Adolescence and early adulthood are a time for youth to exercise choice. Anyone who was once a teen knows that taking risks and making mistakes is part of the equation. Holding children and young adults accountable is the other factor.
To be a trauma responsive caregiver, we must distinguish the purpose and use of punishment, discipline, and accountability.
Rather than punishing youth for broken rules by reactively taking away things they prefer or introducing things they dislike, try shared reflection and disciplinary choice.
Remember the stories your dad shared about his mom walking him back to the corner store to return the candy bar he shoplifted. With his head hung low, he apologized and returned the stolen sweets. His having to sweep up the parking lot every day for the rest of summer drove the lesson home. He was taught an invaluable lesson about right/wrong and responsibility. Some strategies are timeless, even if they are underappreciated.
Too many of us grew up in households where every misstep was met with physical discipline or harsh critiques. Where risk taking happened outside the home. At home it was not safe to experiment with our own authority.
For too many adults, children were meant to be seen and not heard. We pay those lessons forward in the ways we marginalize our children’s voices. In the ways we think about the master-servant relationship between teachers and students.
On the other hand, we may overcompensate. To give children what we did not receive, we may become permissive to the point of spoiling and lacking the necessary boundaries. It would be easier if each child came with an instruction manual! In the meantime, we have to heal ourselves and develop new patterns of mutually respectful adult-child relationships.
Perfection is not required to become a trauma informed professional nor a trauma responsive caregiver.
Accountability looks at developing the skills that are necessary for desired behavior.
To change your family pattern about discipline and accountability, place an emphasis on compassionate inquiry and individualized guidance. Highlight for youth the actual results of their behavior and give them opportunity to identify consequences.
Instead of only focusing on how they disappointed you or the harm they caused, help them reflect on the emotional or psychological needs they were trying to fulfill with their behavior.
Emphasize your availability to figure out, together, the best way to fix it–if possible. This can help youth consider the costs of repeating the action and can decrease resistance to change.
Sometimes accountability looks like repairing broken relationships, fixing broken property, bearing the costs of loss, or taking on tasks to learn a skill that needs to be learned or strengthened.
Too many of us grew up in households where every misstep was met with physical discipline or harsh critiques.
Perfection is not required to become a trauma informed professional or trauma responsive caregiver. As caregivers, it is important to focus on what a child ultimately hopes to accomplish with any behavior.
A deep understanding of who they are and what they really want starts with caregivers seeking out and remaining open to learning about exactly what makes each youth tick. Always being willing to change our understanding of them as they mature. That’s the beginning of being a trauma responsive caregiver. Being trauma responsive creates a balance between love, acceptance and accountability.
This combination can set the foundation for a disciplined, balanced, and whole way of being.
To learn more about the trauma-informed and equity-focused work at Youthcentrix® Therapy services, visit us online at www.youthcentrix.com.
Youthcentrix® provides allied and behavioral health services to individuals, consulting to organizations and a learning lab to accelerate your mastery of trauma informed and equity-focused practices.
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If you are a business leader interested in bringing trauma informed care and diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism (DEIA) to your organization reach out to Denise by emailing denise@ youthcentrix.com.