Archive for Discipline

Renaming Discipline

Dear Parent,

I wonder how I would view disciplining children if it were called shaping children or growing children or supporting children?  Would you see discipline differently if it were called something else?

I know the word discipline derives from the Greek word to follow or follower of a teacher (like Jesus). In the truest sense of the word, it follows that children are the disciples of parents (who often are not at all like Jesus); however, it does not follow that discipline means “to teach,” but rather it means “to learn.”  To teach is a misnomer.

In popular culture, discipline has come to mean something more authoritarian, power over, and punitive.  To discipline a child is to create learning through some form of pain–isolation from the family, restriction from play, loss of beloved things, slaps, spanks, verbal lashing, humiliation, and other unspeakable forms of torture in the name of discipline.  Pain of some kind is de rigueur,  as though pain infliction is the only way to get a child to learn.  Isn’t that odd?  Even a little counterintuitive from where I stand.

I wonder if I would have learned Spanish if every time I conjugated a verb incorrectly the teacher inflicted pain so I would learn.  I am actually having a hard time even imagining that scenario.  Of course, we all know pain is not necessary to learn Spanish or any other academic subject.  I think we all know that, except a lot of knock-down drag-out fights over homework might be evidence to the contrary.

Actually, to really learn Spanish (for native English speakers) there needs to be 1) a desire on the disciple’s part to learn, and 2) there may or may not be another reward involved, such as a passing grade, the ability to speak with someone in Spanish, the internal feeling of pride and accomplishment, or college entrance and employment advances.  Come to think of it: I’m pretty sure had pain been part of the equation, I would have elected not to learn Spanish.  I would have given up on my desire to learn it, and any of the possible rewards that would have accompanied acquiring Spanish speaking skills.  I never would have made it to college, because a language is required.  I would not have become a teacher or therapist.  Likely, I would not be able to afford the luxuries my professional career brings me.  I might have ended up living below the poverty line:  Perhaps even lose my will to accomplish anything in life at all.  I might have started hating Spanish, and learning, and teachers all together. I might have dropped out of school, given up on myself and my goals, and perhaps pursued a less than savory lifestyle to get by.

If I had to choose between painful success and painless survival, I’m not sure I would have had enough pre-frontal cortex developed in my high school years to make a decision that ultimately would have given me life advantages.  To clarify, the decision that would have given me life advantages would have been to continue on learning Spanish, while hating learning, hating teachers, and despite the pain inflicted when I made mistakes–despite the pain, not because of the pain.  (I thought about inserting an old Nun quip here, but I’m too serious about the topic to make it funny.)

What do you say we collectively stop painfully disciplining our children to teach them to learn and start supporting them, growing them, shaping them to learn instead?  Just a thought on this fabulous Friday.  Go have some fun with your precious traumatized, attachment challenged babies.  Playful engagement is the best teacher of children and it is  in their native language.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,


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Parenting Takes Discipline, Self-Discipline

Let me remind you that the first level of intervention, correction, is a playful request to try it again sweetie.  If no is the reflexive answer, breathe, and give your second response, Okay, you can try it again later. 

Your job is to require the redo before the very next time you give your child what s/he wants.  It’s not a power struggle.  It is a waiting game, a regulation game. Delayed gratification is now on your plate. It’s challenging, isn’t it?  Our kids are challenged that way, too.

This form of correction needs to be the major form of intervention in your home. This is the way you get your child’s negative snark down and the respectful tone up.  Try it.


Teenagers From The GitGo

I feel like I have been raising teenagers for 19 years.   Because traumatized children are on survival mode, they seem to have teenager-like behaviors from the gitgo.  Yep, I said “Gitgo.”  I looked it up.  It is still a word to Webster.  
Today, I woke my son for school and thought the same thing I have thought every day for all these years: He needs to clean this disgusting room.  That is an hysterical repetitive thought process. How can I possibly care about his room for 16+ years?  HE obviously doesn’t NEED a clean room.  The good news is I didn’t say anything. If I said something every time I thought it my children would hate me.
Parents don’t have to parent everything.  If we did, our children would be either passively resistant or aggressively resistant 24/7. By the actual teen years, we would be totally tuned out and without influence in our children’s lives.
Relationship is everything.  Clean rooms, not so much.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
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Cheers to maintaining your influence for your child’s lifetime.
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Big Bad Scary World View

Without a “felt sense” of safety, our children with complex developmental trauma (abandonment + abuse) default to a big, bad, scary world view. Translated, that means very high anxiety, through the roof cortisol spikes, and super huge walls of defensiveness. Frankly, they are often reactive, verbally and physically defensive, rejecting, fearful of change and new things, rigid, and controlling.
Fear is powerful poison in the well of a child’s psyche.  It changes children from roly-poly bundles of silly delight and giggles into hypervigilant, self-focused and sometimes maniacal survivalists.
Therapeutic parenting is all about creating a patient, playful environment where chronic poor choices are seen as mistakes to learn from, rather than calculated misdeeds that need to be punished. “Felt safety” cannot grow in an angry, punishing family.
Therapeutic parenting tip number 1,000852:  Start every day anew.  And to quote Taylor Swift, “Shake it off. Shake it off.”
Love Matters,

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Ce Eshelman, LMFT

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 Put on some music and dance around. Come on. Shake it off.

If Only You Were Different, I Would Love You

Have you ever been in a relationship where you spent a lot of time trying to get the other person to change?  
If you would learn to share your feelings…
If you would try to think about me once in a while…
If you were more motivated to grow…
If you were more considerate…
If you liked my family…
If you would go out more…
If you were more adventurous…
If you were more spontaneous…
If you were more reliable…
If you were more positive…
If you weren’t so negative…
If you weren’t so judgemental…
If you would care more about how you look…
If you liked to hang out with my friends…
If you had friends…
If you helped around the house more…
If you didn’t have feelings all the time…
If you would just be happy…
If you weren’t so miserable…
If you worked less…
If you worked more…
Then…what?  I would feel better. I would accept you.  I would love you. 
That relationship didn’t work out very well, did it?  Or, that relationship isn’t going very well now, is it?
For a moment, think about your relationship with your attachment challenged, traumatized child.  Do you have an “IF…Then” list?
If you would just be normal…
If you would act your age…
If you could stop bouncing off the walls…
If you could stop talking all the time…
If you would just tell me what you feel…
If you would clean your room…
If you would tell the truth…
If you were trustworthy…
If you were honest…
If you were less self centered…
If you would think about the rest of the family…
If you would take less and give more…
If you would do your homework…
If you would try harder…
If you were pleasant to be around…
If you brushed your teeth, showered, zipped…
If you would stop badgering me…
If you would act right…
If you would do the right thing…
If you weren’t always looking for ways to make me crazy…
If you would stop scaring me…
If you didn’t need so much supervision…
If you weren’t so needy…
If you weren’t so helpless…
If you would just grow up…
If you would stop controlling…
If you would accept love…
If you would trust me…
If you would get better…
Then…what?  I would feel better. I would accept you. I would love you.
Enough said, right?
The Attach Place

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love and Acceptance Matter,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Acceptance is Loving.


Things Get Broken

Daily YOU Time
Love Matters
Good Morning Fellow Parent,

Our kids break things.  They break things to test the limits of everything because they cannot intuit when to stop, where the breaking point really is.  That is an attachment issue.  A lack of good enough parenting in the first 33 months of life (starting at conception) creates in a child’s brain the inability to intuit when to put the brakes on: when to stop.   So, SNAP, it’s broken.  Have you noticed that your child seems surprised every time something is broken?  It broke. 

Along with the inability to put brakes on is the inability to extrapolate.  Extrapolation is an executive function of the pre-frontal cortex.  Our attachment challenged children cannot extrapolate one broken thing to another broken thing.  Attachment challenged children have a higher level of cortisol (stress hormone) flooding their pre-frontal cortices, thus delaying the development of the executive function.  The executive function in the brain is what makes it possible for our children to put two and two together.  You probably noticed already that our kids don’t put two and two together very well, thus the need for repetition, repetition, repetition on our parts.

They are developmentally delayed.  It is important for us parents  to understand this.  They may look “normal,” but they are not really.  Their brains are different. How can we continue to expect age appropriate behavior from a child whose brain is delayed by many, many years?

The 65,000 dollar question is:  Will their brains ever change?  With help–your safe love, corrective parenting, attachment therapies, neurofeedback, Trauma Therapies, and time–mostly they will…much later than we parents usually expect and desire. Hang in there.

Up your empathy for how in the world it must feel to make the same mistakes over and over and over again and to be in trouble over and over and over again?  For me, horrible to the core and angry as hell at those who appeared to be constantly picking on me.  I think our kids feel something like that.  When I feel empathy, I handle things more gently and lovingly.  So will you.  That is what our kids need–gentle, consistent parenting. Over and over and over.

Love Matters, Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships
When YOU get upset today, take one deep breath before speaking. Maybe three.


Grateful For A New Day

What is that quote from Einstein? “You cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused the problem in the first place.”  Actually, I am not sure that that is the exact quote, nor that it was said by Einstein, but I am going with it because it serves my purpose.  If he didn’t say it, I am sure he would have agreed with whomever did say it, right?
I am so grateful for a new day, a new chance to see through a different viewfinder. Yesterday, I was all sour and sad and pathetic.  And I sure needed a good cry and a couple shoulders to hold me while I did it. Time to pick myself up, dust off my soiled clothes and dirty hands, and think circles instead of boxes, inside or outside of them, as it were.
Focusing on my son’s lying problem is causing more lying. I know that.  I can see it every day.  So, true to form, I keep focusing on the lying every day.  That is the same old thinking and it is getting me more of the same old problem.
There is a super sure-fire cure for lying.  Up your empathy, expect the obvious (lying), and accept re-viewing, re-phrasing, re-doing, re-remembering, re-evaluating, re-inventing, re-seeing, re-explaining, re-visiting, and re-telling until your child settles on what is the last re-vision.  Then re-joice because, little by little, your child is re-wiring for the truth.  
This method happens to take the patience of a cat observing a mouse for the kill. My personal opinion: The answers to the great conundrums of the Universe are usually found in the ways of dogs and cats.  Wag on, my friends, wag on and purr a lot.
Love Matters,
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Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
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Jinxed Myself

I am so often guilty of thinking “my children never learn.”
In the middle of the night (oh, around 1:30am) a couple days ago, while I was writing to YOU about how “mostly” my family is on the other side of insanity these days, I discovered my son in bed playing away on his computer.  With very little fanfare or emotion I said, “You need to go to sleep now and you have lost your computer privilege… goodnight honey,” and I trotted off to bed like a little carefree pony.
When 6:30am rolled around and it was time to go to school, he refused to speak to me, take his meds, or get up at all–spent the whole day in bed and wouldn’t speak to me when I got home (though he did manage to do all his chores–win/lose sorta.)  Here it is three days later and he still isn’t speaking or going to school. He doesn’t have a computer, so doesn’t have a life-force apparently.
My punishing him in the night the way I did, albeit calmly with an obvious natural consequence, sent him into a cortisol cascade impeding his prefrontal cortex and launching days of poor decision making.  So, thinking “my children never learn” is hysterical.  The truth is:  I never learn.
I know some of YOU are thinking:  Okay, but what did you really do wrong Ce?  He knew he shouldn’t be doing that.  He knew he would get into some kind of trouble.  He was wrong. He was breaking the rule.  He needed a consequence (punishment) to learn not to do it again. How else will he ever learn?
I truly wish I had a child with a brain that could manage that kind of thinking and that kind of parenting.  I don’t.  I have a child with extremely poor cause and effect thinking under pressure. Period.  He does not learn from natural or logical consequences dropped on him even by a quiet and gentle little pony.  He dysregulates, blows up or in, and makes one poor decision after another.  He can’t learn under those circumstances. His brain is offline.
Frankly, I am the only one in this equation with the capacity to actually think during times of stress and yet I often don’t.  Funny how I want him to do something that I can’t.  Isn’t that the parent way?  That was my parents’ way.  How about YOU?
When will I learn to parent the brain of the child I actual live with instead of the one I wish I had? When will I ever learn?
By the way, this could have been handled the next day with a simple conversation.  He likely would have consequenced himself without the drama, but I just couldn’t wait to parent power-bomb him.  I think it is a little meanness in me.  I really do.  Oh, the shame of being naked in the mirror of my baser nature.  If I look at it, I can set myself free. This is how I will one day learn.
Love Matters,
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Ce Eshelman, LMFT 
  • Save the Date: Next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend is September 19, 20 and 21, 2014.  Email for more information:

I Wish

There is a part of me that wishes I didn’t have so darned much to offer in this daily email.  I wish my life were smooth as silk and I woke up each morning digging through the reference books for something salient to say that would help you, rather than simply tuning into my own life and drawing from here.  I know this way is more helpful to YOU.  I know it is and that, of course, is why I write it.  I want desperately for my attachment challenged life to have meaning beyond itself…that is the “why” I write this for me.

So many times I have listened to parents lamenting the relentless disappointment that comes with the two step forward, one (or three) step back way our children have of learning. It is so bewildering and yet so much “how it is.”

This week I had such a wonderful all-nighter talk-a-thon with my 17-year-old son that I felt my heart fill with renewed energy and soar.  I know many of your hearts soared with me.   And, I am pleased by that.

Yesterday, “three steps back” arrived in the form of my T-Mobile phone bill.  I discovered $80.00 in gaming money surreptitiously charged to my phone.  Sure wasn’t me.  To his credit, my son did not lie or deny.  He said he felt ashamed and retreated under his bed covers.  Unfortunately, his dysregulation was great, so he skipped his chores, failed to keep a promise, and broke a house rule that day.  When I got home from work last night, he was still under the covers.

An hour later he appeared in my doorway whispering, “I’m sorry.”

Wait for it…

Emotionlessly, “Saying I am sorry won’t fix all of this this time.”

Back under the covers for another day, no doubt.  What in the world would prevent me from saying, “Thank you for the apology honey; let’s talk about it”?   Answer: painful disappointment.

Life is so delicious.  The highs and the lows make it worth living though.  I am still learning to be loving in the face of my own dysregulating emotions.  Upside: I didn’t yell or scold or punish.  I did, in the end, reject him, which shamed and caused his internalized self-hatred to spike through the roof.

Did I really need to do that to him?  Didn’t he punish himself enough already? Wasn’t my own disappointment enough?  Did I really need to rub it in, push away, incur abandonment panic in both directions?

I hope there is something in this tale for YOU.  There is nothing wrong with being accepting when your child has disappointed YOU.  It is okay; it is beautiful; it is forgiving; it is big-hearted; it is the definition love.  And love matters.

Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT

No Room For Shame

shamed boy 2If YOU feel abundant shame, YOU may inadvertently be abundantly shaming.  Many of us were parented with a strong nod to shame to keep us following the golden rules.  Sadly, shame IS an effective deterrent to misbehavior for some children–it leaves scares, however.

It was effective with me when I was a kid, sort of.  Actually, as I think about it, I just became more sneaky and ate plenty of parent-induced and self-induced shame pie, as a result. Later in life, I came to see that I had internalized all the shaming. Not only did I see my behavior as shameful, but so was I at the core of my being, shameful.

Everything triggered a shame response inside me–tripping on a crack in Dog Shamingthe sidewalk, being complemented, making a mistake, winning awards, being seen, not being seen, laughing too much, being too much, being TOO much.  My little children’s attachment challenged behavior caused me to spin in terrible shame spirals–“bad parent” shame.  Thankfully, it was my children’s behavior that helped me get over it, too.

Nearly 5 years after I brought my children home, I began to heal and came to a solid understanding (with a lot of therapy of course) that all that shame was unnecessary and that I could keep myself “in line” with love instead.  I could help my children find their self-worth with love, too.

Forgiveness, information, help from someone wise, love from others, from a higher power, and from oneself: These are all healing salve to the shame that binds us.

There is absolutely nothing shameful about having an attachment challenged child who has difficulty in life, but sometimes we parents feel ashamed by comparing ourselves and our children to others and only seeing the ways we don’t measure up. There in lies the shame. Self-love heals shame.  If YOU have abundant shame, get abundant help.  YOU can heal.  Your children can heal, too.
self love
Love Matters,
The Attach Place Logo
Ce Eshelman, LMFT