The reason our children act the way they do, and the reason all people act the way they do, is because we are attempting to connect and be accepted by those around us.
The fundamental drive for acceptance from others is our motivator. At their core, our students believe they are shameful, worthless, and actually “bad” people. This is the reason your child demonstrates all the behaviors and feelings that we see. Instead of viewing mistakes as indicators they did something wrong, they view them as indicators that they are a bad person – this is the difference between Guilt (which is good and helpful) and Shame (which is bad). When behaviors are focused on in sessions, all our kids hear is “You need to do this, and then you will be loved and acceptable.”
This is not your intention, but that is how the message is heard through their filter. Each time they hear this, they get the message confirmed that “I’m not good enough.” Even things like “You’re wrong, we DO love you!” is twisted in their mind to sound like “You are wrong for feeling unloved, this is more proof you just aren’t getting it! You need to try harder.” This leads to feelings of shame, which leads to behavior problems, and we start the cycle all over.
Our goal is not to focus on the behaviors (with rewards, advice giving), but what causes those behaviors- their feelings. Going deeper still, what causes those feelings is the core self-concept. At Calo, rather than just correct the behaviors, we’re actually going to the source. How we correct this core, is by providing an accepting atmosphere. If your child feels accepted, they won’t feel shameful, so they won’t feel sad/angry, and they won’t act out in the behavioral ways that got us to where we are today. This is a very different approach than a behavioral model and it can be tough to not focus on what our child did, but rather how they were feeling.
We accept our children by safe touch, acceptance, active listening, reflection, empathy, permission to feel, and giving without return. Unconditional care, attunement, and validation go a long way for our kids.
This is the crux of the idea behind therapy at Calo and this is very important to understand. If you understand this and apply it, it can take a significant amount of time off the length of treatment.
Empathy and attunement are the most powerful agents of change. If your child feels that we understand them, and can actually feel what they are going through, then they get this idea in their head and in their heart that they are worth the effort we put forth. They are worth us feeling crappy with them about being called names, struggling in school, and feeling great sadness.
This creates an experience that allows the relationship to be the agent of change.
If they are worth us suffering, then they are worthwhile, and if they are worthwhile, they don’t need to try so hard to fit in, worry about people not paying attention to them, feeling depressed, and acting out through behaviors.