Archive for consequences

…And Justice For All–Restorative Justice Best for Adoptive Children

I know you all are doubtful that it is possible to raise attachment challenged, traumatized children without punishing them for their poor behavior. The real challenge is resisting the parental urge to punish. What you can do instead is get extremely good at restorative justice.

For your child, restorative justice is labor intensive, pocket-book painful, and shame free. It is just this simple. If you break it or steal it, you pay for it from your own resources–allowance, birthday money, savings, holiday money, earned income. If you waste my time, you owe me. No money? No problem. Pay your debt by dusting baseboards, pulling weeds, cleaning out the gutters, sweeping the patio, skimming the pool, walking the dog…there are a zillion ways to pay off the repair of damage done or time spent repairing, waiting, searching, taxi-ing, etc.

The world works according to the principles of restorative justice. If you park too long, you pay a price. If you back into another car, you pay to fix it. If you put a hole in the wall, you repair it after shopping and paying for spackle. If you do not show up to a therapy appointment, you have to pay anyway. If you do not show up for work, you are fired and do not collect a paycheck. Restorative justice is educational and excellent training for the future.

Those are the kinds of consequences that make sense, restore justice, require responsible action, and have zero emotional expenditures if you can manage to regulate.

I can kind of hear a cry from many of you parents: What if they won’t do it? If they won’t, then they don’t get the next thing they want until they do restore justice. It’s a kind of barless jail. When bail is paid, life goes back to normal. Just like in real life. This can be your child’s real life. Give it a shot and stop punishing poor behavior. Punishment teaches nothing positive. Restorative justice teaches fairness.

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT

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…and justice for all.

May I Have A Compromise?

This is written by Kayla North from

When people hear our kids ask, “May I have a compromise?” they tend to look at us a bit funny. They seem completely confused when we respond to our kids as if their request for a compromise is normal. But at our house it is normal. In fact, it’s a request we hear no less than a dozen times each day.
We began teaching our kids to ask for compromises when our now five-year old daughter was only two. We figured that she was old enough to have a conversation with us, so she was old enough to begin learning how to compromise.
One thing we’ve noticed over the years among kids who are adopted or in foster care is that they tend to have control issues — sometimes really BIG control issues. Many kids (and parents) struggle with control issues, but this especially true for adopted and foster kids that come from homes or situations where most, if not all, of their world was out of control. Sometimes these kids had to raise younger siblings, or had to fend for themselves to find their next meal. Sometimes these kids had to use control and manipulation to stay safe, both physically and emotionally. And some of these kids resorted to control as an attempt to mask their lack of trust and feed their desire to avoid being hurt, neglected, or abandoned ever again. Control is often an “all or nothing” proposition for these kids, and when they come to our homes they aren’t willing to easily give up the control they’ve worked so hard to get.

Power Sharing
In our home we’ve decided we are going to help our kids deal with their control issues not by taking control away from them, but by sharing control with them. Share control with our kids? Sounds crazy. After all, we are the parents so we need to show our kids that we are in control, right? The thinking goes that they need to respect our authority or everything will devolve into chaos. We followed this way of thinking for a while, but showing our kids that we were in control was NOT working. As we tried to suddenly take all the control away from them what we got in return were power struggles and the very chaos we were trying to avoid. What worked, however, was a very simple solution…compromise.
The insight that helped us grasp this approach was actually something that Dr. Karyn Purvis said – “If you as a parent share power with your children, you have proven that it’s your power to share.” This helped me understand that I get to decide when and how much power to share when I offer my kids a compromise. And offering compromises doesn’t mean that I lose control or give my kids all of the control. It means that I teach them how to share power and control appropriately and by doing so, I teach them an essential skill for healthy relationships.
Here’s how a compromise works at our house:
Me: Son, please go clean your room.
Son: (who is playing a video game) Sure mom. May I have a compromise?
Me: What’s your compromise?
Son: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?
Since that is an acceptable middle ground I will typically say sure and let him finish the level before going to clean his room. Of course this is an ideal conversation. Often times it goes more like this:
Me: Son, please go get your room cleaned up.
Son: (who is playing a video game) Ugh!! Can’t I just finish this level first?
Me: Whoa! I don’t like that tone. Are you asking for a compromise?
Son: Yes.
Me: I’m listening.
Son: May I have a compromise?
Me: What’s your compromise?
Son: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?
Me: Sure! That’s a good job asking for a compromise!
Learning compromises takes practice for both kids and parents. As they learn this skill, it’s important to praise your kids when they ask for a compromise correctly (even if you have to prompt them). Still the risk remains that your child might not hold up his end of the deal. So, as you start using compromises it’s important to remind your kids that if they don’t hold up their end of the compromise, then you won’t be able to offer as many compromises in the future. Contrary to what I thought would happen, my kids have always held up their end of the compromise. As a result, we have had far fewer control battles.
By using compromises our kids have learned that they have a voice. They know that I can’t always give them or agree to a compromise, but they also know that I will as often as I can. And the funny thing is that they now are able to accept ‘no’ much better than in the past.
Remember – compromising is NOT about allowing our kids to argue or debate with us, nor is it about losing our control or giving them all of the control. It is about sharing power – our power. Compromises give our kids a voice and allow them to RESPECTFULLY ask for what they want and need. And compromises give us as parents the opportunity to teach our kids an important way of relating that builds trust and connection.

Being A Parent Is Hard, Duh!

This is a “duh” statement, Being a parent is hard. Duh. Being a parent of an attachment challenged child is harder. Duh.

I am working every day to be a loving mother to my 18-year-old daughter. She would say I am not being loving at all. I am trying fiercely not to enable her to make poor choices by bailing her out of financial messes. She depends on me to have little resolve in this matter, but I am determined to stay firm–just as I wrote that my inner doubter whispered “I think” in my ear.

Mother DaughterBeing an attachment therapist in no way helps me with my parent/child struggle. When it comes to my daughter, I am near blind and seriously feeble-minded. I cannot tell the difference between loving and enabling her. Before I respond to any of her requests of me I have to run my thinking by my partner at home and a colleague at work, lest I do a seriously enabling act. It’s unbelievable to me that I am so mush brained with her. When it gets down to the core of it, I see her attachment challenge as a disability and I forgive so many things that are completely off because of that.

When someone makes poor choices day in and day out since they were 3-years-old, it feels hard to insist they make good ones before they can get my help. I read that last sentence to my partner and he said, “YOU have given her help for 15 years and she has never been willing to live inside the boundaries of our home or society. YOU have helped her a lot and you will have to do that the rest of your life because she will not choose a different path.” Thank goodness he was offering me a freshly made cappuccino when he said this or I might have bitten his face off. Instead, tears come to my eyes because I am gut-deep sad that I cannot save my daughter from herself, disability or not.

Attachment Help

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Enabling hurts. Love matters. Love is not enough. Life is not a quote. Parenting is hard. Duh.

Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT and Mother
Attachment Specialist and
Parent Whisperer

Punishment vs. Consequences

Most traditional parenting strategies will not work longterm with an attachment challenged child. However, it is important to allow natural and logical consequences to persist in your child’s life because it is the way of the world and children need to understand that over time. Still natural and logical consequences will likely not create huge behavior change.

A natural and logical consequence becomes punishment when you deliver it by withholding love and giving anger, disapproval, rage, put downs, rejection, hopelessness, and dismissiveness.

Negative emotional “consequencing” is punishment. It doesn’t work longterm to change behavior and it slices gashes on the heart of your relationship with your child. That punishment lasts a lifetime.Scared child

A loving, short talk is a logical consequence. That will change behavior faster than your expressed rage, disappointment, disgust, anger, frustration, rejection or dismissal.


Because a loving relationship changes the heart (otherwise known as the brain) of your child. Win-win.