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Saturday, July 7, 2012

When We Need To Change

There are so many times in parenting that we have to be on our toes, try to navigate 10 steps ahead, and be ready  to meet any challenge.  That is our job as parents. 
When we are dealing with hurt children, who come from backgrounds full of trauma, we need to be ever more vigilant to listen to what they are telling us through direct communication or through behaviors.

Are we eliciting a FEAR reaction from them?  If so, why?   What are WE DOING that  WE can change in order to bring about a different response in our children?
You may say, "But I didn't do anything different than I have normally done , and everybody else has survived!" "I am a good parent!"  Well, that may be true, but THIS child, needs something different.  He or She needs you to take a closer look at HOW you parent and tweak some things. There is no weakness in tweaking. :)  Taking a long hard look at how we parent is a GOOD thing! Seeing where we need to change is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is a sign of success  failure! 
Being brave and seeing the real us, with all our faults and weaknesses, will show our children that it is OK to need to change. It is not the end of the world to be wrong, or to have areas that need tweaking!  We ALL do! And we can learn from ourselves and each other!
Are you a screamer?  Do you lose your patient attitude easily or get frustrated and over react?  Do you go back to old habits that are not acceptable when your child's challenging behaviors frustrate you? 
How is your child supposed to change if you don't lead in the area of change yourself? 

When our children see Us catch ourselves in an old habit, admit that habit, apologize and start again, it gives THEM permission to do the same. They don't feel singled out, or so very different.
We can lighten up with HUMOR thrown in, and change is actually enjoyable.
"Well, I sure could do that one differently; don't you think??"  And suddenly you can turn a possible disaster into a teaching moment. :)

I remember when Alli first came home, how many things I needed to tweak to meet her special needs. She was so fragile that I had to be very careful how I spoke even when I thought I was being gentle. She needed MORE gentle.  She didn't need me to lose my temper with her, even though hers could be out of control.  There were times when I didn't show her the self control I was asking for HER to show! And I had to apologize.

One of the best things we can do for our children  is listen to them. Are they telling us that we are causing them fear or that they are needing us to be more tender?  LISTEN, even if you think you are being tender and kind.  You can't err on the side of listening, compassion and understanding. 
Do you want your children to listen to you?  Model it.

Be that Living Tree, Unmovable, planted by refreshing water so that your children will want to come and drink of the unconditional love you have flowing from you. 
The change that you want to see in them will happen as they learn to love and trust you more.
Many of the behaviors our children exhibit, are a direct result of past trauma, having to be in control to survive, and a lack of trust.

 For the traumatized child, some of their more disturbing behaviors  are not "moral" issues for them. They are survival issues.  We may see their survival behavior as an immoral behavior, when for them, that is NOT how it was intended.
That miscommunication can cause some real fear in parents and serious frustration.

When you  see a child with cookie crumbs all over their mouth, the smell of chocolate chip cookies on their breath, yet hear them  say, "What cookie?" "I didn't eat a cookie!"  Our fear takes over and says, "My child is a liar with no conscience!"    Two of our children have been accused of having no conscience in other homes they were in.
 My observation is that both of these children are very, VERY tender hearted and sensitive.  They were never without conscience. They were trying very hard to protect their tender spirits from being crushed.

Our children will not understand why WE get so bent out of shape over the very behavior they HAD to use in order to survive; because for the child, all that time, it wasn't an issue of right or wrong, it was an issue  of survival. But THEY don't understand quite yet that it is no longer needed.

If we come down hard, grounding, yelling or use other forms of punishment, of COURSE they are not going to understand. The defenses will go up, they will have been judged and they will be hurt even more.
However, if we remain calm, getting to the root of the issue, (possibly hunger) and reassure them that there will always be food, and let them know how sorry we were that at one time they didn't have food.... THEN we can  put them at ease and teach the importance of telling the truth, explaining the there is a moral issue with truth telling vs. lying etc.  and calmly bring them to a new understanding.  THEN we can work with them over time in changing the behavior without shaming them, and  the eventual result, will be a child who tells the truth.

I am so thrilled with Miss Alli's ability to look me in the eye and tell me that she is the one who spilled something or she is the one who left the door open.  Or, sometimes she'll come to me and say, "Mama, I'm sorry, I did this.....(fill in the blank).   A year ago??? No WAY that would have happened on her own.
She was so ashamed of herself and her view of herself was so low that to admit any wrong would have just been too much to handle.  Today, things are MUCH different.  She knows her value is not placed upon what she does right or wrong, but she is valued just because, and she IS TRULY VALUABLE.  I think she finally believes this.

I asked Alli tonight a few questions that I have been wanting to ask her for awhile. 
I asked her what was different about our family in regards to other experiences.
Her answer was very interesting. 
She said that she was angry all the time before. And when she said things in anger before, her family believed what she said was true, and then when she apologized, they didn't believe her apology. 
She said in our family, when she has said things in anger, we have not believed it because we knew she was just angry, but when she has apologized, we have  believed her  and accepted her apology. 
I asked her, so when you said things in anger before , it was not something you meant?  She said that she knew she didn't mean what she said... she just didn't know how to stop herself. And she still feels badly about it.
Can it really be that simple?   Apparently, yes.

Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things......

She has since been learning to control her tongue.   Sometimes she goes back to old habits, but mostly, she doesn't.  I was surprised at the simplicity of her answer.
She wants to be trusted and believed.   We ALL do!  She has had to work really hard, but she is doing well, and I couldn't be prouder. :) 



Change is hard.... but oh so rewarding.  









4 comments:

Goosegirl said...

Wow Christie. Thank you. I needed this so much today. I am asking my hubby to read it too. Thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to be used of the Lord.
Sivje

Annie said...

What a great observation! I am really impressed that she was able to put those things together.

You are right about change. I also think that one real issue is that all parents, but perhaps especially adoptive parents must leave their own NEEDINESS at the door. We may hope that our children will love us someday, or show gratitude some day...but if we expect it - especially if we expect it on our own terms we are "cruisin' for a bruisen'" as my brother used to say. Our hearts will be broken.

Perhaps it was neediness that caused Ali's former parents to take her angry words so seriously and reject her apology. That is a pretty "all about me" reaction.

It is so easy to be an immature parent. In fact, right when I'm patting myself on the back for being "mature" and "above" being "in it for myself" I get a come-uppance of some sort that lands me sobbing on my bed...until I realize what a fool I am. I say I love God, but I am no more loving or grateful to my Heavenly Father than my children are to me. Why should I expect more than I can give?

Amy...who wanted 4. said...

love LOVE this! I will be thinking about this all week as I discipline my girls. :-)

Tracy said...

Thanks for this post. I've spent the last month praying and reflecting on how my actions/reactions are affecting our kids (2 bio, 2 adopted). What you wrote affirms what I've learned. It's still hard though when you have to repeat over and over and over and over.... It wears me down. So good to remember Christ's love for us and how many times He has to repeat stuff to me!

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