Friday, August 30, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: The Connected Child

Hi all!  I’m Amy, wife to my amazing hubby, Chris, and mother to my beautiful 3 year old daughter, Ava, and hopefully soon, another precious little Taiwanese child!  

Our daughter came home from The Home of God’s Love in Taiwan when she was around 3 months old and it’s been a wonderful, crazy ride since!  Ava has fortunately adjusted and attached well to both Chris and I.  I was thankful to have an amazing group of adoptive mommas supporting me that gave me a loaded arsenal of books on attachment!

The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis has been such a great tool for us as a family.  I wanted to share a little bit about the book, its contents, and how we have integrated the principles into our family life.  First let me start by saying that no matter what age you adopted your child, birth to teenage years, all our children are ”at-risk” simply by being adopted.  Dr. Purvis often terms these children as “from the hard places”. 

 This book is a very practical, application style, how-to book on parenting children and promoting attachment.  It is geared towards a little bit older child, primarily once they are able to understand and follow simple directions.   She approaches parenting children from a wide variety of backgrounds—institutionalization, orphanages, foster care, sexual abuse, physical/verbal abuse, loss and grief, poverty, etc.  This book is not a book on how to discipline your child, although discipline is included.  It’s more about the process of integrating a child into your family, developing healthy attachment, and the many aspects of parenting a child from the hard places—love, nurturing, encouragement, discipline, and relationships.

“As much as we might wish for a quick answer, no single treatment works perfectly with all at-risk children.  …The key is to treat the whole child, with all his or her interrelated needs, not just one small aspect of behavior or illness.”

“Effective coaching and parenting of an at-risk child, as explained in this book, is multidisciplinary and ongoing.  It involves building EQ (emotional intelligence) as well as IQ (intellectual mastery).  It supports your child’s senses and physiology along with his or her psychology.  It means helping your child get in touch with his own feelings as well as his needs, emotions, hunger, pain, and fear—so that he can then connect comfortably with the world around him and you.  It means teaching your child communication skills and coping mechanisms, so she can succeed in life.  It means demonstrating that you are in charge, yet sensitive to your child’s needs.  This book contains practical techniques designed to help you and your child achieve these goals.”

There is a vast amount of information in the book, almost overwhelmingly the first time you read it.  I recommend reading it, then going back and slowly going through the areas that you are currently facing as a parent in the here and now.  There is also a DVD series through her Empower to Connect Seminars that are amazing!   Our local adoption group got together to watch and discuss them weekly.  (We rented them through our local library.)  It is the same info contained in the book, only a bit more in depth.   It’s great for visual and auditory learners like myself. 

There is a nice balance of theory and application in the book.  Dr. Purvis is very adept at giving real life examples and walking you through each situation and how to address not just the behavior but the underlying motivating factors.  She walks you through step by step:   getting out of crisis mode if you’re dealing with a particularly challenging child, helping your child feel safe, understanding how your child’s background effects their behavior, establishing your authority, tools for correcting behavior, teaching your child to self-regulate, setting appropriate boundaries, encouraging your child, problem-solving with your child, building self-confidence with your child,  teaching valuable life skills, and ultimately healing.  She even tackles some more in depth issues like sensory processing disorders as well as addressing food insecurities (i.e. food hoarding).   One thing she does incredibly well is teach you how to work with your child instead of fighting against your child.  She discusses how to turn your child’s defense mechanisms into safe, positive, attachment building behaviors that meet your child’s needs but breaks down the ultimate need for the behaviors in the first place.

The biggest take away we have in our family personally is probably the IDEAL approach that Dr.Purvis lays out.  Here is a link to a short video about the technique  Below is my paraphrase of the technique as laid out in the book. 

Immediately responding to misbehavior within 3 seconds.
Directly respond by making eye contact with your child, giving them undivided attention, and bringing them NEARER to you to teach and guide them.
Efficiently give your response:  least amount of firmness, correction, and words as possible.
Action-based redirection and correction:  physically doing a real life “do-over” and giving them an opportunity to learn the correct behavior and be successful at it.
Level the response at the behavior not the child.

Chris and I use this daily in our household.  I admit Chris is much better at the approach than I am, and much more consistent.   It is not the only method we use, but I must say, it is very effective for us.    Anytime we correct behavior or discipline, we always follow it with “I love you” and a kiss.  Then it’s back to business as usual.

She also gives a lot of scripting ideas that are short and sweet.  We love these in our house!  It’s a great trigger to quickly and easily help Ava right her behavior on her own and “self-regulate”.  While our words are not exactly the phrases that she always uses, the basic concept is the same.  Some of the phrases are:
Dr.Purvis’ Scripts
“Are you asking or telling?”
“Is that showing respect?”
“Use your words.”
“Is that gentle and kind?”
“Listen and obey."

Common Earhart Scripts
“Are you whining?”
“Use your words.”
“Can you ask me?”
“Listen the first time.”
“Try it again.”

One of the things I love about this book is that, in general, it’s just good parenting.  The strategies are great for at-risk kids, but also for any kid!  Many families built through adoption also have biological children in the mix too.  This parenting method is great for dealing with the everyday challenges no matter what the background of your child or how they joined your family.  This way you not only have an individualized way to deal with each  child, but also a consistent approach that fits for the whole family, not just your adopted child.

My biggest criticism is that I felt like the book started in the middle of her approach and at times feels a little disorganized.  The end chapters of the book have some good lessons about normal, healthy development of a child, as well as some basics on brain chemistry and how our brains work.  I wish this was at the beginning of the book.  As she talks through her methods, she has a tendency to assume that you already understand the foundation she’s working from.  However, the video series does a great job of setting up the foundation of philosophy, normal growth and development, and how the brain works and it’s chemistry, before it delves into the nitty gritty of parenting.  So it might be beneficial to watch the video series in conjunction with reading the book.

Overall, for us, this is a must-have book for parenting and developing secure attachment with Ava and any other child we bring into our home.  I am including some links to some great resources for her approach to attachment and parenting.  She also does a conference twice a year called Empower to Connect.  She has a ton of free resources on the TCU child development page as well as her Empower to Connect website

Purchase the following DVDs at
Empowering, Connecting & Correcting Principles
Trust-Based Parenting Creating Lasting Changes in Your Child's Behavior

1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautiful and happy family. May god bless them with all the prosperity. Baby is looking really cute. Touchwood.

    Keep sharing the articles like that about yourself. I was feeling bored and after I read it I filled with joy and positivity.

    Thanks for writing!
    Kunik Goel
    Surrogacy In India