Ten Therapeutic Parenting Principles to Snack On

Dear Parents,

Here are 10 Therapeutic Parenting Principles; not the only 10 Therapeutic Principles because there are many more.

10 Therapeutic Parenting Principles

  1. Be safe parents to attach to.  Safety over compliance is important in therapeutic parenting. Keep your faces and eyes soft.  If you are upset, give yourself a time out to someplace kid free until you can get your soft face back.  If the child insists on talking, insist on space for yourself first.  If the child badgers you, sit silently and read a book.  Offer the child a seat beside you. Promise to talk when you have calmed down.  This models affect (emotional) regulation.
  2. Punishment does not work.  Consequences do not work.  Emotional discussions do not work.  Rejection does not work.  Threatening does not work.  Spanking, hitting or physical force does not work.  Time out in isolation does not work.  Reasoning with a dysregulated child never works. So what works, you ask?  Emotionally regulated parent(s) using soft-eye nurture, empathy, engagement, and structure works to create the safety necessary to attach which is necessary for positive behavior change.
  3. Stop yourselves from talking, talking, talking to the child.  This will create tuning out, blank stares, and dissociation.  “Please remember that plastic can’t be microwaved, honey.”  “Thank you for quickly stopping and doing what I asked you to do.”  “Would you speak loudly please, or I won’t be able to answer you otherwise.” “When you are ready to finish your chores, then we can get on with the fun part of the day.”
  4. Be on the same page with your co-parent.  Use wait time to decide what to do.  Consult each other before making parenting decisions.  It is okay to say, “Something will happen, though I’m going to talk with Mom or Dad before deciding.”
  5. Stay calm.  Respond calmly and quickly only to real (not imagined) safety concerns that impact siblings, Mom or Dad, pets, or others. You can include property in this, but be careful. Sometimes “things” become more important than the heart of the child and that will not work long term.  Use appropriately measured restitution for property destruction instead of emotional punishment or consequences. Have the restitution discussion only when all are emotionally regulated.
  6. Do not follow, lead.  Your child needs you to be the leader.  If there are choices to give, you initiate them and you give them with empathy and understanding.  This is the kind of structure and nurture an attachment challenged child needs to feel safe.
  7. Avoid saying “no.”  This is very difficult.  Find a way to say yes.  “Yes, you can play with friends, when we come back from the store.”  “Yes, you can have candy after dinner.”  If badgering ensues, instead of ramping up your voice and thereby the emotional stakes, be a calm, broken record “Yes, after dinner.  Yes, honey, after dinner.”   Another way not to have to say “no” is to ask the child what s/he thinks the answer is?  Ignore most negative behavior.  You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.  Ignore the rest. Appreciate, compliment, and thank the child for behavior you want.  Give these things in a neutral tone rather than an exuberant tone.  Good behavior creates BIG anxiety in challenged children because they fear they will not be able to keep it up (as they think they are inherently bad somehow and it is only a matter of time before they do bad behavior).  These kids sabotage themselves, so avoid big build up to going places, seeing someone special, or getting to do or get something great.  The child will find some way to mess up the experience.  This is due to a number of internalized messages, but largely excitement dysregulation, anticipation anxiety dysregulation, and internalized negative self-concept dysregulation.  Operative word–dysregulation.
  8. Wait for regulation. Process situations with your child only when everyone is emotionally regulated.  If one of you gets dysregulated during a discussion, simply say, “Let’s stop for now and finish this conversation later when we can all be calm.”   Almost nothing requires a talk RIGHT NOW.
  9. Play, be silly, and laugh together.  Play is extremely important with challenged children. Use the therapeutic principles in Theraplay by Booth and Jernberg–Structure, Engagement, Challenge, and Nurture.  Stay away from winner/loser games.  Try not to keep score even if the game usually is scored.   Be lovingly physical.  Roll around on the floor together and switch up the play when the energy gets too high or too low.  Traumatized children get dysregulated by fun, too. That doesn’t mean they should never have it.
  10. Give lots of hugs and kisses on your terms.  It is okay to give them on the child’s terms, too; however, not only on the child’s terms.  If this is a problem and it often is, then get your therapist’s support for ways to change the dynamic.

Feel free to pass this along to any parents you think are struggling with trauma manifesting in their children.  Bottom line:  Most parents of traumatized children need the support of an attachment-based, trauma-informed therapist or team of trauma-informed professionals, and lots of respite.

For every ten principles, there are 10 more. You have plenty of time to grow.

Love matters,


The Attach Place Upcoming Events Calendar

Look what is coming at the end of August…August 28th to be exact

For more Mastermind information, click here.

AUTISM Support Group:  Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public.  NEW DAY: Every third Monday from 5:30 to 7pm.  Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks. This is a  monthly social group for the youth; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. There will also be occasional fun field trips, like bowling, ice skating, roller skating, etc. A donation of $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE.  ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.

UPCOMING ONLINE ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT:   Adoptive Parent Support Group, July 10th, 2019.   Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm online. Open to the public.  If you would like a link to the webinar, reply to this post with Adoption Support Group in the subject line.

GIVE A BOOK OF SUPPORT TO A FELLOW PARENT ON THE ADOPTION JOURNEY: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT.  Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing.  Buy from Amazon or order a discounted copy here.



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