thankful therapy

thankfulnesstherapy

I thought the post I wrote last week would be the last one until after Thanksgiving, then I began thinking about just that; Thanksgiving, and what it means.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen people posting daily about what they’re thankful for. Awesome idea. But it’s hard to be thankful when your children are hurting, acting out, and life is not what you expected. Some of you have kids who wrote the book on strong will. Some of you sacrifice your life daily for your child’s needs. Some of you have angry children who are attacking your world constantly because they’re scared. Life is hard, and the last thing you feel is thankful.

Yet, ask yourself where your children came from. Are they in a better place than they would have been if you hadn’t adopted or fostered? Adoptive and foster parents tend to get stuck in this idea that says, “I didn’t save my child or rescue my child,” in fact they can get downright angry when someone says this about them. But I love to ask if your child is better off with you. Would your son be sleeping in a comfy bed, enjoying family meals with people who love him if he were in an African orphanage? Would your daughter be well fed and warm at night if she was on the streets in Russia? Would your son be safer with a mom who’s doing drugs, and has different men over every week, and doesn’t take care of his needs? I doubt it, and I doubt you are saying yes.

Since this is where you are, and where your child is, you can be thankful for your kids. You can also be thankful they are safe. No, it’s not easy, but can you find things to be thankful for? I would encourage you to find attributes in your child that you can be appreciative of. Your child won’t fit into every category here, but ask yourself the following: Does your child…

  • follow directions?
  • eat veggies?
  • do school work without arguing?
  • enjoy creating art?
  • get along with siblings?
  • have manners?
  • think of others?
  • like to read?
  • follow the morning routine well?

Your child may not do any of these well, or at all, but there is something positive about your child, even if you have to dig to find it. They do have worth, and if you can build on those positives, it will help your relationship grow, and that’s the main goal.

Why is being thankful important? I clearly remember the Thanksgiving after we adopted Payton from foster care. It was only days after her adoption was finalized and we were standing in a circle with family members telling what we were thankful for. Someone (left to be unnamed as to avoid great controversy) said they had nothing to be thankful for. I was quite angry because my precious daughter was now in our arms forever and it was the most thankful I had ever been (we knew she was now safe and a year of fearful anticipation was over). I also saw that the thankless person was miserable. When we can’t find anything in our lives to be thankful for, we dwell on all the negative, and that list can be great. If we focus on what we are grateful for, we have a fuller more joyous life.

Why do I care if you are thankful? I care that you find something to be grateful for because I want your family and your kids to thrive, not just survive. I don’t want this to a Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) that you try to get through as fast as possible, I want you to enjoy it.

Our hurting kids are hurting, and there are days when there aren’t positives to be appreciative of. So what else in your life can you be thankful for? I am truly sorry if there isn’t much, but my hope is that you can find something. Maybe it’s something simple today, like rain or a warm house, maybe tomorrow will bring something else.

I am thankful for all of you who have chosen to care for the orphan, foster child, abandoned and neglected. Without you, they wouldn’t have much to be thankful for. Thank you for all you do! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Here is another post that might help: finding joy

the comfort priority (Autism)

When speech and developmental therapists began working with our son in our home, they recommended creating a safe place (a place of comfort, a place to getcuddle swing away) in our home for Jeremiah. They recommended putting up a tent in his room, or a cuddle swing (pictured at right). Before we purchased anything, we realized his go-to spot was his bed. It was a place he liked to go and hang out.

His bed is a converted crib, so it has three slated sides and is open in the front. When Jeremiah used to throw longer tantrums (I couldn’t hold him because he was hitting, kicking, and holding him didn’t calm him, even after a few minutes) I  would calmly carry him to his room and place him in his bed (I left his door open), and he would calm down in less than five minutes. He was able to calm down in this space because it had already become a safe place for him.

Your child’s safe place needs to be comfortable. It’s important to recognize that  comfort for your child may be different than what it is for you. Sensory issues usually coincide with Autism, so this comfort is paramount.

When creating a comfortable space for your child, consider the following:

  • Noise level – Does your child like silence best, or a continuous quiet noise? Would she like quiet music playing in the background?
  • Textures – Does he like several blankets, or just one? What is the fabric like on the hammock, chair, or bed that is used as a “comfort space” or for sleeping?
  • Temperature – Consider what temperature your child feels best in. Warmer or cooler?
  • Lighting – A natural light or soft light is preferred to harsh bright lighting.

comfort priority

This idea of comfort takes itself into many scenarios with our kids. Because of those sensory needs, comfort is always to be considered. If it isn’t, your child may display negative behaviors or elope. Children who have Autism have a tendency to elope (run away, wander), it’s actually very common.

Sometimes when a child elopes, it’s because they’re uncomfortable. Jeremiah has escaped from his Grandma’s daycare a few times. Seriously scared the #@$$ out of me! After putting security measures in place (well not much “security,” but at least a plan), I had to look at why he wanted to leave the house. The conclusion I came to was, he wasn’t comfortable, and sometimes when our Autistic kids aren’t comfortable, they aren’t safe. They elope, as in this instance, they harm themselves, or they can display those negative behaviors, and we want to avoid these.

Because my son is nonverbal, I wasn’t able to ask him why he wandered off, and even if I could, I’m not sure he would know the exact reason why. So, we have to investigate (which we have become very adept at) and take in what we know about the environment. Here are some things that could have been bothering him: it’s really warm in her house, sensory issues plague him and Grandma doesn’t know how to deal with it, it can be loud with all the kids running around. I have a feeling one, or all of these played into his desire to leave.

As mentioned in the daycare scenario, comfort plays an important role when outside the home. Another example of this was when he eloped from my parents house. It was a holiday, we were all sitting around the table after a meal, and I asked where Jeremiah was. He had walked out the door to the garage, out the open garage door and off down the open field surrounding the back of their house (no fence!). I would imagine that because he was out of his normal environment, he didn’t fell comfortable. Poor guy!

He was only two or three at the time, but later during that same visit with them, he was able to show us where he did feel comfortable. He grabbed his dad’s hand and took him to our car. Justin lifted him into his car seat and that’s where he was content to hang out for quite a while.

If we want our child to be safe and at peace, part of the puzzle (it’s complex, I know) is to keep them comfortable. This includes meeting sensory needs, keeping routines, etc., but it also means having a place they can go where they aren’t overwhelmed. They need this at home and when we’re on the go.

Think of what your child may need to help them in this area. As I was writing this post, I saw an awesome play-set/bed for a kids room on Facebook. I thought it would be awesome for Jeremiah’s room, but it was too big. When I showed it to Justin, he pointed out the cuddle swing/hammock and said he wanted to put it in Jeremiah’s room. First I had to remind him that I’d shown him one of those a couple years ago and he had no interest (that’s just my job as his wife right?). Then someone commented on this awesome play-set saying that we couldplay set for bedroom incorporate just the sections that Jeremiah would benefit from, meaning it wouldn’t have to take up ALL the floor space in his room. We are still working out how to do this while in the middle of a house remodel/addition, Autism, and life, but the point is always to try to work it out. If you feel like something doesn’t fit your life, your space, mold it so it does. Nothing is out of the question, that’s why Jeremiah has a swing and a mini trampoline in his room! Just like anyone else, when Jeremiah’s needs are met, he’s more content, and the family as a whole can function better, it’s more peaceful environment for all of us.

*After learning more about Autism, I would say children also wander because they are in search of something (water, or something they like to do). Here is a post about wandering and the risk of drowning: 4 reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim.

*You can purchase the cuddle swing pictured above here.
*The bed can be found here, but I am not sure how to purchase it. If you love it, you just might have to build it. 🙂

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putting the HOPE in HOPEless (adoption/foster)

You may wonder why I write this blog, why you should listen to yet another person who thinks they have an answer to helping hurting, traumatized kids. Why am I here? Because of what my daughter has come through, the great progress she has made.

I try not to flag my faith here. My faith in Jesus plays a pivotal role in my life, and sometimes it’s difficult to avoid talking about it. I don’t wave it in front of my readers because I want to welcome EVERY adopter, every foster parent, every parent of an Autistic child. I don’t want someone to read that I am a Christ follower and feel they will be judged or that what I say doesn’t apply to them, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I welcome everyone here.

Why did I just go on a rabbit trail about my faith? Because I cannot attribute my daughters healing to anything other than God giving us wisdom in how to help her. I can’t credit the progress my son has made to anyone but God. Did He send down divine miracles that culminated in instant healing? Well, we’ve witnessed several miracles in our journey from fostering to adopting and beyond, but no, when it came to their psychological and physical selves, it was a process. A process that took our hard work and dedication. Sometimes God sent the answers quickly, and other times we were banging our heads, falling on our knees, asking Him to show us what to do. And He did! That’s the awesome part, the journey to healing.

I’ve mentioned my daughters diagnoses before, but for the purpose of helping you see where we’ve been, here they are: Reactive Attachment Disorder (please see my opinion of that HERE), PTSD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Failure to Thrive (emotionally), and mood disorder.

We’ve had monumental success with our daughter, Payton, despite this LONG list of diagnoses. We have a really amazing daughter! We always have, but many times it was difficult to see her positive qualities amongst the screaming, raging, defiant, controlling behaviors. We had glimpses of how wonderful, sweet, thoughtful, and smart she was, but in the beginning they were viewed through a window thick with grime, and as we moved forward the grime fell off (well, we actually scrubbed it off with massive amounts of elbow grease). We now have several weeks at a time when we experience life with a sweet, cheerful girl.

Payton is thoughtful of others, she goes out of her way to share food (which is a big deal for a child who’s had food issues) and toys with others. She’s a mini therapist with her younger brother, Jeremiah, who has Autism. She pushes him on the swing, she gives him what he needs, she notices the little things he says and does that are new and exciting (a word or a movement). She does all of this of her own volition. She has empathy for others when they are sick or hurt, or just feeling down. She’s very intelligent and enjoys learning new concepts, in fact her favorite free-time activity is teaching and reading to her animals. She’s a really special girl, and I love spending time with her.

There was a stretch when I looked forward to the times when she went to her Grandma’s daycare for an afternoon, but now those times are extremely rare, I want her around. She plays well on her own, we have interesting conversations, and I like doing things with her. We have truly seen a turn around in her behavior, attitude, and her psychological makeup.

I’m not sharing this to brag, I’m telling you so you can have HOPE. Your child CAN overcome. You won’t be battling this forever. Does this mean it’s easy to get where we are? No, it takes hard work and dedication. However I’m here writing this blog to help you do exactly what we did. My hope is to help you help your child.

Recently, one of my readers was discouraged by my post on detecting attachment issues, she thought her son was getting better and attaching, but when she read the list, she wasn’t so sure.

My response to her was that our kids can heal from much of what they suffer from, but there are some behaviors, attitudes, and emotions they may carry with them the rest of their lives. Although their brain can heal, they will have certain personality traits that stick around because their early life was so formative.

For example, my daughter will probably always be hypervigilant. Her early life taught her to watch out for herself and take care of herself because no one else would. She will always be aware of her surroundings and others, but now the worry is gone from her demeanor. Payton has leadership qualities (notice I say, “leadership,” not “controlling behavior”). She has a need to be in control of other kids. This works well with her brother who has Autism, because she mothers him and is helpful, but it can create problems with friends. I think as she gets older, this will become less of a problem as she learns how society functions, and we’ve already seen some great improvement in this area. We need to focus on funneling her desire to be in charge in positive directions. These are a couple of the traits that may stay with our kids. If they’re truly healing, you will see most of the others fade drastically, or completely disappear.

Besides those formative months and years, we also have to consider their biological beginning. That beginning can influence them inutero or through their biological parents genetic makeup.

There is great HOPE for our children. If we put effort in, there is a gorgeous rainbow at the end of our long road. It’s not a fix that will happen over night, but it can happen. God did not make us so we can’t change. God didn’t bring our children out of hardship so they could be miserable for the rest of their lives. He gives us HOPE. We have fallen, and if we are worth being picked up, then so are our children.

what is Autism?

My son, Jeremiah, has Autism. For those of you who don’t know someone with the disorder, or who haven’t looked into what it is, there can be a very narrow perception of what the word “Autism” means. One example of this came when I was introduced to a woman who attends a small group we used to go to. When she asked why we’re no longer part of the group, I responded, “My son has Autism, and we can’t leave him with just anyone.” (Childcare was provided by the host home.) The woman nodded her head like she knew exactly what I meant and said, “Yeah, that routine is really important isn’t it?” (Although this response was narrow-minded, it’s better than the stares I have experienced when I’ve told others about my son’s diagnosis.)

I’m not implying what that woman said was inappropriate or unthoughtful, but I encourage people to become more aware of what Autism is like because it’s becoming more prevalent. If you don’t already, you will eventually have a family member or friend whose child is diagnosed, and the more you can support them, the better.

So you’re aware, every child on the Spectrum can present differently (i.e. one may talk, while another may not. One may have other diagnoses that coincide with Autism, such as Angelmans Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. One child may have significant sensory needs, while another may not). There can be similarities between children on the Spectrum, and they can also be very diverse.

When you see a child at an amusement park who can’t wait in line, who screams, flaps his hands, hits himself or others, he may have Autism. Why does a child do these things, and why can’t it just be blamed on bad parenting? Well, first all Autism parents rock, so it can’t be their fault (insert smiley face). Second, there are many reasons why a child with Autism is acting like the boy I mentioned. Here are some possibilities, a little glimpse into their world:

  • Sensory issues. Ahhh, a sizable component of an Autistic’s life is that sensory piece. Sensory stimulation can either become extremely overwhelming; they want to avoid noisy restaurants, bright lights, loud fourth of July bangs, and tickly grass beneath their feet. They can also be sensory seekers (needing sensory input). To calm themselves, they need spinning lights, a swinging motion, they watch how light looks differently when they wave their fingers in front of their face, they may jump or run a lot. They hit, not because they want to hurt someone, but because it feels good when they smack something hard. ~ With this sensory aspect of Autism alone, you can see why a person with the disorder may be uncomfortable and act differently in several scenarios.
  • Processing language and understanding something that’s not concrete is very difficult for a person who has Autism.  Comprehending the non-concrete thinking is nearly impossible for many on the Spectrum.
    So, when a child is told to “wait,” it can be extremely arduous for them to understand what it means. Waiting in line can prove to be a feat that is akin to a neuro-typical person waiting in heavy traffic while rude, obnoxious drivers honk, yell, and throw ugly fingers, or it may be worse for the Autistic to wait in line at the grocery store.

Besides all of these reasons listed in effort to explain the behavior of the boy at the amusement park, there are hundreds of other entities a person with Autism deals with. I will attempt to give an overview of some.

  • Autism is a neurological disorder.
  • Auditory processing can be laborious.
  • They can have difficulty processing auditory and visual stimulation concurrently.
  • Routine is paramount.
  • They can have a hard time relating to others.
  • They can have obsessive behaviors (closing every door that’s open, smelling everything they come in contact with).
  • They may exhibit repetitive behaviors.
  • They can be extremely organized.
  • Some have obsessions with facts.
  • Many experience intense anxiety.
  • They can be easily distracted, some have ADD or ADHD.
  • They may find social situations to be troublesome.

In a BBC video My Autism & Me, starring Rosie King, who has Autism, she explains her Autism. She says she, “…feels words, it’s like they’re slimy or sticky,” and she talks about being really sensitive. She says, “Three out of five people with Autism feel unhappy,” she added, “this is probably because they aren’t getting the help they need.”

Although Autism can be overwhelming at times, my son, Jeremiah is the light of our lives. He has taught us about the fragility, individuality, and uniqueness of the human race. He has made us see the world differently. He has shown us there is a bright, beautiful light to be found in the midst of difficult  circumstances.

This is a very short summary of what Autism looks like. My goal is to provide understanding for those who know someone on the Autism Spectrum, and to support parents of Autistic children. If you would like someone to know more about Autism, you can send them here. I hope this gives you a glimpse of what Autism is.

If you are interested in how to help and support someone with Autism, you can find more on my Contents page, under Autism and Special Needs.

*Remember that no two people with Autism are alike.


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when your adopted child doesn’t fit seamlessly into your life, what will you do? (adoption/foster)

To this day Dimitri’s bones ache when the winter cold settles in. As that chill cloaks him, memories of a frozen Uzbekistan scene play through his mind like a horror film. His father laying on the concrete floor of an abandoned building, drunk, and nearly dead. He’d wrapped a thread bare blanket around his sister, but her little feet protruded from underneath. His other sister sat watching those who must brave the harsh winds pass on the street, fur Ushanka hats, coats, and boots layered their bodies, warding off the sting of ice. Then it had come time for him to scrounge up something for dinner, but the chances were slim, they hadn’t eaten in two days.

Stories like this one are plentiful in the adoption community, whether a child came from Russia, Africa, or America, they all have their stories. They may not be exactly the same, but they all contain great heartache.

What is a child to do with that pain? Do they know how to be a well-behaved daughter or a perfect sibling? Will they fit seamlessly into their adoptive family within one year of meeting them? What about a child who hasn’t attached within two years? I don’t believe children are given enough opportunity to get past the anguish they have been through, and brought with them.

As I have said many times, our hurting children have developed a new way of living because of their previous environment. You may see different stages of behavior and say, “He wasn’t like this before.” When our children come to us, they may be quiet and reserved, as time passes they may try to be controlling because they have a need to dominate situations or they feel everything will fall apart if they don’t. (Their previous life did, so why wouldn’t this one?) Then you may see outbursts of anger and a complete breakdown of behavior – this can be a sign that they’re beginning to get comfortable and they are SCARED. Our hurting children want to replicate the chaos in their brain because it makes them comfortable if their outside environment duplicates what’s inside. So we can see that our hurting children exhibit behaviors for a reason.

In the past week I’ve mentioned the Reuters investigation The Child Exchange a few times. Why? Because it’s shocking. But shocking as it is, I feel the thoughts the adoptive parents have expressed there are more common than we want to think.

I believe part of the problem stems from our society. We are living in a “me” world. (Don’t worry, I live in the same “me” centered universe too.) Soon after we adopted our daughter, my mom said to me, “When you and your brother were little, I didn’t have date nights or weekend getaways.” True, they didn’t. But truer still is the fact that mothers can do a better job raising their kids if they can have some time away (especially if you have hurting adopted children – but always be careful how much you leave your kids and /who/ you leave them with).

This mindset, the one that says we need date nights or a break, can be taken too far. I say, everything in moderation. We can begin feeling that life is about us, and if you have a child who’s difficult, it can turn into ideas such as, “This is not what I signed up for,” or, “This child is taking too much of my time.”  Parents can even place the needs of their biological children above their adopted ones.

In The Child Exchange, Gary Barnes said he gave his adopted daughter, Anna, to another family because he lacked the finances to provide therapy, and that therapy would have been inconvenient. First, I wonder why therapeutic parenting couldn’t have been done in the home. (That’s why I do what I do – I want to help parents care for their children in the home. Yes, sometimes outside therapy is needed, but a majority of an adoptive parents success is accomplished in-home.)

My second problem with his statement was the inconvenient part. Really?? (By the way, this couple did not have other children.) It was too inconvenient for them to provide therapy for their hurting daughter? I am simply flabbergasted.

Third, they didn’t have the finances? I wonder if they’d had a biological child who went missing, what they would have done to get that child back safe in their arms. What assets, time, and effort would they have put into finding that child? It should be the same for an adopted child, because they are essentially lost without our help. They need us to move heaven and earth for them, they must be treated as our children because that’s what they are. If we don’t treat them as such, I can guarantee they know it, and their actions will speak volumes against us. This is a LIFE, and I can’t stress how important it is to put our child’s needs first.

Other adoptive families give reasons why they can no longer care for their child; he puts spaghetti in his pockets (well, he has food issues, and was probably starving before he came to you), she hides in the closet and won’t come out (really, is that the worst she throws at you?), she sneaks out her window (kids who are just being kids do that too). What I’m saying is, look at your child’s behaviors and decide that you can handle them, because that’s how you’ll make it through. If we begin to believe that we can’t handle our child’s behavior, that they’re too wild, too whatever, we slide down the slope of self-preservation too quickly. You can make it through this. There are hundreds of thousands of teens who are doing well and have bonded with their adoptive families. It takes a parent who is dedicated to doing everything they can to help their child, and a commitment that communicates, “I am never going anywhere and neither are you.”

When my husband was in ministry many moons ago, we went to a counselor, Louis McBurney (he has since passed), and his greatest question for us was, “And then what?” If you think something is so horrible, ask yourself that question. If your child hordes food in his room (there are solutions for this behavior that help), and you are angry and at your end, ask yourself, “And then what?” This means, what will be the outcome if your son stashes food in his room? The answer: The room will begin to smell. And then what? Answer: We might get mice! And then what? Answer: Well, I guess I could have him clean it. Yep. And that behavior of his will continue until you get to the bottom of his fear regarding food. (And the answer is NOT locking the fridge and cupboards.)

The point here is that often it’s not as bad as we perceive it to be. We are tired, we are worn down and worn out. But when we think clearly (and follow advice from this blog – insert smiley face), we can see that our problems can be overcome.

Believe me, I am not immune to problems. Besides having a child with multiple diagnoses stemming from her early neglect, I have a son with Autism. Autism can be extremely difficult, and one aspect that makes it such is my son is constantly changing. There is always an obstacle to overcome.

We are constantly having to problem solve; how do we potty train a child who doesn’t talk or use sign language, or understand the words, “Come and tell me when you have to go potty.” What do we do when he’s suddenly frightened by his room, but we can’t communicate through words that it’s safe, how do we take care of his sensory needs when we can’t go outside and swing?

If you have a hurting child, problem solving is part of your daily life, and the issues our children present can be solved. I know this post isn’t encouraging, but I desperately want to see families staying together because I care immensely about adopted children. They have been through hell and deserve to have a wonderful life. I also care about you, the parent, and I know that if you don’t follow through with your commitment to your child, you will ridicule yourself and the guilt will pester you. You won’t feel better if you don’t do all you can. And you CAN do it!

what level are you on? (adoption/foster)

My heart breaks when I hear of children who’ve been abandoned by families because they did not fit the mold they were expected to fall into. Families are falling apart because of the stress that has culminated due to a child that has attachment issues. The entire family suffers, and so does the child who has already experienced so much loss and brokenness before entering their adoptive family.

I would like to think that adoption dissolutions are rare. A statistic I recently read said ten to fifteen percent of adoptions fail, and although this isn’t a high percentage, when it comes to children losing families, I feel it is far too exorbitant.

I think of adoptive families as living in a home with several levels. The top one is filled with hope and dreams that have come to fruition, it’s where the family is whole. A couple stories down from there is where hope and dreams exist, but are not yet realized. Here, a family knows their goal, and life is running fairly smooth. Then there are families who’ve fallen to the lower levels, where it seems that all hope is lost. They are placing their foot on the step, trying to climb up, but they continue to slip. The adopted children, the parents, and the siblings are all crying out. They are lost and grasping for help.

This is why I’m here, writing and trying to help adoptive and foster families. If you’re not on the bottom floor, then my goal is to keep you from falling down the steps. My goal is that we no longer hear about foster/adopted children being turned away, thrown out, or given away. If, however, you are on that bottom floor, I want to give you the foot hold you need to move to the upper floors.

At times families find themselves on the bottom floor because they were unwilling to have open eyes going into the process. They imagined a fairy tale. Sure, there are absolutely many fairy tale moments, adopting is a wonderful thing for both the parents, the adopted children, and siblings, but we cannot go into adoption with our eyes closed. We must be willing to look at our family and decide how we will make it work.

Work? Yes, it’s work. Many of our hurting children have gone through something horrendous, whether it be that they weren’t touched during their first months of life; or they were homeless as a young child, fending for themselves, finding their own food and shelter; or they were abused physically and mentally.

Raising an adopted child takes work because they need all of us. We have to solve problems in different ways, we have to be empathetic even when we feel like blaming, we have to ask our spouse for help even when we don’t want to. Sometimes we have to make a safety plan within our home even when it seems impossible.

What are you willing to do for your child? Change your schedule? Give up a hobby for a couple of years? Take over your spouses responsibilities when they need a break? Admit to your own exhaustion?

If you’re reading this blog, you may be looking for help. You don’t want to do battle every day. You want to help your child and your family, and my hope is that the information here will help you do that. I want with all my heart for you to live on the top floor, with a balcony that looks back on all you’ve come through. There you can say, “See, we’ve made it this far, we can keep going.” Because in the end family is what it’s all about, and your family was built through adoption.

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tackle one behavior at a time

Do the dishes, pick up the house, make breakfast, send the kids off to school, go to work, take a child to soccer practice, make dinner, call Grandma, read a book to the kids, put the kids in bed, wash dishes, try to relax, fall into bed. Repeat.

That doesn’t cover half of it right? Neither did I list all of the behaviors we deal with when we have a child with attachment issues. Our children don’t even have to have attachment issues to exhibit negative behaviors, kids just do.

So, what can we do when our lives are so busy with all the normal day to day activities, yet we are trying to help our child overcome negative behaviors? I believe the answer is to work on one behavior at a time. This is the most beneficial and productive way to meet each behavior and work on changing it.

When Payton was four we were still working on potty training. I was frustrated to no end and ready to be done, and she was still waiting until the last minute to go to the bathroom, or not even trying at all, and would wet her pants. I mean the drenching, puddle on the floor (not the leaky little bit, oops I didn’t make it in time). This Potty Training Gone Wrong was taking up most of our instruction time. (There is only so much time in the day: rocking your kids, playing with them, personal care for your children and yourself, house keeping, errands, play dates, feeding your family, and instruction time between it all.)

At the same time we were also working on her attitude when we asked her to go to the bathroom. Her response was usually yelling “No,” and telling us she didn’t have to. Less than two minutes after escapades of yelling, saying she didn’t need to go, there was a lake and a race to get to the bathroom.

During this very long phase of potty training, my mom and dad visited us. Afterwards, my mom emailed me, saying that we should do something about Payton talking back to us (in any given situation where things didn’t go her way).

In reality, we can only work on so many behaviors at a time. What would life be like if we came down on lying, potty issues, school work, screaming/rages, listening skills, general disobedience, and the numerous other obstacles we face every day? We’d never get anything done, our child would live in a constant state of stress, and more importantly, no bonding would be taking place.

Bonding always has to take precedence over everything else. Why? Because if we don’t have a bond with our child, their behaviors won’t be changed permanently or even for an extended period of time. If we do see a positive turn in behavior before bonding takes place it may be that the child is doing it out of fear, or they are doing it to manipulate a situation or person.

I strongly suggest not working on too many behavioral issues at once. First, it overwhelms mom and dad when there are too many things to focus on. Ask yourself how much time you want to devote to correction and not to bonding. Second, it puts too much pressure on the child when you expect them to change their entire life in one shot. They become overwhelmed and frightened, which sends them back to their flight, fight, or freeze mode.

I suggest choosing the biggest problem you’re facing and focus on it. And always remember that your main focus is bonding, because without bonding, you won’t have permanent behavior change.

Are there several behaviors you are trying to correct? Do you think it would help to tackle one at a time?

*Is your child dealing with sleep issues? Are you in and out of their room several times before you crash in bed? Does the Super Nanny solution not work for your child? Do you get bombarded with questions every evening? Be sure to check back later this week, as I will be writing about sleep and how to get your child to rest peacefully. Here’s the link for that post: why good nights are illusive (sleep issues #1)