Effective Discipline Strategies for Adoptive & Foster Families – Dr. Karyn Purvis

See below for a transcript of the Karyn Purvis talk you can watch here: https://vimeo.com/4013209.

Learn more about her work at one of these websites:  



Thank you so much. All right. Well it is great to get to talk to you some more. I love to talk about kids and I love to talk with people who love kids, and so that makes it a good day for me. I want to talk about effective discipline strategies. So, not that I think that any of you are going to need them, but just on the off chance, let’s talk about them, okay?

Now, let me say this, my colleague Dave Krauss and I’ve written a book called “The Connected Child,” and the book was out six months and it became a bestseller in adoption and fostering books. Now, we talk about discipline strategies in the book, but let me say to you – so that it’s clear that there’s no stigma on a foster or adoptive child – let me say to you that McGraw Hill ask us for the same book for every family. And so these are strategies that are simply born out of child development. You know the scripture says ‘there’s no new thing under the sun’ and certainly, what I’m going to talk to you about is no new thing, but what we will have done is have synthesize some wisdom of scripture and synthesize some wisdom from research and synthesize some wisdom from generations of mankind that is about how to connect with our children and then direct them in a way that brings some life. So, this is not a, you know, gosh if you have a foster child you probably need some discipline strategies, or geez, if you have an adoptive child you may want to go to Dr. Purvis’ session, right? This is how if you’re a parent, please come, okay. So it is the stuff of which life is made.

Well, you all may be familiar with the fact from the little bit of material that’s in your workbook that Michael and Amy and I are working on the Christian’s guide to the connected child, and what we said on the section about discipline is, “If God weren’t good at handling discipline problems, the story of mankind would have been one short chapter.” A matter of fact, let me tell you that a number of years ago when I was a young woman, I used to say, sort of the vainly, “I’m going to write a book. My first book is going to be the great rats of the faith,” and I was going to say how Moses was a rat because, you know, and Saul was a rat because… and David was a rat because…. and you know, I mean these are all the great men of faith and all the great women of the faith. And yet, we could have done the, “these guys were rats” thing fairly effectively. We could have done a pretty believable story. So actually, I do have to tell you one thing about discipline for myself, I had this other thing rumbling in me just to say, I sure would like to put what we call the connected child on paper, and there was this promise I had made myself, that my first book would be “The Great Rats of the Faith.”

I went down to Seven Eleven and I bought a little Garfield journal, you know, a little cartoon character on both sides and I opened the first page and I said, “The Great Rats of the Faith”, by Karyn Purvis. First page, Moses was a rat because…..seven words. Second page, so he was a rat because….. just twelve words. Third page, they were very short chapters. Twelve pages later, I finished my first book, will never see the light of publication, but that empowered me to move to my second, “The Connected Child” and right now we’re working on the same materials for the every family, “The Connected Family.” So what I hope you hear me say is that we all need to be connected to God, we all need to be empowered but we all need to be redirected sometimes; and so I want to talk to you about some affective redirection strategies.

Now, three things that we try to do with all the children that we serve—and the third is correct, the first is empower. We learned many years ago as scientists that children who were hungry couldn’t learn, and so we started programs like Head Start where children who are hungry could be fed, so that they can learn their alphabet . We know that empowering is very important. Now, those of you who are here in the last hour heard about a Trinitarian approach to adoption, and what I’d like to say is that if you look at these three principles you’re going to see body, soul and spirit. The body being in need of empowerment. Now, let me back up and tell you where I’m going to go to correction. So I’m going to talk about empowering, connecting and correcting. I’m going to go to correcting—but if you go to your child with the goal of correcting and changing bad behavior, you have a very low goal, because we are after the heart really, right? We’re not after getting the child to look like the behaviors of the other children, we are not after getting the child’s behaviors to be what we think they should be, we are after the heart. And that comes from connecting and empowering and then out of that, is more an effective discipline. Doesn’t that make sense? Okay.

I was thinking about this the other day, working on some materials with Michael and Amy, God’s response to misbehavior was love. For God so loved, that while we were yet in sin, God loved. So we’re going to talk about empowering this part of the body, connecting as the is the very essence of this of the spirit of man; we’re designed for connection, we’re born seeking connection. If you have hold a brand new born baby, they’re searching for faces and they want to see eyes, and if you put a graphic, a lovely picture on one side of their crib and you put a schematic of a smiley face on the other side; which do you think they’re going to look, at the pretty scene or the smiley face? You got it didn’t you? They’re looking for a face. We’re hardwired to connect. It’s that part of us that’s made in the image of God that’s always seeking to connect.

So empowering, let me just talk to you about a few things for empowering, I’m going to talk to you about somethings for connecting, and then I want to talk to you how out of this, is born true correction. So empowering the body—we know that children who’ve come from hard places have changes in the insulin receptor activity. That means if their blood sugar gets too low or too high, you’re going to have negative behavior.

I was in a conference some months ago and standing in the foyer, between sessions, a woman raced across the room and threw herself at me and grabbed me by the throat and give me a bear hug and I’m going, “Step away from the throat,” you know, and she said, “You saved my life!” and I said, “Step away of the throat.” And she said, “We started feeding our son every two hours, and its miraculous how much of his misbehavior is gone.” Here now listen, here’s the physiological thing you need to understand about the human body; if you were in the hunter- gatherer stage of the history of mankind; when your body starts to get hungry, you have the message, I may die. You all know that most animals there’s like a two or three days cycle where if you don’t find food in this cycle, you die. So you have a message written deep in your

physiology, if you don’t get food, you’re going to die. When your blood sugar goes down your, cortisol which is a stressed chemical goes up. For many of you, if you have a child who doesn’t sleep well at night and might wake up with nightmares or something, three ounces of protein at bedtime is amazing; because when our children don’t have enough solid food to hold them through the night and their blood sugar goes down, their cortisol goes up, and they might wake with nightmares or night terrors or restlessness. So just simply nurturing the body with food every two hours empowers a child.

Now, if I were to use the example every one of you would have to smile at yourself. If I were to ask you when the last time is you went to the grocery store hungry—I rest my case. You went for bread and milk and you had $237 of twinkies and potato chips in that cart. I know because I’ve done it too. So if you are a stable, well at least relatively adult, and you can’t deal with low blood sugar and make good decisions; what are we going to do with the little guy from the hard place, okay? Food every two hours empowers our children.

Now here’s another one that’s going to be real rocket science; water. One of the neurochemical sites in the brain, that changes drastically if the child receives neglect or harm in utero or the first year of life, is called glutamate. Now glutamate is vastly important because it touches 70% of your central nervous system, so if you have too much glutamate, you’ve got a little… thing going all the time. Glutamate spikes are associated with seizure activity, checking out activity, irrational behavior, rages, unpredictable behavior. Anybody got a child in any category yet? Okay. Now, glutamate receptors fire at a much higher rate in dehydrated animal. So if your child is drinking sodas and sugar drinks and caffeine drinks and carbonated drinks, they’re dehydrated. And here’s the rule for empowerment for water. Urine should be clear and

odorless. We’re really taping this, aren’t we? Okay. Well it’s the best I can do, okay.  Urine should be clear and odorless. If your child’s urine is clear and odorless, that means their body is hydrated enough to be washing out the toxins. If there’s odor or there’s color, they’re dehydrated. A child who’s dehydrated is going to have glutamate firing and much more misbehavior simply because glutamate’s firing.

Sleep, we know is an empowering thing. Think of the physical needs, the body. You know one of my very favorite passages is in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew fathers would stand in face towards the holy town, the Holy City and they would cry aloud, several times aloud, in unison, ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and your strength.” And from that very beginning of faith forward, what we’ve known is, we can come to God with all of our being, with integrity or we can come only in part; and when we come to our children, we have to come with integrity, body, soul and spirit and we cannot go in and correct a discipline or correct a behavior or redirect, we can’t do any of these pieces in fractured parts, we come in a whole. Integrity is from the word integer. It’s a whole number, not a fraction,  not a part and in the way that we seek to have integrity with our loving God, body, soul and spirit, all that we are, we have that same integrity with our children and we start with body.

So what ways do you need to empower your child? Now, I want to tell you something. We do some stuff in the United States that makes absolutely no sense to me. We take little children who are five years old and they go to school 7:35 in the morning, because they are the littlest one and there are so many grades that have to go through the cafeteria, they may have their lunch at 10:30 in the morning. Now, our little ones who by law teachers cannot hug them; give me a break, okay. Two, to have a 15 minute recess a day; give me another break and three, go from 10:30 to 3:30 with no food. Now, why would it be rocket science to understand why six million American school children are on Ritalin because they can’t sit still. Hello? Okay. Think about ways to empower your child, body first and we’ll do soul and spirit. Okay. So

I’m going to empower my children, I’m going to think about their food [inaudible 13:51], I’m going to go to school and ask for a hard meeting and I’m going to ask the teacher if my child can have a second time PE time. I’m going to ask the teacher if I can take snacks down to the school counselors office and if my child thinks they’re hungry, rather than for them to have to fold. How many of you I have children who have food issues? One of the absolute most common reasons we have to empower our children; if you have a child who has ever been hungry for any period of time, they have a message stuck in their brain of dying of starvation. If you have a child who ever once had hunger, they’ve got a message stuck that says, when their blood sugar starts to go down, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die.’ Okay. If you could go to your school counselor and say my child was hungry before she came home and I want her to know she’s not going to ever be hungry again and I can take care of that at home but I need for you to be my partner and take care of that at school; and I’d like my child to know that she can come to your office and ask for a power bar that I’ve brought you a bag of, that’s in your drawer and she can sit and have a power bar; I  tell you that if the child knows that she has a way to make sure she’s not going to die, she won’t need that power bar as often. But if your child gets the dip in their blood sugar and they don’t have a way to make sure they have a voice to get their need met, you may be looking at misbehavior.

Now how many of you all, have been for example like I was when, one night at Wal-Mart at two in the morning, I was getting some snacks for camp for the next morning at six and woke up going like, ‘Oooh, we don’t have craft supplies;’ and so I’m at Wal-Mart 2 o’clock in the morning on the 24 hour stores and I hear a woman walloping her two year old for crying. Now, I’ve never thrown one of those mothers against the wall, but I thought about it. Okay. I mean, does that make any sense at all? That baby needed sleep, she needed quiet, she needed her body to be empowered and that misbehavior was driven by her physical needs not being met. So, before you think about discipline,  think about if you’ve empowered your child.

I’ve always loved the passage in the scripture where God’s making the creation; my old childhood pastor used to say with a little whimsical glint in his eyes, “Don’t you love the creation, how God says on the first day I’m going to make you fish guys and on the third or the fourth day I’m going to get around the water, if you just flop around here on dry land for a bit, we’re getting to you, you know. So God is a God of preparation. So if you see there’s a time your child is having trouble, you make that a time of preparation. You know my child has trouble right after school. Okay. Are they really tired or they’re really worn out from activity? Do they need quiet? You get them to tell you what they need and then you make that safe place for them. Does your child melt down when there’s a transition? Yeah, for a lot of our kids, a transition means change and I just got safe here, I know things are safe here, but a change means I might not be safe. So you be proactive in seeing what your child needs and start with empowerment, that’s for the body. And the second thing is, I’d ask you to go to connecting; so that’s empowering principles. Connecting principles are these—are children designed for connection? The reason that our two year old ultimately, I say this by faith, will accept us saying no, okay those of you who would have two years old know why that’s by faith, if they will ultimately accept you saying no, is because in the first year of life you met their deep emotional needs. So the effective no comes out of the deep trust of the first year of life. So if I’m going to expect to have the forum with my child to say no effectively, I need to have that deep relationship with them.

Now, how many of you know if I laid a little tiny one in your arms to smile and to coo and to talk to that baby, would be a lot easier to connect than if I bring you home a squirmy eight years old, right? I mean the eight year old’s a moving target, right? The little one you can you can get a smile down to, right? Because they’re not going far. But the eight year old’s a different story. It’s really easy for us to forget when we bring home an eight year old, they have to have the deep connection that our newborn needed. And that is, “You’re precious to me. You are so amazing,” and that is the tickle games and the peek-a-boo games. That child learning…. How many of you have a have a child or had a child who is better at dropping things off of the high chair than keeping them on the high chair. You know that’s part of the learning game. That was good, I got a reaction. Ohh, ohh. Yeah like that was an accident, right? Okay, but it’s out of those playful learning things that our children ultimately – it’s out of the deep connection that they ultimately accept our no. So we have to make creative, proactive, purposeful connections with an older child, if we want to be effective to correct them. And that is the hand on the shoulder when we talk, that is the hand to touch the cheek and say, “I’m so glad to see you this morning.” That is a finger, just a feather touch on the chin, “Let me see those great eyes. I love those great eyes. I want you to come to the bathroom mirror and look in the mirror and look at this great set of eyes. Did you ever see a kid so beautiful as this in all your life?” The ways that speaking to that child, “I see you, I see you, I see your preciousness, I know who you are, I see you through God’s eyes; and you may feel that there is black inside of you…”

Most of our kids do, they don’t have a sense of, I’m precious. They have a sense of blackness. A lot of the kids will talk about this blackness that’s in them. It’s a shame core. They never were infused with the smile of a parent that told them that they are precious and so we’re going to have to find ways to connect to that child; hold their hands when we talk, touch their shoulder when we talk, touch their cheek. We’re going to have to find ways to enter into their space. Let them choose a game to play, not something you like, but that they like and you go to them. You know, for God so loved that he became flesh. He didn’t ask us to come to where he was, he came to us, and that’s our model.

One of the most effective things that we can do with a child who’s starting to misbehave and this can be correcting but it can also be connecting, is to set a timer and say, you know what, for the next 15 minutes it is your time and I want you to set the timer with your own hand. And so give that child the timer and let them get the body memory—they set the timer. Now you probably should look because it may say an hour and ten minutes, but you let that child set the timer for 15 minutes; don’t answer the telephone, don’t look at the computer, don’t change a load of laundry, if a neighbor comes to the door, tell them you are sorry, you’re on an important appointment but you’ll be available in half hour, and give your child the message, I am only here for you, and sit with that child and match your body and if that child wants to play Barbie dolls, sorry, grin and bear it and smile, okay. If that child wants to paint fingernails blue and purple, enter in with that child. If that child wants to play Tonka trucks…Some of you may have heard me tell when my oldest son was two and a half my second child was born and my oldest son had been really easy and then all of a sudden his behaviors were horrific and I thought he was sick, and took him to the pediatrician several times before I realized he had a new brother and he was two and a half years old which is a kind of a serious combination for everybody in the family, you know, and so I said to my two and a half year old son, “I realize I’m not giving as much attention as I could before, so if you need attention will you come to me and say I need attention. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and we’ll play.” And so he would come to me and pull my slacks and he’d say, “I need tension, I need tension, I need tension.” And I’d finish nursing his brother and I’d put him in the crib or I’d put him in the little baby swing and I’d sit down with my son and I’d say, “What do you want to play?” It was always Tonka trucks and knew it was going to be Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks, that was all it was going. But he took his little hand and he set the timer. I showed him how and we set the timer over and I sat down and he was sitting Indian style. I sat Indian style and he was sitting lean and I sat lean. My body reflected I feel you, I hear you, I know you’re there. And inside of 24 hours, 80% or 90% of his bad behavior dissipated because he had power to get his connection needs met. So begin to consider how much misbehavior is about missing connections. We have a lot of children who are desperate for connections they don’t know how to get them appropriately, so we’re going to set opportunities for that and we’re going to mirror that child. We want them to feel felt and to feel heard.  I think often of some years ago as a young pastor’s wife, there was a woman in our church, very young woman she had two little girls and she was dying of cancer, very, very tragic, very hard for all of us, and of course, just devastating for her family; and I thought, you know, as a young believer, my job is to go in there and kind of cheer her up and help her deal with her death and help her be resolved in it peacefully at the end of her life. You know, I went with agendas several times to visit her before I realized that my only purpose to visit her was to be a blank slate and to reflect whatever part of her process she was in and if she was at the point that she wasn’t in a place she could deal with the loss and she wanted to talk about the Easter dresses she bought for her little girls and the little pink satin bows and the beautiful little hair bows, I reflected that. I was a resonator of that. I was a blank slate for that story. And if I visited another day and she wanted to talk about the fact she would never see her baby girls in their wedding dresses, she would never be there for them when they fell at school and hurt their knee and scratched their dresses. If that was a part of her process for her death that she was ready for, I was all, I was, was a resonator. I was to feel her story and I was to be a blank slate for her to tell her story.

And that’s what we are with our children. We come without agenda. I don’t want you to play my game. I don’t want you to do my thing. I want to do your thing. What is your thing? You show me, and I can guarantee you that that’s the model of God’s love and I can also guarantee you that your child will know he’s connected or she’s connected to you, when they feel you enter where they are.

So empowering my children is about their body. Connecting with my children is about their spirit. When they connect with me, they’re going to begin to understand deep connections about all of life and ultimately they’re going to understand God’s kind of love, not because I was a perfect parent, because as much as I wanted to be, I’m going to really stink at it some days; not because I was perfect but because I was present and that child’s going to ultimately connect with God’s love. So, empowering for the body, connecting for the soul, for the spirit, excuse me; and correcting us for the soul. The soul’s the mind, will and emotion, right? So I want to talk to the rest of the time that remains for us, about principles for connecting, for correcting our children.

We use an acronym in our work and it’s called the IDEAL response. It’s I-D-E-A-L. (spelling) and each of those words has meaning for us, about how we correct child. Each of those is based on our understanding of God’s love as expressed in the scripture in his presence to us and then also what we know about brain development, brain chemistry from research. So IDEAL; I is for immediate. When a child does something, it needs resolution right now. When a child misbehaves, there’s a very brief period of time in the brain, it’s literally less than a second, but you have up to three seconds to respond so you get some grace there, right? You can get there in three seconds, right? All right you are good. I know you could, okay? So in less than a second, something happens, a child determines, you determine. Within less than the second if that stimulus is important or not important –it goes either into consolidation for a long term

Memory, this is memory research as you might be able to tell—or that information is discarded. If you get your past three seconds, it was already discarded, it’s in the recycle bin. So, put away your high heels, get out you tennis shoes and stay close to your kids, just three seconds. One second, two seconds, three seconds, that’s how quickly that decision’s made. So, immediate, and what that may mean is, keeping your child closer to you for a period of time. The second you see the tiniest smile, “Oh honey, I love that smile.” The time that your child says, “Could I have that fork?” “Wow, that was great asking. I love the way you use your words.” Or if the child says, “Give me that,” “Well let’s try it again.” All those things could happen within three seconds if you’re in proximity. So it should be immediate. If you want your child to learn, praise,

encouragement, redirection, all should be within three seconds; so immediate.

IDEAL—D is for direct. We do not lob words. “Hey, you, stop that.” That’s not going to work guys, okay? Well, we know from brain research is if I move into somebody’s space purposefully and I touch them, I get a gentle rise in brain chemistry that brings them present to me. Now, some of you all may have fathers who swoop down on you like an eagle on a field mouse. Anybody had that dad? …. Grabs you by the scuff of the neck, okay? That’s not good for the dopamine, right? That’s the like …. and then you can have misbehavior, but if you move directly into the child’s space, take your hands—that would be another way to be direct. I like to be 36 inches away; this is 36 inches, guy. This is 36 inches. “Sweetie, I need for you to …Give me hands right here.” Now obviously, with a 17-year-old, you’re not going to, “Give me hands right here,” but you might put your hand on the shoulder and say, “I want to talk to you about something.” Now once the child has deteriorated a lot, you’re not going to be touching them because they’ll be on a fight or flight mode, but you can be close, so direct—immediate, direct, efficient.

What I want to talk to you about in a minute I’ll come back to what we call levels of response. Many parents go after every mosquito in their child’s life with an elephant gun. They are fly watchers for that purpose, okay? So for us, we have a number of levels of response. We hope to meet the child only in kind to how much redirection they need. So the child gives us a mild answer. So maybe I’m on the playground, I think as you heard, Dr. Krauss alluded to a part of this child’s story. This is a little girl that taught me this ten years ago—you know how some of those lessons, just stay with you. This is one; so we’re on the playground and she says, “Pick me up and carry me,” and she’s five years old this beautiful little thing who’s been through eight foster placements before she was adopted and she’s learned to be the, you know, the boss of the earth. And some of our kids do it pretty well, their goal in being the boss of the earth, is to try to keep from getting hurt. So if they’re in control they know they won’t be harmed, or they believe they won’t be harmed. So this girl says, “Pick me up carry me in.” Now that’s a low-level response, its mild but mild is not okay, right? And I want you to know I’m zero tolerance, disrespect. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, if a child can treat their life or your life with disrespect, that can ultimately take their life or your life, okay? This is the seed. I don’t tolerate disrespect, but I do it playfully every time that I can redirect a child. So this little girl says, “Pick me up and carry me,” and I’m like, “Whoa, Nelly are you asking or telling?” “Well…” most of the kids will say, “Well, I was asking.” Okay, try it again.

Now she’s been mouthy, that’s disrespectful I’m not in a tolerate disrespect because I want her to know I’m going to treat you with respect, you’re going to treat me with respect. That’s how we do business. We respect life because God gave you everybody their life. We respect that bugs life and unless that bug is coming after me and I’m really in danger, I’m not going to squish him. But I was in danger. Okay, well maybe, okay. But I’m going to say to that child, “Are you asking or telling?” That is kind of scary in our first couple of weeks of camp because we have a training course with 50, 60 college students that, it’s a university credit course called

Vulnerable Child II, and if our students take that course and they master the materials and the skills, they can apply to work in camp. So can you guess that the first week of our children’s camp there’s about thirty voices going, “Well Nelly.” All the way across camp you hear, you know. Its great or scary I don’t know. So I say that child, “Oh, Nelly, you’s good at telling.” Now I’m still playful. She’s given me a low-level disrespect. I want her to know disrespect is not okay. So immediately and directly, I’m going to deal with that efficiently. Are you asking or telling? Now most of the times, children will say, “I was asking.” And then you want to say, “We’ll try it again with respect.” And you are still playful, right? It’s efficient. “I get so tired of you asking. You’re always talking to me like that. I don’t know why you talk to me like that? I want to tell

you a story about Jesus and you know.” Might not be your best tool, okay. But most of the time a child will say, “I was asking,” and then you want to say, “We’ll try it again with respect.” The second they say, “Would you please pick me up and carry me?” I’m going to say, ‘you bet that was great asking. Give me five, wohoo.’ Now back to my mode and that is playful engagement, because in play, they 33:47 connection. It meets the needs of both of our deep connection needs, right?

In this particular case, this little girl says, “I’m telling. Pick me up and carry me in.” Okay, it wasn’t working for me, was it? And so I got down to her level, and she’s a little thing, just a little thing; and I got down, I said, “Sweetie, you have two choices. You can walk beside me and hold my hand or you can walk beside me.” Now it’s not a choice, I’m not carrying her in.

So you can walk beside me and hold my hand, or you can walk beside me. Which do you choose? Now usually a child would say, “Can I walk beside you and now hold your hand?”  at which point you immediately return to playful engagement, “Yes, honey of course you can. That was so good using your words.” That is so good telling me what you need. That is so good, letting me know how to meet your immediate needs. But this child, who was determined to teach me levels of response said, “You’re not my mother and you can’t give me choices, and what’s more this is a stupid camp and I’m not coming back tomorrow.” Okay, man…

So now we’re going to do on the levels of response, what we call think it over. It’s not time out, its time in. Can I tell you that none of our children need to be sent away. Can I tell you that all of our children need to be brought closer. And so I said to this little angel, “Sweetie, look, here’s a park bench right here and the other children are going in with the rest of the teachers, but I’d like you to sit right here on the park bench and I want you to think about what you did wrong and how you could do it right. When you’re ready to tell me with your words, call me say, say ready and I’ll be right here.” Now, I’m going to be six feet away from her, that’s…. Okay. Eight feet is my max. If I’m in the kitchen I’m going to be doing dishes while the child’s sitting at the kitchen table. This is not a child in a corner. This is not a child sent away. This is not a child isolated in her room. This is a child who I want her to know, I am here for you and we’re going to work through this together and I will give you some time to collect your thoughts. And so this little one sat in the chair for a minute, huffing and puffing on the park bench and then she said, “I’m ready Miss Karyn,” and I went to that child and I leaned down and I took her two little hands and I said, “Darling, tell me what you did wrong,” and she said, “I was really sassy,” and I said, “Oh yeah, you really were sassy,” and I said, “How could you do it right?” And she said, “I could use good words,” and I said, “Do you want to try?” She said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Give me five real quick.” Now I’m back to playful engagement, right?

Now, another part of our IDEAL response you’ll see is that it’s action based. This is how it would look for this particular child. I’m going to take this child back to the scene of the crime—I’ll talk about this more in a minute—and I’m going to let her redo her behavior. And so at the scene of the crime, I say, “Okay, now a minute ago when you talk to me like that I was talking to the other teacher, so I’m going to pretend I’m talking to the other teacher and you say excuse me Miss Karyn and then ask me with good words, with respect. And so I pretend that I’m talking to the other teacher and she says, “Miss Karyn, Miss Karen.” I go, “Yes,” and I give her my full attention and she says, “Would you please pick me up and carry me in?” “Oh wow sweetie, that was great using your words. That was so good asking. Give me five, woo hoo, of course I’ll carry you in.” And in that way, this child has learned there’s an appropriate way to get her needs met.

Now, in our levels of response and what I’ve got going here is the IDEAL response and now I’ve parsed out efficient, so in the levels of response, there may be a level at which a child who’s really at risk, you may have even an aggressive child who’s very, very afraid and they’re acting out because they don’t know how to use it. There may be systems in which you’ve been taught as a foster parent or as a newly adoptive parent, to interrupt that behavior. Sometimes that will involve holding a child to the quick [inaudible 38:17], but whatever you’ve been taught to do at that fourth level immediately when it’s over, we do a redo and back to playful engagement. Now, let me tell you that if you’ve got a child who goes into aggressive outbursts that last thirty or forty minutes, by the end of that, when they’ve spent themselves, their blood sugar’s low again and so if I’m thinking about empowering this child to do the redo what am I going to do? I’m going to feed them. You know what sweetie I’m worn out. Are you worn out too? Wow that’s hard on both of us. Let’s go and get a tall glass of water and get a snack and maybe we’ll take a little short walk or play for a little bit and then I want to go back and do a redo. I’ll finish the redo some more in a minute. But do you see that it’s efficient?  

So an IDEAL response for discipline in our estimation is immediate, it is direct, it is efficient. IDEA, action based. Now I demonstrated this little girl’s action. One of the favorite things and I always try to say it the new way that I speak, Jean Piaget’s A not B error. I first learned this when I went back to get my PhD and I was in a developmental research class. And Jean Piaget—how many of you know Piaget’s A not B error? Oh good. So those of you don’t tell. I want it to be a secret for two and a half more minutes. So Jean Piaget may take one of my grandsons, really he might, and put him up here on a little desk and put a bucket, this is bucket A and then another bucket, this is bucket B; and if I did this with my grandson, I took my car keys and I jingle them in front of my little grandson and I thumped them down in bucket A, he dive in with me and get them. And then if I could prise his little chubby fingers off of them and get the keys back, I could take the keys and I could take the keys and I could thump them down in bucket B; so what does my little grandson do? He doesn’t go to bucket B, he’s got motor memory from bucket A. He saw me thump them in bucket B but he goes to bucket A, and he does an exhaustive search in bucket A. Now all the time he just saw me jangle and thump, but he checks all of the bottom of bucket A, and when he finds nothing in bucket A, then, he’ll retrieve the keys from bucket B. You and I have motor memory. Jean Paiget call the first two years of , sensory motor periods, because we learn through the senses and by motor memory. Our children and ourselves still learn. If you can’t remember your best friend’s number and you want to call, oh, you can’t remember your own number to put on that credit card application, what do you do? You pick up your cell phone and you go… because you have motor memory when cognition fails you.

We had a new person working in our lab recently and she needed the code for the Xerox machine and I couldn’t give it to her. I had to go into the room and go, “Oh it’s easy, it’s just …”you know, had it in motor memory. If we give our children motor memory for what’s right, they have real learning. If we give them a lecture or a sermon they get nothing. So I’m in the home of the family and this little boy’s been adopted from Russia for about two years. He’s kind of all over the place and the mom is making a peanut butter sandwich and as she does, Dmitri jumps up to grab the peanut butter knife. Now what is your instinct as a mom with a peanut butter knife in your hand? [Raise the hand with the knife higher], right? Now what would Dmitri learn? Jump higher, jump faster, right? So this one didn’t work, so how about this? “How many times have I told you not to jump? I’m so tired of you having to tell me …… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Now what did Dmitri learn? Nothing, okay? So the deal is this, “Whoa, whoa, what do you need?” “I want the peanut butter knife?” “Why? Use your words.” “I want to make my own sandwich.” “Well, of course, you can.” “Can I help you?” “Yeah.” Okay, now he’s used his words, and now I’m saying to him, “Wow that was good using your words. Good job, telling me what you need.” Now he has ended with mastery of getting his needs met and we have ended with the connection and joy between us, rather than the size of, ‘go sit in the sofa until I call you for dinner.” That really builds trust in the child, by the way.

Now, let me tell you this too about discipline, our children tend to be dissociative not in a psychotic way but they tend to check out. Sometimes you’re talking to them, they’re gone and they’re back. Don’t send a child away to teach them to dissociate further from you. Bring them into you. Deep connection is where they’re going to be healed. I was astounded and saddened to be with a man a few months ago where I was teaching in another state and he said “I’ve just finished reading some material on this, the one that made so much sense to me. So with my six year old son now, when he’s misbehaving at the kitchen table, I say to him, ‘you

know, what if you can’t choose to be a part of the family right now, why don’t you take your food your room and when you decide to be part of the family, you can bring your food back to the table.”’ Oh Father in heaven, how does it ever get to be a choice about whether or not you’re part of my family? “No, son, we don’t behave that way at the table, stop and breathe just a minute. Well that’s a good job of calming yourself.” Okay. Please don’t send that child away. They’ve been sent away, they’ve been rejected. If they’re having this behavior problem, just ring them in. Now if you’re out of control, tell the child you’re putting yourself in timeout, you’ll be back in ten minutes; “I’m going to the bedroom and I’m going to breathe and I’m going to be back in a few minutes. Can we talk about it then?” Okay? You put yourself in timeout which should bring that child close to you, when it’s safe for them to come close to you. If you’re out of control, then you need some time. Catch your breath, refocus, redirect.

Now I love the example of Peter and Jesus, when you think about the behavioural redo. So Peter around the charcoal fire in the late watch of the night denies Jesus how many times? Three times. So after Jesus’ resurrection the fishermen, the disciples had gone back to fishing and

Jesus is in the late watch of the night, has built a fire and is fixing fish for the hungry, grouchy fishermen. Isn’t that strange? It’s like empowering, right. But again it’s a charcoal fire. There are only two charcoal fires in all of the scripture. There are many, many, many other fires, but there are only two charcoal fires; and the first is when Jesus was denied three times and the second is when Peter at the same time of the night, over the smell and the scent in the crackling of the embers of a charcoal fire said, “Lord, how many times do I have to tell you, you know all things Lord, you know that I love you.” It was the same whole visceral experience of affirming Jesus as it was, of denying him that my friend is a classic behavioral redo. That is what we call action based learning. How many times did Jesus heal the person and say, ‘go down to the pool and wash your eyes or go into the town and do this? How many times when you read the scripture did Jesus give an active. I love this one. How about this? Jesus raises the little girl from the dead and what does he say? Give her to… hello, eat. Yes. It’s not like I just supernaturally raised her from the dead, she doesn’t need sestinas, but rather empower her to go forward with this

miracle that I’ve done. It’s all very simple. Isn’t it? I spoke somewhere a time back and a man came to me afterwards and he said, “I hope you won’t be offended with me but you’re not saying anything my grandmother didn’t already know.” And I said, “Thank you, I love to be told that because that’s my greatest hope is to teach those things that are the common wisdom of years and generations that we have somehow forgotten.”

So. IDEAL, Immediate, D-Direct, E-efficient, A-action based and L-leveled at behavior, not that the child. A child’s preciousness is never up for grabs. This is not, “You are such a manipulator, you are such a liar, you are wearing me out.” It is,”Whoa,, that’s not going to work. I don’t talk to me like that, you don’t talk to me like that, try it again.” The child I talk to – you all heard me talk about earlier today – I talked about a girl who had been really violent. I believe that she was never violent against me and I’m the first person in three years that she wasn’t with, because she saw what I saw who she really is. She saw that I knew she was amazing. I mean just to have survived what she survived and to still have a sweet heart, even if she had control issues with rage; to have survived, to have lived through brain damage from the beatings and the sexual abuses and to still be able to smile and to laugh and to play with me, I think that’s nothing short of a miracle child. And so when I have to discipline a child, it’s always to be clear. This is about what you did he said and here it is too if I’m the mother of a biological child that has a birth trauma and is palsied… You see, it doesn’t ever feel to me or hike that child this palsied to get back at me, but if I’m the mother or the father of a child who is emotionally and spiritually palsied by their abuse. It’s easy to misunderstand, that that behavior is not about me but

the history, and what I want a child to know is it’s not me against you but it is me and you against whatever is in your past. And you me, we are taking that sucker down. We are going to do it together.

Out of that kind of empowerment and connecting with children’s behaviors that begin to come into tune with ours. There’s a sweet, natural, authentic relationship that emerges in which a child wants to be attuned to us. You know the psalmist said, “Guide me Lord with your eye.” I don’t want to be like the horse that needs a bit and bridle, but guide me with your eye. And when our children come into that deep attunement with us, I’m not saying it was always easy to get there, I don’t think that’s what I’m saying, because I fostered for many, many years and I have adopted grandchildren who came to us with histories of harm. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to always be easy to get attunement, but as we get attunement, that child, it’s you and me buddy, we’re going out and we’re going after whatever took the life out of you. And we’re going to bring it down together. I think more than anything, our children want to be connected to us. Probably the vast majority of their misbehavior is born put out of the harm from not having that kind of connection. How many of you have a child who’s rejecting you and you’re pretty sure they’re rejecting you so that you’ll bounce the next home and they won’t have to wait to be rejected

Themselves? I fostered many children who did that they would come in too flawed, it’s like it’s a matter of time till the shoe drops and I’m going to make you reject me so all my misbehavior is about getting you to tell me, I can’t stay in your home, so you’ll send me to the next home term and then I don’t have to worry about liking you or wanting to stay here, or liking these two little brothers in the house. So I’m out here …. That’s pretty safe, right? A lot of our children’s misbehaviors coming out of that desire to connect. I sincerely believe that if we can empower our children physically, if we can connect to our children deeply, that we can guide them to correct and that ultimately out of that ultimately out of that deep connection of them coming alongside of us, they want to change their behaviors, they want to be able to look in your eyes and say, “You and me, huh?”

We have just enough minutes, I’d like to try to answer a few questions and see if there’s some holes in my communication that we can clear up. Yes?


 Okay, levels of response is if a child, thank you – so the question was; what is a level of response? What we have is a series of levels and if a child has a very low-level sassy, give me that, then I’m going to do playful engagement as my response, asking or telling. If the child continues to be mouthy, I’m going to say two choices, if the child continues to accelerate then I’m going to often put him in to think it over, and if a child is violent, then I’ll do whatever I’ve been taught by law—for me, it might be holding them until they quit hitting or thrashing and then when they are calm, whirling them around is apparent cradling, I’m in loving on them, or in my case it’s not apparent because I’m not looking for deep connection in terms of attachment, I’m just looking for a deep connection in terms of trust. But at each point, whether it’s a level one, two, three or four, when that correction is over it is over and I’m back to playful engagement which is my mode, you know, and it might even be just acknowledging, “Wow, that was like I said a minute ago, that was tough. I’m glad we got through that one. Aren’t you? We did it like buddies. Let’s go get a snack, okay?” Yes?


Any of our books on tape, they’re not today, but. I hope they will be soon. Yes?


Killer—so if you’re fostering infants…The first question was; is our book on tape, and it’s not yet, moving that way as quickly as the two horses pulling our twelve horse wagon can get there. The second question is, how tough is it to foster an infant? So let me tell you a little bit about fostering infants knowing that you’re going to bounce. If I have an option with the judges when I do expert witness, I asked that judges not move the children between the seventh month and the twelfth. Those are very critical time, let me just tell you this. In terms of attachment research, you give passive love, the child is a passive recipient of your love all those months and then the child begins to crawl after you to keep up, a lot of you attachment becomes fixed as the child makes an active bid for you. If I’m working with a judge, I ask the child be moved before they crawl and before that attachment becomes fixed. That’s an action unit that is part of the fixing of the attachment, or else to wait till the child is older than twelve months. If you’re bringing home a child from an orphanage and you can’t get him home before seven months, try to see if you give them space, or here’s the other thing—that’s the bad news. Let me tell you the good news, from attachment research, what we know is if a child learns to trust one safe adult they can do it again. So what you’re doing is building a path to attachment that they can reactivate. Try to not move a child in that sensitive period because they don’t have the cognitive skills to figure out loss.

But let me tell you this, whether your child was moved at that age or has to be moved at this age, one of the things that I tell families more than not, if you want to abort the possibility of later serious behavioral problems, if you have an infant, one of the best investments you’re going to make is a infant massage DVD. You can literally change the brain chemistry of drug abuse, you can literally change the brain chemistry of stressful pregnancy, you can literally change the brain chemistry of a difficult birth or early trauma with infant massage. You do it several times a day. There’s a lot of research, time doesn’t allow, but if you have an infant, you can do infant massage, if you have a toddler, do toddler massage, if you have an older child, you can do what’s called the wheel barrow brushing protocol and you can the century input. We know that safe touch brings about serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the master regulator.

So I would when I fostered little ones, it would be with much prayer I would definitely attach to them, I would definitely, I would ask the judge for permission or whoever’s consulting, ask them to read some of Mary Dozers work—if you have any questions I can make articles available to you, but try to avoid that really critical window of movement and then try to introduce the new person if you can if you can get the latitude. If it’s an adoption situation we’ve asked for that with a new person to come to the home and visit so that it’s not tearing the heart out of a child and thumping it in somebody else’s lap. Yes?


Okay. So if you ask a child who is in the think it over, let me know when you’re ready and it takes the bed roll and a sack lunch. Okay if you have a child who’s deteriorated into control battles, and many of our children do, so I’m going to tell you the first thing to do about control battles is to explore yourself. Are you using control. Okay. So, let me say this, if you say to a child—and I know there’s a lot of consequence thinking in the church today, you did the crime you do the time. But I know that God’s a god of balance in their structure and nurture in that they come in equal proportions. If I have a child who is pushing back on control I want to make sure I’m not using control strategies because they already know those pretty well. So I’m going to look to beef up other parts of my relationship. If I am using control battles; “Let me tell you, you were mouthy to me tonight so two weeks from Friday, you’re not going to your friend’s birthday party.” Please don’t do that. Don’t make your child feel that they have to jump hoops to get your love. Try to do business and finish it. If I have a child who’s got that kind of stamina for control I’ve got a child who really needs to feel in control so that they don’t get hurt again, I would look to beef up my connecting parts, I would look to beef up my correcting parts, and I would explore my own strategies to make sure I’m not using controlling strategies. I want relationship strategies with the children I serve. I’m looking for a relationship, I’m not looking to get control. A lot of us and I will tell you this, I think a lot of families that are really godly families have just gotten some information from the church that I think God may sue us for, about how to deal with our kids and there’s a lot of punitive stuff going on in God’s name and I don’t think that that is who God is. But I would say try to work with that child in the deep connection parts, and I would work with the fear issue because a child who can control that much, is a child who’s really dead set on keeping safe.

So I would work—and let me tell you all something, by contract with McGraw Hill, we’re allowed to give away 10% of our book, and the 10% that we put on our website is as much of the chapters 10% of the books. It’s not the whole chapter but it’s a disarming the fear response and it’s on our website which is www.child.tcu.edu. So if you don’t have our book, read chapter four on our website. And let me tell you also, on our website when you come to that opening page, there’s a window where you can click on it and you can download about six articles about problem solving with children. So like, for example, a child who’s rocking—does anybody have a rocker? They get upset, they rock; so what they’re actually trying to do is self soothe. They’re trying to get this input and they’re trying to also get serotonin because that’s repetitive movement. It’s going to elevate their serotonin. Now if you’re a behaviorist they will tell you, a behaviorist will tell you if the baby’s rocking one way you rock the other way and that’s uncomfortable to them, so they’ll stop rocking and you’ll get the stop of the rocking, but you still don’t get a child who knows they’re not alone in their pain.

So if you’ve got a child who’s rocking, you sit down and you rock with them and that says to them, you’re not alone, I’m here with you.  And then they will ultimately be able to stop rocking. I would say to the extent that a child is controlling their world was out of control and to the extent I would look to give them more choices; look you can choose peanut butter, you can choose you know, this. You can do your homework first and then play on the trampoline, you can do trampoline first and then do your homework. I would look to give them more power in other places where they know they’re not going to be hurt. I’d look for more connecting things and I’d look to disarm the fear thing because most of our, well all of our kids, most virtually all of our kids have been through stuff that was so horrific that you and I, nothing you could dream up to discipline them is going to even match what they’ve come from. So you know what, don’t even think that you’re going to come out with an elephant gun and win over our children, you’ll both be demolished. Yes?


Okay. So here’s a child who’s ten years old, he’s a pretty big kid, he wants to hang on the mom all the time, so here’s what I would do with that; so why is he hanging on me, does he need attention? Is he anxious ambivalent towards, you know, me being away from him? Is he afraid I’m going to be away from him and I would work with that child to say, I will always give you a hug but you must ask. And then do that, do that where you just decide, I mean, plan on six weeks of it, you know, stop use your words. You can say Mom I need a hug, I will never turn you down but you need to ask, or you can say Mom I need attention, we’ll set the timer for 15 minutes but you must ask. It is not okay for you to hug on me, in the first place that’s indiscriminate about body space that’s disrespectful and I would take two little hula hoops and I’ll say this is my body space this is your body space and I’d say there’s your hula hoop; now, I want to hug from you, but I can’t go in your body space without permission. I’m going to make it concrete. Don’t discipline your children with abstractions, discipline them with clear concrete information.

So wow, what can I do if I want to hug from you? I’m going to have to ask if I can come in your body space, so let’s try that and then also that would extend I might take that hula hoop and put it on my CD player and say, my body space extends to my possessions, you don’t touch your brother’s things without permission, he doesn’t touch your things without permission, I don’t touch your things, you don’t touch my things. So, we can do it in a playful way, but I would definitely, I would definitely not allow that behavior because it’s disrespectful of your body, it’s disrespectful of your language. I would try to understand what the words, what’s not being said. I’m afraid, I’m anxious, I need attention, I need a hug, but he can learn to use those words.

I’ll tell you all, I had one of my little ones who came to us in camp and who had been a sexual victim of abuse by male and female workers in the orphanage and she was very indiscriminate. She would just come up put her arms around you and it didn’t feel good. And so I said to her,  “I will always give you a hug.” I mean children who’ve been sexually abused, desperately need appropriate healthy loving affection, right? I will always give you a hug but you may not come into my body space without permission and with a child like that, I would begin with Big Bear side hugs, you know. I wouldn’t do a frontal hug, you know with that child right away because that’s not what they’ve associated that with. But you have to begin to set boundaries.  I’m going to only come into your space, see a child that has no body space, boundaries is a target for sexualization. All right. So it doesn’t do him a service to let him hang on you and it’s certainly not good for your back.

[Question: How do you deal with a toddler who runs from you when you motion towards him. 01:04:23 whatever their action might be and they run from you?]

Dr Purvis:  How fast can you run?

Response: Some days not so fast.

Dr Purvis: Okay. What age did this child come home?

Response: He’s biological.

Dr Purvis: Biological. Okay. Yeah, yeah, you know, I’ve got three biological children and I have to tell you that my youngest son is approaching 30’s, in his late 20’s and it’s always fun for me to say, “Oh, your kids do that, really?” But of course there’s always someone in the audience that was in the church nursery and knew they got me every Sunday for one of my kids. You know, one thing, my goal with the kids is to use my words and not my body to stop them. If there’s danger when they’re running away, they all use my body. Okay. So if a child is running from me, I’ll go, “Stop! Come here,” and they might keep running. Now remember give it two, three seconds, “Stop come here,’ one second, two seconds, three seconds; remember it takes them a while for this stuff, most of our kids have auditory issues, auditory processing issues so don’t expect a turn on the dime. They just don’t do it. I would use a little firmer voice, a little louder voice, “Stop! Here,” you know, if you can’t get him, I’d go pick him up, bring him back and set him down on the sofa and say, “When daddy calls you need to come. Let’s try it now.” Try it when he’s been fed and had something to play. Always set your child up for learning experiences when all the paramount stuff is met; they’re not tired, they’re not grouchy, they’re not hungry, they’re not lonely, they’re not…, you know. So set it up and then begin to work proactively towards addressing that skill, in the heat of the battle, you know they always say the decision about whether or not you’re going to conceive a child at sixteen is not and the second hour in the backseat of the car, right? It’s when you decide if you’re going to go to the movies or not or you’re going to go to the parking spot or not, you know. So there are some of those places where there’s something going neurochemically, when a child is running away. It’s really not a teachable moment as much. But anything that I could do, that I could do a redo on anything that I could do that I could do a proactive strategy, practice it when he’s in a good place, practice it with puppets, you know; practice it in a playful way to empower them. Yes.


Okay. So the question is about adolescent boys that are mouthy with their mother still, not when the dad is around. Number one, I’m going to want to explore my own pattern, make sure that there’s a lot of respect in the way that everybody is talking to the children. Number two, I’m going to practice with them to calibrate your voice—a lot of our kids don’t get it. The two children that were preteens that Dr.Krauss talked about in an earlier example when I took him into the bathroom and had him look in the mirror, they had no idea. You might audiotape their voice. If there’s a usual time of the day that it happens, play it back for them, when their dad is home again. You might practice, I would go with some things and remember everything is going to be body, soul, spirit. There’s not anything that’s just about the body, anything that’s just about the soul, anything that’s just about … so think holistically about your children. But I would calibrate, I would practice their words, I would give them, you know, you may create a good word, bad word list; you know that sucks is a bad word for I feel sad about that, you know. You can say this any time you want to you know and I would say to my boys when my boys were adolescents and all wrapped up; I see the boss here.

When my boys who are adolescents, I would say to them, “You can say anything you need to say to me and I will listen but you’re going to say it with respect and I’m going to answer you with respect. So you talk to me with respect, you can say anything, you can say I don’t think that was fair, I don’t like that rule, I don’t want to go to bed, but we’re going to talk to each other with respect, because that’s how we do business in our house. And I will tell you that in my estimation, having a respect policy, where, see, don’t wait for, you know, a fire in the fireplace on a Christmas Evening or you are toasting marshmallows in a fire in a thousand acres of California forest, is a completely different thing. But if a little spark gets loose from disrespect, you can have this out pretty quick. It’s not about coming down with an elephant gun, it’s about coming down on both feet, front center with my face showing the child that I know who they are and I love who they are and I’m here for them to the count and we’re going to have to work this out together.