Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

Affirmations for Regulation

One of the resources I’ve been experimenting with lately is affirmations. My friends at the Consciously Parenting Project have challenged me to see if I can help my son turn off his amygdala using affirmations. It has turned into quite the experiment.

In the beginning of my parenting journey, I was very, very skeptical of this kind of thing. I knew people who used them and they all seemed a little bit “out there” for me. When I heard my first parenting affirmation, visions of Stuart Smally from Saturday Night Live would pop into my head, making me snicker out loud. “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darnit, people like me.” Right?

Ok, ok. I know. You think affirmations are dorky. They seem silly. You’d be embarrassed to be caught repeating them. A year ago I would have, and indeed did, feel the exact same way. But what I’ve learned is that affirmations can be a dynamic resource.

There is a book called “Your Body is Talking – Are you Listening?“, which was written by Dr. Art Martin. Dr. Martin (who by the way is not the black boot with yellow string guy as far as I know) is a little “out there”. He is. He promotes many ideas that the average person might find difficult to digest, and I am not promoting those ideas. However, he is a brilliant man. And his formula for affirmations is very powerful.

Basically there are three steps to creating a personal affirmation:

1) Identify the belief

2) Delete the old belief

3) Create a new belief

I have been using an affirmation with my son based on this formula. It is intended to help reprogram some of his deeply ingrained negative self-beliefs. Although this is not the actual affirmation that we use, it is a fair example of how one would sound. Here is that example:

When I was a baby
my mother did not feed me
I was tiny and helpless
I needed her
But she did not help me
I began to believe I was a bad baby
I began to believe I was not good enough
Sometimes I still feel like I’m that tiny, helpless baby
Sometimes I still feel like I’m never good enough
But that’s not true
I realize now that I was a good baby
It was not my fault that my mother did not help me
I realize now that I am a good boy
I can accomplish any goal I want
I am good enough
I have always been good enough
Today I am very powerful and healthy
Today I feel love for myself
I can feel love from my toes
all the way to my forehead
Because I love myself
Other people love me too
I am good enough
Today I love who I am

An affirmation like this should be repeated daily for 21 repetitions. That will allow the brain to begin to accept the new “program”. I challenge you to create one for yourself and see if you can stick with it for three weeks straight. Don’t forget, if you miss a day, you start all the way over at number 1! So be focused and be 100% committed to changing an old belief that has always bugged you about yourself. See if you can notice the difference at the end of the goal period. And check back with me and let me know how you did. And in the meantime, my son and I will be plugging away at our own.

“….and gosh darnit, people like me….”

July 31, 2008 Posted by | Soap Box | 4 Comments

Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control

I spend so much time talking about the principles I’ve learned from the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control (BCLC) that I figured I might as well stop beating around the bush and actually directly address what this book is all about.

When I first found BCLC, I read it from the perspective of an adoptive mom struggling to parent a child with very severe behaviors. I skipped across the first few chapters until I got to the heart of the matter: the case scenarios. I wanted to read about how this so-called miracle method works in children like my son. I mean, this kid of mine was absolutely out of control! He tantrumed all day long everyday. He had been expelled from public school twice by second grade. He would NOT do any chores at home whatsoever. He wouldn’t respond to any amount of discipline or reward. The last straw was when he sent my 2 year old biological daughter to the ER with her teeth broken out of her beautiful face. I was without hope. I felt like I was unable to parent this child whatsoever. I felt like he truly hated me and my heart was broken a little bit more everyday.

I probably sat on the information of BCLC for at least 6 months before I picked up the book again. By then I had thought a lot about what it was saying to me: that children with RAD can heal. That went against everything I had ever heard about Reactive Attachment Disorder. I had been told that these children were sociopaths in training, that the damage done to their brains was permanent, and that the best thing you could do as a parent was to find a really good residential treatment facility to keep on hold for later.

But what BCLC was saying was that there was hope. That my son didn’t have to live out his life feeling this angry, this desperate. He didn’t have to die one day without ever knowing what love really feels like. BCLC told me that I, as the parent, had the power to change my son’s path. That was the opposite of what I had been told by therapists, books, and other adoptive parents. But now I was ready to at least give it a try. I mean, what did I have to lose? My kid was already so bad I was seeking placement outside the home. It was my last ditch effort. I could at least try it, right?

Well, I did. I tried it. As best as I could at that time, although I was still extremely reactive and I wasn’t exactly doing it “right”. I still yelled and I still sent kids to their rooms. Hey, there are moments I still do. But the beauty of BCLC is that there is no such thing as right or wrong. BCLC allows you the space to do what you need to do in any moment and it gives you permission to be angry and to be loving and be able to go to all the emotional places in between with them safely. And that is exactly what an attachment-disordered child needs you to do. They need you to be able to run that spectrum of emotions with them. And more than that, they need you to believe they can run it too.

Because, quite frankly, that is not what I was told. I was told that these children have no “real” emotions. I was told that anything even closely resembling love was in fact an attempt to control me. I was told that my son’s anger was his way of intimidating me. I was told that my son would never learn what love really was. And I was so paralyzed by fear that I didn’t know to think anything else.

But, 3 years later, I can sit here today, at this keyboard, and offer up my experience as a living testimony to the power of unconditional love and the principles in BCLC. When I first became able to love my son — wrap my arms around him genuinely and look at him with sincere, deep, longing — was when my son was first able to do that back to me. Suddenly, he was laughing at my jokes, looking towards me for social ques, and climbing up into my arms for affection. And yes, it still makes me cry to even write that. Because it seemed so impossible then. And still it seems so surreal.

But it’s not.

It’s real.

And it’s not just about my son. It’s about me. About becoming the person I always thought I was. Years ago I was emotionally unbalanced, judgmental, frozen by fear and expectations of those around me. Today I am light as a bird because I know who I am. I am not a slave to my emotional wims. I can be angry and still be safe. I can express love and not limit that experience by placing unnecessary expectations on those I share it with. Most improved is my overall sense of hope. Because three years ago there was none. Today there is nothing but HOPE.

Because these children can heal. And you and I can do something to make that happen. That is the power of BCLC. And what do we have to lose in trying it? We have nothing to lose except the opportunity that is slipping through our fingers if we choose to ignore experiences like mine.

Trust your gut. Test out everything you’ve ever been told. Buy the book. Read it. Read it again. And again. And write me back when you start to “get it”. Because I know you will. And your kids will LOVE you for it.  And you will love them too.

July 5, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | 3 Comments