On the State of Education – Bryan Post

Education works for ninety percent of children. Maybe that’s a stretch but we’ll go by those numbers as they are quite common in education research circles. Meaning that roughly ten percentSchool 3 of children do not thrive in a traditional academic setting, they need something different but are rarely provided it. Yes we create special rooms, we modify their learning, etc, but a critical examination will easily demonstrate in the majority of instances that even these settings and activities are only hybrids of the existing model. The common denominator remains, in essence, the same. Why? Because paradigm shifts rarely account for abnormalities. You see it happen in the medical profession all of the time. Once symptoms fall outside the box of common occurrence then a shoot from the hip mentality kicks in. Usually beginning with what we know, working backwards in the hopes that “what we know” will cure what we do not. Also happens in mechanics. For instance, one of my little cars has been sputtering for about five months now. I’ve spent about five hundred dollars and yet still no fix. No one understands the problem although my gut tells me it’s my fuel pump, I’m no mechanic so I naturally trust the ‘supposed’ experts. It’s now at a new shop, in new ‘expert’ hands. We shall see what their diagnosis is. This is oftentimes the case with children who do not fit the common or known patterns of learning, yet this is a fallacy based on erroneous thinking and a flawed paradigm much more so than an abnormality in symptoms.

What we often fail to realize is that a school is fundamentally a business. The only difference is that the students don’t get paid to attend. However you darn well better believe that the administration of the school, including the teachers, get paid by what is produced by their little worker ants. To the point, New York University neuroscientist and author Joseph LeDoux in his seminal text The Emotional Brain makes an academically paradigm shifting statement when he explains, “In times of stress our thinking becomes confused and distorted, and our short-term memory is suppressed”. For years I have been teaching others the power of this finding because it can literally revolutionize education.

For the eighty to ninety percent of children who make it through school with minimal challenge this finding is both predictive and historically relevant. Such a student potentially has a very low historical exposure to stress, trauma, and parental inconsistency. By most accounts he or she has had few academic challenges beginning with kindergarten, henceforth has years of positive conditioning towards the educational environment, learning, and teachers. Additionally, this student has formed continuing and lasting peer relationships which prompt greater ties to the educational environment and in some instances may even trigger a release of the powerful Oxytocin hormone with the thought of another day at school. Certainly the presence of an academic barrier such as stress being present at any significant level is greatly diminished.

TearOn the other hand, there are the children many of us raise, adopt, or work with. These children, in many instances came into the world stressed out  and at earlier ages manifesting a variety of diagnosis – RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attachment Issues, ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ASD, Autistic Spectrum including the more prevalent Aspergers, ADD/ADHD, PTSD, Bi-Polar and more!. Various important critical stages were not accomplished and optimal, neurologic functioning, a remote, very remote, possibility. These children have had conflict within the family, with peers, academically, etc. from the very beginning. Where the more common child has experienced prolonged states of regulation, attuned, consistent care giving, and predictability, these other children have in many instances experienced just the opposite. And what of the child adopted from birth who was subsequently provided prolonged states of regulation, attuned, consistent care giving? It doesn’t matter. My sister was adopted as an infant yet was prenatally exposed, spent seven months in a rejecting womb, and then was in an incubator, alone, isolated, and without vital sensory experiences for nearly three months. BIG, lifelong impact.

The state of education today is challenged because we continue to try to force square children into round ways of education. In doing so we create more stress for the student, the teacher, the other students, the parents, and ultimately the entire school on an energetic level. It’s as Bishop T.D. Jakes exclaims, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always be where you’ve already been”. It’s not complex, it’s actually very simple. It’s just not easy because after all it is a different way of thinking. Nevertheless, if we would only begin to have discussions regarding putting emotional support and security first – and espcially, not because education is secondary, but rather because emotional support and security enables optimal educational achievement, then we may very well begin leading a paradigm that will be useful for all students.

Finally in the words of The Righteous Brothers, “Bring back that loving feeling…oh oh…bring back that loving feeling. Cause it’s gone, gone, gone…oh oh ohhh.”

Choose Love,
— B

How to Get Your Child to Do Anything – David Durovy

Well sorta almost anything. But let’s start with washing the car.

So, I ask my son to wash the car and clean and vacuum the inside. Actually I tell him to do it. It is his job today. He has things to do daily and today is get the car ready to sell day. “I can’t” he David_Journalsays. What do you mean, “I can’t”?

“It’s too much – I don’t like washing the car”.

I say, “I don’t like washing the car either but sometimes it needs to be done. I can’t do it. It’s your job. I don’t care how you feel or what you don’t like. You are 21 years old. It’s a simple thing really, wash the car.

After a few minutes of going back and forth in this negative feedback loop I start to feel like it’s time for him to pack his bags and go find his own place to live. In fact I even think it. I look at that thought and say to myself – no. That is conditional love. There must be a way through this. A better way. He sits in the driveway on the ground looking at bugs. He is too old to be sitting on the ground looking at bugs. I am 64. I am too old to be doing this stuff. I’ve been doing this with this child since he was five, when we adopted him. So I think to myself, what is the priority here? Is it to get him to wash and clean the car or is it to get the car washed and cleaned?

Today, here and now, it is to get the car washed and cleaned. I decide to pick up the bucket and start washing the car. I let go of my thoughts about him, about what I want from him, and simply choose to wash the car. I started feeling less stressed I’m just washing the car. My son gets up, picks up another sponge starts washing the car with me. I don’t say anything to him like I usually would. I would normally say something like I don’t need your help now – I’m doing it. Get out of here. You had your chance and you blew it. Then both he and I would feel badly.

But today I just go on washing and cleaning the car. He continues on washing and eventually cleaning the car with me. We don’t talk about what he did or didn’t do we just wash and clean the car. He does a great job. In fact he does an excellent job. And he goes on washing cleaning and vacuuming for a couple of hours. He is slow but he is very detailed minded and does a great job.

Lying crop 2In the end the car looks great. I feel good and he is still living with us. So what is the lesson here? Not only did the car get washed and cleaned but he did a lot of it.Yes I had to do it with him. He learned that he can wash and clean the car. He learned that it is not overwhelming to do so. But it is overwhelming for him to think of doing it all by himself. So my condition (I need to teach him to wash and clean the car by himself) falls away and we have overcome one major obstacle – the “thought” that it is too overwhelming.

This is one of Brian’s simple teachings. I have heard it over and over and over. If a child doesn’t do what you ask them to do over and over again, you do it with them. If they won’t do it with you, you do it. As parents is hard to imagine letting our kids off the hook so easily. Can we let them just get away with it?

If I asked my wife to do something for me she broke down saying that she felt it was just too overwhelming, would I stand there and tell her “I asked you to do it so please do it”. Would I punish her if she did not do it? Or would my love lead me to say to her, “I’m sorry honey. Here let me help or rather I will do it for you. I’m so sorry that what I asked was too much. I should’ve known better. You are just too stressed.”

GhandiOf course I would do what I could to make it easier for her. But what I do this for a child who in many ways is so under-developed, incapable and unable to function with my conditional expectations? Often times the answer is no. I would rather fight about it, try to make him do it. And end up with both of us in emotional hell. Would the car have gotten washed? Probably not. Would I have taught him anything? Probably not. Would other parents judge me for not punishing him for this? Most likely. If fact, had it not been for me going through this with him, I would likely judge myself. Bryan says that if the child won’t do what you ask them to do because they are scared and overwhelmed. We often look at scared and forget about overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed I have trouble doing anything. Maybe, just maybe, it is the same for special kids.

“We must be the change we want to see happen” – Gandhi

IEP and The Law: Your 9 Parenting Rights for Helping Your Child Succeed in School – Attorney Jamette Pruett

Most Important Parenting Legal Rights – Bryan Post and Jamette Pruett, Attorney

You must know and take action for assuring your child has the best chance to succeed in school or home school. We have an excellent resource – IEP and The Law which features Attorney Jamette Pruett and I which provides lots of valuable information, tips, and specific Federal statutes that you can use.

Listen to this 7 minute audio which introduces these 9 Rights - Click Here icon-headphones.jpg
Attorney Pruett makes special mention of these 9 Most Important Rights that you need to know and use:


  1. You have the right to have your child evaluated for special education needs for free

  2. You have the right to get your own evaluation if you desire

  3. You have the right to to request services for your child

  4. You have the right to participate in your child’s IEP process

  5. You have the right to to adequate notice

  6. You have the right to to have advocates speak for your child

  7. You have the right to to ensure that your child’s IEP is carried out

  8. You have the right to review all of your child’s school records

  9. You have the right to you have the right to know all the credentials of your child’s teachers and para-professionals

To get the full hour long interview with Bryan and Attorney Pruett, see Bryan’s Special Back to School Offer with Bonuses.

How to Home School Attachment Challenged Children – and Succeed! – Sandra Nardoni

Homeschooling was a choice our family made long before we adopted. Philosophically speaking, I have grown into my intense annoyance with the public education system but it started early. The seed of doubt was planted during student teaching my senior year in college. That was the semester I hated the most. I was “mentored” by a teacher whose time had come and gone, who had decided having a student teacher would get her through the last few years until retirement. (At least, that is what I suspect from her behavior.)

As I slogged through my student teaching I noticed the bright students were often bored and the slower ones were marked as dumb. What’s more, there was no time to help either group. (A problem I know has grown since then–my whole family are teachers and are very angry with the system.) I knew if I stayed in this profession I would be perpetually frustrated but I kept at it in several different capacities for the next few years. Each experience confirming my belief there had to be a better way.

Why am I telling you this? Because, unlike my first inkling to homeschool, your reason to homeschool may be (and probably is) necessity. Maybe your child beat up the teacher. Maybe he can’t get along with other children because of his high levels of anxiety. Maybe you’re afraid he’ll never connect with you unless you spend more time with him. Whatever it is, you may have come to this point and even to this newsletter out of desperation. You may even be feeling like homeschooling is your only and last choice.

As New York’s teacher of the year, John Gatto says, “There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as finger prints.” I challenge you to change your paradigm. The history of public education isn’t a flattering one and all signs point to eventual failure. From the beginning there have been many examples of its shortcomings and you are more qualified than any teacher to teach your child.

Thomas Edison’s teacher begged his parents to pull him out of school. She said he was dumb, he would never succeed in life, probably never read. He was nine when she pronounced him a hopeless case. NINE!! By the age of twelve he was reading books most people in his town couldn’t even comprehend (and blowing up his mother’s basement–but that’s another story..) What if his parents had accepted that he was dumb? What if his mother had given up? You know what would have happened. History would have certainly been altered.

Most of the time the problem isn’t the teacher. Many teachers are kind, understanding, and highly competent. The problem lies in large class sizes, peers that are often cruel, and learning environments not conducive to learning for a child with anxiety issues. You can solve those problems as a parent. You can create an environment of learning in your home. Ironically, you don’t have to have a degree or even a stack of textbooks. Learning in it’s truest sense is an experience. What are some learning experiences you remember? Do you remember textbook passages? How about tests? Or do you remember the class where you were allowed to dress in costumes and act out the Battle of Waterloo?

My point is that you will certainly need to think about curriculum and learning styles if you are beginning a new year of homeschooling. Your state may even have requirements mandating Sandra Nardoniyou use textbooks. However, as the teacher, you have the freedom to create an inspiring environment of learning for your student. Inspired students want to learn. They don’t throw tantrums in the face of bug catching, examining cells under a microscope, and acting out history in costume. (We’re talking bath robes and sheets here, nothing fancy!)

So begin this year casting a vision for your child. Make your first month full of exploration and good books. Read about kids who were not great in the classroom but who went on to be great statesmen or inventors. (See True Stories of Great Americans for Young Americans.) History is full of such stories! On Our Way to Normal BookChange the way you think about education and about your child’s hope or lack thereof. And don’t ever think you’re selling him short because he isn’t sitting in a public school classroom.

I’m not kidding when I say your defiant, attachment challenged, “learning disabled” child could be the next great inventor of our time. Just give him the space he needs to heal, cast a vision for his life. Embrace this school year as an opportunity to connect and inspire!

For more information about homeschooling attachment challenged kids visit Sandra at Blog Radio. Mom to three kids, two of whom were adopted from foster care. Author of the book, On Our Way to Normal: Our journey through foster care, adoption, and homeschooling our traumatized children. She is a Mentor to homeschooling families who have children with special emotional needs, learning issues or severe behaviors. Read about the book here by Tim and Sandra Nardoni.


Bryan and Sandra discuss schooling attachment challenged kids, learning, home schooling, homework and more! Listen to this hour long interview here – FREE!

10 Tips for a Successful School Year – by Pat Howey, Advocate

We are pleased to be featuring an article from Pete and Pam Wright who were Adjunct Professors of Law at the William and Mary School of Law where they taught a course about special education law and advocacy and assisted with creation of the Law School’s Special Education Law Clinic. Their website, www.wrightslaw offers impeccable legal documents, books, audios, videos and even consolations for those of us with need of legal help for schooling and other issues dealing with special needs. Check out all the links in the 10 Tips article. One link offers you a free very helpful and complete 16 page step by step guide for formulating a Smart IEP. It’s time to learn about special education law. In this document, you will learn about SMART IEPs that are specific, measurable, use action words, are realistic and relevant, and time-limited. You will learn how to use baseline levels of performance to write measurable goals and objectives.

(Special note from Bryan Post – “Wrightslaw is the best resource for legal issues for special needs children and their book Emotions to Advocacy is a must-read book for parents of school aged children”.)

Question: Help! School is starting. I want to make sure I have done my homework so this year is better than last year.

Answer: You need to view your role as your child’s “case manager.” (Learn more about “The Parent as Project Manager” in Chapter 3 of Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.) [Editor - special note from Bryan Post - "Emotions to Advocacy is a must-read book for parents of school aged children".]

You need to be watchful, even when things appear to be going well.  Here are ten tips to help you get off to a good start at the beginning of the new school year.

1 – Help Your Child Deal with Transitions Is your child making the transition from preschool to kindergarten, from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school? Plan to take your child to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school.

2 – Reread your child’s IEP Do you understand what the school agreed to provide? Do your child’s teachers understand what they are to provide? Is your child’s IEP SMART? (specific, measurable, action words, realistic, and time-specific)? (Review Chapter 12 about SMART IEPs from Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy).

3 – Meet with your child’s teacher(s) to discuss your child’s special needs Take a picture of your child to the meeting. Teachers are more likely to take a personal interest in your child and remember your child’s special needs if s/he has seen a picture of your child.

4 – Take extra copies of your child’s IEP to the meeting with the teacher(s) Never assume that teachers have had time to read your child’s IEP before school begins. Teachers have many things to do as they prepare for the first day of school. The teacher may not understand how important the IEP is to your child’s success. Leave a copy of your child’s IEP with each teacher.

5 – Make a List of Important Things About Your Child Make a list of the five most important things that the teacher(s) need to know about your child. Explain why these things are vital to your child’s success. Leave a copy of the list with each teacher.

6 – Prepare to Deal with Potential Problems Early. If your child is in general education classes, prepare for the teacher(s) who wants to see how your child “gets along” before making any changes in the way they run their classrooms. Teachers often take this position because they want to give their students a fresh start. You may need to explain why your child may fail unless the teacher understands his/her unique needs and provides the necessary services, accommodations and supports.

7 – Resolve Old Concerns and Issues. If you have concerns or issues that were not resolved during the last IEP meeting, request another IEP meeting immediately. Try to resolve these issues and concerns before your child begins to have problems this year.

8 – Get a New Assessment. Consider getting your child’s skills tested very early in the school year. Where are your child’s skills on standardized educational achievement tests? Use these scores as baseline data. You can compare these scores with scores obtained at the end of the year to measure your child’s progress. (See Chapter 8, Your Child’s Evaluations, in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy).

9 – Go to your school’s Open House. In addition to giving you another chance to meet with your child’s teachers (and make a good impression), teachers often explain their classroom rules during Open House. When you attend, you have a chance to see if your child may have trouble understanding the teachers’ rules. You will also be in a better position to explain these rules to your child.

10 – Get a bound notebook. Use the notebook as a “contact log” to send messages to the teachers. Write a sentence or two to the teacher(s) every day. Do not make your child the bearer of messages about problems at school. Make an extra copy of your log often in case the notebook is lost.

Have a great school year! Source: www.wrightslaw.com

 Wrightslaw Store


How to Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

At the beginning of each year, I meet with my daughter’s teachers to discuss with them how to best interact with my daughter in the classroom. My daughter experienced a trauma at the age of five and has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. Without this meeting, the teachers might simply interpret her behavior as that of a child who is oppositional-defiant. It’s important to me that they see my daughter as a child who is responding from a state of dysregulation. I use certain talking points to convey the message that my daughter is a wonderful girl who is simply struggling to deal with the trauma she experienced.

Children of Trauma

The brain and body are connected. Trauma impacts the body-mind system. Stress is an internal reaction to an external event. When a child gets stressed, they regress to self-preservation mode. The child is in a state of dysregulation. In the state of dysregulation, there are two responses:

  1. Hypoarousal – Defiant (doesn’t appear to care)
  2. Hyperarousal – Aggressive behavior

Stress causes the regulatory system to become very sensitively conditioned to perceived threats. Perceived threats become stress-producing events, which lead the regulatory system into a School 2state of dysregulation. Children who experience prolonged dysregulation become psychologically and physiologically sensitive to stress. When threatened, the child’s immediate response will be to protect herself from potential threat. This response is irrational, but this is, nonetheless, the child’s perception of reality.

Trauma and Memory

There are four levels of Memory:

  1. Cognitive – easiest to access (recall of facts, directions, names, people.)
  2. Emotional – recall of happiness when you remember a friend.
  3. Motor – (knowing how to write, walk, talk, eat, run.) There is very little conscious thought of motor memory on a daily basis.
  4. State (Brainstem) – most difficult to access. It is believed that trauma is stored at the state level. During times of activation (stress), this level of functioning determines all of the other levels of memory. The ability to think rationally is not a reality for a child in a state of stress.

Important Considerations

1 – Look at behavior as a form of communication.


  • Saying shut up to another student
  • Putting wrong answers on the entire test
  • Talking too much
  • Using bad language
  • Hitting another student
  • Refusing to comply with a teacher’s request
  • Tearing up a paper

When my daughter communicates in this manner, she is letting you know that she has exceeded her level of tolerance and is in need of some help in regulating. Even when she appears physically calm, it may take more time for her to calm down emotionally. If she appears to show no emotion or remorse after an incident, she needs to be given more time to calm down. It can take several hours for her to completely regulate depending upon the severity of the incident.

2 – Children don’t act out for attention; they act out because they need attention.

3 – When you stress, you regress to your developmental zone of comfort. That zone of comfort will pre-date the trauma date.

When a child is stressed, it isn’t that she won’t respond appropriately but that she can’t respond. She is not in a regulated state. The state level of memory overrides the child’s cognitive, emotional, and motor memories. The child is not capable of rational thought.

There are three levels of maturity:

  1. Cognitive Maturity
  2. Chronological Maturity
  3. Emotional Maturity

During a time of stress, huge discrepancies occur between these three levels of maturity. Children of trauma lose their ability to reason. My child may be 11 years old cognitively, but emotionally and chronologically, she may act like a 5-year-old. She needs to be addressed at her developmental comfort zone. I’m asking you to see my child, not as a defiant child choosing to misbehave, but as a child who is terrified at the moment. She is not intentionally taking control. She is in survival mode and perceives she will die if she relinquishes control. The flight, fright, fight mode is triggered.

  • Hippocampus – logical part of brain
  • Amygdala – part of the brain where fear is stored

The amygdala is hijacked during high stress, and the logical part of the brain cannot be accessed. In times of high stress, thinking becomes confused and distorted, the short-term memory becomes suppressed, and a child is unable to think clearly and learn effectively.

4. It isn’t about you.

Although it may seem that your child is attacking you and is in control of her behavior, remember that she is in self-preservation mode. She isn’t thinking rationally. Rather, she is defending her life. It’s hard for you as the target of the defiance to not take it personally. When you can stay regulated yourself and not take what she is saying personally, she will also be able to calm down.

Strategies that Work

  1. Preferred seating
  2. Greeting her at the beginning of class in order to determine my daughter’s emotional state. Address her at her current level. She is always in a vigilant mode ready to defend herself. It’s as if she has a lit firecracker in her stomach at all times. She can regulate her behavior between a 1 and possibly a 4, but when she reaches a 5, it may take only one incident to send her to a 10. When she enters your classroom, she may be at 5 because of what happened in previous classrooms. If you take the time to greet her, you may be able to tell that she is in a state of dysregulation. If she doesn’t make eye contact with you, for example, she is probably in a state of dysregulation.
  3. Enhance structure – Any change in routine causes high stress in a child of trauma. Informing her early of a change in routine allows her time to adapt. If there is a substitute, there is almost a guarantee that she will have a bad day.
  4. Time-In – Rather than practice time-out with a child who isn’t behaving appropriately, practice time-in with that child. Spending time with the child helps the teacher connect in a positive manner, which, in turn, builds a stronger relationship. That stronger relationship helps to create a safe environment for the child. When she has exceeded her window of tolerance, she needs to be with someone to help regulate her. Isolating her and expecting her to self-regulate is not a possibility.
  5. Allow my daughter to call me.
  6. Call me about any issue you have. I have dealt with everything under the sun. I can give you guidance and work with her in our home to improve her time at school.
  7. Give her a gentle friendly touch on the shoulder. As you are lecturing, place your hand on her shoulder when you walk by. Your state of regulation will help her with her state of regulation.
  8. If she is not regulated and is communicating that through her behavior, give her a pass to leave the class so that she can remove herself from the situation.

Strategies that Don’t Work

  1. Calling out her name in front of everybody causes shame, which triggers a stress response in her.
  2. Yelling at her.
  3. Belittling her in front of other classmates.
  4. Removing her from the classroom.
  5. Getting in a power struggle with her. Remember that she is fighting to survive. You won’t win when the person you are attempting to control is in self-preservation mode.
  6. Trying to reason with her when she is not regulated. She is incapable of rational thought.

I hope you can use these points to help your child as much as they helped my daughter. You must be persistent with the school and stay committed to the reality that your daughter is not acting out “on purpose.” If possible, get the school personnel to watch Working with the Difficult Child in the Classroom 2 DVD Set available through the Post Institute – click here.Working with Difficult 3d

God Bless,

Name Withheld

See Bryan’s Special Back to School Bundle Offer and get all these valuable bonuses for only $5!

Teach First According to the Emotional Age

Ronnie is exceptional. He is gifted. We have yet to get an accurate reading of his IQ. He does not study but sits down and passes his test. When it is SOL time he gets excited because he loves test taking. Not because he enjoys the actual test but because he enjoys the challenge of ruling out which answers are obviously not correct and then making a final decision on the correct answer. He has the method down to an art.

School 3Ronnie does not attend school in a traditional manner. He says that the school environment is too stressful for him, so we listen. The school listens and instead of having a behaviorally disruptive sixteen year old in the school, they send a teacher over a few times a week to work with him. He completes his assignments from the prior week the hour before she arrives. When Ronnie completed his most recent SOLs, he rated in the highest percentile except on one SOL he refused to take. He refused to take it because he was having a bad day. He was upset because a specific person had not been identified as being at the library to pick him up when he was finished and he did not want to walk the five blocks home. Not to mention he had a baseball game that evening and was worked up over that as well. That day was not a good day for Ronnie, but that day had nothing to do with intelligence. That day had to do with a sixteen year old who when stressed literally vacillated between an infant and a very destructive two year old.

By nature of their early experiences, most traumatized children are exceptionally gifted. In his book titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi implies it is no mystery that individuals of genius nature are in fact genius because most have all experienced life-altering trauma. In essence, he explains that in environments of neglect and abuse the child does not receive an equivalent balance of cognitive/social/emotional experience, therefore a neurologic compensation occurs. Whereby what the brain does not get emotionally, it compensates for cognitively, thus a very intelligent child. The catch, though the child maybe cognitively advanced perhaps even brilliant, rarely can this be accessed because of the constant emotional hijacking which occurs when the trauma brain gets triggered and takes over. This is reinforced further by my earlier quote from Joseph LeDoux when he wrote that in times of stress, our thinking becomes confused and distorted and our short-term memory is suppressed.

Picture18 dad and son homework 70Additionally in my work with severely traumatized adolescents I have also found a reoccurring theme in that not all are brilliant, certainly not genius, and some are not even smart, book smart that is. That’s an expression my father always used, “Some folks are book smart but dumb as a rock. I may not be book smart, but I’ve got a lot of common sense. Common sense ain’t that common,” he would laugh. Many of these adolescents are low both in common sense and book smarts. In fact, I have one sitting next to me right now playing a video game. He essentially raised himself for ten years, and he has a degree of common sense but really it’s a mask for survival skills. He’ll never go hungry because he knows how to steal, how to create a gang, how to rob people, and how to find a place to sleep. Left without a family he is a prime candidate for jail, but with love and support he just might make it. Anyway, I digress. Children such as the eighteen year old sitting next to me don’t even know how to read and write. Literally, he is at the most elementary level. He probably rates at about a third grade level, yet I have worked with children of the same age that cannot write better than my six year old and she has fine motor skill challenges.

Here’s the big idea. What if we taught children first from their emotional age and then forward, regardless of age? Whether they are chronologically eight, twelve, or sixteen, if they are emotionally three, or four, maybe five, what if that’s where we started them? Learning the same things a five year old would be taught and then advancing them as they progressed? Now this does not implicitly address the emotional delay, but what it does do is support the cognitive system at the level the child may be emotionally. For children like Ronnie who are already exceptional and bright, what if he could be taught in a classroom with other children that were five instead of sixteen? It wouldn’t be as if he were actually being called a student in that classroom but rather that he was a teacher’s aide, who completes his assignments in the classroom and then assists the teacher in working with the other children. He could be assigned to a child that may have some of the same emotional challenges as he does but is just much younger.

Does this feel like a stretch? Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not. “If we always do what we’ve always done, we will always be where we have already been,” says Bishop T. D. Jakes.

And what about the children who are older and have behavioral problems? Maybe they have been sexually abused or are physically aggressive. Use common sense; yet don’t operate out of fear. Keep an adult in the vicinity and be observant; limit the amount of overall time that particular child might be asked to be aide, but most of all monitor their stress level. The neurologic reality is that trauma is buried in the lower limbic system. It doesn’t surface until stress is intense enough to trigger. A regulated environment not only enables the child to tolerate low grade stress more effectively but it also retrains the lower limbic system through repetition, thereby helping it to learn new pathways of reaction. Essentially I am positing that by putting such an older child in an environment that is less psychologically and emotionally stressful, and giving them a purpose that would ultimately help them feel better about themselves, not only would they be learning effectively and making progress, but they would also be indirectly healed!

I wold love to work with a select group of schools and classrooms to test out this very idea. It will be radical but it could also quite possibly be revolutionary. We fear putting the other children at risk but in essence we keep the child who has already been harmed in an ongoing high risk state. We end up grooming them for homelessness and jail.

In the meantime, think on these things.

Choose Love,



On Raising Teens

Parenting is difficult. Parenting a teen can be even more so. You have this young person that believes with all of him that he is perfectly capable of making his own decisions and in many ways believes he is every bit as smart as you are. I have been deeply involved in the livesof many teens, with varying histories, personalities, goals, drives and aspirations.

Because society places so much emphasis on the teen years and due to the fact that it is the stage before adulthood, we typically enter it with all sorts of parental fears and hopes. It’s the final stage before we unconsciously determine whether or not we have successfully taught our child everything they need to know about the world. Well guess what? We haven’t. The very act of determining whether or not you have equipped your child with all the lessons he’ll need throughout life is a distortion. In fact, the teen years is much like a college education, it’s not till after Yellow Sticky 1v2you get the piece of paper that you are actually really going to learn.

Lying crop 2The problem is that we usually go into raising teens with so much anxiety about their future that we actually forget about raising them in the present. There is no stage more important in all of development for securing a relationship with your child than in the teen years. Yet, most of us lose the relationship with our child during this time. Our anxiety and fears turn us into demanding, threatening, and controlling dictators rather than into the compassionate, understanding, and flexible guides that are needed, and oftentimes required. It’s funny to think that if we really wanted to understand the essence of teen parenting all we really need to do is reflect back on our own needs during that stage and time. Not compare your child to you at that age but rather ask yourself, “When I was a teen what did I need most from my parents?”

When I was a teen, I needed someone, anybody to pay attention to me emotionally, to be present and engaging. I needed my dad to tell me that he was proud of me. That he was impressed by my independent work ethic and drive. And that he looked forward to seeing me successful. I needed my mother to be affectionate, supportive, and nurturing and I also needed her to hug me and tell me how proud she was of me; to ask about what I was thinking, focusing on and where I was headed. Not in a judgmental way but in love and curiosity. The teen years don’t have to be that tough and certainly not anything you need to fear. But because of the way we were raised we will be challenged to do something different. It all comes back to understanding, for action without understanding will only lead us back to confusion. Choose today to hug a teen!

Choose Love,


How to Be An Adoptive Teen Whisperer

How to Be an Adopted Teen Whisperer: Breakthrough keys to teen communication

The teenage years, most every parent has heard how hard they are. Other than the “terrible two’s” there is no stage as challenging for parents as the “terrible teens”. When you add to this equation the variable of adoption, then it’s no wonder there are so many teens in the foster system, being moved from home to home with no opportunity for constancy. But, does this really have to be a parent’s reality? After years of working with teens, raising my own as well as others in my group homes and therapeutic treatment homes, I’ve come to see a different reality. A reality where parents can actually feel empowered to meet the needs of their teens. In this article I will dispel the myth of the “terrible teens” and help the reader begin to develop a new understanding of their adopted teen. This will help you to understand better, listen more effectively, and cultivate a rich and meaningful relationship that will guide your teen into adulthood.

Brain on Fire

By the time the human brain reaches five years of age it is 95% developed. Just before puberty it hits one of its final growth spurts and begins over-producing cells and synapses. Once the child reaches adolescence the brain begins to heat up and prune away all of the dendrites, cells, and synapses it has not needed up to that point. This process, literally known as “pruning” is the brain’s final stage of rapid change. This is a very critical period in a child’s life because essentially what may be occurring in their internal/external environment begins to get locked into their brain. Essentially, the pruning is another process for neural hardwiring. If a teenager is learning to play the piano, sports, or is beginning to work after school, etc. then these imprints will follow him for the rest of his life. However, if he is a couch potato, plays video games all day, eats junk food, or does drugs etc. yet again the same imprinting will occur and follow him for the rest of his life.

Consider this compelling point: If hardwiring of activities and experiences can occur, why not the experiences of relationship? Indeed, this is exactly what happens in the adolescent brain via a special class of brain cells called “mirror neurons”. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. Before mirror neurons were discovered child development specialist called this process “modeling”. Perhaps you’ve heard that children learn 80% of the time through modeling. This learning occurs via mirror neurons. To a large degree we learn to respond, react, and engage with others based on the behaviors that have been modeled around us. This obviously is both good and bad news. When securing relationship with an adopted teen you must first keep in mind, the modeling that has occurred for the child prior to your involvement. This is where understanding of his personal story comes into play. Secondly, you must equally understand the modeling of your own behavior and what is being learned in the day to day interactions.

If your day to day interactions, and I’m talking about from the most obvious interactions of speaking, making eye contact, tone of voice, touch, etc. to the most subtle, your inner feelings about your child, what you are thinking in any given moment, how you are feeling about yourself as well as your child, etc. These dynamics enter into the communication with your child and ultimately contributes to the imprinting that creates the foundation for your relationship past, present, and future. Point: If you want to have a better relationship with your teen start behaving better. In our culture, we have a tendency to feel just the reverse and say, “The reason I don’t have a better relationship with my teen is because he doesn’t behave better”. Wrong message. In fact, this is the very message that underlies the struggle many parents have with their teen.

Parents Brain on Fire

Researchers spend an ordinate amount of time focused on the child or adolescent brain, but what of the adult brain? After all, it is the adult brain that is the primary lead in the development of the child’s brain. Why do we spend so much time focused on our children’s brains? It’s as if we keep saying, “Why the little chaps brain is just all messed up. Luckily my brain is just fine or we really would be in a mess”. To be clear, this article is addressing the exact mess that we find ourselves in. Truth be told, we spend far too much time focused on trying to understand our children’s brains and not nearly enough understanding our own. There is an excellent DVD program I was involved in years ago called Trauma, Brain, and Relationship and when I would show it to my audience I would always encourage them to try to see themselves in the conversations that the professionals were having. To hear “adult”, rather than “child”. When we can’t see ourselves, it is impossible to see our children. There is a very basic reason why we as adults struggle mightily to listen and communicate with our teens. That reason is called fear.

The amygdala which sits at the base of the brain above the brainstem is a primary emotional structure in the brain. Stress hormones originate from this structure. It is widely held that the amygdala is also where our initial fear reactions stem from. It is like an alarm system in our brains, flipping on and off all day long. The amygdala does one very simple thing that brings it to the forefront during relationships: it scans the environment looking for a threat. A threat can be experienced through any of the sensory pathways: sight, smell, touch, taste, temperature, movement, and sound. Once a threat is perceived then stress hormones are released in the brain sending a signal of survival to the rest of the brain and body. It is up to the higher level mechanisms of the brain to soothe this sudden stress outpouring.

For instance, I once took the six adolescents boys from our group home to a Halloween carnival. We had a great time. It was late coming back and all of the boys were tired and a little stressed. For some reason AJ, the oldest in the house, became the target of a couple of the other boys. They were jostling him about something. It probably had to do with his carrying a purse or wearing a wig. The banter continued until we arrived home. In AJ’s escalation he screams that he is going to burn down the house and jumps out of the truck, runs around the house to the shed, and unlocks the door where the lawn mowing equipment is stored. He then commences to pour gas all the way around the house. Suspend for a moment your focus on the teenager and his behavior and imagine how you would be feeling. Close your eyes and picture the scenario. Add to the scenario that it is dark outside. It is 11 pm. You are exhausted from a long day and there is not one teenager to deal with but six. What would your amygdala be saying? In most instances, it would be screaming terror…danger…danger. In that state of sensing danger you are no longer to see the teenager as a scared child, but rather your brain reorganizes to focus on a “threat”. The next communication to the brain is to eliminate the threat or at least reduce it. In other words, your brain and body go into survival. What do you do? From impulse you scream, threaten, restrain the child, in this instance he is 6’4 and weighs well over 200 pounds, or perhaps you call the police. A logical progression is that the teenager ends up in juvenile detention or equally as bad, residential treatment. Most assuredly, he is removed from the home for a lengthy period of time.

When we see a threat the only action we can take is geared towards survival. Stress research says that in times of stress our thinking becomes confused and distorted, and our short-term memory is suppressed. It doesn’t say this only happens in children. In fact, the research was specific to the adult brain rather than an immature teenagers brain. Why do I say immature? The orbito-frontal cortex is the brain’s executive control center for all social and emotional relationships. All relationship interactions, behaviors, and responses are ultimately regulated by this area of the brain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t complete its development until we are twenty-five years old. We are constantly expecting children to behave like adults without extending them the grace of not having a fully developed brain. Sadly, this expectation begins to occur in most households by the time the child is two!

Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood

The story of AJ was a true story. It happened one night while I was working at my group home with our six adolescent boys. A couple of the boys were harassing AJ about something and he became upset. When we pulled up to the home he jumped out and declared, “I’ll show you. You wanna mess with me. I’ll burn the whole house down!” He did grab the gas can and begin to pour it around the house. The other boys became really upset as I watched him do it. They couldn’t predict my behavior because I wasn’t rushing into action. Finally after a few seconds passed I just walked over to AJ, grabbed the gas can as one would take something from a two year old. There was no struggle or major drama. In a very strong tone of voice I said, “What’s wrong with you! Don’t you know if your social worker saw you doing this you’d be sent off to residential treatment!” (Notice here my use of the exclamation. I was not stating these two things as questions but rather I was exclaiming. Of course I know what’s wrong with him and of course I know that he wasn’t thinking about his social worker. My use of these expressions was to connect in both a non-threatening way, but also in a protective way. I wasn’t saying he was bad but rather that as an eighteen year old he is putting himself at risk and I am concerned primarily with that.) AJ stood and looked at me shamefully as I walked to the back of the shed and put away the gas can.

However, the other boys were still escalated and one of them, the more aggressive one in the home, went diving into AJ and they both landed on the ground in a tussle. Remember AJ is 6’4, his attacker was 5’6, it was actually rather comical to see them both struggling on the ground like two angry five year olds. Literally it had that level of intensity to it. It was so non-threatening to my amygdala that I watched them for a few seconds before walking over and pulling the little guy off of the big guy. At this point it was my responsibility to contain the group so in an elevated voice I said, “It is not okay for you to put your hands on anyone. I can handle this situation just fine.” To which point he yelled, “Well it doesn’t look like you are handling anything. You’re just gonna let him burn down the house and then where are we gonna live?” I yelled back, “You have to trust that I can take care of you. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you or this house.” And then it was over. About ten minutes later we were all inside getting ready for bed. No restraints, no police, no residential treatment. (Why did I yell? It’s called matching affect. Similar to when there is a rowdy crowd and one person is able to breakthrough the commotion because of the pitch and intensity of their voice. Sometimes when children are escalated you have to be able to match their affect in order to create the necessary environment of emotional containment.)

The key to listening so that your teenager will feel heard, is to engage in communication without judgment. This requires you as the parent to listen while regulating your own fear reaction. Teenagers give us lots of opportunity to feel frightened, but keep in mind, if you are listening to your teen then truly in that moment there is no risk. Even if he says to you, “I’m gonna go do drugs or even I’m gonna kill myself,” in that moment he actually not doing either. In that moment is when you have the greatest opportunity to influence your child. Express your love first by listening. After listening, validate again without judgment. Is it really that difficult to understand where your teen is coming from? Think back to when you were a teen. How many times did you feel helpless, alone, scared, or depressed? These are naturally feelings especially when one’s brain is going through tremendous change. Validate by saying, “I understand”, “That must really suck” or “I’m really sorry I didn’t know you were feeling that way”. Statements such as this communicate non-judgmental acceptance and understanding. This is critical. Remember, your teen is already stressed. His brain is looking for a threat.

Finally, communicate so he will listen by suspending fear-based judgments and threats that will only weaken the relationship further. Any negative statements at this point are not going to be helpful. In fact, it is only our fear and stress that make us say negative things. What if you were not afraid? You wouldn’t need to be negative. You only say negative things when you feel, from a place a fear, that you can control a situation or make a potential threat disappear. With sensitive teens it is best to say little and feel loving. Oftentimes just being present, literally sitting in a vicinity of the teen without need to talk, can be more powerful than saying anything. Other times, when the need to communicate is imperative give yourself time to settle into a quiet internal place before you express yourself. Once expressing yourself, here is a very important key to effective teen whispering: Do not be moved by the reaction you receive from your teen. Whether it’s a yell, curse word, defiant gesture, or threat. Simply say, “I completely understand how you might feel that way and if I could make your upset feelings go away I would. You are entitled to feel as upset as you need to.” By expressing in this manner you are removing yourself as a target of threat to your teen. When you remove yourself as the threat then not only does it help to de-escalate the situation but it provides the quickest pathway toward helping your teens thinking and memory normalize.

Raising teens is not easy but it also doesn’t have to be overwhelming and destructive. Stay connected to your own internal reactions of fear and stress. Doing this will put you in a stronger brain/body based state to reach your teen more effectively.

Bryan Post is the founder of www.postinstitute.com. His work has influenced healing in the lives of thousands of adoptive families over the years.

Key Points in Summary

  1. Behave like a better parent
  2. Engage in communication without judgment – no matter what you think or feel. Remember that re-acting is just that – doing again what you did before. Be open to something new, like unconditional love.
  3. Suspend fear-based judgments and threats
  4. Sometimes just being with, rather than saying something can be more healing, calming and loving
  5. If you say anything, let it come from care and concern – an honesty about how you feel/felt and above all – what would love do now?

Choose Love,


How Not to Use Guilt and Shame to Get Your Kid to School

The other afternoon my wife was eavesdropping on one of my coaching calls. Well not actually, she was standing right behind me as I was ranting and raving in the name of love. After the call she told me how much she learned while listening and also in her very precious way said, “You know if you ever want to offer me up as an example for what not to do, you have my full permission!” I very kindly reaffirmed that I have plenty of my own personal examples to use for imperfect parenting but I appreciated the offer.

Well lo and behold this morning my nine year old step son woke up hoping to hear that the snow had caused another day off from school. Sadly it had not. In his morning sensitivity and dysregulation, he began to drop into all of the reasons why he was not going to school today. In my most supportive tone I said, “Donnie, son, I can appreciate that you don’t want to go to school especially since you have been out since last Friday.” He quickly corrected me that on Friday he wasn’t out the whole day only half a day, to which I stood corrected. Now at this point I am perfectly content to allow him to bemoan his existence and how much he dislikes the school. However, his mother was not quite in the same space. I could feel it coming. She marched over and stood over him as he laid on the couch and exclaimed in an elevated voice, firm but not yelling, “I do not want to hear it. If you have a problem with the school you need to take it up with the school. The school sets the rules. If you don’t like the rules go talk to the school administration. If you do not go to school I could go to jail. Do you want me to go to jail?” At which point I assume he shook his head “no”. I could not see him. I was still sitting in the kitchen doing my morning studies. Just taking it all in. After the nodding of no she exclaimed, “Good” and then went to the bedroom to start getting ready for work.

I waited.

He was quiet. I knew his feelings had been hurt. He’s a very sensitive little guy. It’s surprising how sensitive all of my children are. Mikalah, my eighteen year old, is probably the least sensitive, but even Kevin, my adopted twenty-two year old son, is pretty sensitive.

After a few minutes I walked over and knelt behind the couch so that I could reach over and still see him and give him a belly rub. I said, “Are you okay buddy?” With a very hurt and angry look on his face he somewhat whispered, “I don’t think I ever want my mom to talk to me again.” Boy did I remember that feeling as a kid. The number of times I said to myself that I was never going to talk to anyone in this family ever again would fill a phone book. I kept rubbing his little tummy until he pulled away a bit and I said, “I know your mom hurt your feelings. I also know how hard it can be to go to school sometime. Sometimes school really sucks. But there are some very basic things you have to learn. You have to learn math skills so that you can read a spreadsheet so no one can steal money from you when you start your business.” (**As a side note: He and I have been discussing him starting an excavation company just as soon as he is ready. He loves heavy machinery and is a savant with knowing exactly which ones are which. I support his dreams one hundred percent and see no reason for him to be in school any longer than absolutely necessary. I fully suspect he will own his own business by the time he is sixteen) I continued, “Listen, go to school and learn the basic things. As soon as you’ve done that then you can start your own business and drop out of school.” To that I could see the wheels working in his head. He was still a little slow moving getting out of the door but there was no more fussing. When I picked him up from school he had a good day and he was in a good mood.

Most parents get too scared to honor their children where they are at. It’s just too scary. And that is the very essence of the challenge: When we let fear and stress take over it effects our thinking. Joseph LeDoux says, “In times of stress our thinking processes become confused and distorted and our short-memory is suppressed.” Most of the time we are not even aware that we are feeling fear. In the moment it may just be anger or frustration, but the root of it is fear and stress. This is why it’s so important to calm yourself before trying to calm another. If we cannot calm our own stress by turning on our oxytocin, the brain’s anti-stress hormone, then how likely is it that our children can calm their own?

In any given moment we have two choices: We can choose to react from our old imprints of stress, fear, and overwhelm, or we can stop, take a few deep breaths and choose love. It’s your choice. Thank God that God loves us and is patient even when we are fearful.

Choose Love,
Chief Love Revolutionary

Bryan Post is a pioneer in the love‐based parenting movement the founder of www.postinstitute.com and www.reclaimparenting.com. His work has influenced healing in the lives of thousands of adoptive, foster and biological families over the years. His irreverent approach to parenting, children, and all things challenging has garnered him attention the world over. Author and co‐ author of more than 25 educational programs including books, CDs, and DVDs, his message has reached thousands of parents and professionals from around the world. As you read or listen to his message ask yourself, “What can I do to bring more love into the world today?” The answer to this question will bring transformation to your life and relationships. Then you will discover the power of the Post Parenting Message.

To have a free copy of his book From Fear to Love: Parenting Difficult Adopted Children (works with biological, foster and many diagnosed children too!) delivered to your doorstep please visit www.feartolovebook.com.