You may have heard the term “Therapeutic Parenting” and are wondering what that is or if it could be helpful for you. Therapeutic parenting is an alternative to traditional parenting so let’s define what that is first and then look at how therapeutic parenting differs and how it may be just what you are looking for.
Traditional parenting is based on the premise that a solid and secure relationship was developed early and continues to exist between the parent(s) and the child. In this scenario the bond between the parent(s) and child was developed in a healthy way and has not been broken by severe trauma or disrupted attachment.
“Healthy attachment is a reciprocal, enduring emotional connection between a child and his/her primary care-giver(s) that begins when the child is in utero.
For some children, this attachment is disrupted through a variety of circumstances such as the abrupt loss of or extended separation from a parent, child abuse or neglect, invasive and/or painful medical procedures, prenatal exposure to toxins and/or neurological problems. A child is at highest risk of attachment related problems if these disruptions occur during the first two years of their life.” (http://studentsfirstproject.org)
Attachment can be disrupted for many reasons:
In a relationship where the children are secure they are able to rely on their parent(s) for guidance and when things get off track the combination of behavior modification and positive parenting methods gets things back on track fairly quickly. This is the ideal situation and is what we all hope for when we have kids but for many who foster or adopt children this is not an immediate possibility and for many others this process was disrupted with their birth children and needs to be repaired. That is where therapeutic parenting comes in.
Therapeutic parenting, which I also refer to as reparative parenting or connected parenting, focuses on developing this missing security in a relationship after the ideal time for that to be developed. Think about it like learning a language. When we are in the early readiness period for learning a language, we soak it in without effort. We learn it in a traditional manner, from our parents in the natural communications of day to day life. However, if you are in a situation where you need to learn a new language after that readiness period you would have to use other more intentional methods. It is the same with learning the language of security in relationships after the readiness period and after learning a different relationship language based on fear and insecurity. This intentional method of teaching security is what we refer to as therapeutic parenting.
Therapeutic parenting is a brain-based model which works with how the brain functions and processes information, experiences and relationships. In doing so we can intentionally rewire how the brain processes interactions, resolve the fear-based patters and replace them with security-based patterns. A fear-based brain produces chaos and survival behaviors while a security-based brain produces peace and growth-based behaviors. So, our overall goal is to get hurt kids out of fear-based survival mode and into a security-based growth mode. When we do this, kids heal, develop new patterns of interactions and their behaviors improve. The problem with using traditional parenting with kids who need therapeutic parenting is that it focuses on the behaviors as if the underlying security was there. When it is not, those behavior based interventions trigger fear and send the child into chaos and survival mode.
If you not sure and you want to “just be friends” with therapeutic parenting you can check out our free Facebook group and the free resources, including our free eBook on this site.
If you are ready to maybe go on a “first date” with therapeutic parenting you can take advantage of our DANCE Course for $37 (see description below).
If your ready for a more “serious relationship” with therapeutic parenting you can join many others on a similar journey and join our My Kids Membership Community (see description below) with a 30 day money back guarantee…so your not married to anything 😉.
This course accompanies the free eBook also available on the site. This course includes 8 videos explaining the step by step process on implementing the DANCE model which is a therapeutic parenting technique that helps you end the battles in the home and instead begin to do a relational DANCE. You can get it here.
In this community you will get:
You can join the community here.
Recently I was talking to a foster parent working towards adoption who said she was considering going back to school for psychology to help the kids she was fostering and adopting. She was seriously considering this because it is so difficult to find answers on how to help kids with severe attachment issues and traumas. Isn’t that sad!? Adoption shouldn’t be this hard!
I’m sure many of you can relate to this feeling…I sure can! I was actually in a masters program for counseling when we started foster care and was appalled at the lack of answers I found there. I asked one professor how I could help my foster daughter and he had not advice or direction to give, only a warning…he told me to be ready for her to falsely accuse me of abusing her. That was his answer! That was unacceptable so I set out on a quest to find answers, help my foster kids and eventually to provide these answers to others in my situation.
You can find several free resources as well as a course and a membership site at www.MyKidsCommunity.com.
This course accompanies the free eBook also available on the site. This course includes 8 videos explaining the step by step process on implementing the DANCE model which is a therapeutic parenting technique that helps you end the battles in the home and instead begin to do a relational DANCE.
In this community you will get
Do your kids ever blame you for what they’ve done? Ready to lose your mind with all the circular thinking?
If you’re a foster/adoptive parent my guess is the answer is “yes!”
“I can’t believe you were digging to find something I did wrong…sorry I can’t be perfect like you want.” Wait, I wasn’t digging…perfect? who said you had to be perfect?…wait you’re the one that _________ why am I the bad guy.
Or, how about this?
“If you weren’t so judgmental of me…have such high expectations…want me to be like your real kids…I wouldn’t have to do this kind of stuff.” Wait our expectations are actually really low…like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be cruel…wait how am I the bad guy again you just ___________.
It’s as if in the factory they got the wrong program…or maybe the wires got crossed and they keep jumping in and out of different realities.
Actually, it’s the trauma brain…your child got a new program somewhere in the early years that switches them out of their rational brain and into their survival brain REALLY easily. Because of this, you have to do things differently…traditional parenting will keep letting you down.
If you do this over and over again, your child’s trauma brain will start to heal. It’s not easy and I know this is a bit simplified but it is one of the greatest acts of love you can do for the hurt child(ren) God has called you to raise. They aren’t in your home by mistake…God knew you could handle it…he just never expected you to handle it on your own.
Our DANCE model is one part of our My Kids Community and is a good starting point for people looking to transition to therapeutic parenting because traditional parenting isn’t working. DANCE is an acronym for Decision, Acceptance, Non-Judgmental, Curiosity, and Empathy.
I’d like to give you a free eBook explaining the DANCE Model…you can get it here.
Often when I talk to parents who are raising hurt kids they express feeling like a failure. They may even feel powerless to change this and bitter at their circumstances, the system or even their kids. This is so sad to me as we have not only let down these kids, but we’ve abandoned the families who are called to raise them. To begin changing this we need to redefine what it means to be successful as a therapeutic parent so we can empower parents on this very difficult but sacred journey or parenting the most vulnerable of God’s children.
If we look only at the behaviors of our kids our feelings of success will vacillate depending on how our kids are doing. This is destructive to our sense of ourselves as parents because hurt kids go in and out of survival mode based on their past traumas and attachment wounds. In survival mode we will see our children manipulate, lie, steal, act out and hurt those who are trying to love them. Other times they will manipulate others into thinking they are sweet well-behaved kids and we as the parents are the problem. Then we get glimpses of the kids we know they can be as they connect and interact in healthier ways. This sends our feelings of success and failure all over the place until we begin to conclude the worst about our kids and the worst about ourselves as parents.
As a parent of adopted children in addition to being a therapeutic parent coach and therapist, I’ve been there myself and understand these feelings of desperation. I used to be controlled by my children’s manipulation and got sucked into trying to control them and their behaviors more often than I’d like to admit. This is different now because I now measure my success as a therapeutic parent not on how well I control my kids’ behavior but how much self-control I can have even when the wheels are coming off and my child is in full chaos. I now measure my success in this way not only because it empowers me but because it is also what my children need. They need someone who is self-controlled in the chaos so they have a place to find security when they are ready. When their chaos doesn’t become my chaos, my self-control begins to empower them to also have self-control.
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
Here we see that we are blessed when we don’t get pulled into the chaos of others and instead find our security in the Lord. If we stay firm in Him we become like a “tree planed by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.” A tree is firmly rooted and does not get pulled out of the ground and thrown about at every little storm. The most significant part of this is that our job is to bear fruit, correct? I can only bear fruit if I am firmly rooted and self-controlled. This will bear fruit in my family, in my life, and in my children’s lives.
So I was sitting there looking at this woman trying to figure out what to say to such an absurd question…then it hit me, it wasn’t an absurd question to her and probably wasn’t to most of the people she had asked it to previously. We were in the process of adopting two of our kids who had been with us as foster children for almost two years and this woman was asking questions for our home study to see if we could adopt these children. The question she asked was why do you want to adopt “these kids?” After staring at her confused for a few seconds thinking “well which ones do you think I would want to adopt” I simply replied “because they are the ones they gave us.” Now SHE looked confused. She said “yeah but what about them makes you want to adopt them.” Ah, yes, there it is. She was looking for something conditional about these kids that makes me want to adopt them. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, kids change! If I want to adopt them because I like certain things about them, then what happens when that changes? This is how we pick puppies from the pound but shouldn’t be how we adopt kids. So my next response was a defiant “because they are my kids!” I wanted to ask why she wanted to keep her kids but I didn’t. You see, when a child is born into a family, the parents already decided to love that child long before he or she was born and no matter what the child’s attributes are, they love them. You don’t see parents at the hospital looking at their child and deciding if they are going to keep them or not, do you? No! So when a foster child comes into our home we have already been praying for that child and loving that child no matter what they are like or what is wrong with them. They are our kids!
As a licensed counselor and therapeutic parent coach who specializes in working with foster, adopted, traumatized and difficult children I work with a lot of parents on this concept of unconditional love. Not only do we have to unconditionally love our kids, but they have to feel and believe that we do. This is where it gets hard. Every child needs someone to say “that’s my kid” and mean it with every fiber of their being no matter what happens or what the child does. But beyond that, the child has to take a risk and believe it. Hurt kids have a hard time doing this and often push parents away and even make parents act in ways that the child uses to confirm that they aren’t loved. Really bad and destructive patterns emerge when we don’t know how to handle situations with “hurt kids.” Notice I say “hurt kids” and not “bad kids.” These kids are hurting and they need someone to love them in a way that the child can believe them.
There was a point in time when I decided to be God’s child. I decided to let him adopt me into his family. Maybe you have as well? When we do that God reaches down, takes us in his arms and says “my kid” and it’s done. You are his kid unconditionally, no matter what you have done or how damaged you are. This is the model we have for adoption and for parenting, but it is hard to live. The “My Kids” program was started to help make this a reality. Our passion is for every child to have someone say “My Kid” and mean it and for every child to have the chance to take the risk and believe it.
My wife and I currently have 10 children in our home. Some are our biological children, others are adopted and others are foster children. But they are all our kids, period. People often ask “which ones are ours” to which we give a really confused look and say, “well all of them are ours.” James 1:27 commands us to look after the orphans. The My Kids program is committed to fulfilling this command and pursuing the goal of every child having someone say “my kid” and mean it.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
Have you ever heard that you should pick your battles in parenting? What if I told you that you didn’t have to battle at all? You would think I was nuts right? Well I might be, but the fact is, you never have to battle with your kids. It’s true!
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
God commands us to be obedient but that is in the context of a relationship. Luke 6:45 tells us that what is in a person’s heart is what leads to the outward expression of either good or evil. If we focus just on this outward expression, we battle. When we focus on the heart we don’t have to battle, we learn to connect and DANCE with our children.
“Dance? What do you mean dance? I don’t like to dance!”
I am talking about doing a relational dance with your kids. When your child (or anyone for that matter) engages in a negative behavior, they are communicating something to you. They are insecure and acting on what is in their heart. Are you listening? When we address the behavior we battle. When we address the heart, we dance.
All negative behavior comes out of some insecurity that your child can’t regulate. When we battle our kids, they perceive us as against them and as a threat to what they are trying to do to resolve the insecurity. What if you could help them deal with the insecurity and not get caught up in battles no one wins? “Wow, that would be cool!”
This is just the basics…are you ready to dig in and learn to DANCE with your kids? We have a free book for you…just go to www.MyKidsCommunity.com and download it. You can download an electronic copy or we can send you a hard copy (We just ask you to pay the shipping for the hard copy).
3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
As a parent, I know the feeling well… I felt desperate, hopeless and overwhelmed with no end in sight, and nowhere to turn. This is where I was with a new baby and a traumatized 13 year old foster daughter. I had no idea how to make it work and felt I was failing my children. We considered throwing in the towel, but my wife and I were certain God’s calling for our lives was to help damaged children heal and understand His love.
Now 12 year later we are going to be celebrating our daughters 25th birthday. She is working full time, living on her own and has a goal of becoming a child case worker someday. In that 12 years our family has grown to include 11 children and our life is mostly chaos free. That’s right, we were overwhelmed and about to give up with two, and now we have 11! A lot has happened in 12 years to make this possible. After a major shift in our philosophy on parenting and learning techniques that work with even the most difficult kids, we are not just surviving but are thriving as parents.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because I want you to feel the freedom I feel. I spent the last 12 years learning from the best in the field, navigating challenges in my own family and developing a professional practice where I have helped many families find freedom. I learned that behavior modification strategies and traditional parenting don’t work with difficult children and often make it worse. I learned how to work from a brain based, attachment perspective to free children from the trauma, attachment issues and behavioral difficulties. In this process, I have seen many parents empowered as they learned to connect with and guide their children instead of trying to control their behaviors. Listen to what some parents have to says about her experience:
“For seven years, we have seen traumatic stress counselors, psychiatrists, family therapists and group therapists, without success. In the beginning of April 2014, I sought parenting strategies at Grace Wellness Center for my adoptive teenage daughter who has RAD. The strategies and encouragement have been exactly what my husband and I needed. The coaching and time spent learning how to deal with ongoing situations has yielded great benefits for our family. I would encourage any parent especially parents of children with RAD to give this avenue a serious try.” (Dana C)
“Thank you for facilitating the My Kids boot camp. It was pivotal for us in learning how to effectively parent our RAD daughter. What a difference it has made for our whole family. Frankly, it has helped us across the board in our marriage, friendships, family relationships, and professional relationships. We would highly recommend this “boot camp” for parents who are challenged in raising attachment disorder children. Honestly, we are filled with hope and promise now more than ever!” (JD & SD)
Are you ready to move past the frustrations and stress and enjoy your family? We have a plan.
Join the My Kids Community today:
I was once asked if, as Christians, we should be plan makers or order followers. How are we supposed to Thrive as Christians? Do we create visions, make plans, or wait for orders? As I thought about this and what scripture says, it was clear that we are to be both plan makers and order followers. We need to find our calling, create visions and be obedient even when we feel ill equipped.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
God desires our partnership in carrying out his work. He wants us to rely on Him and do extraordinary things in his name.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12
Ok so how does this work? How do I THRIVE as a believer?
When people hear that my wife and I have 13 kids, many of whom have been severely abused and neglected before they came to us, we get very interesting reaction. Most are very affirming and encouraging but usually somewhere in the discussion they say that it is great that God has equipped us for that calling but they know they haven’t been equipped for something like that. Ok so let’s first look at the calling. God calls us to be more than conquerors, to overcome and to have abundant life. He calls believers to do the works that He did and in fact to do “greater works.” How about this? In James 1:27 God calls us to take care of widows and orphans. So, all believers are called to do God sized things; extraordinary things. Every believer has been called to THRIVE!
Ok so now let’s look at this idea of equipping. Every time I have taken in another abused child I have felt ill equipped; because I am. We recently had two children placed with us temporarily and the option to make it permanent came up. Initially I said “absolutely not, we can’t handle any more kids.” Well one day I was sitting next to one of the kids and felt an undeniable call from God to move forward with this placement. That was it. I wasn’t equipped but God called me. I can either be obedient and trust Him to do it through me or I can be disobedient because I don’t feel equipped.
So, I believe the process of Thriving, of taking on God sized challenges, looks like this. First, we have the vision. We look at how God has designed us and what passions He has placed in our hearts and we allow ourselves to dream BIG. We wake up every day and, like Isaiah, say “here I am God, send me.” Then we EXPECT him to do big things because he is a big God. After seeking God’s direction with these visions, we then make a decision. We decide whether we are going to be obedient and trust God or not. If we decide to wait until we are equipped, we are deciding to not trust God. Then once we trust Him, He gives us the provisions to carry out the vision. If we wait to be equipped we miss it. Dream big, decide to follow God and then watch Him equip you and do it through you.
God is calling you to THRIVE! We are here to come along side you, meet you right where you are and help you get there.
“God does not protect us from the things he will perfect us through!”
That’s a quote from a Family Life Marriage curriculum we use at our counseling centers.
It’s also a concept deeply embedded in our My Kids Therapeutic Parenting program (www.MyKidsCommunity.com)
I LOVE this concept…until I’m IN those times of hardship which God is using to refine and perfect me!
Isn’t that so easy to do…we raise our hands in praise, shout amen when the pastor preaches but then… “oh, wait, me? I’m going to have to struggle? I have to go through those things? Wait I thought that was just a nice concept we hear the preacher say and we agree with before we go home to our comfortable lives!”
Nope, God is showing me that He WILL allow us to struggle because it makes us better.
Think about it for a second…do you protect your children from all discomfort? I hope not…if you do, that is really bad parenting. Have you ever met a child raised this way? They’ve actually shown through psychological and neurological tests that over-protective and permissive parenting has the same effect as abusive parenting.
Yep, you read that right! So, we often want God to protect us from all struggles even though if we did this ourselves as parents, we would severely damage our children.
So, if you are struggling in your parenting or in other areas of life…God is calling you to RADICAL DEPENDENCE!
Not lukewarm or fair-weather dependence…I’m talking about RADICAL DEPENDENCE where you are willing to give up everything and depend on Him alone!
That’s the kind of dependence we need when our kids bring chaos into our home. Judging from the Facebook groups I belong to for parents of attachment disordered children, even the Christian ones, people do not want to have to be dependent on God in this way while raising their children.
That breaks my heart…we so often want comfort or to feel validated in our complaining more than we want to hit our knees and call out to God.
Think about that, God spoke, and 100 billion galaxies came into existence! This God calls you His child and loves you. This God wants you to depend on Him and not on whether we have the peace in our home we want or the money in our bank account we think we need. He is bigger than anything else we can depend on! Call out to Him today and cling to Him as He guides you to peace and contentment in your home.
Our Christ-Centered therapeutic parenting program is designed to come along side you as you depend on Him.
We have a free eBook for you.
PS: If you are in need of learning how to have RADICAL DEPENDENCE on God in other areas of life we can help you there too…visit www.TheGraceWellnessCenter.com for Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling and Coaching.
A moment of fear overtook me…I had to get this right. My wife had handed me her laptop and asked me to hook up the new wireless printer. I opened the computer and it prompted me for a pin so of course this should be easy, right? I just ask my wife, she tells me, and we are all good.
No, not that easy! She looks at me with a sly smile and instead of giving me the pin she says “its our first date!” Oh man, I’m screwed!
So, a date comes to me that I think might be right but am not confident at all…of course I am doing my best to look confident. I slowly type in the digits and hold my breath…
Wallah…it worked! Disaster averted! Now it was my turn to give the sly look as if to say, “you thought you had me…not even close!”
Okay so why am I telling you this? Because something important was going on in my brain. I went from secure to insecure in a millisecond of time…and then back to secure just as quickly.
This process happens over and over again and this shift between secure and insecure is monitored by a small almond shaped structure in our brain called the amygdala…the amygdala is kind of like the guard of our brain. It tells us if we are okay or not.
Then my frontal lobe…the frontal lobe is kind of like the control center of the brain…attempts to regulate, manage and resolve these signals from the guard. If the control center doesn’t have an answer, it lets the guard signal the survival part of our brain to take over until security is restored.
Okay so for those of us who are fairly secure and have a lot of coping strategies this process isn’t a big deal and helps us live in an adaptive way in our world.
But what about our hurting kids who have a guard that is very sensitive because it was trained to fear and believe that disaster is always lurking? These same kids also typically lack the coping strategies and resources in their control center to manage these fears.
Hurting kids go into survival mode very easily and it is difficult to get them back to secure…but when they do function in security life is good, right?
Have you ever asked yourself “why can my child function well sometimes but most of the time they don’t?” This is why…when they are secure they make good choices but when they are insecure and in survival mode they make poor choices. This is true for all of us…It’s just that most of us don’t live in survival mode and when we go there, we come back quickly.
Wouldn’t you like to know how to help your kids function in secure mode more often?
The My Kids Community uses a brain based model for Therapeutic Parenting to help you DANCE (Have you gotten your free DANCE eBook? www.ebook.mykidscommunity.com ) with where you child is functioning in their brain. We show you how to be in sync with your child and move smoothly into the hurt, insecure places of their brain and invite them to come out and function in a more secure manner.
Do you want this for your family? If so, join us in the community where we will help you master these skills so you can guide your family out of the chaos and THRIVE!
PS: After my moment of gloating about easily remembering our first date my wife and I had a good laugh about how I was really just a good guesser!