Hi, thanks for joining me for the Series “Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You”. If you missed the introduction, you can find it here. Last month, our focus was PLAY and ways to play or use home therapy for free. We’ll have more posts on that in the future, but the theme for the month of June is “Adoption.”
“I hate you! Why did you adopt me anyway?”
“I can break it I want to, it’s mine! It’s junk anyway!”
“I didn’t eat your candy!”
This is the voice of a child who cannot self-regulate.
When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, “How do you keep forgiving him?”- Audrey (excerpt from Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Heart)
Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper to the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.
The poor choices in behavior speaks what child is unable to state verbally.
2 .I’m not always misbehaving to make you mad. Most of the time it is because I do not have the skill to self-regulate and I maintain my control by keeping you out of control.
Hurt children have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will. Rarely, if ever do these kids apologize. If they do, it is we parents have been steam rolled all day.
If we know our kids can’t self-regulate, how do we parents step out of the ring and become the coach instead of the opponent?
1. Recognize ” the child feels in control because you are out of control” is a fallacy.
The child who is out of control seeks to control his environment.His desire is to be safe, secure. What he usually gets in return for his behavior is pushed away when what he needs is the opposite.
Believe me, I totally get it. I have been caught in the control trap. I have engaged when I should have walked away. When I step back and think about what is really going on. Raising a hurt child is like living in opposite world. He pushes away when he needs to connect. He controls when he needs to let someone else be in control so he can feel secure. He destroys because he feels worthless.
2. Stop letting the child push your buttons
Hurt children can scope out your buttons like a sniper and he is a great shot. The tough job of the parent is to keep those buttons off.Don’t react. Stay calm and give a consequence.
For example is you watch a video of your child doing flips on the couch (that his sibling recorded) and the child lies and says he didn’t do it (true story gleaned from a friend’s Facebook page), don’t yell because he lied. Maybe jumping on the couch is one of your buttons. Tell him he lied. Don’t ask. Give him a consequence if you think it merits one. Put the pillows back on the couch and vacuum the room.
If the offense is more serious, the kid destroyed the baby swing with a machete. Or broke into the neighbor’s house and stole a jar of coins. Or choked, hit, or _______ another human being. The law in my house is people are more important than things so the harming of a person is the most serious offense. The violation of property is second. When a person is harmed, the consequence must be swift, involve an apology and usually some chores the offended child was responsible for.If the If your teen becomes destructive and violent and things get out of control, call the police. Don’t be ashamed to do it. It is not you that misbehaved. It is him. Wouldn’t you rather a teen who went on a rampage have a stern talking to and some serious consequences when he is fifteen and under your roof, rather than him continuing ont the path to self-destruction and seriously hurting someone or ending up in jail at eighteen?
The goal is to connect and redirect. The goal is to teach the child how to connect and therefore distinguish the behavior. You have to treat the sickness, not put band aids over the symptoms.
3. Be an in control parent.
Being a in control parent may seem like a repeat of number two,it isn’t. It is a totally separate job. Not letting your child push your buttons is an inward behavior. Being an in control parent is an outward behavior. Being an in control parent means you are the boss. You make the rules. You set the schedule. You are proactive, which is the opposite of reactive. You don’t wait for things to happen. You make sure they do.
A simple example of proactive parenting is shceduling meals. You fix breakfast. You don’t wake up and think the kids are playing nicely, we won’t have breakfast and then wonder why the kids are having a breakdown an hour later. You set a schedule because the hurt child does not recognize his own body’s signal for hunger and thirst. When you meet those needs by providing food and water every two hours, then you quell some meltdowns. You feed the body, hydrate the body so the brain can function properly.
Schedule play. Make it a point to play with your children on purpose. The parent who waits for this to happen with a hurt child may wait a life time. Hurt children need purposeful play to help them connect. (You can read some great articles on play in last month’s posts) Talk therapy usually doesn’t work with hurt children. They can manipulate and lie to the counselor, plus they don’t want to continually rehash their troubled past.
Parenting a hurt child is no easy task. It is a worthwhile one. These children deserve a chance to attach and we parents can give it to them. We must be the more mature one in these scenarios. Helping these kids heal is a full time job. Dr. Karen Purvis refers to it as “investment parenting”. The more time you spend sowing seeds the greater the harvest.