Therapeutic parenting

Therapeutic Parenting means simply giving our kids a ladder to climb out of situations, rather than a spade to dig deeper in.

Therapeutic parenting – asks us to pick up different tools.

Positive parenting strategies and tools that fit the bill on paper have a tendency to crumple and fail in situ.  Problems experienced by traumatised kids are misshapen and multilayered, and do not fit the neat, round holes of theory.  Tools – especially those that tackle behaviour ‘mid behaviour’ – simply apply more pressure to confuse or escalate issues.  And those that reward, incentivise or penalise just add pressure or increase feelings of shame and failure.

Opting into these parenting methods – however brilliantly and gently we use them – translates what our children do as defiance or disobedience.  It misses the trauma their behaviour is communicating, and it turns our backs on the call for help contained within. Bit by bit their use pushes our children deeper and deeper into those fox holes; more lies, more concealment and deceit, more secrets, more conflict. For CHT and me the patches of calm between issues grew shorter until they almost disappeared from view.  For a while back there, I began to feel like I was simply ‘managing her’ – no time nor heart nor energy for ‘active’ love, mothering, or fun left; I became little more that a lion tamer.  Then worse came, her withdrawal and silence; sure signs our relationship was eroding.  I was doing all the ‘right things’ by the book, and yet her perception of me was slowly changing to that of an enemy to fight, rather than an ally.  The tools and strategies had become a wedge between us, and we were both exhausted and lost.

One day, as I stared down into yet another deep dark hole, it dawned on me that fighting the behaviour was like fighting the hole: impossible, ridiculous, and harmful.   I took a deep breath, and I jumped right in that crater alongside her.  I rolled up my sleeves, and asked her to come along with me to fix what was happening.  I stopped asking questions, stopped quizzing and looking for confessions.

TP in its fullest application stops us from delving into the whys and wherefores that pinpoint what went wrong; it ends the dissection and explanation over specifics.  Instead it has us recognising and understanding, mirroring and acknowledging.  I started asking for help in fixing without looking for confessions or truths.  I began to reflect and offer simple understanding for what was happening and why that might be, and to search for the escape ladder that makes practical amends, and then thank her for doing such a great job.  I ended my focus on the behaviours I wanted to stop, and regrouped my efforts into starting the solutions we needed to see.

TP is crazy hard.  Hard enough to get right while safe and secure in an emotional vacuum – armed with an instruction book – let alone when all hell is breaking loose around you. It feels one sided, with you the adult being tested and pushed and pounded while having to maintain calm and restrained and engaged.  The scales feel loaded, and getting it right can feel like a thankless task.

But little by little the change comes.  The magic moments are hard won, and they come with no bells, no whistles or celebration.  They come from knowing that in the face of it all, we done good.  They come from watching our traumatised children draw a little closer, ask for a little help, and start lifting themselves onto the first rung of that ladder – unprompted.


10 thoughts on “Therapeutic parenting

  1. I absolutely adore your posts they are so eloquent and honest about such a hard time.

    I am so pleased you have found a method in which to help your child reach that first rung! that in my book is one very #magicmoment indeed!

    Thank you for linking up x

  2. Great post. I am so far away from being a good TP – I am in my job a behaviour therapist and think I’m pretty good at it…but attach the word adoption to behaviour and I am lost. It’s like learning a new language. We do use rewards and consequences with J, but he’s little and for now it’s working. But you’re so right, when J is in the throws of things, sometimes just joining him makes the difference and is what he needs to start to pull himself out. Thanks for such a great post:)

  3. Great post Mumdrah, and a timely reminder for me as I’ve felt myself slipping further and further away from therapeutic parenting recently.

    We did, when he was younger, use reward charts for behaviour modification and sometimes, often in fact they worked. He will now wash his hands after using the toilet, and brush his teeth before bed without reminders or questioning, but more often now they amplify the shame he feels when he can’t (not won’t) change his behaviour.

    And thank you for sharing with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out x

  4. I think we all need reminding sometimes about the best way to approach parenting our children and your post is timely fro me as well. I have struggled in the moment to remember what is important and allowed my own emotions to show. Thank you for writing such a great post to help us all remember the best approach.

    Thank you for being part of The Weekly Adoption Shout Out. x

  5. This is so interesting – I hadn’t come across therapeutic parenting before. I wonder whether it could be used with children who haven’t been adopted or experienced traumatic events? It sounds like a brave and difficult, but rewarding parenting style. There have been times in my children’s short lives when upsetting things have been happening in my family, and at those times I found it difficult to remain calm during the toddler tantrums/baby needs. I bet it’s difficult to always keep a lid on your own emotions when parenting a child with complex emotional needs.

  6. It’s hard to parent your children at the best of times and when you haven’t been there from the very begining, it is even harder. I am all for therapeutic parenting – and have always tried to deal with Grace that way. A prime example is when I asked her to feed the cats – to help out – she said an outright no and so I questioned how she would feel if I didn’t feed her (that’s what I was doing at the time!). We had a discussion to the point where she understood better. Thank you for linking up to PoCoLo and for all your valued support xx

  7. Your post touched me deeply, reminding me of the pain of sensing my child move away in her lonely shell as well as the joys of getting it right by her and she dared to trust me and came closer. Thank you for all that you have put out there!

    • Thank you Gayitri – It is so important we share our stories. That feel in of gaining a shred of trust is amazing, isn’t it! Thank you for visiting my blog, Mx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>