You may see your youth go from 0 to 100 in what seems like a second flat, with really no indication to why you see an exculpated behavior. You may be asking yourself and your child, ‘what is going on?!’ as you’re trying to make sense of behavior(s) in front of you! How many times do you hear your youth respond with, ‘I don’t know?’ The truth is, youth most likely don’t know what is going on. And they might not be able to express the why behind their behavior for awhile! Using Dr. Perry’s Three R’s may help you and your family bring down the escalated moment a bit quicker.
The first step in the Three R’s is to Regulate. When youth are in their behavior, they’re utilizing their basement brain, known as the brainstem. The brainstem is where primitive actions occur, and youth need their basic need of safety met. The goal is to help youth come back down to their baseline. Starting off, youth might not know how to regulate themselves, so a parent must walk beside the youth in order to help them regulate. Helpful tools to use include: providing a quiet area, sensory items, music, or breathing in/out techniques (breathe in to smell the cocoa and breathe out to cool the cocoa off). Just as it is important to allow the youth to regulate, it is important for the parent to regulate, as dysregulated parents can trigger youth. So, as a parent, take a few moments and cool off!
When the youth is regulated, they’re able to move from functioning from their brainstem to utilizing the limbic part of their brain. This is when the second R, Relating, can be worked through. When working within the realm of relating, parents are to have a sensitive conversation with their youth. During this time, parents need to be attuned with their youth and connect with them to validate their youth’s emotion. An example parents may use includes, ‘I can see how that situation was very frustrating. Remember parents, you don’t have to agree with the youth, but it’s more important to validate the youth’s feelings than to tell the youth their wrong in how they’re feeling!
The final step is to Reason. This step is final because youth are now out of their primal minds, away from using their basic level of thinking. This is where youth can think from the higher level of their brain, known as their cortex, where logical thought occurs. Parents and youth can now talk about the behavior that happened and better ways to handle future situations.
It may take time for you to become comfortable in putting each piece of this into play. It may take time for your child to respond to each part, and that’s okay! Give yourself and your child some grace. It may be a new technique for both of you to learn and implement.
This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW