When Work is More Appealing than Staying Home

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I have a confession: I’m nervous about being home with my kids just two days a week this summer. I’ve been working full-time for most of the years the kids have been with us, but now I’m working three days a week. BC stayed home with me two days this week and it went fine. BE doesn’t get out of school until July and it’s having them both at home at the same time that I’m worried about. One on one the kids are fine, but as soon as they get together, it’s non-stop fighting. This drives me crazy.

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control author Heather Forbes answered another reader with a similar concern in her monthly e-newsletter. The question was:

I’m having a difficult time keeping myself focused on parenting in the Beyond Consequences way. I read several of your books and agree with them, but there are days that I feel like it is all for nothing. We have one good day where I think, ‘Great, this is it.’ Then the next three days we all are disregulated and I feel discouraged. I keep thinking that I’d rather go back to my full-time job, working 60 hours a week with deadlines due yesterday! Do you have any words of wisdom?”

I’m ashamed to admit that on the weekends and the rare weekdays I’m home with both kids, I feel the same way. Sometimes I feel that I’d rather be at work.

In Heather’s response, she addresses the importance of the reader’s status as a stay-at-home parent. She does this by explaining the powerful effect that parents can have on their children.

“Research is showing that simple changes in a child’s environment can literally change a child’s physiology. We are seeing that by placing children with trauma histories in calmer environments with more love-based parenting techniques where a deep level of emotional safety is created, stress hormones within these children’s body systems are decreasing. This means that parents have the ability to literally change the chemical make-up of their children.”

Heather then encourages the reader to change how she thinks about each day.

“Instead of waking up in the morning thinking, ‘I’ve got to get up, fix my children breakfast, pack their lunches, somehow get them out to school on time through the tantrums and meltdowns, and then prepare myself for the dreaded homework after school!’ I encourage you to say to yourself, ‘Today is the day that I will press on to help change my child’s brain. Today is the day that I have the ability to create safety for my child through predictability, understanding, and loving support in order to help my child heal at a physiological and emotional level.'”

I certainly prefer this approach to my own, which is usually very pessimistic. I think the challenge will be thinking this way more consistently and not reverting back to old patterns.

Dealing with Uncertainty

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I hate uncertainty as much as anyone, and I like to be in control. This is probably why I lean towards a more rigid parenting style. But, I’ve been trying to achieve more of balance with the Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control method. In her recent newsletter, author Heather Forbes addresses how to handle children who have a hard time switching from one task to another. This definitely applies to my kids, and Heather attributes this to a need for consistency. Here’s an excerpt:

“For children with traumatic histories, they have experienced an over abundance of uncertainty. There has not been a balance between the amount of uncertainty and certainty in their lives. If an imbalance of the two creates a level of fear for the average adult then it is understandable for a child, with limited coping skills, such an imbalance creates an exponential amount of fear.  The result is a child who will constantly seek certainty, at all costs.”

My normal reaction is to take my children’s refusal to comply as a personal insult. But Heather recommends the following approach:

“If the parent can understand that the child is simply working to create certainty in his uncertain world, this negative loop can easily be interrupted. The parent can acknowledge that the compelling behavior (as given in this question) is helping the child feel better and that switching to a new task is incredibly difficult and scary.”

When I can manage to pull off a reaction like this, the end result is usually much smoother. Check out Heather’s complete newsletter on her Web site.

BCLC: Rejecting Positive Messages

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Heather Forbes recently sent out her latest e-mail newsletter, and as always, she answered a reader’s question. Here’s the question:

“My son had a terrible early childhood history and constantly tells me he is a bad boy and that nobody loves him. Yet, no matter how much we tell him what a good boy he is or how much we love him, nothing seems to help. How can he continually reject these positive messages?”

As usual, Heather’s response focuses on her belief in the two primary emotions: love and fear. And, as she often reminds her readers, it takes time to establish new patterns and beliefs. Here’s just part of her response.

“While the emotion of fear keeps this child locked in this negative belief system, it is also true that the emotion of love will release this child from this negative belief system. It takes parenting this child in a loving, safe, and emotionally available manner. And it won’t be just one experience, but several experiences, over and over again, with this child being met at an emotional level, in order for new neural pathways to be created.”

I’m very impatient, even with myself, and I tend to think that my family should be making more progress. At this point, the time that we’ve known BE is about equal to the time that we didn’t know her. The time that we’ve been a legal family is less, and the time that we’ve really been working with BCLC is even less. Considering all that, we probably have made significant progress!

Learn more about BCLC and subscribe to Heather’s newsletter at her Web site.

The New Outcome

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In Heather Forbes’ latest newsletter, she answers a reader’s question about the progress of his son under “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control” (BCLC). Here’s his question:

For the past six years, we have been implementing the Beyond Consequences parenting model with our son and have seen a massive amount of improvements. We have changed our lifestyle, found the perfect school and teacher for him, and supported him with tutoring.  I feel like my wife and I have even done much of our own work to keep ourselves from reacting and in a place of love with him.  However, even after all of this, I still see our son struggling!  I am frustrated because I truly know that he has everything right in front of him to get better. Is there something more we should be doing that I’ve missed?

I love Heather’s answer, because it’s a great summary of what first attracted me to BCLC: we can only control ourselves, we cannot control our children. Here’s part of Heather’s response:

Let go of your son’s outcome. It is not about giving up; it is about letting go and changing the tool of measurement. Ask yourself about the process in which you engage with him: “Did I give him understanding, acceptance, and validation today?” These are the things that should be measured because these are, in reality, the only parts over which we have any control. We cannot control the outcome of any child, especially a child with a trauma history. Thinking that we can is in essence ignoring and discrediting the strength and power of free will.

Check out the complete newsletter on Heather’s Web site.

Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control Volume 2

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Ever since reading the first Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control (BCLC), book more than a year ago, I’ve become a big fan. I’ve finally finished Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control volume 2, and at first I was tempted to say that I preferred the second installment. But, the ideas behind volume 2 would actually be difficult to understand without the foundation of volume 1. So, although volume 2 provides a lot of practical advice, it’s still worthwhile to start with volume 1.

Both volumes explain that traditional consequences, logic, and control, do not work with children with attachment difficulties. This has proven to be so true with my children. As I mentioned, volume 2 provides tons of examples, and demonstrates how to apply the BCLC method. This is incredible helpful, because although I love the BCLC theory, I am sometimes unsure of how to use it in my own home.

So, volume 2 begins with the BCLC principles, but then devotes a number of chapters to specific behaviors such as poor social skills, demanding behaviors, defensive attitudes, and homework. In each chapter, the author, Heather Forbes, explains how to use BCLC for each situation and even includes real life examples of how BCLC changed the dynamic in a home.

Whenever I read any of Heather’s works, I’m always challenged to be a better parent, to be more loving and understanding. In fact, in the book, Heather refers often to “love-based parenting” as opposed to “fear-based.” In the first chapter, Heather writes, “Love really is enough. It simply takes putting unconditional love into action to help any child find his way back to this place of peace, joy, confidence, and safety.”

I’m planning to read Heather’s other book, “Dare to Love,” next, but it may be a while before I get there. I’ll be sure to post a review when I’m done.

PLACE Parenting

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I’m a regular reader of Help 4 Your Family, a blog written by therapist Kate Oliver. She recently posted about “PLACE parenting,” which was so helpful, that it will soon find a place on my fridge. Here’s a summary:

“Daniel Hughes and Art Becker-Weidman are working to popularize a parenting attitude that really can work wonders if parents are able to maintain it when they have an attachment disordered child (or any child for that matter). It is called the PLACE mentality, it stands for: Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious, Empathic.”

To read all about PLACE parenting, visit Kate’s blog.

Addressing Food-Related Issues

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In Heather Forbes’ latest newsletter, she answers a reader’s question about a child’s refusal to eat dinner. Here’s the question:

“My four-year-old sits down to dinner and says, ‘I don’t like that.’ He either won’t eat at all or won’t eat his vegetables. He then gets annoyed, trying to leave the table, whining and refusing to eat. This happens five out of seven nights. How do I respond without consequences?”

We’ve certainly had our share of meal/food related issues, so I paid close attention to Heather’s response. Here’s the part that resonated the most with me:

“Create new experiences around food for you and your child (and your entire family). Have your child sit in your lap to eat. Feed him as you would feed a young toddler. Emotionally your child is probably much younger than four years old. Expecting him to be able to sit down at the table during mealtime is probably well beyond his developmental capabilities … We also need to recognize that we shouldn’t eat when we are stressed anyway. Our bodies can’t digest the food properly and it can become toxic in our bodies. More importantly, forcing children to eat during this time or giving consequences around food only creates negative food related issues as adults. The refusal to eat vegetables has a direct link to being stressed out. As a human species, we gravitate towards sweets, salts, and fats when we are stressed.”

This advice made a lot of sense for our family. The kids’ food issues have certainly improved as they’ve become more secure and regulated. What works for your family at dinner time?

For more information, check out the Beyond Consequences Institute.

Back to school, BCLC style

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In Heather Forbes’ latest e-newsletter, she answers addresses the following issue from a reader:

“My son is an angel at school but a terror at home. He was even student of the month last school year. But when he gets home, our home is absolute chaos and he is just nasty to me.

BE struggles at school just as much as she does at home, but Heather’s advice still applies. Here’s an abridged version of her response:

“Many children work to be ‘normal’ all day long at school so when they get home, they are exhausted. The result is they collapse into negative behaviors. When they are stressed at school, they hold it together all day long and then in their ‘unwinding’ of the day, they become ‘terrors.'”

She suggests looking for ways to reduce stress in the following areas:

  • Social stress
  • Transitioning from one activity to another
  • After school care
  • Teachers
  • Riding the school bus
  • Stress-inducing requirements

For Heather’s complete response, or to sign up for the newsletter, visit her Web site.

Inside I’m Hurting: a wider vision

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As the last entry in my series of book reviews on Louise Michelle Bomber’s book, Inside I’m Hurting, I’d like to include a quote from her final chapter. I really respect Bomber’s vision for working with attachment-challenged children in schools. Unfortunately, I think it’s very unlikely that her suggestions could be adopted in the U.S. (Bomber is from the UK). But it’s nice to dream.

Bomber writes, “My vision for the future would be that one day, every school would have teaching assistants or learning mentors who are trained and specialized in being additional attachment figures for children who have experienced trauma or loss.”

Inside I’m Hurting: splitting

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I’d like to continue my series of book reviews on Inside I’m Hurting by Louise Michelle Bomber with another excerpt from Chapter 8: “Permanency and Constancy.”

In this chapter, Bomber explains the concept of splitting – “the process of viewing or judging something or someone as either all bad or all good, rather than having a more integrated perspective of most things and people being a mixture.”

I see the concept of splitting very strongly in BE. She definitely has a hard time distinguishing between her behavior being bad and being a bad person. I try to explain to her that although I might not always like her behavior, I still love her. It’s hard for her to understand.

Bomber explains this further – “An example of splitting is as follows, when a child makes a mistake: ‘I’m a bad person.’ This type of comment implies that the child has a sense of ‘all or nothing’ about himself … rather than appreciating all the different aspects of himself.”

According to Bomber, it’s a lack of a sensitive and secure environment that causes splitting. To help children get over splitting, Bomber recommends the following steps.

1. Introduce the idea of all of us having parts that make us whole people. “We have so many parts that make us who we are. I have kind and considerate parts. I have selfish and mean parts.”

2. Talk about parts of the self regularly. “I can see that you are using your patient and kind part.”

3. Talk about parts of the self in your feedback. “Your angry part is very cross at the moment.”