Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bridging the Gap

At the beginning of this month, I attended a conference in Las Vegas where Dr. Allan Shore was the keynote speaker. His information was amazing! "Thick," but amazing. By thick I mean it was in-depth, profound, intellectually stimulating, and heavily documented by scientific research.

The premise of his talk was that the repair of the self, or healing, from early childhood experiences happens in the right hemisphere. The right hemisphere is our unconscious processor and our emotional self. He discussed how a child's brain needs meaningful human interaction to drive the brain's development and maturity. When these experiences are missed between the child and his caretaker, the neurological pathways are misaligned.

The great news is that repair and realignment of these neurological pathways is possible due to the plasticity of the brain. However, this repair does not come through intellectual or cognitive processing. The primary component of healing is the emotional bond. It has to happen through emotional communication and emotional connection. It is the right-brain-to-right-brain emotional communication that heals. The relationship is the key. In essence, and these are my words, it has to come through love.

Then at the end of this month, I attended the ATTACh conference in Charlotte, NC. I presented to a room of almost 100 parents. The energy in the room was so different from the conference in Las Vegas. At the ATTACh conference, the room was filled with parents struggling everyday just to get the basics of life accomplished, each desiring more information to be able to go back home and move out of a place of survival into a place of living. Yet, in Las Vegas, the atmosphere was more relaxed. The day was about informational learning and listening to the latest in scientific research. It was a day off work to earn continuing education credits then a night out in Vegas catching a show and having a nice dinner.

As I type this blog, I realize that we need to focus on bridging the gap between the intellectual and scientific understanding of trauma and the "real-life" parenting of trauma. The two need to come together in a more coherent way in order to put neurological science into action. Showing slides and talking about current neuroscience literature doesn't necessarily mean that the quality of life in families is being improved.

As I look back and realize the incredible contrast between these two trainings, I realize more than ever my mission in life. This is the essence of my work at the Beyond Consequences Institute -- to bridge the gap between neuroscience and parenting. Wow! This gets me fired up and rejuvenated to create more resources and ways to support you and other families.

If you have any ideas of how to I can help you or other families bridge this gap, post a note here. What more is needed to learn how to create these "right-brain-to-right-brain" interactions in your home? I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adoptive mother attempts to kill her daughters and herself.

This is a tragic story of a single adoptive mother who reached a point of complete overwhelm and hopelessness—way past her window of stress tolerance. If you are not familiar with the news report, here are two links for more information:

This tragic event was blamed on the stress of finances and the economy. While this is truly a factor, it is no coincidence that this horrendous situation happened with an adoptive mother. Here is a mother who over six years ago was happy when her daughters came home but something went wrong.

Many of you reading this blog know exactly what happened. Many of you are saying to yourself, “Yeah, I understand how she got to this point.” And the hair stands up on the back of your neck because it is unnerving as a human being to realize that you actually comprehend and understand what it means to get to such a point.

Raising children with traumatic histories coupled with a parent’s own “unfinished business” is what creates this intense dynamic. All too often, adoptive parents go from a place of utter joy, travel half way around the globe, spend thousands of dollars, endure an invasive adoption process, only to find themselves six years later in a place of utter hopelessness, misery, and despair.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way anymore! There is hope. There is a way to make all of this different. I know there is both from personal and professional experience! It takes a new understanding of our children, insight into our own reactions, and support around us to make our way back to love. Putting love into action, free of fear, is the answer. Love never fails!

To me, what is more tragic is the media’s lack of response to do a follow-up story to help prevent history from repeating itself. I made numerous calls this past week to the media explaining that this is my area of expertise and offered to speak with them or even travel for an interview in order to create more understanding behind this news story. As many of you know, there is an entire chapter in my book that is devoted to explaining why parents get so hostile and angry. I also have a research study, published in the Journal of Social Work, explaining the stressors adoptive mothers face when raising children with special needs (You can read this at:

I even called a publicity agency with whom I have been in contact but the reply was that they were too busy with other clients. I was willing to pay someone to help me connect with the media, but to no avail!

My efforts have fallen onto deaf ears, so I am asking you to help me. Would you do that for me? Would you write a letter to the editor of one of the major newspapers in Minneapolis, asking them to consider reporting on more than just the gruesome details of this mother and her children? Could you make some phone calls to news stations? Call Oprah for me. Call Jerry Springer if that is what it takes! Somehow, we have to find a way to break through to the public in order to prevent one more family from falling this far into fear.

Thank you for considering this call to action.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do you have an emotional hurricane plan in place?

Living in Florida has its challenges during the months of August, September, and October. This year is no exception. Hurricane Fay (actually she never really made it to be a real hurricane) was like a house guest who wouldn’t leave. She hovered around the edge of Florida and the Atlantic for several days, just picking up the water and dumping it on us.

The first week of school was interrupted—each day was a guess as to whether or not my children would be home for the day or embarking on their next academic year. Monday, school was in session. Tuesday, school was closed. Wednesday was on for one child but off for the other child. Thursday, school was back on and then Friday, off again. I’m fairly confident nothing was accomplished this first week!

Friday I was on a phone coaching call with a client and realized as I watched the rain and wind from my office window that just as we have a hurricane action plan in my house, so do we as parents need to have an internal hurricane action plan. Prior to a hurricane threat, I check off my list to make sure we have working flashlights, water, non-perishable food, and the like. Likewise, there are several items that each of us needs to have in place to weather the storms of our children’s difficult behaviors. This list needs to include what it will take to keep us regulated and balanced in order not to slide into a place of internal dysregulation—an emotional hurricane plan.

I encourage you to make a written list of what you need to take care of yourself and how to keep from getting pulled into your child’s vortex of dysregulation during difficult moments. Such a list might include the following:

1. Committing to reading and listening to love-based parenting materials such as my books and my audios each day.
2. Eating properly.
3. Exercising regularly.
4. Using meditation or contemplative prayer daily to calm your nervous system.
5. Listening to your favorite music when you feel yourself slipping into a state of fear.
6. Practicing deep breathing, even when calm and regulated.
7. Using affirmations everyday to keep your mind on track.
8. Promising yourself to leave and take a time out, even when you feel justified in yelling and using controlling measures with your child.
9. Posting notes on your mirror or your refrigerator that will keep you in the right mindset. (something like: “It’s not about me.”)
10. Staying connected with friends or consciously creating a support system so you know you’re never alone.
11. Treat yourself to your favorite dessert or Starbucks once a week—just for you!

This list should be extensive. Identify what works for you. What do you need to be okay? Write down ideas. Don’t be restricted and judgmental…just brainstorm and get ideas on paper. Go back later and modify if needed. When you find yourself swirling in the midst of chaos, you will have a plan in place. You will have logical and rational thinking on paper to turn to when you are stressed and can’t think clearly at the moment.

The more you work to stay regulated, the more you will find yourself with a greater amount of patience, tolerance, and understanding to give to your children. In essence, the more you are in a loving state, the more love you have to give to your child. This is how children get better and this is how you end the negative feedback loops going on in your home.

Time for me to go and treat myself to my favorite dessert for the week! Dr. Pepper, here I come.

Time to Celebrate!

I’m celebrating this weekend because I finished the last chapter of my new book on Thursday, put some final touches on it on Friday, and sent it off to my editor! What a major undertaking—I feel like I’m floating on air right now. This book will be a follow-up to the first volume of Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control. It is written in the same format where the first part of the book outlines the research, sets the foundation for this parenting paradigm, and covers the basic premises of love-based parenting. The second part details seven more behaviors. They include: demanding behaviors, homework struggles, self-injury, no conscience, social struggles, chores, and defensive attitudes. The third part is the best—it gives amazing success stories that parents submitted to me. You’ll be amazed at how love can turn a family who was in complete chaos into a family of peace and fun. The stories are truly inspiring!

This book definitely goes beyond the first book. It is so much more in-depth and gives better parenting examples. Since writing the first book, I have grown tremendously both personally and professionally. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and this made a difference in my writing. The information flowed much easier and the application of how to put love into action as a parent is much more profound.

The hardest part of the book was when I went to write only one single sentence—the dedication. I am dedicating this book to my mom who passed away this past April. Still as I write this blog, my eyes well up and the pain begins to surface. My mother was an advocate for children and spent about 30 years in public service standing up for what children needed in the public school system. She was a school board member who was not afraid to have a one to four vote (she being the one) and would stand her ground and held strong through the politics and budget restraints in order to do what was right. She modeled to me the true essence of perseverance, tenacity, and dedication. Dedicating this book to her gives it a whole new level of meaning for me.

Look for the release of Volume 2 at the end of October. We are planning a big book release party at BCI, so be sure you are signed up on my network ( so you’ll get an invitation!