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The Potato Group News



When our children were placed with us aged 3 (twins) and 18 months, we had a lot of information about their history of severe neglect due to parents drug and alcohol issues. At that time there was a big focus on attachment and little was known about the impact that such trauma can have on brain development. So, we were told that because they had remained with their older sister (not being adopted) in foster care and had made good attachments there shouldn’t be any problems. Furthermore, there was no evidence of any problems – they were just “naughty” but the FC had provided good care and there were now “no problems”.

Indeed – there seemed not to be anything to be concerned about. Apart from silent crying, over compliance and “hyperactivity”, that is. In any case, after placement they settled down and eventually presented as typical children. And our experience was, actually, that they were “typical” children – if sometimes a little more “hyper” than others.
This all changed for us when our twin girls began to present with mental health problems which eventually resulted in both of them being admitted to inpatient units aged 14.
Now, we all know that the NHS is marvellous! If you have a serious, life-threatening problem, you will almost certainly get the treatment you need at the appropriate time and usually fairly close to home. Not so, if you have a mental health condition. CAMHS is “not fit for purpose” in a lot of areas. The shortage of suitable NHS mental health beds has been highlighted by the media for quite a while now. Lots of professionals make the right “noises” about the issues, but I am not sure how many of them realise the impact that the bed shortage has on both the patient and their families.
Eloise, was placed in an adolescent mental health unit over an hour away from home. She couldn’t go to a local, open, unit as her sister was there, so she was sent to a secure unit two counties away. This was a totally inappropriate admission: she was suffering with anxiety and depression and did not need to be on a secure unit.
The impact of the mental health bed crisis!

Restricted visiting hours meant that, because we had to use a major, usually congested, motorway to get there, we couldn’t see her in the week – meaning she only had visitors at the weekend. She has a younger brother who was too young to be left alone all day so he had to come and visit with us. Meaning he missed out on typical weekend activities with his friends. On occasions, we would turn up to visit her and she would be too unwell to see us for more than 15 minutes. Or her visit would have been cancelled and staff not bothered to call us. When she was allowed local leave from the ward, we had to try and find activities to do (usually restaurants) to “entertain” her.
But, a more serious consequence of this placement was the impact on her wellbeing. It is acknowledged by those working in mental health that patients will copy the behaviours of others they are placed with. Unsurprisingly, once in this unit her mental health deteriorated rapidly with an increase in the severity and frequency of her self-harming and she eventually became violent and was diagnosed with emerging personality disorder. Clinicians decided that she had to be kept in seclusion for an extended period. She was nursed in a room without even a bed – just a mattress on the floor. With nothing to do all day. Supervised constantly by two staff. A decision was made that she needed a bed in a forensic unit. BUT there were no beds available. She had to wait 6 weeks.

She was eventually offered a bed on a forensic unit 2 hours away from home. This hospital was a good placement for her. However, our Saturdays were now all about driving around the country doing visits. It is not just the inconvenience (or the cost) to the family that is the issue – being placed at such a distance has an impact on her treatment and recovery. The hospital felt she would benefit from family therapy – very difficult to do when both parents work and we have to travel so far for each session. As they recover, patients begin to have leave home to spend time with their family and friends. Hospitals find it difficult to facilitate these visits when they involve a four hour round trip (first visits are usually with staff If a home visit takes place on a weekday (and these are supposed to build up to weekly visits) then we, her parents, needed to take time off work and her siblings missed her because they were at school. However, weekend home leave is very problematic as there are fewer staff on shift. Discharge to home involves a gradual transition over time and this is very hard to do with great distances.

Another impact was that it was difficult for us to build a relationship with staff working with her as we couldn’t attend the weekly ward rounds. So, it became hard to ensure she was being well cared for. Her “home” clinical team were often unable to attend meetings about her as it meant being out of the office the whole day. So she quickly got forgotten about.
When she was well enough to be “stepped down” to a less secure placement it became apparent that she “fell between services”. She wasn’t ready to come home as she had become institutionalised. A low secure ward was felt to be inappropriate because it was likely to be too “unsettled” and might unduly influence her – leading to a remission. However, open, acute, units wouldn’t take her as it was considered to be too big a step down. She was caught between provisions: there was literally no hospital suitable for her.
So she had to be moved to a community placement which didn’t work out. And she ended up in a serious of adolescent psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) several hours away (the furthest was a distance of 4 hours)! However, she was approaching 18 and Adult services did not support out of
county placements. Yippee! She’ll be moved closer to home, we thought. But it was not to be. Once again she “fell between services”. PICUs said she did not need their services, she wasn’t unwell enough but the acute team said she was too risky to have on their wards! She is currently 1 1⁄2 away on a PICU waiting for a treatment ward to admit her.

What has become clear to us as we struggle to get the right care for our daughter is that the shortage of suitable mental health beds is very real. There needs to be more emphasis placed on getting patients close to home – to reduce cost/impact on the family, to aid the patient’s recovery and to reduce costs for the Trusts treating them. We have had to fight to get her moved from wards where she was badly treated or inappropriately placed. We have been able to do this because we are not in awe of professionals (having dealt with them for so long as a result of adoption) and because we are articulate and informed. It makes us wonder how many people with mental health problems who do not have a voice are left in unsuitable placements.

The highs and lows of adoptive parenting

Today we have a guest post from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. This is his experience as father to a 7 year old boy, and as a family they are undergoing attachment based therapy. They have been together as a family for 6 years now.

Joy…in that honeymoon period. Finally we were a family.
Deep grief, as he settled in and missed his foster family.

First words. First steps. So many firsts to celebrate.
First tantrums. First rejections. After all, this wasn’t his first separation, his first grief experience.

Content and settled. Sleepy head, all calm and restful. We watched him sleep.
The nightmares came. We held and rocked and consoled and soothed on repeat.

Nursery, school, friendships and play. All those things that children should have.
Endless conversations about bullying, disruption in lessons, no concentration.

Family time. Parks, days out, games and fun.
Always the fear of meltdown, losing control, how to help him.

A new therapy? Yes, we’ll give anything a ago – improvements!
He’s cottoned on. And the anger, anxiety, frustration, and negativity all come back, whilst the confidence, positivity, and carefree attitude have all but disappeared.

As a dad, I don’t know what is coming from one day to the next, let alone the weeks, months and years ahead for us as a family. This scares me – a 38 year old grown man. I can’t make sense of what my boy has experienced, and I struggle to help him handle his emotions.

How on earth does it make my 7 year old boy feel? – a child with limited life experiences, many of which have been challenging to him, in a world he doesn’t fully understand? How can I ever hope to equip him with all the tools he needs to decipher and make sense of himself, his past and his future.

Parenting is hard. Adoptive parenting involves more guesswork, strategic planning and psychology. But being that child – being my boy, is so much harder.

Getting back into the real world

Today, we have an anonymous post. This mum really needs your help…A Problem Shared1

For so long, I’ve felt isolated. Parenting my two challenging boys is tough, and I’ve locked myself away, too scared to take them out and feel the judging eyes, worried about their behaviour in public, unable to control them and stand up to them.

I’ve found solace in online sources, and I know I’m not alone. But I recently attended a course and met another adopter in the same situation. She lives quite close to me, and I could tell that she was feeling a bit like me – desperate for real human interaction with someone other than her son.

We exchanged details and although I want to meet up and talk, with or without our children, I just can’t bring myself to make that call, and I’m not sure I’m brave enough to actually meet with her and her son after spending so long trapped by my sons. I know I need to, for my sanity and to help the kids socialise, and to set an example for them too.

Has anyone else felt like this? How do I make the first step?

I’m sure quite a few of us have felt like this at times – had our confidence knocked, our ability to socialise waning, and our (sometimes) self-imposed isolation feeling too oppressive. If you’ve found a way out, then how? Please share your thoughts and advice here.

Will I have to choose between them?

Today’s problem comes from adoptive mum Rachel, who is worried about the way her husband is parenting their son…if you have any advice, or have been through something similar, please do share your experiences too.

ProblemI’m really struggling with my husband at the moment. He knows about attachment, he knows about therapeutic parenting, he knows our son’s background, and he knows that our son is very good at identifying and pushing buttons, but…he just can’t put it into practise.

We’ve been a family, him, me and our son for 5 years. We’re not new adopters, and I’ve been on many courses and fed back to my husband (unfortunately he just can’t get the time off to attend himself), he’s come to therapy when he can, and he’s even read and watched Dan Hughes (isn’t YouTube great?!).

He just can’t implement it. I really struggle to see him getting so cross at our son – shouting sometimes, sending him to his room, physically removing our son from situations, rather than moving himself into another room. It undoes all the hard work that I put in. It scares our son.

I’m worried that we’ll soon be at the point where I have to choose between them. Losing his father will be traumatic for our son, but surely this behaviour is just as damaging?

Bragging Rights

Today Suddenly Mummy  is findings others bragging about their children a little upsetting. 

All parents brag about their children. I know that. Before I had children I used to brag about my friends’ children so I could join in a bit with the seemingly endless conversations. Now I have OB, I certainly do brag about him. And I brag about my fostered children too.

But all too often, I find it hard to keep up. I have good friends with a 3-year-old little girl who is two months younger than OB. She can write her name. She can dress and undress herself and take herself to the toilet. She can recognise all of her letters and is beginning to spell out simple consonant-vowel-consonant words. Yeah. OB can do none of those things.

On one level I’m ok with all of that. OB has many wonderful qualities, and is progressing really quite well for a child of his age. He isn’t developmentally delayed, and in most areas his abilities are in line with his age. Plus, my friend’s daughter hasn’t been from pillar to post and experienced all the early instability that OB has had.

I’m very happy with his progress. Delighted in fact, since in so many areas he started so far behind.

Take swimming. He is terribly afraid of water. I was reading through the daily notes I kept when I was his foster carer and saw there the first time I mentioned his hysterical reaction to having a bath. It was the night after he had spent his first transitional night with his birth mum as part of the lengthy process of rehabilitation that ultimately failed. Did something happen in the bath that night he was away? I’ll never know, but I suspect something. He never had a problem before, and he has been terrified of water ever since.

So I knew that swimming lessons would be a trial for him. A nightmare even. Yet despite this, and after many months of crying, just under a year in and he has earned his second badge. It’s very basic – I think it’s for making it one width across the pool without the teacher holding him (but with loads of armbands and a pool noodle!), but I was proud as anything when he got it.

The same week, my friend’s daughter got her third badge. She has been swimming just five months. I have to admit that I just didn’t want to hear about it. I found it hard to be all excited for her when her Mummy was showing me, and almost choked on the congratulatory words. Awful isn’t it.

She’s three years old, and she’s done really well, but I, the adult, felt like a jealous child.

I said the right things though, and I sorted my head out afterwards. I reminded myself that I really don’t believe that parenting is a competition. I reminded myself that someone else’s achievements don’t downgrade my son’s awesome achievements, especially considering how far he has had to come. I reminded myself that I truly love my friend and their daughter. I remembered how I plan to home educate partly because I don’t like the competition and continual assessment our education system is riddled with and don’t think it would be a good environment for my son.

DSC_0189In the end it was all good. But today, I encountered another bragging situation that nearly brought me to tears. We went to an air show. It was stupid of me, really. OB hates loud and unexpected noises. He always has. I think I know the reasons for it. Why it didn’t occur to me that low flying jet planes would be unbelievably noisy, I don’t know. My only excuse is that I’ve never been to an air show before. Not a great excuse I know.

We travelled there and back with friends – surrogate grandparents to OB. At the air show, we met up with their two children and their young families. Of course, once the planes started, OB was mortified by the noise. He couldn’t enjoy the red arrows because he was holding his ears and burying his head in my stomach and when the tornado screamed by it was almost as though his head was being torn right off. Baby Girl wasn’t a fan either, so I had two frightened, crying children to deal with. Thankfully, we all enjoyed the quieter planes and, on the whole, I think OB did like the event – he does love his planes. He went to bed fine tonight and doesn’t seem to have any lasting upset. Next time we’ll have ear defenders!

But on the way home, our friends bragged and bragged about how their two older grandchildren (four and two) weren’t frightened of the noise. They didn’t cry. They seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.

How pleased they were that they enjoyed the red arrows so much. How adventurous the two-year-old is and not afraid of anything.

Who brags about that?!

They are lovely people. I have known them for over 20 years and I love them very much. They adore OB and take him out to the park and other places just because they want to. But I nearly cried in the back of their car today.

And I thought, this is probably going to be par for the course. Parents will be excited about their children’s achievements, and they will want to share that with their friends. I know that all parents sometimes find the bragging of others a little hard to manage. My very good friend has a daughter with invisible special needs, and I know she struggles to hear all about the achievements of other friends’ children who all seem to find everything so easy while her child struggles and falls more and more behind.

I also know that all parents have a long list of things about their own children that they don’t want to brag about. We only tend to hear the glowing reports – there are no badges and certificates for the time a child was rude, or lied, or hit someone, or wouldn’t obey. I try to be realistic.

But I felt sad today that my child seemed so very different to the others, and that it was so noticed.

I felt sad because I will probably have that feeling many, many more times as he grows up. I felt sad that he is fearful and nervous because of what was done to him before he was even one year old. I can save him from being constantly compared to his schoolmates over his educational or sporting achievements, but it seems that there is always going to be something to compare, even if it is only who was bravest when the loud plane went past.

A Supporting Hand or a Pointing Finger?

Here one adoptive mother tells us about her recent experiences of post adoption support……..

I was recently asked to “take adoption out of my parenting equation”. The person asking the question meant well, doing her job as a family support officer(not part of post adoption support but we were referred to them by our social worker), working with families in crisis, she really was there to help. It was during our second meeting she made the statement. During our first meeting I’d sat for a draining two hours and divulged the intricacies of our often dysfunctional family. I’d felt up beat when she left, ever hopeful that she would be able to provide the support I’d been brave enough to ask for.

coffee cupAnd then there she sat, my knight in shining armour, clutching the warm cup of coffee I’d kindly made for her, asking me to surmise what parenting my children would be like if they weren’t adopted. The words hung between us, heavy and hard, much too hard for me to swallow. My eyes prickled with tears; yet again, as I contemplated “did I hear her right?” I glanced side ways to read my husband’s face, hoping his expression may clarify.

The lady on the sofa opposite obviously wasn’t sure if we’d understood so shuffled her neat little bottom in my sofa and said,

“What I took away from our last meeting was, that you place too much emphasis on your children being adopted.” And then titling her head in my direction, “especially you”.

My stomach knotted a hundred times over, creating a burning sensation which flushed my cheeks, blotched my neck and no doubt more of my clothed skin below. I felt sickened by the intestinal contortions and gasped as I muttered my astonished reply  “I’m not sure I understand, I really don’t think we can do that, HOW can we forget our children are adopted?”

Unfortunately for her, and me, I was not in the most positive of places before the meeting, and now as her comments thumped me bang smack between the eyes, I had to remove myself and attempt to regain composure.

I paced the bathroom, gulping air, hoping it could be the miraculous cure for my disposition, and slowly my breathing regulated and I felt a faint level of self-control. Digging my fingers into the corners of my eyes and smoothing them along my closed lids, I cleared the remaining tears and returned to the lounge. I got through the remainder of the meeting without crying, for that I feel a sense of achievement.

Post this event I was initially very upset, but what I actually soon became was very angry, seething in fact.

How dare someone dismiss the last seven years of my life with such a flippant remark. For seven years I have read, researched, talked, listened and learnt something new every day. I have never returned to full time work, understanding that my children need consistent support, outside of school, to help them feel safe and ensure they have the greatest opportunity to grow and develop. My marriage has suffered, in some ways irreparable damage, yes we’ll get through but the scars will remain. Me, I’m a mother first and some days that’s it, no more. Yes, that has now got to a point where it’s often not enough for me and the sadness of that is blurring my vision. But damn, I am a good mother, a very good mother. Ok I’ve been a little off track recently but, that’s why I’d asked for help, I’m aware I’m not able to do my best at the moment.

And yet the help was standing there pointing the finger right back at me, us, and seemingly saying, your children don’t behave and that’s your faulty.

After this distressing meeting, we then endured a number of months where we allowed this support access to our lives, only to have the accusatory finger pointed continually in our direction. Why you may ask did we go along with this? Because having asked for help we felt we needed to at least seem grateful. We were on our knees and struggling we were afraid to say “this is not right”. However the final straw was still to come, an incident which snapped me into the realisation that the support we were being given was actually causing much more damage to our lives than help.

The support lady offered to take both our children on a Christmas outing. She collected them early one morning and with a couple of other children she worked with, whisked them off to a children’s centre for some fun activities, followed by a lunchtime trip to MacDonalds. They were delivered back some hours later with a cheery wave.

Following the festive season that same neat little bottom sat on my sofa and yet again pointed her damning finger our way.

My children had, in her opinion, behaved in an exceptionally terrible manner on the outing she had supervised. Her idea of terrible was fighting, answering back, repeatedly not listening to her and generally being very disruptive.

Inside my head I was screaming “hello, welcome to my world” but outwardly a jumble of worlds spilled from my mouth, “…control issues……feelings of insecurity….vying for attention….early life trauma” as I gasping for air, she came back with the line, the one that made it very obvious she had no understanding of what she was dealing with.

“I’m sorry but I work with children who come from far worse situations than yours and they don’t behave in that way”

My response was vehement “How can you say that, you don’t know that at all, you don’t know their full history”

It was decided at that meeting that we would no longer pursue the support of this person or her team. In fact we’ve not seen any one from Post Adoption Support since. They are waiting for some possible therapy to materialise from CAHMS. This therapy I’m again not sure is actually suitable, and we will consider at great length before we allow our child to participate.

We’ve been left feeling even more isolated than ever before, unable to even trust those that are supposed to be there to support us. Knowing that our own understanding and knowledge of the challenges we live with far out strips most of those we come into contact with in a professional role. The only good to come of this whole experiences is that we have regained confidence in our own ability to parent our children.

Working with The Emotions

Todays blog piece comes from Tweeter @ivavnuk who felt compelled to write something after reading our post by Colby Pearce last week.

I’ve just read the excellent Colby Pearce article (read here) where clearly the experience he has in writing is shining through with it being so well crafted, but it is an excellent insight too.

Its something I had wondered in reading adopters and prospective adopters accounts through Twitter. There are people who clearly meet that balance but there are people who seem wide of it.

My experience of childhood trauma is that the affects of abuse run deep and are very likely to be carried into adulthood, and being able to take a place in society isn’t helped by having your ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ emphasised. For clarity ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ were how I as a ‘worthless’ child viewed my issues – and not a view I am ascribing to anyone else.

Was it Jackson Brown who sang, ‘don’t point out my failings – I know them too well’ ? Certainly a child with critically low self esteem is ripe ground for taking support that they are worthless and full of problems.

Yet there seems a prevalent mindset, perhaps borne of trying so hard to understand a child’s issues’ ?, where those issues are taken to be that child’s defining feature. A new behaviour is noted and seems almost too readily ascribed to their trauma. Like Woody Allen mistaking a leak through his shirt pocket from his pen as being a malignant melanoma – it may just be an ink stain.

It may even be a melanoma – but not malignant. Some effects of trauma can be carried into adulthood and not be defining or over encumbering.

mahakala-6armedIn fact they can be empowering. Nietche said that we start life as a camel, and the role of a camel is to have burdens put upon it. The camel then goes into the desert where it is transformed into a lion – the bigger the burden, the more powerful the lion. The rest of his transformative analogy is beyond the scope of this waffle – but the point is that your wounds become the source of your wisdom. Accessing that starts with knowing that you are not solely defined by those wounds, or at least seeing value in them. Another of Nietche’s phrases was ‘Careful you cast out your devil – it may be your best part’.

I’ve read where people talk with frustration of the root of their child’s behaviour being mistaken by others for normal development rather than trauma. Normalising it is the phrase.

Yet there is a balance there in not making your child feel they are abnormal and there is merit in others seeing them as normal.

It reminds me of the story about a mental health institute patient who was convinced he was a spy and awaiting some important mission – a stream of doctors had tried to convince him he wasn’t and encountered deep conflict over it, the patient becoming more distressed and the doctors more certain he needed to be contained. Then one day a maverick therapist snuck into his room and said ‘Look, I’ve not long before they find me – I know who you are. Whats important is that you tell no one you’re a spy, just take your place in society, and if we need you – I will return, have you got that ?’ The chaps is said to have agreed, been validated, and took his place in society and lived happily ever after.

The goal is to have a happy life amongst other people.

Trauma I’m familiar with seems to have the greatest impact at an emotional level. Understanding and labelling that seems of secondary importance, perhaps even of only mild interest or even no importance. Great big emotions sweep you away regardless of what your conscious mind might understand. What does help is coming to understand that you are the space in which those emotions play out and not those emotions or thoughts they are manifesting through. ‘You are not angry – you feel angry’ is an empowering change of view – it creates space so that choices about what to do start to arise.

I’m new to parenting – but I”m not knew to being burdened in early years. When I read twitter I have no adoptive parenting expertise – but I can read it through the eyes of my childhood.

Some of it surprises me.

I had no idea parenting was a competitive sport to some until I entered the arena. I heard a comedienne on the radio say “before I had children I didn’t know what was important – now they are here I know that the only important thing is that they are better at everything they do than my brothers children”. This even seems to extend to trauma – I’ve read exchanges that seem to be competing with how hard it is to endure their adopted child’s behaviour.

That’s a similar worrying view to the prospective adopters you see, whose agenda or desperation for having a family seems so prevalent that it must outweigh their ability to put a child first. Surely the most basic component of being a good parent is being able to put someone else first and to not see a situation in terms of yourself ?

The Buddhists say: ‘We all drink from the same stream of consciousness – don’t piss in the stream’

If you have an opinion on something you’ve read here, or somewhere else, and feel you’d like to have your say please contact us theadoptionsocial@gmail.com or here

Photographic Memories

My husband and I are not yet adoptive parents, but we are parents and step-parents.

We are in the early stages of our journey to add to our family once again, this time through the slightly less conventional method which we know as adoption. We are doing this by choice, and we are excited.

Anyone who is familiar with my family life stories blog will know that I have two passions – photography and nostalgia. These two things are inextricably linked, for it is our photographic images which capture our memories, and thereby become sources of nostalgia in their own right. And there’s the rub.



We live in the age of social media. Our lives are shared online with friends and family, and the pride and love we feel for our birth children is displayed with regularity and gusto in the form of photographic images across our profile pages. The birthday parties, the sandcastles, the football matches and the first day of school. Brown eyes peeping through ruffled hair in the early morning, maternal kisses and the joy on their faces as they win the egg and spoon race.

And yet the parents of adopted children are unable to indulge in such liberal exhibitions of their joy. The need to protect the identities of their babies must trump the desire to show them off.

And so my instinctive yearning as a photographer and professional maker of life stories must be suppressed.

I wonder how it must feel for an adoptive parent to resist the temptation to share the faces which inspire them, when every other blogger on the web is brandishing their angelic offspring without a care? Will I simply learn to accept their faces must remain hidden, or will this separate them from the children whose faces are freely visible? I suspect I will struggle with this, but time will tell.

My family have many challenges ahead. We need to integrate a third incoming branch into the already-integrated family unit; we must learn to parent our adopted children in new ways, without creating inequality, and we must become accustomed to using caution in our photography and how it is shared. Let us hope that the pixelated faces will understand.

Helen Spencer is the 46 year old mother and step-mother to four children between the ages of 25 and 6 years old. She is also the Founder of family life stories website, www.SaveEveryStep.com, and blogs about her adoption journey at http://woebegonechild.wordpress.com


Tips for Dealing with Aggressive and Abusive Behaviour

Some Weeks back I (Sarah from @puffindiaries) asked for some help with aggressive and abusive behaviour from my youngest son. He was, and still is on occasions, hitting and lashing out, plus speaking in a very aggressive and rude tone to all members of the family.

 I want to thank everyone who gave such useful and understanding advice, so much so that I thought it would be a good idea to summarise it all here.

A No Fuss Consequence from @SuddenlyMummy

A consequence for certain behaviour is decided on and communicated to your child, for example removal of certain privileges or use of items, maybe the computer or a Playstation.computers

If the child reacts further or behaviour escalates then have a further consequence in place for this eventuality.

When the behaviour occurs the consequence is implemented immediately, with no discussion. If possible the item to be removed is moved away.For example placing the Playstation in a cupboard.

The consequence should be consistent and the same each time, so the message is clear.

This helps you stay in control and keep calm as you already know how you will react to the situation.


Positive Reinforcement from @LinsCummings.

Use a chart or reward system for when the child does not react with the negative behaviour.

Make the chart achievable, for example if the behaviour happens daily reward the child for reaching the end of the day without being aggressive and the gradually extend the length of time.

Use lots of positive comments alongside the chart, praising your child for unrelated positive behaviour as well. For example if they play well with another child or sit calmly for an activity.

Allow the child to select the reward, with your guidance to ensure it is something they wish to try hard to obtain. Sometimes it is best to start big with your rewards to ensure motivation but decrease in time as the child becomes more accustomed to the required behaviour.

Always ensure you and your child knows clearly how the reward system works, use visuals or a poster with rules on so the child understands. The child can be involved in designing or decorating the chart or making the poster to help them feel inclusive in the process.

Make sure you can put the time in and follow through with all rewards or consequences.


The Removal Technique from @Fran_Proctor

When you see behaviour you find unacceptable, remove the child from the room for a pre – agreed amount of time. This is about removing attention from the child.

Before the child is allowed to return to the room, explain to them why they were removed and ask them to apologise. If they do not apologise they do not get to return to the room.

Remember to be consistent, calm and to follow through and as @FranProctor says “Keep it simple, straight to the point and move on.”


Dealing with Abusive language from @3beesandahoney

Ignore as much as you can and respond to the child only when they speak to you in a polite manner.

If you do respond use calm and understanding voice and try to recognise your child’s emotions, these phrases from @3beesandahoney are perfect ‘thank you for letting me know that you are finding it hard to cope at the moment’ or ‘I am sorry you feel like that, just remember you may be feeling mad at us at the moment but that doesn’t stop us loving you’. DSC_0038

Help the child find silly acceptable words to replace the particularly abusive or sociably unacceptable words. This is particularly useful for the school environment or social situations. Again @3beesandhoney suggests the word “fudge cake” and we have certainly used the word “fudge”.


Final Thoughts from @newPyjammas

Some children find an instant consequence easier to understand than having to wait for the impact of their behaviour. This can help if a child has difficulty with the idea of cause and effect.

Allow family games where the children are allowed to be play rough and tumble with each other or being load. I love her idea of holding up sheets of newspaper so that children can smash through with their fists.

A great idea for colleting praise is to give out pasta for good behaviour that goes into a jar, when the jar is full you can cook something yummy with it.


So lots of great ideas for dealing with aggressive and abusive behaviour. I think it must be said that not all approaches suit all children, especially children that have lived with early life trauma and who struggle with attachment. However, lots of these methods rely on several of the same ingredients and these ingredients are imperative for successful parenting no matter what.

Stay calm,

Be consistent

Be clear and keep it simple,

Once it’s over move forward,

Don’t beat yourself up if doesn’t quite go as you would have hoped, this is a tough job and you’re doing your best.



Tips for Settling a New Placed Toddler into Family Life – Part 1

This post been written by @LauraLikes2Read  and she is also one of two mums at the blog Two Mums? Two Kids?

2mums I was recently talking to someone on twitter about tips for settling a child into your family. It has been 6 months since introductions ended, and my daughter moved in, so I wanted to reflect on what I felt had worked for us. I am writing from the perspective of a working parent, whose partner is the full-time carer. Our Daughter was roughly 20 months old when she moved in. I recognise that not all of these tips will work for everyone, especially where there are specific needs from particular abuse or neglect, but I hope that some of the advice might be useful.

We kept routines as strict as possible, taking a lead from her foster carers, but amending it slightly to suit our day. The main things we changed were adding a bath every night and adding an extra snack in the morning (she is more active with us than she was at the foster carers). We Kept mealtimes and snack times consistent, we kept the bedtime routine the same every night (bath, stories and milk, saying goodnight to her toys, musical wind-up bear).

At night we always say to her “Mummy and Mama love you very much, sleep tight and we’ll see you in the morning when you wake up”.

We would plan visits and activities to ensure that she would always be able to eat and sleep at the same times. As she has settled in we have been able to flex things a little around the edges.


After the first two weeks, I had to return to work. I am lucky that my job enables me to be home every night to eat dinner at 5 (apart from the odd day where it hasn’t gone to plan). Mummy and Squiblet enrolled in a couple of classes and started regularly attending playgroups.

Squiblet likes the routine of specific activities on certain days of the week, and there are days free for other fun with friends or relaxing(?!) at home with Mummy!

Closeness and Separation

Initially, our daughter dealt with her recent separation by clinging on to her (new) Mummy for dear life. With the help of a hip seat  Mummy soldiered on with day-to-day life. It meant that Squiblet could be carried around, and a few chores could still be done. She became noticably calmer when on the hipseat. Cooking from scratch went out of the window – but we had a well-stocked freezer!

 We really made an effort to be with her as much as possible in the early days. If we left the room we would make sure that we always said “goodbye, I’m just going to the bathroom, be back soon” often we would need to actually count “I’ll be back in 10 seconds: 10…9…8…”bricks

If people visited we always made sure she said goodbye to them before they left – which meant on a few occasions holding people hostage until she had woken up from her nap! We would also ensure that when she said goodbye to people she was aware that she would be staying with us – and not leaving with them.

 She didn’t really play with any toys, she wanted to be carried, or walk with us holding her hands. We worried that she wasn’t “playing on her own enough”, I’ve heard other parents express similar worries with their newly placed children.

We consistently and repeatedly met her need for closeness, and after a few months (about 3) she started to engage in more self-directed play.

It makes sense that if her world had just been torn apart she would need to feel safe again before being relaxed enough to play.  It might feel tough to have to give that much of yourself in the early days, but we have found that it has paid off.

We coped by sharing duties and always ensuring that one of us could have a shower without being interrupted (difficult though, when she was shouting “LOOK MUMMYYYY!!!!” and knocking on the door). I think those small episodes of leaving and returning were necessary to reassure her that we would always come back.

bedtimeWe felt it important that Squiblet could transfer her attachment to Mummy as a priority, as Mummy would be the primary carer. At first, Mummy did the majority of dressing, nappy changing and putting to bed. Squiblet would often push me away and didn’t want me to put her to bed, or be left with me to have a bath.

She was dealing with making her attachment to Mummy, so I patiently waited and didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t always easy, but I had faith that I would grow on her eventually!

After about 3 months I noticed that the cuddles she gave me were genuine affection, not the “clinging on for dear life” that had come before it. We ask her who she wants to put her in her cot at naptimes and bedtimes – it’s almost always me now! She reverts to Mummy when she’s poorly.

She also went through a stage of not wanting to say goodbye to me in the mornings and would pull away or hide her face.Again, I tried not to take it personally (in fact as a good sign, that she cared that I was going) I would kiss her and tell her I loved her and would see her again at dinner time. These days when I turn the key to come through the front door after work I am met with happy squeals of “It’s Mama!! It’s Mama!!”, so it was worth waiting for.

Part two of this post will be published next Monday 29th of July.