Do your child's reactions seem bigger than they should be to everyday events? Are your reactions sometimes a bit too big? What causes us to get triggered by our kids or to trigger them? We talk with Dr. Tripp Ake, a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the field of child trauma treatment. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center and the program director for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. As you know, I am both the host of this show as well as the director of creating a family.org. You will want to make sure you listen to the end because we're going to be talking about specific steps that parents should take to understand why they're being triggered and why their buttons are being pushed. Today, we're going to be talking about how to avoid triggering and being triggered by our kids. We will be talking with Dr. Tripp Ake is a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the field of child trauma treatment. He is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Dr. Ake is also the program director for the UCLA Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. And he serves as director of training for the Center for Child and Family Health. Welcome to Creating a family Dr. Ake.
Thank you so much for the invitation, and really glad to be here so that we can have this interesting conversation. Thanks so much.
Yeah, I mean, this is a topic that we get a lot of questions about. But I do think that I'm not sure that we really all agree on what triggering per se is and how does that differ from the the classic getting our buttons push that every parent should know? Should and does know very well. So what do we mean by triggering? And does it differ from just the general button pushing that kids can do?
Sure, yeah. So I would just say, when I'm what I mean, when I use the word triggering, I guess I'm talking more about trauma triggers, things that are related to events that are either in kids or adults lives that remind them of people, situations, places, things or feelings that are related to an event that they experienced. And so we know that both parents and kids can experience traumatic events that threaten their life, or their physical integrity, or someone that's really important to them, those things can really cause overwhelming sense of helplessness or horror and can produce, you know, physical effects such as, you know, their heart racing or rapid breathing and those kinds of experiences, later, Lin to difficult, and adults exposed to those types of reminders that can be triggering to them. And the difference might be, it's easier to talk about in the context of adults, there have buttons being pushed, right, as far as things that kids do, either intentionally or not, that are maybe annoying or difficult to cope with, or especially frustrating for adults. And I think all all parents have some of those things on their list of things that are easy for their buttons to get pushed. And so that that will be a distinction I might make. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does. I think we'll have to as we go along, I think we're going to have to make that distinction over and over again. Because is it a matter of degrees, it sounds like triggering comes from a significant traumatic event. In the parents past or the child's past. You know, you think of the classic PTSD where, you know, somebody dropped something loud, and it brings back a memory of, of doors being slammed or you know, and violence ensuing, or the smell of beer brings back the terror that your parent is going to be getting drunk, and then your life will be very chaotic, and the next day or type of thing. That sounds more like triggering. Am I reading that correctly?
I think that's right. Yeah. And I think that the main the main differences that maybe people are not necessarily going to realize in general what, what they are doing, or what's unique about the situation that might be triggering for someone else, right? That's someone it's one of those things where the person who has had the traumatic event may be the only one that really notices what what is triggering in this situation, as opposed to maybe an annoying childhood behavior that lots of folks could observe and say, yep, that's pretty annoying. That would be hard for me to deal with you. And so I think that those are some of the distinctions and what's what's really interesting is, when folks are triggered, it can be confusing to other people about why why is Johnny scared right now? There's nothing scary happening. Like no one else is scared. But Johnny why? Why is that? And it can lead to some really difficult conversations or missed opportunities, depending on how people respond to those things. I think that that's another kind of distinction between those kind of things.
And I think I think so often with triggering type events with our children. Fear is an easy one, but not an easy one, but it fear is one that's obvious and we notice it But when we see, it's harder when we see our kids behaviors changing, and they're changing in ways that they don't seem connected. They're they're more argumentative. They're angrier, they are whatever I mean, fear elicits a response from parents that is more sympathetic. But when you see your kid who's, you know, lashing out being angry sassing doing things like that it could that also be caused by the trauma, the past trauma coming for?
Yes, is I think that's that is a very common question that parents have about, you know, this is a behavior, how do we cope with it, and then it's not until later that the connection sometimes are made between what they're really struggling with behaviorally, and triggers that are environment triggers are really, they're really tricky. They're complex, they're not easy to decipher. And so sometimes we talk with our parents about being trauma triggered, detectives write about, like trying to really think about patterns in an environment, things that might be particularly difficult as far as times of day or people that are there, or certain situations that pull for those behaviors. And I totally agree that there's a more aggressive oppositional behaviors are harder to empathize with. And I will also say that the fear responses can be hard for parents that they can't obviously make, they can't make an obvious connection between fear and something that's happening. Sometimes they can say things like, You're being so dramatic, right now. Or you were, you know, you're such a drama king or queen, or you are, and it really can, it can undermine a child's experience. It's like they're feeling scared, and there's a good reason for them, but no one else knows what it is. Yeah. So I think that that's, that's something that we also see in parents that they don't realize that that baby reinforces the behavior that they don't want. Yeah, instead of trying to kind of identify what might be scary, even though other folks might not be experiencing it.
And I think I like the term trauma detective, because the hard trigger detective, I suppose if, if when is it that way? Because the reality is, is I from my experience, most often kids don't know what is triggering them. They don't know, the the, they may remember the trauma they may not. But even regardless, they may not know the thing that's happening currently, that is setting them off. Do you see that as well?
Yes, yeah. And I think that not only are the kids not aware, but I think that adults struggle to so here's an example. So one of my, you're this example of a child that was in foster care, they went to a new family and was placed there and the family realized that on certain nights of the week, and not every time, the same nights of the week, child had a really difficult time at the dinner table. Some of those same behaviors that you just mentioned, Dawn, like yelling, screaming, kicking, not not willing to eat dinner and other nights, they were totally fine. They were totally, and it took a long time for this parent group to be able to kind of figure out like, what might be happening. So in the end, what they realized was on certain nights of the week, while every night of the week, the child sat in the same place, and that chair that the child sat in was across from a door. And the nights that door was open, the child had a lot of problems, like in the nights that that that door was closed, I had absolutely no problems. And that door led to a basement of the foster family's home where nothing bad had happened to the child there. But in another basement prior to being placed there a lot of really scary things happen. Right? And so they they realized, if we just close the door, that is going to help us, you know, minimize a trigger that is very specific to this child's experience and just did not have that connection made. And so I think that all the more reasons for us to as caregivers to start thinking about what's in the environment that might be, you know, similar why, as far as these behaviors are showing up in these places, and how do we help, you know, tie back to a child's history to think about what might be triggering in this environment? What might be scary for them, but that's not for other folks. Is that does that help to have an example?
Yeah, absolutely. It does. And I think it also shows the complexity of trying to figure out trying to be this trauma detective, trying to figure out because we think of things like words and things like that, that would be obvious, but it could be what are some of the things or actions that parents take you would those seem more obvious, like if a parent raises their hand sharply that would make that for a child who has been slapped or hit a lot? That that would be a frightening at would be a trigger. But there it doesn't have to be that obvious. I mean, the door is a great example because, I mean, that's they were very, very good detectives, because that would be really hard. But things like smells can search people
Off? Sure, yeah, it could be sites like something on TV, it could be smells where it's maybe a certain cologne that someone else wore. It could be sounds like sirens that are kind of going by, but we're reminding of a particular event, it could be places like a playground, that seems like it's a really good, safe place for folks to be that are is reminiscent of something else. It could be colors, it can be peep people, you know, as far as in EMS, or firemen, or police, where, where kids may see them in an environment that's very safe, and there'll be time, but it could be a trigger for another time that first responders were involved. And so I think that, I think that's just it is that it's not, it's to give parents a little, you know, a little bit of a breather or a little bit of a credit, it may have nothing to do with what a parent is doing or not doing. It may have been, but parents really need to take the time to take a step back before reacting. And thinking about is there something in this environment that could be scary for them, that's not for other folks. And they can give the child the benefit of the doubt. And that example with the door, you can easily see parents that are saying, You need to eat these peas before I let you get up, get up at a table. Exactly. Yeah, like and I like getting into an argument about like, I don't know why this was totally fine last night, you know, more
likely, if you kick that chair one more time, you will not eat a piece, nor will you eat the ice cream that's coming afterwards.
Exactly. And we're gonna sit here and tell like, you know, until you know, the next Yeah, next week or two go to the cows
come home. Yep. Exactly. Yeah, you know, going back to the place, one of the things that we have found, and we were on a creating a family doesn't run, but we have curriculum for parent support groups. And we often encourage and one of the hints and may backup one of the hints is to get parents to attend us to make certain that you also have chopped for childcare, but also teen groups, twin groups, child groups, things like that, but certainly childcare. And we point out and want our group facilitators to think through their location, because for many children, the DSS office or the child welfare office, if they if the child associates that with having been removed, that's probably not going to be the best place for you to have your childcare or your parents support group. Because you may see a lot of children who are, are triggering. So that's an example. Let me give another example from our experience here at creating a family date can also be a triggering, we have a number of families who we have a large online group, and this is this has come up in the number of families who've talked about a time of year or are not oftentimes it's not a specific date, because sometimes children aren't aware of specific dates, but they may be aware of the time of year. And I remember one example was it was near Halloween, but it was times when the weather changed. And the child's behavior always went downhill. And the parents and they got to the point where they were anticipating it. And then at some point, they were good detectives, and they realized that it was at that time of year that the child was the event happened that that forced the child to be removed, or the children to be removed from their birth home. And they were able to they were able to connect the two. And so dates or times of year can also Christmas can be very triggering for many kids.
Sure. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's that's a great point, Don. And I would just say that, I think it's probably very akin to the discussions we have and the the grief circles, right that we that we talked about, you know, where there are dates and times that kind of come out of the blue where people who have lost others. And this is very relevant right now in our COVID timeframe of having not only anniversaries or birthdays or holidays that the person is not there for but just certain times that you didn't quite anticipate that would kind of go out of the blue. So I think that that's if if folks have had experiences like that, then it may be easier to relate or understand how kids may have some of those same kind of things that you're talking about and the opportunity to think about how do we how do we prepare for it, but not like force it to happen? Because it may be that it doesn't happen every every year during that time for kids or for families. Or it may be that there's a way to offset that by thinking about what something fun or positive or that we can try to plan for during a time that typically is difficult not to, you know, deny kids the opportunity to voice that they have struggles or concerns but to try to, you know, provide new opportunities for kids to associate other kinds of events during that time of year as
well. Absolutely. And, and one of the things that came out of this discussion in our group was to one of the families was going to just had was fall was their issue. And they realize they needed to plan less, they needed to simplify fall, they needed to be home more, they needed to be, they just needed to be less busy in the fall, you know, segment needing to think through sporting activities and things like that, for this family. That was that was something that they chose, and I believe ended up working relatively well for them. Let me pause here for a minute to tell you about a free educational resource. Thanks to our partners, the jockey being Family Foundation, we can offer you five free online courses through a creating a family.org online Parent Training Center. When you go to bat, l y slash JBf support that's Bitly slash JBf. Support, you can see the five courses like disciplining while maintaining attachment that's going to strike the relevant here, there are other courses that will really help you they are free, and they're free, thanks to the jockey being family foundation. You know, we've talked a lot, and it's easy, I think it's so often we as parents, it's easier for us to focus on our kids. But we as parents also come to the table with our own issues, our own traumas. And we're going to we're going to shift in a bit to talking about our own buttons. But But before we before we move there, let's talk about our own traumas, and how, you know, you're describing children who are reacting in ways that are peculiar to us with the outside looking in, because they're either scared when they shouldn't be are angry when they when, when our perception is they shouldn't be our, or at least their reaction is greater than it should be. Talk, talk to us some about parents who come also bring that to the table.
Yes, yeah, I think that, you know, given the statistics that we know about childhood trauma, we there there are number of adults, including resource parents who have their own histories and, and sometimes folks are very aware going into this kind of role of resource parent that that is something that they need to kind of keep in check and think about and be connected to good sexual and professional supports, and others may may have seasons where they need to kind of revisit that. But I think that where it shows up sometimes is we haven't identified trauma that a child has disclosed before they come into our home. And like we we don't have experience with that. And we feel like we can support them. And then once they come into our home, maybe there are other events that are disclosed that are things that we have experienced, right where like we, we weren't, we weren't sure that we could easily provide support to a child that has a sexual abuse history, because maybe that's something that we've had. But this the child that initially comes in has witnessed violence in their home. And then we find out later that maybe they have some of those same events that we have in our lives, I think that those can be especially important to find support around. Because there may be either behaviors, or conversations that kids want or need to have. The caregivers with the same histories may struggle to support. And so I think that that's, that's something just to kind of keep an eye on and to have other adults to talk with. I think that the other thing is that I see is that sometimes caregivers use their kids as a sounding board for their own struggles. And and I think that we really need adults to find other adults to do some of that work. So that they're we're not putting those on kids in ways that maybe we don't mean to or what to. And also just thinking about the conversations that we have with other adults need to be in times and places where kids are not hearing them. There's some times I think that I'm really surprised sometimes where parents are like giving a lot of detail about either their own experience of trauma or something that they observed in a child where a child's very close by and taking it all in. And I'm thinking maybe that's a limit that we need to kind of think about, like what so that we're not making this child kind of be the filter for like what they should be listening to or not. So I think those are some things that come to mind as I think about adults with their own trauma who are fostering or adopting or providing kinship care to,
you know, a scenario that I think happens pretty frequently in the resource parent and adoptive parents scenario. Is that whether we call this trauma or not, I guess it's debatable, but parents enter becoming a foster parent or resource parent. Because they have a need to be loved, they perhaps had not a they didn't have an affectionate family or they felt unimportant. And so in their life in their adult life, they want to recreate a situation. They want not recreate, they want to create a situation a happy family, they want to, to create a family that provides them with this love and interest that family a child who has been removed from their family, who is not seeking this, this is not a good thing from this child's perspective. How does that play out? And have you seen that?
Yeah, I do think that that scenario doesn't sound totally unfamiliar. I think that there are a lot of assumptions, I think sometimes resource parents come to the table with it really need to be challenged, right? Around what what are your intentions? What are your motivations? What are your expectations of kids who are coming into your home? And a lot of times, there's some beliefs that we have about the ways kids should be, or the way that they should? Or the way that my love for them should be enough? Or that
they should they should be grateful? Exactly, yeah.
I'm making this exactly. And that is not a great place to enter into that kind of relationship. Because if they're looking for, you know, confirmation of these, what we often refer to as myths, right, and resource parenting, like, that's not a good kind of page to go, then they they're going to be disappointed probably. Right. Yeah, definitely. The kids are not saying within the first week of being placed there, how grateful they are, or how, you know, they've really looked for this caregiver all their life or those types of things. And so I think that
are You're so much better than my birth mom, or you're so much better than my dad.
Exactly. Which are, which is not a fair assumption for kids to know that we are a reasonable expectation, right? For us. I think of that. But I do. I do think that as caregivers enter into this work, they really have to do some, some work on themselves to determine kind of why are they where are they ready to do this? What are supports that they think they'll need? What are some of the showstoppers that might get in the way and what you know, what are some things that they may need to be challenged on. And I often see this in parents that have parents of their own biological children, or have fostered for years and have had, like a certain set of experiences where they believe that all kids kind of fall into a specific category. And then they have one child that's very different than any of the ones that they've ever fostered or any the ones that they've ever kind of cared for. And they're not prepared for like, well, this is just such a different set of behaviors, or they're not responding to the ways they're not responding Exactly. Parents. And so we have to take an individualized trauma informed approach as we as we do parenting, and sometimes that takes changing the way that we typically do things.
I would say not sometimes it's probably always, yeah, to be fair. Yeah, I just tried to soften the blow there. You know, I also think that that's parenting in general, that anybody who has more than one child regardless of whether they enter your home through birth, fostering adoption or kinship care, it's, it's tempting to, you know, we we learn one thing, and then it's hard to learn. It's hard to learn to do it a different way. Sure. And kids respond in different ways. And so we have to as well, is today's podcast hitting home for you? Do you have friends who would appreciate this practical information about triggering and button pushing? If so please tell them about what you've learned when listening to this podcast, as well as our other podcasts. We would love to strengthen and inspire more families to raise strong, healthy kids and you want to help us the best way is to spread the word about this show. Thank you. Alright, so now we've talked about the trauma causing a triggering? And is it fair to say that in some ways the button pushing Are they over annoyance that we're on a continuum? It? It seems like that with when kids push our buttons, it's that we can recognize it? Because we can look at our recognize it that our it's us that's bringing something to the table? Because our reaction is oversized, we are responding in a way that is bigger than the event would necessarily dictate. And so is it fair to think of it on a continuum, that triggering is, is one in being caused by a traumatic event? But I don't know that button pushing is necessarily caused by traumatic events. It could but but we also are reacting in a way that's not productive. Is that a fair assessment?
I think So I might even put it on like a stress continuum, right? Where for those who've had traumatic experiences, on one end, there's a traumatic kind of response or traumatic stress. And that all of us experience stress in general, right like that we have sure that we have stressed and that as a parent, dealing with stress gets hard. It's kind of like, you know, if you overwork a muscle, it's going to get tired. That's what I think for button button pushing, right? Like, on your most relaxed, patient filled day, that maybe you could tolerate a behavior pretty well, right. But on a day that you've been stretched, that you had a really hard day at work, that you didn't get enough sleep, that you're feeling kind of like you've been multitasking with lots of different, you know, burdens, that the same behavior on one of those days, may be really much more difficult to tolerate. And so those, it may be that some kids in your house poll for certain, certain responses, and you went like, like, it's like this behavior happened with another kid, I probably would be okay. But when it's you, it's really hard for me to be patient and for us to recognize that that's about us. Right, that that's, you know, the behaviors are things that we certainly want to be able to respond to, but are but there are buttons there. There are hang ups are are things that we have difficulty tolerating. And so how do we manage that? Or how can we take a step back? Or how can we make a decision to not jump in with the biggest consequence or rule that we've ever thought of, in the heat of the end the heat of the moment? Yeah, versus taking a step back, and making sure that you're making a good decision about things that you feel like you want to kind of address?
Yeah, grounding a child for life is usually just usually going to bite you in the butt later on, you know, just it.
And you're grounding yourself. You're scrambling, just to be grounded, too. And so yeah, that's another thing to consider what yeah,
yes. Felt good when it came out of your mouth, but by golly, yeah,
exactly. Now I have to enforce it. Yeah. Yeah.
Or not, when in both cases are probably. Right. Right. Right. So how do we recognize I mean, honestly, in the heat of the moment, it feels justified that if that kid is clicking that pen constantly, that my reaction of wanting to strangle them feels like a logical response. So how do we recognize that, that that is that our reaction is is not in keeping that it's something that we're bringing to the table?
Yeah. Yeah, I think that's a great question. I would say, you know, if we've already kind of filtered the situation through a trauma lens, right? If we've done that first and said, Is there anything that could be scary or reminisce and a reminder, you kind of done that detective work? Then the other filter after that, to me would be to kind of go through and say, Is there anything about me, and the things that I really struggled with that I need to filter through this before I respond about, like, I am especially annoyed by fill in the blank, like, it's, and I know that that's just me, like, my partner, or my, the rest of my family or other adults, like, do not have the same level of annoyance with this thing that I do? And so it may be more about me? And how do I, how do I taper my response? Or how to like, maybe ask for someone else to help in those situations? Or how do I avoid? Or how do I, you know, calmly talk about things, when things are calmer, that's in general, the best advice is to address behavior or changes in the schedule, or the routine or the ruleset. When things are good, right? When things are in a very calm place, and to say, hey, like you were saying earlier that pin, you know, like, using that pin over and over again, I know that's not an easy thing to do. It kind of is to me, and I'm wondering, is there something that we can do about it? Like, is there because it's Could you could you help me with this in some way, because I'm really struggling with it. And I could just leave the room. But there's a lot of patterns all over the house. And I'm really worried that you know, that this is going to be something I'm gonna struggle with. And then knowing when to seek out, you know, maybe there's something that's a bigger, annoying thing, or your response is really reinforcing the very, you're trying to address when to get help, where maybe it's it's help for you visually, but sometimes it's you know, there are a lot of good evidence based treatments for families to address behavior as well. And it might be that those are strategies that families might take.
And this is probably less button pushing, but I do think as parents responding to poor behavior, I think sometimes our reactions are overreactions. And I'm giving air quotes to the over part of the reactions. They are fear based. that they are based on our fear of a couple of things. Gosh, think think of the things that we could be afraid of one that, that this behavior will continue. And they're going to be a, you know, they're going to be a 30 year old who is still doing this, or a. But it can also be fear based in that, that this child's behavior of this shot, what this child is doing is reflection on us, and that we're going to be perceived that their bad behavior means that we are bad parents.
Mm hmm. Yeah. No, I think that's that's a great point. I mean, one example might need to just say, take the same behavior, plop it down into your living room when there's no one else there. And then take that behavior and plop it in the middle of a family reunion, yo,
Oh, yeah. Oh, boy. Yeah, it's painful.
And there's this the same behavior, pull for the same response in us. Right? And if not, that may say something about like our worry about and Joan really being offended that this behavior happened or that Uncle Jimmy is going to give me a lecture on how I don't know how to parent again, or, you know, there's in that we're trying to avoid that, right. We're trying to kind of we're going in, we've had to talk before we got out of the car for the family reunion about the thing that I don't want you to do. And like we're really hypersensitive about it. So yeah, I think that those are definitely things for us to consider. And it may be that we, we just have to kind of, you know, consider how much of our response is about the very thing that you mentioned, right? And about, like, I'm worried that other folks might see me as unable to kind of handle this, or maybe I've had a well meaning person, give me advice on solicited for in public, I've seen this happen. And I'm just like, that is really, that's really impressive like that you thought it was okay to tell somebody how to parent that you don't know. But you see that, and then that we're trying to kind of avoid that response. But the other piece of this done, I would say, and maybe you can, you can relate to it is I think sometimes parents forget how old their kids are. And in what way they're mean that there are different responses that are needed depending on developmental age and appropriateness to write that, maybe our kid is really smart, and they're very verbal, but they're like three. And so we have to still keep in mind that like three year olds do this thing that this three year old is doing. And even though they can they have a lot of words, they're still going to tantrum sometimes. And they're still going to do these things like they're built to do these things based on the age that they are. I mean, I remember back when our oldest was in the kind of period what we call the period of purple crying, right that six weeks, seven weeks, or we see a huge increase in crying no matter what, no matter what you do. Like whether you've changed diapers in bed, it doesn't matter. Most babies are in between, I don't know, I think it's something like six to 10 weeks have a huge increase in crime. It's just developmentally what they're supposed to do. And some parents don't realize that and there's whole prevention programs, like Shaken Baby Syndrome, prevention programs focused on educating parents that hey, did you know that kids cry more during these weeks? So that maybe you will respond differently? And you'll just know that that's important. I think that's that those are things kind of across the developmental span for kids for us to keep in mind about, am I treating? Or am I expecting more from a child than they can do based on their age? Or maybe it's the opposite? Maybe I'm, like, not giving them enough credit that they could do more, but I'm planning on like doing more for them? I'm not sure. But I do think that that's something that sometimes parents or caregivers struggle to remember. Me included?
Yeah. Well, we all we could all be in that boat. You know, and I think it gets, I was really focusing what you said about the verbal child, because you're right, that kids who seem for a variety of reasons, perhaps they are more verbal, than the average child, or we also see kids who are bigger than the average scout or taller or more mature looking. Yeah. And our expectation is we look at the child and forget that. Okay, he's eight. Yeah, he really does look 12. But he is eight, and he is going to behave like an eight year old, which means it's going to bounce off the walls at times, because he's not 12. He's eight. So I think that that is something that I hadn't really thought about that. And even though we intellectually know he's eight, it's easy. It's easy for everyone just to forget it's also then easy for us to forget when we're in public. Because we know we're getting decide I from Uncle Joe because he's bouncing, you know, juniors bouncing off the wall.
Yeah, yeah, Don, one thing I'm thinking about You know, it may be that caregivers are like, so what do I do? What do I do when Yeah, when Johnny is doing the annoying thing that maybe he's supposed to do, because he's that age, I don't know. But I would say in general, most behavioral kind of programs, therapies, evidence based treatments, approaches, kind of just talk about praising up the thing you want to see more of very specifically, and often ignoring ignorable behavior. Those are the kind of the two basic concepts that we talked about when kids engage in like whining, or, you know, just like really kind of annoying behavior, trying to actively ignore the win when you can, those kind of behaviors because if we give attention to it, even if it's negative attention, it's going to increase, right? So that what that means what that means is that you're then praising for appropriate talking, right or praising for the positive opposite of wind, like what is the positive opposite, it is, like speaking in a big if it's a younger kid and a big boy voice, or using big girl words, like praising those things that help us get out of whining. But if we pay a lot of attention to it, he even if we're, we're trying to address it, it, it will increase. And so I think that's, that's hard, especially when they're kind of annoying behaviors that we just want to stop, we want them to stop. But it is more, you're more likely going to reinforce that behavior, if you give a lot of attention to it. Now, there's some things you can't ignore. Right? We recognize that, and that is that it's really important for the safety of kids to know about these things. But I'm thinking that there are a lot, and we talk with parents a lot of times about how to ignore, because some people think that they're ignoring when they're not. Give me an example. So I had this one parent tell me once that she was in the grocery store. And the child was asking for a candy bar in the candy aisle. And the parents said, I've already answered that question. I'm just going to ignore you. I'm not going to talk to you at all. I'm not going to say anything to you. Because I'm not giving you the time of day, I'm going to ignore you. I'm not gonna say anything, right. And I was watching this Mom, tell me this. And I said, so did you keep saying things like that? Like, did you keep saying that? She said, Yeah, I just wanted, I wanted him to know that he was being ignored. I said, Do you know that maybe he wasn't being ignored? Because you didn't like it was one of those things where like, kid was maybe translating that to? I'm getting a lot of attention right now. Or like I'm, yeah, I'm still getting mom to talk to me, even though she's ignoring. And so. So I do think that like thinking about if we're ignoring what, what's the safe way to do that? And how do we actively ignore something sometimes people need need coaching. But I think that's an example that kind of comes to mind for me.
But in my eldest daughter, when she was three, was being annoyed by a child in preschool and I was talking to her about it. And I said, you know, the best thing you could do is just ignore them. The teacher told me the next day that my daughter turned to the little boy who was doing it and just started screaming, ignore, ignore, ignore. The teacher said, I think you maybe need to give her a little more examples are usually more
violent, good for her for trial. Like that was the first step. But yeah, but I do think that it's reminiscent of that sometimes. And I know that caregivers are just doing that they are doing the very best they can.
They are, let me ask about another one because this has come up some and particularly with parents of tweens, even teens, I suppose. But disrespect is that an ignorable, it is certainly annoying. And it can also be triggering, I think for depending on on what we bring to the table, and our feelings of of respect that we are deserved, or having been disrespected or whatever in the past. But even if it's not to that extreme plus, let's just be honest, it's extremely annoying. And I also personally think it's, it's just really unhealthy for family dynamics. So having said that, is that a I mean, certainly that the praising part when our children are being respectful praising them, although that seems a little over the top, you know, if somebody doesn't give you a lip, then you're, you know, saying thank you for not thank you for being respectful, although that certainly would work. So is that a is that an ignorable thing?
Well, let me address a couple things just that so the the over the top of this, I think that sometimes we'll be worried that we're going to praise our kids too much. And what I'll say for especially for younger kids, but also for older kids, is that that's that's a myth. Typically, we're looking for six praises to one correction as far as as far as a ratio, especially for young kids. They need to, they need to hear it often even for things that they're able to do or that they understand or that they've done before. That is not going to spoil them. Right. It's only going to help you to reinforce those things. But But I think for the for the respect comment, that is something that a lot of people have a lot of people focus on. But here's the thing. If we asked 10 parents, could you label a the top behavior that if we were watching on a video camera, which show respect? Like if we could just turn the sound off? Or even if we turn the sound on? What's the behavior that we would see that it's respectful when we're talking about show me respect? Or Don't be disrespectful? And you would probably get 10 different answers, right?
That's for showing respect, not disrespect. You're saying that's
exactly what is respectful behavior mean? Which is, you know, we could also say, what do people complain about being disrespected? What's the that behavior, right, we could do it this either way, but I think it's going to be a 10 different responses about like what showing respect means. And that's, that's a problem when it comes to, for kids to know what to do or how to what to expect, act if there's 10, different kind of responses to what showing respect it so we have to break it down to very specific behaviors that we mean about being respectful.
Right. It's easier to define disrespect, I think, and maybe so but
but I guess in my mind, then it should be just as easy to find the positive opposite. Yeah, yeah. Right. Or
to at least define the disrespect, because that would also differ. Because what one family thinks is just good natured kidding. Another family might find disrespectful.
Exactly. So I think that's that when we we we start praising very specifically about things that are respectful. I think that helps right to say, I loved how you said, thank you all by yourself without me having to prompt you. Like, that was great. I loved it. When you said that earlier, that's a way to promote a respectful response. Or I loved how when I told you, we couldn't do this thing, that you were so calm about it. That was great. I loved how you did, because then it's kind of showing like respect is when I say no, about something that you don't give me Sass about it. Right. So I think that we have to break it down into very much smaller behaviors, especially for young kids about what being respectful means, because it's kind of like, if you walked into a kid's room and said, I would like for you to clean up. I'll be back in five minutes. Make sure that, and then they come back. And they're really upset that one very specific thing that they had in their list of what cleaning up me? Yes, yeah, it didn't happen. And so I do think it's a similar thing, when we're saying, be respectful, or be polite, or being nice, or you know, those kinds of very indirect plans, where we have a very specific idea of maybe what that means. But there's no way for a kid to understand like, what that looks like. And if they've been in different homes, where different people had different expectations, it can be really confusing. It can I think that for us to be able to kind of define those things. And also timing those expectations. I know some parents have like, a rule list of like 20, or 30 rules when a kid comes into their home, and they haven't laminated and they show it to him. And I'm thinking that's really overwhelming for kid like you usually think about your top rule for safety, and then that be the thing that you introduce when they get there. But respect is definitely one of those things that I hear a lot about or being disrespected. And I think it often has to come down to, can the child do the thing that you're asking for based on their age? And is it clear to them? What behavior it is that you're looking for? If not, then they're probably going to fail? And we can't fault them for that, because we haven't made it clear enough.
It also seems to me that respect goes two ways. And sometimes I listen to the way parents talk to their children. Yeah. Yeah, it that's, that is disrespectful, the way that you're speaking to your child. So respect goes both ways. And, and that is one way to introduce it is that in our family, we, we, you know, we don't yell at someone, you know? Yes. Yeah. In our family, when we're angry, we try to talk in a nice voice or whatever that you know, we don't say I hate you, when we're angry, or something, whatever it is, whatever it is in your family that that you as a parent also would be willing to.
Exactly that's such a good point. And I would say I've even seen it and emotion regulation kind of problems where where we're trying to teach kids, they're like notice when they're getting emotionally disregulated and and parents are on board that they want to see kids do this, but parents aren't good at it. Yeah, so yes. So I've seen parents sometimes say, you know, like, Johnny, you're getting upset. You need you need to use a coping skill. But they're yelling
Just like my daughter yelled, ignore that you're yelling, Go go
exactly calm down. You need to be calm, your body needs to be calm your voice. You know, like, yes. And it's the way that we're approaching it helping them to feel calm, are we giving them something else to feel not so come about? So yeah, I do think that it's, it's not like, it's easy for us to be able to kind of do these things that naturally, but it's but as we think about kids coming into our care, the experiences they've had with other caregivers where maybe they have learned that adults are not safe, that if I act a certain way long enough, they will send me to a different home, that, you know, adults, or people that you can't really count on. Those are maybe beliefs and with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and other groups that do this work more often. They have coined terms like the invisible suitcase, those the the beliefs that kids have about themselves, about caregivers and about the world that are in this invisible suitcase before they ever come to your home. They are looking to see if you're going to confirm any of those beliefs and their suitcase, about a Donald's about themselves or about the world. And the minute that you do, then that helps kind of justify Yep, see, adults can't be counted on. Adults do give up, I can show enough of a behavior that they will they will change their mind about me being able to stay here. And that is that's unfortunate, because it kind of leads to all kinds of negative outcomes that we know happen for kids that have multiple placement changes. So one of the things that we're really committed to within the network and the work some of the work that I do is how do we help support resource parents to be trauma informed, so they don't make that phone call to the child welfare worker and say, I am done parenting today. Yeah, today is the last day of my parenting. I'm not giving a week's notice. Today's the day. Yeah, that is what we were trying to avoid. That is what we're trying to reduce. And I do you think that these strategies, like the ones we're talking about today, and others that I know that you promote on other parts of your work are hopefully ways that we can minimize or word keep from taking kids and families down that path?
You're right, you are so right that once parents or at least our experiences at once parents reached that point where they've thrown in the towel, all the advice, everything it just it's it's useless at that point, they have given up. And so the key is, is preaching to the choir, I realized that the key is to reach parents before, to provide support to step in, to give them information to give them training to give them support. before they reach the point of picking up the phone and saying get this kid out by five today. Yeah, yeah. Let me pause here for a minute, guys, you've heard me say it before. Because it is so true. This show truly would not happen without the support of our partners who believe in our mission of providing new, unbiased, expert based trauma informed information. One such partner is Vista Del Mar. They are a licensed nonprofit adoption agency with over 65 years experience helping to create families. They offer home study only services as well as full service, infant adoption, international home studies, and post adoption support. They also have a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del mar.org/adoption. Thank you. So tell us more about the National Child Traumatic Stress Network because everybody is going to be people who have listened to this show, as well as it checked out creating a family are well familiar with it, because we refer your resources are not yours, but their resources frequently. But tell us more about it.
Yeah, so this is a congressionally mandated federally funded network through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That's been around for around 20 plus years. And there are 140 funded centers across the country that do this work and about maybe that much or more of previously funded or affiliate sites that are very active. And their mission is to increase access and quality of evidence based treatments and practices for kids who've experienced trauma and have public facing resources that are really helpful to understand how to talk with kids about a number of things for and for different audience groups thinking about for child welfare, for juvenile justice, for mental health for parents for court systems, how to talk with kids about COVID how to talk to kids about sexual abuse, all kinds of free webinars and other types of resources that they have as well. So when Really encourage folks to check out those resources and products that are, again, publicly available, because it's a federally funded network. But these are, these are treatment developers, these are community providers. These are family members. These are foster youth aged out of care that are all working together in this network to try to provide the best education and resources and treatments and responses to kids who've experienced trauma and their family. So I think that it's it is the single best resource that I can think of, for any of those groups that might want to know a little bit more about what is Child Trauma and how do we respond.
And that website is in C tsn.org, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, NC tsn.org. Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Tripp ache for being with us today to talk about this really important topic. I truly appreciate your time. So thank you so much for being here. Sure. Thank you and for our audience. I'll see you next week.
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