Time in Verses Time Out

Does Time Out Work?

A really popular parenting tool is time out. Here’s the problem, kids from hard places who have already been discarded, neglected or abused- time out just reinforces some beliefs:

  • you don’t matter
  • you’re not valuable
  • I’m going to separate myself from you

What they need instead is time in. What is time in? When a child is dysregulated, he needs to be beside you so you can co-regulate. Instead of sending him away, you keep him beside you. Keep them 2 or 3 feet away on a chair (or on the floor) until they calm down. When the child is calm, have a quick conversation and move on. This is a great chance for a redo (post on that here). You are looking for connection. Parents have an opportunity to connect after the child calms down. Our goal is build relationships. These kiddos were harmed through relationship and they will be healed through relationship.

Time out often breeds violent behaviors because the child needs someone to help them regulate.

Beside me jobs.

This simply means keeping the child beside you while you do chores. Let the child talk. She may put one dish in the dishwasher to your ten, it’s okay. This time of connection grows during this time. Beside me jobs, shoulder to shoulder allows the kiddo to spend time with you. During this time you are helping them regulate. The fruit of years of beside me jobs is a child is able to sort things through conversation. Not only that, but a child will mirror your behavior (see post on that here). If you are enjoying your chore and her company, she will eventually do the same.

 

Here’s a video from The Whole House Adoption/Foster Care Support Group on the subject. Comment if you would like to join or find us on Facebook!

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Redos and Kids from Hard Places

Traditional Parenting doesn’t work with kids from hard places.

We learn in ETC Parent Training we need to empty our traditional parenting toolbox and refill it with new tools.

A REDO is one of those tools.

Every offense by a child doesn’t need a volcanic reaction.

A redo is an opportunity for a child to redo the action in the right way. This is so important because it helps rewire the brain. A parent simply and playfully (if possible) walks the child through the proper steps. I use and example of this in the video below. A great thing to remember is a redo can be quick, playful and specific.  For example if you have two kiddos playing with cars and one grabs one out of the other one’s hand. Here are two scenarios:

Traditional Parenting:

Mom: Give that car back. You should know better. We share in this house. Blah. Blah. Blah- meaning a whole sermon on why we share.

Redo Parenting:

Mom: Let’s try that again, buddy. Give the car back. (Child hands car back however reluctantly, Mom smiles). Great job, giving the car back. We don’t take.

*If the child wants the car and they are community property, then you as the parent can work out a time for each child to use the car. This is also an opportunity for the child to ‘use his words’ and ask for the car instead of grabbing it. All of these tools should be used quickly and with a pleasant tone. When we use anger to work out scenarios, our child will too!

Here’s a short video I did on the topic for The Whole House Adoption/Foster Support Group: (don’t you love my expression?)

Six Risk Factors

“A scar is evidence of a wound, but also evidence that we can heal.”- Scott McClellan

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

I thought I could do this, but I don’t know if I can. It’s just too hard.

 

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I’ve heard these statements along with pleas for help from countless parents. I have offered to come into the home and do some observation, as well as get some parenting tools that work into the hands of the parents. It seems as if every time, the parent says, “Oh, he/she is so manipulative, I don’t know.” As if the child will pull the wool over my eyes (as he may do with some professionals or teachers) or their situation is so unique, so individual that I won’t be able to grasp it. It is this pit of ‘aloneness’ that foster and adoptive parents feel. No one else struggles like you. Nobody understands. We adoptive/foster parents may feel as if we have slipped an Alfred Hitchcock are captives who will never escape.   To move forward with understanding, we must first have knowledge.

Every behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children.

In adoption/foster circles we hear the phrase ‘children from hard places’. As Ryan North, Executive Director of Tapestry Ministries, reminds us, this is not a geographical location. As explained in The Connected Child, there are six primary risk factors that characterize children from hard places:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol, cortisol crosses the placenta and alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system* story of the woman stressed in pregnancy- measured her cortisol levels and those of her infant six months after delivery.
  2. Difficult labor or birth Twin example- one born at home, one at a hospital after a 45-minute ride to the hospital
  3. Early medical trauma Hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma- a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of a parent
  5. Neglect-  says “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – says “You don’t matter.”

Five things are impacted by early trauma (any one of the six risk factors)

  1. Brain- altered brain development, overactive amygdala. It’s as if the child is chased by a bear all the time. Our experiences shape the connections in our brain. Hebbian principle- what fires together wires together.
  2. Biology- Neurochemistry is altered. Hormones altered. Serotonin is often low. Dopamine is low or high. Some young children have the adrenals of a ninety-year-old.
  3. Body- Learning delays, developmental delays, sensory issues
  4. Beliefs- What’s one firmly held belief that you have? What would it take you to change that belief? Kids from hard places often believe: People don’t love me because I’m not worthy. If I was worth something, people won’t treat me this way. Everyone leaves.
  5. Behavior Regulation. Co-regulation. Self Regulation. – A child from hard places has difficulty regulating because he has not had the natural progression. Remember, a behavior is a need inappropriately expressed. Fight, Flight, Freeze mode is often what kids from hard places get stuck in.

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the model TBRI- Trust-Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. 

If you’re struggling with helping your adoptive/foster child heal and make progress, check out ETC Training, find one in your area here.

If you are local and want Kathleen to come do a training for parents or professionals- email her at Postiveadoption@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Embrace the Privilege of Saying “YES”!

 

Ever think about how many times you say no to your children?

Do you feel guilty for always saying no?

Does it seem to cause the child to misbehave more when you are constantly saying no?

Children from hard places are often in survival mode. They want to control their environment because it gives them a false sense of security. We want children to have a real sense of security. We want them to feel safe, to have a voice.

When our brains hear negative information constantly, it puts us in a downward spiral. Children from hard places are already have displaced wiring. Their neural pathways may always lead to the negative. Life experience has taught them that life is not good.

We want to change those pathways. We want our kids to enjoy life and feel positive. Can you imagine never feeling as if life is good. NEVER. Sad, huh? I understand this perspective, because I was a child from a hard place and I often had an overwhelming negative feeling, all the time. Not a great place for a kid to live.

Even neurotypical children need to hear the word yes! Saying yes is nurturing. For every one time your child hears the word no, he should hear the word yes seven times!  I know, you’re thinking, how in the world do I do that? You can’t say yes to your child climbing on the cabinets or going outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. So, what do you do?

Change your no to a yes.

Change your no to a yes.

One of the simple ways of changing a no to a yes is as simple as rephrasing your answer. I often use the phrase “You’re welcome to…”

“You’re welcome to go outside as soon as you finish your chore!”

“You’re welcome to play that game as soon as you finish your math worksheet.”

“You’re welcome to read that book after your nap.”

This rephrasing changes how the brain receives the information. You are essentially saying yes with a condition, but it is still a yes! This also shifts the burden of responsibility to the child, which gives him power over his choices. He can make going outside happen. He can make playing that game happen. He has a bit of control over his environment which makes him feel heard and more in control, in a positive way.

Warning! This doesn’t mean your child will comply willingly or immediately do what is asked of him. It’s a process. This new way of doing things won’t change a behavior overnight. Be loviningly firm. Don’t point out his failures. Just remind him it is up to him to be successful.

Some days here at the Guire Shire can get pretty hectic when kids and grandkids are here. One day we were doing a scavenger hunt outside and getting the kids out there is like rounding up cats. A child melted down, thinking she was missing out on the fun. The other kids beat her out the door while she was busy playing with play doh. True story. This is what happens next.

“I want to go outside!” accompanied by tears and wailing.

“You can go. Just get your shoes on,” her dad replied.

More wailing. Thrashing on the ground.

“_____________, You can go outside. Just get your shoes.”

More wailing.

“Where are your shoes?” That question activiated the upstairs brain in child. She answers. They find the shoes and she goes out the door for the scavenger hunt. He could have said, “No. You missed it, they already started. You were playing with play doh and not paying attention.” All were true. Except she didn’t miss it. She just got distracted. He gave her the power to choose to leave the play doh and go participate. He gave her a yes.

Another way of saying yes, is the Yes Jar.  

Find out more, by clicking on the link and watching the video. Kayla North explains the hows and whys of the yes jar! The yes jar is a simple way of filling your day with yes!

There are lots of ways to add more yessing to your days. What creative ways have you used? Has this article made you think of some things you could try? Please share your examples and ideas! We’d love to hear from you!

Embracing the Privilige of Saying Yes is one of the 25 Parenting Tools taught in Empowered to Connect Parent Training for foster and adoptive parents. Want to know more? Click here. Why should you find an ETC Parent Trainer and sign up? Find out here.

Investment Parenting with Co-Regulation

Susie, a friend of mine (plus foster and adoptive Mom) shared a conundrum she had recently while teaching four year-olds during Sunday school class. A new little one melted down and hid under the table. She had no special instructions for the little one and wasn’t sure how to handle it. You see, there is a big difference between disobedience and a reaction based on past trauma. Turns out the little one was a foster child who was placed in the home just the night before. Susie would have been better equipped to help him if she had only known. I could do a whole post on taking a fresh foster or adoptive placement to church, but I’ll save that for another day. I’d like to focus on trauma and it’s effect on self-regulation.

As I talked about in my last post, trauma produces children from hard places. Children from had places have altered brain development. The main outwards sign of past trauma is what we often refer to as “bad behavior” or the inability to self regulate (if you want it to sound more science-y and less critical).  The truth is, when it comes to behavior, we must remember that every behavior expresses a need.Can't

When it comes to a child from hard places ability to self-regulate, it’s CAN’T not WON’T. In simple plain language that means, he cannot calm himself. He can’t help but be overwhelmed to the point that he is either hiding under the table (flight), not responding to what you are asking of him (freeze) or running away from the situation (flight). He CAN’T. Not physically able. Not emotionally able. In this scenario, the adult must take the reins and help the child by co-regulating. Co-regulation helps a child develop a new pattern for stress regulation.

“The early developing right brain, where attachments develop, is largely dominant during the first three years of life (Schore, 2003). It contains the initial and lasting template for stress regulation. Revisions to this template will require intentional efforts.”-Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoption

What does co-regulation look like? Think of a two year old being tired and falling on the floor having a meltdown because she doesn’t want to take a nap. Clearly, she needs one, so Mom takes control of the situation. Mom takes the little one to her room and reads her a story and rocks her to sleep. She takes a nap. Mom is co-regulating because unless you have a rare toddler, she is not going to recognize her need for a nap and put herself down for one.

With a child from a hard place, no matter what their age and size, we must co-regulate when they cannot. A twelve year old who cannot recognize his body’s signals to eat or drink, must be provided with a snack and water every two hours or he will enter the flight, fight or freeze zone. A nine year old who has sensory processing issues may lose the ability to voice his need to escape the noise and over stimulation of a loud birthday party. Mom and Dad must be watching for cues and either leave the party or take the child to a quieter place. It’s important to remember that a child from a hard place is emotionally at least half his physical age, sometimes more. His regulation skills may be that of a two year old while he is teen size.

The good news is, as we connect and co-regulate, we change the brain chemistry, wiring and development. Scientists tell us that relationships and experience shape the brain. Think of a developing brain like a multi-storied house under construction. At birth the downstairs brain is developed. This is the part that tells the child when to breath and keeps the functions of the body on track. This is also where survival mode resides, the fight, flight or freeze mechanisms. The upstairs brain is the higher functions of the brain. It is more sophisticated and houses reasoning, speech, regulation of emotions, the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Trauma skews the wiring of the brain. Trauma triggers the amygdala, the watchdog of the body. If the brain stays in this state too long, it rewires to stay stuck in fight, flight or freeze. Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the prefrontal cortex. It is involved in impulses, aggression, anxiety, decisions, changing gears and self-regulation.

At this point, you may be thinking, I thought you said there was hope. There is! Remember the Hebbian Principle, what fires together, wires together. That is the more you experience something, the more your wires go that direction. So, how do we rewire a child’s brain that is stuck downstairs in the survival (fight, flight, freeze)? With co-regulation and fresh new experiences that show him he can trust us. We call this felt safety. When a child feels safe, his adrenals calm, he produces less cortisol and he is able to function in his upstairs brain.

I know, I feel like this is all over the place, so let me end with three reminders.

If you are parenting a child from a hard place:

  1. Expect to co-regulate a lot more than your peers with bio children (who aren’t from hard places, because some are). Don’t base your expectation of whether you need to help them regulate on their physical age and size. “Many children who do not have early experiences of proper care also lack proper physiological and emotional regulation. This is because both of these regulation systems are developed through an attachment relationship.” (Nurturing Adoptions)
  2. Make sure your children feel safe. It’s not about really being safe. It’s about feeling safe. If they feel safer with a light on, not going to the noisy party, staying near you at a function, comply, don’t complain.
  3. Keep the positive, connecting experiences coming. “The brain is also “experience-expectant.” We come hard wired for connection. For eye contact, touch, playful interactions and co-regulation.These fill up the kid’s emotional tank and help their brains rewire. Blow bubbles. Ride bikes together. Make cookies and eat them. Read a favorite book fifty times. Swim with them, don’t just watch them swim. Hike with them. Take the time to invest positive experiences. This is investment parenting.

If you see your children struggling with regulation, what parts of this article resonated with you? Are you willing to try to do a few things differently? If you do, please share your stories! I’d love to hear from you!