The Caregiving Handbook

caregiving handbook

Don’t we wish parenting/caregiving came with a handbook? "If your/a child says/does this, it is best to respond with ______." Wouldn’t that be lovely?

But seriously, in times of struggle or even just tired days, I’m sure we all wish we had some standard lines that we know could always be helpful/useful. What we have found is that using short phrases or what we call in Trust-Based Relational Intervention land are “life value terms” or recently described in the book The Connected Parent, “scripts.”

These phrases, terms, or scripts are designed to teach, model, and remind children of the optimal behavior we desire to see in them during times when their behavior or actions may be disrespectful, unkind, or when they are dysregulated. The key factors in using these terms or phrases are to use them in language that is familiar within your family unit and taught in small increments of time when the children have the capacity to learn. For example, if your term that you use to remind kids to be gentle and to be kind is “gentle and kind,” you find time to show ways of being gentle and kind - modeling the behavior and go out of your way to praise the child(ren) when you see them being so. Then when they're being too rough with their body or disrespectful with their words you would remind them during that time, “remember, we want to be gentle and kind.” Very simple, not a lot of words or explanation as they have a frame of reference to what you are talking about. A practical example would be your son/daughter is upset and hits his/her sibling - reminding them that is not “gentle and kind” is a simple way to begin diffusing the situation.

Use a designated time each week that you can take to learn such terms/phrases/scripts to give your child(ren) tools to help shape behavior and give yourself tools in your parenting toolbox. Focus on one term/phrase at a time, until using it feels comfortable - it could be a short time or take a while, either is acceptable. Children of all ages can benefit from these phrases - as you can make them age-appropriate - a teenager certainly might not respond well to the “gentle and kind” phrase as much as they might “easy does it” as a reminder when behavior gets heightened or dysregulated.

For a list of terms and phrases to use head to The Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development’s website for a downloadable list that may resonate with your family.

Written by Lindsay Bragdon, Adoption Program Director at The Maine Children's Home for The Connected Community @ MCH.