Great Behaviour Breakdown
It can be hard if your child’s behaviour – and your relationship with them – is in crisis. Below is one NFS member’s experience of some training that made a real difference:
‘We have two adopted sons. Earlier last year our family was in crisis. We’d fallen into a crevasse of meltdowns, school exclusions and violent outbursts. Despite interventions from various paediatricians, medication, parenting courses and CAMHS, we were barely coping.
‘When we received a call from our social worker, announcing she’d found – yet another – behaviour training course, I rolled my eyes heavenward. I sat with my arms folded at the back of the class, preparing to be underwhelmed. What more was there to learn that we hadn’t already tried? Surely we’d exhausted every avenue of support and read every book? Within twenty minutes of the training I was on the edge of my seat and rapt. The trainers were describing exactly what our home life was like. The meltdowns, refusals, controlling behaviours, swearing, injuring us, bashing other kids, wrecking things. We were given real life scenarios of life as an adoptive family and here were people who had solutions.
So what had we stumbled across? And did it help?
‘Rewire Your Future is a behavioural training course run by a gay adoptive Dad and foster carer Zach Gomm and Denise Golding; a senior social worker and counsellor. Zach has extensive experience of parenting highly traumatised children and teenagers; he is a certified Theraplay trainer. The training is based on a model called The Great Behaviour Breakdown (GBB). The underlying ethos is that most (mis)behaviours are a result of fear that’s based in trauma. Breaking down the behaviours helps you shift away from anger and frustration to a place of compassion and understanding. We began to appreciate just how much anxiety our children were facing and how their brains were hotwired to fight. From that point we learned how to navigate around and through our children’s feelings and let go of a few ingrained behaviours of our own.
Initially we were sceptical as some of the things we were asked to try seemed a bit counter intuitive. We identified one of our biggest issues – huge meltdowns around going to bed – and set to work on tackling it. We unpicked why our son was going ballistic at bedtime and began to ‘shine a light’ on what he may be feeling. He said he hated getting ready for bed as it made him feel cold, so we let him sleep in his day clothes. My old parenting style would have been ‘that’s ridiculous, of course you have to get changed for bed’, but the Great Behaviour Breakdown (GBB) approach listens, lets go of outcomes and gets you thinking. Our son wanted to feel snuggled and embalmed and was tired and sleepy and he didn’t want to let go of the day, of us, of his warm clothes. So he slept in his day clothes. And…it made bedtimes a trillion times easier. So what if he sleeps in his clothes? He skips happily into fresh clothes the next morning and on the days he doesn’t we don’t get stressed out like we did before.
I guess that’s the essence of GBB, finding out what the anxiety triggers are, helping your child to find a voice or being that voice for them. It’s been transformative for us. It isn’t an easy option, you need bags of patience and letting go of outcomes isn’t always practicable but there are now far fewer meltdowns and much more communication and understanding. You don’t need to completely change how you do things, if stuff’s working then the advice is don’t change it. What has changed is the way we perceive our boys and we’re at lot closer. When either boy is heading for a meltdown or behaving difficultly then we know something’s up, and we can usually work out why and help them through their feelings.
As well as the initial training we also received money from the Adoption Support Fund and have regular 1:1 Skype sessions with Zach and he guides us through practical issues we’re having. This has been invaluable. Zach and Denise also offer specific parenting teenagers courses, professional training and school interventions.’