Monday, January 25, 2010

Sharing all I learned from the Denise Best conference

Am I the only therapeutic parent who goes to a conference and wishes you could push the "fast forward" button to skip past the intro info (yes, I know how attachment happens and how it does not happen, etc., etc. - just tell me what to do when my kid jumps out a second story window!)?

So, anywho, I attended the Denise L. Best conference "Therapeutic Interventions for Traumatized Children." One of my favorite moms was there, L. Her mother was also there, and took such great care of me ... mainly because I'm a big doof head, and showed up with a dead cell phone, no charger, and lunch plans (pending our TEXTS!) with Amy.

Yeah, big loser. Thank the Lord someone ELSE'S mother was there to lend me hers, wipe my nose and pin a note to my shirt so I wouldn't do that again. :) She and her husband read my blog, so everyone say, "Hi, therapeutic grandparents!"

First, and foremost, you can order Denise's booklet, "Therapeutic Parenting for Traumatized Children." It will give you all the meat of her conference. Worth it. When you order it, tell her hello for me!

Okay, on to the good stuff.

Let me tell you her two soap box issues (meaning, they kept resurfacing over and over). First is the fact that the #1 trauma trigger for all of our children is yelling.

I can say that again, if I need to. :) And when you do yell at your kids, you fix it and redo it right away. You make it right.

The second thing was how our kids will repeat the behaviors which receive the most attention. Which does not mean I go running in, praising my daughter when she is sitting quietly and NOT creating chaos. However, it means I need to go and connect with her more and more in those moments.

Now, let me tell you the things which I needed most (all of which were reminders - and BOY, did I need them):

* Separate the "hurt part" from your child (in our house we call them the "big feelings"). "Seems like the big feelings really took over earlier. What will you do next time so that doesn't happen again?" Or something like, "Wow. What was up with all that? I think I have figured it out, but was wondering if you have."

* It's all in what you say and how you say it. Do not ask them if they did something. Do not ask them WHY they did something (... Christine, are you listening to yourself???). You know they did it. Just say, "What were you hoping would happen when _______________?"

* Our kids feel shame ... all. the. time. They feel shame after making poor choices. Then, the shame moves them into a mode where the behaviors begin to snowball, and they believe in the shame. They need us to help them out of that cycle. THEY CANNOT DO IT THEMSELVES.

* Denise used the term "miscue." It's basically this: their poor behavior is a miscue. You know how married couples will argue over something like the toilet seat being left up, and you hear people say, "It's never just about the toilet seat!"? THAT is what is going on with our kids. Their miscues are there to avoid dealing with what is really going on. WE CANNOT BUY INTO THE MISCUE. If we join them in the argument or the behavior escalation, we are actually helping them keep the truth and the real hurt all covered up. Here's a good tip: if you want to yell at your child and your big feelings are escalating, you are probably dealing with a miscue! :)

* Our children have a degree of brain damage. It can be changed. When they keep doing things over and over and over again it is not sadistic behavior. They just honestly believe that THIS time they'll be good enough to not get caught. We cannot do what we need to do as parents, if we cannot accept the fact that this is medical and physical. This point really got me in the gut, because I have kids who are attaching and healing. It was easier to accept this when I knew every single thing they did smelled of trauma. Now the disorder and the hints of normalcy are all jumbled together. IT IS REALLY HARD TO DO THIS.

* Denise said it takes the parents in her practice a full six months of therapeutic parent training before they feel like they really have a grip on what they're doing. I'm telling you this as an encouragement. My husband and I started therapeutic parenting from the first day our hurting kids came home. Yet, we had to DO it to really get GOOD at it. And that took months. And only then did the kids start to take steps forward (with plenty of regression and escalation). It takes ongoing therapeutic parenting to get them attaching and healing. IT TAKES TIME.

* One big thing for me was the reminder to let them repair their mess-ups and move on. We heard a whole lot about shame. I am the worst about inflicting more shame on my kids than necessary. I can put on my big-girl panties and confess. I do it for me. No doubt about it. It feels good. I'm paying them back for their behavior. My own impulsive reactions to their behaviors cause me to ... well, be a complete moron. It's not just me and it's not just kids of trauma. That is how our society works and it is how we deal with children at large. This week I am getting back in the habit of correcting quickly, giving them a redo or some ideas on how they can fix what was done, and WALKING AWAY!

* Denise refers to the symptoms of RAD as their "How to Survive" Manual. I LOVE THAT! I seriously need to tattoo that to my forehead.

* 75% of what we say to our children need to be questions (NOT "Why?" questions). Oh my COW, that's easier said than done. Again, this goes against how most people in our society parent and how we were parented. We have to change from our norm ... from our default.

* Check out L's post on the soft neurological tests she discussed. Have done these with all of my children. All five have problems somewhere. I knew this, but it was very fascinating to see it right in front of me. Am currently putting together our own daily program of neurological reorganization. Would love input from anyone who has done this. We do not have the money to get the kids evaluated, but they will all benefit from the exercises. So, we're just starting where we are, with the information I have.

* Put your hand up in front of your face ... just about three inches away. THAT is where our traumatized kids live. No big picture. No ability to look ahead and behave accordingly. They are completely reactive in the moment. Maybe they forgot about being corrected earlier in the day, but in one split second, they have a big feeling, remember that moment and - BOOM! - react. Then, they slide straight into shame. They need our help. They want our help, they just wish it wasn't so scary to accept it.

* Instead of answering their questions with "No," say, "Yes, when ..." or "Not right now."

* On the whole shame thing ... think of your very favorite food. Imagine having it fresh and right in front of you (a lot of it). Imagine eating it and savoring it and going just a bit too far - eating too much. Now, how do you feel? How long do you feel that regret afterward? Yet, for some of us, we will do it again. That is how our kids are with their behaviors. Their reactiveness brings quick euphoria, following by regret and shame. Yet, they have always relied only on themselves, so they must hide the shame and regret. They do that with ... fill-in-a-symptom-of-RAD.

* Parenting a traumatized child will bring out your stuff. Do you think you have unresolved issues? Parent one of these kids, and you'll find out. Want to be the kind of parent your child needs? Get busy working through that stuff, and know when to ask for help. (frick, I really hate this one!)

* My kids have been strong enough to tell me when I, or someone else in our lives, reminds them of a trauma. Sometimes they can't even tell WHAT reminds them, but I can help them identify that, yes, in fact, cold weather brings up really big feelings. Ask your kids if you ever remind them of a traumatic memory or a person? Could be you are not smiling to your eyes, and your face and body posture is triggering them.

Okay ... I'll stop there for today. Will pick back up Wednesday! Questions? You can always email me. christinemoers [at] hotmail [dot] com


Laynie said...

Wow! What a great summary of the day! I can't wait to get together again!

I am printing out that picture and hanging it on the FRIDGE to keep up my motivation!! How many faces can one person squeeze onto ONE HEAD???

Jena said...

LOVE IT.... Can I make a flyer out of it and hand it out? JK... kind of...

Lisa said...

Well....I'm sold and totally buying the book. Needing all the interventions possible and realizing that just one thing is not going to help my kids. Duh.

Great analogies too. Hating that we weren't in town the last time Denise was here. Dang.

Integrity Singer said...

this is great stuff, thanks! just checking in for news about your kids' first family...

Diana said...

Sounds like a great resource. I'm needing some new stuff myself. I'll be getting her book as well. Thanks for sharing.

BTW, I absolutely loved your comment on my blog yesterday! :-) It made me smile all day. said...

thanks christine, I had to stop reading and go apoligize to Fudge for tearing a strip off him last night, he totally pushes my buttons... I didn't yell but I may as well of been! I have been waiting for her book to be republished so I could get it, you have reminded me of so many important things and taught me so new ones. thank you for taking the time to share it all.

Kerrie said...

What kind of questions! What sort of questions should the 75% be? Tell me!

The Shingletons said...

I would love to talk to you. Jamie gave me your number several months ago, but I guess I've been waiting until I thought I was the worst person in the world. HA! So, NOW, I would love to talk to you. WHen is the best time to call?
Thanks, Shawnah Shingleton

Unknown said...

Kerrie, good question! ha!

Instead of, "I told you to pick up your shoes!" you ask, "What are you supposed to be doing?"

"What can you do to get strong over this big feeling?"

"That sounds like the big feelings are here. What does your BRAIN want you to do?"

"Does the big feeling want to do a payback now since it did not get its way?"

"Where are you supposed to be?"

"Do you think that will make things better or worse for you?"

"Do you think you're strong enough to ...?"

"When you're strong enough, you'll be able to do ... How cool will THAT be?"

"Can you trust me on this one?"

"Are you strong enough to do this on your own, or do you need help?"

"Are the big feelings trying to push me away right now?"

Unknown said...

Shawna, I can usually talk better in the afternoons (we're working through school stuff right now).


Dia por Dia said...

Thanks for this post and making me feel like I was there. So jealous I couldn't hang out with y'all but maybe soon?

BT said...

Sounds like it was great. Thanks so much for sharing all of this. I'm weak on the shame aspect too. Your bullet about that is inspiring me. You've also inspired me to order her book.

Kerrie said...

Whew! Guess what- I already DO that. But, bummer; I thought I'd get a new tool. Rats.

Wendy said...

Awesome! I will be getting those materials ASAP. I often think of this type of parenting as opposite-parenting. The things I thought I knew are all wrong, and the things that works are very counter-intuitive. I am living in opposite land!

Hannah_Rae said...

Thanks for putting me as an example as to what we really need to be hearing at these conferences! :)

Now what can you do when therapeutic parenting training is not available where you are? How do you get the training?

Those stinkin' Nancy Thomas DVD's are STILL ON BACK ORDER!!!!

I need to go ask some questions of the little guy right now. Lord, help me.



Unknown said...


I'm going to keep writing and sharing on all of this later in the week. Not only did I learn some new things, but it was just a good reminder of all the stuff I already knew ... which has slowly been trickling out of my arsenal.

Amanda said...

Wow. That's incredible. You are so pretty by the way!

Ursula Schneider said...

Great stuff, once again, I feel like I've got questions to ask, but there are so many that I'm not sure where to start.
How bout the shame thing, I have never seen evidence of shame in my kids, either one, ever. In 6.5 years, there is still no remorse. If they justified it in their minds, then it was okay and there is no going back on that. I have trouble believing they feel shame any time, let alone all the time. Can you help me with this?

Unknown said...

Ursula, they wouldn't DARE let you see shame ... like, ever. That would show weakness. How terrifying to lay their cards down on the table like that. They will justify it til the cows come home and act like they don't care (and they are GOOOOOOD at this), because they need you to THINK they don't care. They've done it their entire lives. It's not like it's hard for them to cover it up (like it would be for us). They're professional miscue-er's. :)

That's why they need us to move in with lots of empathy and just sit beside them and say "I'm right here." "This is so very hard" and let them know we "get it."

In the last few days, since this has been a focus for me, it has been eye opening. I actually had a discussion with Marah about shame. Oh. my. word. She had that face of like, "Yup. THAT is it!"

"Honey, I'm sorry sometimes this is so hard for you." Stopped talking and just waited for her to lean into my hug.

Ursula Schneider said...

Okay, so I hope this doesn't come off as cold and callous, which I will admit is a place I am sometimes after all this time. But HOW do I know they feel shame? If they never show it, doesn't that just demonstrate a complete lack of remorse? The thing about this I remember from Nancy's book was the concept of no conscience developement. Doesn't shame only exist alongside of conscience? Seriously, I'm asking honestly here. I'm a show me kind of girl. Can you expound at all on how the conversation with Marah went so I can 'see' it with you?
I keep thinking to myself how frustrated I am that we can't do therapy with a specialist cause I'm sure they'd help me with this, but that is not an option at all. Any more light you can offer will be appreciated. Forgive me if this just seems cold, I don't mean it to be.

Unknown said...

Holy cow, don't ever apologize for sounding cold or callous. We're having to literally wake up most days and just DO what we need to DO without feeling natural feelings behind it.

It's not callous. It just is what it is.

How bout I just write a whole post on this for tomorrow (and will post it tonight if I get it done!). I know EXACTLY what you are saying. It's a crossroads as a mother - "Do I take a risk and treat this as hidden shame and fear that I absolutely do not see (and honestly, I'm not sure I even believe exists)? Or do I keep doing what I'm doing, because at least I'm not letting them "get away with" anything. Cause that's what the other thing feels like - like they're getting away with defiance."

See? I really do know exaca-lactly what you're feeling and thinking.

And in truth, either way is kinda' sucky on a Mom's mentality.

I'll spend time today and let myself have some serious verbal diarrhea on this particular issue!!

Ursula Schneider said...

You da' bomb!!! Thank you. I'm taking myself off to make photographs and enjoy myself now. I am heartily looking forward to your forthcoming post. (lol, how do ya like that string of vocabulary, my brain cells seem to be functioning for the moment.)

Threads of Light said...

I told my 12 year old about some of your recent posts yesterday. He screwed up his eyes trying to remember which blog I was talking about...then he said, "Oh, is that the pee lady?"

I had to laugh, and knew you would, too! His first introduction to your blog was that wonderful video you made singing and playing about the subject of pee. :D

Unknown said...

I need a t-shirt:

"The Pee Lady"

Recovering Noah said...

Great stuff, Christine! Can you post about the neurological exercises that you're going to do with the kids. My word, do I have at least 2 that would benefit from it.