it’s not all bad: looking for the good in your child (adoption & foster)

it's not all bad - looking for the goon in your child
People who haven’t adopted a child with attachment issues, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), or mood disorder may have difficulty relating to this post. They may read the title and ask, “What do you mean, of course there’s a lot of good in my child.” But, I think even some parents whose children are doing well can benefit from reading this, especially if you have a negative outlook at times.

Our jobs are so hard, parenting is difficult. No one really tells us this, except maybe your mom, when she says (not yells, because of course no parent ever yells. Ha!), “You’re going to have a child just like you one day, then you’ll see.” The only others times we hear how hard parenting is, is when we’re told teens are a nightmare, and there are sleepless nights with newborn infants, and the terrible twos, but what about all those ages in between?

And what if your child has difficulty stemming from their neglect, abuse, and trauma?

We’re given the responsibility to raise adults, because really that’s what we’re doing. We are training these little ones, bits at a time, how to function in society. We are teaching them right from wrong, why lying isn’t okay, how to respect their teachers, how to be kind to their friends, how to respond when others talk to them…the list goes on.

It can get overwhelming, and we can also get so absorbed in teaching that we only see what our child needs to correct (especially true if your child has more behavior issues than most children). Sometimes parents try so hard to make sure their child is obedient, they miss what their child is doing RIGHT.

I won’t excuse myself from this group of parents. I do the same thing, although I’ve loosened up greatly due to what I’ve learned because of my children and what my husband has tried (I would say he explains it as pushing string) to teach me. But, I have high expectations. No, they weren’t as high when my daughter was misbehaving constantly when she had PTSD, ODD, and RAD, but the bar has been raised as she has proved (and it’s been tested thousands of times) she can meet these expectations.
Find the good your child does

I often slip back into my old patterns of not recognizing the good my children are doing, and only talking about and disciplining the negative. Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve written about focusing on the positive and how important it is, but this is proof once again that I fail too. It’s hard for me to consistently tell my kids they’re doing a good job, yes I do it throughout the day, but far from enough.

A great example of this was when we were sledding this past weekend. Payton could barely walk up the hill on her own, yet, she helped a girl who was older than her climb the snowy bank. She picked and returned someones sled when it got away from them. She grabbed a hat that flew off a sled, and ran down the hill to give it to them. I was amazed and very proud of Miss Payton, but in the middle of all these kind gestures there was some arguing about going to the “bigger hill” because it was much more fun (and dangerous!). I was irritated she wouldn’t leave it alone. I said “No,” and I mean, “No!” Yeah, it might get louder each time.

I was frustrated, but I also needed to consider all the kindness Payton had shown to other sledders.

I find it really difficult to find a balance sometimes.

I would love good behavior, but I also need to recognize her strong will (which I’ve talked about here – and how even after healing, a child who’s gone through such trauma has a strong personality and other specific traits). Like many parents, I get SO tired of repeating myself, and I don’t feel I need to. But, am I able to recognize the good things my kids do? And do I do it often enough?

No, I need to do it more. I even need to work on it with our son, Jeremiah (nonverbal Autism). He gets corrected often, but when he’s doing well, I need to make a conscious effort to tell him what I think, even if that means going to where he is in the house.

The point is, it’s about balance. We need to tell our children when they’re doing well, and much more so when behavior is negative. And, we need to correct negative behavior. (I’ve also written a post about tackling one behavior at a time, because when your child struggles with all the diagnoses above, there can be A LOT of negative behaviors.

You may say, there’s nothing my child does that’s positive or praise worthy. Watch them closely. Is your child smart? Is your child creative (even if it’s not used in a positive way right now)? At a time separated from the “creativity used for ulterior motives” you can tell him he’s quite innovative. Did your daughter pick up her toys today? Did your son take a shower without complaint or at least get the shampoo on and washed off? Did your daughter eat healthy foods for snack? Did she bring her lunch box home? Find those positives.

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s so important, and so easily forgotten, especially when life is difficult and hectic. We run through our days checking off things on our list, homework, making meals, reading together, and making sure our children behave so they can succeed in that world beyond our door, we sometimes fail to recognize what our children are doing well. We get down, and feel riddled with guilt because our child isn’t doing as well as they should be (after healing has taken place and you know your child can reach higher standards).

Focusing on those positive will help your mindset stay where it needs to.

Acknowledge the great things your child is doing, and let them know you see it. It will help you realize the positive. Because we all need more positive!


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4 responses to “it’s not all bad: looking for the good in your child (adoption & foster)

  1. I think ‘pushing on string’ is what I do too, and my husband points that out too. Your comment quoting a mom: “You’re going to have a child just like you one day, then you’ll see.” made me think that with biological kids this statement is probably true in a lot of cases, but maybe not so much with adopted kids,. We have two biological children (very high functioning, and for the most part, easy going), ages 13 (boy) and 17 (girl), We adopted our son at 4 years old and he’s now 12 (only 3 months age difference with our bio son; which was not the best idea). It’s tough, it has been fairly easy with the bio kids, and it is not easy with our adopted son, in fact, much of the time, it is all-consuming. We are constantly reading books and have been going to a Psychotherapist that specializes in adoption, etc. etc. etc., Things are getting better, but I think the bitterness I feel from the constant energy this takes, often stops me from looking at the positive. I Thank You for the post; it is often hard to find the positive, and this is a reminder that I need to really work on it. I just listened to “What do you do with expectations?”; that article spoke to me too. I appreciate your voice; I relate to it, and you speak honestly about the areas you struggle with, and I appreciate that you don’t sound preachy. Thank You.

  2. So hard sometimes I must admit but I know it is important to do.

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