Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Time-Ins Vs Time-Outs

Perhaps the reason teens isolate themselves when they’re overwhelmed instead of coming to us for help with their problems is because when they’re toddlers we isolate them when they’re overwhelmed instead of helping them with their problems.   -L.R. Knost

The Child: “You’re the worst parent ever! I hate this food! I wish I lived at Emily’s house! Her parents aren’t meanies like you!”

The Parent: “You do not act this way, and you know it.” “Go stand in the corner.” “Go to your room.” "Go run around the house until you get rid of those feelings."  “You obviously need some time by yourself to think about the choices you are making.”

Do exchanges like this ever happen in your house? We used to have lots of them. Time-outs are a staple strategy for many parents. Many of us grew up with them, and a time-out seems like a logical way to diffuse situations. Diffusion wasn’t happening in our home, though.  In fact, time-outs often seemed to escalate behaviors rather than de-escalate them. Our lack of success was frustrating and infuriating.

Why were time-outs, a strategy that many parents seem to find effective, causing such issues with our children who were in foster care?

In retrospect, the answer is fairly clear. Kids from hard places, including kids adopted at birth, have deep-seated feelings of fear and shame because of the harm and abandonment they have experienced. A shame or fear-based punishment, like a time-out, pushes them deeper into those isolating feelings.
With that in mind, I can begin to understand how demoralizing, and even scary, punishments must feel to my kiddos.  No wonder they weren't receiving them well.

Although I was administering time-outs with the best of intentions, my action showed that I was not emotionally safe. I was creating a “me vs you” power struggle and sending an unintentional message of conditional acceptance. “Dear child, I only want you near me when you are doing well. When you’re struggling, you aren’t welcome here. I don’t know what else to do with you but send you away.  Go fix yourself, and then come try again.”

Does that message promote trust and connection?

It is powerful for our children to know that they are loved and adored even in the midst of their worst behaviors. -Dr. Purvis 

We all need a relational alternative to the “time-out.”

Let’s face it. We’re relational beings, and in the midst of our big behaviors, we need to be drawn in close, not sent away.  By removing our kids away from our presence, we waste a valuable opportunity to proactively teach mercy, grace, and collaboration. When we are at our worst and feel like failures, we need someone to step in and say, “I love you. You’re precious. Let’s figure this problem out together.”

Thankfully there is a great alternative that lets us give our kids what they truly need, and correct them at the same time. It’s called a time-in and, although it takes a while to get the hang of, it can dramatically change your home.  It sure changed ours.

Check out this short blog for an excellent introduction.

And listen to Dr. Purvis explain below.

*There is no way to succinctly explain these tools in a blog. Reach out to us or start diving into the resources below to explore connected parenting further.

Additional Resources:

Foster/Adoptive Parents: The Connected Child;  The Body Keeps Score;

All Parents: No Drama Discipline; The Whole Brain Child; Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids;

For family coaching and consulting, contact us:  Village To Village Parent Coaching

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Parenting = Coaching

Coaching is one of the best illustrations that I can think of when it comes to parenting and what our roles are as parents.
What do you think of when you see this list?
1. John Wooden
2. Vince Lombardi
3. Dean Smith
4. Bear Bryant
5. Herb Brooks
6. Dan Gable

Check out these quotes from these famous coaches:
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: 1. Admit it. 2. Learn from it, and 3. Don’t repeat it.” - Bear Bryant

"Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." - Vince Lombardi

"I wasn't as critical during games as I was at practice. Players needed confidence during games more than criticism." ~ Dean Smith

"Risk something or forever sit with your dreams." ~ Herb Brooks

"Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit. Give everything you got today for tomorrow may never come." - Dan Gable

After reading these quotes, do you feel like you can conquer the world? This is what a good coach does. They motivate, inspire, model, instruct, teach, encourage, and these are the very things that we should be doing as parents.
Have you ever had a bad coach? My oldest daughter played volleyball in high school and one of the responsibilities of the parents was to volunteer to line judge multiple times throughout the season. One of the things that I enjoyed about being a line judge was getting to hear and see how different coaches would coach their teams. Some of the coaches that stood out to me the most, unfortunately, were the bad ones. They would say things like; "What did you do that for?", "Why were you standing there?", and "You should know not to do _______________". These statements were not helpful to the girls who were playing volleyball. It only made them feel dumb and probably made them feel some sort of shame. When a coach only points out what we are doing wrong and doesn't tell us, show us, or teach us how to correct that wrong, it gets very old very fast.

You could also think of a boss. How does it make you feel when your boss only points out what you are doing wrong? Does it motivate you to want to work harder? Does it make you feel excited to be on that team? Compare that feeling to how you feel when you feel appreciated by your boss, or when you get told that you are doing a good job, or when your boss offers you real solutions to help you do your job more productively. These things make you want to work harder.

I (Matt) find it easy to slip into a dictator mentality with my kids and what they really need from me is to be their coach. There is nothing appealing or motivating about being under the rule of a dictator, but when you have the privilege of being under a good coach, it is life changing.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Devote Yourself To New Tools -- Step #3

This isn't a decision to make lightly.

If we are serious about pursuing connected parenting for the sake of our kids, we have to be prepared to work hard.  As we have seen in Steps #1 and #2, everything about this approach is difficult, but nothing good comes easy, right?

To succeed, we have to be intentional about letting go of our old way of approaching behaviors and commit ourselves to learning and implementing a whole new set of parenting tools.

So what's a practical example of a tool?

Here is an example!

Additional Resources:

Foster/Adoptive Parents: The Connected Child

All Parents: No Drama DisciplineThe Whole Brain ChildPeaceful Parent, Happy Kids

For family coaching and consulting, contact us:  Village To Village Parent Coaching

What Am I Saying With My Eyes?

Let's focus on more than simply changed behavior.

As a parent, I need to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies and tools that I use with my kiddos.  It's not enough to just see changed behavior, I also need my child to be growing in relationship with me.  I need to be promoting trust.

Our eyes send some intense messages and can be used in a myriad of different ways.  Am I intentionally using my eyes to help my child feel valued and precious?  Do my show my child that I am safe?  

Additional Resources:

Foster/Adoptive Parents: The Connected Child

All Parents: No Drama DisciplineThe Whole Brain ChildPeaceful Parent, Happy Kids

For more individualized help, contact us:  Village To Village Parent Coaching

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Letting Go of Punishment (Step #2)

This is step #2 in our three-part series laying the foundation for becoming a “connected parent.” Click here for step #1 (Facing Your Past), and step #3 (Trust-Based Tools).

Punishment ≠ Discipline

Until becoming foster parents, we understood punishment and discipline to be largely synonymous. Discipline meant spanking, isolation, chores, etc… It implied pain. Our case manager started us thinking differently when she asked, “What will discipline look like with your foster kids?”

“Um, (nervous exchange of looks), well, we know we can’t spank. We will use time-outs, consequences, chores, and ...”

Sensing our ineptitude she cut in, “you do understand that discipline is more than punishment, right?”

“Well, sure...Yeah of course!” we said, trying to grasp exactly what she meant.

What was she proposing?  Was she suggesting that we shouldn’t respond to misbehavior with punishment?  Ha!  There was no way we were straying into permissive parent territory!  Punishment, in our minds, while not desirable, was the necessary, finishing tool in our parenting toolbox.  A child who chooses to misbehave is a child who chooses punishment!


After much introspection, education, and first-hand experience, we believe we were wrong.  You see, we thought that kids' behaviors were mostly a result of willful disobedience.  Turns out, misbehavior often stems from developmental, brain issues.  This understanding alone changes the conversation.  Our kids are complex beings, and they deserve a complex approach to their difficult behaviors.  What they really need is coaching, practice, and emotional connection.  Punishment simply can not provide those things.  In fact, punishment, in any context (like work or marriage), causes distrust, fear, and shame.

We have worked with many wonderful, experienced, desperate biological parents. The same punishment based strategies that they successfully used with their bio kids simply made their foster/adoptive kids become defiant and distant. 

Why the difference?  It's fairly simple.  Punishment doesn't address the why behind behaviors, it simply demands that behaviors change.

Imagine if my child broke his leg, and then I punished him the next day when he refused to run with his track team.  

Would my punishment help him heal quicker?  Would it draw us closer relationally?  The answers are obvious, and yet, this is what we do with our kiddos.  They have a "broken leg."  It's called complex developmental trauma.  It isn't nearly as tangible as a visible injury, and that makes it scary and hard to understand.  Ironically, as parents start understanding how hopeless punishment is, we often start punishing even more intensely.  We simply don't know what else to do.

The first step is start focusing on discipline instead of punishment.  Most of us already incorporate a combination of the two. Some of us are discipline heavy and some punishment heavy. Many of us believe we are using “loving discipline” but in reality, we have just given punishment a prettier label. Here is a question I like to ask myself to clarify the difference between the two.

Are my words or actions about to cause my child fear or shame?

If the answer is yes, it’s probably a punishment, and it's probably damaging my relationship with my child.  Foster/adoptive parents can see the effects of fear and shame  a whole lot quicker than the average parent.  The same parenting strategies that seemed to work with our bio kids trigger our kids from hard places into fight, flight, or freeze mode.  The fear and shame they internalize from our punishment is too much for them to bear, and they jump into survival mode.

For biological parents, this topic might be a whole lot harder to understand.  In fact, it probably feels like I am pushing permissiveness.  Please know that this is not a call to permissive parenting.  We have to teach our kids right behaviors, and that there are natural and logical consequences for our actions.  But I often find myself focusing so much of my time and energy on the behaviors, that I ignore the needs driving the behavior. 

As I learn to redirect my attention on addressing the underlying need, many of the behaviors just disappear.

One of our house rules is: No bouncing balls in the kitchen. The playroom (carpeted) is right next to the kitchen (hardwood) and the basketball often rolls in. While retrieving it, our 6-year-old’s urge to bounce the ball is strong. He violates the rule repeatedly. Sometimes it is willful, sometimes it is legitimate forgetfulness, and sometimes it is simply a lack of impulse control. I could threaten a consequence, “How many times have I told you this? Do it again and you are done playing basketball for the day.” He does it again. I take the ball.  Maybe he gets an attitude. I get upset at his disrespect.  I send him to his room.  I threaten to take the ball for the week and so on.  This example employs both fear and shame, and most of us would recognize it as a punishment.

How can I build connection in the midst of correction?

Try and see the situation from his perspective.  What are his needs? He is only 6 and the decision making part of his brain is nowhere close to developed. He loves basketball and that kitchen floor looks just like a real court! How can I train him to make better decisions without threatening him? Each day, when there is a first violation, he gets a gentle reminder (not a warning) and we do a re-do. If it happens again, we have a short chat about why the rule exists, and what he thinks should happen the next time the rule is broken. He helps make his own “consequence."  If it does happen a third time, it almost never does, we take a short break and game plan together.  It's not unusual for him to choose to stop playing at that point, recognizing that it is just too hard for him to follow the rules that day.

Which situation best empowers the child to choose obedience?

Discipline comes from the same root word as disciple. It means "to teach", and if we embrace the mindset, it will transform us from dictator to coach.  It is connection focused proactive work, instead of correction focused reactive work. It produces trust and security instead of fear and shame. Discipline trains kids to focus on learning, negotiating, and building right relationship, which naturally leads to right behavior.

Look, this is not a message of condemnation.  It is simply an invitation to consider if there is any room to improve your current parenting strategies.  Growing up, the vast majority of my community, including my parents, used punishment as one of their primary parenting tools.  I highly value and respect those people and value my upbringing, but there is always room for growth.  I, unfortunately, will probably never be able to let go of punishments completely.  In the midst of extreme stress or frustration, I gravitate back to them.  It's what feels comfortable.  But I am moving forward, and that's important.

To be frank, I resisted this whole conversation for years.  I am a proud, proud person, and the idea that I should reconsider most of what I knew about parenting was daunting, somewhat insulting, and appeared permissive.  I was worried about creating disrespectful, entitled kids; and I was nervous about the reaction of my family and friends.  As much as I tried to dismiss the conversation, I couldn't get this question out of my head:

If I can learn to raise well-behaved, respectful kids without causing them fear or shame, what reason do I have to keep on using punishments?

I couldn't think of a good reason.  Can you?

We love conversation.  Please reach out to us with any questions or comments!

Additional Resources:

Foster/Adoptive Parents: The Connected Child

All Parents: No Drama Discipline, The Whole Brain Child, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

For more individualized help, contact us:  Village To Village Parent Coaching

Friday, August 17, 2018

Saying Yes

Think about how often we tell our kids no. Before I realized that saying, "Yes" was a parenting tool, my default answer to my kids was usually, no. Why was my answer always no, probably because it was just easier to say no.

Watch this video about saying "Yes" to our kids.

Building Trust By Saying Yes (as much as possible) from TAPESTRY on Vimeo.

Practical tip: I buy the big bags of Life Saver mints and keep them in my car. All of my kids know that when they get into my car, if they ask me for a mint, I will say "Yes." The only rule is; they have to ask. As long as they ask, I have always been able to say "Yes." This is a very easy way to implement this parenting tool. Customize this tool to what your kids like or steal this idea, it works great.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Every Summer Needs a Good Book

Summer is here and I pose the question; Do you have a good book to get you through the rest of your summer?

If you are looking for a good read this summer may I recommend "Walk to Beautiful" by Jimmy Wayne? 

Some of you might recognize the name Jimmy Wayne and others of you may not. Jimmy is a country music singer/songwriter who earned the prestigious "Million Air-Award" for his song "Do You Believe Me Now?"

Jimmy has an incredible story that will leave you in utter disbelief, shock, tears, and sometimes just sitting there in silence asking yourself; how did he overcome this? This amazing true story of his life is hope-filled and inspiring. And just to add a disclaimer; it might also be motivating to do something to try to help kids who find themselves in the very same situations that little Jimmy found himself in.

What others are saying about "Walk to Beautiful:"
“If your story could use a better chapter, take inspiration from Jimmy’s.” —Max Lucado, New York Times Best-Selling Author

“Walk to Beautiful will open your eyes to the hurting people around you.” —Frank Harrison, Chairman, and CEO, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated; Chairman and Co-founder, With Open Eyes

If you are in the market for a good book, check out "Walk to Beautiful," I am confident that you will not be disappointed. 

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