Validating Negativity

Adoption

Right now, BC is driving me crazy. His behavior and listening skills are lacking and he doesn’t seem to have much empathy. (Now that I think about it, BE had about zero empathy at his age too, but that’s certainly not the case anymore.)

I haven’t found a solution, and it’s particularly challenging because he’s not really old enough to express what he’s feeling.

A reader question in the monthly Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control (BCLC) newsletter helped to give me some more insight. The situation wasn’t really the same, but Heather Forbes’ answer gave me a few ideas. Here’s the question:

My 8-year-old son ‘hates’ everything: the particular car driving down the street, the shirt I’m wearing, the kid next door, the color of the living room, the cashier at the grocery store, etc., etc. I am having trouble understanding this and how to deal with it. Any insights?”

Here are excerpts of Heather’s response:

“A child who ‘hates’ everything is a child in a perpetual state of fear and dysregulation. His neurophysiological system has been programmed to see the world as half empty instead of half full …

“Validate his negativity instead of trying to convince him of something more positive. ‘You really do hate this shirt. Wow. Help me understand how much you hate it. Tell me more.’ As he expresses himself, help him shift into the feelings behind these words. (It’s really not about the shirt.) ‘How does that make you feel? …’

“When you can help him to move into this core area within himself by listening, validating, maximizing, tolerating, accepting, and staying present with him, you’ll be there in relationship to guide him towards feeling safe and loved. Thus, you’ll be able to guide him to see that the world is good and hope does exist. It will take positive repetitious conditioning to do this for him.”

Ok, so BC doesn’t say he hates everything, but the advice about affirming his feelings and asking questions was very helpful. Because he’s only 5, I don’t think it will make a big difference right away, but I’m hoping it will set us on a good path for the future.

If you have any advice for me, please let me know!

The Two Words of the Soul

Adoption

J and I have really benefited from the Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control books by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post, and I’ve written a lot about how we’ve been using this approach. One of the key priniciples of Beyond Consequences is that there are only two true human emotions: love and fear. Other emotions such as anger, are merely a result of fear, they are secondary.

I recently came across a quote that I think sums up this idea perfectly. I wasn’t sure who said it, so I had to read some more about the author, Neale Walsch. Apparently he wrote a book called Conversations with God, which was very popular. I’ve never read the book, so I’m certainly not endorsing it with this post. But, I do feel that his quote is too good not share.

“All human actions are motivated at their deepest level by two emotions–fear or love. In truth there are only two emotions–only two words in the language of the soul…. Fear wraps our bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.”

Have you read Conversations with God? What did you think?

When Work is More Appealing than Staying Home

Adoption

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.

Michigan Radio: Adoption and Early Childhood Trauma

Adoption

I’m a big fan of Michigan Radio (the local NPR affiliate) and I’ve often linked to stories the station has done as part of a project called “State of Opportunity.” This project looks at how the state can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children. So, I was ecstatic when the station asked me to do a guest blog on adoption and early childhood trauma. Check it out on the “State of Opportunity” page!

When your Child is a Hoarder

Adoption

BE isn’t really a hoarder, but she does show a lot of interest in trash. She always wants to pick up things that she finds lying around, such as a broken crayon in her school hallway, or a cracked cell phone case in the grass. In her recent newsletter, Heather Forbes answers a reader’s question about why her adopted daughter hoards, or collects things. She explains:

“It could be that your daughter’s resistance to throwing things away is representative of her perception of not feeling valued and worthy. This resistance is perhaps a way to recreate a new experience for herself.”

Her solution is a real challenge for me. Both my kids, but BE especially, seem to have an unusual addiction to sweets and even having them in the house can cause a real problem. I think that for my kids, this addiction and the hoarding come from the same place. Here’s what Heather said:

“By accepting her desire to have these items and by working with her on this issue, you are giving her the message that she is valuable, that her ideas are worthy, and that she is lovable — the core issues that are behind this behavior to begin with!”

This is really tough because I want to be in control. I just need to work on accepting my kids where they are. I’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work to do!

Check out Heather’s newsletter on her Web site.

Dealing with Uncertainty

Adoption

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

Adoption

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

Adoption

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

Adoption

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.

National Adoption Month: The Future of Adoption

Adoption

It’s National Adoption Month again. In honor of this “event,” I’m starting a new series called “The Future of Adoption.” In this series, I’d like to explore what adoption can and should look like in the future. I’ll also make suggestions on how we can get there. I’m not a social work, law-maker, or adult adoptee, so I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on the topic. So, if you are an expert, please feel free to kindly correct my misconceptions. And, even if you’re not an expert, I still want to hear your thoughts.

If you’re a regular reader, you may be sick of me talking about Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post. One of the book’s foundations is that there are only two primary emotions: love and fear. I’d like to build on this idea for “The Future of Adoption” and use it to explain what could be changed in a very broad sense. In future posts, I’ll talk more about specific changes.

What if, in the future, those involved in adoption did not make their choices based on fear?

1. What if pregnant women did not choose adoption based on their fear of being rejected or being an inadequate mother?

2. What if adoptive parents weren’t afraid of their children’s first family?

3. What if adoptive parents and their friends and family (and society as a whole) were not afraid of those who are different? (older children, children of other races, same-sex couples).

4. What if families could stay together because the parents did not make unwise choices based on fear?

I think many people believe about adoption as others believe about abortion: both should be legal, but rare. If we addressed these fears, could we make adoption less common? Could we keep families together? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll be posting more specific ideas and action items at a later time.