Habit Number One

I promised to follow my last blog with a series on helping children who lack cause and effect children. Many times parenting techniques focus on changing behaviors in the children, this post is about the parents forming a habit that will help the child.

“…many children who have experienced neglect, abuse, and abandonment have not yet developed an internalized set of values by which they judge themselves and others. They are not able to receive and experience empathy-nor can they develop insight-so they tend to project blame onto others and onto objects. They blame their adoptive parents for causing their anger, and they blame toys for breaking.” Parenting The Hurt Child

These children will say things like, “if you wouldn’t have _______, then I wouldn’t be mad. It’s your fault!” It’s always everyone else’s fault.

Parents of children stuck in the cycle of anger are often tempted to join in.

“Because hurt children seem to have a ‘button locating radar”, their parents’ issues are generally targeted for exposure, aggravation and agitation. If there’s a button that can be pushed, these children will find it. And once they zero in on it, they push it mercilessly.” Parenting the Hurt Child

The only way for the parent to escape this cycle is to change his/her behavior from reactive to proactive. Traumatized children often fear being compliant or giving up control. They fear that giving in means giving up and for a child who has had to fight for survival, this is scary stuff. What if this new parent lets them down? Forgets to feed them? Clothe them?

When a child feels the need to take care of himself, he resorts to lying, stealing, hiding, yelling, bullying, and the list goes on. If the parent responds to these attempts to survive in anger, the ludicrous loop continues. But, if the parent is proactive and parents beforehand, a new pattern can be established for the child.

Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child advises that parents become familiar with the precursors to a melt down. Does the child tense up? Look down? My son puts his hands together in front of his chest and rocks back and forth. This is the signal to me that he is hypersensitive. There is too much for him to handle, he heading for a break down or an angry outburst. Another sure sign of an impending outburst is a schedule change, whether it be to his benefit or not.

Anger towards the child during these outbursts/breakdowns is the worst possible reaction. A child who doesn’t have coping skills quickly reverts to the base of anger. If the parent does the same, it confirms the response from the child.

“He who rebukes a scorner heaps upon himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man gets for himself bruises.” Proverbs 9:7

When a hurt child is angry, he is walking in the way of a scorner. If a parent rebukes him especially in anger, he will get verbally abused by the child. And if the child has had a life long habit of anger, he will emotionally batter and abuse all those who try to correct him. This is why parents must be proactive and help the child develop coping skills, they need a parent-centered home. The parents need to focus on being level headed strong authority figures who supply unconditional love and consequences without anger. When a consequence is given in anger, the focus of the child is on the anger and he does not learn.

These hurt children need to be led gently to give up their angry ways and replace them with: yielding, cooperating, surrender and the parents must lead the way.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

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