Is your child more intense and more challenging than other kids? Do you worry about the future for this child and your ability to help them learn to behave? You will love this interview with Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed., the Director of Family Engagement at Anu Family Services and founder of the Center for the Challenging Child, where she works with families throughout the US. She is the author of the book Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.
In this episode, we cover:
Watch Tina’s TEDx Talk: How to Stop Kids’ Meltdowns and Gain Their Cooperation.
This podcast is produced by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:
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Please excuse any errors, this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show, as well as the director of a nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about parenting the challenging child while maintaining attachment. We'll be speaking with Tina Feigal. She is the Director of Family Engagement at Anu Family Services and the founder of the Center for the Challenging Child, where she shares techniques to transform challenging behavior and children of all ages. She works with parents from all over the country, and as the author of the book, present moment parenting, the guide to a peaceful life with your intense child. Welcome, Tina. I'm so glad to have you.
Speaker 2 0:45
Thank you, Dawn is just wonderful to join you today.
Dawn Davenport 0:48
So let's start by saying what makes some kids more intense, more challenging?
Speaker 2 0:56
Well, there are a variety of ways that kids can become challenging within the foster adopt kinship world. Most of the time, we can attribute some of the challenges to trauma. And that means trauma, before they were removed, whatever led up to the removal from their home, and then a trauma of changing to a new world, where they have left behind their home, their family, sometimes their sibling, sometimes not their parents or parent, their music, their food, their neighborhood, their school, their church, or community faith community that they belong to, to their
Dawn Davenport 1:39
best friend, their best friend,
Speaker 2 1:41
everything is lost, you know, the smells, you know, and whether there's a pet there or not, and have they left a pet behind. I mean, it's just everything. So it's like they've landed on another planet. They have no choice about it, you know, if we, as adults, make that kind of change, most of the time, it's we chose to do that. But their children, they're traumatized. And they have had no choice, you know,
Dawn Davenport 2:08
to your list, which was a great one. Let me also throw in exposure to alcohol and other substances in pregnancy, can change the structure of the brain and make these kids very often more challenging.
Speaker 2 2:22
Absolutely. That and they may have already come with learning disabilities, or ADHD, which almost every child in the system ends up being diagnosed with ADHD, autism, you know, there just a wide variety of things that could have been there before, as you're talking about with exposure during pregnancy to alcohol and drugs. Absolutely.
Dawn Davenport 2:44
And I'm curious to see if you would agree with this. I just think that there are some children who are temperamentally, regardless of trauma, regardless are just more challenging. And it's, you know, they may either have a shorter fuse, or they're just more intense by nature. Because we certainly know that there are people with children by birth who have never experienced trauma are not significant trauma, perhaps, that are still would be classified as intense kids and challenging. Do you agree with the temperament theory here?
Speaker 2 3:19
I do. And you know, what I often find, which people don't think about, but I want to just highlight this is that oftentimes, those children with those challenging temperaments are very sensitive,
Dawn Davenport 3:31
I think yes.
Speaker 2 3:33
And sometimes they're sensitive, because they have sensory processing issues, you know, where, when they hear a sound, it's three times louder to them than it is to us. Or visually, they might just be really sensitive to bright light. Or, like even fluorescent lighting in a classroom appears to be flashing to children who have visual sensitivities. They might not like to be touched, they might not be able to stand their food, the smell of the food, the taste, the texture, the texture, and the tags in their clothes, and their lines in their socks might drive them crazy. And they can't wear jeans, they just have to wear sweatpants, you know, ya know, so those things can make kids appear to be quote unquote challenging, when really what it is, is sensitive. And then the other one is that I made up besides the five senses that we're talking about, is interpersonal sensitivity. What do you mean by that? They're very sensitive to what other people say and do more than the average person. Uh huh. And this can come from having a parent that isn't predictable. And so they're really tuned in to every emotion and every word and every tone of voice to the foster or adoptive or kinship parents who are taking care of the kids because they have to be on high alert all the time. Yeah, and yeah, so they, that sensitivity comes as a natural defense.
Dawn Davenport 5:05
Yeah, that makes perfectly good sense. That's was a survival technique for them?
Unknown Speaker 5:09
Dawn Davenport 5:11
You know, let me throw out another one that I've thought about a lot, I use the term I think I've read it somewhere a long time ago, goodness of fit. And it's with some children who would not be challenging for one parent, or challenging for another parent, because they just the fit is not a natural one for the temperament, personality, or whatever I use. As an example, one of my children who is extremely high energy, I am very high energy, this child was not challenging for me, I got this kid. I mean, this kid is me. And I found that a lot of this kid is similar to me, was very, it was a very easy kid for me. And yet, I do know that there were teachers who found him extremely challenging, because he talked all the time, he was moving constantly. And I've had other parents say, that kid would drive me up the wall. And it was so funny when the first one said it to me, because I thought, Really, that's not the one that drives me up the wall. To others, but that's not the one. But I think it could go the other way, where, and I have kids who might be the other way with their eye, that the fit is not as perfect, and or it's not as easy. And I think it's such a powerful thing for parents to realize, because we have control over that. And once we realize that, once we say, wait a minute, this kid's not really, it's not really that challenging of a child. It's just doesn't fit with me. So I can change that I can I'm aware of that. And then I can make changes. What do you think about that? What I call the goodness of fit?
Speaker 2 6:44
Well, I agree with you completely. And that's why I coach parents, you know, have a good point. And we can actually change the way we see. So what I offer when I coach parents is insight into where this behavior is coming from. With that insight, we can stop that labeling the child challenging and start to realize that he or she is being challenged. Yes.
Dawn Davenport 7:09
Good point. That, that in the other thing I think of sometimes is that if you think the child's a challenge to you, what are they they're challenged to themselves as well to not fit in this world to know that the people in your environment that you drive them a little crazy. That's a lousy, that's a lousy place to be?
Speaker 2 7:26
It is it's really hard, especially when trauma has come into the mix, you know? Yes, it's all about survival. And I'm going to explain that as we go here about how the brain reacts. I'm very physiologically oriented, when I coach. So how is communication affecting the body of the child? How is the presence of a person in the room affecting the body of a child, because when we can explain it that way, it takes all the blaming and labeling out of the situation. And it allows for compassion.
Dawn Davenport 7:59
Exactly. And if we can shift that perspective from one of this is a child who won't do what I'm asking to a child who can't do it. I'm asking that changes everything, doesn't it? Absolutely. And
Speaker 2 8:11
I even wrote a newsletter about this recently that says words I really don't like and won't is one of them. Because we so often say this child just won't. And it is it's not won't it's can't because kids absolutely want to please the people who are caring for them. Yeah,
Dawn Davenport 8:31
was it Dr. Ross Greene says children do good when they can, if they can. I love that expression. I have that saying because I think it is so very true. Isn't this conversation fantastic. I am learning a lot and really enjoying it. If you are to, you'll be happy to hear about 12 free courses we offer at Bitly slash JBf support. These come from our sponsorship of the Jacobean Family Foundation. Again, you can check them out at Bitly bi T dot L y slash J. B F support. Well, why don't we go into talking about the impact of trauma on the brain and how that affects children's access? What Yeah, I know you work with your parents on.
Speaker 2 9:16
Yeah. So what I like to explain to parents is right near the brainstem, the brainstem is where all the automatic stuff happens in our bodies and things we don't have to think about to survive. For instance, breathing, heart pumping, digestion, eye blinking, all those things that keep our bodies functioning, but we don't have to make a decision about them. Right? Attention thank goodness, right? So that's survival and then right above the brainstem is walnut sized organ called the amygdala. And it too, is very involved in the survival of the human being. adults and children alike and amygdala are the threat alarm I'm always scanning the environment for emotional and physical safety. So when you have had an experience of trauma either before the removal which all kids usually have, and then at the removal time and then being placed on a different planet, the amygdala is firing, constantly saying Danger, danger, danger, danger. And it also says to the child, if these adults who are responsible for your survival, see you, you're gonna survive. If they don't see you get their attention. Hmm, do whatever it takes to get their attention. And so when we see children acting out, what they're actually doing is calling for survival. They're saying, See me, see me see me, or I'm not going to survive. If you see me, I will. So if we actively see the children in this present moment with whatever challenge they are experiencing, by using what I call reflective listening, by just connecting with that child is strengthening the bond, the attachment to the child, by connecting when the child is upset, then the amygdala calms down. And the other part of the brain called the pre frontal cortex, which is right behind the forehead, and is where all the logic and the reasoning and the planning ahead, and the organization live, can come online. Now, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex are neighbors in the same scope, but they never speak to each other, and they never operate at the same time.
Dawn Davenport 11:51
So when you're, when you're in survival mode, and Danger, danger mode, your frontal lobe is off is off circuit.
Speaker 2 11:59
Right? It's turned off completely. So the only way to gain cooperation and to connect with children is to calm that amygdala first by reflecting what's occurring right now. So an example would be, you're really upset because this is the first time you've ever been to this house, and you don't know anybody. And everything about the way it smells and looks, is completely new to you. I see. I see.
Dawn Davenport 12:28
That's an example of reflective listening. Let's give me an example of reflective listening. Let's say the child is you're in a grocery store and your eight year old wants some I don't know, Skittles or whatever. And, and you say no to the Skittles, and she loses it.
Speaker 2 12:45
You're really upset right now. Because you Yeah, we wanted those Skittles. You really wish we could have Skittles every time we come to the grocery store. Now, this is not agreeing with her. And it's not condoning anything, it is simply seeing her to calm that amygdala so that her rational part of the brain can come online. And that so she can feel seen and heard. So she's assured of survival, because she's seen and heard by her caretaker.
Dawn Davenport 13:17
So parents, often parent the way they were parented. How do we how do we overcome this? Because it is it's our fallback, it's our default.
Speaker 2 13:28
And most of the time, our default isn't working. So I asked the doctor field question. How's that working for you? Yeah, yeah, it's, it's simply not working. And once I ask that question, is it getting you what you want, because I am your coach. And as your coach, I want you to have what you want, which is a peaceful life with your child. So I engage them in that conversation, they realize then they get insight into the fact that the old stuff isn't working. And then I say, Can I offer you something that will work? And they say, Sure. And then and then I talk about how the brain is responding how the amygdala is the threat alarm, and the child cannot hear any logic while it's firing. And the other thing about the amygdala is that it forgets to stop firing. So people are often confused when the child is in a safe home and they've got food and a roof over their head and clothing and two parents who care about them or one parent who cares about them and some siblings they never had before. Who could support them and maybe a pet you know, why are they still acting up when there's so safe here? Well, the amygdala forgets to stop firing. It doesn't know how to feel the safety when it's unfamiliar. And so it's just sort of like maple trees. They drop a bazillion seed pods, those helicopter II things more than they need to propagate the species maple tree. They make Illa over does its job to guarantee the survival of the child. So it just doesn't stop just simply because the child is placed in a safe home. So, what we do is reflectively. Listen to that child to build the trust to create the attachment. It is amazing how quickly it works, interest and it's just something a lot of people don't know about right?
Dawn Davenport 15:25
Have you subscribed yet to our free monthly newsletter, if you go to Bitly slash C A F guide, you'll get our free parenting a child exposed to trauma, it's our way of saying thank you for subscribing. In this guide, you will find evidence based information and practical tips to help you parent your child, the guy goes well with today's content, put it mildly. Plus, you get regular evidence base creating a family resources delivered to your inbox monthly. So check it out at Bitly bi T dot L y slash C A F et Cie F for creating a family. So C A F guide. Let me tell you about another service provided by creating a family. It is an interactive training support group curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. It is as I said, a curriculum. And we have a curriculum library of 23 topics 23 curriculum that you can use with to train families. If you are running support groups, you can use it to increase skill building, it is a turnkey, off the shelf, you pull it off the shelf digital shelf that is and it comes complete with everything you need for with almost no preparation to run a high quality group. It is participatory, it is not just watching a video, although a video is included. There are pauses, there's time for discussion, we provide questions to spur the discussion helps with an addition to the video, a facilitator guide a handout and additional resource sheet. As well as if you need certificates of attendance for CPE credit that comes with it as well. You can check it out at creating a family.org It's under the training tab. Let's talk a little about attachment. What do we mean by attachment? And why is it so important for children and for parents?
Speaker 2 17:23
Attachment is important for every human being on the earth, you know, either in a partnership or sisters, or parents or brothers or we all have a need to belong to each other. And attachment can be severely interfered with when the parents are on drugs and they're unpredictable. Or they simply have mental health issues. And they're they don't know how to attach because nobody ever attached with them. Yeah, you know, so I'm talking about bio parents, and then why is attachment so important? It's because of that survival. And because the whole future of the child's relationships, stems on a secure attachment. So it can be disorganized, it can be disorganized is a good overall term for attachments that don't work, you know. So what we want to do is just help all parents, even biological parents who are reunifying with their children, learn how to do the attachment. And one of the main ways we do that is to help them get in the child's world and reflect what's going on
Dawn Davenport 18:32
view, say, I believe this is in the book, present moment parenting, parent, the child in front of you in the present moment, not the one that did whatever it was yesterday, or the one that you fear will do whatever it is in the future. I think that is powerful.
Speaker 2 18:49
Thank you. What I often say to parents is you are looking for a positive future for this child. And we are very future oriented as an American society, by the way, which gets us in trouble. Actually, it doesn't serve us because we're so thinking, this kid can't grow up eight years old, like thinking he can talk to adults like that. No way, you know, I gotta stop it right now. And that does not get us what we want. It does not get a positive future, or it gets a positive future is a bunch of very powerful, connected present moments. one right after another, connecting with the child in the present moment doing it again, doing it again, that assures the positive future.
Dawn Davenport 19:32
I also think that I'm not alone, I think many parents when we start projecting what the child is doing now into the future. It scares us. We love this child. We don't want we want better for this child. So we then we're responding on fear. And it's a tendency to overreact because oh my god, you know, they cannot be doing this when they go to high school are if they're still doing this and I'll never leave my basement or you know, whatever. They'll never be gainfully employed or even something no shorter term, I won't be able to, you know, they won't be they're gonna get kicked out of preschool or whatever. So I think that it's that it keeps us from spinning into the into the fear mode as well.
Speaker 2 20:13
Exactly. There are only two things love and fear. When it comes right down to it, the main emotions in the world are love and fear, and all the other emotions kind of stem from those things. And so if we feel anxious about the future, just reminding ourselves that we don't have the future, it's not here yet. The past is gone. We can't go back and do anything about it, if you don't hear, right. So what do we have, we have this present moment in which to create a powerful connecting experience with this child. And when we have repeated experiences of that with the child, that assures the positive future, because you're launching a child into the world who feels seen and heard, which is a much more capable child than one who doesn't feel seen and heard.
Dawn Davenport 21:06
Well, let's, let's start you have 10 tenants or 10, parenting tenants, what are they? And then elaborate on what they are and how they would be relevant to parents who are parenting, adoptive foster or kin, children.
Speaker 2 21:20
Attunement, and attachment in the present moment is vital for a healthy parent child relationship. And what attunement means is, I see you, I'm understanding what it is that's happening in your world right now.
Dawn Davenport 21:37
And that's there. An example of that, or a way a technique for doing that is the reflective listening. Absolutely, like back to the child, what you were seeing and what you anticipate that the child is feeling at this moment.
Speaker 2 21:49
Yeah. And then there are other ways to do it, too. I have something called heartfelt appreciation that I teach parents to do as well. And that is when you I feel because of this does not make the child responsible for the adults feelings. A lot of people say, Oh, we don't want that. What we want them to do is to understand that what they do has an effect on the people around them. That's all. And so when you speak so nicely to your brother, I feel on top of the world because it just shows me what a powerful Big Brother You know how to be.
Dawn Davenport 22:28
Now does it need to be always a positive? You don't want to say, when you say you hate what I fixed for dinner, it hurts my feelings. That would be so worth only the positive. It's showing appreciation. When you thank me for having fixed your favorite meal. It makes me feel appreciated. Yes.
Speaker 2 22:47
Because it and it shows me what to put the because it shows me that you really know how to say nice things to people, you know, so
Dawn Davenport 22:55
because because it shows me as an important part of that. Okay.
Speaker 2 22:58
Yeah. So number two is the overarching goal of every child is to feel lovable. And this refers to the amygdala firing, danger, danger, danger, if you're not being seen, the child must feel lovable in order to feel like he or she is going to survive,
Dawn Davenport 23:19
you know, and that's powerful, because our more talented, intense kids are often the ones who don't feel lovable because their behavior is such that the adults in their world are frustrated, or avoiding them, or hoping that they, this child doesn't get put in my class, you know. And so that's the message they're getting. So they don't feel lovable, because often that the adults are sending that message to them that they are not.
Speaker 2 23:49
Right. And the child who's acting, the least lovable in the moment is the one who needs the most love in this moment.
Dawn Davenport 23:55
Yeah, interesting. That's a powerful statement. So what is your third tenet?
Speaker 2 24:02
With every interaction, parents are either pushing their children away, or drawing them nearer?
Dawn Davenport 24:09
That makes sense. And again, these challenging kids are being pushed away oftentimes, yes,
Speaker 2 24:14
creating more challenging kids or Yeah, yeah, increasingly challenging kids because their sense of safety with their adults is interfered with, and they cannot behave well unless they feel safe. That's just the bottom line, you're not going to see good behavior unless the child feels safe. And when they feel safe, you're gonna see behavior that you never dreamed was possible.
Dawn Davenport 24:35
And we're going to put these tenants by the way to work in practice with some typical challenging situations. So we won't stop now to give practical examples, but I'm all for practical examples because that's what quite frankly, that's how I learned so. Right? Okay.
Speaker 2 24:54
It just want to think about that amygdala like if the kids standing turned purple when we We were missing the mark, we would just quickly correct it because we knew that if we corrected it, that we would get better behavior and a more connected feeling with the child. But we can't see the amygdala. And we can't see the prefrontal cortex. And so we operate as if something's occurring is not occurring.
Dawn Davenport 25:19
Yeah. All right, I think we're on we're going on four or five, four. Okay.
Speaker 2 25:24
Staying in the present moment, reduces parents fear of past or future behaviors.
Dawn Davenport 25:30
Yeah, that's what we were talking about before. That really spoke to me, not so much focusing on the past, but fear of the future.
Speaker 2 25:39
Exactly. And anxiety on the part of the parents is fear of the future. Sure. Fear the bad thing. That's a form of fear. As I said, there's only two things love and fear. And if the child is already anxious, and then the parent is also anxious, then you've just got this tornado of anxiety, that doesn't get you anywhere. It just spins you like a tornado?
Dawn Davenport 26:01
Yeah. And that's, yeah, that's not helpful for anybody.
Speaker 2 26:05
Yeah. So staying in the present moment, with attunement, looking at the child as he or she is right now, reflecting it to the child. So he or she feels safe, they make the accounts down, then introduce whatever type of logic you need to talk about. Okay. And then the next one is all behavior is communication, and a readable signal. So we've heard all behaviors, communication probably many times in our lives, but I added and a readable signal, because that puts the adult in active mode, like, Okay, I'm getting a signal now I respond.
Dawn Davenport 26:46
And it's my responsibility to read it. Exactly, yeah, that this for our audience, we often will talk about look at the need behind the behavior. And that this is another way of saying that your child's behavior is sending you a signal sending you a message, if this is what I need. And parents, our job is to meet the need. Absolutely. Absolutely. Alright, number six,
Speaker 2 27:08
respectfully addressing the child's true feelings eliminates the need for punishment. So I'm not a fan of punishment or consequences even. Because when we know the child's true feelings, and we connect with them, we have relieved the child of that feeling of separation, we've built in safety, and we don't have to punish them for anything, we get the insight as to where the behavior came from. And we just work with them an improvement rather than a punishment. And so what I often say is see him to free him.
Dawn Davenport 27:46
So I'm trying, let's put that I know, we're going to talk about putting practical examples. But in this one, let's say, Brother pushes his sister down, and then destroys her doll. So let's put that last one into seeing him means you don't need to, I wouldn't say punishment, the consequences of your action. So let's put that into practice. Give me an example of how that would play out.
Speaker 2 28:15
Okay, so typically, the consequences would be, you go to your room until you can treat your sister nicely. Look at this girl, she's hurt, she's crying, can't you see? You go to your room? Because you that's consequent, right? You have really hurt her. And we don't, we don't want to deal in that. Because that's giving a ton of energy to the thing we don't want. And with heartfelt appreciation, we give a ton of energy to the things we do want. So we'll see more of them. So I want to explain that a little bit further. But what I would say in this situation, he has hurt his sister and destroyed her dog. You are really angry with your sister right now. You thought that hurting her would be the answer to your anger, you thought that wrecking her doll would really let her know how angry you were with her. So that's the reflection, the child feels seen, the child comes down almost like magic. And then say what would you like to say to your sister? And how would you like to take care of this broken doll situation?
Dawn Davenport 29:23
So you're not the consequences are there the consequence for me is that you need to repair the the relationship that you've heard. And then you need to figure out how you're going to repair the damage to whatever it is you broke. So I don't think in terms of punishment, but I do think in terms of that the the consequence of of this is that you've hurt a relationship in this case, she might have hurt, she's skinned her knee or whatever, and you've hurt the doll. So you're not saying don't do that. You're saying just that doesn't have to be a punishment associated with it.
Speaker 2 29:57
Right? I'm saying mend it. You know mended. And when the child actively meant the issue that increases their self esteem actually, you know, it helps them realize that if I make a mistake, it's not the end of the world, I can actually mend this relationship that empowers the child in a very important way to. So, consequences usually means punishment. Too many people are discipline, you know, discipline, a disciple is a teacher. Yeah. word in Greek is teach discipline means to teach, it doesn't mean to punish, or give unrelated consequences, unrelated consequences are go to your room, you know, there won't be any screen time until you can figure out how to be nice, you know,
Dawn Davenport 30:46
right. It's the consequence. To me, that's a punishment, or consequences a natural thing that happens as a result of what you have done.
Speaker 2 30:55
Right? And how to fix it. It's always included in that.
Dawn Davenport 30:59
Exactly. Yeah. Okay. Number seven.
Speaker 2 31:03
A child's body is affected by emotional input from the parent. So as I explained about, you know, when we talk to the child, we can calm the amygdala and bring the prefrontal cortex online. Another part of the body that I like to talk about is the heart. Heart Math Institute did research that showed that people's hearts are responsive to emotional input. They actually hooked people up to EKG machines, and gave them emotional input. And they found that the nature of the heartbeat does change with emotional input. They also found out that the heart was sending messages to the brain as a result of this emotional input. So we get to choose whether we send messages heart to brain that say, I'm not a good kid, I can never do the right thing. These people don't like me, I don't belong here. Or we can send messages to the brain through the heart. Wow, they appreciate me. Wow, they don't come down hard on me when I make a mistake. Wow, I'm part of this family. We want to strengthen those neural pathways heart to brain by repetition, which is what all learning is strengthening neural pathways. through repetition. We want to teach that heart to tell the brain I'm a good kid.
Dawn Davenport 32:36
Because if we believe we're a good kid, we are a good kid. Yeah. So what's number eight,
Speaker 2 32:42
the greatest human need is to be needed. What do you mean by that? For all kids, and people of all ages, if you have a purpose, that fulfills a huge human need. First, you have to feel safe, and then to be needed. Really list the child. So we're gonna have company for dinner on Saturday night, and we need somebody to make the placemats. And you're the great artists. So we do if I get these placemats that you can draw on, would you be the one who make the placemats for us, and then you just watch that child just glow. And then you get all kinds of unexpected cooperation out of that child. It's the same as adults, if we feel valued in our workplace, we perform much better than if we don't feel valued in our workplace. We feel valued in our home, we perform much better than if we don't, you know, or in our friendships. If somebody really shows us caring draws us to them, then we're just better people. And that's the same as it is for four year olds. If you ever see four year olds, they're like, oh, about the industrial pneus of, you know, they want to learn how to mop the kitchen floor and they want to learn how to empty the garbage. You know, they want to learn that you know, how the vacuum cleaner works and everything you know, there? Were always four years old, actually, when you think about it, want to learn how to belong. Yeah, yeah,
Dawn Davenport 34:16
some of us are trying to get out of that work now, but I've done it a lot. All right, what's the next one? I think we're on nine or eight.
Speaker 2 34:25
The parents role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right. This is number nine. A parent's role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right, which means we are always with our connectedness, preparing them for the future.
Dawn Davenport 34:44
I say that our job as parents is planned obsolescence. We need to work ourselves out of a job. Absolutely. I didn't always like that part. But it's the truth if you do your job well,
Speaker 2 34:57
absolutely. And and I have Race for this to which is similar to when you I feel because that strengthens this. And it's when you, you must be when you are so kind to your sister, you must feel like a powerful Big Brother. Because look at the smile you put on her face just there. I mean, here's some evidence, you know, you are really doing a wonderful job being a big brother.
Dawn Davenport 35:25
And so what is our 10th, tenet?
Unknown Speaker 35:29
Parents do the best they can with the tools they have.
Dawn Davenport 35:32
Yeah. And as Maya Angelou would say, when we know better we do better?
Speaker 2 35:37
Absolutely, yes. So I always hold parents, just as innocent. As I hold the children, I hold the children innocent, because they're developing human beings who've been traumatized and whose amygdalas are firing. And they're just saying, See me cmec They're innocent, they're just trying to survive. Parents the same, they've grown up with a certain type of upbringing. And that was parenting to them. And the tendency to just repeat what they grew up with, is real. And so when parents come to me, they are forgiven for all the mistakes, like carte blanche right away. And then that frees them, you know, see them to free them. So that frees them to hear a new way of interacting,
Dawn Davenport 36:24
that is so true. There are almost no parents who set out to do bad, I do do a bad job. Everyone enters this idea of parenting, we're all going to be perfect. And we're gonna, that's, you know, and that's we all think we're going to be perfect because we want to be perfect. The reality is, we all make mistakes, and very seldom are the mistakes that we make intentional. Yeah, hardly ever. I mean, I
Speaker 2 36:49
just can't imagine an intentional mistake unless someone's severely mentally ill. You know, and even then, it's because of the illness is not because of a rational thought or anything, you know, so and even our
Dawn Davenport 37:00
children's parents, if they're, especially if they were removed from the home, and their parents have done bad things. Very often, if you look into the parents history, you find that they also were raised in a really tough way, they also never got a break. And in that their parenting is oftentimes just a reaction. And yeah, it wasn't a very good job. But it wasn't because they intentionally set out to lose their kids.
Speaker 2 37:28
I just, I just think it helps us all to see that they are innocent, to see that the birth parents are innocent to see that the children are innocent, everybody was just trying to survive. And then for the parents to see themselves as innocent too. Because from that platform, we are so empowered to make an impact on this child. But if we're busy blaming, that takes up all of our energy and our attention, and we're missing these golden opportunities to forgive and then move on, just learn a new thing, move on, make it better make it better, like tonight, not not three weeks from now, but right now.
Dawn Davenport 38:10
I'd like to take a moment to thank our partner children's house International. They are a Hague accredited international adoption agency, currently placing children from 14 countries with families throughout the US. children's house also provides consulting for international surrogacy. All right, so now I want to make a practical application of your approach. So we ask around for some of the most frustrating behaviors that parents are experiencing. And so we've got a list of them. One frequent and intense tantrums, not just the the typical two or three year old tantrum where you can easily distract them. But this is the type of tantrums that come from older children, it's more intense, you're oftentimes afraid to leave the house with him because you can't predict it, whatever. So divided, let's come up with a scenario where the child is tantruming. Over we we talked about the skill, but let's say in the car that you're in a car ride and going someplace, and the child either doesn't want to go or doesn't understand why they had to come with you and couldn't stay at home alone, and is screaming and yelling and kicking and you finally got him in the car, because you're going to be late for this appointment. So you get them in the car, and they're continuing to scream and kick the kick in the back inside of the driver's seat. And generally you're ready to pull your hair out. So let's put the tenants to action here.
Speaker 2 39:39
Okay, what we want to do is really think about how communication from the adult affects the child's body. So we're saying you need to get in the car. We got to make it to this appointment. We can't be late. Those are all logic. What we want to do is address what's really going on which is a sense of Have unsafety in the child, leaving the house, or even needing to interrupt the video game the child was just playing can cause the child to feel anxious and uncertain and afraid. So we want to create safety right away, instead of using logic, because logic is not going in, it's just causing the tantrum to increase, we know this by experience every single time. logic doesn't work when the child is in that state. So we first do the reflective listening, you really don't want to go to this appointment, you wish you could stay here in the cozy home and play this video game till it's time to go to bed. You wish you didn't have to go see this therapist who's going to ask you to talk about your feelings. You wish you didn't have to go to the doctor because you're worried that you might end up having a shot. So we just connect, connect, connect first, the child will within just moments or minutes, calm down by feeling heard. And when the child responds with, yeah, I hate that doctor, I can't stand going to that building, you're really afraid of that doctor, and you really hate walking into that building, you stay with it, reflecting whatever comes next until you see the calming. So what this does, is seeing him to free him to then hear that, as an adult, my job is to make sure you get the care you need. And we don't really have a choice about this one. So thank you for being here with me on it. And whatever you need to feel safe, I'm going to help you with.
Dawn Davenport 41:48
Okay, another frequent behavior that parents find hard is in flexibility, the has to be the same way. Struggling with starting and stopping. We're doing this now. But then we're, you know, after this, we've got to do this. And then we've got to, you know, go take a bath. And then we've got to you know, all this stuff, just that inflexibility that some children just seem to
Speaker 2 42:20
have. Yes. And again, at safety, again, they are staying stuck in the way they're doing it because of change feels threatening. Now that seems like sort of outlandish to most adults, like an immediate change, like walking into the bathroom feels threatening. Yeah, actually, to a traumatized child. It is staying with what I'm doing now feel safe, because I knew in the last five minutes, I felt safe, so I don't want to change it.
Dawn Davenport 42:45
Could it also be that I know I like what I'm doing now. And I don't want to stop because I may not like the next thing. You know, I don't really like baths as much as I like playing this video game.
Speaker 2 42:54
Exactly. Some kids also have a sensitivity to the shower hitting their bodies, you know, so if there's a sensory issue here, we really need to work on it. Like hair washing is horrible for some kids, the feeling of the shower, so I recommend baths instead, going to occupational therapy to help the child be able to take those on that what we're doing is training the brain to take on the stimulus little bit by little bit, so that it's not so horrible for them. So anyway, that's a little bit off the topic. But if flexibility comes from, yes, really liking what they're doing, which is great. So what we do is we say you just love playing this video game. In fact, you went three levels up in the last hour, I couldn't believe that, you know, kind of thing. So we connect with the child, and then go on to. So how should we do bedtime? I often encourage people to have a family meeting about the routine things where we sit in a circle, and the kids are in charge of where the meeting takes place that kids are in charge of when if the parents can be flexible with it, the kids are in charge of the snack during the meeting and the candle that they light to create some ceremony, which shows it's important, and music in the background if they want music in the background, so that they're on top of it. And then we're including the kids in collaborative decision making, which is okay kids. We seem to be having a problem with bedtime. I say it's time for bed. Then there's ignoring. And then I say it louder. And then there's jumping on the bed. And then I say louder, and then there's playing with the dog. And then I say it louder, and I'm pretty much yelling. And then you yell back at me and we end up furious and we go to bed every single night. Do you think we could do it with out the fighting and the yelling? How can we do it kids and then we put it in the hands of the kids and then they offer suggestions. And then you say you write them down as the adult and you go, well, that's a great one, I never even would have thought of that one. It really engaged them in solving the problem. And but that's not enough, then they have to feel their bodies actually doing it. So I encourage parents to practice the plan that the kids came up with. On Saturday afternoon, we're going to pretend going to bed. And so we're all going to get our jammies on, we're all going to brush our teeth. Rather than go to the bathroom, we're going to whatever we do read a book, you know, get that settled. And we're going to do that. So your body feels how it feels to do that, without any of the fighting. And along the way, the parents are giving heartfelt appreciation for rehearsing it.
Dawn Davenport 45:41
And heartfelt appreciation in that case, is okay, let's say they're practicing and they're doing well. Everybody is is into the into it and is doing well. Give us an example of the heartfelt appreciation.
Speaker 2 45:54
Wow, when you're when you're cooperating on our practicing like this, even though it feels kind of weird to go to bed, and you know it on Saturday afternoon, I feel so like warm in my heart, because it just shows me that you care about how our family functions. And it's just making my day. So heartfelt appreciation is when you I feel because that puts a message into the heart, it sends a message to the brain, I am a good kid, I can do the right thing. And you are guaranteed to see that behavior again. Because again, the amygdala says, Mom or Dad, sigh you do that, again.
Dawn Davenport 46:35
It's the idea of of praise the things you want. And to the extent you can't ignore the things that you don't want. This is similar to the idea of praise the things you want, and ignore the things you don't want. You can always ignore. But if to the extent that you can, the idea is to focus on the praise.
Speaker 2 46:54
It is an sometimes people wonder why that works. But I just want to explain physiologically, you're having a huge effect on that child's back.
Dawn Davenport 47:04
Alright, another suggestion of a frustrating is can't accept the word know, if something and they're not able to have that something right then? And you say no, the child loses it.
Speaker 2 47:19
Right? Because no is a trigger word. It's a disconnecting word. So what we want to do is use connecting words instead. And one of the words I like to replace know with is how, how do you think that's going to work? Okay, so I want to go outside right now, because my friends are on the street playing and I want to be with them? How does that work with the fact that we have homework that has to get done before bed? Instead of saying no, you can't go outside and play with the friends because you've got homework. So just start with how, and then what you're doing is helping the prefrontal cortex develop because you're asking the child to think of the solution you're asking for the child's logic. And prefrontal cortex is are fully developed at 23 for females and 25. For males, generally speaking, if there's been trauma, it's going to be later. But we can fully support the development of the prefrontal cortex by calling on the child to think of the solution. So I encourage people not to say no, I encourage them to say how will that work if you know, whatever
Dawn Davenport 48:27
else happens, okay, another one, lying, the child is not telling the truth. Of course, it will be, let's say up front, if you know the truth, don't ask the child Don't Don't set them up for a lie. That just gets basic parenting 101. But there are other examples where you're not setting the child up and the child is lying to you. And that's a hard one that gets into the future, I will say for myself that the natural consequence of lying is, is loss of trust. And that's a very hard one for children to understand. And lying for me was a it's a hard one, because it's the thought of, Oh, my God, if they continue this, you know, I'm trying to raise a moral human being here. And if they're lying there, you know what, they're lying. They're going to continue to do that they're going to be you know, that type of thing. That's, that's one that's easy for a lot of us to spin into the future.
Speaker 2 49:18
Yeah, it really is. Lying is a huge trigger for adults. Absolutely. What the amygdala has learned about lying is that it got a lot of attention. So it said do that, again, it doesn't discriminate between positive attention and negative attention. So if it gets attention, it just says, Try that one more time because you got their attention, which means you're going to survive, I don't care how positive or negative you're going to survive. So with lying, I would say simply this. Remember on Thursday when you told me that you were out with your girlfriends, but you actually were with that boy? You might wonder how I knew I knew because Margaret told me all about it that she saw you at the park with them. And so honey, I just want you to know that I understand that line feels like you get out of trouble. In this moment, you're not looking at what being a liar looks like as your life goes on. But every time you tell a lie, then you're stuck covering it up, you have to work really hard to keep the lie alive, pretty much, eight. So that's a burden for you, I don't really want that. I just want you to notice that even if you feel like it might, quote, unquote, get you in trouble. telling me what happens just means we're going to be able to work together to come to some kind of agreement on this. So lying doesn't get two solutions, it just creates more problems. And I want us to be solution oriented, I want us to be connected to each other so that we feel free to tell each other instead of trying to get out of, quote getting in trouble. Because there's no trouble here. There's simply how do we make this better in our family, in our family is a really strong phrase to use, especially with kids who are new to your family. It strengthens the sense of that
Dawn Davenport 51:25
string says the attachment and a sense of connectedness. Absolutely. All right, then, the last of the child, nothing less of the challenging behaviors at all. But the last one that we're going to talk about is stealing, either from others in the family or from from the store or whatever.
Speaker 2 51:44
And that's a huge trigger for adults too. And it's common with kids who have been traumatized, very common, lying, and stealing are common. Because it's a shortcut to getting what I want. In a world where what I want is not ever been available to me, what I really want is trust and caring, and survival. If I steal something, I'm gonna get a ton of reaction, my amygdala is gonna register, they saw you do that again. So I would say, stealing is approached this way. You know, I had 20 bucks in my top drawer last week, and then it was gone. And then I asked everybody, to please know what happened to my 20 bucks that was in my top drawer. And everybody was just silent. Everybody shook their head. No. But then I noticed that you had this new item that cost about that. And I thought, I wonder where he got that. And then I realized, oh, maybe it was my 20 bucks. I'm saying this with compassion in my voice. I'm not saying it with any blame or harshness. I'm saying it with like, oh, yeah, that's probably what happened. So if you want to think about this for a little bit, and just tell me exactly how you experienced that, I'd be happy to hear you don't have to answer me right now. Think about this trip. And that is a very powerful way to connect with the child because he feels under fire when you're bringing this up, right. Just take your time. I love that phrase to take your time.
Dawn Davenport 53:23
And that's particularly powerful with kids who have slow processing speed, which a lot of our kids, because sometimes I found that the lie is just really trying to slow things down. So say I don't want to don't don't answer me now. I want you to think about it. Get back to me, take your time,
Speaker 2 53:41
and I'm gonna give you time to think about it even better. You know, I'm gonna just give you some time to think about it. I mean, who in the world says take your time to children these days, it's always Hurry up, come on, come on, we gotta go. We gotta go. We gotta do this, we got to get that done. We got to get in bed. We gotta we gotta you know. And it's like, nobody says take your time. And children's timing is just so different from adults, especially when there's a task at hand, you know, or a truth being revealed that they just need time and what a huge gift to give them. Use your present moment. Give them the gift of time so that when the next present moment comes, you get a kid who's connected to you, who's starting to build trust with you, rather than feeling blamed, which causes them to run away and do more stealing.
Dawn Davenport 54:28
Well, let's say though, that the child doesn't think come back to you and Fess up. Then what?
Speaker 2 54:33
Well, I noticed you weren't ready to really talk about that stealing, or that 20 bucks whatever happened to the 20 bucks I wouldn't use the word stealing whatever happened to the 20 bucks. So do you think my theory is right that you got that new item and that's where the where the 20 bucks might have gone? You know, so curious. A curious stance instead of confronting stance is so much more powerful with it. Good. And let's just say they're kind of quiet and they don't say anything or react to that. Like, you just don't seem like you're ready to talk about this right now. So, you know, in a couple of days, let's come back to it, you might feel more ready, then, you know, because there's really no hurry to get them to admit this. But if it's what you really want, is for the child to be understood that that was something that got a lot of amygdala response in the past, the amygdala said, do that again, and the child needs help getting out of that pattern. And you do that by building trust by being curious, by being non threatening by being compassionate. Because when a child has stolen, this is a signal. I'm in pain. And so what were we wouldn't take a child who has a huge gash on their leg and say, now admit that you just fell off that ladder on purpose and crushed your leg like that, you know, we wouldn't do that. But we do that with the unseen parts of the brain.
Dawn Davenport 56:04
If once the child was follow this example, let's say they eventually said something, and, and you find out that, let's say they do eventually say, Yeah, I saw it. I didn't know it was yours. And I figured it was just there. And yeah, it's not a big deal.
Speaker 2 56:23
I would reflect that you didn't know it was mine. Even though it was in my dresser drawer, and you thought it wasn't a very big deal. I would just reflect that. So you sees, feel seen and heard? And then then wait, a really wonderful thing after reflective listening is the pause. Give the child time to take in I've just been seen. I've just been heard. Now I can release cm to free. If you want to free him, see him first.
Dawn Davenport 56:58
And then do you move into the collaborative problem solving? How are we going to repay me?
Speaker 2 57:02
Exactly. How are we going to make up for this because making a part is a gift to the child. It's not a punishment. It's a gift. If I make a mistake, I can make up for it. Oh, that's something I didn't ever realize before. So yeah, what how would you like to earn that $20 back, you know, whatever it is, and how again, the word how collaborative decision making let's work together to make this better. You have a kid then whose increase in happiness and collaboration and cooperation just goes through the roof in a way that is extremely surprising to many parents.
Dawn Davenport 57:41
Interesting. Thank you. Thank you so much. This has been great. Tina Feigl, author of present moment parenting, and the director of family engagement and a new family services, and the Center for the challenging child. Thank you so much, Tina, for being with us today.
Speaker 2 57:58
It's just been my pleasure, Dan, thank you so much of the opportunity to
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