Empowering Things that Have Helped Our Kids

This is entry 4 of the blogchain TBRI.

Meeting the physical and connection needs of a person—big or little—can help with a wide range of behavior problems and other challenges. Here are some things TBRI suggests that have been helpful to my family.

Physical Needs

  • Give healthy food every two hours.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • Learn and practice deep breathing. (I like the idea of “bubble breaths” and “smell the pizza”, which I learned of elsewhere.
  • Use sweet smells and tastes to calm down. Purvis suggests putting cotton balls in a film roll container (if you can find one!) with a drop of vanilla.
  • Have regular physical activity like walking, running, dance.
  • Build in regular mini-moments of exercise like a quick set of push-ups or a few laps around a basketball court.
  • Build self-awareness. How is your egine running? If it’s running to fast, what can you do to calm down? Running too low, what can you do to rev it up? Running just right? Great!
  • Chew gum.
  • Suck water out of a water bottle.

Connection Needs

  • Watch carefully for physical signs of stress (shallow breathing, tight hands, dilating pupils, tight face). They are feeling stress and will probably react soon.
  • Watch the environment carefully. Is something overwhelming, too loud, going on too long?
  • Ask, what does this child need right now?
  • Watch for physical signs of stress in yourself. Practice calm presence. This models and leads the way. Provides reassuring safety among other things.
  • Use valuing eye-contact. Can I see your eyes?
  • Use proximity, get close. Get down on their level. Time-ins instead of time-outs.
  • Take time together doing activities they enjoy. Purvis calls these “bridge activities”. Find a time and space the child enjoys. Use this to connect and practice good things.
  • Make sure to reconnect after coming down from a conflict. Let me see your eyes. I love you. What do you need? You can ask for a compromise.
  • Healthy touch is very powerful. Firm, calming touches that reassure love are huge.
  • Give full attention whenever possible. If not possible, give it for just a few seconds: I want to hear what you have to say, but I need to do X right now. Let’s talk about it when I’m doing Y.
  • Teach how to use words and listen well. Learn to use and teach them to use certain scripts. Practice with role play and mirrors.

Essential Skills and Beliefs for TBRI

This is entry 3 of the blogchain TBRI.


After working my way through an online TBRI course, I’ve concluded that there is an essential set of skills and beliefs that TBRI rests on. I doubt the importance and veracity of a few things it promotes, and I think TBRI neglects the most important element of bad behavior: Sin. But I find the following list of core skills and beliefs that TBRI promotes to be true and very beneficial.

  • For kids, you should normally aim for a connected, playful level of engagement. (I’d guess something similar is probably true for adults.

  • Achieving and maintaining this kind of engagement requires both proactive and responsive strategies.

  • Care for the whole person. This is related to mercy and empowerment. A person’s needs are physical and non-physical. Responsive correction is most effective when a person is empowered and connected. 

  • It is important to be present and mindful of your own needs, as well as the needs of the person you are trying to help. Long-term success depends on it.

  • Learning works well in a calm, alert state. Respond to bad behavior, but use proactive strategies too.

  • Be deliberate and clear about your level of expectations; be ready to raise and low the bar as needed.

  • Teaching how to use words to solve conflicts is a good idea. Learning to use words well empowers us to solve conflicts in good ways and reduces dependence on ineffective and destructive strategies.

  • Remember that with people from hard places, co-regulation is often necessary before self-regulation is possible.

  • Remember that just because someone is safe doesn’t mean they feel safe. Stress hormones, for example, don’t magically disappear just because someone hears “get over it.”

  • Learn and use I.D.E.A.L responses, which requires knowing how to escalate the level of response and how to get back to connected, playful engagement.

This list is a high bar for those who aim to be helpers. And it doesn’t even include the spiritual needs of a person, which must also be considered. But putting these things into practice is important and worth the effort.

🎄We had a great time a few days ago at the Winterhaven Festival of Lights. It was put on for charity this year by these amazing Tucsonans for the 70th time!

📚 Read Ultralearning by Scott H. Young. It’s a great book for anyone wanting to improve their ability to learn.

👍🏻 nice! For Classics Nerds: The PM Recites A Bit Of The IIiad From Memory (In Greek!) - The Heidelblog

🎄 We’re feline festive over here.

🎵 Last Saturday I went to Cello Christmas 2019 hosted by super-teacher Mary Beth Tyndall. About 40 cellists playing Christmas tunes, a scroll decorating contest, and lots of smiles.

📚 John Calvin: music is “a gift of God”

“…among the other things which are appropriate to recreate man and give him desire, music is either the first or on the the chief ones, and we must deem it to be a gift of God intended for this use.”

From a letter he wrote about worship.

🕵️‍♂️ on the trail of an ink thief!

a trail of ink

📚 Read Music, Singing, and Emotions: Exploring the Connections in Themelios

💭 Someone should write a Christmas carol based on Rev 21:16 and call it Angles from the Realms of Glory.

🤫 It won’t be long now.

🙌 Twitter aims to build an open standard for social networks - Axios

Aquinas on Emotions: A Summary of Peter King’s Research

Peter King has written a top-shelf article on Thomas Aquinas’s view of emotions. This is my summary of some of his key findings.

What is an emotion?

Thomas Aquinas believed that emotion is “a semi-autonomous faculty of the soul”. An emotion is something the soul experiences, not something the soul does.

Emotions are reactions you experience when you perceive something. This apprehension of a thing can happen either mentally or physically. A person, for example, can feel joy either by imagining chocolate or by tasting chocolate.

Emotions are reactions, but they can also cause things too. Fear can motivate you to run. It can also make your teeth chatter.

Can we control our emotions?

Although an emotion is a reaction, that is, something causes it, Aquinas thinks we have some control over the emotions we experience. Emotion “is not completely in our power since it precedes the judgment of reason,” but “it is in our power to some extent.” King suggests that in this way, emotion is like sight. You can only see what you see, but you can also direct your eyes to look at something. This means that the experience of an emotion or the power of an emotion can be somewhat what controlled (i.e. willed).

One way we control our emotions is through thinking and reasoning. This is because how we interpret things can affect how we feel. Imagine you see a large dog and become afraid. You are afraid because you interpret his size as a danger to you. But if you discover that the dog is a therapy dog used in hospitals to calm children, your fear may change into a desire to pet him. The dog has not changed, only your understanding of the dog. And because your understanging has changed, your feelings have followed. If it only it were always this easy!

How many emotions are there?

Sometimes, we talk about emotion in terms of movement. “I feel love toward my wife,” for example. Borrowing from physics, Aquinas thinks about all emotions as types of movement directed towards good or evil.

Aquinas identifies eleven main emotions. The emotions directed toward what we perceive as good are love, desire, hope, despair, and joy. Emotions directed toward what we perceive as evil are hate, aversion, confidence, fear, sorrow, and anger.

Emotions directed toward (perceived) good

  • Love is the emotional stance we have toward something good.
  • Desire is the emotional pull we have toward something good.
  • Hope is the emotional stance we have for a difficult but attainable good.
  • Despair is the emotional stance we have for a difficult but unattainable good.
  • Joy is the emotion of having attained something good.

Emotions directed toward (perceived) evil

  • Hate is the emotional stance we have toward something evil.
  • Aversion is the emotional push we have away from something evil.
  • Confidence is the emotional stance we have toward an avoidable evil.
  • Fear is the emotional stance we have toward an unavoidable evil.
  • Sorrow is the emotion of having attained something evil.
  • Anger is the emotion of having attained a difficult or even insurrmountable evil.

Notice the pairs, except for anger, which is unique. Read King’s article to understand why.

An Invitation to Hope

An old man named Zecharaiah is filled with the Holy Spirit. He prophesies about the miraculous births of two children: one his son, the other his Savior. And he blesses God. For hope is on the way.

But it it is not a new hope, it is the fully flowered hope of old…

“This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, from sin and death he saves us and lightens every load.” — Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

These are among the many lovely and mysterious things we Christians will consider tomorrow when come together to worship God. If you don’t yet enjoy the hope of God in these things, consider joining us at Covenant, or anywhere that Christ is preached.

Better Leading, Better Meeting: What to Read

This is entry 2 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.


At the most general level, any good book on leadership will give you insights that you can apply to meetings. At the most specific level, you’ll find resources that share advice for specific kinds of meetings such as family worship, coaching, or teaching. For organizational meetings, Lucid Meetings has created an insightful taxonomy of organizational meetings and offers advice on each kind.

In between these two levels of guides are books that focus on meetings but in a more general way. These books are where you ought to start. They provide advice for any gathering and a framework into which more specific advice can fit.

If you’re not in a hurry, start with The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Private Parker.1 It’s very good. If you have an important meeting tomorrow and need some advice and right now, skim Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done by Dick and Emily Axelrod,2 and then study it later as soon as you can. Finally, I recommend Five Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram.3 It’s not directly about meetings, but it provides basic categories for thinking about the different ways we spend time with others.

Not all learning, however, comes from books. Nothing can replace serving with and under leaders who can show you the way you want to go and are the kind of person you want to be. Leaders like this have blessed me beyond what I can say.


  1. Find The Art of Gathering on Worldcat. [return]
  2. Find Let’s Stop Meeting Like This on Amazon. [return]
  3. Find Five Gears on Worldcat. [return]

Meeting are Gatherings

This is entry 1 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.


You can lead better meetings and engage in them more fruitfully if you can learn to think of meetings more broadly. I find using the word gathering is helpful.

A gathering is any setting in which people connect with each other for a period of time. A gathering may happen accidently at a bus stop or purposely at a bridal shower. A gathering may happen once a year in person or every day on the phone. And in gatherings we do all kinds of things:

  • We decide.
  • We review.
  • We celebrate.
  • We worship.
  • We confront.
  • We explore.
  • We learn.
  • We experience.

Thinking broadly about meetings/gatherings allows you to discover patterns in human nature that exist across domains: not only in how people think, act, or feel, but in how they do these things together. This means a doctor can learn how to care for patients by watching a mechanic take care of a customer. A dinner party host can learn from a dance teacher.

Meetings are relational events. They are about people first and tasks second. We (1) meet (2). Learning this is an essential step to improving any kind of meeting, and it reveals new sources for wisdom.

👎 Social Network + Like Button - Moderation = Incentive to Game the System. @manton explains in Purchasing Fake Likes.

💌 How do you wait on God?

Among other helpful points, @mwerickson writes:

Unlike generalized “waiting for the world to turn” or “waiting for a miracle,” waiting on the Lord is based upon what we know of who God is – His character – and what God does – His activity.

What is Productivity?

Productivity is a measure of your output divided by your input.

Output is measured by the importance of the accomplishment to your goals. A person who outputs lots of unimportant stuff is still unproductive. Importance, not sheer volume, is how output ought to be measured.

Input is measured by the time, energy and attention you have available. Sometimes this translates to speed. Other times it translates to ease or sustainability. Big impact, given your limited capacity, is the goal of productivity.

From: What’s the Point of Productivity? - Scott H Young

🦃 My daughter loves to choreograph, my son has a lot of energy, and we’re all thankful for the turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Mercy and Empowerment

This is entry 2 of the blogchain TBRI.


When my wife comes home with groceries in the car, the kids and I will help her unload them and bring them into the house. Even the littlest ones participate.

And while I like to challenge them—”Do you want to try and carry that milk by yourself?“—I’m careful not to overburden them. I also empower them to fulfill their task. If it’s dark outside, I can turn on a light. If an item is fragile and unusual, I can show them how to hold it. If it’s a large bag of dog food, we can carry it together.

The Bible says that God has compassion on his children in a similar way.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Yahweh shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

TBRI teaches that this principle of mercy + empowerment must undergird the things we ask of kids from hard places. As, I believe, it must undergird all our expectations of others, no matter the kind of relationship (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).

If you owned a trucking company, would you ask a driver to drive if he hadn’t slept for 24 hours? It wouldn’t matter whether the lack of sleep was the driver’s fault or not, you simply wouldn’t require someone to drive who didn’t have the necessary sleep.

Likewise, if a child’s brain is filled with stress hormones—whether you think it should be or not—it’s not right time to have a reasoned discussion about why one shouldn’t flip out over a broken crayon. The driver must sleep before he can drive; the child must calm down before he can reflect.

Getting kids from hard places to do the things they need to do can sometimes feel impossible, and sometimes it is impossible. That’s why getting really good at mercy and empowerment is essential for me.

It has to start with the right attitude. Remembering how merciful God is with me ought to help. And learning more about the effects of trauma is also key. Empowerment is about first knowing what’s going on in a person and then accommodating accordingly, especially according to grace.

How to Improve Your Thinking and Conversations

Learning how to think and have good conversations are two skills you can and should improve.

They’re also related because thinking is relational. Learn how to think and you’ll improve your conversations. Learn how to converse and you’ll improve you thinking. Do both and you’ll make the world a better place.

To get you started, @joshuapsteele has shared advice from two worthy guides.

  1. Advice from Alan Jacob’s book, How to Think
  2. Advice from Morton Adler’s book, How to Speak, How to Listen

Read through these summaries, then study the books. Just don’t try to learn everything at once. You’ll get overwhelmed and quit. Instead, just pick one thing and start putting it into practice. When you’re doing better, come back and try another.

How Much Does A Turkey Really Cost?

How much do you really pay for a turkey after you subtract the weight of the non-edibles like packaging, bones, and blood.

With Thanksgiving two days away, and the nearby Walmart selling whole turkeys for $0.68 per pound, I decided to find out.

So I bought a 16.07 lb. Jennie-O, removed the packaging, drained the blood, washed the skin,1 cooked the turkey, and then pulled the meat off while it was still hot out of the oven.

How much meat did I collect? I got 5.1 lbs, which means that instead if $0.68, I paid $2.14 per pound.

Of course, the broth, neck, giblets, and gravy packet (except the plastic bag) are all edible. But for my purposes today, I’m going to count these as bonuses.

📚 Looking forward to reading @manton’s forthcoming book, Indie Microblogging.