Susanna’s Story- Resources for Trust-Based Relational Intervention Partenting


First, I’d like to thank Isabel and Charlotte for building this community. Discovering it was a huge encouragement to me! Isabel asked me to write a post on some parenting resources that a wonderful person directed me towards when they heard my story.

Like almost everyone in our situation, I was thrown into parenting my teenaged little brother very unexpectedly. I had no clear concept of what parenting would look like for me, but I knew I didn’t want anything to do with the nagging, authoritarian, punitive parent role that I see most people take with their teens, so when my friend offered me this alternative, I was overjoyed.
I’m just going to offer a brief overview, and at the end of this post I will compile a list of websites, books, and other resources to introduce any interested person to this parenting style.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is a therapeutic parenting method developed by child behavioural experts for parents of kids “from hard places” (adoption, fostering, any sort of complex developmental trauma). A few key components of this methodology are:
1. Understanding that these kids are doing the very best they can, but they have to fight past their developmental trauma, and redevelop foundational neural pathways in order to respond to difficult, stressful situations in healthy ways.
2. Fostering a very connected relationship with your kid so that they will allow you to fight their trauma with them, to guide and empower them to make healthy choices.
3. Every behavior, good or bad, is a tiny window into where they are at mentally and emotionally. Effective utilization of this window allows you to provide them with the care and support they really desperately need.
4. Punishments and illogical (unnatural) consequences for perceived misbehaviors can easily drive them into a mindset of shame and fear, sabotaging your connection with them and preventing them from accessing the part of their brain that modifies the neural pathways that determine their actions “next time”.

This methodology advocates responding to misbehavior with connection, identifying the root cause, and finding a solution together to address the problem. For example, 3 weeks ago when I got an email from my little brother’s Geometry teacher saying she caught him cheating on a test, I took him out to ice cream. For someone with an “old-school” parenting mindset, this would seem hugely counterintuitive, but hear me out for a second.

I wanted to construct a low-pressure environment where we could
a) connect (we both love ice cream)
b) discuss the situation (what he did, why he did it), and
c) find a solution together.

I chose a local ice cream parlor because it is “neutral” ground so he would feel as though we are on more even footing (conducive to a more open discussion), and also because sugar is shown to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the brain.
Over the course of the conversation, he admitted to cheating because he was convinced he’d fail the class and he didn’t want me to think he is stupid, so we decided together that I would do his homework with him every weeknight, and if that didn’t help we would hire a tutor. Since then, he’s pulled his grade up by a full letter-grade! Of course, he still has to experience natural consequences for his choices, which in this case was getting a big fat F on that test and not getting a chance to retake it.

As a final word, I’d like to mention that the resources espousing this methodology do have some religious stuff sprinkled into them. However, I am not religious at all and have found that the concepts work just fine without the religious bits.

Physical Resources:
TBRI for Teens – A DVD introduction to this methodology.

How to Talk so Teens will Listen, and Listen so Teens will Talk by Adele Faber (a very solid “instruction manual” on how to navigate difficult conversations with teens without it spiraling into a huge emotional confrontation)

Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel (this guides you through the internal work of sorting out your own triggers so that when your sibling makes poor choices, you are available to “respond instead of react”. An invaluable resource for anyone parenting with a history of abuse or trauma).

Online resources:
Understanding the teenage brain, a cool video:

Awesome guy blogging his journey from Old-School parenting to TBRI:

More detailed information on what TBRI is:

Resource to find more books and training conferences in your area, if interested:

Thank you to Susanna Faye for sharing your sibs raising sibs experience and resources.


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