Trust-Based Parenting Principles for all Families


Trust Based ParentingMy son just started kindergarten. After the second day of school we were invited to attend an ice cream social/meet the teacher night at his school. Adjusting to waking up super early, tired and exhausted we headed back to the school to find out more about his new school and his new teacher. After our bellies were full of ice cream at 7:00pm we were instructed to head to my son’s classroom to “meet the teacher.” Parents and students were all locked in the classroom with all of the other parents and students in the class. While in this confined space I noticed the uniqueness of each family. Each parent had their own communication styles and parenting strategy. Some parents allowed their child to do whatever they wanted, some whispered instructions in the child’s ear and others yelled at their children to correct inappropriate behavior. Every parent has their own parenting style and every child has their own way of responding to different discipline techniques.

While completing my pre-training coursework in preparation to attend a Trust-Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®) training by Dr. Karyn Purvis in a few weeks, I am learning more about a completely different parenting style. I have learned that this technique is the key to success for parenting children from hard places. However, many of its principles are applicable for all parents and I have implemented them with my children and I have already seen improvements.

One of the main ideas that Dr. Purvis promotes is playful interaction. Children tend to respond better when talked to in a light playful tone rather than a hard demanding one, not to mention how frightening a demanding tone can sound. I don’t want my children to be afraid of me and I do not want them to obey me out of fear. I’ll admit though that maintaining a playful tone is not always easy and even Dr. Purvis explains that there is a time and place for a firm voice but it is not effective to yell at your child.

Dr. Purvis also promotes making good eye contact with your child. She explains in The Connected Child that eye contact “increases focus, learning and interpersonal connection.” I know that with my kids it is important that I get down on their level and talk to them, and that way I know that they are listening to me and I am showing them that I am listening to them. Yelling from one room to another is not effective communication, and often that means you have to get off the couch to talk to your child.

Some of my favorite techniques in the TBRI® model encourages empowering your child. I love the idea of redos and allowing your child a second chance at correcting an inappropriate behavior. Redos empower a child to succeed and create an opportunity for positive learning. Another way to empower your child is to offer them choices. This lets them feel like they are in control. This can even be choices in the midst of instruction like, “Do you want to go for a walk then pick up your toys or pick up your toys first then go for a walk?” This helps engage your child and empowers them by giving them a choice. A child may then be more focused and more motivated to clean up his or her toys after a refreshing walk.

Dr. Karyn Purvis also advocates that parents use loving touch. All children need to receive loving touch but this is especially true for children from hard places, which most likely have not been hugged, held or rocked. Loving touch can help calm a child who is experiencing anxiety or fear and also promotes bonding and attachment.

I think one of the most important principles in the Trust-Based Relational Intervention® model is the idea of positive reinforcement. So many time parents focus on correcting the inappropriate behavior that they forget to encourage and reward the positive behavior. It is so important to be a cheerleader for your child and it creates a loving and trusting relationship.

Whether you are adopting from Latin America or adopting from Eastern Europe or are just looking for parenting strategies, I think that the trust based parenting model is important for every parent. Following these principles can help you to be a better parent and create a trusting relationship with your child. There are so many more great techniques in the TBRI® model and if you’re interested in learning more please read The Connected Child or check out the videos available here.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.