Containment -The Foundation for Time-In


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…

2 thoughts on “Containment -The Foundation for Time-In

  1. Pingback: Time In vs Time Out by Bryan Post

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

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