Friday, June 27, 2014

Opening the Internal Door

Q: I find some teachers are worried that by breaking the stress cycle with a student, they will reinforce the negative behavior. For example, if a student bangs his head, a staff person will interrupt the student by taking him on a walk. Yet, there is resistance to taking him for a walk because the staff are concerned they will "reinforce" his head banging.

A: From a behavioral framework, this concern is perfectly valid. The traditional way of thinking puts the focus on the behavior, and thus, it would look as if the staff person was "rewarding" this child by taking him on a walk.

However, the head banging is more than just head banging for the sake of head banging. We must stop and ask the question, "What is driving this child to bang his head?" Asking this question is the most important step in understanding why taking the child for a walk is not a reward.

Instead of seeing a negative behavior simply as something to extinguish, consider that all behavior is a form of communication.

A child's behavior, whether positive or negative, is like opening a door to the inner world of the child. Shutting down the child's behavior is like shutting the door to his inner world. Our responsibility as adults in this child’s life is to open this secret door, to find out and understand what is going on internally.

A child communicating with negative behavior, such as banging his/her head, is a child who is dysregulated. Dysregulation is the state of being out of balance, outside one's window of stress tolerance, or as one child put it to me so eloquently, "oozing." Dysregulation happens at all levels of our existence: physically, emotionally, cognitively, mentally, and spiritually.

We all know the experience of being dysregulated at the physical level (although we may not have referred to it as this) when we did not sleep well the night before. How did you feel? What about the time you missed a meal or the opposite, when you finished Thanksgiving Dinner and overstuffed yourself? This feeling of being physically dysregulated affected your concentration, mood, speech, memory, and simply the ability to be nice and patient with others.

Children, whether exhibiting negative behaviors in the classroom or at home, need adults in their lives to understand that the root cause of these behaviors is the lack of ability to regulate. They have a compromised regulatory system, meaning their ability to shift back into a state of balance and to appropriately handle life stressors is underdeveloped.

This is a regulatory issue, not a behavioral issue.

A two-year old having a tantrum when getting frustrated is commonly accepted because it is understood that the child has not developed the coping skills to deal with being frustrated. However, a ten-year-old having a tantrum for the same reason is commonly viewed as unacceptable. It is expected that this ten-year-old be able to handle himself appropriately.

The ten-year-old, however, may not be equipped to handle, modulate, and manage his emotions due to an interruption in his developmental path that prevented him from developing this skill. Therefore, his tantrums should no longer be considered "bad behavior." Rather, the tantrums should be viewed as dysregulated behavior. The answer to helping this child change his pattern lies in helping the child learn how to regulate, not in punishing him for the tantrums (which of course, will only cause him more frustration, heightening his dysregulation and potentially increasing the tantrums).

As with the student in the above question, his head banging is being driven from a place of dysregulation. The "disciplinary action" thus needs to focus on understanding what is driving the dysregulation and then helping this child re-regulate. Ultimately, this type of intervention will teach this student how to regulate his internal world on is own--to self-regulate.

Taking the student for a walk is a perfect example of how to interrupt the build-up of his internal stress. Taking him on a walk and helping him to regulate through the power of connection and relationship is exactly what he needs in order to ultimately be able to connect with himself and learn the invaluable tool of self-regulation.

When you see the head-banging as a regulatory issue, rather than a behavior issue, the fear of reinforcing the negative behavior is no longer in the realm of possibilities.


Q: What are some suggestions or tools/techniques to help our children and their teachers when they are getting stressed in the classroom?

A: When the stress level begins to rise in the classroom, the best strategy is to stop, interrupt the stress cycle, and get back to a place of regulation. Due to the academic demands placed on teachers, this becomes a challenging task. However, taking two or three minutes out of a rigorous academic lesson can actually create more learning in the long run.

When we are at work and get overloaded and overwhelmed, what do we do? We head for the coffee, log into Facebook, eat a candy bar, or call our significant other. It is a natural way for us to get back into balance.

Students in the classroom need the same type of break but done in a group setting with the goal of getting everyone back to a state of regulation. Here are a few suggestions that only take a few minutes out of an academic schedule:



Stop. Have the students close their eyes. Breathe. Listen to one soft soothing song as an entire class (classical, jazz, soft rock, etc).

Prior to leaving for the next class or transitioning to specials or to lunch, turn down the lights (do not flicker the lights as this creates too much stimulation for many children). The teacher can talk about where they are going, how they are going to get there, and help the students visualize in their minds the transition. This gives children the ability to process the transition in order to reduce any fears. Many children have difficulties transitioning because it was in the times of transition that trauma happened. Thus, any transition now in their lives can be challenging.

As a class, put the pencils down and stand-up. The teacher leads the class in breathing exercises while leading the students through some light stretching exercises right at their desks. Getting the body moving in a gentle fashion can help to shift students getting dysregulated "back into their bodies." Many students, especially the quiet ones, will tend to dissociate when overloaded. Physical movement is a very effective way to help these students shift back and regain their focus.

School is stressful for everyone but it can also be where some of a child's best memories are created. Keep the focus on regulation instead of behavior and this can be one of your child’s best years!

Press on,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2, and Dare to Love

P.S. Check out my Ask the Expert Interview with Sherrie Eldridge, as she speaks out adoption, adopted children and how their parents are drawn closer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fun is Always Available

family playing board game Q: When I try to have fun times with my 10-year-old son (who has a trauma history), I hesitate because during games and activities, he gets frustrated and rude. It isn't fun for either of us.

A: One of the key elements that happens in families once the stress level rises, is a massive decrease in fun. In my BCI Live trainings and my Online Parent Trainings, I always encourage parents to find ways to put fun back into their families.

Yet, as the parent is describing above, this is not an easy task. Even when you plan fun and consciously make time for it, it seems as if your child does everything possible to sabotage the fun.

In these moments when the fun turns to frustration, it is too easy to have a response such as: "I have to teach this child to be a good sport,

otherwise he will never be able to function on a team. He won't be able to socialize and will always get shunned by his peers if I don’t fix this now."

This type of parental reaction is fear-based and it does not take into consideration why the child is acting this way. For children with a history of trauma, playing games inherently presents a threat of losing, and thus, the threat of someone else winning over them.

Here are four reasons why children can react so negatively:

  1. Small Window of Stress Tolerance. When a child is living only moments away from his/her breaking point, the child is incapable of demonstrating tolerance and patience. The child will blow-up over what the parent would consider "little things" and the child is challenged to see anything from another person's perspective.

2. Survival. When a child has a traumatic history, he will have experienced the intense feelings of being helpless, powerless, and hopeless. The result is a child who now lives in a place of "survival" and he develops an unbending commitment to himself to always win and never be vulnerable. Playing a simple board game will trigger this survival response. He "must" win...losing is NOT an option. It is a matter of life or death, no matter how many times you reassure that it is simply a game.

3. Belief System.When children are not cared for and their needs are not met (when trauma happens), they internalize these experiences as their fault. Internal negative beliefs develop such as:

- I'm stupid.
- I'm not lovable.
- I don't deserve fun.
- If I'm not perfect, my parents won't love me.
- I'm not good enough.

  Games and fun activities will bring these beliefs up to the surface and make the child feel horrible about himself. This negative belief system can instantly lead him to be rude and short-fused. 4. Fear of Intimacy. One-on-one play with a parent is an intimate experience. The parent, simply by being in the role of a parent, presents a threat to the child. The parent has the ability to reject and abandon this child at any moment. The child can't trust the parent--at least not yet--due to a history of vulnerability at a very young age. The child responds to this level of vulnerability by ruining the game. It is a simple philosophy: "If I ruin this game first, you won't have a chance to ruin me."

With understanding, patience, and adjustments, all four of these critical issues can be overcome.

First, expect the fun activity or game to be difficult (I know, that isn't much fun!). Such activities need to be viewed as teaching moments in the beginning. You have to overcome issues on several different levels. If you know from the start what your child can or cannot handle, it gives you, the parent, a greater amount of patience to start. You are also going into the activity with more realistic expectations, which will decrease your level of disappointment.

Secondly, redefine fun. Redefine how fun can be created in the smaller moments of your everyday life.

Since games are now classified as learning activities, look for other ways to create fun. Think outside the box, be creative, and look to activities already in your daily routine. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Make the bed together but instead of the mundane, make the bed with your child still in it (or vise versa).
2. Hop on one leg as you two take out the garbage together.
3. Give each plate or glass a name as you empty the dishwasher together.
4. Play dance music while folding the laundry together.

Fun does not have to mean a day at Disney World or even a board game like Candyland.

It can't for your child. These activities--at this point in your child's healing process--are more than what his system can handle from the perspective of fun.

Stop and enjoy the moments within your child's capacity of fun and be creative. It is easy to push and expect your child to be able to do activities that the world considers "age appropriate." But so many of these activities are simply outside of his range. Trust that each small fun activity will pave the way to an increased capacity for larger fun activities.

Don't ever give up on fun. Simply modify and redefine what fun looks like for the present moment! Fun is always available.

Press on in fun,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2, and Dare to Love

P.S. Check out my Ask the Expert Interview with Sherrie Eldridge, as she speaks out adoption, adopted children and how their parents are drawn closer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Love is Not a Commodity

REAL Q: I adopted my daughter as an infant and to this day, 16 years later, she still resists everything I offer. I ask her to empty the dishwasher and she resists. Everything turns into a blow up--she tells me that I am not her "real" mom and that her birth mom would make a "way better mother." She doesn't know her birth mom so it's as if she says this because she knows it hurts me.

A: This is a common issue for adoptive parents, as well as foster parents, stepparents, and grandparents raising their grandchildren. As parents, one of our roles is to acknowledge our children's emotional struggles yet

at the same time, teach them to function in daily life. Finding the balance between the two with a child who refuses our help can prove to be beyond difficult.

Let's discuss what your daughter might be feeling. She gets upset, refuses to take responsibility and blames you, and then she offers the dagger of all daggers: "You're not my real mom!"

I know this is frustrating, not to mention hurtful. The only way to work with statements such as this is to take your daughter's perspective and put yourself into her reality. Through the lenses of her abandonment, she is are not her mother. Children have an internal bond with their biological mothers that I believe will and can not ever be severed. It is a deep primal connection that transcends all other experiences in the child's world.

A biological mother carries the baby for the first nine months of its life. The baby fetus knows her mother's heartbeat, the sound of her mother's voice, and the smell of her mother's skin. This is what is familiar to this baby and once she is born, if she is removed from the mother (even for loving reasons), everything is lost for this baby. EVERYTHING. At that moment, as a vulnerable baby with no coping skills, nothing is familiar and nothing feels safe.

The nine months in the biological mother's womb is a time where a bond greater than any other bond known to mankind is created. It cannot be broken nor does it need to be for this child, even if you are her "real" mom now.

As a mother (or father) to a child who is not biologically connected to you, you have to be able to think outside the box. The traditional belief that a child has "one and only one" mother (or father) for life needs to be questioned. As parents, we get rigid in our thinking; we feel the need to say (or think), "I'm your mother now," implying that the relationship with the biological mother needs to be severed.

Love is not a commodity. There is plenty of it to go around. There is enough room in your daughter's heart to have two mothers. Being her adoptive mother does not make you second best. It simply means you are on this part of her journey with her. Embracing this concept will allow space for her to feel like she can also embrace two mothers without betraying her biological mother.

Will your connection to your daughter ever be as strong as the primal connection she has with her biological mother? Maybe yes but maybe no. It depends on a child's internal make-up and her personality. One is not right or wrong. Love looks different sometimes.

Additionally, many adopted children fantasize about their biological families. Your daughter is probably doing this, as well. Even though she does not know her biological mother and never has, she still feels a deep internal connection. It can be as if her birth family (and her biological mother, especially) is the only one to whom she can be loyal. She is caught between two mothers--wanting and needing you, yet feeling as if she will betray her biological mother in the process. Your daughter makes negative statements to you, not to hurt you, but to give expression to the loyalty she feels towards her biological mother.

Giving your daughter permission to have two mothers is the key to returning your home back from chaos to peace and to helping your daughter heal a very deep wound.

In your heart, can you find acceptance and room for your daughter to have two mommies? Do some self-analysis and self-reflection to see what resistance comes up from within you. Does this concept make you feel "less" of a mother or even inadequate as a mother? Let the traditional idea of "only one mother for life" be gone. You are perfectly her mother now and any statements she makes to you that contradict your role in her life now, are simply expressions of her internal struggle. They are NOT about you personally.

In the heat of the moment next time, dance with her statements. When she says, "You're not my real mom," reply, "You're right. I'm not." Affirm your daughter. Ask for more and let her know you want to understand how much it hurts that she is not with her biological mother right now. Let her know that you are sad that her biological mother was not able to care for her and that she feels you do not meet the standards she holds true for her mom. Allow her the space to express her feelings towards her mom and towards you. Open the space for the building of a relationship instead of fighting the relationship.

Once she can express her true feelings and thoughts with you, it is certainly appropriate and a part of your responsibility as a good parent to set boundaries. Disrespecting you and making hurtful statements needs to be changed. Stress that your home is a place of emotional safety for everyone, always. Explain that comments she has been making are negative, hurtful, and inappropriate. You will notice, however, that by giving her permission to have two mothers along with permission to express her fears and sadness, the negativity and disrespect will actually dissipate on its own.

It is our job, as parents, to ensure there is balance within the home and within our relationship with our children. We need to allow our children the space to be "bound" to their biological parents. Yet we also must reinforce that we are here, in the present, right here and now and that to make a family functional, we must all work lovingly together. For some it may look like just coming to an agreement that the child will respect the parent as their caregiver and for others it may be the child breaking down and finally allowing the parent to be in charge, fully.

Love simply allows each child his or her own process.

Press on,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2, and Dare to Love

Please note, Contributions to this newsletter were given by Ruby, an adult adoptee. To access her blog for more amazing insights, click here:

P.S. Check out my Ask the Expert Interview with Sherrie Eldridge, as she speaks out adoption, adopted children and how their parents are drawn closer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"This is the only training that finally worked for my family!"

When Everything Has Failed to Help Your Child,
Sometimes You Just Have to Start Over.

This is the training to start over and to start over right this time!

This two-day specialized training will equip and empower you to
re-establish safety, peace, and order back into your home, while
giving you a step-by-step program on how to create a healing
home in order to help your child(ren) successfully move forward.

Saturday & Sunday

July 12-13, 2014
Denver, CO
This training is approved by the NASW Colorado
Chapter for 15 hours of Continuing Education Credits.

a full-day certification for parents
to learn how to safely contain violence.

July 11, 2014

For a complete agenda, click HERE.

This ONE OF A KIND training will address the following:
·       Verbal and Physical Aggression
·       Defiant and Unmanagable Behaviors
·       Threatening Behaviors to Self and Others
·       Destructive Behaviors in the Home
·       Significant Mood and Regulatory Disorders
·       Complete Disregard to the Word "No"
·       Reactive and Massive Meltdowns
·       Chronic Disrespectful at All Levels
·       Complete Disconnect Between Parent(s) and Child
·       Unsafe Sibling Interactions
·       Unsafe Sibling Interactions
·       Intentional and Targeted Malicious Acts
·       Reactive Parenting That Develops From Constant Conflict
·       Parents Who Are Tired of Being Abused
·       Restoring the Desire to Parent Again

Certification for Violence Containment
Two of the top experts in the field of Childhood
Trauma, recognized around the world, will be
leading this training on Saturday and Sunday
and giving you tools and solutions that work.

Dr. Ronald S. Federici
Heather T. Forbes, LCSW

Both of these experts have not only worked in the
mental health field with aggressive and violent
children but they both have, more importantly, raised
children of their own with these types of unnerving
behaviors. They know your situation from a personal
experiential level. They "GET" it!


If you answer "YES" to any of the following
questions, this training is a MUST and will help you
to restore peace, order, and happiness in your home:
  • Are your child's behaviors so intense in your home that NO ONE believes you?
  • Could the level of sibling rivalry in your home be described as "Sibling Terrorizing?"
  • Does your child threaten to call Child Protective Services when you correct him/her, or worse, have you been the subject of an investigation?
  • Are you afraid to set any boundaries for fear of the behavioral fall-out of your child?
  • Does your child get so out-of-control you don't even feel safe in your own home anymore?
  • Are you scared that if your child is this violent now, what will he/she be like in 5 years?
  • Are you tired of spending night after night on the Internet, reading and researching what to do for your child, only to be left more confused and overwhelmed?
  • Are you feeling like you're the one going "crazy" because your child makes it look like you're over-reacting or over-dramatizing the situation?
  • Are you tired of reading parenting book after parenting book, only to find these parenting methods increase and exacerbate your child's aggressive behaviors?
  • Are you tired of sitting through boring lectures that give no practical advice on what to do when your home becomes a war zone and people get hurt?
  • Do you feel like a "prisoner" in your own home because your child is violent in public?
Is your child missing major developmental experiences that are hindering his/her ability to function in the world?

Continuing Education & Certificates
This training is approved by the NASW Colorado
Chapter for 15 hours of Continuing Education
Credits. Provider # NASWCO 1113. A
certificate of completion will be provided
at the end of the day on Sunday.
Want more information?
Join Heather T. Forbes, LCSW and
Dr. Ron Federici for a LIVE Q&A Webinar!
Just click here for the date and times.

Check out our recently recorded Q&A webinars
with additional in-depth interviews with
parents who have attended this program.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beyond Consequences 101 - A Guide for Your Relatives

Disapproving Grandparent
Q: I need a quick way to explain to my parents (who will be visiting during the holidays) what is meant by "Parenting Beyond Consequences." They don't seem to understand the way I'm parenting and are quite critical of me. They aren't interested in the neuroscience or the brain research. They're simply coming from the old school of the basics, so any help you have would be appreciated!

A: Beyond Consequences
can be a difficult concept to understand and to "wrap your brain around" when you've been living in a more traditional mindset for years, even generations. Love is about meeting people where they are and respecting their perspectives. Understanding that your parents are looking through the lens of the "old school" is the first place to start. From such a point of reference, this model is sometimes interpreted as if you're coddling or babying your child. The following explanation is written in more general terms in order to help a grandparent, relative, or anyone, begin to make a shift. Remember to be patient with them; you're shifting an entire paradigm and framework of interpretation.

Children need unconditional love and unconditional acceptance from their parents; we all know this and believe this. However, do we ever stop to consider how so many of the traditional parenting techniques accepted in our culture work contrary to this primal goal? Traditional parenting techniques that involve consequences, controlling directives, and punishment are fear-based and fear-driven. They have the ability to undermine the parent-child relationship and because they are tied into behavior, children easily interpret these actions to mean, "If I'm not good, I am not lovable." Thus, children often build a subconscious foundation that says that love and approval is based off of performance.

Parenting from a love-based paradigm means going beyond our children's behavior and beyond consequences to first see that negative behavior is a form of communication and that negative behavior is a response to stress. If we see the kicking and screaming child as one who is having difficulty regulating due to an overflow of feelings and stress, we can learn to stay present with the child in order to help him modulate these overwhelming feelings and overabundance of stress and thus, help him to build his regulatory system. This is a child who has been "emotionally hijacked." Emotions are not logical or rational; this negative acting-out is the body's natural fear reaction gone awry.

Allowing a child emotional space to safely dissipate this energy will then allow him to calm down. As we provide reassurance, unconditional love, and emotional presence for our children, the need to act-out will disappear. Many times our children act-out simply because they do not feel that they are being listened to nor do they feel as if they have been heard. Staying present and reassuring a child that you really are listening to him, can sometimes be enough to help him begin to regulate. The life lesson that the bad behavior is inappropriate does indeed need to be taught and reinforced. However, this life lesson can only happen once the child is fully regulated (when the child is calm) and his cognitive thinking is intact. This is also the time to present alternatives to the negative acting-out behavior. This is how we teach our children instead of punishing them. The definition of discipline is to teach.

The more we can stay focused on the relationship with our children and strengthening this relationship instead of controlling it through consequences, logic, and control, the more we will be helping our children learn to work through their stress appropriately. Below are four pointers to going beyond consequences:

1. Just Be Happy!-But I'm not! Did anyone ever tell you, "Just think happy thoughts and it will be okay."? Did it really work? Probably not. Emotions do not simply disappear. If feelings are not acknowledged and released, they are stored and become part of our physical make-up. Research has convincingly shown that being able to express feelings like anger and grief can improve survival rates in cancer patients. With our children, feelings that become stored and "stuffed" become activators for negative behaviors.

2. ALL Feelings are Good Feelings - As parents, it is important for us to understand the necessity of emotional expression, both in teaching it to our children and in modeling it to them. Blocked feelings can inhibit growth, learning, and the building of a trusting relationship between the parent and child. The first step to take is to recognize that ALL emotions are healthy. In our culture, feelings such as joy, peace, and courage are seen as good feelings, yet feelings such as sad, mad, and scared are seen as negative feelings. We must rethink our interpretion so this: Negative feelings don't create acting-out behaviors; it is the lack of expression of the negative feelings that creates the acting out.

3. Get to the Core of the Behavior - When children are acting out and being defiant, we need to begin to understand that their behaviors are simply a communication of an dysregulated state that is driving these behaviors. If we simply address the behavior, we miss the opportunity to help children express and understand themselves from a deeper regulatory and emotional level. We need to help our children build their emotional intelligence. Start by modeling basic feeling words to your child. Keep it simple and teach the five basic feeling words: sad, mad, bad, scared, and happy. Even the youngest of children can learn to say, "I'm mad!" When the toddler is throwing his toys or the teenager is having his version of a tantrum, encourage him at that moment to get to the core of the behavior through emotional expression. Remember:…it really isn't about the behavior. They really do know better than to do these things.

4. Responding vs. Reacting - So the next time your child becomes defiant, talks back, or is simply "ugly" to you, work to be in a place not to react to the behavior, but respond to your child. Respond to your child in an open way-open to meeting him in his heart and helping him understand the overload of feelings that are driving the behaviors. He doesn't need a consequence or another parental directive at that moment; he just needs you to be present with him (this does not mean you agree with the behavior, it means you are not correlating his behavior with your acceptance of him as a person). As your child learns to respond back to you positively through the parent-child relationship, he won't have the need to communicate through negative behaviors anymore. You'll both have more energy for each other, building a relationship that will last a lifetime and more energy to learn how to do it differently the next time.

For more parenting tips, check out some of my videos on Youtube:
      1.)  Sibling Rivalry
      2.)  The Missing Piece
      3.)  The Parent's Stress
      4.)  Chores
      5.)  Overwhelm

Happy hoidays and remember, it's not a behavioral problem; it's a regulatory problem!

Press on,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2,
Dare to Love
, and Help for Billy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Power of Negative Beliefs

Q: My son had a terrible early childhood history and constantly tells me he is a bad boy and that nobody loves him. Yet, no matter how much we tell him what a good boy he is or how much we love him, nothing seems to help. How can he continually reject these positive messages?

A: From the moment a child is born, the child is dependent on others to care for him, nurture him, and teach him about the world. The child has no other option but to trust that the

information being given to him is the truth. He has no filters...he accepts everything as fact.

For a child who goes through early childhood trauma, he lives in a world of false messages that are absorbed as truth. Everything that is said to him becomes his reality. Everything that is done to him becomes a reflection of who he is.

For example, if a child is emotionally abused and told he is worthless, that he won't amount to anything, or that the parent wishes he was never born, this child's internal belief system develops from these messages. This child believes he is worthless. His belief is that he is not lovable and that he should not be on the planet earth. Neurologically, we know that neurons that fire together wire together. So this belief system becomes ingrained and accepted at a deep subconscious and neurological level. These beliefs lay down the neural circuitry that then governs how this child behaves and responds to life events.

We then place this child in a different, more loving family. He is told that he is wonderful, that he is good, and that he is loved. The external messages are now in conflict with the internal messages. Which one do you think is stronger and louder? Of course, it is the internal voice of negativity that will dominate.

There is a profound gap between what others say and what the child's internal framework is saying, preventing this child from easily accepting any new messages beyond that which he already knows. The human brain is programmed to reject any belief that is not congruent (not the same) as one's own view.

Think about this from your own perspective. When someone comes up with a different belief than you have, what is your first reaction? You reject it. You dismiss this person as being on the fringe and you move on, maintaining your own reality in your mind. You might even argue with this person, defending your position in order to "save face" and to protect your own belief system.

Now back to the child in this example, the parent then tries to lovingly parent this child and to give this child positive messages of self-esteem and self-worth. Yet, what the parent doesn't realize is that the parent is up against the power of belief—up against the child's neurological mapping. No matter how many times this parent tells his new son, "I love you." or "You are a wonderful child." or similar positive messages, the old belief system of not being worthy and not being good enough continues to prevail. It is as if these messages are impervious to this child. These positive messages simply slide off the child as if there is a Teflon coating.

The reason is that these new messages are being given to the child at a cognitive level and are simply cognitive experiences. Yet, emotions play a powerful role in neural processing, much greater than language and cognition. In order to break through the old negative beliefs of this child, the parent has to dig deep within himself to interact with this child at a deeply profound emotional level. Love has the power to do this.

While the emotion of fear keeps this child locked in this negative belief system, it is also true that the emotion of love will release this child from this negative belief system. It takes parenting this child in a loving, safe, and emotionally available manner. And it won't be just one experience, but several experiences, over and over again, with this child being met at an emotional level, in order for new neural pathways to be created.

A new belief system is possible. It takes time, patience, understanding, tolerance, perseverance, and most importantly, emotional impact. For more information on a child's negative belief system and more concrete and practical ways to help him "re-write" them, see Chapter 5 of my latest book, "Help for Billy".

Love never fails…it simply takes learning how to love our children from their perspective and going beyond routine cognitive experiences.

Press on,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2,
Dare to Love
, and Help for Billy.