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.
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.