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,

B

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,

B.

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,
B.
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.

On Trusting

FROM BRYAN: ON LEARNING TO TRUST

I once wrote about my adopted son Kevin’s staying up all night and playing video games, and the somewhat surprising fact for most of you, was that actually I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t care. I do think he needs to have normal hours and I’d much rather him fill his brain with useful information, but I’m not willing to put that before our relationship. In that regard it’s not that important. It does freak a lot of parents out, but that’s because it scares us. It challenges our control issues. We might fuss and fret and quote statistics about how bad playing video games are for the brain, but I’ll tell you what’s worse: Not having a relationship with your child. Perhaps we feel that it’s easier to be controlling about sleep and video games than it is to work on building and maintaining relationships, and you’d be right.

Focusing on those things first will only make it easier to not be in relationship. And I’ll remind you that Kevin is now nineteen years old. In my opinion these are the critical years. These are the years when our relationship is going to carry us over precipice of his transition into adulthood and I’ll be able to maintain some influence over his life, or I’ll lose him and he’ll venture off never to be heard from again. In fact, either could happen, but shall it be the latter I do want him to know, whether he believes it or not, that he is loved.

But, here’s the bottom line. This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs about child rearing, surprise, surprise! It’s about, TRUST. I’m not about to preach here, and honestly in my opinion your religious and spiritual beliefs are your own, but let me ask you a question: Do you believe in God? A few of you will say no and that’s fine, (just bear with me as there is more to this than just religion), but those of you that answer yes, then answer this question: What does believing in God mean to you? Ah yes, I expected you’d say that, so now answer this question: If believing in God means believing that you are loved, forgiven, precious, and special, thereby prompted to be the most loving individual that you can be, why is it so hard to trust that if you are doing your very best to provide love for your chilfren, then God will take care of the rest?

It’s actually simple why we don’t trust. And seriously my friends, we don’t trust. We want too, but we just can’t permit it. The reason being is that we are too full of FEAR. Fear and stress are the biggest enemies when it comes to preventing our ability to trust. And guess what, that’s okay because we are all still growing and learning. The challenge is to not lose faith during the process. The more you can maintain your faith during the time you are the most afraid and stressed, the stronger your faith becomes. The more love grows. And love, my sweetest of the most sweetest friends, is the most powerful healing force in the universe. All things can be accomplished if we can love great enough and long enough.

There’s a Bible verse that I have referenced over the years 1 John 4:18 that says “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear,” but the other part of that verse is “because fear has to do with punishment.” (NIV: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.)

The next time you feel yourself inclined to punish, I want you to ask yourself this question: Why am I so angry with MYSELF right now that I want to punish my child and lose relationship, thus punishing myself? I hope that when you can honestly answer that question, or even just slow down enough to ask yourself that question, you will be touched by a moment or light in the midst of your darkness.

And finally, I leave you with this question: Can we learn to trust more in this moment and fear less? And what might that mean for our personal relationships?

Three days after I wrote the last article about Kevin’s habits, Kevin just started going to bed at night when everyone else went. Some nights he even beats me to bed and then he gets up at about 8:30 am with a smile on his face. I’ve haven’t even mentioned it. We’ve said that we enjoy seeing him during the day. What’s wonderful about this, is that in three years Kevin has never had normal sleeping cycles.

Believe it or not, there’s something in that trust and relationship formula.

I invite you to do some experimenting with trust but remember – you do not trust your child to do what you hope or expect. You are trusting that he/she will do whatever he/she does and that you can use that to teach, to learn and to deepen your relationship. You can trust kids to be who they are, not who they are not. Expect a lot of failures on their parts. And some on your own as well. All this can help build the relationship. Without relationship, you have nothing.

Choose Love, B.

Chief Love Revolutionary

Bryan Post is a pioneer in the love‐based parenting movement. 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.

Was Adopting Your Child a Mistake?

Was Adopting Your Child A Mistake?

The pain Bill and Opal felt on a regular basis did not seem normal. How could it be? Were you really supposed to feel like you wanted to hit your child in the head with a hammer? No other family they knew seemed to struggle this much. Their son seemed to be their shining star, but even he, on occasion seemed to behave in ways that left them feeling completely overwhelmed. Such as when he got caught stealing from the local gas station, or for pulling his pants down and “mooning” the students in the cafeteria. The joy from the first moments of meeting were long gone, just fragmented memories of hope for the future. Mostly fantasies and fairy tales based on episodes from television and advertisements of families laughing and frolicking in the water during a summer vacation.

Bill and Opal were my parents and I can guarantee you, they did not sign up for what they ended up getting. Well actually they did…they signed the papers!

Just the very thought overwhelms a parent, “This was a mistake.” Shame, guilt, resentment, embarrassment, frustration, sadness, just a few of the emotions that course daily through the mind and body of the adoptive parent who feels at a loss for how to connect and understand their child.

How do parents and children end up trapped in a dynamic where jail oftentimes feels like a better option than the anxiety that occurs daily in response to their interactions? In this article I will explore a few areas where we send adoptive parents happily down a path with their adopted child which ends in many occasions walking blindly right off of a cliff. The purpose of this article is to express ideas that will generate thinking which may lead to discussions and new understandings.

Dreams, Fantasies, and Fairytales

From their very beginning potential adoptive parents are sold a bill of goods. Unintentionally social workers time and again paint a picture similar to the commercials that feature the singer Sarah McLachlan and the broken down dogs, or the Feed the Children guy and his starving children of Africa. These poor, abandoned, little fallen angels from heaven just need a home. Praise God and do them and us a favor, take them home. They just need love and a home. First victim, the social workers who have been convinced that this is true. Most of them have never adopted much less fostered a child. In many occasions they don’t even have children of their own. Second victim, the lonely parents that believe this spiel. Out of their loneliness and search to find fulfillment, they are wide open for the delivery. Like a dad so desperate to buy a car for his family that he can’t see the large oil puddle sitting right underneath the car. Third victim, the child and the biological parents that give them up for adoption. Both lose a part of themselves forever.

Social Workers

Fear is a dominant, unconscious experience in our lives. It is alive and well at all levels of human engagement. The field of social work as it relates to adoption is no different. Social agencies are overwhelmed by the sheer number of children needing protection from abuse and neglect. This is probably the first place we mess up. We think we know better than others. Rather than supporting, educating, and training, we just take children away. We pass judgment, put the child in a surrogate home and then move on. The big fear involved here is, “If we don’t rescue this child something bad is going to happen and then I will feel pain”. Answer: Avoid the threat of pain and remove the child and place him in an environment where the threat of pain is less. If we consider the sheer cost of an overwhelmed foster care system which systematically creates more abuse and neglect of children than it does success then would it really cost that much more to place whole families in surrogate educational homes? Of course this question creates an opportunity for a philosophical debate which is not the purpose of this article.

The natural reaction to this systematic practice of child removal is to eventually end up responsible for more children with greater psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues than one person can possibly imagine much less actually provide care for. Foster parents are simply not trained well enough and in most occasions are not equipped to deal with the level of need of these children. Because of this disruption instances are frequent, perhaps more frequent than longevity of care. I would be curious to see the actual numbers. And then also abuse a natural occurrence because we are humans. We get frustrated. We feel despair and feel hopeless to help the child behave better. Of course these are all deeply personal reactions to behaviors demonstrated by children which ideally would not be taken personally, but again. We are human.

 Adoptive Parents

And what of the adoptive parent who steps in to bring life sustaining love and affection for a child who comes from an environment of stress, depression, abandonment in the most romanticized view or worse pre-natal neglect, ritualistic abuse and violence on the same continuum but at the other extreme? Therein lies the title of this article. This parent cannot possibly maintain sanity. Exposure to stress for extended periods of time is perhaps one of the simplest working definitions of trauma. A poorly equipped adoptive parent, who is actually completely unsuspecting of what’s to come, cannot do anything more than go into shock once the reality sets in that the angel you’ve brought home in many ways somewhat represents a devil. Yes a strong comparison and lest you think I am being extreme let’s look briefly at an adoption situation where on the surface it appears nothing could be further from the truth.

Joan watched somewhat helplessly as her adult daughter Rayne struggled on a near daily basis to connect with her adopted daughter Cassy. Rayne seemed to be doing fine with her adopted son Ryan, but she was really struggling to connect with the daughter. Rayne would call her with frustration and desperation, “Mom she just won’t do what I ask her to do. It’s like she’s a little adult and wants to make her own decisions, and then she wants to make decisions for Ryan too. Just this morning she told me ‘No I want cereal and so does Ryan’, and then she commenced to moving Ryan’s plate of waffles to the other side of the table and was actually going to try to make them cereal. It’s not cute anymore. She’s driving me crazy.” Yet again Joan listened, offered support and advice based on her thirty years of experience as a counselor.

One day Rayne showed up at Joan’s doorstep with the child and ultimatum, take her or she’s going back to foster care. Joan brought Cassy into her home and began preparing a home for her granddaughter, now daughter. She expected Rayne to be back in a week or so, but four years later Cassy and Joan were together except now Joan was experiencing the same hell Rayne had been living.

When Joan called me she was at her wits end. “I need help. I am desperate,” she stated. “Never in my life have I experienced anything like this. This child is the sweetest, quietest, most innocent looking child on the outside, but as soon as we are home or out of sight of others, she is another person. She has hit us, lies constantly, hoards food, is defiant at every turn, has the worst hygiene because she still wets the bed so she wears a pull up at night, then she doesn’t want to take it off in the morning, and the list just goes on and on. I feel like I am going absolutely insane trying to parent this child.”

Was this parent being overly dramatic? Sadly, no. It was a very real situation. In fact, on a near nightly basis they were engaging in a physical restraint over the child’s resistance to taking a bath or having her hair washed. This situation was very real and if you are an adoptive parent it probably strikes a similar cord within you.

 The Adopted Child

Who does this all center around? Of course the child. The one person everyone else deems helpless in the scenario and that everyone wants to rescue. Also the one individual that is rarely if ever consulted about what she thinks is in her best interested, and if asked, is even more seldom listened to. The natural outcome? Everyone pays the price.

Since I have written extensively about the experience of trauma and stress on the developing brain of the child in my book From Fear to Love: Parenting difficult adopted children I will only give what I believe to be the most relevant insight for adults working with this child. There are only two primary emotions: Love and Fear. Where one exists the other does not. When a child has experienced trauma it creates an indelible fear imprint upon his brain that will influence her thinking, feelings, and behaviors for the remainder of her life. Simply, adoption creates stress sensitive and fear-full children. The experience is like a physical handicap without the wheelchair, autism without the obvious social impairments, a drunk man without the smell of alcohol on his breath. Adoption is a disabling event oftentimes with very few visible wounds. They are primarily neurologic, physiologic and emotional in nature. Non-visible to the human eye.

The adopted child is quite literally held hostage by her previous experiences that start in utero. Everyone around the child just wants to love and guide her but by very nature of her core experience these very acts are threatening to her internal system, in many instances triggering a life or death reaction.

I once worked with an overwhelmed adoptive family who was stuck in a nightly drama with their daughter. She was vehemently resistant to taking a shower. The dynamic had gone on now for years. It was essentially a conditioned battle, it starts to get dark and each fighter takes their corner and prepares for the match. Every single night for five years this struggle had been occurring and it had begun to create a defining dynamic for the rest of their day to day relationship. Having gone to therapists of all makes and breeds, the family still struggled.

The breakthrough for the mother occurred while hearing one of my lectures. She emailed me several weeks after the lecture and recanted the story:

“Every night in my home is a fight when it comes to my daughter take a shower. Since she was five years old we have had near nightly struggles with her around this area of her hygiene. A story you told during your lecture gave me an idea to try out your technique. That same night I went home and prior to going up to ask my daughter to take a shower I took several deep breaths and got myself calm. When I said to her it was time for her shower, sure enough, she became reactive, screaming, telling me she wasn’t going to, etc. Usual behavior, but this time, I was very calm. I said to her very clearly, ‘honey if you need anything I’ll be right there.’ She actually went and got in the shower. I was a bit dumbstruck. Once she got in the shower she began calling me like she usually does, ‘Mom the water is too cold or it’s too hot,’ ‘Mom I dropped my towel’, ‘Mom I dropped the soap’, ‘Mom, mom, mom’, it goes on and on, but this time I did something different. When she called me I went into the bathroom, got what she needed and I said, ‘honey I’m not going anywhere. If you need something I’ll be right here,’ and I sat myself right there on the toilet. Frankly it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed. She completely her shower without any further incident. I was still in shock when I asked her to come sit beside me on the bed. Now here I am sitting with my nine year old daughter on the bed, she still had the towel wrapped around her and I said, ‘honey that was the best shower we have had in nearly five years. Honey, what scares you so much about taking a shower?’ My sweet nine year old daughter looked up at me and in the most sincere way said, ‘well mom the guy that molested me used to make me take a shower with him!’ Learning about the molestation was not new. In fact, it was the reason we had been to so many therapists and counselors, but what was new was that in nearly five years I had not once asked my daughter ‘what about the shower scares you so much!’ I immediately replied to her, ‘honey you don’t have to take a shower, you can take a bath.’ And that was the end of our shower struggles.”

Six months later that same mom e-mailed me to tell me that her daughter was in and out of the bath now without so much as a peep. That same nine year old is no longer nine, she is now 21 years old and is finishing college.

I’ve been doing this work now for fifteen years. It doesn’t sound like a long time until you add the depth of pain I’ve experienced with the countless families I have served. Fear knows no limits. It grows and grows until we can no longer recognize it. Love seems to disappear. If anything I’ve written here strikes a chord with you I want to encourage you not to give up. Love is still present, it’s just waiting for you to recognize fear for fear. When it comes to adopted children we can all do much better. You are not alone. There is hope, there is help.

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

The Adopted Child: Trauma and Its Impact – Bryan Post

By Bryan Post

Adopted at the age of six months, Joseph was a fussy and sometimes hard to soothe infant. Feeling as though this was just normal infant difficulties with the adjustment of adoption, Pat and Robert paid it little attention. When Joseph reached the age of two and began to bite the other children in daycare, they chalked it up to the dreaded two-year old stage of which everyone assumes to be okay. Though the biting never quite ceased that year, with a few modifications, Joseph made it through the year. The teachers raved about how smart he was. By the time he was six, the increasing duration of the school day seemed almost more than he could bear. Sometimes screaming for hours at a time, Joseph would do no work and then would spend the remainder of the day in isolation. Prone to striking out when others attempted to soothe him, Joseph had now grown accustomed to attempting to runaway from the school personnel when his behavior would escalate. On many occasions this would lead to Joseph being restrained by the security guards, principal, or coaches. Eventually Joseph began to stack up a list of schools attended and suspended from. By the time Joseph had hit the 5th grade, his increasingly violent outburst coined with outward defiance had gained him two different stays at local residential treatment centers. Not knowing where else to turn or what else to do, and after failed attempts at therapy, and more than eight psychiatric medications had proved of little benefit other than causing Joseph to appear “zombie-like,” Pat and Robert felt their only other option was to send Joseph to a boys boarding school.

Unfortunately, the above story is not an uncommon plight that adoptive parents face. Though not always leading to a disruption or out-of-home placement, many adoptive families struggle for years to create the peaceful family of which they had dreamed. Regrettably, one of the main barriers preventing such family harmony is one of the least understood when it comes to understanding the plight of the adopted child. The barrier is trauma.

Whether adopted from birth or later in life, all adopted children have experienced some degree of trauma. Trauma is any stressful event which is prolonged, overwhelming, or unpredictable. Though we are familiar with events impacting children such as abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, until recently, the full impact of trauma on adopted children has not been understood.

What Science Is Now Revealing

Scientific research now reveals that as early as the second trimester, the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero. In addition to the rejection and abandonment felt by the newborn adoptee or any age adoptee for that matter, it must be recognized that the far greater trauma often times occurs in the way in which the mind and body system of the newborn is incapable of processing the loss of the biological figure. Far beyond any cognitive awareness, this experience is stored deep within the cells of the body, routinely leading to states of anxiety and depression for the adopted child later in life.

Because this initial experience has gone for so long without validation, it is now difficult for parents to understand. Truth be told, the medical community still discounts this early experience. Nevertheless, this early experience is generally the child’s original trauma. From that point forward many more traumas may occur in the child’s life. These include premature birth, inconsistent caretakers, abuse, neglect, chronic pain, long-term hospitalizations with separations from the mother, and parental depression. Such life events interrupt a child’s emotional development, sometimes even physical development, subsequently interrupting his ability to tolerate stress in meaningful relationships with parents and peers.

An important aspect of trauma is in recognizing that simply because a child has been removed from a traumatic environment, this does not merely remove the trauma from the child’s memory. In fact, stress is recognized to be the one primary key to unlocking traumatic memories. Unfortunately for both the adopted child and family, the experience of most traumas in the child’s life is that the traumatic experiences typically occur in the context of human relationships. From that point forward, stress in the midst of a relationship will create a traumatic re-experiencing for the child, leading the child to feel threatened, fearful, and overwhelmed in an environment which otherwise may not be threatening to other people.

10 Keys to Healing Trauma in the Adopted Child:

1. Trauma creates fear and stress sensitivity in children. Even for a child adopted from birth, their internal systems may already be more sensitive and fearful than that of a child remaining with his biological parents. You must also consider the first nine months in which the child developed. These early experiences as well could have major implications.

2. Recognize and be more aware of fear being demonstrated by your child. Be more sensitive and tuned in to the small signals given such as clinging, whining, not discriminating amongst strangers, etc. All are signs of insecurity which can be met by bringing the child in closer, holding, carrying, and communicating to the child that he is feeling scared, but you will keep him safe.

3. Recognize the impact of trauma in your own life. One of the single greatest understandings parents can have is a self-understanding. Research tells us that far more communication occurs non-verbally than verbally. Understanding the impact of past trauma in your own life will help you become more sensitive to when your reactions are coming from a place other than your existing parent/child experience. Re-experiencing past trauma is common when parents are placed in an ongoing stressful environment.

4. Reduce external sensory stimulation when possible. Decrease television, overwhelming environments, number of children playing together at one time, and large family gatherings. When necessary that these events take place, keep the child close, explain to him that he may become stressed and he can come to you when needed.

5. Do Time-In instead of Time-out. Rather than sending the stressed out and scared child to the corner to think about his behavior, bring him into to you and help him to feel safe and secure. Internally, this will then permit him the ability to think about his actions. Though time-in is not a time for lecturing, it will allow your child an opportunity to calm his stress and then think more clearly. Another effective key is to let the child decide how much time-in he needs.

6. Do not hit traumatized children. Doing so will only identify you as a threat. The biblical verse spare the rod, spoil the child speaks to the raising of sheep. A rod is used to guide the sheep and the staff to pull him back into line when he strays. Hitting children, just like sheep, will cause them to become frightened of you and in many instances to runaway or hit back.

7. There is never enough affection in the world. A very simple technique for time is the affection prescription 10-20-10. Give a child 10 minutes of quality time and attention first thing in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening. Following this prescription of time has proven to have a great impact on the most negative behavior.

8. Encourage an IEP in the classroom to develop an understanding of the child’s stress and fear. This may assist in addressing such vital areas as homework, playground, peer interaction, lunchtime, and physical education. All are common areas of reduced structure and increased stress.

9. Educate yourself regarding the impact of stress and trauma on families. Try not to scapegoat your child for their difficulties, but rather take responsibility for creating the environment necessary for healing his hurtful experiences. There are many resources available. A few of note are: www.postinstitute.com, www.bryanpost.com, www.childtraumaacademy.org (Dr. Bruce Perry’s organization), www.drdansiegel.com, www.mindsightinstitute.com (Dr. Daniel Siegel), www.oxytocincentral.com and www.child.tcu.edu (Dr. Karyn Purvis)

10. Seek support. Parenting a child with trauma history can take its toll on the best of parent. Seek out a support system for occasional respite care, discussing of issues, and the sharing of a meal. Such small steps can go a long ways during particularly stressful times.

In closing, never forget that you are a great parent. During times of stress you won’t always feel like it, but both you and your child were meant to be together. Your child will teach you far more about yourself than you may have ever realized without him. Give yourself time to refuel, connect, and communicate. And finally, a secure parental relationship is the single greatest gift you can give your child. When the parental relationship is secure this will permit the child a foundation to grow from.

Sensory Processing Disorders

Kari Hall Shanks SPDSensory Processing Disorders: Bryan Post interviews therapist Kari Shanks Hall, MA, OTR - Ever wonder about those little, unreasonable things that seem to throw your children into dis-regulation, like food, zippers, sensations or whatever subtle irritations they seem to react to? Adopted or traumatized kids with smaller windows of tolerance than many, may be affected more easily by the things we might never notice. Kari and Bryan discuss the roots and implications of this disorder and ways to combat it. Listen to this short segment introducing the fundamentals of SPD and then purchase the entire audio interview for only .99 cents!

icon-headphones.jpg(10 minute segemt)


Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders July 9, 2013 - In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders. For complete article click here.

Time-In, Time Out & Containment: What’s a Mother (or Dad) To Do?

There have been some interesting comments on Bryan’s Facebook posts on Time-In. Two short success stories also showed just how simple this very powerful tool can be, although admittedly, hard to accept at face value. It seems to turn the tables on discipline and as some parents have said, “it rewards a child for being bad!” Poppycock.

Bryan has often said that 90%-95% of children can be parented with any approach, even a bad one and still live a fruitful life. There are those parents who say, “I was  taken out back behind the woodshed,  got a good whippin’ and I turned out alright”. So why shouldn’t we all beat our kids right?

I love the part about “I turned out alright”. When I look at the world, I am not convinced that all that many of us turned out ‘alright’. We meet people every day who appear to have “turned out alright” but don’t we all have our issues – and some of them very destructive? All you have to do is read the paper to see the validity of this. And most of us are not attachment challenged. Yet our children – the ones you and I have in our care or in our families – have attachment issues and many with severe trauma histories.

To help you better understand and implement this easy approach to helping your child, I am including some simple success stories which show how some parents have used this – and the results they experienced. And these are with attachment disorder kids, the really tough ones. I wonder what would happen if we used applied these to typical children. Might we end up someday in world that is ‘better than alright”?

Read two excerpts from The Great Behavior Breakdown: Time-In vs Time-Out and Containment: The Foundation for Time-In

Success story #1: From Meltdown to Snuggle-down

Dear Bryan,

We found out about you about five weeks ago when we were on our knees with our (adopted) son’s behavior. I admit, I was cynical but was open to try anything.

I watched your YouTube video and then the very next time our son melted down instead of time out and what I now see was an unhealthy reaction to his behavior I told him that I loved him, didn’t like to see him so upset and thought that I could make him feel calmer with a cuddle. I opened my arms and an amazing thing happened … this little boy who has been punching, kicking, screaming, shouting, threatening, throwing things, breaking things (you know, I know you know!) and progressively getting worse for the last three years just walked into my arms and kissed me. He snuggled and then later we talked and I found out what had upset him and we fixed it together. Simple.

Within two weeks of meeting every meltdown with the same love our little boy who thinks that he is rubbish, doesn’t like himself and can’t do anything well, has told me that he loves himself. This is quite possibly the most wonderful thing that I have heard in my life! My boy is feeling better about himself.

Our two children both came to us at four years old. Our son four years ago and our daughter last Summer. We have a long way to go and years to make up for but I now feel that we CAN make a change and they WILL be OK despite their start. This is a far cry from the desperation that we have felt. We choose love and the way that we roll now even after just five weeks hears a lot more laughter than before! Thank you, thank you, thank you. –P.B.

Success story #2: From Freakin Out to Making Dinner Together
We received a note from a caseworker that shows just how simple this love based model is and I felt I had to share it with you. Many of our parents wonder where to start. Wherever they are at any moment is a good place. Here is a clue.

She wrote saying “I had a mother call me telling me that her 7 year old daughter was “freakin out, throwing one of her fits”… Mom had put child in her room and closed the door and I could hear the child screaming at the top of her lungs over the phone, and either hitting the door or throwing things at the door. I told the mother to go into the child’s room and just sit on the bed and stare at the floor. Within 30 seconds that child was calmed down, not completely but almost. In about 45 seconds that child was not screaming or talking loud at all and within another minute the child and the mother were talking about getting dinner ready”.

How simple is that? (Note: For more help in where to start, read Kirk Martin’s (founder of Celebrate Calm) advice telling parents to Just Shut Up!

Success story #3: If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em! How mindfulness brought this mom to the ultimate Time-In fight of her life!

Think Time-In doesn’t work? Think again. Choose love and see what happens.

Time In vs Time Out by Bryan Post

Excerpt from The Great Behavior Breakdown by Bryan Post

Time-in is essentially the opposite of time-out. The first truth to recognize is that children don’t act out for attention. Children act out because they need attention. The time-out paradigm says, “Children act out for attention; therefore, you give them some time out to think about their behavior.” The time-in paradigm says, “Children act out because they need attention.” Therefore, you address this by bringing them close to you to regulate their fear and stress. What they need in those moments is not to put their nose in a corner. They need regulatory relating with you. You bring them in; you don’t put them out.

When children act out, they’re demonstrating that they’ve gone outside of their window of tolerance. Their stress and fear cannot be maintained any longer, and it explodes through that window of tolerance to a state of dysregulation, which causes the behavior. When your child is misbehaving, he is communicating to you in this way because he doesn’t know how to communicate in words. He is essentially saying, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Dad, Dad, Dad, I don’t know what to do right now. I need your help.” When this happens, the child needs time-in. You do it for a 5-year-old, you do it for a 2-year-old, and you do it for an 18-year-old.

I have said to some parents, “Your child doesn’t need to go to school tomorrow. He needs to spend the whole day with you.” A mother and a 16-year-old spent the whole day together, and the mother emailed me to say, “I can’t believe how powerful that was! It just reorients me to everything that I always knew — that I have to connect with my son in order for him to feel loved, because otherwise he doesn’t feel it.” I created a challenge once to help families with severe behaviors.It was designed to help them within 30 days by receiving nothing more than a designed system of implementation and phone coaching.

I actually gave them a guarantee that they would see a dramatic change. One of the participants was a very courageous mother. I asked her to try time-in. After she did, she called me and said, “I tried time-in the other day on my 7-year-old. I said, ‘Honey, come over here and sit with me because I can see that you’re really stressed out and scared right now. Why don’t you come and sit by Mama?

When you get ready, you can go back and play.’ Usually, we do the time-out for seven minutes, but this time I did the time-in. Do you realize that my daughter sat beside me for 45 minutes? I absolutely could not believe that she sat beside me for 45 minutes.”

Let your child decide how much time-in they need. You don’t give them the minute-for-every-year formula. I don’t know where that came from. But, when children are capable, let them decide. Try it with your child, and you may be surprised. On the other hand, if you say, “As soon as you feel safe, you can go back to play,” and your child runs out to play within two minutes, you will need to make the decision for them. Decide on a time frame based on how you assess the child’s feelings.

Time-in says, “I can see that you’re really scared. Come spend some time with me.” The difference between time-in and a consequence is in the way it’s communicated. It’s in the way the physiology communicates. I don’t advocate for the parent formulated consequences that  most educators and counselors teach. And I also wish to make the point that there is a big difference between a parent formulated  consequence and a natural consequence. Natural consequences occur naturally, thus being natural. You cannot control, prevent, or avoid them, they occur naturally. Natural consequences cannot be taught. For more on this I suggest getting Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control written by Heather Forbes and myself. I believe that most consequences are blame and fear-based, and do not teach responsibility but rather teach reactivity. Remember a consequence is a reaction to an action, so be mindful of what you think you may be teaching  when using some of the common consequence based parenting models. Consequences don’t encourage parents to take responsibility. They encourage parents to blame children for their behaviors because they come from that same paradigm that says children act out for attention.

When you use time-in as a consequence, it looks like this: The parent sees the child misbehave and says, “I can see that you don’t want to play like everyone else right now because if you wanted to play, you wouldn’t be out there fussing and kicking. So, get over here and have some time-in with me.” That’s time-in as a consequence. That’s blame-based.

Time-in as a love-based intervention that creates regulation says, “Whoa! Come here. Hurry, hurry! Wow, I can see that you’re stressed out right now and really scared. Why don’t you hang out here with me for a little bit. When you start feeling a little safer, then you can go back out and play.” There’s a huge, huge difference in the resulting dynamic, but you can see that it’s also a fine line in terms of how you word your response.

When you have a very sensitive child who is easily stressed and easily scared — especially those with traumatic histories — time-in is exactly what they need. Simply say, “Honey, come on over here and stay with me for a little while.” “Stay here with me while I’m doing this or while I’m doing that.” “Stay here on the couch with me and watch my show with me.” “Sit here in the kitchen with me.” “Sit here in the bathroom with me.” “Sit over here on the park bench with me.” You bring the child in because the child needs your attention.

Some children will need a lot of your attention. So, if you have a child that needs a lot of your attention, what you want to practice is containment.

Containment -The Foundation for Time-In by Bryan Post

Excerpt from The Great Behavior Breakdown by Bryan Post

Due to their sensitive or traumatic histories, some children are unable to be on the playground like everyone else. They’re not able to be on the church grounds with everyone else sitting in the group because they might hit someone, hurt someone, or bite someone.

The reason they do this is because it’s simply too much stimulation, and they become dysregulated in this environment. The child is unconsciously saying, “I need containment.”

Containment is like the foundation to time-in because the dynamic is that you’re creating regulation between you and your child. You keep the child close to you in order to decrease the space that causes the child to feel threatened. This regulated interaction allows the child to calm down in an environment where he or she doesn’t feel threatened. Containment is a dynamic that can be used in schools, with parents in the home, in markets, or in malls.

I worked with a family that has seven adopted children. When they were planning a trip to Disney World, I asked them what they were going to do there with seven kids. The mother said, “I’m going to keep them close.” I said, “You better believe it!” That’s containment. When you keep them close, there is a greater likelihood for regulation because you are regulated, and they’re feeling your regulation. When that happens, the whole environment changes.

I was once at a consultation in Canada at a residential treatment center. I took all of the kids to the park. (There were five or six of them.) All of them had an array of behaviors and diagnoses, including fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, and opposition  defiant disorder. They were all out there playing in the park, and I was working to create a big, nice regulated environment for them. But one of the little guys named Tyler started to get a little dysregulated, and he started to kick the sand. He said to me, “You know I don’t like you. I hate you. You know you’re a _____ this and a _____ that.” So, I said “Hey, come here buddy.” He came marching over. He was mad, and I said, “It looks like you’re stressed out. Why don’t you hang out here with me for a minute?” He said, “I don’t want to.” So, I said, “I know you don’t. I know you’d rather be out there playing, but right now, you’re not in a very good place to be playing. You’re really stressed out. I need to help you feel safe.

Why don’t you hang out here with me for a minute?” I knelt on the ground. I never even stood up. He hung out there with me for about five or ten minutes until I said, “All right, buddy, go ahead and go play.” He was out playing for about five minutes before he started to dysregulate all over again. Who made the mistake? I did. As the adult in the environment, I am the significant regulatory figure. I made the mistake because I wasn’t attuned to myself or to him, and I let him go back before he was ready. Five minutes later, he was kicking and cursing all over again. I said, “Uh-oh, come back, buddy.” I stood up this time. He was on the other side of the jungle gym and said, “I’m not going to. I don’t want to do that anymore. That’s stupid.” So, he turned his back and acted like he was moving away from me. When I first got to the residential center, one of the first things I had been told about Tyler was that he had a tendency to run away. So, he started to go, but he turned and looked back over his shoulder.

I just stood there and took a couple of steps to the side, not toward him. He was a good 30 yards from me when I raised my hand and motioned for him to come back. Then, I looked away from him. He walked away, which only demonstrated how deeply dysregulated and scared he was. He was ready to fall back into his familiar state level behaviors of fight, flight, or freeze. His tendency, of course, was to flee. His state level told him that as soon as the threat became too big, it was time to get out of there. Guess what I wasn’t doing? I wasn’t triggering him. I wasn’t adding to the stress. I was letting my light shine, and my brightness was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. He wrestled with that. He wanted to take off running, but he kept looking back. His negative feedback couldn’t grow. I compressed it because I refused to increase his stress. He finally started walking back toward me. As he headed in my direction, he cursed and said, “This is  stupid” over and over. Then, he said, “I’m mad.” So, I said, “That’s okay. I can imagine that you are. I can tell that you’re really mad. Hang out here with me.” And we just sat there.

Finally, it was time to go, and I said, “Guys, let’s go.” They all lined up, and I was still holding Tyler’s hand. I said, “You know what, Tyler? I have to apologize to you.” He said, “What for?” He wasn’t cursing anymore. He was calm. I said, “Back there earlier, I let you go too  quick. I should have kept you there a little bit longer with me. Then, I wouldn’t have had to expose you to that stress all over again. I wouldn’t have had to call you back to me.”

He looked at me and said, “That’s okay, Bryan.”

To learn more about Time-In vs Time-Out by Bryan Post read more…