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*A concept from Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI*

The Complete Parenting Handbook

There isn’t one. Each child is different and may require a different approach to parenting. There will never be a guide on being a perfect parent, but you can do things to make sure you’re providing the best parenting for your child(ren). 

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)

The three TBRI principles are:

  • Empowerment—attention to physical needs;
  • Connection—attention to attachment needs; and
  • Correction—attention to behavioral needs.

These principles help both caregiver and child learn healthy ways of interacting, so both can play a role in the healing process.

Every parent and caretaker must find the balance between nurture and structure when dealing with children in crisis, children who have been traumatized, or even children experiencing the usual ups and downs of growing up. 

Part of this is knowing what a child needs and when they need it. If a child needs love at the moment, do not provide discipline. If a child needs redirection, be sure to structure. This balance allows children to feel secure and trust you as the guardian. They will understand that they are important, their feelings are valid, their needs will be met, and you will be consistent.

TBRI has emerged as a clear set of developmental principles for bringing healing to at-risk youngsters.

What is Nurture?      

  • Nurture is for connecting with a child.
  • Connecting can include engaging, appropriate/safe touch, active listening, eye contact, playful engagement, purposeful interaction.
  • The tone of voice and body language play a role. Be aware of yourself and, most importantly, aware of the child. These are clues to where their anxiety levels are.
  • “Giving Voice” allows the child to feel their needs matter.
  • If a child is not allowed to use their voice, they resort to alternate means of communication (acting out, violence, self-harm, etc.)
  • “Be Approachable.” A welcome face and spirit are reassuring to the child. They know someone is listening to them. 
  • “Give Praise Often.” 
  • “Sharing Power.” This is not the same as giving in. However, it emphasizes that the power is indeed yours to be shared. This allows the child to feel their needs are being met. It reminds them that you are the authority figure but a safe one.

What is Structure?

  • Structure helps the child to feel safe and trust that you are consistent.
  • The structure is for correcting a child.
  • Correcting looks like: Giving a lot of positives before any negatives (making deposits before withdrawal), giving simple choices and NOT overstimulating, redirecting, allowing them to use their voice to take accountability, reminding them they are still valuable post-conflict.
  • WHEN IT’S DONE, IT’S DONE. Do not bring up the conflict after you’ve put it to rest.
  • Playful engagement will soften a lot of tense situations.
  • Offer re-dos if something did not go well or the child’s message was not delivered the first time properly. Always “repair” if there’s been a rift.
  • Model new and proper responses. Show children the correct ways to approach or react to situations. It can be modeled as a fun, interactive role-playing activity to shape behavior and replace negative social skills.
  • The I.D.E.A.L. Response is Immediate, Direct (eye contact and proximity), Efficient, Action-Based (allow re-dos), and Leveled (to the behavior).

Balancing Nurture vs. Structure 

The key is finding balance. Extremes by providing too much or too little care or control must be avoided. To achieve this, you need to find a balance between how much and when to nurture your children and how much and when to provide structure.

Unappreciated children lack self-esteem, and children who lack structure won’t have the capability to accomplish things for themselves.

If you merely give the framework but fail to establish a healthy bond of trust, your children may feel resentment, rejected, abandoned, and they may be less eager to comply with rules or to absorb them fully.


The child and caregiver can work together through verbal and nonverbal nurturing communications through matching behaviors, eye contact, voice and inflection, body position, and safe touch. 

Constant and meaningful communication is the most essential and crucial part of your child’s development as a parent. A relationship is built upon proper communication. Your child(ren) are dependent upon you, and they need your guidance every step of the way. 

To ensure that you know what they need, you must communicate with them. More importantly, the child(ren) needs to be comfortable enough with you to share their needs. 

Establishing trust here is crucial. You need your child to trust that they can count on you for help and guidance even when they make a mistake. 

Similarly, you’d want them to open up to you on what happens in their life so you can assist them in making the right decisions. 

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