Saturday, February 11, 2012


Oh, holy crap.

I just (as in less than an hour ago) experienced a most heinous rupture with child #2.
#2 is 5 years old.  #2 is smack in the middle of a HUGE neural growth and hence, if you remember from my last post, a HUGE regression. If you don't know about these touchpoint regressions, please read some Dr. Brazelton touchpoints.

AND if you remember, I expressed it wasn't easy?  Today was equivalent to torture for me.

If you really want to know the details of the day leading up to it it consisted of working at a preschool with 24 children, whom I adore every one of them, and the needs that arise from a yard full of kids 5 years old and under can be draining at best.

Plus, I was starting to get sick (headache, exhaustion... eventual fever... at least I wasn't PMSing, I might have seriously bulged out some muscles and turned green).

The silver lining to it all was child #3 was asleep at home, #1 was home after having gone to the orthodontist (damn my genes and the colossal mess my poor children's mouths are shaping up to be... not to mention painfully expensive).  And more luck came in the form of a friend who is living with us who was able to stay home with #1 and #3, so praise the powers that be, I was alone when I went to pick #2 up from school.

Now, #2 was under the impression Dad was going to pick her up since he had to collect #1 earlier that day to go to the college-fund-draining orthodontist (remember, I was at work... with a whole bunch of kids with big needs... perhaps this is an important point to remember in defense of myself).

When I arrived, standing among all the parents in a holding pen where we can watch the children and essentially choose the one that belongs to us, I see my #2, walking along in oversized boots and the cutest pink sun hat you've ever layed eyes on.

A wave of warm fuzzy comes over me because, well, she's super cute (always a bonus with children... and frankly, when is a child ever NOT super cute), and her arrival means I can go home, take a shower, get in pajamas and finally indulge in my sickly exhaustion.

Haha, not so!!!  My child, upon seeing ME, runs in the opposite direction.  Those cute oversized boots jiggling away as she swaggered ever farther from me and the gaggle of parents waiting to carry their super cute kids away to the safety of home and family.


I wait, thinking, HOPING, it's a game.  She resolutely sits on the play structure across the length of a basketball court.


I walk over, and with each step I take she's like a cat ready to bolt in the opposite direction.  I walk slowly so as not to spook the cat.  She indulges me by not leaving the play structure, though she has climbed to the highest point... just out of arms reach.


Me:  "#2, I'd really like to go home.  I don't feel well.  Your sister is asleep at home and I'd really like to go home."

#2:  "I'm not leaving until Daddy comes to pick me up.  I don't care if it takes all night.  I'll sleep here."

Crapity, crap, crap.

Me:  (here comes the empathy for you learning how to use it) "You're really disappointed.  You really wanted Dad to pick you up.  It must have been disappointing to see me standing there."

#2:  "hmpff..."

So I call Daddy.  I think perhaps he can negotiate in a way I am unable to muster in the face of such... disconnectedness.  (I refrained from saying defiance, because in the nonviolent paradigm, the behavior is a strategy.  When I judge the strategy, then I become triggered and I have allowed a complete disconnect between me and my child).

As I hear only her side of the phone conversation with Dad, I can tell she is getting more and more worked up.  She is starting to get upset. The sadness is mounting.  I hear her say, "I'm not going to leave!  I don't care if I have to wait until it's dark!" And then the tears begin.

At this point I'm looking for an exit strategy.  I pick up her pink backpack and super cute sun hat (remember when she looked so super cute in that super cute sun hat??  Why can't I imagine her super cute at this exact moment?!  My brain is unskilled at maintaining the warm fuzzies when I am not at my strongest... which is a huge plug for self-empathy... I digress...)

I ask to talk to Dad.  As I tell him I will call in case of emergency, I simultaneously gather said pink backpack and sunhat and oversized shoes, all of which were flung willy-nilly in a fit of despair.  I stuff them all in the pink backpack, and place the backpack on my back so as to free my hands for whatever might come next.

And then I said very clearly.

Me:  "Honey, I want to be very clear, it is time to go home, if you are unable to walk with me then I need to pick you up and carry you.  Are you ready to go?"


And here, dear readers, the proverbial ca-ca hits the fan.

I reach up to pull her down from the play structure.  She bolts.  I walk away toward the parent holding pen in desperate hopes she will follow.  Nope.  I turn around, she hides.  I walk toward her, she runs around the structure, I walk, she keeps running away.  I say:

Me:  "I really don't want to chase you.  Can we walk to the car together?"


And then she moves to a corner and there I have my advantage.  I walk in a very slow cautious way, I'm not angry... yet.  Perhaps annoyed, though I'm still seeing her clearly without a full lower brain primal attack feeling... yet...

She kind of giggles, I interpret that as play and perhaps, maybe just maybe, an invitation for connection.  I pick her up playfully.  My hopes are high that we have moved past this,t hat we have found a connection.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

She starts screaming and kicking and yeah, trying to hit and scratch me.

Did I mention, due to the regression, these are strategies I haven't seen in a few years.

I hold her close, I hold her arms, I walk towards the car all the time saying calmly:

Me:  "I can't let you hit my body.  I can't let you scratch me.  You're really upset.  I can't let you hurt me."

And as if this ALONE wasn't bad enough, I have to walk through the sea of love-struck parents all harmoniously reuniting with their super cute children.  I was the lady carrying the screaming, kicking child through the crowd with a host of spectators... and in my mind, judgment galore is being thrown at me from every direction.

For the record, I can't know for sure if I was being judged.  I have heard someone say recently, "the world is a reflection of our inner self".  Under that logic, I was so harshly judging myself for this unsavory exchange that I simply assumed everyone else was judging me, too.


When we got to the car she willingly entered the car, still crying, only she screamed:


A fine strategy to foil my plans for getting home.

At this point my frustration compounded.  I was moving into dangerous red zone, I could feel it in every fiber of my being.

What would have been wise:
- Take a walk around the car a few times to cool off
- Jump up and down
- Shake my hands as if wringing off water and sing a ditty or take deep breaths
- Look around me and make a mental note of all the objects or color of objects (great exercise to move into the reasoning higher brain)
- Stomp my feet
- Take a big swig of water, maybe even poor the water over my head

ANYTHING else other that what I did, which was to get in the car, close the doors and trap myself with a completely disregulated screaming child.

Here, dear peeps, is where I lost it.

I got in the driver's seat, turned around and screamed at the very very top of my lungs:


The irony was not lost on me folks.

I'm screaming at my child to stop screaming at me.  I even knew it as it came out of my mouth.  It would have made me laugh had my brain been accessing any higher brain functions.

I could see by her reaction she was scared.  She immediately strapped in.

And holy hell did I feel like utter poop.  The dominant paradigm would say, "well, she strapped in", but (yes BUT) I know enough to know what damage I just did.  I just, with great force, broke a connection with my child.

In essence she wanted Daddy/love/connection/safety... and I spewed ick all over her core human needs.

The car ride home was nothing but her crying in the back seat.  I knew I couldn't say anything right now.  I had to regulate.  I had to breath and get away from my nasty, toxic thoughts of judgement and anger (anger also being a symptom of unmet needs).

When we got home, I shot out of the car like a bullet. I opened the door for #2 and ran inside.  I did a few laps around the house (#1 and #3 were watching me with great amusement) flapping my hands and breathing and moving my voice in a sing-songy way up and down, up and down.  I was doing everything I knew to get myself back to the high road, or higher brain.

#2 refused to come in the house (not surprising).

She spent a while crying outside.  I was watching from a distance.

Eventually I opened the front door and moved away so she had a clearing to enter without interruption from me.

She came in, went to her bed, found her lovey and finally began to regulate.

By this time over an hour had passed.

I was able to take a shower, which, readers, is perhaps the most therapeutic act on the face of the planet.
I finally saw clearly what she needed, I could finally understand her deep disappointment AND I even realized #1 had had some Dad time over the weekend, and in #2's mind there was waning connection between her and Dad.

I arranged Dad to pick #2 up for dinner, just the two of them.  I requested he talk to her about her needs and how we are a family that wants to help meet her needs when we can.  I asked him to talk about expectations and how hard it can be when expectations aren't met.

Oh, praise to my amazing husband who empathetically heard me and left work to be with #2, even at the cost of having to work late to make up for his time away from his studio.

As I went to tell #2 Dad was coming to be with her and talk to her because I really heard that she wanted her Dad, she hugged me.

She hugged me and said:

#2:  "I'm really sorry I hit you and scratched you. I love you. You're the best Mommy in the world."

I was dumbstruck.  I have never, EVER asked my children to apologize, especially when I knew the rupture was really caused by me.  I've never requested she tell me she loves me, I've NEVER prompted her to tell me that I'm the best Mommy in the world (despite my intense feelings of the opposite).

I hugged her tightly and said:

Me:  "I love you, too. I'm so sorry I yelled.  That wasn't cool.  I was upset and I'm sorry I yelled."

#2:  "It's okay."

Then Dad wisked her away to a dinner of pizza and root beer.

Prologue:  As I write this prologue, a few days have now passed.  #2 seems much more connected and present.  She started to have a rupture with me the other day and I said, "Remember, you can talk to me.  I want to help you.  Just tell me what you need."

And she did.

For the dominant paradigm that believes I rewarded the "behavior" let me say this: I do not believe in rewards.  I also don't believe in punishment.  I believe we are all, not matter what age, seeking to meet needs.  My job as a parent is to help guide my children how to meet needs by building trust that needs can be met and ultimately the "behaviors" are no longer necessary because my children TRUST me to help them meet their needs.  The irony is, dominant paradigm, the more you help them meet those needs, the less they need the unsavory strategies.  Consequently, the more you deny or discount a child's needs, the more crafty they will become to meet their needs because they will not trust you to help them.  They just might become the type of child that sneaks out at night because they are too afraid to tell you where they want to go.  Or they will hide their report card for fear you will hurt them emotionally (or physically).

I want my girls to know I hear them. I want them to know, unconditionally, I will be there for them.  There will never be a need for them to sneak, or hide, or manipulate because the respect in our family will run thick, all because I am committed to helping them meet their needs.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting back in the game...

More blog posts.  Just for you, dear reader.

My #2... that's my middle daughter (not a reference to something... else), is currently 5 3/4 years old and she is smack in the middle of a rather gnarly brain growth.  Remember what happens during a brain growth?

Don't answer all at once.

Every time there's a neural explosion there is ALWAYS a regression.  ALWAYS.

She has regressed.

She has started using old strategies of hitting and screaming.  These are behaviors I haven't seen in about a year.  And you know what else is happening?  She's reading.  Yep, the brain made room for decoding these strange symbols you are looking at right now.  Only, it clearly had to make room by temporarily pushing out neural information she has already learned.

I know this stuff 'cause it's my job to know what is happening to the developing brain.

I know this stuff AND it's still frustrating as hell to deal with!!!!

I breath, I dance around, I sing, anything to get my brain regulated while my #2 (don't snigger) uses these rather unsavory strategies on my #1.  So far I haven't witnessed my #2 use these rather physical techniques on #3 who is 2 1/2.  I have my sneaking suspicion that #2 is perhaps a bit envious of #1's ability to read and be generally older.

Even with my crazy methods of regulation, I have a hard time accepting these behaviors.
However, what I DO have is practice dealing with this specific behavior before.  So when I get flooded, disregulated and pissed off, I can more easily cope.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying 'easy' because it's easy.  It's so polar opposite of easy.  I said "more easily", meaning I no longer fly off the handle and stay disregulated for long stretches of time like I did when this behavior was around before.

I can "more easily" recognize I'm flooded.  And, being able to recognize it, now I can start taking steps to move through it without causing a rupture between myself and my child... hopefully.

I'm not going to pretend I have a quick solution for you as to how you will handle your own disregulation.  What I do have is a little tool that might help ease the situation, and maybe, eventually, stop the need for aggressive behaviors by your child.

Daniel Siegel has an acronym: COAL: Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance, Love. 

Try it next time your kid does something unsavory.

Stave from judgment, stave from anger, stave from frustration.

Lead the exchange with curiosity.  "Hey, what happened?  What was that for you?  Why are you so angry?  I'm wondering if you're really upset with your sister right now? Are you okay?"  Every single one of these questions is said with genuine curiosity.  Not sarcasm, or snarky-ness.  Genuine questions while approaching my child with genuine curiosity and connection.

Try it.

When you feel triggered, angry or anything else that creates an autonomic response in your body in the negative, make your next move towards curiosity.  Even if it's self-reflection about, "why am I so angry right now?".

Be curious with your child.  It might just make the next unsavory behavior have meaning and perhaps even alleviate the need for your child to ever do it again because you heard them.

Being heard is a core human need.

Think of it as teaching your child how to meet their own needs... without hitting someone to get it.

Side note:

Have you heard my new podcast?!?!

It's called Shift the Focus Podcast

We discuss all this stuff on the air.  Get it on itunes
You've read the things I've said, now you can hear them for yourself.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You tell me.

Here's a game.  I just read an article from Parenting magazine.
The article was headed by the following photo:

Can you see where this might be going????

Let's play a game.  Let's see if you can name the strategy used, in ALL instances, to get the kid to do what The Parent wants them to do.

Here we go.

In response to a query of what to do to keep a toddler (implying a child of 2 or so, an age where they live in the EMOTIONAL CENTER of their brain and have no capability to understand reasoning - that doesn't kick in until they are 5 or 6) from throwing food while in their high chair:

What to do: "With my kids, I said, 'Okay, you're cleaning it up,'" recalls Christine D'Amico, a San Diego mom of three, ages 7, 5, and 2. "Have your child live with the consequences of his actions. Don't help until he's at least made a good attempt to clean it up  -- even though it'll probably lead to lots of crying and whining."

Hmmmmm, there's that word "consequences".  That's awesome.  Let the two-year old clean it up without any help EVEN if they are crying and whining.

I'm thinking, there's a little withdraw of love technique going on here.  Basically the mom is saying, "I don't want to be with you until you do what I want you to do"... to a 2 year-old.  Oddly, there's nothing in there that looks for the child's need.  The child should (my least favorite word) do what The Parent wants them to do, regardless of the fact that that child may want to play, or pee, or get the hell out of the torture device called a high chair.

Okay, another...

This in response to a 3 year-old (mind you, still living in the emotional center and NOT in the rational part of their brain) who climbs on everything...

What to do: Try close eye contact accompanied by a gentle but serious tone. That's what's effective for Lu Hanessian, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, mom of Nicholas, 5, and Ben, 2, and author of Let the Baby Drive: Navigating the Road of New Motherhood. "Once, Ben climbed up on top of our grand piano and just laughed at me," she recalls. "I got really close, stared him down, and said, 'Don't get on there again or you'll get really hurt.' Then I removed him, and he hasn't done it since."

Alright.  Why the hell did that kid laugh?!?  BECAUSE HE CLIMBED THE PIANO!!!!  It was so cool to be on top of that most awesome grand piano.  The mother however, claims he "just laughed at me".  I'm thinking her thought is it was maniacal laughter at her because he "knew" he wasn't supposed to to that.

So then the woman "stared him down".  REALLY?!?  A three year-old.  THEN she threatened him.  Yeah, yeah, the adult brain justifies that by her saying "or you'll get really hurt" - implying he'll fall or something.  To a child, who lacks the ability to make rational connections, how do you think HE heard it?!  You know why he didn't do it again?  He was TERRIFIED!!!  Fear.  That's a really crappy thing to make your child feel towards the one person in the world who is supposed to make him feel safe.

Oh and this...

Taking your child to a quiet place can also help when you're on sensory overload. It's more like a breather than a traditional time-out.

Is it really more like a breather?  You sure it's not a time out said in a friendly way?  Maybe I'm just sensitive at this point, but I don't think people are going to use it as a "breather".  Alfie Kohn says "Yes, time-out is better than spanking... then again, spanking is better than shooting your kid."  A "breather", huh?

I sound hostile, don't I?  I'm just so upset that people are reading this article as the gospel.  They are trying to find simple ways to make it stop instead of learning who their children are.  Or worse, they believe they are learning their children are manipulative little devils because they are judging these children on 'behaviors'.

Please, my dear followers, what is a 'behavior'?!?

It's a strategy to meet a need!!!  The 'behavior' can suck, but they will never, ever, ever, ever, ever learn to trust us completely or create new respectful strategies until we can guide them to understand their underlying needs.


And lastly...

Or you can try the hard-line approach: "My then three-year-old would get really mad about having to get dressed in the morning and went into big crying fits," says D'Amico, "so I started telling him, 'If you make a fuss when I ask you to get dressed right before we go out, I am going to make you get dressed the second you get up. When you can do that without any fussing for a week, you can go back to getting dressed right before we go.' "

A week.  For a three year-old.  Aren't days like dog years for children?  And if the kid "fusses" then you set the clock back and threaten him?  It sure smells like punishment, no?  Um, geez Mom with a terrified "then three-year-old", any idea why your kid is crying?  I'm wondering if YOU think it's because he's being manipulative and difficult?  I'm wondering if YOU think he's doing it just to make your life miserable.

Not that you asked me Mom, I think I know why your kid is crying.  Perhaps because he is terrified you'll manipulate HIM to be good in the store.  He's terrified he might do something wrong while you're out and he'll get in trouble and be "stared down" or put in a "breather" or "have to clean it up" while you stand over him and watch until you are sufficiently satisfied.  Or maybe, Mom, he just wants to be home with his toys because he's tired/hungry/his stomach hurts/he's happy where he is/he hates wearing those damn shoes/he has to take a crap.  And you'll never know Mom, because you just want to threaten him to simply behave the way YOU want him to behave.

Too bad, Mom, you might completely miss something so alive and wonderful underlying 'bad behaviors'.  You have no idea how deep and life-lasting a connection you can make with your child if you see them as always expressing needs instead of being annoying and whiny.

And, dear Parenting magazine... that picture?!  Really?  Highly, HIGHLY offensive.