental or not.

Tracy said...

I'm completely familiar with the techniques you are talking about when it comes to my boys, but it's a different story applying any of it to myself!

I am having good luck with a baby surprise jacket - however - the only way I could do it was to take the pattern, sit down and study carefully, and write it out line by line, row by row, count by count. Then I keep a pen handy and mark off each row as it's done. If I didn't, I'd be completely lost and confused. I know that's kind of against EZ's philosophy, but it's what works for me!

Anonymous said...

Child meltdowns explain a lot of what some of my childhood was about. I'm glad you put the information out there. I feel like some people who only have one child as in my case put a lot of unneeded stress on that one child to be perfect. I now understand that at sometimes I was melting down as a result of stress instead of "acting out". Don't get me wrong I love my parents but I do think they put more pressure on me to be better which resulted in said "rages".

wildflower38 said...

I've recently had to do some "reframing of situations" at work and in my personal life... you're info was very timely.

Your M-D kimono is pretty.

I'm working on my first lace sock. I've already frogged back to the cuff twice. This 3rd time around I'm knitting very, very slowly.

wildflower38 said...

I'm not even going to tell you how many times I've tinked that sock too...

Yarnhog said...

Knitting as interrogation technique. Truly a novel approach. I have a pattern I could donate to the cause. It only took me four attempts and several hours of cursing to figure out the (very complex) cable section was missing a crucial line. Take that, Terrorists!

Laura said...

I need to check out the explosive child book - it very much describes my 11yo daughter. I've been able to list a lot of reasons why she's this WAY but haven't been able to nail down how to resolve the problem. She's doing it at school AND home and it's at a critical level where we have to figure out how to help her see when it's about to happen so she can help herself not to have these embarrassing outbursts and meltdowns. This book just might be the answer for us. She was in therapy for six months earlier this year before school let out for the summer and we need to go back for one more month to comply with our new custody order. Her situation was basically labeled as adjustment disorder and we have focused on anger management. But really I'm not sure it has helped a WHOLE lot (the anger management stuff). Hopefully this book will have some new information or look at things from a new angle that will help her and all of us!! Yay!!

I'm surprised to hear that the BS jacket has such confusing instructions! And here I have been just dying to get the pattern and try it! Maybe I'll rethink that. :)

Rhonda said...

Ok--I have to fess up--I HAD to copy the cat---It absolutely made me laugh in what has been a completely stress filled 7 days! I think this week I actually look like that cat!!! I did give you credit and linked to your site so people could come visit you enjoy your blog as I have....

So what brought you to Kansas?