This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Katharine Leslie seminar - positive behaviors


We tend to focus on "fixing" our child's negative behaviors, and not focus on their positive behaviors. The truth is that these are not opposites of each other, but unique independent sets of behaviors and every child is on a continuum of both.

This is why a child can exhibit all the negative behaviors (lying, stealing, destructive...) and we still love, value and care for them because they also give us a lot of positive/attachment behaviors, like warm eye contact, compliments, doing chores for us "just because," pleasant demeanor...

Positive Contributions

Low <-------------------------------------------> High



Negative Contributions

Low <-------------------------------------------> High

The quantity and frequency of positive behaviors better predicts relationship quality than the quantity and frequency of negative behaviors!

NOTE: Reducing negative behaviors does not automatically result in increased positive behaviors!!

I don't have to explain more about the negative behaviors , do I?!


Here's a list of some of the positie behaviors Katharine Leslie is referring to:


  • Shares Parents' Values
  • Elicits Positive Attention From Parents
  • Asks for Parental Help and Comfort
  • Is Caring and Thoughtful of Parent
  • Demonstrates Trust in Parent
  • Is Fun To Be Around
  • Expresses Love and Affection with the Parent

  • In Katharine Leslie's Behavior Typologies there are 4 types of children.

    1. Invisable Child - this child has low positive behaviors and low negative behaviors. Bob sometimes falls here, but not always. I think the term invisable says it all. These are the kids who sometimes fall through the cracks while you're dealing with the others!
    2. Incredible Child - this child has high positive behaviors and low negative behaviors. This is usually my Ponito. These are the kids that make you want to get up in the morning... and most likely this is not a common type for kids of trauma.
    3. Insufferable Child - this child has low positive behaviors and high negative behaviors. As you can probably guess, this is where I would put Bear. I'll talk next about why Hubby doesn't agree with me.
    4. Eclectic Child - this child has high positive behaviors and high negative behaviors. This is where Bob sits when she's not being invisable, but mostly this describes Kitty... for me. Although Hubby would put her as an Insufferable Child. These children give us all the behaviors that make us crazy, but also show strong attachment behaviors. I put Kitty here because while she whines and has meltdowns, she also comes to me for help, wants to spend time with me... in other words, she meets most of my needs. Bob was here during the "terrible twos" (that lasted almost 3 years!). She made me crazy, but I still loved her.
    Why Hubby and I disagree on whether or not Kitty and Bob are Insufferable or Eclectic.
    I'm not totally sure why Hubby and I disagree, but my theory is that it is because the children present themselves differently to each of us and we have different needs to be met (I tend to want more nurturing attaching behaviors; Hubby tends to want compliance (being responsible), honesty and a respectful attitude. In other words he wants RRH-and I want AFTBA. Of course another issue is that the kids are better able to meet our needs based on our gender (Bear has issues with women and Kitty has issues with men).
    Both of us agree that Kitty has high negative behaviors, but after over 2 years of attachment therapy, I feel that Kitty is finally attaching... to me. She has major issues with men so has kept Hubby at arm's length for years. Any attachment behaviors she does try to show to Hubby he perceives as manipulative... and maybe they are. I feel nurturing and attached to her so am more willing to overlook her negative behaviors.
    For Bear it's a little different. As the primary caregiver and most knowledgable about attachment issues, I perceive Bear's attempts at positive behavior as manipulative and fake. Some of this is my issues (I felt rejected by him in the beginning when I was giving him my best attachement behaviors and I probably suffer some PTSD from dealing with intimidation and control issues towards me, and of course the downright scary episodes).
    A lot of the cause of our disagreements is the fact that Hubby flat out does not see Bear's more negative behaviors because Bear hides them from him and none of it is directed at Hubby. From Hubby's point of view the more aggressive behaviors have gone, and Bear is generally compliant and respectful toward Hubby. Plus, Hubby is not around to catch Bear in the lies as often as I am.

    Hubby and I were talking about this while getting ready for Bear's parent/ teacher conference this morning. I'm guessing Hubby feels that I am acting vindictive and intolerant toward Bear... and I can admit that I am to some extent, but I also feel that we are doing Bear a great disservice if we allow him to manipulate and triangulate us. My approach to discipline is to structure and narrow Bear's world to a size he is more capable of managing. Hubby's approach is that Bear is about to be let loose in the "real world" so we should let him start dealing with real world consequences.
    I'm going to put my Swimming in the Ocean analogy in my next post.

    2 comments:

    Country mom said...

    I totally understand. I think my husband and I would rate our RAD son differently. Actually there days I would rate him differently, LOL. Right now, it's spring and so he is doing his annual decline to the summer meltdown. However, as usual, I see more of the bad behaviors than dh, though dh does beleive me, it's hard for him to ignore the kid that sucks up to him and acts so loving towards him and even towards me sometimes in public.

    GB's Mom said...

    In the past, this as been a major issue between my husband and I with MK. I think after 24 years of dealing with her, we both see her pretty much the same- she is more eager to please Dad and more likely to aim her rage at me. Whoever is in the better space is the lucky one who gets to deal with her. She is also FASD, so she may never be independent. Good Luck with Bear! (narrowing MK's world when she was a teenager was the only way I survived)