Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Practical Tips for Disciplining Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

April 23, 2021 Creating a Family Season 15 Episode 17
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Practical Tips for Disciplining Children Who Have Experienced Trauma
Show Notes Transcript

How do you discipline kids who have experienced trauma? We provide 5 tips and then discuss 5 challenging parenting situations. Our expert is Karen Doyle Buckwalter, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play Therapist and Supervisor, and co-author of "Raising the Challenging Child".

In this episode, we cover:
1.     The Relationship Bank Account

  •  Spend effort building your relationship with your child so that you have banked “good will” for when you need to say no or set a firm rule.
  •  Ideas for making quick and easy deposits:
    • Praise efforts, successes, helpfulness, their unique essence—big and small.
    • Let the child choose whenever possible.
  •  Look for compromises.
  • Make more deposits than withdrawals.
  • Magic “rule” 5 positive comments to every 1 negative.
    • Difference between making a deposit and spoiling your child.
    • Sideswipe instead of confront. 

2.     Respond to What is Beneath the Behavior

  •  Behavior is a reflection of a need. It’s a symptom.
  • Strategies for digging deeper into what is underneath the behavior.

3.     Reexamine Your Expectations

  • See your child for who she is.

4.     Balancing Structure and Nurture

  • How does structure lead to feelings of safety and why is this often misunderstood when parenting children with a history of trauma?
  • Choose your battles: choose to ignore some behaviors.

5.     Share Power to Gain Power

Specific Behaviors:

  • Tantrum
  • Name calling and teasing
  • Handle attention seeking behaviors.
  • Lying
  • Sexualized Behavior and Play

This podcast is produced  by 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:
·         Weekly podcasts
·         Weekly articles/blog posts
·        Resource pages on all aspects of family building 

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Please pardon the errors, this is an automatic transcription.

Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport, the host of this show, as well as the director of creating a family and you can find all of our resources at our website, creating a Today we're going to be talking about a topic that is near and dear to every parent's heart. And quite frankly, one of the questions one of the topics that we get some of the most questions, both in our support group as well as emails in that topic is how do we discipline children? And specifically, how do we discipline kids who have experienced trauma So today, we're going to be talking about some practical tips for disciplining kids who have experienced trauma. And we'll be talking with Karen Doyle book Walter. She is a licensed clinical social worker, a registered play therapist and supervisor and published author specializing in attachment, trauma, and adoption issues. She is the director of clinical practices at chadic. And she is the author of raising that challenging child how to minimize tantrums, reduce conflict, and increase cooperation. I should say she is the co author with Debbie Reed and Wendy Lyons, sunshine. Welcome, Karen to creating a family. This is a topic everyone is excited to hear about. Yeah, well,

I'm excited to be here, Don, it's always nice to see you and nice to talk about some of these things and find ways to support parents and others who are caring for kids that have challenging behaviors.

Absolutely. You know, the heart and soul of discipline is supposed to be teaching. So I think it helps to approach disciplining kids, all kids, but especially kids who have experienced trauma, with the mindset that we're teaching our kids rather than punishing them. So today, we're going to be focusing on five tried and true tips that really work when disciplining kids who have experienced trauma. And I'm going to be honest, the first is my favorite. And that is the relationship bank account. What do you mean by putting in credit to the relationship bank? And why is that important when we're talking about a discipline? Because that doesn't sound like much of a disciplined method?

Right? Well, I the relationship bank account concept is similar to your own bank account. If you put deposits in your bank account with your cheques, or however we do it these days where we just scan things and put it in the bank account or transfer things, your money in your bank account, so that when you have to make a withdraw, there's something to draw on. So the idea of the relationship bank account is we need to make enough deposits into the relationship. And by that we need we need positive interactions we need we need praise we need we mean saying yes. Because when you have to give a no, or ask your child to do something that they don't want to do, which is inevitable, of course, yep. Or you know, when when you are wanting them to say do their homework, all of those things are withdrawals on that relationship bank account. And so if you have not put deposits in, and you're just constantly making withdrawals, it's not going to work very well. And I think parents really get into a cycle of frustration, which leads to lots of withdrawals do this, do that shouting at your child frustrated at your child? And it's easy, then for that account balance to be all withdrawals and new deposits?

So So basically, it's banking, goodwill, you spend effort building your relationship with the kids. So you've backed up some goodwill for when you need to say no, or you need for them to do something or you need to set a firm wall. Is that is that a good summary?

Yeah, I think it is because nobody likes to do that. Nobody, we don't like to be told to do a chore or we don't like to get an assignment at work that we we don't like but you know, if if if we have a good relationship with that supervisor, or if we have a good relationship with that person, we're going to have more understanding more patients more tolerance, and it's the same with kids. Um, you know, when they get more yeses and noes, it matters. And so when you start always having nose and almost never having yeses, that balance drops and you're going to be more likely to not have cooperation, to have tantrums, to have refusals and to have oppositional behavior.

So let's talk about some ideas for making quick and easy deposit. some some some Quick and easy positives that we can give our kids. And quite frankly, more important get our mindsets wrapped around the idea that we need to be doing this. So you mentioned one, and that is praise. So So what are your praise? successes? Yes, but But what if your kids not very successful?

Yeah, well, I wanna, I'm really glad we're talking about praise, because, um, parents do not recognize that they're not doing this until I bring it to their attention, that it's mostly negative comments, they're saying to their child. And so praise can be like you did a good job making your bed. Thanks for starting your homework before I told you to. It's great that you're helping me pull the weeds. And thanks for getting that for my sister. I mean, there's so many things throughout the day. And sometimes parents get into this mindset. Well, my child should just be doing that, like, they don't need praise for that. But once again, you know, think about adult relationships. Think about when somebody at work says You did a good job on something or thank you for staying late. Or something like that. You know, Dawn, for some reason, a lot of these things seem really obvious in our other relationships, adult adult, but it seems like suddenly, when we start thinking about children, it sort of all goes out the

window. You know, it's right. If we think about it, like, take work, for example. And somebody says, Thanks for Thanks for getting that report to me. Well, I mean, it was my job before. So I was supposed to get it. I didn't do anything. But it makes you feel good when somebody said, thanks for getting the report. Yes, it was my job. I didn't go over and above. But somebody acknowledged the effort that I put in, and it's just saying thank you, and it makes you feel better. You're absolutely right. And we do it with, we do it in other relationships, but we assume because of the power differential between parent and child, that we don't have to do it with kids. And kids are, are just like us in that respect. So yeah.

I love how you said that. That's exactly right.

So let's also what another quick and easy one that you talk about is letting kids choose whenever possible, and especially when you really don't care. Letting them choose when they when the choice is don't makes no difference to you whatsoever. Why is that effective? You know, because whether a child has the blue cup or the orange cup, it's like, oh, who cares? But my kids care?

Well, kids care about things like that. Because kids don't have a lot of power and choice. They're basically ordered around a lot of the day by grownups. Teachers, by coaches, by their parents, by their grandma. And so small. I mean, the younger the child, the less power they have, and pretty much their whole, you're going here, you're doing this, you're doing that. So children like to have a sense of autonomy and power. And at younger ages, like you said, it has to be a simple choice. You know, we can't give young children complicated choices. But we can say do you want the blue cup? Or the red clap? Do you want your princess pajamas or your you know, ballerina pajamas? I mean, those different things that don't matter. First, they give the child a sense of power and autonomy. And again, it's a little bit like that relationship bank account, because then when there is a situation that comes up, where you can't give a choice, like we have to leave the store now, or no, you can't have that thing in the candy aisle, it's it's going to be more likely that the child will accept it, because they've had you filled up that sense of empowerment and choice by giving choices at other times when the cost was low for you.

Yeah, exactly. All right, another quick and easy. And the last one we're going to cover, easy way of making a deposit in the relationship bank account is looking for opportunities to compromise with our kids. What do you mean by that? And why is that a deposit?

Well, it's, again, it's going back to feeling like I have a say in something feeling like my opinion matters. I'll tell you, john, when I first got involved in this work in the 90s, in working shoulder when trauma in their history and attachment disorders, there was a lot about the parent has to be in charge a parent has to take control, like the children have to do it right the first time fast and snappy and give you eye contact there was like all of this rigidity and what I was reading was effective with these children. And they definitely were not talking about give give lots of choices. And, you know, as time went on, and we began to see more about these children's, these children's histories and how disempowered they were and how how important it was for them to have a sense of agency, and feelings of my opinion matters, my thoughts matter what I think and feel matters. You know, if you have an internal working model that I don't matter what I say, doesn't matter, caregivers don't care about me, you want to be able to give a sense of you do have the opportunity to speak up, and we can compromise. You know, what compromise says

to the kid, what,

how you think and feel matters here. And I'm willing to hear, and I'm willing to see if there's a way that can be a win win for both of us. And it can't always be that I think this idea that we can't collaborate. You know, I was talking with a mom yesterday, and she was thinking about what am I going to do with the kids all summer? And I know without, you know, schedule, my kids like, unravel? I'm sure a lot of parents. And, you know, are there ways that you could collaborate with your daughter on the schedule? She's like, I never thought about that. Like, you know, say, what are some eggs, you know, that here's a list of activities, you know, that that we could do? Which one would you like to do the most, or we can't do all of them, you know, there has to be some compromise and some give and take, but you're going to be more bought into a decision as an adult or a child if how you wanted it to go, works. And a lot of times compromises that same thing is like choice, like saying, you know, if a child wants five more minutes to play something or something like that, you know, one of the things that they talk about in tbri is, you know, children asking for a compromise, you know, could I have five more minutes to play and then I'll go to bed. Granted, you can't do that on every single thing. But I also don't think you should be like, well never do that. It's a hard line. And you're going now

your bedtime is bedtime. Darn it, you know? Yeah,

yeah. Yeah. Because sometimes when you do that hard line, guess what, you're gonna have a lot bigger battle than waiting five minutes on your hands. When you take that really like rigid, hard line. And granted, that has to happen sometimes. But when parent where parents get into trouble is no compromise. And it's my way or the highway.

Yeah. All right, is I've always heard of the magic rule of five glue. Explain what that means with the ratio of positive to deposits versus withdrawals for keeping with the Yes, relationship bank account analogy. Yeah.

So this information, this data actually comes out of research with couples john and Julie Gottman looking at marriages and their ability to predict whether or not a couple would get a divorce. And what they found was if there there was not a ratio of five positive comments to everyone negative was highly predictive of divorce. And so that information became very popular, you know, talking about you know, in relationships in in marital or a couple relationships, but it started even creeping into the workplace, you know, you have to have five positives to one negative with with your people that you work with. And we wanted to put it in this book. And we think it's really important, not just for kids with a trauma history, but for all kids to really think about that. Yeah, really think about that,

you know, that is a lot more positive than negative. You know what it keeps you honest as a parent if you're thinking about that, because then you're going to have to have Alright, we got bedtime coming up. I know, I got to get some positives in because by golly, we're gonna probably have a negative here. So but it does make you focus on the Okay, weather something that I could let me look at my child right now and find something positive to say. Yes. And you know, sometimes the nicest positive can just be your a cool kid, you know, or just something that that just but also just Alright, I've got to focus on finding an M, honestly, we, what we look for, we often find, and if we don't look for it, we don't see it. So all the more reason why, and I'm a person who functions well with structure rules. So giving me that five to one really helps. Yes, yes. Are you appreciating what you're hearing today? In our discussion with Karen bookwalter, or disciplining kids, we are so excited to offer you more expert based content just like today's podcast. Thanks to our generous sponsor, the jockey being Family Foundation, when you go to their website, or their site with these courses, which is Bitly, slash, j, b, f support all cap, you can find several free online courses, there's a great variety of topics to choose from. One is disciplining, while maintaining attachment directly online with Vasia. Each course is free when you use the coupon code, all caps, j, b, f strong at checkout, check it out today. And that coupon code is JB f strong, and each letter is capitalized. Okay, a question that we will sometimes get is that, what's the difference between some of this especially the, let's praise them, let's make sure we have five positives? Are we just spoiling our kids?



my philosophy on that is that children have a right to these things for being children, you know, to be valued, to feel special, to know that they're doing a good job on something. And so the idea that that is somehow spoiling them, I really try to help parents, like get out of that mindset. It doesn't mean, we did not at all say don't have consequences. We never said that. We haven't talked about that. Yeah, but we never said, you know, praising means no matter what they do, it's okay. So we don't mean never have any limits. We can have limits, we can have consequences. I think not having any limits, boundaries and consequences, spoils kids. I don't think positive feedback and praise does.

And I'd also say that, when you say something nice to your husband, are you spoiling him when your boss thanks you for getting a report in? Is that spoiling you? It makes you feel good. So it is the essence of spoiling meaning when somebody feels good about themselves, or is that just playing good parenting are bossing our spouse? Right? Yeah. Okay.

And this is what I sometimes say to folks is if you want to say it to your partner, or a friend, or if you wouldn't treat them that way, maybe you need to evaluate if you want to treat your child that way or say that to your child. Sometimes that's a good litmus test.

Yeah, that is a wonderful litmus test. And if it isn't, then you maybe need to assess how you're treating other people in your life to

its true.

So when so when we do have to say no, which that's part of life. You have a saying on saying Sideswipe instead of confront What do you mean by that?

So a lot of times, I'm in a situation where a child can't do something we want to we straight up are like no, you can't do that. A Sideswipe would be you know, maybe a child is saying I want to play with my new toy, you know, whatever it may be, I want to play with my new doll or Barbie or whatever. As they say, No, you can't. A Sideswipe would be saying, Hey, we're going to pick up the rest of the toys first, and then we'll play with that, or, hey, we need to finish the dishes. And then we'll do that. So it's really like I never once said, No, you can't play with it or the Barbie. I'm saying we're gonna do this first. And then and a lot of children who have problems with being oppositional diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and other problematic behaviors. They have a habitual response to the word no, to the point that they almost react to the word no, even if they don't really care about the thing. And just so many parents who will talk to you say, well, when is the problem with your child? Well, whenever you tell them no, well, don't tell them now. It becomes it becomes a habitual response from the child a knee jerk. Is there. Is there something people sometimes say to you, where you have a knee jerk response that it really annoys you or something? I mean, that's how we could relate to it. So so just avoid that word. And just say we're going to first we're doing this and then we'll do that. It's also stating it in the positive. It's also communicating we are going to get to that and it makes a world of difference especially with kids that can be oppositional when they hear that word. No.

fact you can even say the word yes sure you can play with the Barbie let's get this dishes done first.

Happily here.

Let's let's get it done really quick. Yeah, sir thing along Yeah, exactly. That was our first tip putting in deposits in the relationship bank account. Our second tip is to respond to what is beneath the behavior. What do you mean by that?

This might be one of the most important concepts in the book and one of the most important concepts in parenting children with a history of trauma and parenting children that don't have a history of trauma, and that his behavior is just a symptom. So, it is a symptom of something else, just like for example, if a child is biting their nails, it could be a symptom of anxiety or fear. So you can eliminate biting their nails, and they'll probably start doing something else to deal with their anxiety and fear. So, if you only look at just about anyone can extinguish a symptom. But if you don't deal with the feelings underneath it, it's about the same as cutting off the top of the dandelion, and expecting that, you know, the dandelions not going to grow back, it will grow back. And so this is where I think parents have to almost be kind of like a detective, because different behaviors can mean very different things, the same behavior could have different meanings when we look beneath the behavior. So until you deal with what's under the behavior, the behavior, it's either gonna not stop at all, or it's gonna, like come out in some other negative way.

Does that make sense? It does. So what are some strategies for finding deeper? Well, I

think you have to wonder, you have to be curious, you have to be open. You know, this is something I often work with in therapy with parents. And so there, there can be a lot of things. And I, you know, even something like hoarding food can mean different things for different kids. Some kids, they may be came from an environment of deprivation, you know, we work we know, lots of kids in foster care or finish care. And so they, they are maybe afraid that food is never going to be available. And so, you know, then we would have to work on that, like, how do we help them feel that food is going to be available for another kid, it might be a need for nurturance. And I have to work on the parent showing more affection and closeness with the child. And, you know, making sure food was available all the time would not help that child. So that's why we we have the behavior, and we have to look at what's under the behavior. Okay, and there's just lots of situations where we have have to do that. And consequences have to be different. You know, once we had a child at schodack, in our residential treatment program, it was really acting out throwing a chair across the room, a really dangerous situation, the night before, and there was a field trip the next day. And normally, if a child did something like that, the idea would be like, well, they can't go on the special field trip the next day, they're gonna have to stay back. But for that child, the parent had not shown up for a visit. And they hadn't seen them in a really, really long time. And they were really, really sad. And some of their core issues are around abandonment and not mattering and being invisible.

And you know, what,

I probably would have thrown a chair to. So let's not, let's not say he can't go on the trip. Because that was like, if you look beneath that behavior, that was a really painful feeling, and a really logical response. Now, are we going to have a consequence Are we going to say throwing chairs is okay all the time now, but we're not going to take the trip away from him because of what was underneath that behavior. So parents don't like this, maybe so much because they're looking for if they do this, you do this sort of a recipe cookbook approach. But kids are just more complicated than humans humans are.


Hey, guys, by the way, they're creating a family podcast has an extensive archive of shows on the topic of discipline parenting kids who have experienced trauma, you can begin by listening to the other shows right now on your phone or in the car. Go to whatever your favorite podcast catcher is or podcast app, it's on your phone, search by our title creating a family, follow us and then scroll through the titles to help you decide which one you need the most. And if they're dealing with discipline, discipline will be in the title. All right, so our our This is our first tip was to make more deposits than withdrawals and the relationship your bank account. The second tip was to respond to what is beneath the behavior. And the third tip, I think it's such an important one too. And that is to re examine our expectations. I so often think, in fact, I think a great deal of research has found that a lot of the problems we parents face is because we have unrealistic expectations of our kids. And I think that's especially the case with kids who've experienced early life trauma. So let's talk some about setting expectations and reexamining our expectations. Why is that important? Well, I

think it's important, because in a lot of situations, whether it's it's children with a trauma history, our own children, we have ideas going into parenting of what our kids are going to be like, and what they're going to achieve and what they're going to do and what they're going to like. Now, we might say, Oh, no, we're just here to you know, we don't think that way. Well, I think parents when those expectations start to not be met, then they start to figure out Yeah, I did have a lot of expectation. Yes. You know, so, you know, the first thing is to think about your child as an individual and accepting where they are at. We had a family that we worked with, and the parents, they were both pretty introverted kind of bookworms. And they adopted a child who was very athletic, very physical, and very sports oriented. And they said, We kind of hoped we would have gotten a bookworm. Like we don't, we don't know what to do with him. And so, you know, sometimes you need a lot of help and coaching and support. I've worked with parents with kids that have significant learning disabilities and learning issues, and the parents are determined that they were going to get into some certain college that is not realistic. Sometimes as parents working, you know, really want our child to be into sports, or you know, can be the opposite problem. The parents are really into sports and the kids are bookworm. So really looking at who is this person before me, and letting them be their own person and trying to meet them with who they are, rather than mold them into everything that we want them to be?

Yeah, I think there's an expectation or sometimes also related to our kids behavior that I wasn't expecting them to have this many problems. I wasn't expecting them to act this way. I wasn't this is my expectations for the the act of parenting are different to I just my expectations for my child, but I, I didn't expect parenting to be this hard. I didn't expect to feel this frustrated, I didn't expect expect expect. And it could be a real Boomerang for you.

Yeah, and I also think that a lot of expectations come from a parent's own history. And let's say, you know, if, if they, if they spoke up or talked back or something in their family, I mean, let's say their father got extremely angry and berating and, and cruel to them. So when the child then speaks up, or talks back, the child is then which is to I mean, all kids are going to do that sometimes, okay. But the parent, remembering that from their own history gets so triggered by that, and honestly even upset by how their parent treated them. And then they're having their child say these things that they're not consciously connecting it, but it feels the same as when they're parent treated in that way. And so then your child's paying the price for the pain of your history, and the pain of their current behavior. And that's why we get like an over response out of parents around certain things.

Mm hmm. That makes sense. Or at least on the theoretical. It'd be a whole lot harder to to apply it I suspect, but it certainly makes good sense. Theoretically,

parents have to parents have to look at what are my own ones from my past. What are my so called triggers? What are the behaviors that my child does that make me like, go off the rails? Even When maybe sometimes they're not even that big of a behavior like why can I control that? Why do I do that? Why can't I do what I read in the book? You know, I know logically, this isn't the best response many times as one's own history that's driving their behavior, rather than what's right in front of them. And so it's a lot of self searching.


hmm. All right. As we march through our five tips, the first one is putting more deposits and withdrawals into the relationship bank account. The second one is responding to what is beneath that behavior. The third one is exam exam, reexamining your expectations, both of that for your child and for what parenting would be like. The fourth one is balancing structure and nurture. So let's talk some about that, it seems to me both are important. But why is it important that, that we have such a balance between the two? And how do we add? How do we know if we've achieved a balance?

Yeah, so um, when I talk to families about this, um, I talk about, most of us come to the table as being more like a structure kind of person. I'm a drill sergeant, I like the rules, I like to run a tight ship, that kind of thinking, or the nurture, you know, I'm so affectionate. I like to give lots of hugs and kisses, if I send the children up to, you know, a, you know, to their room to for a punishment or something, I end up taking them ice cream, you know. And so, we have these two different pieces. And we see this all the time, not just with the parents I work with, but even hiring staff at Shattuck and our residential program, you just have some people that are kind of more one or the other. So I have parents look at am I kind of the more nerd Sure, laid back, let it go person or I'm like, we got to do it this way toe the line drill sergeant. And I let them know that we need both. So whatever comes to you, naturally, we're not probably going to have to worry as much about that one. But if you're super structured, you have to bring up your ability to nurture your child and to be to be more forgiving to be more flexible, sometimes be more affectionate. And if you're the person that that comes very easy to you, but you really just can't follow through on limits and boundaries. And when you say no, it doesn't mean no, when it comes out of you and your kids know it, okay, then if you're that person, we have to help you with the structure piece. And so I think what happens is people come by this naturally, and then they just do what they do. And we're saying no, you need to learn because kids need both kids really need both,

you know, we sometimes hear people say, Well, you know, this child, I've read his record, I know where this poor child has come from and he's he's had a tough alive. So I'm gonna air I'm just gonna focus on the nurturing and structure will come. Other people could structure him he's had enough structure his life, what would you say to that?

I always say structure safety, especially for kids that come from chaotic environments. So having structuring your home, a child understanding rules, limits, boundaries, when we have a program at schodack, where we go in and do in home intensives, with families across the country, it's sort of like nanny 911, but with therapists, and sometimes when we go into a home, the partner that I go, she's very high structure. She's a former state trooper before she got into this work many years ago. And she is like, you know, this is how it's gonna go. This is how we're going to work. This is what we're doing now. And sometimes parents will say to us, our kids love her. What, why did they just love her so much? You know, she seems like kind of tough on them. And we say it's because they feel safe. They know she's strong. They know what's expected. They know that they'll be safe with her. There's no ambiguity. When you grow up in chaos, and your home feels like chaos. That's not good.

One of the things we tell parents is that, especially at the beginning, set up a routine let your child is when they're first and even. Not just first, but but especially when they're first in your home. Let them understand the predictability so they will know what's coming next. That first we eat, then we first we brush our teeth and we eat, then we play outside then we come in and we read books, then we have lunch, then we clean up then we end at the beginning to even reinforce that structure of just keep with it even if you're not a structure oriented person, until you see that the child has begun to settle down and see the routine. And somehow we have that. And he or she can predict what's going to be happening next. And that comes easier to some people than others, especially the people who like to kind of, you know, play it by ear, see what's going to come, you know, roll with the flow. Hopefully, we can get back to that, if that's your natural instinct. But at first, especially let the kids have some predictability.

It's so important, if you came from an environment where it was gonna be predictable, especially.

So one of the things too, about that balance of structure and nurture, is the it sounds trite, because I think most of our parents have said this before in the past, but choose your battles. And that's a hard one. choosing what things to ignore, especially when you have a kid that's bits being very rebellious. It seems like everything they're doing could draw attention. So why is it important to ignore some behaviors? Especially if it feels like that? You're just letting them get away with murder?

Yeah, well, I mean, the first thing I'll say is ignoring can definitely go too far. And I've, again, you know, worked with families where it is like the kids are hitting, biting, kicking, throwing things, swearing at the people calling the parents names, you know, things like that. And we need to work on that we, you know, they'll say, well, the therapist told me to ignore it. And some things we ignore, but we can't ignore everything, we have to have structure and boundaries. So the first thing I would say is it can't, we don't want to overuse it. Okay, the next thing I would say about the pick your battles is I see. And I've done it myself, Oh, I want to say full disclosure, all the things I talked about, I've done these things, myself as a parent.

Yep. I have

to work on it all the time. But um, some people will pick something like you're gonna finish all the food on your plate. You can't shove food down and kid's throat and make him eat it. So the first thing about picking your battles, don't pick one. It's not possible for you to win no matter what.

Don't pick a battle, you're going to absolute the kid has all the power Exactly. Pick the one, you're gonna pick it pick one, you're gonna win.

Yes, otherwise, it reinforces you're not strong, you're not safe. You can't make things happen, you know? And so, you would be, you know, maybe surprised. Maybe not surprised how many times, you know, parents will pick battles that they can't win. You know, some parents will get into battle over a haircut, or whether or not a kid socks match. I mean, have you noticed on like, people don't care about socks anymore?

Okay. I'll give you a true story of my own. You know, I am not really sure why I decided this was important. rolling your eyes. teenage daughter, of course, you could have guessed that 14. And if she was, okay mom and then rolled her eyes, and I decided right then and there that. I just want to put up with that. So I drew the line in the sand about rolling eyes. That's a perfect example of something. She said okay, she actually did was going to do what I had asked, but I picked the fight, which I want. But I'm not particularly proud over it over the fact that when she said okay, she rolled her eyes. I look back and I go, oh my gosh, honestly. I mean, clearly, there was something else going on in my world that time, but it's that day. But

the other piece of that is if you're gonna get what you want. Like, who cares? You know, if the kid rolls their eyes, but then does the homework or roll their eyes and does the dishes then rolls their eyes but takes the trash out? Or even takes the trash out? muttering let's not get caught up on the muttering let's look at long term. You got them to do the behavior you wanted. Let's let go of that other piece and not make that a battle? Yep,

yep, yep. Well, where were you, you know, five years ago when I was fighting that battle. This show and all the resources we have, are provided and or brought to you by the support of our partner agencies. And these are agencies that believe in our mission of providing unbiased, accurate information for those parenting kids through adoption, fostering or kinship care. One such partner is children's connection and they are an adoption agency providing services for domestic infant adoption and embryo donation and adoption throughout the US. They also provide home studies of post adoption support to families in Texas, another partner is adoption from the heart. For over 35 years, they have helped create over 7000 families through domestic infant adoption. Adoption from the heart can also provide home study only services. They work with people all across the US and are licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia, and Connecticut. Alright, so that is a balancing of structure and nurture, by looking for that balance is our fourth tip. And then the fifth tip is sharing power to gain power. So I'm assuming that has to go back to compromising and negotiating, am I right?

Yes, you're right. And it's probably good that we're revisiting it. Because if you ask the average parent, do you think you should compromise and negotiate with your child, I think a lot of them are going to say no. So this is sometimes a new idea for parents, especially if they were raised in an environment where that was not modeled at all, you do what I say, and you do the way I say it when I say it. And so they're gonna need some help with that, they're going to need some opportunities to try that out and model that and see that. Sometimes I practice that with sessions with parents, and they go back and they try it. And they're really surprised. Once they get over the hump of you don't negotiate and compromise. You know, they do it my way. And I say, well, they're not doing it your way. So that's really not working.

How's that working out?

Right. So let's, let's give it a try. You know, I really encourage and I work with parents, I mean, we're a team. And we're coming up. Every every idea in this book is tried and true and tested with, with families we've worked with, and kids, we've worked with that chat. And it's true. Sometimes what works for one doesn't work for another. But try the compromise, try negotiating something, see if it works out better. Let's just try it. If it doesn't work, okay, we'll try something else, do something different. Get out of the cycle.

With compromise, you do not have to give up on the principles, the fundamental things that you don't want to compromise on there so that you don't compromise on exactly. There are lots of things however, that as long as you express what your need is I need, this is what I need. What do you need? All right now, how can we work these two things together? And as long as you get what you need, and if your kid gets what they need? Well, then that's like the ultimate Win win. Right? Exactly. Okay, now we want to get to the nitty gritty, I want to talk to you about some specific behaviors that drive parents crazy. Alright, let's start with tantruming. So we have a child, you pick the scenario? Oh, let's make it perfect. Well, okay, well, well, we'll do two different scenarios. One, the child is at home, and it's bath time and the child for as far as you can see, for no particular reason other than it's been a long day, the child starts pitching to fit. And it's also at the end of the day, you're worn out as well. So some thoughts on how to handle a tantrum when it's at home. And then we're going to give you a chance to talk about tantruming in public.

Right. And so, the first thing that I always talk to parents about with tantrums was even evident with what you were just saying, it's the end of the day, the child was really tired. So basically what I'm hearing you saying in that it's sort of a setup, you know, he he's tired at the end of the day, you know, so the first thing I always think is about proactive, you know, what, how can we be thinking ahead of time, you know, bath maybe has to happen at night under those conditions. But, you know, a lot of times, you know, people will say, well, it was the end of the day where they're really tired and they threw a fit in the grocery store. Well, guess what? Don't take them to the grocery store at the end of the day when they're really tired. Or think about you know, before the bath Do you have to give a warning? Do you have to say, I'll tell you my five year old granddaughter she'll do anything if she can tell Alexa to set a five minute timer

that's good. have to remember that when I Yeah, that's a good one. Okay,

so having like a little warning, a little time for your brain to adjust. So you know, always you know, giving we talked about how hard transitions are and prompts being so important. You many parents have heard this many times, but they forget. So you know, it's going to be bathtime in five minutes. Okay, what toys Do you want to take in there with you there we're throwing in choice and and things like that. If all else fails, and the child does have a tantrum, the worst thing to do is to have you also begin to get agitated and upset. The best thing when children throw a tantrum, they're sort of out of resources to manage themselves. So you have to loan them your self control, or what we sometimes call as co regulation. So you have to loan your calmness. So for a little one, you might be picking them up and holding them and saying, okay, okay, you know, like we do with a tantrum, it's gonna be okay, let's get you settled down, let's get you calm down, I will put you in the nice warm bath. What won't be effective is Stop it, there's no reason to be crying, why are you even doing this generally, that's just going to exacerbate the situation and a habit going on longer.

Especially if your voice gets louder, it could be getting over the the pitching that's going on in the ground. And so if a tantrum is happening in public, I'm going to I think you've addressed some of that, which is, notice that what what are the? are you choosing a time to be doing something that your kid is truly at their very worst? Or is your Kid Hungry? Is your kid thirsty? Is your kid tired? And if so, you know, it's just not a good time to be doing it.

We have that in the book halt hungry, angry, lonely, tired?

Yeah. And if any of those things, address it, if any of those things are there, address it. And that might mean, you know, leaving the grocery store, because


this is the doomed. This is a doomed venture. And the other thing you mentioned earlier was setting some realistic expectations in advance. And something to look forward to when we get back in the car will will sing songs or we'll, you know, put on the music or whatever, something that the kids would look forward to when they're when when they're leaving. Okay, absolutely. What about in the next specific behavior, name calling or teasing.

So, if it, you know, a certain amount of name calling and teasing is just gonna happen in childhood. But there are times that it can get really vicious. I mean, I I've even worked with internationally adopted kids who have siblings that call them racial slurs, or young girls that are called really, you know, vulgar names by a sibling. And so one of the first things that we do around that is set some family rules about that, that everyone's going to agree to that just as a sidebar, Don, one of the things I often find is I'll ask kids, what are the rules the non negotiables in your house? And they'll say, I don't know. So, usually no name calling. And you know, mean, words like that to each other are okay, we do not do that. So if it if it does happen, you have to apologize. And there's going to be a consequence. But first, you have to set the limit that we're not going to do it. And a lot of families have not said that or have not done that, or the parents call each other names when they get mad. So I mean, there's got to be first a standard set, and I and I really recommend it being like a family meeting, like everyone is going to agree that we're not going to do this. And you know what, then I asked the kids, what do you think should happen if you break the rule, you'd be surprised kids really can come up with some good consequences. And when they've taken part in creating the consequences, it sticks with them more. So and then there has to be a consequence. Now, if it's like really out of hand and happening all the time, and really vicious, then we got to deal with what's underneath the behavior. It could be in the scenario I gave you earlier with a very vicious racial slurs. That boy felt so resentful of his sister felt like she like hijack. The whole family was ruining the family, they were being held hostage by her behavior that this girl was taking all of his parents time. He felt like he hated her, despised her wish she never joined the family. Okay, we got to deal with some of that. We can't just look at the name calling. That's just a symptom. So the first set of ideas is more like, you know, this is happening. It's not okay. We don't want to hurt each other's feelings. You know, we're gonna set some limits and consequences for this. If it's really pervasive and cruel. We got to look at the anger and resentment underneath that for who's doing the name calling.

Okay, the next thing and this one, we hear a fair amount is that the parents will say, they're just doing it, whatever it is to get it to get my attention. So how to handle attention seeking behaviors.

So the first thing I would say about that is if a kid's doing something for attention, they need attention. And one of the things that I talk with parents a lot about is proactive attention and proactive nurture. How often are you giving your kid a hug? When are you giving them a high five, I'm sitting close to them on the couch. What the reason I'm bringing up like pro active nurture and doing these things proactively is because then it prevents having problems with it later.

Doesn't this tie in similarly to the first tip we have, which is proactive attention is the same thing or can be similar to putting in deposits positive deposits into your emotional relationship bank account? If you're doing enough of that, then you may see, yes, your kid is, you know, calling your name out constantly, or your kid is poking his brother constantly, or your kid is stealing your kids. They you know, his brother's toys? are, you know, she's, you know, spitting at the baby or whatever. Yeah, she may be trying to get your attention. But like you say, Maybe she needs your attention.

Yes, you know, and I think, um, you know, when I'm a therapy therapist, and that's very interactive, joyful, and very connected play with parents and children. And sometimes parents will say, Why? Why is this helping them? You know, why are their behaviors getting better, and therapy is so close and so intense, and so nurturing, it's almost like, almost like an inoculation of attention or something like that you don't need the your parents attention as much as at other times. So you know, when you're on the phone, or when you're doing this, or when you have to do something else, if you've given those doses of attention. At other times, they're less likely to then, like, constantly be nagging you for attention every second. One exercise I like to do with parents, I'll just share this quickly is to write down like, you know, when the child gets up seven in the morning, and when they get to bed, let's say you know, nine or 10 o'clock at night? And how much of that is any kind of positive attention? Sometimes there's almost nine, because I don't really count like, you know, go do your homework or,

like, nobody should count that that that would be Yeah, that's definitely not

No, but seriously, if you look at how much of its giving directives are having you do this, or you're, you know, you're you're going off to this, or I have to make you practice piano or, you know, it's eye opening, when are we just enjoying each other and having fun together?

That's a whole nother thing is making certain that we, the strongest families are those that play together, and they can withstand so much more of the ups and downs of life. But that's a whole nother topic, because our next challenging behavior that we want to get your input on is lying the child and not telling the truth.

Yeah, so I mean, I think, first of all, with all of these behaviors, and we haven't said this yet, and on many of these behaviors are developmentally appropriate at different ages. And sometimes I worry that children who have gotten these labels like you have, you know, reactive attachment disorder, or you have complex trauma, they're exhibiting normal developmental behaviors, like lying, as certain ages, kids start to lie and experiment with lying. And then it's seen as Oh, they're doing the chronic lying, or, you know, they're doing that thing I read in this list, when really, it's just developmentally appropriate. And it's a stage that kids go through. So that's the first thing with lying is recognizing kids do it and it happens. And the other thing is, again, going back to what do you do? Do you lie? Your kids hear you lying on the phone? You know, telling someone, Oh, I can't come because we have this or do they hear you lying? And, you know, they heard conversation and how you're gonna lie on your taxes. I mean, what I mean, there's lots of things. So you always need to look at am I modeling lying? That's something and I think that, um, you have to make it safe to acknowledge lying. So you can still have a consequence, but if you say you're not going to get in trouble, just tell me the truth and you're really upset and you're really angry. They're probably still gonna lie. So you have to be able to make it safe to tell the truth, you have to be calm, you can say, you know, there's going to be a consequence. And sometimes if it's really chronic and going on, on and on and on with kids with a trauma history, they need to me in therapy about it, it's a way to distance from you, it's a way to feel maybe safer than revealing their true selves, or, or maybe they feel, you know, if I tell you that I did take that you might get rid of me, it could relate to core abandonment issues. So there's like developmental lying, then there's, you know, lying that come along, we need to deal with this, your, your, you know, and maybe lying about turning an assignment in or something. And then there's this chronic lying, that's, that's about a trust issue and fear, and that needs to be addressed therapeutically.

And one thing I would add, because we have faced this is that sometimes some kids process just a little slower. And that sometimes lying is the first thing that comes out. And one effective technique is to say, I don't want you to answer I want you to think for one minute, two minutes, five minutes, whatever. It never takes five, but just give them time to process. Okay, this is what happened. Okay? If I lie, this is what's going to happen if I tell the truth, and give them a chance to kind of think through everything, as opposed to expecting an immediate answer, because some kids just don't process that quickly. And ally comes off the tongue a little quicker.

It's a little bit like that. Almost compulsively saying no,

and this exact child did that as well. It no was the first thing but no buys time. No money buys time for that child to think through. Okay, do I really want to do this? But don't. But no, was the first thing because they need to time. And once I realized that, then I stopped expecting answers right away, in fact, wouldn't accept an answer right away and much of the line went away. So the last behavior I want to talk to is it dovetails beautifully into what you were saying earlier about, that some behaviors being developmentally appropriate. And I wanted to talk about sexualized behavior in play. That is a topic that, that particularly when we have children who've come from trauma, it's a double edged sword, because we absolutely need to be aware that that can be a sign that our children have been abused. But it can also be very developmentally normal, that all children are most children experiment sexually at different ages. So let's talk about sexualized behavior is play and that will be our last topic to talk about.

Hmm, yeah, so I think with with, you know, our littlest ones, you know, up to 234 or five, they're there, they might be exploring their bodies, figuring things out about their bodies wanting to run around with no clothes on talking about poop, and pee, all of those things are just developmentally appropriate,

I got news for you, that goes on a lot longer than three, or at least in my house, it did.

Oh, absolutely. And even with school aged children, you know, some of that and then getting into, you know, 789 year olds might want to like be, you know, pretending they're getting married and playing boyfriend, girlfriend, and there can be even some exploration and playing doctor, all of those kinds of things. And when kids are getting older, one of the big red flags that we really need to be aware of with sexualized behavior is power differential. So if you have like a 12 1314 year old, doing some kind of sexual play with a 234 year old, that's a big problem. You know, these things that we were talking about earlier, are more peer to peer exploration or self exploration. So there's a power differential and an age difference that is, can really very much be a concern that you need to be aware of.

So the power differential is one of the things is there any other things that would indicate that this one that this this play in this exploration may be a sign that we that that something bigger is going on?

Yeah, I think when kids are exhibiting things and that that aren't age, so exploring your body and wondering about it and pretending boyfriend and girlfriend, that's all normal things that you would be happening developmentally and also mirroring what you see in your world with couples or or your parents, you know, or kissing each other or whatever. But when you start seeing things like, you know, chronically like humping a man's leg when they sit on their lap or you start seeing them act out what looks like sexually explicit acts. So when you start seeing Things that really children typically should not have been exposed to, then you're really going to wonder, you know, what have they been seeing where what has been done to them. So that's when it gets into a realm that you really need to explore more what's going on. The other thing I would say is, is a little bit related to what I said earlier about power differential is predatory behavior. So, you know, younger kids before puberty, even if they have a sexual abuse history, they would sometimes have what we call sexually reactive behaviors, where they're doing these things, some of the behaviors I described earlier, that would be concerning, or even engaging in sex acts with peers, but it's really, they're really acting out what has happened to them, and we just need to start teaching them appropriate boundaries, and that this isn't an appropriate thing to do. They really don't know. They know, they've seen this, I've done this, this feels good. Whereas we're getting older into adolescence, and somebody's like, plan fully and a predatory way looking for victims. That's a whole different thing with someone's emerging sexuality and everything that comes with that. And then we're starting to get into the you know, could this be someone that's sexually offending. So sexually reactive behavior is different than sexual offending behavior. And people seem to throw everything into sexual offending behavior, and you know, get very alarmed that not that you shouldn't be alarmed, you need to get support and help but that doesn't mean that you have a predator in your home.

Mm hmm.


There's a difference.

At this point, if it's not developmentally appropriate, seek help, there is help available. And the other thing is that I think parents so often, especially with children who've been sexually abused, assume the worst, they assume that this child is never going to be helped. And that is absolutely not true. These children can heal and can move. Absolutely, yeah. And it doesn't mean they're going to become predators. I think that we just, we also, we, as adults have to take a deep breath and, and get help.

Yeah, that's what I should have said the very beginning. First of all, if something like this is happening, try to stay calm and not get so freaked out about it. Because that can lead to a lot of shame for the child. Absolutely. And feeling like I need to hide this now. And you know, you have to be accepting and supportive and finding help. And that might that may mean talking to a friend or, or your partner because I realize it can really freak you out. But let's just try to take the freak out somewhere else as best you can, not with the child.

Well said, Thank you so much. Karen Doyle Buckwalter with being assessed today to talk about practical tips for disciplining kids who have experienced trauma. Let me remind everyone that this show the information given to this interview is general advice to understand how it applies to your specific situation. You need to talk with your adoption or foster care professional. Thanks for joining us today. And I will see you next week.

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