Tim McCarthy On Raising Children Who Are Mentally & Emotionally Healthy
An Interview With Maria Angelova
A loving heart is the key to happiness. Teach your child to become emotionally mature as explained in the 5 steps above. We get most of our happiness from our relationships, and as I said earlier, the basic rule of life is “you get out what you put in.” Teach your child how to love herself first, and then love others. When you love yourself, you have love to give. When you can give love, you can get love.
Our children are facing challenges that didn’t exist just a short while ago. They are growing up with social media, constantly being connected, and the hurried pace of life today, as well as the pandemic, and the often frightening news. In short, our children are facing unprecedented mental health challenges. Anxiety, depression, and even suicide are on the rise. As parents and educators, what can we do to raise children who are mentally healthy? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, parenting experts and mental health professionals who can share their expertise and advice on Raising Children Who Are Mentally Healthy. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tim McCarthy.
Tim McCarthy has a Master’s Degree in Education and a Grand Master rank in the martial arts. He has combined his years of experience as a classroom teacher and administrator (in both public and private schools) with even more years of experience teaching and developing martial arts programs to create a simple plan for the education of children available at https://4d-2d.com. His unique perspective combining Eastern and Western educational philosophy creates a powerful road map for raising balanced children in an increasingly unbalanced world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to hear a little about you. Inspire us with your backstory!
I am and have been an educator for over 40 years. I have personally taught thousands of students of all ages using both Eastern and Western philosophies of education. For 20 of those years I have also designed educational courses and curricula in the martial arts. I believe that human beings have 4 Dimensions: The Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual. It is an Eastern way of understanding the human experience that I learned in my martial arts studies and is very different from our current Western educational system. That was why I chose to leave the school system and focus on the martial arts: I was able to teach and develop students in all 4 Dimensions and have designed martial arts programs that have been used by hundreds of schools across the U.S. and Canada, and in some other countries as well. One of the things I am most proud of is my contribution to popularizing and developing the After School Martial Arts programs and Martial Arts Summer Camps . . . you probably have seen signs on the side of the road in your community.
Now I am making those same educational principles available to every parent.
What are some lessons you would share with your younger self if you had the opportunity?
Take more chances socially. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Reach out and talk to people and learn from them. I was always too shy and didn’t feel comfortable initiating conversations. If I had learned some of the tools I have learned since, I would have made more friends and developed a wider social network.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support he/ she gave you to get where you are today? Can you share that story and why you are grateful for that person?
There are many — as you know, none of us accomplishes much on our own. My parents were great role models, setting a high bar of proper behavior for me to emulate. My wife has been by my side for almost 30 years adding meaning to anything I’ve done. Probably the one who had the greatest effect was my martial arts teacher Grand Master Y. K. Kim, who created the opportunity for me to grow in so many ways through his over 40 years of teaching me. He provided a solid basis through his philosophy during the martial arts training, and then gave me the professional opportunity to learn and grow even more. He helped me turn a generally negative personality into a positive, confident one.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I am working on educating parents on 4 Dimensional Parenting, to empower them to develop their children physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. One of the key resources to achieve that goal is my book, Raising 4 Dimensional Children in a 2 Dimensional World, which not only gives parents theory in the form of the latest research in developmental child psychology, but also gives them practice by providing over 400 fun, educational actvities they can use to help their child reach new milestones in each of the 4 Dimensions.
You might say I am providing the Owner’s Manual that parents never got with their child.
Ok, thank you. Let’s talk about raising emotionally and mentally healthy children. In the Western world, humans typically have their physical needs met. But what has led to the tremendous downgrade in emotional and mental health that we are seeing today, especially for children? What is lacking in the mental health arena? Why are so many of our children struggling today?
Unfortunately, more and more, we are living in a 2 Dimensional World — and by that, I mean the world of screens: phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions. The 2 Dimensional World communicates one way. It presents an image, and you receive the image.
Children learn through interaction. We all need feedback. Infants get communication from their parents through touch and tone of voice long before they understand any words. They learn to read facial expressions. However, they don’t know what those sights, sounds, and touches mean without interaction. If a baby smiles and you smile back, she learns something valuable. Screens don’t smile back. They promote the agenda of the producer.
For example, television has gotten more violent in recent years because that’s what audiences respond to. More conflicts, fight scenes, gun battles, and car chases are a response to viewer feedback. Even the news gets more views when they report death, destruction, and disasters.
Just having a TV on in the background will affect the mind of a young child and actually contribute to the way it develops. Studies have shown that children who watch violence have a higher tendency toward violence.
Add to that the sponsors of child-friendly TV shows are usually companies who are convincing kids they need something — whether it’s a toy or a certain food — actually programming their brains to feel insufficient unless they get the product . . . not the best way for a society to develop mental health.
Finally, when the TV is on, the parent gets distracted, watching whatever is on the screen, and not interacting with the child.
Turn off the TV to protect the child and to motivate yourself to pay attention to the child, because your child craves your attention and needs human interaction.
How does technology play into the equation of mental and emotional well-being? What about social media?
Computers are wonderful servants, but they are harsh masters.
The first mistake many parents make is using technology as a babysitter. Yes, the child will be quiet watching a TV or playing a video game, but that child is missing out on human interaction, which is the basis for emotional education.
Social media companies pay homage to the studies that have shown problems with their use by restricting that use to those at least 13 years of age. How many people follow that?
Having made that superficial rule, they invest in algorythms using the best engineers and even artificial intelligence to track and measure your attention, with the goal of keeping your interest and keeping you in their world as long as possible to sell their advertising. They don’t care if the posts they provide are true or healthy; they only care how much time to spend on their site. It”s no secret that social media has become a hotbed of misinformation and intentional disinformation that has contributed to recent mass shootings.
Video game developers intentionally take advantage of the fact that every point scored (or every kill) provides the release of a tiny dose of dopamine (the feel good hormone) in your brain. Is it any wonder that teens, whose brains are more sensitive to dopamine than adults, find the gaming world more exciting and more stimulating than the real world?
Obviously, this is a huge issue, and it seems to be growing. What are some small, practical tips, or tweaks, that parents and educators can easily implement to help their children who are struggling?
Limit screen time. Get your kids off the screen and into the real world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before the age of 18 months. That’s no TV and no supposedly educational video games because their minds may be too young to understand that the image on the screen is supposed to represent something else. Turn off the TV when the child is in the room so you can pay full attention to each other. You can watch the news or a good movie after you put the child to bed.
After their second birthday until about age five, you may allow one hour a day of carefully reviewed and highly recommended activities, but research shows that the amount of screen time young children spend is associated with being overweight, getting asthma, and lower cognitive development and academic achievement. As noted above, child-friendly television with commercials is not really child-friendly. Use a pay service without commercials. Check out the Common Sense Media site for recommended games because educational benefits written by the game company’s marketing department are probably not verified or even accurate. In addition, don’t just sit the child down and walk away. Interact with your child about what he is seeing. Ask questions about the show or game and get answers, and then ask follow up questions about the answers.
During childhood, your child’s brain isn’t yet sophisticated enough to handle the violence and marketing messages. There are over 1,000 studies that support the conclusion that when children watch violent media, they become more aggressive. Those who don’t become more aggressive themselves may become desensitized to the pain and suffering of others or become fearful of the world around them.
When kids move into the tween and teen years, they actually need to do their homework on a device, so the time they spend learning has to be separated out from entertainment time. Their friends will be gaming, texting, and communicating on the phone, so you have to allow some screen time to fit in. However, the studies on violence are still true for teens. The basic rule of life is “you get out what you put in.” If you put in a steady diet of games where you kill everyone to win, what can you expect to get out?
In addition, rates of tweens and teens with depression and attempting suicide has increased drastically with the advent of social media over the past ten or twelve years. I personally blame it on the teen’s natural tendency to compare to find her place in the world. People on social media only post their highlight reels, not their shortcomings or failures. In addition, even the top models and movie stars Photoshop their pictures to be perfect. When your teen compares herself to a Photoshoped image of one of the most beautiful people in the world, or even to the best slices of her classmates’ lives, it’s easy for her to feel inferior. You have to help her realize that the internet isn’t reality and everybody has problems, they just don’t publicize them.
To combat these frightening trends, establish some screen-time rules that everyone, including the parents, follow. Here are some suggestions:
- Create some screen free zones like the kitchen, dining room, and bedroom at night.
- Charge ALL devices overnight in a specific place away from all bedrooms.
- Turn off the phone during homework time, in the car, and at meal times.
- Install security codes on all devices to control purchases and downloading of apps. Activate parental control functions. Turn on the locator to be able to find a lost phone or lost child. Check these functions regularly because if your child doesn’t know the hacks, her friends do.
- Never chat with strangers. The internet is full of liars.
- Clearly identify cyberbullying — what it is, what happens when you do it, and what to do if it happens to you.
Initiate these policies from the beginning. It’s easier to live without a privilege you never had, than it is to lose one you thought was your right.
If your teen thinks your screen time allowances are unfair, ask her what she thinks would be a fair amount of time . . . negotiate, and then enforce it. She probably doesn’t realize how much time she actually spends and will have to accept the amount of time she agreed to.
In your professional opinion, what are certain triggers or signs that the state of a child’s mental and emotional health is not at its best? What is the best way to be proactive and address these signs from the get-go?
Let me say this first: I believe the mental and emotional dimensions are separate but connected, as many people confuse them, calling something like anxiety a mental health issue when really it is more emotional.
In my opinion, a mental health issue involves the way the brain functions. For example, schizophrenia is a problem with the way the brain functions. ADHD is a description of the way the brain functions, but I hesitate to call it a problem . . . It might just be a super-power. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is considered a mental health issue, but I believe OCD, like many of these supposed “disorders,” are must be viewd on a spectrum. At what point does organized and logical go from being admirable to being called OCD and considered a disorder? We accept that autism has a spectrum, so why not other alternative mental functions?
That being said, communication is the key, and the most important part of communication is listening. Listen to your child and observe. Is he behaving differently than other children? How? Do you think it is a function of the brain or more emotional? Do you believe it could be a real problem or just a lack of knowledge and experience?
If you believe it is truly a mental health issue like autism or ADHD, definitely contact a professional as soon as you suspect something isn’t right. Listen to what they say, and seek a second or even third opinion. Search the internet for experts and information. For example, some doctors recommend drugs as the primary way to deal with any diagnosis of ADHD. Other doctors don’t. Certain drugs may be the answer for your child, but there may be other prescriptions that work better. Each child is an individual, and as I said, there is probably a spectrum. Do your research, listen to your doctors, but not all doctors agree, so follow the ones who make the most sense to you in your situation.
Do you think we can do a better job of educating our children about their emotional and mental health? What would that look like?
Absolutely! My parents loved me and did the best they could with the tools they had, but today we have much better tools.
As I mentioned above, mental and emotional health should be addressed separately.
There are generally five steps to emotional maturity:
- Knowing your emotions. Start in the toddler years helping your child “name it to tame it.” Young children don’t know what these new feelings are, so they need your guidance in identifying them. When you see your toddler experiencing an emotional rush, help him identify it by saying something like, “Wow, are you feeling angry?” You may know some older children or even adults who don’t seem to know what they are feeling.
- Managing your emotions. Teach your child to pause a moment before letting his emotions hijack his personality. The old trick of counting to ten whenever you feel angry works because it puts you into the logical, mathematical part of your brain and gets you out of the emotional part of your brain that wants to do something rash. Emotions are important, but you have to know when to follow them and when to be a little more logical.
- Motivating yourself. Help your child hear his own self-talk and then use it to his advantage. He must learn to reject negative self-talk and immediately replace it with the opposite, positive message. Help him develop a growth mindset, where mistakes are not really failures, but just feedback along the path to success.
- Recognizing emotions in others. Help your child learn to read faces, body language, and other non-verbal cues by discussing different people you see either live or on TV or in a movie. Ask, “What do you think that person is feeling?” Then, expand that skill to discuss things that happen to you both, or things that happen to your child, and ask the same question.
- Handling relationships. Teach your child first to be a good follower, to learn how to help and support others. Once he understands that, teach him to be a leader, who recognizes the needs of others and takes action to help them meet those needs. Along the way help him develop an internal locus of control, so that he makes decisions based on his own beliefs rather than being controlled by others.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 things parents can do to raise children who are emotionally and mentally healthy”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Understand the concept of 4 Dimensional Parenting. We all experience the world in 4 dimensions, and the goal for parents is to help their children mature in all 4 dimensions to achieve balance. If your child loves science, encourage her to develop her mind, but not to become a “geek” who ignores the other 3 dimensions. Help her realize she can become a scientist with a highly developed mind, but she can also be physically fit and healthy, emotionally confident and have loving relationships, and be a good person who is spiritually fulfilled at the same time. Children will choose their own path, but parents must be proper tour guides who help the child see the bigger picture, with many options, before they settle into the best choice for themselves.
- Develop the body to develop the mind. The brain requires proper nutrition and good circulation to function properly. We all need to eat healthy food and get proper exercise. There are studies that link certain foods and digestion issues with mental conditions like ADHD. Find out if your child has food allergies or sensitivities. Inspire in your children a love of movement. Let them run and play, swim, or ride bikes. Let them breathe the fresh air, get out in the sunlight (without burning), and experience the wonders of nature. Enroll them in sports programs, or my personal favorite, martial arts classes. Get them off the screens, out of the house, and into the real world. Physical health helps the brain develop to its fullest capacity.
- Develop the mind for emotional control. The amygdala is the part of the brain that reacts quickly for survival. It is the seat of the fight or flight response. When we perceive a threat, like an insult, the quickest part of our brain to react is the amygdala, which may respond to the insult by punching the “attacker” in the mouth. The prefrontal cortex is the logical part of the brain that controls the executive functions like inhibiting actions. Part of being “civilized” is using the prefrontal cortex to stop the immediate reaction of punching someone in the mouth and replace it with a more peaceful alternative. Help your children learn how to be proactive instead of reactive by learning to think before they act.
- A loving heart is the key to happiness. Teach your child to become emotionally mature as explained in the 5 steps above. We get most of our happiness from our relationships, and as I said earlier, the basic rule of life is “you get out what you put in.” Teach your child how to love herself first, and then love others. When you love yourself, you have love to give. When you can give love, you can get love.
- Give your child something to believe in. Too many people are so enamored with science that they deny anything that can’t be proven . . . like the spirit. You can’t prove love, but you believe it’s real because you can feel it. You can’t prove the spirit, but you can feel it. The spirit is the realm of belief and the foundation of morality. Even if you don’t feel the spirit, you hopefully believe in the difference between right and wrong. Teach your children to be good. Raise them in your religion if you have one, or in your secular beliefs if you don’t, but establish a moral foundation of right and wrong. Help them understand that knowing you are a good person who does the right thing is the starting point of self-confidence because if you can’t believe in yourself, how can you believe in anything else?
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources you recommend to our audience reading this interview?
Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence were breakthrough concepts when they were published, but for the most concise, clear understanding of 4 Dimensional Parenting, I have to recommend my own book Raising 4 Dimensional Children in a 2 Dimensional World as the source of not only theory, but also practical actions the average parent can take to be effective.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to start a national conversation about 4 Dimensional Parenting and inspire research to validate what I say.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
I have a weekly blog at https://4d-2d.com or they can follow me on social media:
LinkedIn: (16) Tim McCarthy | LinkedIn
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher, and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at email@example.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.