My guest this week is Bryan Post, an adopted and former foster child, is one of America’s foremost child behavior and adoption experts and founder of the Post Institute. A renowned clinician, lecturer, and best-selling author of From Fear to Love, The Great Behavior Breakdown, Bryan has traveled throughout the world providing expert treatment and consultation to a variety of groups. An internationally recognized specialist in the treatment of emotional and behavioral disturbance, Bryan specializes in a love-based treatment approach that focuses on developing a deeper understanding of trauma, stress and fear and how they rule our lives. He counters this by offering an enlightening perspective on the all-encompassing power of love to bring us peace and healing.
In this episode, Bryan and I discuss how stress and trauma can greatly impact behavior in both children and adults. Bryan explains how behaviors arise from a state of stress and provides parents with effective tools and techniques to approach their children when acting out. By breaking down the science behind breathing techniques and guiding adults through known and unknown past traumas, Bryan helps parents better facilitate and react to their children’s behavior with a love-based approach. To learn more about Bryan Post click here.
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The Role of Stress In Behavior
- Bryan uses his “Stress Model” to explain:
- All behavior arises, whether good or bad, from a physiological cellular and neurobiological experience of stress
- When we become stressed we constrict into survival state which can lead to the pathway of fear
How Trauma Can Impact Behavior
- Trauma stems from a stressful event/experience
- Often adults have yet to realize, recognize or address their trauma
- This can lead to parents becoming negatively reactive to certain children’s behaviors
Trauma Related to Adoption
- It is important to remember that the in utero experience has a great impact on us
- Adopted children, even if they were adopted as infants have already been significantly defined by their in utero experience and may have already experienced trauma in this way
Where To Start
- Learn the power of breathing, simple but not easy
- In the midst of your child’s behavior, before you react and say anything to your child, you must learn how to breathe in the midst of stress
- It will immediately help lower your cortisol and allow you to interrupt your stress physiology
- Remember when your child is misbehaving they are already in a state of stress, if you approach them in the same state you will have confused and distorted thinking
- SEE and recognize your child’s behavior as coming from a place of stress
- They are stressed out, they are coming from a place of sensitivity and fear
Where to learn more about Bryan Post…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Bryan’s Story… 00:02:36
The Role of Stress In Behavior … 00:10:00
How Trauma Can Impact Behavior … 00:14:50
Trauma Related to Adoption … 00:18:45
Consequences/Punishment … 00:22:40
Where To Start … 00:30:00
Episode Wrap Up … 00:42:14
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone and welcome to the show. I am Dr. Nicole and on today’s episode, we’re talking about supporting children with behavioral challenges using love and connection. The whole premise of this show is that we need to understand the root issues going on with kids so that we can support them in ways that help them grow and develop to their fullest potential. It’s not about punishing kids or just getting rid of surface level behaviors, we all know that doesn’t work. So my guest today is Bryan Post and he’s been doing great work in this area of compassionate support for children with challenges for years now, particularly with children who come from backgrounds involving trauma. This is going to be a really eye-opening conversation, I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks now since we scheduled it and I really think it’s going to help you come to see and approach behavior issues with your children quite differently. Let me tell you about Bryan.
Bryan Post, an adopted and former foster child is one of America’s Foremost Child Behavior and adoption experts and founder of the Post Institute. A renowned clinician, lecturer, and best-selling author of From Fear to Love, The Great Behavior Breakdown and ten other books, and more than 100 video and audio programs, Bryan has traveled throughout the world providing expert treatment and consultation to a variety of groups. An internationally recognized specialist in the treatment of emotional and behavioral disturbance, Bryan specializes in a love-based treatment approaches that focuses on developing a deeper understanding of trauma, stress and fear and how they rule our lives. He counters this by offering an enlightening perspective on the all-encompassing power of love to bring us peace and healing. Bryan, so wonderful to have you here today.
Thank you so much, Dr. Nicole. It’s my pleasure.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And I know you’re on the road, so I especially appreciate you making time for us while you’re traveling and teaching and doing all the amazing things that you’re doing. I would love to start out by having you just share a bit about your story. How did you come to be doing the really important work that you’re doing with kids and families today?
Well, I think it’s all fundamentally rooted in my own origins story, being adopted, being in foster care and growing up in a home with two loving parents, a mom and a dad to my sister and I who is also adopted, we’re not biological siblings, and who really struggled with us because they parented us in a very traditional way and it was completely contrary to what we ultimately needed, so it created a great deal of conflict. I was the more socially and emotionally advanced child, so my behaviors — I really do feel like I had worse behaviors than my sister. I just got away with them better. However, because of her early origins, she was emotionally immature and that clashed perfectly with both my parents who were parentified and both who were adult children of alcoholics and my dad was a Vietnam veteran. So that combination just created world war 3 in my home, really from the very beginning. And my mom said, “When we first got you —“, we were both adopted as infants, “When we first got you, you were smiling, and when we got your sister, she was crying.” And I do believe that that formed the early relationship blueprints for our relationship.
So it was in that dynamic and experience throughout growing up that I really did feel formed the roots and shaped my passion for challenging children and for stressed out parents. That was really a process too because for a long time, I looked at it as a failure of the parents to understand the child, and even just as a therapist, went through a real process of where I was focusing a lot on just the child and feeling pretty frustrated by the parents, until I finally came to the realization and understanding that parents have their own origins story too. And it is the entire family that is afflicted by stress and fear and trauma and so the way we approach children, my love-based approach is the same way I had to learn to approach parents, and that’s kind of how it evolved over time.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So powerful how your personal story of growing up has lead you to be doing this work and I think that’s true for many people in the field and is so helpful for you to be able to look at what worked or didn’t work for you as a child and be able to say, “How can we take that and use that to inform what we’re doing with families?” And I couldn’t agree more about the parent dynamics piece of it. So often, parents will bring their kids into our clinic and it’s like, “Do something about my child!” It’s like, okay, I get that — and we need to take a step back and look at, as you said, the entire family system and the dynamics here because boy, there is nothing like challenges behaviorally in a child to trigger our own stuff as adults, right?
Oh, it’s so much so now that I spend probably 90% of my time with the parents and only 10% of my time with the child, and even then I always work with the parent and the child together. I don’t work with children by themselves. And so it’s just fascinating the way it works.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s interesting because we’re very much the same way at our clinic. The majority of the time is spent either with parents or with families together, especially when children are younger. When kids get to be young adults, it’s a little different, but oftentimes, parents will say, “Well, you’re blaming me. The fact that you’re saying you need to work with me more than my child, you’re saying this is my fault.” Which is really not the case. Do you hear that quite a bit too?
You know what, I used to experience that a lot. That over time has kind of faded. I don’t hear that as much anymore and I think it’s just because fundamentally, I may go on — So I always start, just like yesterday, I’m on the road, I’ve got families all up and down Northern California that I support but I go into a home for the first time with a mom and it’s just she and I. The child is at school, and I usually always start that way. I believe where you start is how you finish. So if I start with mom and I’m understanding everything she’s got to say about her children and going through their processes and their histories. And then she keeps saying certain things that just jump up about the importance of education in her life growing up and to her and then how she started care taking these family members.
I’m like, “Tell me about your story because I want to understand what’s going on with you.” And she was like, “Oh, okay!” And so she starts telling me about her story because I’m listening and I’m trying to put together these puzzle pieces and then I ask her. I say has there ever been any physical or sexual abuse in your experience? And she froze for a moment and she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Okay. That’s really good to know. What I’m hearing is some dynamics with your children that are actually triggering some trauma for you.” And she said, “I’ve only told one other person that in my entire life and that’s my therapist.” And so I think it’s just a process, as we take the process, the parents feel less defensive because it’s no one’s fault. It’s ultimately all of our responsibilities, but when it comes to children, adults have to be willing to take responsibility first, or you can’t teach your child how to take responsibility. And when I talk to parents about healing trauma, you have to heal your trauma first before you can help your child, heal their trauma. It’s not fair.
I used to tell therapists that your parents bring kids into the therapist’s office, and they’re like, “Here’s my kid!” And they want to run off, and I’m like, wait, wait, wait, wait. We’ve got to change that. That’s not the fault of the parents. That’s the fault of the mental health professionals of the psychology field that’s created that framework of understanding and it goes all the way back to diagnosis and it goes to the medication. Everyone’s pointing their fingers at the child, and so you have people who are behavior-less and all they focus on is behavior in the child. It’s just ass-backwards and it’s such a sad thing. So I feel like professionally I’ve been able to get to a place where I can navigate those waters a little more effectively.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah. You’re singing my song. I love it. I want to dive into talking about stress because this is really a cornerstone of your model and what you teach families in terms of understanding the role of stress when it comes to behaviors, when it comes to our own experiences as parents. So let’s dive into that. How important is understanding stress when it comes to understanding and supporting children with behavior issues?
In my professional and personal opinion, based on over 20 years of working with the most difficult children and families around the world, it is the single most important thing. It is the foundation. 20 years ago I came up with a theoretical model called the Stress Model. The Stress Model says all behavior arises from a state of stress. All behavior, good and bad arises from this physiological cellular experience, neurobiological experience of stress. So all behavior arises from a state of stress and in between the behavior and the stress is the presence of a primary emotion. There are only two primary emotions, love and fear. Everything else manifests from those two states. So I tell parents that emotion is energy in motion, so emotion is really just energy, and our body only knows surviving or thriving. When we become stressed, we constrict into survival and that survival state is what leads to the pathway of fear. So it’s not always fear like I’m afraid of someone. It’s just fear. I smell something and it stresses my body and that drives behavior. So that becomes a dynamic model because with children, the more intense and severe the behavior, the easier it was to reduce it because the more intense the behavior, the more intense the stress. All that I got to do is give the parents a couple of techniques, a couple of ideas, an understanding to help them reduce the stress, and all of a sudden, these behaviors they’ve been dealing with for years reduce. Sometimes just immediately, just go away.
I started to get really excited because parents will come with these severe behaviors, and I’d be like oh yeah, yeah, this is good! And it’s helping parents understand that if your child is acting out, it’s because they’re stressed out, and if they’re stressed out it’s because now they’ve regressed. So you’re no longer dealing with a chronological age, you’re dealing with an emotional age. The emotional brain dictates everything, you know this. However, when your child is acting out, you as the parent see the behavior and your brain interprets it as a threat. Therefore you become stressed out, therefore you move into survival, your fear escalates and it drives your behavior. Now you’ve got two stressed-out individuals and when you have two stressed-out individuals trying to figure something out, you’re just going to get more craziness. And so helping parents understand the critical importance of calming your own stress first before trying to correct your children, you just formed the lynchpin for everything that I do, and so that core kind of stress experience sits right on top of the brain stem, which is where we store our trauma memories and so when we get stressed, our trauma is likely to get triggered and that’s when we get in to help the parents work through their trauma’s so they’re not so reactive.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, and I think that role of trauma in behavior is something that has been so ignored. Lately, we’re starting to hear more about that, a broader recognition of things like adverse child experiences, these kinds of things. It’s starting to be more widely recognized, but still by and large, many professionals even are unaware of the role that trauma plays, particularly when we’re talking about kids with even neurodevelopmental issues. Kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, with Bipolar Disorder. All these kinds of things, the role of early trauma in particular has been neglected. So I’d like you to speak to that because you’ve got particular experience and expertise with that and let’s even start with, when we say trauma, what are we really talking about there? What do parents need to be aware of about what trauma can be and can look like and how that impacts behavior?
Absolutely. Trauma is any stressful event, which is prolonged, overwhelming and unpredictable. Any stressful event. I had a dad doing some work once and he was like, “Oh I didn’t really have trauma or nothing”. As we talked about 5 minutes into his story, he started talking about his older or little brother, I can’t remember — It was his best friend, his brother was his best friend. At about 10 or 11 years old, his little brother says that he thinks he’s gay. And then the dad was devastated, the sibling was devastated, but the father completely alienated and isolated his brother and he said it was horrible. I said that’s a traumatic experience. We don’t realize that trauma is any stressful event, which is prolonged, overwhelming or unpredictable, and when that even continues on unexpressed, unprocessed and misunderstood, that’s a difference between a short-term stressful experience, versus a long-term, potentially life-altering traumatic event. I had a mom once in a lecture, she heard me give that definition and at the lunchtime break, she was like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe what I have just realized.” She said, “My entire life” — and this is a 50 year-old woman, she said, “My entire life I have been terrified by birds.” She said, “The other day, I was getting ready to go to work and I got in my car and a bird flew down on the hood of my car. I froze. I begged that bird, ‘Bird, please get off of my car!’, I couldn’t move. Finally, the bird flew away. I just realized that when I was 5 years old, my sister and I were playing in the backyard and we had a chicken and that chicken attacked us, and there were feathers everywhere and I’ve been terrified by birds ever since.”
We forget these things as we get older because we become less emotional and more cognitive but trauma is pervasive in our society. 20 years ago, I was talking about how we live in a traumatized society, now look how crazy society is. We’re all lunatics, it’s all so stressful. Then being out here in California where people can barely afford to live without working two jobs and working 16 hour days, man! It is just so intense! And the thing with the whole trauma-informed movement, it’s fantastic, the problem is that once again, we are focusing too much on children. We’re not focusing on ourselves as adults and parents first. We’re missing that understanding, so I tell people I’m really excited that we’re talking about being trauma-informed but you have to move beyond being trauma-informed and learn how to be trauma-responsive. And I said any time you’re taking a trauma-informed course and the first thing they start talking about is the impact of trauma on children, your ship has already left the dock in degrees off. We really have to look at that and it’s just so unfortunate that we are so fearful of looking at ourselves and we want to push children into looking at themselves so fast, but we don’t want to do our own work.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think that’s so true, and I want to, just for a moment, focus in on trauma as it relates to adoption because I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but we do see a fair amount of children and families at our clinic where adoption is part of the story, many of us as clinicians at the clinic have adopted children ourselves, and one of the things I find interesting when we start talking about trauma is first of all, the lack of recognition from many of these parents that their journey to parenthood oftentimes has been trauma-filled for them, so that being on their end of things, but oftentimes, parents will say, “Oh, we got our child very young, there wasn’t any trauma” sort of this assumption that trauma only amounts to if you got a child through foster care for example who had been severely neglected or abused. I think there’s a recognition that constitutes trauma, but people really minimize other kinds of trauma that can happen even when children are brought into families at really young ages, there’s trauma involved with that, and I think that’s surprising for a lot of parents to hear or to consider.
I spend a great deal of my time focused on the in utero experience. Thomas Verny, author of The Secret Life of the Unborn Child says that as early as the second trimester, the fetus is capable of psychological processing. It was Mitch Gaynor who specialized in sounds who said as early as the fourth week after conception, the fetus can hear. So I have to help parents understand that it doesn’t matter what age this child comes into your life, adopted parents, it doesn’t matter what age this child comes into your life, their in utero experience has already significantly defined them, and will often times give surface, give room to the challenges that they’ve experienced. I had this classic situation just yesterday with an in utero trauma experience, and then helping parents, one of the things about parents not understanding their own trauma is our lack of recognition for emotional absence and parental depression, how that is, I believe, the single most pervasive form of trauma in our society and the least understood and the least researched, because you can’t see it.
So scientists don’t spend a lot of time on it, but Tiffany Fields has helped us to understand that the presence of emotional absence in parents, and if you think emotional absence, if you just think a parent who works all day and pays the bills and comes home and puts food on the table — there is emotional absence there because emotional absence is stress, and stress communication gets communicated nonverbally. As the mom, I talked to yesterday. I said to her, “How many times do you show affection to your children?” And she had to think, she struggled to think and she said — and at that point, I knew it was 0 to 1. So she said, “Probably once in the morning before they go off to school” and then she said, “Oh, twice. Usually at night, I’ll pat them.” But the thing is, I have to help her understand that those are her own blueprints because of her experience growing up, and then pushing her outside of her comfort, that comfort zone of being protective and what that’s about and so, yeah. I went off on a tangent, so —
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
No, it’s great! It’s why I’ve been looking forward to this conversation. As we think about the role of trauma, the role of stress for parents and for children, being just really foundational to understand when it comes to trying to address behavior. Let’s talk about, then, how behavior is typically addressed and dealt with, right? Because the typical way when parents present with a child who is having behavioral challenges, whether that is violence and aggression, whether it’s just mood disturbance, temper tantrums, defiance, whatever it might be, there is a typical way that that’s addressed and it does not look at the role of things like stress and trauma and those kinds of things. The typical approach as a parent, you need to put consequences in place.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
You use behavior modification strategies. I’d like to have us talk about what you think about that. Are those kinds of tools effective at reducing these kinds of behaviors and supporting with these needs?
Not only are they not effective, they are harmful to the healing process, they are hindering the healing process. The reason children don’t get better, the reason they grow older and don’t get better is directly connected to the way we approach the challenges that they have. We are oriented in our society, in our culture, in our families towards punishing behaviors, however you frame it, whether you frame it as a consequence, whether you frame it as points or rewards, whether you frame it as spanking or yelling or isolation, whatever — those approaches create more stress, and because behavior is rooted in stress, if you use an approach that creates more stress, you are hindering the healing process. And the way you know something doesn’t work is if you have to keep doing it. If you have to keep doing it, or if you have to intensify it, and man how I wish my parents had learned that early in life: If you hit a child once and that doesn’t get it, and you’ve got to hit them again and hit them again, in consequence and again, and you’ve got to take a toy away from them, and before you know it, everything in their room has been taken away from them, it’s not freaking working!
Einstein said the definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. Albert Einstein said that. But the thing we forget is that stress is at the root of insanity, and when we are stressed, our thinking becomes confused and distorted. So when we’re stressed, we’re not thinking clearly and our short term memory is suppressed, so we don’t remember. That comes from Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain, he’s a New York University Neuroscientist. We don’t think clearly and we can’t remember in the midst of stress, so our children are having these behaviors because they’re not thinking clearly. They don’t remember how they were punished the last time, they’re not thinking about the punishment from the last time, their thinking is confused and distorted, their short-term memory is suppressed, and then we’re punishing them because our thinking is confused and distorted and we don’t realize that the punishment didn’t work the last time, so we’re doing it again because our short-term memory is suppressed, so it’s a negative feedback loop.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s like this perpetual cycle that you can’t get out of, and that’s why so often parents will come into the clinic and go, “Okay, we’ve been doing all these things and nothing is substantially improving.” Or, the worse situation, “We’ve been doing all of these things that we’ve been told to do and we’re actually having more problems now.” And I think you probably see this too but some of the most intractably anxious PTSD kinds of kids that we see, the real issue has been the treatment modalities that they and their parents have been put through to handle behavioral challenges and issues and I’ll tell you one of the populations where we see that as a rampant problem is the population of kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders where the very first line intervention often is, go find somebody to do applied behavior analysis, put your kid in a 40-hour a week intensive, very stress-based behavioral kind of system, and we see parents and kids coming to us post those kinds of treatments, some of the most stressed out PTSD kinds of situations and I think you probably see that as well.
Now insurance is paying for that. Yeah. It’s just going to become more pervasive and at the root of that, what we fail to understand is that we are only focused on behavior. That cognitive behavioral therapy screwed us a long time ago. It’s a top-down approach. We’re only focused on behaviors, we’re only focused on trying to change thinking. That’s only working on the surface. We have to get into the emotions, we have to get into the stress, we have to get into the trauma and we have to get into relationships. When you’re focused on behavior, you are actually working counterintuitively to developing stronger relationships. So those children get worse because the parents get more stressed out, they feel more helpless and they feel more overwhelmed, the therapist gets stressed out because the kid’s not getting better. So the therapist hunkers down even more on the parents being more firm, more strict, making that child toe-line even more, so it creates more stress and eventually they get burned out and the therapist gives up on them or refers them to another therapist who then starts them through the same process and after years, they finally make it to Dr. Nicole’s office. Usually years of therapy and medication.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s right, both. That’s right, that’s exactly right. And now, by this point, now that we’ve got a bunch of additional diagnoses tacked on to the child really because of side effects of inappropriate interventions.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I say to parents, when they come in with teenagers or young adults, I say, “We can work at this, we can make improvements.” And I think to myself, “But man, would it have been easier if you first came in here when your kid was four!”
Yeah, absolutely. 100%.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So I think we’ve done a good job of establishing the role of stress, that we need to be thinking about this stuff differently and certainly for parents who are listening, there’s nothing wrong with — Cognitive behavior therapy can be effective for certain things. There are roles for things, but when we’re talking about children with pretty significant ongoing challenging behaviors and family dynamics that are not working and families that are stressed out, we’ve got to look beyond that and look at these different types of things that we’re talking about. So I’d love for you to share maybe a couple of things, how, if parents are saying, “Okay, wow! I get this now, I see that this is an issue for me and my child for what’s going on.” What are a couple of things that you recommend to parents? Where can they start? Are there some simple shifts, some things that they can start even just on a basic level doing differently with their child, even right now, today?
Yes, I’m going to give you the most simple things. They’re simple but they’re not easy. And here’s where it has to start. The first thing a parent has to do, has to learn to do, has to condition themselves to do is in the midst of their child’s behavior, before they say anything to their child, before they do anything, the first thing they have to do is they have to stop and they have to take three to ten deep breaths. They have to breathe. They have to condition themselves to breathe in the midst of stress. The reason they have to breathe in the midst of stress is because breathing is the one proven way to interrupt our stress physiology. When a child is misbehaving, they’re already stressed. If the parent does not stop and lower their own stress level through breathing, they don’t have to do anything else, through breathing lower their own stress level, then they dial down their cortisol level.
When the parent can do that, they are able to then literally send a vibration, an oxytocin vibration to the child, which will help lessen the child’s cortisol, but if the parent can not stop before they say or do anything and the brain, the amygdala is telling the parent in the moment, “Red alert! It’s a fire, it’s a fire! Someone’s going to die!” So the parent wants to immediately engage. That’s the first mistake. You have to stop. You have to slow down and you have to breathe. You have to teach yourself how to breathe in because if you don’t, that stress is going to pretty quickly escalate and drop you into your brainstem which is where your painful memories are stored, and that’s going to skew everything, then you’re going to be in a negative dynamic with your child. You have to stop and breathe. And it’s probably the one thing that if I could only teach parents one thing, it would be the power of teaching themselves how to breathe in the midst of stress because it controls everything.
If you can not slow down and breathe, you can not lower cortisol, which means you are going to have confused and distorted thinking. If you can’t slow down and breathe, you can’t turn on your oxytocin response, which is your brain’s anti-stress hormone, which means your thinking is going to be, your memory is going to be suppressed. If you can’t slow down and breathe, your amygdala is going to be sending off a vibration of fear and anxiety, and amygdalae communicate with one another. All of that before you ever say anything to your child, because your child is stressed. So that number one, is the single biggest thing. And I really do believe, Dr. Nicole, that parents are wonderfully and beautifully gifted with the knowledge to meet their children’s needs. Regardless of the trauma, regardless of the history, parents are equipped, have all the solutions within them. The first step is being able to keep your thinking online, being able to keep your short-term memory available. That’s number one. Like I said, that’s simple, it’s just not easy. I’ve spent days with parents working on the ability to override their stress reaction.
And then number two. See, this becomes important because it will help the parents override that stress reaction. See your child’s negative behavior, not as anger, not as manipulation, not as defiance, not as being mean or being bad, see their behavior as coming from a place of stress. They are stressed out. They are stress-sensitive and that stress sensitivity drives their fear. They are scared, see a scared child. See a scared child. Breathe and see a scared child. When you breathe, you are doing all the mechanisms I just talked about, but when you see a scared child, you’re overriding your amygdala who is looking for a threat. When you see a scared child instead of an angry child, you have a tendency to feel less threatened, which then helps you calm your physiology more and then changes internally how you respond to that child.
The parent yesterday I was working with: 7 year old daughter who she said is mean. She said “My daughter just gets mean, she’s a lovely child, but then she just gets mean and nasty”. And she said that meanness is what really stresses me out. I helped the mom understand that not only is that meanness stressing her out, but it’s dropping her into past memories and we identified the past memories, and she’s associating the vibration — it becomes really all about vibration. The meanness that’s being demonstrated by the child is sending off a vibration and that vibration is connecting with a vibration in the mom’s brain which is connected to an experience, which then causes her anxiety to escalate. And so when we’re able to slow ourselves down, and then we can see that our child is not mean, our child is stressed out, our child is scared, it starts to change the dynamic, it really is a pretty remarkable process.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s profound. I love that those are the two things that you shared because I would totally agree that those two things can make such a profound difference in terms of how parents relate to their children and ultimately in terms of how quickly we can diffuse the situation, prevent escalation, bring children back to a baseline where we can talk with them, work through what’s really going through as opposed to getting stuck in this hamster wheel of two dysregulated people just running around and around and around and not getting anywhere.
Yes, yes, that’s the key.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
What do you say to — because some parents listen to things like this and they go, “Well, but at some point, the child has to be punished, I have to do something about this. We can’t just let kids do whatever they want, we can’t just love them like they’re —“ and I think it’s so important for parents to hear taking this kind of supportive, love-based approach does not mean that we just allow kids to willy-nilly do whatever they want in the world and we don’t have any expectations, right? I want to touch on that because I think that’s an argument that people use against thinking about things in this way.
And it is the root of why our society is the way it is, because we fail to realize the importance and the power of love. What you’re doing when you’re calming yourself down and you’re lowering your stress and your fear is you’re increasing your love vibration. And what looks to people like they’re not doing anything or they’re letting their child get away with something is not that at all. You’re sowing seeds of love in the presence of your child’s fear. You are literally — see when a child is really stressed out, they’re in their brainstem. Their brainstem has opened up. So when you’re not reactive and you’re being responsive and connective and attentive and attuned and you’re present, you are harvesting and manifesting the power of love to put these little seeds inside the brainstem, where previously, all this fear has been. Bruce Perry says the brain always returns to the way the event was handled the last time.
So you’re sowing these seeds of love, and what that’s doing over a period of time and repetition is it’s developing internal regulation. It’s strengthening your child’s internal regulatory system, which is how they handle stress, which is what they’re going to take into the world and how they’re going to deal with a stressed out world, by having a regulatory system. So it’s not that you’re letting them get away with anything, you’re actually sowing these seeds of love, and then what you’re also doing is in the midst of their stress and their overwhelm when they’re acting out, they’re being crazy and they’re doing crazy things. When you’re not reacting, you’re actually being the smartest person in the room. You’re realizing that you’re dealing with someone who in that moment is insane. You don’t rationalize with an insane person because they’re irrational. You don’t use logic with an illogical person because they’re illogical. So you wait and you be present until you help them to calm down until they’re thinking comes back online, so they are rational and they are logical and then you communicate and you teach and you come to some understanding and that just builds over time, and before you know it, you can actually have a conversation with your child when they’re stressed out.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s right. Well, and the sowing of the seeds, as you said, what we’re doing there is we are helping a child’s brain develop in a way that allows them to have good self-regulation, which is what’s needed for managing their feelings, their behaviors, that — that’s how we want to raise children, right? To put our kid out in the world as grown adults who are self-regulating beings, and who do not depend on external rewards and punishments and those kinds of things in order to manage themselves.
It’s a poor regulatory system that leads to problem behaviors. If you want to diminish problem behaviors, increase the regulatory response system, which means you have to increase the oxytocin response system, and if you want to increase the oxytocin response system, you just can’t stress your kids out anymore, you just have to stop increasing stress.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Ah, so good. You and I could talk for days about this stuff. I’m looking at the time and realizing we need to wrap up and make sure that you have an opportunity to let people know where they can find out more about you, the work you’re doing, your books, all that good stuff.
So we have a special offer that we’re doing right now. It’s at feartolovebook.com and parents, if they pay the shipping and handling, they will get a physical copy of my Fear to Love book. For parents that are raising challenging biological children, this book is primarily for adopted and foster children. All that you’ve got to do is mark through the adopted and write biological. It’s across the board. Everything I do speaks to human behavior, it’s not about adopted, it’s not about foster kids, that just happens to be my speciality. But if you go to feartolovebook.com, you pay the shipping, handling, you get the actual book, we’ll mail it to you, you also get an audio of the book, then you also get a 1-hour webinar that I did, and that’s probably just the single best mechanism we have right now for really helping parents. I had a dad, he’s a truck driver raising his grandsons. He’s like, Man, I listened to half the audiobook before my headphones went dead, you know these old school things, he said thank you so much for sharing it with me.
Then my regular website is postinstitute.com, so that’s where all my information is at.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Fantastic, and you have so many wonderful resources on that website too. Your books are wonderful. I know you do a pretty regularly occurring Facebook live series too, because I’ve got you many times just scrolling on Facebook. So is that on your Post Institute Facebook?
Yeah, that’s on the Post Institute Facebook page. It’s usually 5 days a week, 6:30 PM CST, it’s called Post Daily Dose and I come on, I call it ‘The Greatest Little 10-Minute Parenting Show in the Universe” But really, I go over 10 minutes most of the time.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s great stuff! And we’ll make sure that we have all those links with the show notes so that makes it easy for all of you listeners to access those amazing resources. Bryan, it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show today. Can’t thank you enough for spending the time with us.
Bless you. Thank you so much. Keep doing such great work.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Thank you. And thanks to all of you for listening to this episode, we’ll see you next time on The Better Behavior Show.