Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges they face involves correction. That doesn’t mean children and teens are bad — just that part of their development involves pushing boundaries and buttons, and part of our role as parents is guiding them to make better choices. We often think of corrective action, sometimes called discipline, as punishment, but it’s really about helping our kids behave in better ways.

Sometimes, children and teens act out in ways that are especially challenging and difficult for parents to navigate. That’s when it’s good to know a strategy that was developed to use what we’ve learned about brain development to help children overcome problems and create lasting connections with their parents.

Dr. Karen Purvis of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University pioneered this strategy, which is known as Trust-Based Relational Intervention®. While Dr. Purvis developed TBRI® to support the needs of children who come from hard places, its elements give all parents access to simple tools and a caring, loving approach to address and change behavior issues. It’s built around three primary principles: empowerment, connection, and correction, all of which are used together to develop healthier behaviors and emotions based upon trust instead of fear. Care to Change uses TBRI in our counselors’ work with children and teens.

Empowerment helps to prepare kids for positive changes in their lives by recognizing their need to feel safe and healthy. When they don’t feel safe and healthy, their emotions and behaviors reflect their fears. TBRI begins by addressing factors such as:

  • having safe and structured environments
  • addressing sensory needs and challenges
  • access to proper nutrition and hydration
  • adequate amounts and scheduling of sleep
  • regular physical activity and wellness exercises.

Connection principles are rooted in the natural behavioral connections that form between a mother and a newborn. Factors such as sustained eye contact, attention to needs, and warm, affectionate touch build trust and attachment between children and the adults in their lives. TBRI addresses these principles through steps such as:

  • observing behavioral and physiological responses
  • being aware of how adults’ emotions and attachments affect children
  • learning how to seek and give care in ways that promote attachment
  • using playful engagement to produce warmth and trust between caregivers and children
  • creating community that brings relationships into harmony.

The third set of principles focuses on correction, or increasing the child’s social competence so they understand more appropriate ways to behave around others and how they can regulate their own behavior. TBRI accomplishes this through:

  • Proactive behavioral strategies and preventive teaching measures
  • Role-playing to demonstrate socially appropriate responses to situations and emotions
  • Using playful, structured, calming, and protective engagement to resolve problem behaviors.

Although TBRI’s principles may sound complicated, parents and caregivers can learn simple and practical tactics to help them support the child’s journey from fear to proper development. If you’re struggling to help your child improve their behavior and responses, talking with one of our professional counselors who has had specialized training in TBRI can help you apply these principles successfully. Call us today.

Podcasts on the topic:

Connecting with your teen

Boundaries with kids

Becoming a better parent

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