Taking A Closer Look at Connection: A TBRI Principle

God created us to connect. If that is true, then why are so many of us terrible at connecting? What many of us don’t realize is that a lot of our ability to connect with others is either enhanced or hindered in the first couple of years of our lives.

The way a parent, especially a mother, interacts with her baby while in utero, the weeks following birth, and throughout the baby months will often come naturally. I think every new parent feels ill-prepared and inadequate when they bring a newborn home. However, all you need to do is watch how people respond when they see a tiny baby. Grown men even will begin babbling in some unknown language as they shower a baby with loving attention. Women line up to take turns holding and rocking the baby. Everyone wants to jump into action to meet every need when the baby cries the slightest whimper.

All of these actions create connection. We now know that this connection creates healthy brain chemistry. Every time a child encounters someone who meets their needs, positive synapses connect across their brain. The child feels safe and can explore their ever expanding world.

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Taking A Closer Look at Empowerment—A TBRI Principle

Do you get the idea that it’s good to empower your child but struggle with exactly how to do it? How do you find that balance of empowering yet remaining in control?

Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI, is becoming the standard for connected parenting. Schools, Child Protective Services, counselors, parents, and others recognize this and are applying these principles in their work and families.

I posted a blog a couple of years ago, Three Principles of Trust-Based Relational Intervention, that still gets a lot of traffic. Basically, the three principles are Empowerment, Connection, and Correction. If you want a quick overview of TBRI, please check out that blog post HERE.

Over the next few weeks I will post a blog digging a little deeper into each of the three TBRI principles sharing not only what I have learned about each, but some of my personal experience as I attempt to apply the principles to our family.

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Helping Our Son Handle Transitions [Podcast Episode 006]

Have you ever tried to get out the door in a hurry then your child has a total meltdown because they don’t want to stop what they are doing? The harder you try to help them transition the worse it gets, so not only are you late, but the family is in total chaos.


We can predict some transitions and help our kids navigate them. Yet others catch us completely off guard. The better we, as parents, think ahead, the better we can help our children. Even if we are caught off guard, we can respond rather than react.

In today’s podcast episode, Danielle and I share some stories about how we have helped our son handle transitions. Here are a few things we share:

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Three Principles of Trust-Based Relational Intervention

Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at the TCU Institute of Child Development, Trust-Based Relational Interventions® (TBRI®) is an emerging intervention model for a wide range of childhood behavioral problems. It has been applied successfully in a variety of contexts, and with many children for whom numerous other interventions have failed (e.g., medications, cognitive-behavioral therapies.) TBRI® is based on a solid foundation of neuropsychological theory and research, tempered by humanitarian principles. It is a family-based intervention that is designed for children who have experienced relationship-based traumas such as institutionalization, multiple foster placements, maltreatment, and/or neglect. For the past ten years, Drs. Purvis and Cross have been implementing and evaluating TBRI® , and their strategies have proven extremely effective in creating healing environments for children who have come from “hard places.” (from http://www.child.tcu.edu/)

The TBRI intervention model applies three main principles—Empower, Connect, Correct. The studies have proven that traditional parenting and interaction styles don’t usually work well with children from a hard place.

Let’s take a closer look at what these three principles look like:

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How to Develop Trust with an At-Risk Child

My wife took our three-year-old son to one of his favorite places yesterday—the mall. He enjoys playing at the indoor toddler playground as long as other children are there.

Sure enough children swarmed the play area, running, laughing, crying, climbing, and playing chase. Some parents sat fiddling with their smart phones periodically checking on their child. While others hovered over their little one trying to protect them from the bigger kids.

Our son quickly made friends with two girls who were sisters. When their mother announced that it was time to go, he followed the family out of the play area telling them he wanted to go home with them.

As my wife ran out to chase our son down, the girl’s mother was telling him that he needed to go home with his own mommy.

Whoa! What is that all about?


The challenge is he either doesn’t know who to trust or he doesn’t trust anyone. This prevents him from securely attaching to us as his mommy and daddy. Children from a hard place often struggle with this.

What is meant by, “a child from a hard place”?

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Through Eyes of Compassion

I had known this eight-month-old baby boy for only a few days. I didn’t know what to expect as we walked into the Child Protective Services office for the first parent visit. But this baby’s reaction didn’t seem normal to me.

Leaving the building, I carried him close to my chest. He watched his mommy and daddy over my shoulder walk in the other direction to their car. I expected for him to cry out for them. Instead, not a sound. His eyes glazed over.

I don’t remember him crying or fussing on our way to our home. But after we got in the house, this baby boy who was beginning to crawl and pull up, took hold of a toy that came from his home. I assumed that the toy was familiar to him.

What he did next took me by surprise.

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A New Kind of Foster Family

It is time to pay attention to children that are at-risk in our communities. Ignorance of or just plain ignoring the situation is not an option. The current system can’t alone meet the need.



Too many recent stories of children killed while in state custody living in foster homes like this one—Man Charged after Death of Toddler in State Custody.

Or this one from a couple of months ago—foster-mother allegedly kills a two-year-old foster child in Central Texas. Cause of death? The foster-mother slammed the young child to the ground causing head trauma. She went into a coma and died two days later.

I don’t know about you, but that causes two extreme emotions in me—anguish and anger.

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