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BCLC Volume 2

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ALSO BY HEATHER FORBES Beyond Consequences Logic and Control Volume 1 Beyond Consequences Logic and Control Volume 1 Spanish Edition 100 Daily Parenting Reflections

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Heather T Forbes LCSW Beyond Consequences Institute

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Copyright 2008 by Heather T Forbes Permission provided for any or all parts of this book to be reproduced for a loving cause Reproductions of this book are not to be sold and may only be given free of charge First Edition 2008 Published by Beyond Consequences Institute LLC Cover Photograph Lisa Zader www CapturedByTheLensPhotography com Book Design Tyler Thomas

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Table of Contents A Note to the Reader A Life Transforming Offer Part One The Principles of a New Understanding 1 From Research to Love 1 2 Love Based Parenting 5 3 Staying in the Present Moment 11 4 Our Parenting Programs 21 5 Window of Stress Tolerance 33 6 Expectations 39 Part Two Seven Behaviors Rooted in Fear 7 Poor Social Skills 8 Demanding 9 Self Injury 10 Defensive Attitudes 11 No Conscience 12 Homework Battles 13 Chores 47 65 77 89 101 115 131 Part Three Parenting Bonus Section 14 Real Life Stories from Real Life Parents with Real Life Children 149 Endnotes Recommended Readings Index Order Form About the Author

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A Note to the Reader This book will offer you a completely new understanding of how to love and parent your children It comes from not only my research as a professional or from my experience as a family therapist This information presented to you in the following pages comes mainly from my direct experience as a mother Both my children exhibited severe behaviors that put my family into a state of utter chaos As I sought help from professionals and parenting books the madness only seemed to intensify The physical violence my son brought into my home was beyond my comprehension for such a young child The emotional violence I then returned to him from my own being was terrifying to me I kept asking myself What has gone so terribly wrong How have we fallen from a place of love commitment joy and excitement to a place of panic violence resentment and sheer hatred What was converging in my home was generations of untouched trauma a backlog of pain that was never addressed directly most of which was mine to own Yet the more than 200 parenting books that I had purchased off of the Internet night after night never mentioned this These parenting books focused on how to get my children to behave They listed in detail how to create a point chart in order to make my children be accountable for their behaviors These books presented their information in a way that urged me to take control and in fact demand control and respect from my children The common thread running through all these parenting books was that children needed to be shaped into respectful little beings They were the clay and I was to mold them As the parent I needed to stay above the emotional quagmire that was overwhelming my children in order to stay in charge and to be the strong figure directing their lives What these parenting books did not address was me I have come to realize that my state of mind and my state of heart is the key influence in how my family operates It is not about techniques because love is not a technique It is not about loving my children through controlling measures It is not about right or wrong or judgment to be handed down in order to create moral and ethical children It is not about daring to discipline It is quite the opposite It is about daring to love and parent without relying on external measures of control authority or consequences

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We have somehow come to believe that love is not enough In fact there are parenting books with titles that indicate that love is only a start1 that love is not enough2 or that there are limits to love and hope3 I challenge you as a parent to honestly look at these fearful titles and question how the greatest and most powerful force known to mankind is not enough Love is always the answer because love never fails I have come to realize that the issue is not that love is not enough it is that we as a human species do not really know what love is We do things that we call love while all along they are full of fear judgment resentment and control In order to understand how to be loving parents it will take first understanding what love is Loving ourselves is the next step in learning to be loving parents This concept is a simple mathematical fact I cannot give something that I do not have I cannot give you ten dollars if I do not have ten dollars Thus I cannot give my children love if I do not have love Yet going back to the 200 parenting books this concept was missed That is exactly why I had over 200 books The information wasn t working because these books were missing the key ingredient to connecting with my children Me It was like baking 200 loaves of bread and each time leaving out the yeast Over and over again while expecting a beautiful fluffy loaf I was left with a flattened wad of flour and water void of life It takes courage to switch to the new understanding presented in this book Shifting your perspective to a new paradigm a new way of living will challenge you at your deepest core Yet it has the potential to be one of the greatest paradoxes you will ever experience That which you tried to control The silence of will now be occurring naturally The authority you have been battling to obtain is actulistening is far ally something you have within yourself The more effective than motivation you have been working to instill the noise of in your children was there all along You will see that the silence of listening is far more lecturing effective than the noise of lecturing You will realize that showing respect in the face of disrespect love in the face of fear peace in the face of chaos and trust in the face of betrayal will teach more to your children than all the preachers in the pulpit on Sunday morning combined The challenge may be that it appears too simple to be effective The paradox is that we have come to believe that for something to be effective it has to be complex and if something is simple it cannot be effective

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Yet quite the opposite is true Albert Einstein said Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction While the concepts presented in this book are easy they are hard to implement Yet the more you realize the true essence of love the more you will flow with confidence in knowing that your children will find their way without the traditional measures in place and you will come to trust that real control comes through your loving nurturing nonjudgmental and predictable influence As a Beyond Consequences parent you will not always know ahead of time how to respond in each situation yet as you stay in a loving space in every situation the answers will emerge That is the power of love Never allow your fear to constrict the answers from surfacing Your children are gifts to you so that you no longer are stuck living as a master of fear I invite you to read this book with an open mind and heart It will give you the knowledge and understanding you need to become a master of love and a master at parenting your children free of consequences free of fear and free of control Press on Heather T Forbes LCSW P S I strongly encourage you to read the first volume at least chapters one through four to gain a foundational understanding of the Beyond Consequences principles The information presented here in Volume Two begins where the first volume ended and is an expansion and an evolution of the Beyond Consequences paradigm Enjoy

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PART ONE The Principles of a New Understanding

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FROM RESEARCH TO LOVE 1 CHAPTER ONE From Research to Love The greatest science in the world in heaven and on earth is love Mother Teresa I recently made a trip to a local university for a day off to do research Yes my idea of fun is research I m certain there is some sort of pathology associated with such a statement So I sit down at the computer breathing in and experiencing the joy of my moment in the here and now I m ready to embark on the latest and greatest research I locate the perfect search engine to scan all the psychological journals Yes the excitement is building I place my fingers on the keyboard and salivate as I taste the success of a page of sweet results I type the classic acronym for the end all of end all mental health disorders for traumatized children RAD reactive attachment disorder Within seconds I find a list of more than 3 000 articles How much time do I have I wonder How many of these can I make it through before I need to leave to pick up my own children formerly diagnosed with RAD I scan through the most recent articles I print them out Before long I have a pile of articles more than two inches thick As I am scanning through the abstracts being led through percentages dissecting the statistical data from Pearson s to alpha scores and weeding through the explanations of the research methodology I come to one very important realization these researchers have little or no experience with attachment challenged children with severe behaviors Do they really know what it is like to live day in and day out with a child who continually lives in a fear state resulting in a child who is disrespectful disobedient and simply beyond comprehension on his best day Do they know what it is like to give and give and give to a child who is too stressed out to receive Do these researchers understand what it is like to be a parent at your brink curled up in a fetal position on the bathroom floor just praying to make it through one more day The explanations of raising children with difficult behaviors are written in this research in such an objective form which is appropriate

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2 THE PRINCIPLES OF A NEW UNDERSTANDING in formal peer reviewed journal articles but it takes away from the reader being able to comprehend the intensity of being a parent or caretaker living in the midst of fear and trauma Here is one such statement The high prevalence of RAD raises therapeutic challenges for those involved in the care of children So now when your friends ask How are you you can say Well I m therapeutically challenged right now The majority of the articles expanded on the actual criteria of reactive attachment disorder and discussed the inherent problems in the DSM IV the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders the bible of mental health disorders Many articles discussed the limitations of studies and the limits of what attachment theory can tell us After about two hours of researching and printing copies of these articles I found myself staring at half a tree of paper wondering how this was going to help parents The concluding remarks in many of the articles ended with bleak comments such as there is little in the way of evidence based treatment for this disorder and those treatments which do exist are controversial What All this research money and time only to end with a bleak hopeless statement like this What about the children What about the moms and dads struggling to create peaceful loving homes There appears to be a wide ravine spanning academia and when the rubber hits the road parenting While both sides have the common goal of creating positive change the connection of the two is far and wide So where do we go from here I take a deep breath and calm my own nervous system Where do we go from here I ask myself again Then I realize it is not about going somewhere but returning somewhere The answer is that we need to go right back to the beginning We simply need to get back to the basics and return to love No statistical data is needed no research methodologies need to be designed and most importantly no limitations exist with love In returning to love we then have Then I realize to ask Do we really understand the true it is not about meaning of love Many of us were raised in dysregulated families without the love model going somewhere that we needed We later found ourselves in but returning relationships that defined love to equal pain rejection and abandonment somewhere Redefining our love program becomes the first order of business in implementing a

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FROM RESEARCH TO LOVE 3 love based parenting model This is where my day of research shifts Instead of my keyword being a mental health disorder like ADHD or RAD my keyword becomes love What comes up is both love and unconditional love I ask myself Is there a difference Are they not one and the same Is this term not redundant So I continue for a couple of hours and conclude the following to be the meaning of love Love is kindness caring and acceptance without judgment all the time under no conditions Love says I accept you as you are Love says I accept your behaviors at this very moment because I accept you Love trusts that your child has the ability to change his behaviors once he feels accepted unconditionally One website offered this from an unknown author I love you as you are as you seek to find your own special way to relate to the world or the way you feel is right for you It is important that you are the person you want to be and not someone that I or others think you should be I realize I cannot know what is best for you although perhaps sometimes I think I do I ve not been where you have been viewing life from that angle you have I do not know what you have chosen to learn how you have chosen to learn it with whom or in what time period I have not walked life looking through your eyes so how can I know what you need Unconditional love is love without requiring anything in return love no matter what It is telling your child I love you without expecting him to say I love you in return Love is asking your child What s wrong Billy You seem upset while in return getting I don t want to talk about it I hate you yet still not reacting with negativity Love is accepting that your child is in a state of fear when he is not able to connect with you at that moment Love responds to such dysregulation by saying I m here when you are ready Billy Love celebrates the moment of victory and lets go of the past When your teenage daughter comes back after running away from home without telling you where she was you say I m so glad you re home I ve really missed you We need to celebrate your return Love stays focused on the relationship and the experience not the outcome Love trusts that if the experience is void of fear the outcome will take care of itself If the child is asked to take the garbage out and he refuses to do so the parent stops and focuses on the relationship

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4 THE PRINCIPLES OF A NEW UNDERSTANDING The parent recognizes that there must be a disconnect between the parent and the child and moves in to repair the disconnect recognizing that the garbage is secondary at this moment The parent says to the child You seem pretty stressed right now Hard day at school Love begins in loving ourselves first Self love allows us to validate and accept ourLove trusts that selves without requiring others to do the same for us A parent who loves herself understands if the experience that when her child stomps off and whispers is void of fear insults under his breath that she is still a good parent Love recognizes that the behavior the outcome will of a child does not determine the partake care of itself ent s effectiveness The parent with self love is not looking for her child to validate her Most importantly love allows children to have their emotional space When children have emotional space free of fear free of judgment free of control they then have the capacity to find their own way back to love Love recognizes that the teaching of the life lesson is only effective when the child is regulated and back in relationship So later that night mom sits with her son and says Today when you stomped off and whispered those words under your breath it was disrespectful to me I understand you were frustrated but I know we can work this out in a nicer way between the two of us Would you work on this with me My day of academic research shifted me right back to the place I needed to be When we lose ourselves in an overindulgence of intellect technology analysis rationalization and complexity we lose the primal focus of our purpose here on earth Love really is enough It simply takes putting unconditional love into action to help any child find his way back to this place of peace joy confidence and safety Implement love based parenting as described in this book and you will find answers and more importantly you will find your children and lead them back to their true essential state of love Throughout this book the child is referred to as masculine in order to avoid clumsy con structions except in the chapter on self injury the feminine form is used as this behavior is predominately seen in girls

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LOVE BASED PARENTING 5 CHAPTER TWO Love Based Parenting Where there is great love there are always miracles Willa Cather What defines the term love based At first glance you might ask yourself Aren t most parenting approaches love based Parents love their children so how could parenting not be of love The truth is that so many of the parenting techniques we have used or that were used on us as children are actually based in fear not love They are fear based techniques disguised as love Motivating children to behave or to respond appropriately to parental requests using sticker charts point systems consequences or removal of privileges is about fear not love To see this perspective clearly it first requires us to understand love and how it relates to being unconditional We must make the distinction between conditional love and unconditional love to truly become a safe base for our children Thus to see more deeply into love it requires us to experience our children more deeply If you are reading this book because your child does not respond well to traditional parenting techniques I want you to celebrate if your child responded well to traditional techniques you would miss the opportunity to challenge everyday assumptions of effective parenting Your child is giving you the cause to examine major institutions and accepted standards right in your own home You are joining major historical figures in challenging When the parent is these institutions you are joining the ranks of more concerned Martin Luther King Jr Jane Addams Mother Teresa and other activists and reformers Refor his needs than member that one person can make a difference the needs of the When Does Love Based Parenting Exist child then fear Love based parenting exists when the concern for the needs emotional physical or relational exists fear based of the child becomes as significant to the parent parenting exists as the parent s own needs Conversely when the

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6 THE PRINCIPLES OF A NEW UNDERSTANDING parent is more concerned for her needs than the needs of the child then fear exists fear based parenting exists For example if a parent finds herself in a frustrated state demanding that the child respect her Look at me when I m talking to you or that the child change his tone of voice Don t use that tone of voice with me then she is at that moment more concerned with her own emotional wellbeing than with her child s emotional wellbeing While we typically justify this type of interaction under the premise that the child needs to learn how to act socially appropriate the core issue of being disconnected with the child s wellbeing goes unacknowledged Use this idea to gauge where you are in the moment with your child Stay mindful of whether you are more concerned about your own wellbeing or your child s wellbeing Genuine love puts you in a place where the two are equal This empathetic connectedness both to you and your child is a requirement of love based parenting Maintaining this balance is always more important than the task or parental request at hand When a parent can demonstrate this to the child the child develops a sense of security and in return develops the ability to selfregulate in times of stress and negative behaviors disappear Love based parenting elevates the importance of the relationship to the highest position No homework assignment no chore and no social etiquette is ever more important than the parent child relation ship Maintaining connectedness and attunement thereby sustaining the balance of love of Love based self and love of child is the primal outcome of every interaction the parent has with the child parenting elevates When this is achieved the other less significant the importance of items will take care of themselves The ultimate the relationship challenge in reaching this goal is that children both want and need autonomy independence to the highest yet they are biologically engineered to be in position relationships and to belong dependence This clash between the two is compounded by American culture where there is a powerful emphasis on the individual rather than on relationships on independence rather than dependence As a parent this need for both connection and separation can feel more like a crash than a clash especially when raising children with trauma histories This is due to the child s early history of experiencing fear and pain within the parent child relationship Vulnerability came at a tender age an age where the child was designed to experience attunement

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LOVE BASED PARENTING 7 safety attention acceptance validation tolerance patience kindness and joy Instead the child s experience was rampant with abandonment rejection loss isolation fear and anger The result is a child who stays in a place of self focused survival unable to connect yet terrified of being alone Our role as parents is to then teach a new definition of love or more correctly the true definition of unconditional love dissolving the negative experiences of the past in order to move into the parent child relationship safely and comfortably We need to realize that the child cannot always return the love he is given because he is unable to move out of his self preservation state of fear at the moment due to the painful experiences of his past Understanding Survival As parents we hold the ability to help define and re define our child s relational experiences The power of parenting is an amazing responsibility we carry Parenting children who either come into our homes from negative experiences or who had unavoidable traumatic experiences within our homes puts us in a place not only to create positive relational experiences but to overcome negative relational experiences This is what makes this responsibility so much more difficult than typical parenting And this is what makes it even more of a requirement to implement a love based parenting model It is an absolute necessity because we are dealing with children who are living in a place of survival To understand this term survival a quick study of the brain is necessary The brain is a network of individual cells called neurons within the nervous system It is an organ whose specialized function is for its linked collection of At a primal level similar cells to stand ready to perform ready for action This grouping of cells serves a primal there is no prize purpose survival for second place When trauma happens the signals A child or adult in become automatic and programmed into the body s stress response system At a primal level survival answers there is no prize for second place Hence the quest for survival is intense unbending and re not to the rules of lentless A child or adult in survival answers not logic but to raw to the rules of logic but to raw survival instincts survival instincts The brain is divided up into three dis tinct sub brains the reptilian brain the limbic

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8 THE PRINCIPLES OF A NEW UNDERSTANDING brain and the neocortical brain see Figure 2 1 The reptilian brain is steeped in the physiology of survival with its only goal being that of sustaining life It houses vital life functions neurons that control breathing swallowing and heart rate It is interesting to note that in a person who is literally brain dead it is this part of the brain that is still operational Figure 2 1 The second brain the limbic brain is what begins to distinguish mammals from reptiles Your high school biology class made the distinction between reptiles and mammals from a list that included the following 1 they grow hair instead of scales 2 they are selfwarming and 3 they bear their young internally instead of leaving them in the external environment in eggs Yet in this list one distinct difference was left out Mammals form close knit social groups and parents nurture and safeguard their young from the dangers of the world outside of their social groups or families A mammal will not hesitate to risk its life to protect its young or its mate Yet a reptile will sit and watch the death of its young without flinching It is the limbic brain that gives mammals the capacity to take on this life protector role and to have an intense awareness and concern for others

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LOVE BASED PARENTING 9 The neocortex is the third brain and in humans the largest Speaking writing planning and reasoning all originate in the neocortex Our level of awareness and our conscious motor control otherwise known as our will are found in this brain Our ability to focus attention to think abstractly to problem solve to reason and to plan makes its headquarters in the neocortex When parenting children with severe behaviors it is critical to understand that of these three brains the functions of the first two are involuntary Words logic consequences and reason mean absolutely nothing to at least two of the three brains To help a child access this third brain it takes creating a calm secure safe and loving environment rich with relationship It takes having positive relational experiences over and over to provide the opening for the child to move from this place of survival out of the first two brains and into the third brain the control center of one s will Creating such experiences is our responsibility as parents It is not our child s responsibility to give back in this parent child relationship for the moment because he simply is unable to do so when he is in his reptilian brain It is like asking a kindergartner to do calculus Impossible Out of Survival Into Relationships We must remember that a child caught in this place of survival cannot partake of or value a parent s point of view more than his own The road to healing comes in the parent first valuing and partaking in the child s viewpoint no matter how illogical or irrational it may seem to the parent For the child it is his reality thus it is his truth Validating him understanding him and respecting him notice agreeing with him is not listed here will create the path to We must remember moving the child from fear to love As the child experiences these qualities he is learning how that a child caught to do the same for others He is experiencing a in this place of shift from survival to relationship This type of survival cannot experiential knowledge far outpowers a parent lecture on how and why he should be caring partake of or value about others or why he should be doing what another parent s he was told We are given more years to create these point of view more positive experiences with our children than than his own any other species on the planet Humans have the longest childhood compared to other

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10 THE PRINCIPLES OF A NEW UNDERSTANDING primate species and most of it is spent relying on parents and others to meet the most basic of needs We are configured for relating to others and to develop this ability to its fullest we are given this time in our childhood Unfortunately when this time in childhood is not used in a positive way the impact on adulthood is significant As the child grows up and then attempts to navigate through adult relationships within a relational framework that is either distorted or flawed dysfunctional and failed relationships are often the result Creating a new framework one based in love not fear needs to be the most important goal for parents to get a child back on track Loving our children through our actions Every moment is and our commitment to their wellbeing hapan opportunity to pens in every interaction we have with them Every moment is an opportunity to help calm help calm their first their first two brains giving them the ability to two brains giving access their higher thinking brain Every moment is a moment to create a positive experithem the ability to ence between you and your child to develop healthy relational imprints For you individu access their higher ally every moment is a chance to challenge thinking brain conventional parenting based in fear in order to develop a deeper understanding within yourself as to the nature of unconditional love

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PART TWO Seven Behaviors Rooted in Fear Note All of the examples given in the next seven chapters represent true stories submitted to the author by parents who have implemented the Beyond Consequences principles

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 47 CHAPTER SEVEN Poor Social Skills A man s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends Ralph Waldo Emerson She knows how she is supposed to act but the minute she gets around her friends she acts crazy In her efforts to make friends she repels them I ask him how he is supposed to act and he can tell me no problem He knows better so why isn t he doing it Suzy has no sense of personal space interrupts constantly and acts like an idiot once she is around her friends no matter how much I coach her I cringe every time I watch Danny play with his friends He tries so hard and then when the other children ignore him or make fun of him he fights back and becomes aggressive My daughter never even attempts to join in with the other children She isolates herself just watches the other children and then complains of how miserable and lonely she is Do any of these thoughts or comments sound like ones you have had about your child It is a painful experience to be a parent and watch your child completely sabotage his social life We want our children to be able to develop friendships and to be liked and accepted by their peers For many of us as parents this desire stems from our own experiences as children when we were picked on singled out or rejected by our friends Were you always the last one to be picked for the kickball team Did your friends have sleepovers and not include you When you see history repeating itself with your own child it can be unbearable As human beings we are designed to be in relationships with one another It is in our biological programming to be connected When

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48 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR we are missing this piece in our life with peers our age it can literally be painful Dr Bruce Lipton author of The Biology of Belief speaks to the necessity of us living within a community We are designed at a biological and cellular level to live in relationships 1 Science now brings us the understanding we need to move beyond the importance of the individual and need to focus on the importance of the community British scientist Timothy Lenton has shown that evolution is more dependent on the interaction among species than it is on the interaction within a species 2 Life is a matter of the fittest groups rather than the fittest individuals It is in our relationships that life exists and that we live up to our fullest potential not within our individual singular selves Social skills are an absolute necessity We are designed to learn social skills as young children to then grow up and live abundant lives within the context of relationships These social skills include helping discussing compromising negotiating stating feelings desires cooperating taking turns empathizing with others and many more When these skills are not understood and implemented the social consequences can be immense for children Traditional View Traditionally programs and approaches to helping children learn social skills have been primarily cognitive and behavioral based Social Skills Training SST for instance is a form of behavior therapy used by teachers therapists and trainers to help children who have difficulties relating to their peers 3 Such approaches have focused on behavioral changes with the use of instructions coaching feedback behavior rehearsal and modeling As with most behavioral techniques the primary goal is to focus on facilitating the desirable behavior while simultaneously eliminating the undesirable behavior The idea is first to help children understand why appropriate skills are important for them to think through their choices when interacting with other children The National Association of School Psychologists recommends using primarily positive strategies when helping children They then encourage the use of punitive strategies if the positive approach is unsuccessful and the behavior is of a serious and or dangerous nature 4 When working with children to learn how to play and engage in groups traditional social skills approaches are based on the premise that children must learn how to play by the rules and that they need to learn how to cooperate within an activity This will then aid

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 49 in acquiring the ability to do preplanning and to organize successful interactions with peers The goal is for the child to take another child s perspective and to be able to negotiate learning to be accountable for his own actions A New View Fear is the Root While these traditional approaches appear reasonable at first when we consider the core emotional issues driving children s poor social skills it becomes clear the Traditional View has missed a vital piece to truly helping children Let s review the first two foundational principles of the Beyond Consequences paradigm see Beyond Consequences Logic and Control Volume 1 1 All behavior arises from an unconscious fear based state of stress 2 There are only two primary emotions love and fear Negative behavior is a sign of a stressed out child A stressed child is not working from an emotional state of love he is working from a framework of fear Traditional approaches neglect to consider or incorporate this essential understanding No matter how conscious or intentional a child s negative social interaction may appear the reality is that the child is being Your child s driven from an unconscious place The child is not aware of his behavior Dr Bruce Lipton reactions are reiterates this point when he writes The acautomatic and tions of the subconscious mind are reflexive in nature and are not governed by reason or thinkunintentional ing 5 Your child s reactions are automatic and not deliberate unintentional not deliberate or malicious To demonstrate how to help a child we begin this or malicious chapter s example with Billy Billy 8 years old is at a new restaurant with his family He cannot sit still he is laughing and talking in a loud voice and he is leaning back in his chair When dinner comes his table manners are that of 2 year old he reaches over his sister to grab more rolls while inhaling his dinner This is a child who has little awareness of the way he is acting

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50 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR Even though Billy has been through several sessions of Social Skills Training with his therapist as described in the Traditional View at this present moment it is as if this child was raised by wolves and never had a single table manner taught to him In his state of stress Billy simply cannot access the logical thinking part of his brain He is too overwhelmed emotionally and is operating from more of a primal place The abundance of being in a stimulating environment such as a restaurant where Billy is feeling unsettled and scared especially since this is a restaurant he has never visited has him in a heightened state of arousal Manners and social appropriateness are the last items on his agenda Billy is simply doing all he can to try to settle his system He is using the food as a means to regulate his internal system This is a common solution typical for all of us We have all at one time or another overeaten and stuffed ourselves with enjoyable food that gave us pleasure to distract ourselves from the discomfort of being in a stressful state Be honest with yourself Did you ever gorge on ice cream cookies or potato chips when you were stressed out It is the parent s role in such an example to help Billy create an awareness of what has happened to him since coming to this restaurant It is the parent s responsibility to help him learn to identify and regulate his stress Directing him at this moment to use his manners would only create more stress and more overwhelm Reminding him to use his restaurant voice would be ignoring Billy as an emotional being and would be responding to His knowledge him as if he is a robot not a little boy Threatening Billy with no dessert unless he calms down of good behavior would only keep Billy in his negative physihas been hijacked ological loop Billy does know how to behave by his state of fear He simply cannot behave right now because he is too dysregulated His knowledge of good and overwhelm behavior has been hijacked by his state of fear and overwhelm The solution is to calm Billy down Then and only then will he be able put his social training into action Billy how about you and I take a break from this for a moment and get some fresh air Just for a minute we ll come right back I want to make sure you re okay sweetheart Mom doesn t mention his behavior for the moment She reassures him that

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 51 they will be returning to the table and she uses a soft tone and an endearing nickname sweetheart Mom is working to interrupt the negative loop Billy is caught in through her emotional attunement not through behavioral directives As mom is able to use her relationship with Billy to attend to his emotional needs Billy is learning the life lesson of how to regulate Such interactions repeated over time will give Billy the experience to be stressed out and then return to a state of calm and peace His ability to modulate this over abundance of stress without reverting to negative behaviors will improve more and more as he has positive and nurturing experiences These experiences are programming Billy to learn how to self regulate At this point in his development he does not have the coping skills to do it on his own The parent s calm and loving response is equipping him to be able to do it on his own in the future The Traumatized Child Children with grossly underdeveloped social skills have become this way due to their previous experiences of being in relationships that have caused pain Their histories of trauma cannot be minimized or underestimated Toxic care giving in examples of abuse or neglect affects the child s ability to regulate from a body level Traumatic experiences short circuit the body s natural ability to regulate the body s response to stress and impedes the body s ability to return to a state of balance when triggered by stress These experiences left unchecked leave the child in a hyperaroused state of stress In other words the child is left in perpetual overdrive unable to hit the brakes to slow down on his own When Billy as in the example above becomes stressed his response is to go into overdrive This is a learned automatic reaction due to his early life experiences Expecting him to stop and think through his behaviors is beyond his capacity at this point in his development Parent Child Social Skills Training The minute a child is born he begins learning social interaction skills It is in the primal relationship with his mother that nature s social skills training course begins Dr Allan Schore an expert in the field of affect regulation describes that when the mother looks at the baby and the two of them connect through their facial expressions the infant is learning to relate in the safety of this relationship He also writes that when these interactions are not safe and when an infant misses out on these experiences the

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52 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR child will grow up having difficulty interacting appropriately in relationships 6 Daniel Goleman author of Social Intelligence writes This parent loop offers the central passageway for parents to help their children learn the ground rules for relationships how to attend to another person how to pace an interaction how to engage in conversation how to tune in to the other person s feelings and how to manage your own feelings while you are engaged with someone else These essential lessons lay the foundations for a competent social life 7 The ability to feel with others to sense non verbal emotional signals to listen with full receptivity to understand another person s thoughts and intentions and to care about another person s needs comes from experiential knowledge This experiential knowledge comes from having someone such as a parent interact with you at this emotional level They cannot come from cognitive training as suggested in the Traditional View This is why parenting your child from a relational framework becomes a powerful force in helping your child develop effective social skills Checking back in with Billy at the restaurant let s see how mom responds to her stressed out child Wow Billy it s pretty loud and busy inside that restaurant isn t it Billy wordlessly nods a Yes Let s you and I take a break outside here and then we ll go back in when we feel calmer Mom takes a few deep breaths and motions for Billy to sit down next to her They sit for a few minutes having a light conversation and a few laughs about the little bug crawling up the flowers they are sitting next to and then mom asks Billy You seem a lot calmer now are you ready to go back inside Billy s mom is working to interact with Billy to provide safety and a calm presence in order for Billy to calm down Her attunement to how he is feeling is giving him the experience of someone understanding his needs She places the importance of her relationship with him over the importance of him being obedient and well mannered in the restaurant Mom understands that once Billy is calm and regulated he will then be able to demonstrate appropriate manners As they walk into the restaurant Mom says to Billy Now that we re back inside how about we both use our restaurant voices

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 53 and our good manners at the table Billy nods his head and sits back down to finish his dinner in a way that even Ms Manners would applaud Billy is now able to use his social skills because he is calm enough to think clearly Self esteem and Social Skills Research has shown that a child s level of self esteem directly influences the child s ability to socially engage in appropriate ways 8 In other words a child with low self esteem is typically a child with poor social skills A child with low self esteem easily becomes an outcast in social situations and has difficulty relating to his peers because of two basic factors 1 His lack of emotional regulation 2 His status at the bottom of the social totem pole simply invites rejection and being picked on by his peers Additionally Bowlby s work suggests that children with low selfesteem seek out peers who will confirm their low sense of self a selffulfilling prophecy of sorts 9 Some children will go as far as to invite negative interactions whereas Johnny will say to a bully Aren t you going to tease me today I promise I won t get mad It is the parent s responsibility to help develop the child s emotional regulatory ability and to help build the child s self esteem Simply sending a child out into the middle of a playground to figure it out on his own will only create more of the same a child who is even more dysregulated and a child who is reinforcing his belief that he is not lovable as he continues to be rejected by his own peers Research reinforces the significance of this parent child relationship in preparation for peer relationships It has been shown that when children have feelings of The level of trust and security in the parent child relation10 self worth children ship they have a higher level of self esteem When children boys in particular felt conhave with their trolled and dominated by the parent they had peers is directly lower self esteem levels This research is reinforcing that the level of self worth children have influenced by the with their peers is directly influenced by the parent child parent child relationship 11 This is significant to the way in which children need to be parented relationship for them to succeed in their relationships

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54 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR outside the home Parenting from the Beyond Consequences paradigm where the child is taught to self regulate through a safe and loving relationship with the parent s and where the child is accepted unconditionally will equip a child for a lifetime of successful social interactions One mother s story locks this in beautifully My daughter at age 8 was a complete outcast with her peers When she wasn t being picked on she would isolate herself in the far corner of the playground playing and talking to herself After six years of parenting her through this love based paradigm I found myself in tears of joy when I had a conference with her teacher I asked the teacher how she was doing socially and he replied It is amazing She is liked by everybody We had an awards ceremony last week When your daughter was recognized for her efforts on the basketball team she received the loudest roar not once but twice louder than any of the other students She has an uncanny ability to relate to all the students and to all the social clicks in her grade That is rare for a middle schooler Consider Your Child s Emotional Age Children learn social skills with age If you have a child whose emotional age is less than his chronological age he will most likely have difficulty connecting with peers in the same grade level For instance let s say that your child is 8 years old yet he is emotionally and socially more the level of a 5 or 6 year old That would be like putting a kindergartener in with a group of third graders He would get eaten alive He simply doesn t have the skills to relate on the same level There are three basic categories of social skills children learn as they develop physical verbal and thinking Review the chart on page to see if your child s social behaviors are reflective of the examples given Notice the other children in his playgroup or in his classroom and see if they are having the same difficulties as your child If your child is the minority then he is more emotionally immature than his peers and needs more time to master these social skills If your child is emotionally 5 and you are expecting him to behave like a 7 year old your expectation is unfair to his ability It is overwhelming and scary for a child to be emotionally 5 and be expected to interact appropriately with older children This fear is the root cause of many children s aggressive social behaviors The child

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 55 becomes so overwhelmed that he goes into fight mode and attacks Sandy was with her mom at a playgroup in the local Burger King s children s area When Sandy was in a closed area with the other girls she became verbally aggressive and began biting the other children Traditionally the caretaker would pull Sandy out and lecture her about not biting and perhaps put her in a time out With the Beyond Consequences approach we now recognize that Sandy is feeling overwhelmed and very scared An attacking behavior such as biting is a clear indication of a child who is feeling threatened Sandy needs the adult in her life to acknowledge her fear instead of lecturing her about appropriate behavior Sandy s mom comes over and picks her up She takes Sandy to a quieter place in the restaurant and reassures Sandy that she will be okay Mom says Sandy it looks like you got really scared with the other girls I m sorry you felt so unsafe sweetheart Mom holds Sandy and rocks her gently Once Sandy is calm Mom asks Sandy if she is ready to go back and play This gives Sandy the chance to set her own limits and begin the process of self awareness Yet before Sandy jumps into the middle of the play area Mom says to Sandy If you get scared again just come get me so I can keep you safe I ll be right over on that bench This gives Sandy an alternative to biting If Sandy s mother notices this behavior happens frequently she should set up play dates with younger children Younger children would give Sandy the opportunity to play with children more her emotional age giving her a safer environment in which to develop her social skills With enough repetition and loving support Sandy will advance her social age to meet her chronological age Provide a Regulated Environment Children need to learn to play and interact in a regulated and safe environment In the example with Sandy her mom let her know that she would be right there if she needed her help Children need an adult either right there during the social exchange in cases where the child is overly stressed and scared or in close proximity The adult provides a safe base for a child and

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56 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR creates a level of safety he does not have on his own It is similar to the behavior of a typical 2 year old At 2 years old a toddler begins to separate from his caretaker and runs off to explore his environment He then comes back within a short time to reconnect with his mommy or daddy He is coming back seeking safety and regulation Eventually the time he can stay away from the parent lengthens and he develops the ability to self regulate and feel safe on his own Applying this same instinctual process when your child is playing with another child it is important for you to be nearby to be attuned and to be attentive to what is happening with the two children Allow some space for the child to work through challenges but come in and be part of the play to keep the situation from snowballing out of control if needed A more proactive approach would be to systematically come in and check in with your child every 10 or 15 minutes Hi Richey Just making sure you re all right Okay glad you and Jimmy are having fun Come get me if you need me I ll be right next door in the living room Social interactions are stressful for children play is their work Interrupt the play experience with quick visits to reconnect and to help regulate your child Offer a snack suggest a new game or a change in environment such as going outside and limit the time of the play in the beginning until you have a better understanding of your child s window of stress tolerance In the beginning it may not be in your child s best interest to go to another child s home to play without you A new environment can be too overwhelming and scary Instead of dropping off your child stay with him and visit with the parent Be available if your child needs you This is especially true for group gatherings such as birthday parties Do not leave your child alone until you are certain he is ready even if you are the only parent there It is more important for you to create safety for your child so he learns to handle such events on his own in the future Risk looking like the overbearing parent Most parents have no framework to understand that you are staying for your child s sake and many parents may conclude you are having issues letting your child grow up Stay confident in knowing you are providing exactly what your child needs and simply say to the parent host I d like to stay just so I know that Jenny is okay and doesn t get too overwhelmed with all the excitement and fun Outside Social Play Playing outside can be a stimulating experience

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 57 for children Big open spaces with numerous things to explore and with other children running around to compete with can be just too much for many children Here is a prime example from one mother As soon as the summer began my daughter Tina began losing control of her bladder and urinating on herself and in the house This behavior had cleared up since last summer but now it was back I was at my wits end the stench of the urine was more than I could handle Honestly I wanted her out of my house for good I just didn t know how I was going to handle another summer like the ones previous When I talked with my therapist I mentioned that since the beginning of the summer Tina was playing outside all day long with her siblings and neighborhood friends My therapist was able to make the connection between Tina s increase in stress level and the increased time of outdoor play I began to understand that while playing outside is good for children for Tina this kind of unregulated free play was far too much for her neurological system Her body had become dysregulated and she was so hyper aroused internally that she had lost control of her bodily signals Consequencing or punishing Tina or even talking to her about using the bathroom was ineffective What Tina needed was less time in a big open environment and more check in time with me As I began to regulate Tina s playtime and provide more opportunities for Tina to connect with me Tina s system was able to settle back down and return to a state of regulation and balance The urinating issue virtually disappeared within a week The same is true for school environments Too many children on the playground with too few adults is a threatening environment Think about the last time you went onto a playground whether at your child s school or at a local park Where did the children gravitate to when you walked onto the playground They came to you Children naturally seek regulated adults when they are in overwhelming environments Some children may need you to limit the amount of space they play in or limit the amount of time they play together When given the choice to either stay in the library or go to recess many children who have had difficulties becoming aggressive during recess have actually chosen the library They inherently know they do not feel safe in the playground

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58 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR Chart of Social Difficulties Physical Difficulties 1 Physical proximity a Child keeps touching the other children and has no sense of personal space Other children complain tell him to stop touching me b Child pushes other children out of the way to join the conversation c Child is in your face when talking 2 Body Gestures a The child s body language doesn t match the event Example the child waves too strongly in an exaggerated way when saying goodbye b The child s body movements don t seem to connect with what he is saying 3 Eye Contact a Child can t look others in the eye b Child stares to the point of being uncomfortable Verbal Difficulties 1 Turn taking a Consistently interrupts b Doesn t allow time for someone else to have a turn talking c Insists on going first 2 Timing a Child talks too fast b Child shares way too much information to the point that the other person becomes irritated and bored c Child doesn t have an understanding of pause time how long you need to wait before adding to the conversation d Child doesn t know how to add a comment or let others speak

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 3 Voice a Speaks too loudly or too softly especially in relation to the distance of the other person Example child talks to you as if you re standing 10 feet away and you re only 1 foot away b Talks in a monotone c Speaks in a way that you can t understand him 4 Feedback a Child doesn t give any signals that he is listening to you b Child gives inappropriate and sometimes rude feedback You re fat 5 Beginnings and endings a Child jumps into a conversation with no transition or introducing himself b Child closes the conversation by simply walking away when he is done talking with no goodbye c Child doesn t acknowledge others when they join the group Thinking Difficulties 1 Feelings a Child is not attuned to the other person s feelings Can I see where you buried your dog today b Child does not consider how the impact of what he says may affect someone Child is given a new toy for his birthday and says I hate Spiderman c Child has little to no awareness of current situations You re in the middle of an upsetting conversation and your child asks you go buy food for his gerbil 2 Humor a Laughs or talks at inappropriate times or situations b Takes jokes and sarcasm literally c Cannot distinguish between someone laughing with him or laughing at him 59

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60 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR Teachers can also limit the amount of space a child plays in to create safety Jimmy I want to make sure you feel safe when you re at recess today so how about you just play right around here instead of the whole playground Limiting this space and staying in close proximity can prevent a child from becoming scared and aggressive during recess At a school for emotionally challenged children a fifth grade class with children ranging from ages 10 to 13 was on the playground The teacher and the aid were in the middle of the playground sitting and talking on the picnic table Instead of playing the children continued to migrate around the picnic table The teacher kept saying Go on scat go play Stop hanging around this table These children were communicating their needs yet the teacher was not listening What a perfect opportunity to teach these children how to interact But all too often these opportunities are missed and we view children as irritating as in this example These children needed to have a regulated adult help them learn to interact and to keep the social environment safe right there in their own environment not in a therapy session talking about it later in the day Here is what happened in this story The on site therapist walked onto the playground She checked in with the teacher to see if it would be alright if she interacted with the children during their recess She organized a game of tag and played with the children When disagreements arose and issues of fairness surfaced she was there to help guide them and help them learn to stay regulated instead of becoming aggressive and defiant For the first time ever not one child in this class had to be disciplined had points removed from his point chart or was sent for a time out during recess These children were able to play and interact appropriately because the element of Children cannot fear and survival was eliminated Children are able to get outside of their own perspective see another child s when they feel safe it is then that the world no perspective longer revolves around them When they are until they get secure they have the capacity to connect It comes down to one basic principle Children out of survival cannot see another child s perspective until they get out of survival The Traditional View neglects to understand or address this basic principle of human behavior The ability to be socially connected does

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS 61 not come from a cognitive framework Rather the ability to be socially connected comes from non cognitive capacities like empathy and synchrony These are what connect us to other people This is best stated by Richard Davidson director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin All emotions are social You can t separate the cause of an emotion from the world of relationships our social interactions are what drive our emotions 11 Provide a child safety unconditional love and support to meet his emotional needs and you will be equipping him with the capacity to have effective and appropriate social skills for life Parenting Example Social Skills Scenario Peter was turning 5 years old His parents decided to invite some of the neighborhood children over to play and have a cupcake to celebrate Peter s birthday When the children began arriving with their parents Peter refused to go play with the children and instead wanted to be near the adults As Peter s dad began socializing with the other parents Peter started climbing onto the counter Peter s dad reminded Peter that this behavior was against the house rules and encouraged Peter to go play with his friends Peter became agitated jumping around and again began climbing on the counter Traditional View Peter is clearly trying to ruin the conversation his father is having with the other parents and is just being disruptive Peter needs to learn to respect adults and be polite and courteous when they are speaking to one another Additionally Peter s parents have planned this party just for Peter and he needs to go play with the other children not hang around the adults It is so important for Peter to learn to socialize and begin developing friendships Being that it is his birthday and he will be the center of attention this should be the easiest day of the year to interact easily and appropriately with his playmates Peter s dad finally has enough of this behavior and takes Peter to the other room to play with the other children Dad explains to Peter

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62 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR these children have come over to play with Peter and that he needs to stop being rude and needs to play with them Dad reminds Peter that he knows how to be nice and that he needs to use his manners with the other children Dad returns to the other room Within minutes Peter is back in the room with his dad and the other adults He continues to be disruptive so dad gives Peter the choice to either go play with the other children or go to his room for a time out This exchange escalates and dad in his state of complete frustration and embarrassment ultimately threatens Peter with no cupcake for being rude to him and to his friends A New View Dad recognizes there is so much going on at their house that Peter is getting dysregulated and overwhelmed Dad excuses himself from the adult conversation and takes Peter into the living room away from everybody to talk to him and help him calm down Dad gently holds Peter and puts him on his lap Dad breathes and calms his own nervous system Dad realizes that he was beginning to get embarrassed in front of the other parents with Peter s behavior so he acknowledges this feeling and gets himself focused on what is going on with Peter Being mindful that his deep voice can be scary for Peter Dad softens his tone and lowers the volume of his voice when speaking to Peter Dad begins asking a few questions to see if he can work to understand what has Peter so upset After a few dead end questions Peter finally blurts out Cupcake and immediately relaxes into his dad s arms Dad realizes what the fear is for Peter he is worried that he will not get a cupcake Peter sees all the adults and children and he is afraid there would not be enough cupcakes He is afraid he would not get his cupcake on his special day Dad reassures Peter that he will definitely get his cupcake and takes Peter by the hand He has Peter point out the cupcake he wants Dad picks up the cupcake and places it in a special place and reassures him that nobody is allowed this cupcake except Peter Peter smiles and he runs off to play His fear is calmed and he now

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POOR SOCIAL SKILLS has the capacity to play nicely with his friends Dad reflects about how important this interaction was for the two of them Dad realizes if he had implemented traditional parenting techniques and threatened to not give Peter a cupcake because of his disruptive behavior Dad would have only been creating more fear in a child who was acting out because of fear Dad also realizes the opportunity for Peter to play and to be the birthday boy with his friends is a valuable and memorable experience for Peter that was not lost True story 63

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64 SEVEN BEHAVIORS ROOTED IN FEAR Quick Reference Social Skills Remember that a child struggling socially May be a reminder of the parent s social challenges from their own childhood Is being driven from a state of fear it is not a conscious choice Is hyperaroused and will have a difficult time connecting at the cognitive and rational level Needs a regulated adult to attend to his emotional needs Will learn social skills through experiencing it with a regulated safe and nurturing adult Is likely much younger emotionally and developmentally than his peers When helping a child struggling socially recognize that he needs you to Align with your own fears of him not having friends for the rest of his life Give him understanding rather than lecturing him Be a safe base for him so he can regulate through his relationship with you Be proactive and interrupt or shorten his play time so he does not get too overwhelmed Provide a smaller area to play instead of a large open play space Provide calmer social environments to avoid becoming overwhelmed in the beginning Chuck E Cheese may be too much Model loving and safe social interactions so he can experience this beyond his cognitive thinking level Connect with him so he can express and work through his fears with you