Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beyond BCLC - Active Parenting and FLAC

Four or five years ago, I was in a discussion with some other adoptive moms who were gung-ho about a parenting method for traumatized kids written by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post called Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control.  Frankly, I had some problems with this theory from the get-go.  I come from an academic background.  I like peer-reviewed research and outcomes based practices.  Since the book was based on a limited practice and had no peer-reviewed research to back it up, I was skeptical before I ever read it.  As I read it, I wondered how any parenting method that placed consequences for behavior on the back burner could properly serve any child, let alone a traumatized child, who would eventually need to live in “the real world,” where there were definite consequences for certain behaviors.  It just seemed “off” somehow to me.

Over time, Heather Forbes separated her practice and her writing (BCLC II has Heather’s name only on the cover) from Bryan Post.  Bryan Post faced legal issues with the Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers for referring to himself as “Dr.” Post.  BCLC Volume I even has his name with a “Ph.D.” following.  However, Post got his “doctorate” degree from a bogus (and now defunct) diploma mill called “Columbus University” (not to be confused with the Ivy League school, Columbia University in New York City where my own hubby earned a legitimate M.B.A., with honors, after a couple of years of full-time studies, hard work, and a rigorous admissions process to get into the school in the first place).  I became even more jaded about BCLC at the time because I despise deceit and I saw Post as someone trying to boost his income and credibility with unsuspecting parents with an incredible and bogus degree.  Still, when Forbes came out with BCLC II, I bought it and read it.  She seemed genuine and her ideas seemed like some that could stand up to the test of peer review should she choose to take that route.  Plus, I’d already put into practice some of the trauma parenting methods incorporated into BCLC that were also being used by other, peer-reviewed practitioners like Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Dan Hughes.  But I have always felt the need for our kids to learn consequences and logic and to feel safe because they knew their parents were indeed in control.

I cannot do justice to Heather Forbes’ work in one brief blog post.  I would encourage my readers to check out her book, Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control II.  I believe Heather has a true heart for helping other adoptive parents and that she “gets” how hard raising a traumatized child can be.  She’s been through all the ups and downs with her own child.  However, if I’ve learned anything over the last 7+ years of this journey (pre-adoption through today), I’ve learned that no one method, no one person, no one theory will serve as a one-size-fits-all therapeutic parenting path.

I believe our traumatized kids do indeed need to learn to feel safe.  Sometimes, that means ignoring a behavior in the moment and focusing on the fear behind the behavior.  But sometimes --- maybe most of the time --- our kids NEED to deal with even immediate consequences and they need to be dealt with logically.  I think this is especially important as our kids get older.  You just don’t have the time to mess around with a traumatized 17 year old that you do with a 7 year old, for example.  You need to make connection, but you need to be firm and teach boundaries, as I wrote about yesterday, and the logical consequences life will deal out when boundaries are ignored.  This is where I wish more adoptive parents would learn the parenting techniques of Dr. Michael Popkin and “Active Parenting Now!”  This is the program I teach in our county jail to parent inmates who will gain custody of their children again after they’ve served their sentences.  Like I said above, though, I don’t believe it is a be-all-end-all or a one-size-fits-all parenting program.  It’s a tool like anything else.  There are things we can learn from it and things that incorporate techniques many of us already have learned from more well-known sources like Perry and Hughes.

Dr. Michael Popkin

Popkin’s FLAC method works more for me than the BCLC method.  Modifying this approach to suit my personality as well as the needs of my kids has worked for us.  The BCLC method seemed more like coddling to me and it got us “stuck” when I tried to ignore consequences and logic too much in a heart-felt effort to work on the connection of attachment.  What I found was my kids NEEDED immediate consequences and logic in order to feel SAFE.  (Do not confuse this with the "Love and Logic" program.  It is quite different.  Logic there is more like saying, "Too bad; so sad.  What are you going to do about that."  And consequences are not connected to the behavior.  For example, L&L gives an example where a kid sneaks out of the house and the parent doesn't deal with the danger of that, they give a 'consequence' of picking up dog poop and mowing the yard with a nebulous time for completion.  That is NOT what Active Parenting Now! teaches.)

Our kids needed boundaries and when they went outside those boundaries, they needed quick, firm and logical consequences from me in response.
  When I realized how important it was to control the size of their worlds, depending upon their abilities at the time, we made progress.

The basics of FLAC are this:

F – Feelings:  As a parent, you identify your child/teen’s feelings and you validate them.  It does not mean you AGREE with them.  You simply validate the feeling and identify it – something I found very important to do for my traumatized kiddos who could not identify the feelings behind their behavior.  When triggered, they still have a hard time doing that.

L – Limits:  Parents set the limits.  Kids can have input, especially as they get older and become more able to handle themselves and certain situations, but PARENTS set the limits.  Parents set the boundaries.

A – Alternatives:  Parents guide kids to come up with alternatives for achieving their goals within the boundaries or LIMITS already set.  Parents are authoritative, but working on alternatives allows the family to avoid becoming authoritarian, which leads to conflicts and head-butting that keeps everyone stuck.

C – Consequences:  All behavior has consequences.  No matter what we do or what we say, there is a consequence.  Hopefully, most consequences are positive.  I’m thirsty.  My behavior is I get a glass of water.  The consequence is that my thirst is quenched.  Children learn the world works in a logical manner (at least most of the time) and there are indeed consequences to behavior.  These are not ignored.  The world doesn’t work beyond them.

Active Parenting Now! helps parents teach children responsibility.  Responsibility expands as the child/teen matures. 

R = C +  C

Responsibility = Choices + Consequences

Parents learn to help their child “own the problem.”  However, parents also learn when a problem is primarily the parent’s responsibility and the parent needs to make choices with positive consequences.

Please know I receive no royalties or financial compensation (other than teaching fees when I facilitate a course) from Dr. Popkin or the Active Parenting Now! company.  I encourage my readers to learn more, though.  You can visit the APN website at  You can find links for classes near you or purchase the parenting guide there.  You can also find a brochure with the basics of the FLAC method HERE.  Dr. Popkin also has a biblically-based add-on available to accompany the APN program.


Courtney said...

I find this ironic. I just this afternoon had a conversation with Alex (our oldest, 10.5) because he's been pushing all of the buttons and then some. He's doing things that make life not safe for him or others (not drastically so, but still...). I had sent him to play in his room for a bit because he sometimes needs a bit less stimulation that our house with six kids provides, and a few minutes later I went up there and very sternly told him that he could be as bad as he wanted, and he could get in trouble, and he would have consequences, but no matter what he did I would always be his mom and I would never send him back to Ukraine. Writing it sounds pretty nice, but I was almost yelling at him when I said it--definitely a raised voice! As I was talking to him he alternated between looking serious and getting a little grin every time I mentioned "staying with me" and "not going back to UA". Sometimes he just seems to need those reminders, along with the consequences for his behaviors!

Trauma Mama T said...

That's great, Courtney, that you were able to identify the feeling of insecurity behind his behavior lately. You identified the feeling of wondering if you would really be his mom no matter what, and you set limits by not allowing him to continue in unsafe behavior. The consequence was you made his world a bit smaller. Now, just try to help him find some alternatives for when he's feeling insecure. Can he come to you to talk about it? (Youngest Son cannot.) Can he draw a picture? (Youngest Son does this.) Can he rearrange his stuff in his room. (Youngest Son also does this. It helps him go through and see he still has his things and it helps him take inventory - and control - of his own little piece of the world. That piece of the world is in our home as part of his family.) Or are there other alternatives that work for your family?

Courtney said...

He doesn't usually want to talk about it. UA, yes, but actual feelings about it (especially scared, etc., feelings), no. He has been drawing lots of pictures and he likes to do that, but he doesn't usually incorporate UA. One thing that has worked in the past is sitting down and rolling a ball back and forth while we talk. The ball keeps his mind off of the conversation and makes it more relaxed. But that's not always an option so I'm still trying to come up with some good alternatives for him!