Day Four, the final day of the course addressed some of the more extreme behaviours that those caring for children with developmental trauma may bear witness to. This can be a tricky area, especially during those times when incidents pile one on to another; the danger being that we are frequently drawn into conflict and anger and morphing into either shouty nags or weepy recluses.
Firstly we must pick out the more major incidents and drop the smaller stuff. I am currently practising the following phrase,
‘There’s five things which have happened, I’m going to deal with two of them and leave the rest.’
I am also waiting for a calmer break in which to deploy,
‘You’re throwing a lot at me at the moment, what is it you want to tell me?’ (expressed with raised but calm energy).
For most of us knackered parents and carers it can be difficult to differentiate and then deal appropriately with the really big stuff, namely the kicking, punching, biting of the brother, sister, dog or whatever. And this stuff has to be clearly off-limits, unacceptable. For this we were taught the Dan Hughes 60 Second Scolding, because clearly, when you’ve seen your child kicking their sibling in the head a bland ‘I wonder why you felt the need to do that’ is not, at that moment going to be anywhere near what’s required (although it is something to bear in mind once the storm has blown over). The 60 Second Scolding acknowledges that when something really major has occurred there is shouting and anger from those around. But unlike the uncontrolled, five minute, lecturing, head-fit that I am so practised at delivering, this version is short and controlled and focussed on teaching whilst keeping the shame to a minimum. So it goes something like this,
‘I’m angry because ……., you did ……………, I think this might be why, ……….., it’s not acceptable, ………….tell me about it ………….., this is the consequence……….’
And as we all know from long and bitter experience, the consequence must be specific and related. I like the ‘you’ll help me clean so and so’s room’, or ‘you can help me tidy the toys’ as it gets useful things done, we bond surprisingly well over cleaning and we can look at our work and feel jointly proud. Taking things away, in my experience, doesn’t work (the resultant shame hangs over them like a cloud and they will show they don’t give a shit until they have no belongings left, no money and no rights to do anything enjoyable at all).
Our course tutor, the esteemed Mr R is brilliant at all this and has put me back on track many times. Of all the golden nuggets which he handed out over the four day course I will leave you with this one. We are all human and therefore fallible and none of us was raised to raise children with developmental trauma. We will therefore make lots of mistakes along the way, which is natural and unless we experiment and practise these techniques we won’t reach our children let alone help them to reduce their shame and process what has happened to them. So let’s all be kind to ourselves, cut ourselves some slack.
I felt the need to write about this course because I know that many carers and adopters around the country do not get access to such good quality, practical training and they should. So as the government talks of giving out vouchers for free parenting classes in Boots, remember that we should all have a right to ongoing training and support; we are after all raising some of the most damaged children in our society, and it isn’t child’s play.