Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I learned... Stealing

I went to the Beyond Consequences Certified Instructor Training a little over a week ago and thought I would share some of the things I learned. One specific thing that I was interested in was the subject of stealing. Now, I don't have a shoplifter or a kid who takes money. What I have is a kid who once in a while takes things that are not hers and hides them (actually, she has not done that in a long time but she used to). What I wanted to know was what is the best way to handle stealing/taking when the moment is long gone? If I catch her in the act or shortly after, that is one thing. But catching it and having no idea when it occurred is different. So, I asked.

With BC (Beyond Consequences) you are working from the assumption that all negative behavior evolves from fear. Likewise, if you take a behavior on the surface that shows as anger or manipulation and work backwards through all the emotions that could be causing the outward behavior, what is left is fear. The "high" a kid gets from stealing is their attempt to override the fear and anxiety they feel. The child is trying to regulate themselves. So even if you weren't there when it happened and all you know is your kid has a fairy princess crown that you did not give, you address the fear.

First you have to make sure you are not all pissed off and shooting stress everywhere. Don't think about your kid going to jail and having to talk to her through glass on some nasty lice infested phone. Don't project how embarrassed you will be when the 17 year old manager of Walgreen's approaches you as you notice lumps of candy cascading out of your child's pants. Don't worry about having to pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs in the future. Just sit with your kid and stay in the moment that you are in. You can ask the kid what happened and you might be surprised with the truth, but don't be surprised if you do not get it. Then you say something to the effect of "I am so sorry I was not there for you when you needed me". See, this is reacting to the underlying fear and when you have a scared child you want to be there for them. Sound hinky? Try it and see.

From my view (so do not blame Heather Forbes for this) here on down, if the behavior is about control, manipulation, trying to get away with something etc, using that reaction is a great way to undercut the power struggle. Instead of amping the control up higher and higher, you are effectively whacking out the legs from under all the usual reactions. Then you can cut a new pathway in the brain to create a different cycle or pattern.

But wait! What about the consequences? You can't just let the kid get away with this! No, of course not. But issuing a harsh consequence does what..... makes the kid try harder not to get caught next time. You have your kid go return the fairy princess crown to the original owner. But here is the good part- you go with her and help her through it. She will be scared and worried and probably freaking out inside and you will be there helping her through it, imprinting yourself within the fear and its recovery. Aha! New pathway in the brain! Connection!

So, what do you all think? Does it sound too easy? Or like a great technique that you are going to try at your next stealing event? Or does it not make any sense and I need to explain more? Let me know!


  1. I endorse this approach, based on successful experience with it. We used a lot of BC strategies once P was diagnosed RAD. Prior to that, we had no idea what we were dealing with, and we used all kinds of misguided approaches. Stealing has been a big one in our RAD journey, and the BC approach is what we continue to use, and I assert that it's helped tremendously. It did not lead to an immediate cessation of stealing, but it has resulted in P being able to identify that he does A (steals) when he feels B (alone, hurt, abandoned, afraid). I'm elaborating in a post at my blog so as to not leave any longer of a comment here.

  2. Well. That's a tough one. While I like Heather Forbes the person, I am not a big fan of the Beyond Consequences model. When caught doing something wrong, my kids will deny it vehemently (I did NOT pee my pants.. even though they are sopping wet with urine). If I say, "I think you did X because you were feeling Y", they will concede that is true. I never ask them WHY they did something; they have no idea. (Well, sometimes they will say, "to be annoying" or "to make you mad".)

    Maybe the part that bothers me is the "I'm sorry" part.. that *I* have to take the blame for something my child chose to do wrong. (Were they motivated by fear? Maybe.. but it was still a choice. Everybody and their brother already blames me (us) for what our kids do.. I'll be darned if I'm going to jump on that bandwagon and blame myself too...

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. Hmmm. My brain is doing crooked little somersaults trying to apply this technique to my little guy's more frequent and more recent PTSD explosions...Fear??? Hmmmm.Sounds like I need to go Google BC and get educated!!!! Thanks.

  4. This approach has worked so magnificently for me - and yes,MamaDrama, most ESPECIALLY on a PTSD meltdown. And, in my case, far from being a little guy it comes from a high school aged athlete whose rages can be terrifying. But, the day when I suddenly in the midst of it all had this vision of him, not as a profane, threatening teen but as a terrified little animal backed into a corner, I KNEW. And, weirdly, I had THAT realization BEFORE "meeting" Heather. It was great to have it explained for me! These are still enormous fears, with complicated origins, and we are still coping with our more automatic responses....but when I've been able to be in the moment it's been extraordinary how things defuse. And LATER, we can have a fruitful discussion.

    And, you are not apologizing or taking responsibility for the behavior, only saying you are sorry (not in tha apology way, but in the sorrow way) that you couldn't stop that pain from occuring.

  5. All behavior is communication, not just from fear. Although a good place to start I don't agree it's the end.

  6. It works for us, in fact we just did it yesterday and have used it before - yesterday didi end withthe truth but we will revisit it.

  7. Hi there, 100th follower of mine. That little blog giveaway kicked off this morning thanks to you!

    Thought you would like to know.

  8. I just started reading Beyond Consequences after our AT has been begging me to for six months. (Sorry, I was too busy cleaning up broken glass and repairing drywall and locking up my valuables!) So far I'm intrigued. The jury is still out but I'm eager to know more. I also registered for a BC class starting in November. I would love it if you would elaborate on the things you learned in training. It's great to get a different take on what I'm reading and I really trust and value your opinion.

    As you know our problem is raging and destruction, and although it's gotten much better through my ragtag bag of tricks stolen from various RAD "experts" we still have a ways to go. Of course I can't imagine apologizing as my kid is pulling the closet door off its hinges so I'm assuming there's a different approach, right? 'Cause I'd feel kind of stupid trying to scream my apology over her shrieking...

    Thanks for keeping me laughing in the midst of the RAD madness!

  9. Tracey - is your child fairly newly adopted? Our Ilya was extremely destructive for almost his first year. He was very homesick and angry and that's the way it came out. As he has bonded with us, and become less scared ALL of that destructive stuff has ceased. (Thank heaven.)

    BC has been great for him, but harder since neither his English nor my Russian has been up to the depth of conversation we need to have.

  10. I think I will do a seperate post on the whole saying "I'm sorry" part. It took me a while to understand the idea and I only just recently had a sort of AHA moment, where I really got it. It is not saying you are sorry as in it is your fault or you are making restitution, it is more about the feelings at the time that occurred without you there.


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