Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re sharing the third episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent you may sometimes feel judged for your child’s behavior. This week’s topic – Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behavior.
This is a great series to share with your friends, family, and church. It’s a more indirect way of sharing your heart. Who knows? You may encourage someone just by sharing! Grab a cup of coffee and join Sandra and me for some tips and stories!
Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behavior
Good parents who have successfully parented bio children are suddenly labeled the “bad” parent at church, school, field trips- if the adopted/foster child has behavioral issues.
These behavior issues can be a lack of brain development. Both abuse and neglect can halt brain development causing a child to freeze developmentally while his peers soar past him. A child who has experienced trauma is typically half his physical age emotionally. An eight year old will act like a four year old. The child may have no self-regulation skills whatsoever. He may grab food off someone else’s plate, kick, hit, yell, get kicked out of Kid’s Church, and/or steal hot chocolate (in bulk) from the church kitchen. True stories. I don’t make this stuff up.
These behaviors show a lack of self-regulation, not a forever problem. Some adults may try to wish these away, saying things like, “He’s a good kid, maybe you are just too hard on him.” The problem is- glazing over the behavior or blaming the parent doesn’t heal the child – it hurts him. These behaviors are a result of his past, something that happened on someone else’s watch. In order for the child to heal, his brain needs to develop in areas it hasn’t had the opportunity to. He needs to gain some upstairs brain skills. The child can do this through attachment. Attachment grows the brain.
Here’s the catch, parents are correcting which is difficult when a child is not connected. The child needs time and reason to trust. Don’t assume the parents aren’t working on it. Don’t assume because the child continues in these behaviors that he is not being parented well. He may be catching up in attachment, development, and being truly parented for the first time.
Are you an adoptive/foster parent?
Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?
Because, which of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?” “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.
We don’t often talk about our strengths. We usually speak only of our weaknesses. We pray about our weaknesses, rehash them with our inner critic, and complain about them to our friends. But what about our strengths? I dare you to start a conversation with a friend today and say, “I think my biggest strength is…” and see where it goes.
Some of my Mom’s Strengths
At the beginning of the podcast, I read the intro of 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas which hi-lights some of my mom’s strengths.
She stood at the stove in her pink and blue plaid robe, tied tightly at the waist, her dark pixie cut askew from the pillow. She leaned toward the teapot, willing for it to whistle. On the cutting board cranberry orange bread waited to be sliced and toasted. We kids would lather the slices with butter and watch it seep into every crevice. Mom was always the first one up and the last one ready, thinking of everyone except herself. Her porcelain skin, dark hair and full lips gave her an Audrey Hepburn-ish look, but her heart more resembled Mother Theresa. She served the poor in the same way she served her family, with every ounce of herself. As a teen, sometimes I wished she served the poor less and me more, but as an adult I know serving the Lord was her true passion. She cared for the least of these because that is what He told her to do. She served Him by caring for the broken, the outcast, because she had been broken and outcast. Mom understood the truth of the Gospel that Jesus came for the lost, to heal the broken hearted. She passed her heart on to her children. She passed her traditions on, too. At her insistence, we read the passages from Luke every Christmas morning, a tradition the Guire family continues to this day. There are so many Christmas seasons I hear an Amy Grant Christmas song and burst into tears. My mom has been gone for over twenty years and yet, a sight, a sound, a feeling takes me back. I see her standing by the stove or holding a mug of hot water to keep her hands warm. I revisit Christmas memories again and again just to catch a glimpse of her and ponder the meaning of it all.
-Kathleen Guire, 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas
As you read through the excerpt, could you pick up on some her strengths? Servanthood, Traditions?
Finding your Strengths
Maybe you’ve never thought about your strengths. Take some time to now. I challenge you to get out pen and paper or your notes app and think through a scenario with your kiddos. What strength did you use?
If you were short on money, did you use creativity to come up with some fun games?
If it rained and you had planned an outdoor picnic, did you use your strength of flexibility to pivot and have a movie afternoon instead, complete with a picnic on the floor?
If your kiddos were all out of sorts, did you take your strength of the love of the outdoors and go for a hike?
If your child is struggling with night terrors, did you use your strength of empathy to calm her fears and pray with her?
Here is a short list (from Holley Gerth) to get you started:
Now that you have a list of some of your strengths, what do you do now? It’s not enough to know what they are, you must put them into action. In the sphere of parenting, there are two steps you can follow.
Incorporate your strength into you parenting. Every family has a different flavor. Your family’s flavor should include your strengths. If you are creative, you can use your creativity to build a family structure that reflects your personality. Take the time to write out your mission statement. It helps if you use the “Ten years from now…” statement to think it through. Consider your strengths as you write your mission statement. Think about what you want your family to look like ten years from now. Holley’s formula –I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by [verb ending in “ing”] + [what] + [who] + [how] . Here’s a personal one I wrote –
I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by teaching regulation and coping skills to teens through conversation, connection and correction.
That one is geared more towards the teen years. For littles, it could look like this:
I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by nurturing, cooking for/with, cleaning up after, reading to, playing with, crafting with, singing with, and teaching my kiddos through being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.–
How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos
Some of my strengths are: encouraging, organizing, teaching, nurturing, and creativity. You get the picture. My mission statements changed over the years. Just a note – you and your spouse can write one together!
2. Use your strength to connect with your children. This is the most important point of the article. It does our family no good if we aren’t connecting. In the Bible, the spiritual gifts are listed and then the admonishment that they are to be used for the building up of the body (the church). Your strengths, gifts, and talents are from God. They should be used to build up your family (first). Your strengths should act as conduits to connection. Your strengths should not separate and shame your children. For example, if your strength is organization and you have a kiddo who isn’t organized, then don’t use your strength to shame him. Use your gift to connect. Help him clean his room and organize his things. Or if a clean room isn’t that important, organize your time so you can do something he likes to do.
Listen to the podcast below and make sure you scroll down to for the links mentioned on the podcast including a free Advent E-Course – 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas for the first seven people who sign up!
25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas Book and E-Course
I mentioned this on the podcast- the first seven people to sign up can join the e-course for the Advent season. The e-course is free! Enroll in the course here. Grab a copy of the book here!
The advent devotional, 25 Days of Thriving through Christmas: An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents, provides an insightful, practical and encouraging resource for parents navigating the advent season. The book fills a void for adoptive and foster families as to ideas and guidance of not just surviving the Christmas season with children who have come from different backgrounds/experiences but to “thriving” during the season. With applicable daily Scripture readings to practical suggestions, this tool for helping families will become an annual tradition!
– Kimberly Taylor, Adoptive Parent
Hope to see you in the 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas Course! Again- Link for the course –here. Go check it out!
Link for 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, the book here.
Some of us have an inner-critic. It harasses us all day long with thoughts such as –
It’s your fault your kids act the way they do.
If you would only (fill in the blank) then your kids would behave.
If you were a better parent, everything would be better.
If you weren’t parenting from your past, your kids wouldn’t struggle.
You’ll never be a great parent.
If this is you, I get it. I have an inner critic and it tried to boss me around. The Bible says we are supposed to take every thought captive. When my inner-critic is sending out thoughts, I need a giant lasso to grab them all. It’s not one thought. It’s a barrage of them. So, how do we handle it? And here’s a note, if you think when your kids are grown, the inner-critic quiets down, think again. There are plenty of “If you had only…” thoughts.
My Two Approaches
I can’t just cast a thought out. I have to replace it. It’s called substitution. If you try only casting it out, you’ll be emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. Trust me. I have days when I only cast out the thoughts or follow them down a deep dark hole. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. I ask God to rebuke the devourer for me. I also know that God is strong in the midst of my weakness, so I pray that. God, I’m weak in this area of my thought life, but you’ve given me a spirit of discipline and self-control. Thank you for helping me and renewing my mind.
Proactively copy and pray scripture that negates the critical thoughts. Like I said above, scripture says God has given me a spirit of discipline and self-control, so I pray it by faith. I said last week on the podcast -parenting is a skill we can improve. One of ways we improve is studying and applying scripture to help us grow. I’m pretty old school so I use index cards to write scriptures to study. I also have a Pinterest board of scripture art. Find what works best for you!
When Mom-Guilt and external Circumstances Boss you around
Some of us are more tuned into external cues instead of internal ones. This is true for extroverts, while introverts are more internally driven. So, maybe you aren’t bossed around by an inner-critic but base your parenting success on what you see externally. When your kids are doing well, you feel as if you are parenting well. If your kids are struggling with friendships. school situations, fear, or fill in the blank, you may feel as if you have failed. Or maybe you have both -inner-critic and mom-guilt.
Mom guilt is usually after the fact or tells you what you aren’t doing. It can be based on what the rest of the culture or church is doing. For example, we pulled our kids out of sports for a season because it was eating up all our family time. On the one hand, I knew it was the right decision. One the other, when someone made a comment (external) about how some of my kids were so athletic, I felt guilty. I FELT it. It didn’t change my mind or my hubby’s.
Mom-guilt is fierce. It tells us we did everything wrong yesterday. It’s a scarcity mentality of sorts. It tell you – You aren’t doing enough. After the fact, it creeps in and says “Sure that was a nice birthday party for your kiddo, too bad you didn’t get her exactly what she wanted.” Or “If you had more money, you could have taken a vacation, maybe you should go back to work full time.”
How do you Combat Mom Guilt?
Remember guilt usually comes after the fact. When the Holy Spirit is gently nudging you, it is before the fact. If you have these two facts in place, it’s easier to distinguish what is what. After the fact guilt is not the same as sin. If you feel as if you sinned, then repent and move on. We use the word guilt loosely, it’s not the same as “all have sinned” (which is true). This guilt is a feeling. Treat as such. Examine it. Like I did in the “stepping out of sports” example, I felt the guilt, but I didn’t change my decision. Examine it. Feel it. Make changes if you need to. Move on quickly! Don’t tread water in your guilty feelings!
If you are struggling with shame and guilt from your past- check out these articles!
Last week on the podcast, I asked – Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist.
GOD’S FIRST CHILDREN DISOBEYED HIM
Does that make you feel better? It did me. When I first realized that God, the Father Himself, who is perfect, had disobedient kiddos, I breathed a sigh of relief. You can read the rest of the post and listen to the podcast here.
This week, I moved on to the next step –
Have a reconciliation Plan in Place
If we follow God’s pattern of parenting, we will have a plan in place to follow disobedience. If we have the understanding that our kiddos aren’t going to be perfectly obedient, it gets a bit easier, especially if we have a reconciliation plan in place. God had one. He knew Adam and Eve would disobey Him. Before the foundation of the world, He had chosen to adopt us (Ephesians 1: 4,5). He already planned to send His Son to come to earth as a man and sacrifice Himself so we could reconnect with God. That’s the goal of a reconciliation plan. It’s a fancy way of saying – What will you do after disobedience? The goal of the plan is to get back to connection. At the end of whatever consequence you choose, there should be a reconnection. Keep in mind, all of this depends on the child (and your attitude).
Just a note – Kids who have experienced trauma or who have a capital letter syndrome my not have great executive function. They are impulsive. Sometimes these behaviors aren’t disobedience, just a faulty neural pathway.
Some Reconciliation Tools
So how do we reconcile with our kiddos and make sure they are learning and growing in character at the same time?
First of all, we often think of parenting as something we are “good” at “bad” or “meh” at. Instead, we need to think of it as a skill we can’t get better at. We shouldn’t stay static. Think about it, when we go on a job interview, we’re asked what our strengths are (more on that in a couple of weeks when I talk about our parenting strengths). When you have a profession, like parenting, you can use tools to accomplish what you need to. However you approach your reconciliation plan, it should include reconnection at the end. Here are just a few tools or “Instead Of” Tips.
“INSTEAD OF” PARENTING SUGGESTIONS
Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.
Want to learn more?
Click HERE to read the whole “Instead Of” Tips article and HERE for your free downloadable infographic.
If the these tools for parenting are all new to you, take some time and read the article, maybe print it off and hi-light some tools you’d like to try. Hint – Don’t try all at once and all of them won’t work for every child. Also, print the infographic or save it on your phone to refer to!
This week I started a series on parenting. A friend of mine had posted on Instagram what she used to think made a parent good. Keep in mind, I’m using “good” in a very general sense. This isn’t a series about judging our parenting. It’s about encouraging, educating, and equipping ourselves.
We may have believed some myths about what good parenting looks like. Or maybe the pressures of this culture have you seeping in Mom-guilt and you have a really negative view of your parenting skills. During this stressful time when many Moms are with their kiddos 24/7, exhaustion and circumstances can have everyone in meltdown mode. Then our Mom-guilt or inner critic (or both) rears its ugly head and we sink lower into a depressed state. LET’S. NOT. GO. THERE. This isn’t a series to give you three magical steps to being a better parent. Or a good parent. Let’s look at the whole parenting gig from a different perspective by answering some questions. (Please put in your two cents by filling out this survey- here).
Does Having Obedient kids make you a good parent?
Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? Like you should get a prize when your kids listen? Raising my hand here. For years I thought this was the Biblical definition of parenting to strive for. Although I do think obedience is something to aim for, I don’t think it qualifies us for “best parent” status.
Who do you think is the best parent in the universe? God, the Father, would be my answer. How did his first kiddos – Adam and Eve – do in the obedience department? God put Adam and Eve in perfect circumstances. Their every need was met. They had secure attachment. They walked and talked with God every day. His only restriction – Don’t eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. If you eat of it, you will die. Let’s take a look at what happened next:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
– Genesis 3
God’s first Children Disobeyed Him
Does that make you feel better? It did me. When I first realized that God, the Father Himself, who is perfect, had disobedient kiddos, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, of course, I’ve read through the Bible and know about the seven cycles of judgment in Judges, the people who disobeyed, lied, and had kingships removed. Those are all pretty serious sins. But for a long time, I hadn’t processed the first kids being disobedient dynamic. It certainly takes a weight off my shoulders.
Your kids have free will, just like any human on the planet. Perfect obedience is not a job requirement for parents. It’s something we pursue. Relationship comes first though. As I say on the podcast – God already had a plan set up for reconciliation before Adam and Eve disobeyed. That’s our job. We must have a plan for reconnecting after disobedience (and a redo, time-in or whatever parenting tool fits the bill). * I’ll talk more about the reconciliation plan next week on the podcast.
Book Series I Mentioned on the Podcast
1. After ten years in a Polish orphanage, Adelina’s dream of finding a home is coming true. And, so is her worst nightmare.
After a new intern appears, Daria, Adelina’s best friend’s, adoption falls through. Then Daria disappears. With a human trafficking ring in the area targeting teens, Adelina must save her friend or go to the states with her new family.
2. Can this newly adopted teen finally learn what it means to be part of a family? When someone from her past shows up at her doorstep with some disturbing news it launches her into the path of danger again.
3. Adelina is graduating from college and getting married. She’s left her coping mechanisms of defining words and reciting poetry behind… that is until she answers the phone at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. The caller on the other end pulls her back into the dangerous world of human trafficking.
Adelina finally feels secure in her home and family. She’s ready to launch out into adulthood, get married, and move away from her forever family. Then she takes a deep dive into the cultural issues and a different species of human trafficking. She’s at odds with her team, government agencies, and her old inner demons.