When I began blogging about attachment issues and helping adoptive parents, I wanted to know if there was anything out there in cyber world that encouraged parents and gave them tools to help hurting children the way in which I did. In my search I read a book that focused on the parents past. What??? What does a parents past have to do with a child that is struggling due to neglect, abuse, and trauma caused by someone else? I then complained to my husband about how the book had nothing to do with helping kids.
My husband told me to put on the brakes. Slowly I did. He’s kind of intelligent so I wanted to hear him out. He said something like this, “Think of how you were raised.” He paused. Okay, I ruminated over it and I won’t go into detail here. It really wasn’t that bad, but if I were to repeat the dynamics of my family it would look quite different in our house than it does at the present. He continued, “What if you hadn’t looked at how you were parented and decided to make some changes? What if you hadn’t worked through many issues that you had when we got married.” I wasn’t screwed up, really I wasn’t. (Insert winky face.)
He was right. Then I came across this article titled “How to Avoid Being Emotionally Triggered by Your Child” in Adoption Today’s June 2013 issue. Terry Levy and Michael Orlans wrote, “You can’t avoid bringing emotional ‘baggage’ into your relationships with your children. Your parenting style, attitudes and reactions are heavily influenced by your own attachment history, including expectations, patterns of relating and unresolved wounds. Your own issues can get in the way of being a healing parent.”
Wow. We can’t avoid it. We have to make conscious decisions on a daily basis to make the right decisions. Not that it always happens, but we still need to make efforts. Did you grow up in a home where lying was the top deadly sin? How do you feel when your child lies to you? What is your reaction when you’re lied to? Your child is looking for a reaction, and if they get one from you, it will continue. What issues get under your skin?
What about expectations? Did you expect your child to be potty trained by two or three-years-old? Good chance that if your child has attachment issues, that didn’t happen. Great if it did! Did you expect your daughter to be interested in the same activities you are? What about your son? Did you expect him to play football, but he hates catching a ball midair? See, we can put our minds at ease, because even parents of biological children have unmet expectations.
In the article Terry and Michael wrote, it goes on to say, “A parents state of mind with regard to attachment is the strongest predictor of his or her child’s attachment. A parent’s state of mind regarding attachment determines the child’s attachment pattern about 75 percent of the time. Even before a baby is born, the parent’s state of mind will predict the child’s attachment pattern at one-year-old.”
It seems that the attachment continues though. When our children come to us with broken attachments, we are the predictors of their healing attachment. They depend on us to accept them for who they are and what they want to do without judgement. Is your daughter interested in sports and running, but you’d rather scrapbook together? Does your child whine incessantly, and you remember being yelled at for whining when you were little? Is your child extremely outgoing and friendly and you become jealous because you wish you were like her?
Terry and Michael write, “…be aware of your early programming, which is the first step you take to avoid being emotionally triggered by your children.” You can find more helpful tips in the online magazine Adoption Today June 2013 issue.
Do you see where you’ve brought “baggage” into your relationship with your child? Did you have expectations that haven’t been met? Does your child cause you to react negatively?
While we do look at our past experiences and work through them, we still need tools to help us through.
We used to experience those times when our daughter was fighting, and I was holding her in a safe position. She was screaming, out of control, not listening to a word I said (well, she was listening because if I said something she didn’t like, she’d scream louder, as if that was possible), she was doing everything she physically could to get at me, and I was angry. There are many times that I wasn’t happy with my actions or words in those moments. I found something that helped me. I would say, “I love you no matter what you do. I love you no matter how you act.” I would name what she was doing and tell her that I loved her in the midst of it all. I repeated this mantra over and over. It calmed me, and helped me to see that I do love her no matter what she does, and after she had bonded some, the words finally began sinking in during those battles and I could see the fight slip out of her. She knows, or at least says, that we love her no matter what she does, and we’ve been through some really ugly times.
What about you? How do you handle being triggered by your child or keep from getting there in the first place?
Family members have asked us on numerous occasions why we don’t discipline our kids differently, with spankings or more time-outs. Fact is, those would have caused more problems. We need an entire paradigm shift when we parent these hurting kids. We have to look at everything from all angles. And as I learned after reading that book I read before beginning my blog, and the article mentioned above, it begins with looking inwardly at any issues we carry with us into the relationship.
What did you mean by “holding her in a safe position”? I have been struggling to know how to discipline my little guy when he does something like hitting me. I’ve tried time outs, I know, now supposed to, I’ve tried holding his hands and telling him no, but nothing is working…..right now I’m completely ignoring the smacks….but not sure that’s the right thing either. He is very negative attention seeking, but is doing better. He acts out most when we’re preoccupied or busy with other things. Debbie
Hey Debbie, I have combatted aggressive behavior with the “safe hold.” For some it may mean something different, but for me, I would hold her (preferably in a rocking chair) like a baby. I placed one of her arms behind me. If she was kicking with her legs I looped my other arm under her legs and held them close. I never hurt her. I do time-outs, but it can be difficult to get the child to stay there, especially when they are in the fight or flight mode, and they will NOT listen. The time-outs I do are in close proximity to me. 🙂
I didn’t use timeout until out daughter had been in our home for quite a while.