Gary. Screaming.

Here is Gary – on the floor – screaming.
Gary’s chart read like a horror story – only for Gary it was not fiction.

“Gary” is tall for his age of 9 and very lanky, preferring his pajamas to clothes. He gets his bath and puts on his pajamas at the earliest time permitted on his cottage. It was not unusual to walk onto his cottage at 6:30 p.m. and see him “ready for bed.” But, for Gary, putting on his pajamas is NOT synonymous with going to bed!

x angry little boyThis night I found him lying on the floor of the Time-Out room screaming at the top of his lungs. I walked over to the new staff person sitting by and monitoring Gary in Time-Out.

How long has he been screaming?” “Twenty minutes,” she said in a weary voice.

Many times tapping with children can be very simple and direct – below is one of those stories. The challenge in working with children is establishing enough trust and rapport to gain cooperation.  At the time of this article I was program director for a residential treatment center for children who had serious behavior and/or emotional challenges and were assessed as not able to be managed in the community. I left the residential program in 2005 to “retire” to concentrate full time on EFT.

The children in our program often had a history of severe abuse, most had been removed from their homes. They were sent to us after their caregivers had been unable to handle their acting out behavior. We clearly saw the impact of early trauma. This is the edited story I originally wrote for Gary Craig’s newsletter.

About a week before my coming on his cottage that Thursday evening I’d taught Gary a short version of EFT. My strategy is to teach the child the sequence and have him or her practice it with me several times. I then guide him through teaching it to someone else using the philosophy that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Whenever possible, I have him teach it to his “primary staff” person. (Each child is assigned one cottage staff as his or her primary contact staff.) The child and his primary staff then play with the exercise awhile.

Most children learn it quickly. The goal is for the staff to help the child remember to use the exercise the next time the child STARTS to become upset. It is important that staff intervene early. Once a child “goes off” there is very little chance for calm interventions. As one of our staff put it: these children have a short circuit between calm and the fight-or-flight response. They can go from 0 to 60 in a microsecond – and stay upset a very, very, very long time.

When teaching the children I explain that this is a relaxation exercise that can help them calm down quickly. None of the children in our intermediate treatment facility come to us knowing how to effectively self-calm. Our residential program also teaches traditional relaxation techniques and uses every behavioral tactic to help the children learn to control and modify their behavior. But, until EFT, too many children left our facility still not doing a very good job of self-calming.

So there was Gary.
On the floor.
One leg in the Time-Out room.
One leg out.
At the top of his lungs.

I walked within his view. He glared up at me, still screaming. I “glared” back. I began tapping the side of my hand, changing my expression to sympathetic. Gary had enjoyed the tapping “game” we’d played a few days earlier. Still, I was surprised when he lifted his hand and began tapping, continuing to scream. I tapped the points and he followed, still screaming. I tapped the side of my hand again and he followed me through a second sequence, still screaming, but not so loud this time. So I dared a little smile and we tapped through the sequence again. The third time was the charm. Gary stopped screaming and smiled back at me. We had not spoken to each other.

The new staff person looked at me and said, “WOW, how did you do that?”

How indeed?  The original post ended there.

OK, so here is Gary screaming at the top of his lungs. Willing and ready to continue for a much, much, much longer time. I walked up to him. Silently started tapping as I looked him in his eyes. Surprisingly he followed me and calmed down quickly. Why?  The staff member monitoring him was very surprised as that was not Gary’s usual reaction or response once he began a screaming “fit” as she called it. “How did you do that?” she’d asked.

Here is a partial answer to that question:

  • Timing. Gary had to also be tired of screaming, although these kids can hold very stubbornly to their perceived “solution” to their feelings, Gary generally didn’t stop until he was literally physically worn out and exhausted.
  • Building our relationship. Gary and I had several positive interactions including playing board games on the cottage, walks and teaching him how to tap,
  • Offering a unique and novel interaction for the situation. Not only was I offering a different face and reaction to him, tapping is unique and novel by itself. Our brain is attracted to “novel.”
  • Being non-judgmental and face-saving. I was offering him a “way out” of doing what he was doing, No lecture. No judgment.
  • Meeting him where he was. With my sympathetic glare I was offering a human connection and addressing his emotional state. When emotionally upset our logical thinking brain is not operating very well. That’s why trying to “reason” with these children is often futile. EFT addresses the energy system, not his logical brain.
  • Breaking his current emotional state. Tapping was directly addressed his unbalanced “energy.”
  • Total focus on Gary, as if he and I were the only ones in the area. We all want attention and acceptance from others. We all have a need to be connected. I was not simply “monitoring” Gary, I was totally attuned to him. I was not simply following a “rule” of the residential program as the staff was.

I was all about Gary. And, Gary felt it.

Would love to hear your stories about working with children.
Make comments below.


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Ann Adams