When parents call Care to Change about problems with their kids, they’re often at their wits’ end. They’re exhausted, frustrated … and most of all, confused. “I didn’t raise him to act like this!” “She was always such a sweet child. What would ever make her sext a boy?” “We’ve tried to reason, we’ve yelled, we’ve taken things away … and nothing works!”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of counseling families, it’s that unacceptable behavior in children often triggers unacceptable behavior in adults. Parents mean well, but instead of responding thoughtfully, they react emotionally, making the situation worse and driving their children farther away. By the time they call us, the situation seems to be dire.
It helps to think about how God responds to His children. In other words, us. When we misbehave, God doesn’t respond by striking us down or humiliating us. In fact, we don’t obey Him out of fear. Scripture teaches us we obey out of love. God’s grace and His forgiveness give us the power to live as He wants us to.
We can approach our own children from that same foundation of grace and forgiveness. Instead of simply trying to correct and control behaviors that anger and frustrate us, we need to shepherd their hearts so they make better choices today … and when they become adults. After all, character development is the long-term vision of parenting. Children are constantly learning and trying to find the right paths, and they wonder whether they can really trust us and rely on us, especially when we don’t agree with their wishes.
Discipline isn’t about punishment. It’s about maintaining and enhancing the connections we have with our children in ways that build trust, instead of fear, intimidation, or isolation. When kids act in ways they shouldn’t, instead of lashing out and yelling, we need to remain calm and curious. (When was the last time you saw an escalated parent regulate their child? Impossible!) Instead, we need to think about what’s going on and why it’s happening. The better we understand what’s driving their behavior, the more strategic we can become in responding and helping them develop the self-regulation that will prevent the next bad behavior and the one after that. In other words, our role becomes guiding their hearts instead of scolding their actions.
As the father of five, I know how frustrating misbehavior can be. I recognize there are times the next steps may seem to be beyond a parent’s capabilities. That’s when a remarkably effective therapy known as Trust-Based Relational Intervention® can help. TBRI is based upon what scientists have learned about the development of children’s brains, and Care to Change uses its strategies every day to help parents and children alike.
TBRI helps parents learn how to become better at giving children options, so they have more opportunities to practice making the right decisions and feel they have more control over what happens in their lives. Parents also discover how they can correct negative behaviors in more effective and longer-lasting ways. Children feel more successful and more confident, and parents deepen their connection with their kids and enjoy more positive interactions.
Could TBRI be the solution for helping you and your children? The best way to find out is to set a meeting with one of our counselors who has received professional training in TBRI. They’ll be happy to listen to your family’s challenges and answer your questions.
Michael Spencer is one of Care to Change’s professional counselors. He has combined ministry with counseling for families, couples, and individuals of all ages for over 20 years.