Bryan is a best selling author, child behavior expert and consultant, internationally recognized speaker on challenging behaviors and attachment issues, and founder of The Post Institute for Family Centered Therapy.
I have spent the last 15 years working with some of the most difficult scared and fearful children in the social services system. Typically on weekends we’d have kids over to the house for cookouts fun, music, and swimming. The kids that visited our home were not your everyday kids; these kids spent most of their lives locked away inside of residential treatment centers, or shuffled from one home to the next, or dealing with the police on a regular basis. So as you can imagine, hanging out at the house, swimming, horseplaying, and generally just having a good old-fashioned time is quite the delight to these children.
We had a birthday party for a nineteen year old that was living with us and the kids from our Post Group Home came over. At one point my wife said, “Do you have any idea what is occurring here?” Her point was that in that little beach shack we had gathered 7 of Virginia’s “most difficult, hard to place” children for a birthday party! Every one of those kids had come from a residential treatment placement. You should have seen the time they had – it was great. There was not a single negative occurrence. Could there have been? Yes, could have been complete and utter hell. Why not then?
I have found that most of the agencies that have taken these children into custody are terrified by them. What they know about these kids is what is reported by referring agencies that are also terrified by them, so you can imagine what that reporting looks like. When you only read about negative behaviors, you make a judgment, an easy one for many of our children, that they are out of control, scary, and need to learn how to act appropriately.
A young man in our care had charges pressed against him by a staff person from his school because our young man struck him. Hearing that you just made a judgment that our kiddo must have been out of control, obviously has to be a big and imposing figure and was most likely bullying the poor little staff person. Well the truth is that our kid was cornered by two grown men, had a rubber ruler jerked from his hands, and then tried to run. Because he was cornered and weighs 120lbs soaking wet at a very imposing 5’5” tall he struck the grown man in the process. Fear and survival instincts run deep in challenging children. Who was really responsible here? My opinion and stance was if this little jerk of an adult has my kid hauled into court I was going to encourage counter charges against him, and the charge would have been child abuse!
So why did our party go so well? There were no cops, no rigid staff, and no rules to speak of other than be nice and have a good time. Because we work backwards, see the child first as a human being. Looking first at his level of stress sensitivity and fear-full-ness, help children to feel safe at a core level, and then systematically, routinely, and consistently help him to work through his fear, mistrust and negative behaviors to learn how to feel secure in relationship, loved, trusting, and expressive of his feelings without the need to act them out negatively. First and foremost we do this by modeling compassion, understanding, flexibility, forgiveness, acceptance, love and responsibility. Children’s behaviors will change when our behaviors as parents change.
How long will it take adults to realize that children cannot and do not learn from rigid, harsh, reactive, and consequential approaches? I have a very, very, very simple and profound belief, “If something you are doing works then you don’t have to keep doing it!” Remember, it is not the behaviors that you are working with – it is a child. When the fear and stress go, so will the behaviors.
Choose Love…and Peace will Follow,
Bryan Post is a best-selling author, internationally renowned speaker, and psychotherapist specializing in attachment, adoption and trauma. To learn more about Parenting Challenging Children, Oxytocin the Love Hormone, Mindfulness, and How to Thrive instead of just survive as an adoptive or foster parent, visit www.postinstitute.com, www.oxytocincentral.com, and www.reactiveattachmentdisorderparenting.com, To find out more about Bryan Post’s ground breaking parenting program Parenting Attachment Challenged Children “Hands-On” Home Study Course visit www.postinstitute.comAattachmentDisorder. Join our Facebook page for daily parenting help and inspiration, videos, articles and contests along with other parents and professionals just like yourself. Also visit our Blog at www.bryanpost.com.
This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit gailkasper.com.