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Dr. Jonathan Robinson has 43 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families, specializing in child psychology. He works with children with ADD, ADHD, autism, conduct disorder, and learning disorders. He is also a speaker and author of “Teachable Moments: Building Blocks of Christian Parenting.”
Teachable Moments provides examples of actual client scenarios where Dr. Robinson prescribed different therapies for families. Dr. Robinson provides different protocols in the appendices of his book including: the quieting response, therapeutic journaling, and behavior management.
Who Gets the Most Attention?
Dr. Robinson finds that many families start to struggle when a new baby arrives. He provides an example with his experience with his daughter’s colic. A trip to the pediatrician quickly helped to recenter his focus. The pediatrician told him, ”Your daughter is a third of the family, and that’s how much attention she should be getting.”
Parents need to be able to take care of themselves, rather than burning out by focusing so much on the children. There’s nothing left for the marriage.
The Plexi-Glass Pyramid of Priorities
Dr. Robinson describes the plexi-glass pyramid of relationships as God being on top, spouses next and children one step down. Extended family, co-worker, etc fall below those. Families oftentimes get this out of order.
This starts many times with the birth of the first child as attention is shifted away from the spouse and to the infant. It is important for the father to be included in responsibilities and activities.
Trends in Psychology
Dr. Robinson believes that when pharmaceutical companies were given permission to advertise on tv that many changes occurred. He feels that there has been an influx of ADHD, ADD and Bi-Polar.
He finds people are self-diagnosing these conditions through these ads and are asking for the medications that are advertised. He receives flak from many parents because he will tell them their children do not need medication.
He finds many parents come to him after they start medicating their children. Dr. Robinson studies organic and neurochemical data for his evaluations, and often finds nothing to support prescribing medications to children.
Communication is relationship. How we communicate sets the tone for the quality of relationship and our parenting. In the first chapter of his book, Dr. Robinson describes active listening and empathy. Both are imperative in healthy parenting.
He describes what he calls an “emotional fever.” Parents know how to treat a physical fever, but are many times clueless as to how to cope with emotional issues. Parents are encouraged to look at verbal and nonverbal cues from their children.
Dr. Robinson challenges parents to stop using their position as parents as a position of power, and to look at what they have as a relationship.
A family is not a democracy. Parents need to accept their authority, while encouraging their children’s input. He uses the phrase “benevolent despot” to describe a healthy parental role.
Hormones will wreak havoc. Dr. Robinson sees a certain set of issues arise during adolescence, namely a need for better self-care. He encourages therapeutic journalling.
Teenagers need to be shown that they can have responsibilities and acquire freedom as they show improved responsibility. When they prove to be irresponsible, freedom is pulled back.
- Hands-on parenting: birth to age five. The child is unable to do for himself.
- Directive parenting: age five to twelve. We tell children what and how to do while we watch them and help them.
- Advice-based parenting: twelve to eighteen. The adult has advice to share.
- Consultative parenting: parenting the adult child. The parent has advice to share IF the adult child wishes to be consulted.
If a parent gets stuck in one of these stages, the child’s mood and attitude will sour and rebellion will take place. (Dr. Robinson gives the example of a parent getting stuck in the directive parenting stage and their teen becomes rebellious.)
Parents want to avoid teenage rebellion, however, it is important for a child to find his own individual identity and so rebellion takes place. Parents can shepherd their teens through active listening and advice-based parenting.
Often kids prior to pre-adolescence hold their parents up as heroes and want to be just like them. From the ages thirteen to about twenty, kids know they are not their parents, but they do not know who they are and are trying to find out.
Dr. Robinson has learned that 80% of an adult child’s personality has been influenced by his parents. The other 20% was learned through his own independence. Parents need to be available for their teens to talk to them.
The great thing about active listening is that “you’re right when you’re right and you’re right when you’re wrong.” Focusing on what you think they are feeling while talking to them helps the child open up more, creating a healthy conversation and opportunity for the child to process.
We are instructed in Proverbs 22: 6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” When your child has an emotional fever, use active listening. Address it not by fixing it, but by helping them identify what they are feeling. Once that has taken place, you can help them as they go about fixing the problem.
Parents have a tendency to be problem solvers. Dr. Robinson provides this advice: Don’t solve problems, don’t criticize, don’t judge. These tools are based on power rather than relationship. If parents are always trying to solve the problem or give them the answer it sends the message to the child that he is incapable of solving his own problems.
We don’t want to give them solutions, but shepherd them on their journey to growth. Dr. Robinson encourages parents to look for teachable moments with their children, whether it is through positive or negative circumstances.
What was an ‘a-ha’ moment for you?
Any number of circumstances when clients respond positively when truth is spoken to them.
What’s your current passion?
His book. He retired from his clinical practice a little over a year ago. He’s preparing a newsletter and resources for parents and helping professionals. He has been out in the community in a variety of ways.
When he was twelve he didn’t know anything about psychology. His older brother broke his neck then and has been a parapelegic for fifty-three years. He helped his brother through the recovery. He attended Wake Forest University for accounting and economics, making D’s, and was encouraged to take psychology by friends. He made an A in psychology. He went with his strong suit.
The Final Lap:
What is your most effective relationship skill?
He worked most with children ages five to twelve. He used play therapy primarily and colleagues had to tell him to pipe it down, he and the kids were having so much fun. Kids got well through having fun with the interventions.
What has been your biggest stumbling block with God?
Not making room for Him. Part of self-care is having a personal devotional time, a couple devotional time and a family devotional time. It hasn’t always been that way.
Dr. Robinson references Genesis [50:20] “What Satan intends for bad, God uses for good” in regards to his brother’s accident and sees how as difficult as the time was, it grew them. His life impacted others and Dr. Robinson.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dr. Robinson appreciates AA’s catchphrase, “Let go and let God.”
Who do you admire most, other than a biblical figure?
Johnny Callison of the Philadelphia Phillies. Dr. Robinson played baseball for forty-six years and has enjoyed the counterbalance it provides to therapy work.
What is your favorite book, other than the Bible?
A lot of the work of C.S. Lewis. His collection of books have been most impactful, both personally and professionally.
You’re never too old to learn. The journey from birth to death is about living or preparing to die. Dr. Robinson wants to see people live as Jesus said: “I’ve come to give you life and have it more abundantly.” Having life is surviving, but having it abundantly is thriving. He encourages people to move from surviving to thriving.
Dr. Jonathan Robinson: www.jonathancrobinson.com (downloadable materials)