What is New Ways for Families®? Excerpted from The Future of Family Court

© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. NEW WAYS FOR FAMILIEs® is a new method developed by High Conflict Institute, which integrates many of the principles described in this book (The Future of Family Court). It is an interdisciplinary method that teaches and reinforces relationship conflict resolution skills for potentially high‑conflict parents. New Ways for Families emphasizes short-term counseling to reduce the impact of conflict on the children in potentially high-conflict cases. It can be used whenever a parent or the court believes one parent needs restricted parenting (supervised, no contact, limited time), at the start of a case or any time a parent requests restricted parenting – including post-judgment litigation. This method emphasizes strengthening skills for positive future behavior (new ways), rather than focusing on past negative behavior – while still acknowledging it. It is designed to save courts time, to save parents money, and to protect children as their families re-organize in new ways after a separation or divorce, for married or never-married parents. This method can be used in family court, mediation, collaborative divorce, or even post-divorce with the assistance of a Parenting Coordinator. Goals of New Ways for Families® To immunize families against becoming high-conflict families during the separation and the divorce process. To help parents teach their children resilience in this time of huge and rapid change in the foundation of their family life To strengthen both parent’s abilities to make parenting decisions, while relying less on experts and the courts to make their decisions for them. To assist professionals and the courts in assessing both parent’s potential to learn new, positive ways of problem-solving and organizing their family after a separation or divorce. To give parents a chance to change poor parenting behaviors (including abuse and alienation) before long-term decisions are made. This method emphasizes learning new skills for positive future behavior. In reality, it’s easy to start ordering cases to use the New Ways for Families method. All you need are three therapists trained in the method (a 2-day training): one for the mother; one for the father; and one as the Parent-Child Counselor. Then they use the New Ways for Families workbooks to structure the counseling. If the court plays the role of follow-up, by quizzing the parents on what they have learned and on a new hypothetical parenting situation, then the parents may apply these skills to new problem situations. At the least, this method appears to slow down parents who are preoccupied with blaming their former partners, and many of them stop returning to court. Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.

John Edwards, Guilty of Narcissism?

© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. I’m writing this before knowing John Edwards’ verdict in North Carolina on charges of violating federal campaign laws by spending nearly $1 million of donors’ money on hiding his affair (and child) with Rielle Hunter. Whatever the outcome, he has already admitted that he is guilty of narcissism: “[My experiences] fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe you can do whatever you want.” He admitted that he had become “increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.” (abcNews, Aug. 12, 2008) I don’t diagnose people in public, but I share what others report – especially what people publicly say about themselves. He has provided a great opportunity to explain narcissism with a real life example, including what it is and what it isn’t. Narcissism in small doses can be a good thing. Narcissism in too large a dose becomes narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which can be harmful – for the person himself as well as those around him. Narcissism helps us all get by in the face of adversity. It helps us believe in ourselves enough to keep going. We all have some of it, or we wouldn’t have survived this long. Entrepreneurs, actors, politicians and many professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) tend to have above-average rates of narcissism, because it helps them push forward despite repeated criticism, rejection, set-backs and occasional public humiliation. In other words, they believe in themselves so much more and in what other people think so much less, that they can survive as risk-takers – and they are risk-takers. When they have a good idea, good talent and other good qualities, this narcissism helps them contribute to society from positions of leadership and power. You want your leaders to have some extra narcissism so that they can cope in protecting us from strong enemies and leading us forward in dealing with big problems. However, when they have a bad idea, little talent and lack sufficient redeeming qualities, this extra narcissism can get them into a lot of trouble and public humiliation. If they have narcissistic personality disorder, this means that they do not learn and change their behavior. So if they get into trouble, they can’t see that they did anything wrong and keep going. In a sense it’s like a form of self-blindness – they really can’t see the effects of their own behavior. Does John Edwards have NPD? I don’t know, but you can watch whether he learns and changes, or keeps on the same path. Here are some characteristics of NPD. See if you think he fits: A grandiose sense of self-importance? Fantasies of unlimited success and power? Believes he’s special and unique? Requires excessive admiration? Sense of entitlement? Interpersonally exploitative? Lacks empathy? Envious of others or believes others envy him? Arrogant behaviors or attitudes? About 6% of the population of the United States has narcissistic personality disorder, according to the most recent large study. This is also known as pathological narcissism or malignant narcissism. But if you recognize some of these characteristics in someone you know, DON’T TELL THEM! You will make your life a lot worse. Some people with these disorders become highly defensive and sometimes dangerous when confronted with their weaknesses or problems – for this reason they are often considered “vulnerable narcissists.” Others with this disorder truly don’t care what anyone else thinks – sometimes called “grandiose narcissists.” Many politicians seem to fit in this second type, since they truly don’t care what anyone else thinks. Yet they can be extremely charming, attractive and even intelligent. Yes, NPD has nothing to do with intelligence, which confuses people. They wonder how someone in a position to become Vice President or President of the United States would be so stupid as to take the kinds of risks Edwards took in having an affair during a campaign – even when his wife is possibly dying from cancer. It’s because intelligence is not the issue – personality is the issue. We have had many examples recently of highly intelligent and charming politicians who have crashed and burned – or at least humiliated themselves publicly. Several governors have been kicked out of office recently. Some politicians running for president have had a hard time recognizing when to quit, despite humiliating defeats. Many of these folks are the ones most eager to judge other people. To me, the issue is the future. How can we spot politicians with excessive narcissism or NPD before we elect them? The key is to recognize the PATTERN of behavior, even on a small scale. Lacks empathy? Sense of entitlement? Grandiose sense of self-importance? When you vote for any office this year, keep these patterns in mind. Don’t let good looks and charm mislead you. Check the list above instead. Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.

Some Thoughts on a Shared Parenting Presumption (Part 2/4)

© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, ESQ Agreed-Upon Schedules In reality, as a lawyer, counselor, mediator and consultant, I have worked with many parents who use shared parenting schedules that are approximately 50-50. However, these are determined by the parents by agreement, based on their own circumstances, resources, and history of flexibility and sharing. I have many more parents who have schedules in which one parent has less than 30% of the parenting time and it works very well. The key factor in these successful schedules is that these decisions are being made by the parents, not imposed on them by the court. The child feels that both parents are generally satisfied with their parenting time and both parents make the best of their parenting time in giving the child good experiences. There is also flexibility in these families, so that they may change to more or less time as work schedules change and the child grows older. I have had cases in which the child changed from being primarily at one parent’s house to the other parent’s house, and then back a year later – all based on the good cooperation of the parents and the comfort of the child to express changing preferences without upsetting one or both parents. When I started my law practice in 1993, I represented clients in family court and did divorce mediations in my office. I went to a presentation by William Hodges, Ph.D., a divorce researcher and author of the highly regarded book Interventions for Children of Divorce (1991) which is still quite relevant. He said that research was making it clear that the best parenting schedule was one which both parents supported. Even if it was an odd schedule, including lots of exchanges or long stretches of time, what really mattered was the agreement of the parents. Children follow their parents’ lead emotionally when learning what is “normal” and what helps their parents feel “okay.” On the other hand, even a very normal schedule won’t work, if one or both parents are upset about it. The children absorb their parents’ emotions much more than most parents realize. Dr. Hodges also said that research showed that parents followed their own agreements over 80% of the time, but only actually followed court-ordered schedules slightly more than 40% of the time. With this in mind, I have told parents for the past 19 years in my practice that they need to put more effort into reaching an agreement than into fighting for the “right” parenting schedule for a child. It needs to be a team effort, otherwise it tends to pull children apart. However, I tell them that there are general principles for at least 3 basic age groups, which most parents take seriously in making their proposals to each other: Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.