HOPE in the form of trust-based principles – connecting, empowering and correcting

As an adoption social worker at Maine Children’s Home, I’ve seen parents or caregivers who have given up hope that their child is capable of healing from past trauma. I’ve heard frustrated parents or caregivers have said they feel like they are being “held hostage” by the challenging survival behaviors their child exhibits. And, I’ve felt the anguish from parents and caregivers who have had the courage to say: “I love my child, but I really don’t like them at all.”

We know that most children from hard places – abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other forms of trauma – have learned maladaptive ways of getting their needs met. We call them “survival behaviors” and they look like this: Using violence, aggression, tantrums, screaming, self-harm, disrespect, harming others, and the list goes on and on. In the past, they had to develop these survival behaviors just to get their needs met and have their voices heard.

So, how can we teach these beautiful, but hurting souls to have a voice in a respectful way?

One way is to try a different parenting or caregiving approach like Trust-Based Relational Intervention® or TBRI®. We know that managing behavior is easiest when relationships are deeply rooted in connection and trust.

Trust Based Relational Intervention® is basically made up of three sets of principles: Connecting, Empowering and Correcting.

1. The Connecting Principles help children build trust and have meaningful relationships. This principle helps to disarm fear, gain trust, and enhance learning.

  • What can you do? Use and encourage good eye contact, healthy touch, behavior matching, voice tone, and playful engagement. Offer choices, compromises and share your power.

2. The Empowering Principles help children learn self-regulation by meeting physical needs and creating an environment around them that meets their needs.

  • What can you do? Make sure they are well hydrated, have healthy food or snacks every 2 hours, teach and practice self-regulation skills, and establish good rituals and routines.

3. The Correcting Principles help children learn appropriate strategies to getting their needs met.

  • What can you do? Offer life value terms, re-dos, choices, and compromises. Use the IDEAL Response and Levels of Response which are strategies taught in the TBRI® caregiver trainings.

When we look at these three principles, Connecting is truly at the heart of TBRI®. Most parents or caregivers parenting children from hard places would say that Correcting behavior consumes most of the time they spend with their children, oftentimes with very little effect on behavior.

TBRI® reinforces that the primary focus should be to spend a majority of your time Connecting with your kids, then move toward Empowering them, so that Correcting, which is also important, does not consume a majority of the time you spend with your children.

Here is another way to think about this as it applies to your own parenting or caregiving styles:

I probably spend an average of _________percent of my day Connecting with my child.

I probably spend an average of _________percent of my day Empowering my child.

I probably spend an average of _________percent of my day Correcting my child

If you find that you are spending most of your time correcting your child’s behavior with very little change in behavior, please consider the TBRI® approach. TBRI® will show you, as the caregiver or parent, how to build connections with your child, empower them, and correct behavior in challenging situations.

We’re excited to be able to TBRI training to parents, caregivers and professionals who work with children from hard places. It can be life changing – for the child and for you. If you want to learn more about TBRI®, please click here to learn more about our series TBRI ® Caregiver Trainings, currently being offered via Zoom.

The good news: There is hope and help!

By Angie Woodhead, LSW Social Worker, TBRI® Practitioner
Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers