Finding a better way to get positive behaviors by acknowledging the real reasons for them. "It Was Never Your Fault"

These are some of the most powerful words I use in coaching parents.  "It was never your fault," carries a healing message to children that releases them from undeserved guilt.  When children are free of guilt, they're learning, listening, and functioning well.  

When parents are also freed from guilt, they, too, learn, listen and function well. That's my aim, to help you, as a parent release guilt that you never deserved.  

"How does that work?" you might wonder.  I offer parents forgiveness because I truly believe you/they have always been doing what you knew how to do. When my kids were young, I made a lot of mistakes. If I'd had a parent coach back then, I would have loved guidance and forgiveness from a trusted professional. I think it would have made all the difference. Now that that ship has sailed, I feel privileged to be able to lead parents through Present Moment Parenting in a way I never was. I feel honored to say, "You did your best. It was never your fault when things didn't go well."  

And for kids, it's the same. There's not a child in the world who doesn't want to be in close connection with their parents. After all, parents are their survival, so it makes sense that they would strive to maintain the bond. But their emotional state, undeveloped as it is, prevents them from making the bond stronger. They falter, they have meltdowns, they make their parents feel frustrated and angry. 

As the adults, it's our job to realize they never intended this disruption in the closeness with us. They just lacked the brain development to control their outbursts, their refusals, and their nasty words. Once we realize that undeveloped brains is the issue, and not bratty, controlling, impossible kid, we're miles ahead of the game of healing the break between ourselves and our children.  

So, what's the first step? Changing our automatic reaction to defiance from one of upset and consequences to one of understanding, calm, and listening to the underlying emotion. When we can do that, our kids feel seen, heard, felt, safe. And from there, we can gain their cooperation.  

Recently I heard a quote from a parent that went: "Once I dropped the parent role and focused on strengthening our relationship, everything got better."  That to me, is gold.  

What do kids need? A loving, accepting, guiding presence. This enables them to learn, follow, and emulate their parents' behavior, especially forgiveness.  

If you'd like more information on how parent coaching works, click here. I'd love to help you form that strong, healing bond with your children that reduces defiance, strengthens your relationship, and brings peace to your home. 

To read or listen to my book, click here: QR codes Present Moment Parenting; The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child

Too Much Attachment to Your Child? Too Little? Where's the Sweet Spot?

Posted: November 6, 2019

You're doing the best you can as a parent, but do you wonder if your child is close enough, or if she's too attached? 

Here's what an expert has to say: 

In the results of a pair of extensive studies, the idea that more attunement is better was challenged.  Problems with insecure attachment developed by age one with infants whose mothers were least or most attuned.  Attachment insecurities resulted in infants whose mothers were too vigilant or too withdrawn in interactions.  Attachment was strongest in the midrange of coordinated attunement.    
                                            -Dr. Beatrice Beebe: Colorado University Medical School

As I was training new parent coaches in this concept recently, I got to wondering if parents understood how much attachment is healthy and how much is too much.  

What does it look like if parents and children, for a variety of reasons, (not anyone's fault) are not well-attached?  Please note: this applies to both moms and dads.  We often underestimate the power of dads in the attachment process, but in my coaching, I see that when dads step up to strengthen their bonds, the children respond BEAUTIFULLY - fewer meltdowns, less arguing, happier kids.  

Here are some signs of underattached children.

Young children:
- don't come to their parents for comfort. 
- prefer strangers to their parents or will over-attach to strangers.
- don't act as if they've missed their parents when they return.  (This may be familiar comfort with the coming and going, so don't read too much into it.) 

Elementary-age children:
- are overly independent. 
- don't regard their parents as resources for help.
- don't seek their parents' input on challenging situations.
- don't notice that their parents have feelings. 
- are fine if they are away from their parents. 

Middle and high school-age children: 
- may be very vulnerable to the influence of their peers. 
- may only want to be with peers, excluding parents from their plans.  (Some of this is totally normal.) 
- may act out for reasons they can't identify.
- may seek teachers or coaches for advice or listening. 
- may drown big feelings with substance abuse. 

Here are some signs of overly attached children.

Young children:
- have a great deal of difficulty separating from parents (This is often the case at the beginning, but if it persists, there may be an issue.)
- can't let parents leave their sight at home without becoming anxious.
- have difficulty relating to others outside the immediate family. 

Elementary-age children:
- may get reports from school about being sad about not having mom or dad with them well into the school year. 
- refuse summer camps or birthday parties.
- may feel responsible for parents' feelings and want to protect their parents.
- may be overly compliant.
- may not feel like their own desires matter.  

Secure attachment is characterized by parents who are comfortable with their children's stages of evolving development and grow with their children as they grow, moving from "manager" to "mentor."  These parents ask their children's opinions, listen reflectively to their ideas, and say, "I trust you to ...".   Healthy attachment is also evident by children being able to gradually let go of their parents' involvement in their lives.  Sometimes parents "let the rope out" too soon, and children develop anxiety.  Sometimes parents maintain their children's dependence on them too long, resulting in defiant and avoidant relationships.  When the attachment is healthy, for the most part, children are able to develop confidence in their own decision-making, their ability to implement their ideas, and to navigate their friendships.  Many children go through stages of under- or over-dependence, but if you see an ongoing pattern, it may be time to seek professional input. 

Does this mean that there's no hope if attachment has waivered?  Not at all. There's plenty of hope for children and parents whose attachment needs strengthening.  Parent coaching can offer effective tools! Click here for all the info.

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I See You Letter

“I See You” Letter

Another tool for helping a child with a traumatized brain, or any child who is asking for attention by showing unwanted behavior, is an “I see you” letter. When something is put into writing, it weighs more. The child can read the message without having to hear the adult’s voice, which is more effective because adult voices have sometimes not proven trustworthy in the past. I encourage caregivers to write the letter in a notebook, so the child can write back, if she so chooses, and review the letter at any time. The re-reading can be very healing. When I’ve encouraged other adults to write this type of letter, they’ve told me that they’ve found it later, stashed in a drawer or other safe spot, but never thrown away, which speaks to its significance to the child.

               You can write a letter to a child of any age. If she is old enough to read, just leave it on her pillow. If not, write it out and read it slowly, then hand it to her.

               If the child is so hurt that listening to you read a letter is too much, try posting notes that say what you see in her all over her room. Use the components below to craft your letter or your notes.
               The components of the “I See You Letter” are:

  1. I see what you've been through (in details that are significant to her, maybe just the things you know she remembers). You may want to add, "And other things, too, that we haven't talked about." This could spark a response where she shares more.
  2. In light of your experiences, I realize that none of your recent behavior is your fault. You were just trying to express your pain.
  3. I'm sorry I blamed you when I just didn't realize that your behavior was your pain being expressed.
  4. Together we'll work on making it better, and here's how: ______

An example:

Dear Ana,

I just wanted to tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a kid who has had some very rough experiences. When you were younger, your adults did not do what they needed to do to keep you safe. No child should have this happen, as every child deserves and needs to be kept safe. Your mom left you with people who hurt you, and your dad left without saying why. That must hurt so much. I want you to know that this was never, ever your fault. You were an innocent child.

I see a kid who is sensitive and smart. I see a kid who is amazing at figuring out other people. I so appreciate hearing you express what you know long before others your age can do that. I see a kid with artistic ability, and one who cares deeply for our pets. When I watch you with younger children, I am so impressed with how tender you are.

I realize I have gotten angry with you and yelled when you were upset with me. I now get that you just felt threatened, and you did not mean to hurt my feelings or disrespect me. I’m sorry and I will try very hard not to yell in the future. If I make a mistake and yell (because we all make mistakes), I will apologize and have a do-over, because no one deserves to be yelled at.

If you feel like writing back to me in this notebook, that’s great. Feel very free to do so. If not, I’m fine with that, too. I’m just happy to be able to use this notebook to say what I want to tell you in writing.

I am so happy you are in my life. Thank you for all the gifts you give me, especially your smile.


Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa/Other caregiver

I encourage adults not to ever mention the letter, nor to expect him to say he read it and liked it. For a traumatized child, this may be too much vulnerability. But what often happens is that adults notice a softening in their child, a better attitude, more affection, more focus, and more cooperation. That’s the goal of writing: to see the child clearly, communicate it, allow the amygdala to register that the child is seen and therefore will survive, watch the result in a much more relaxed and relieved child and in an improved relationship. I often describe this process as being “like physics,” as predictable as proven science. It’s truly remarkable how dramatic the results are! And when you think about it, the seeing is the tool for calming the threat alarm. No wonder the child can now function so much more rationally. The more rational front brain is able to work!

I See You Letter