The interview of a lifetime

bclcWell, maybe this wasn’t really the interview of a lifetime, but I did get to interview someone that’s made a huge difference for my family: Heather Forbes. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a big fan of Heather’s and her parenting model, Beyond, Consequences, Logic and Control (you can read more posts about this model in my BCLC section). Keep reading to learn more about Heather and a different approach for parenting kids affected by trauma or attachment disorders.

I’ve read volume one and two of “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control,” and I’m so curious to know how you came up with this approach. Can you please share how you developed this model?

I originally entered this field as a mother of two completely out-of-control children who were adopted from Russia. The traditional parenting models were not only not working, they were making things worse in my home. I then sought help from local professionals and again, the dynamics in my home continued to get worse. I stretched out further and sought professional help from mental health experts from around the nation. During this time as well, I decided to go back to school to get my master of social work. The way I figured it, I was doing so much research, I might as well get credit for it with a degree! And as I did more research in my graduate studies into the effects of childhood trauma on the brain, the more I realized that there was a deep and profound misunderstanding of our children from all levels – the parent perspective, the professional perspective, and the research perspective. What was viewed as “bad” behavior was not about behavior at all. It was about fear. Everything that was being suggested to help my children was completely fraught with fear. What my children needed was love and understanding. It really was a concept that simple.

You know so much about your students’ and readers’ families – would you be willing to share a little bit about your own family?

My son was adopted from a Russian when he was 2 ½ years old. He had lived in the orphanage since he was born. Immediately the dynamics in my home started going into a state of chaos as his behaviors were well beyond typical 2-year-old behaviors as he was incredibly violent and completely defiant. We struggled and sought help from friends, family, and professionals, all to no avail. So we then did what anyone losing their minds would do, we went back to Russia and adopted again! I don’t know if that was pure insanity or complete denial. Fast forward 18 years, my children are doing very well in relation to their tough beginnings. We by no means are a perfect family (because there is no perfect family), but what got us through our darkest moments was the value we placed on relationship, not behavior. That doesn’t mean our children could do anything without boundaries, it means that when the light disappeared and darkness prevailed, we never lost the love we had for each other.

I was a skeptic about the Beyond Consequences model when I first heard of it and I’m sure I’m not the only one. What do you tell skeptics when you meet them? What is the biggest hurdle in overcoming our skepticism?

When I meet someone who is skeptic, I open my heart and simply listen to him or her. I am not here to convince anyone of this model, simply to offer it.

Can you explain the Beyond Consequences approach in one or two sentences?

(Here is my two-sentence answer). The Beyond Consequences model is a love-based, relationship-based, regulatory-based, and trauma-based parenting model. It works to remove the fear that has infused our traditional parenting approaches and helps children learn the language of human emotion and to develop their emotional intelligence.

(And here is an expansion of my two-sentence answer). It is about teaching children to learn to self-regulate through the context of a strong parent-child relationship, despite a child who has been traumatized in the past through a parent-child relationship. It helps parents to switch their thinking from seeing a child as disobedient or “bad” to a child who is ill-equipped to handling stress and unable to self-regulate. It gets to the root of the behavior rather than just dealing with the symptoms of the behavior.

In your experience, what is the best way to introduce a parent to the Beyond Consequences model?

Most of us will parent the way that we were parented, even when we try to do it differently. We say, “I’ll never say what my mother/father said to me” and then in the heat of the moment, whose voice comes out of our mouths? Yes, our mother’s or our father’s! We as a human species have a hard time changing from what is familiar. It isn’t until we reach a point of crisis that deep change typically happens. It isn’t until families find themselves at their screaming edge or on the brink that they are able to truly make a life-long and lasting change. Most of the families who attend my trainings or read my books are at this point. So while it is a horrible and unsettling place to be, it is also a beautiful moment of opportunity for families to change generations of dysfunction and it is when the door to healing opens.

Can you share what you’re working on now and what you’re planning for the future?

I have found that this model of parenting is most easily understood by experience and demonstration, not by reading a book or by hearing me speak about it in theory. Feedback from parents has shown that me doing role-plays is the most effective tool for teaching this model. I am currently working to film more role-plays for parents to use as a training tool. I’m very excited about this as I know it will help parents really understand how to make the shift from traditional parenting into a more love-based approach to help their families!

What words of encouragement can you share with those of us who feel that our situation is hopeless?

It is in your darkest moments that you are preparing and stretching yourself for a new beginning. Your children have the ability to bring to you complete utter chaos and it is natural to immediately see this as them turning your world upside down. But hang in there, because what they really are doing is turning your world right side up. The answers are there. Solutions do exist. Open your heart to your own pain and there you will find your next steps.

“Love never fails” appears on your website, newsletter, and I’m sure many other materials. Why did you choose this phrase and what does it mean to you?

I believe the only thing that truly exists in this world is love. Love is hard to see and to hold on to with all the other distractions, fear being the top distracter. But when it comes down to it and you break everything else down, love is the only reason we are here. Our parenting journeys are an experience into learning the depths of unconditional love and how love can manifest in a multitude of ways. Love isn’t always light and fluffy. It has its ups and downs, it has its strong boundaries, but when you learn to live your life out of love instead of fear, it will never fail you or misguide you.

I still haven’t participated in one of your webinars. What am I missing?

You’re missing the fun! My webinars are live and I’m there on video with you and other parents from around the world for 90 minutes each session. I present information to help you with your parenting but the best part is that I take direct questions from all the participants and we work out solutions right there to your individual problems going on in your home. I can even bring up parents (if they are willing) on their webcams so we can talk “in person” and “face-to-face” in the class. It is a very educational yet fun way to connect and get the solutions and support you and other parents are needing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about Beyond Consequences?

My hope is that every parent finds the support and solutions they need to create the loving home they originally envisioned for their families. There are numerous resources on my website, many of which are free just to download. I have a variety of programs available to fit the various needs of families. Please check out these resources and most of all, remember you’re not alone in your struggles so never never lose hope!

Most importantly, when are you coming to Detroit again?

I’ll be there to present my full-day free parent training on Saturday, September 27, 2014. I’ll also be in a number of other cities this coming fall. For more information and to sign up for these events, go to: http://www.beyondconsequenceslive.com

Adoption Day 2014

On June 25, 2010, our adoption became legal. The kids and I had dinner and dessert out today to celebrate. We spent a couple minutes sharing our memories from the past four years. I felt good that I finally had some memories to share with them that they didn’t remember. Since I didn’t know them as babies, I’ve not really been able to tell them funny stories about things they used to do. We talked about our first trip to the water park and a silly game I used to play with BC.  In another four years, the kids will be 10 and 13. It’s hard to image them being so old. When they were 2 and 5, I definitely couldn’t imagine them at the ages they are now.

Homework horror

BC is in kindergarten this year and the homework situation is awful. Every Monday he brings home a packet of work that is due on Friday. For him, the work is simple – one digit addition, writing punctuation, and short spelling words like “it” and “can.”

I know he can do the work, yet he seems to enjoy making things more difficult. He often claims that he forgot how to sound out certain letters when he had read them perfectly fine the night before. It takes him a very long time to get through homework and he gets upset when BE finishes before him and gets to play.

I understand that something about homework is probably overwhelming for him, and I wish I could figure out what it is. He’s not old enough yet to really put words to his feelings. If I ask why he doesn’t like homework or what bothers him about homework, he just says he doesn’t know.

As always, I was reading the BCLC monthly newsletter, and of course Heather had some great advice. A reader had asked how to deal with her teenage daughter who wouldn’t help with family dinners, which made her appear lazy. Here are a few quotes from the response:

“To solve this issue, do proactive work and develop a plan with your daughter. This is a child who needs you to join her and to assist her in order to keep her from automatically going into overwhelm…. Explore the real issue: it’s too much for her and it is threatening…. Moving a child out of a state of overwhelm happens within the context of the relationship. Focus on the relationship.”

As always, for Heather, it’s all about the relationship. She did share some ideas for discussing the issue with the daughter, but I know BC can’t have that type of conversation yet. So, it’s nice to be reminded that building our relationship will help. I think he would like more attention than he’s getting, so the challenge for me will be to figure out how to invest more time. We don’t get home from latchkey/work until 6 p.m. and there’s a lot to do before bedtime. I’ll be looking forward to July when school is out for the summer.

BC’s 6th Birthday

BC had his 6th birthday earlier this month. I keep thinking about when first we met him, he was just over a year old and still learning to walk. He’s still as fearless as he was back then. Earlier this month he delivered a monologue at a school program and the audience loved him – check out the video (I apologize for the dark images – I tried to distort the video because I generally don’t share photos of the kids publicly) http://youtu.be/lSFEwc3Lw8A.

Love in the D

J and I got married in 2005 in the Detroit suburbs. At that time, I hardly had any experience with Detroit. I had rarely been there and couldn’t find my way around at all. We had a perfect wedding and I wouldn’t change anything, but now that I know Detroit much better, I’ve discovered that there are so many wonderful wedding options here. So, I was excited when I had the opportunity to write for Love in the D, a blog focused on local and socially conscious weddings.  If you’re planning to get married in the city, this blog is a great resource, featuring wedding venues, caterers, and info on real Detroit weddings. Be sure to check out my guest post on Love in the D with details on weddings at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

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Photo from our suburban wedding in 2005

Thankful

I always make my kids write thank you notes for the gifts they receive, usually for Christmas and birthdays. BE just had her 9th birthday, so we were working on thank you notes for her friends. For the first time ever, I got a thank you note. I was so happy that she was thoughtful enough to do this unprompted and that she really appreciated her gift. I’m working hard to hold onto the positive things; I spend too much time dwelling on the negative.

She needs a little work on her past tense

She needs a little work on her past tense

The unrealized dream

Thanks to their teachers, both of my kids are familiar with Martin Luther King Jr, what he worked for, and the things he said. A few days ago, BE told us that Dr. King’s dream had come true based on this part of his “I Have a Dream” speech:

“… little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

BE reasoned that because she held hands with one of her friends at school, that the dream has been realized.

J and I explained this is an important step, but that we’re not there yet. J pointed out some evidence of the problem that she could relate to. It’s a fact that in her current school, there are very not many caucasians. And, in her previous school, there were even fewer African Americans. I know J and I would both like to see an end to the voluntary segregation that we’ve put upon ourselves. And, I’d love for the kids to have this same vision – and to be part of the solution.

An unfortunate Christmas tree

For many years, I had a “themed” Christmas tree. Only star shaped ornaments in gold, silver, or white were allowed. The kids first moved in with us at Thanksgiving in 2009 and by the time Christmas came around, there hadn’t been time for them to make any of those homemade ornaments that I knew would ruin my tree. In 2010, I had a great solution – I bought them their own little miniature trees to keep in their rooms. I tried my best to make it seem like this was a favor to them – and not merely a way to keep their beaded wreaths and foam ornaments off my tree. It worked well for a few years, but this year I finally gave in. I can’t control everything, even though I still wish I could. I still haven’t caved on Santa though …

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