Returning to Basics

Good parenting happened automatically and intuitively when our children were babies. New parents are attentive and responsive to their babies’ needs and difficulties. New parents anticipate circumstances and dangers, and watch for those teaching moments. They are fully engaged in a loving, caring prevention and intervention approach. Very early in parenting experiences, a parent tenderly addresses a babies needs whether or not they respond in positive ways.

Adapting childhood parenting practices to the older child is a revolutionary, psychologically-sound approach. It is a natural, whole child parenting style. It is instinctive, purposeful, mindful, in the moment, and adapts to the special needs child well.

Dr. Feder cites several limitations and challenges of implementing a relationship model.

  1. Feder suggests: “It is not a didactic model.” I say: We must give up our old notions of the hierarchy of control – The parent’s will no longer dominates the child’s will
  2. We allow for respectful application in cross-cultural contexts.
  3. There is no clear book of directions, and you are creative in the moment, being flexible in choosing responses.
  4. The training required is in how to relate…developing an interpersonal and coaching component. First, the parent, and ultimately the child, must accept guidance. That is where you, as the coach, step in to shape responsive interactions.
  5. Feder says: “Boundaries must be tended.” I say: The parent must tend lovingly to the boundaries. This approach is called Creative Scaffolding because it provides the supportive framework for strengthening relationships of the child and family.
  6. Feder says: “We’re not ‘holding the baby”. I say: Parents are not using physical tactics to punish or restrain, rather they teach coping skills that enable the child to stand on their own. We are coaching caregivers to coach their children to wholeness within the framework of their recognized abilities.
  7. Dr Feder says: “There is a need for reflective process.” I say: this is …. the practice of mindfulness, self-awareness, and breathing.
  8. Feder says: “There is a need for more practitioners.” I say: YOU!

To rephrase Dr. Feder’s question:

Why Use Relationship Based Interventions?

  • “We CAN change outcomes despite genetics,” which only provide a blueprint for potential or possibility.
  • Affect or emotional regulation IS the key to growth and development, and this model is based on affect.
  • “We need to go beyond behavioral treatments.”
  • “Medication can support treatment, but cannot address” relational deficits nor make up for an environment that fails to adapt to a child’s core needs
  • We currently have plenty of clinical research to support the efficacious use of a relational model.

Raising a child with special needs and behavioral difficulties is a tale of love, fear, struggle, and courage. No amount of magic counting, no accumulation of time outs or forced sitting, and no step-by-step sticker rewarded behavior system will suddenly transform an emotionally, behaviorally challenged child into the vision of a child once imagined.

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