Tag Archives: bonding

7 reasons why time-in NOT time-out (adoption/foster)

timein2

Experienced parents often want to share with foster and adoptive parents how to raise their children, they may tell you to put your child in time-out, spank them, and offer a plethora of other solutions. Problem being, a biological child thinks very differently than a child who’s worried about where their next meal will come from, if someone will come when they cry, if that someone who comes will hit or kick them. Raising a hurting child looks different, and that’s okay. Because it looks so different, I am here to give you solutions that do work. So, here are some reasons

why time-in is better than time-out for a hurting child.

1. Sending a hurting child to their room causes them to feel fear.

Many of our children lived in fear before they came to us. They were left alone, or felt lonely before they came to us. They had to provide for themselves, they worried for their life, their safety, their siblings safety. They lived in fear (even infants). Bryan Posts says,

“There are only two primary emotions: love and fear.”

By placing our children in time-out we are sending (unintentionally or not) them back to that fearful place. By keeping them close in a time-in, they don’t feel alone and a need to fight for their safety. Or at least with consistency, they will learn they don’t need to fight, flee, or freeze.

2. Hurting children don’t have the ability to self-regulate.

Hurting children are unable to regulate their emotions, and they need our help. Dr. Bruce Perry says, “When infants and children are incapable of meeting their own needs, they depend upon the external regulation that comes from attentive, caring adults.” When a hurting child is sent away from us to a time-out they are not regulated, and this will send them backwards, healing won’t be taking place. By keeping them close in a time-in we are able to help them regulate their emotions. Or, if they are dysregulated, we can be near them so they can learn we won’t abandon them.

3. Being alone doesn’t heal.

Was your daughter in an orphanage before she came to you? Was your son neglected before you brought him home? Are you doing foster care? Did your child come from foster care? All of these children have been alone. Even infants who went through a tumultuous time in utero can feel alone. Keeping your child near you will aid in the healing process.

“Loneliness is the most significant disability of our time” ~ David Pitonyak

4. A hurting child can’t calm the chaos on their own.

A hurting child’s brain is chaotic and they’re used to the chaos. The trauma your child’s been through has created a brain that looks drastically different than the brain of a child who has been raised with loving and nurturing family members.

A traumatized child tries to recreate that chaos in their real world because the calm makes them uncomfortable.

5. Time-outs don’t build trust.

When we send a child to time-out, they don’t know if they can trust us. A hurting child has difficulty trusting caregivers. Why? Because they have been let down by someone, and those first trust bonds were catastrophically broken. When we keep our child close, they learn that we can be trusted and we won’t send them away for negative behavior.

timein

6. Time-outs don’t build relationships.

Think about a marriage relationship. If a couple is in disagreement about something, it doesn’t usually help if one partner leaves the situation. Neither does it work if the two don’t talk about the issue. In doing so, the problem may go away for a short time, but will surely resurface again.

It’s very similar in your relationship with your kids. Sending them away will not build your relationship, it will put a great big pause button in the middle of it. The Child Trauma website says, “Relationship brings safety, comfort, and soothing.” Relationship is the key element of attachment.

7. The lack of feeling safe makes our kids want to control their    environment.

Your child’s fears stem from their life prior to meeting you. Those fears don’t leave because they have a new family. As I said earlier, trust has been broken, and it will take a long time for trust to build back up. You will need to provide an environment for the assurance of safety and love to grow. What better way to show them they’re safe than having a time-in for negative behavior? Placing them in time-out only capitalizes on their fears of not being safe, and they will then seek control in any area they can.

“When they [traumatized child] sense something is wrong (that the body is stressed), they activate the brain’s alarm systems. These stress-response systems then acts to help the body get what it needs.” – Dr. Bruce Perry

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In the post, Why Consequences and Rewards Don’t Work, I give some other ideas on what to do about discipline. I want to reiterate what I said in that post; consequences and rewards won’t make a big difference in your child’s behavior until they have bonded significantly. Yet, it’s still very important to kindly let your children know they aren’t in charge. If your child feels they can do anything they want, they don’t feel safe; boundaries are essential. You can implement some consequences and rewards, which will set a foundation for the future and begin teaching them how to function in a family.

It’s also very important to understand that many times negative behaviors come about because your child is trying to communicate.

Look at what your child is trying to say, are they hungry, tired, frustrated, emotional because something else happened, lonely, wanting one on one attention? Do they have sensory issues? Is their body irritated by their clothing, are the lights bright, is the room noisy, is their chaos? There are so many factors to look at, so try journaling behaviors to see when they happen and what transpired before them. We don’t want to simply discipline our children, we want to find out why they’re acting out. The article How DoYou Support People with Difficult of Challenging Behavior gives great ideas on how to look for the “why” behind a persons behavior.

Time-ins can be accomplished with the child in your lap or if you must complete a task while the child is in time-in, they can be in close proximity. Some of you may question having the child in your lap as a consequence, but as you read above, our children came from different circumstances, so different techniques are used to help them heal. Being in your lap is not a reward, but does keep relationship in play.

I hope this helped explain why time-ins are better than time-out. If someone in your life repeatedly suggests that you put your child in time-out or that your kids need more discipline, feel free to share this with them, maybe it will help them understand your child.

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your likes DON’T = their likes (adoption/foster)

your likes

Do you have expectations that your child will have similar likes as you, or they will be interested in the same hobbies? It’s natural for a parent to want their child to have these ideals, yet it doesn’t always work that way does it?

expectations

When parents have biological kids, they sometimes expect that their child will have the same interests they do. A mom who runs will expect her child to go with her, a dad who likes star-gazing will assume his son will climb mountains and gaze through telescopes. When it comes to adoption, some parents take genetic comparisons out of the picture, but expectations still exist that a child should be interested in the same hobbies as the parent.

Parents can also assume that a girl should like Barbies, playing house, and making memory books, and boys should like playing basketball, watching football, and driving remote control cars. Times are changing, but it still happens.

If a child is adopted as an infant, a parent might think the child will adapt to their likes. If a child is adopted or fostered at an older age, and has been in the home for a few years, the parents may expect the child to alter their interests so they match the parents’. This can happen, but…

we all have our individual preferences for activities and hobbies. 

We can argue whether this all comes down to nature versus nurture, but I definitely think both play a part, as well as a persons own predispositions based on their opinions. For example, I love writing, but I don’t come from a family of authors, nor did my parents try to instill in me a literary upbringing.

I’ve seen immense division enter parent/child relationships when the child doesn’t enjoy the same pursuits as the mother or father.

This can happen in biological relationships, but obviously since you’re here, I’m focusing on the adoption and fostering connection.

When attachment issues are already in play, even more division happens between child and parent when hobbies aren’t enjoyed together, when free time is wrought with animosity. Parents become bitter because they feel the child is acting against them in not wanting to spend time engaging in their activities. Children become resentful because they feel their interests aren’t important to their mom or dad.

We need to appreciate and support our child’s interests.

When we accept a persons interests and likes, we are in essence, bondadjustingaccepting who they are, and they feel loved. If your daughter likes to mountain bike on a dirt course, take her, and focus on the fact that she is involved in something and it makes her happy. If your son likes to play the piano, give him time to practice, and don’t badger him about not playing baseball.

It’s okay to encourage your child to be involved in activities they don’t love, such as the child or teen going on a bike ride with the family even though she doesn’t like to. This teaches the child that the world is not ALL about them, how to be a good friend, and it may expand their interests, (and might get them to MOVE). Yet, there needs to be a give and take, where the parent does something with the child that they may not enjoy. Such as a mother playing catch in the backyard with her son.

Bonding means adjusting, and we need to adjust our parenting expectations to what is reality, and reality is that we’re all different.

Have you held any expectations about what your child’s favored activities and hobbies? What can you do to make your child’s interests more of a priority? My wish is that you would be able to enjoy your time with your kids.
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time + time + time (adoption/foster)

healingtakestime

This world is full of immediate gratification. We can ask Siri and she will answer, we don’t even have to look on the internet. And speaking of the internet, we can look up anything we want, buy anything we want, whenever we want. We have fast food and fast flavored coffee, immediate books on our iPad (yes, I’m an Apple junky), and we can start our car from inside a building. (I don’t have that feature on my car, but I sure do want one.)

Because everything in our society is instant, parents think they’re hurting children should be bonded within months of entering their life. They think their child’s negative behaviors, should stop, they should lull off to a sweet slumber, and they should understand consequences and the rules of the house within a short period of time (and a few months is a relatively short amount of time).

I think of what happened to hurting children like tearing down a garage. We tore ours down to build a larger one and add a level on top, the deconstruction was quick and not too difficult (for big, strong, burly guys anyway). However, the rebuilding process takes a LONG time, it’s detailed, involved, it’s time consuming, and it’s stressful.

For some children, the tearing down process didn’t take long, even infants are greatly affected in a short amount of time by neglect, abuse, and trauma. Children are even affected in utero by what the birth mother does or doesn’t do. Just as a garage demolition doesn’t take long, neither did it take long for our children to be broken down.

And, just as the building up process takes a long time when creating a new deservecommitmentstructure, so does the building up of our children. It takes work, dedication, compassion, and understanding.

None of us want to face a battle and know it won’t end tomorrow. I find it helpful to remember what happened to the hurting child, and where they came from. Their trauma affected them beyond what we can see. So, focus on the positives and keep moving forward, you can do this.

Here are some links to help you out:
why consequences and rewards don’t work
the importance of consistency & routine
detecting attachment issues
rocking: a simple first step to bonding (and it doesn’t just apply to infants)

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HARD is the BEST thing I’ve ever done

original photo by kaniths via www.sxc.hu

original photo by kaniths via http://www.sxc.hu

We shared our adoption story (in short) with our church on Orphan Sunday, Well, since this post is all about honesty, I should say, Justin shared and I stood by. I had the easy part. Afterwards, we welcomed questions from anyone interested in fostering or adopting. One of the women who chatted with me, let’s call her Kaylee to protect her privacy, is an adoptee and was exploring this option of adoption for herself and her husband.

We talked, she asked questions, I had some answers, and I shared more of our story. She went away from that conversation thinking something very different than what I expected. She hadn’t decided to move in any direction of adoption, nor had she closed the door, but she was overwhelmed with emotion as she realized what her adoptive mother had given her and gone through for her. Before we talked she had a deep and profound respect for her mom, but when we finished there was something more that she had come to comprehend; it hadn’t been easy for her mom.

Why hadn’t it been easy for her adoptive mom? Because her mother is very me&P2012sensitive. I can relate, because I am extremely sensitive. Every day it’s hard for me to be in relationships with others, every day it’s hard to put myself out here on a blog, every day confronts me with pain. Then why did I do that foster and adoption thing that was so hard and seems impossible for the sensitive like me?

As Kaylee and I talked, she mentioned what we do. She said, “It’s not that it’s great that someone else is doing this (something Justin mentioned during his memoir spiel), but it’s WOW, that’s amazing. I’m not putting you on a pedestal, but what you’ve done is admirable.”

I’m not like some other adoptive parents who dislike hearing this, but I did want to tell her my truth. My truth is that I am flawed, deeply. My truth is that I am extremely sensitive. So, you would think I’d have avoided foster care and adoption like the plague.

But no, I had jumped on that plane headed to China immediately, well figuratively, but I wanted to hide in the baggage compartment when it came to foster care. Why? Because it looked hard, it looked impossible for the sensitive; me. When husband brought up the option of fostering while we waited to begin the process for China (I wasn’t old enough to apply), I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to jump in and get my feet muddy. I didn’t think it would change me, I didn’t think I could handle all it involved.

Payton&Jeremiah2012Was I wrong? An emphatic YES! Because when we really ponder what brings out a better us, what teaches us compassion, what changes us from the inside out, it isn’t the easy, it’s the HARD. If we think of world changers, I would bet their lives haven’t been cushy. I bet something happened to them, something moved them, or else they are consistently placing themselves in the middle of HARD.

I don’t mean that I have come out at this end (because my life is still being transformed by special needs) an awesome person. What I mean is that before I began this journey, I thought I knew about God, love, and faith. I hadn’t arrived, but I thought I was getting a handle on it. I didn’t. That handle I was grasping fairly burned up in my hand and I dropped it. I have found that I didn’t know much about God’s power, loves abilities, and faith’s transformation. It has all come crashing in on me, in a good way. I look at life in a new way. I see people in a new way, or I am still working on it anyway.

People don’t want HARD. But what if I told you HARD will be the best thing you’ve ever done? I love this quote by Brene Brown, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. “Perfect” and “bulletproof” are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be–a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult conversation–with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

I want to go back to my sensitivities. My heart is fragile, just ask my poor husband, he could write a series of books on it. Yet, I have seen how God has put an armor around my heart, not so I can’t pour out love, but so that some of the hurt my children can cause doesn’t make it through. What have I been through with them that could have hurt me beyond repair? Well, my son and daughter both bonded with my husband long before they did with me. Consider my daughters diagnoses and my son’s Autism. We also went through fostering them. My heart could have been pounded into the floor, but it wasn’t. Yes, I’ve been hurt, and yes it’s been hard, but it hasn’t had nearly the effect someone who knew me before all of this would have imagined.

When Kaylee shared about her adoptive mom, she told me how sensitive she is. Kaylee said, “I never told my mom, ‘You’re not my real mom!’ I think that was God’s way of protecting her, He kept me from making such hurtful remarks.” I believe she’s right. There can be so much about this journey that’s hard, but God is God, and when we trust and believe He will help us, He will. We are not on this journey alone

After writing the rough draft of this post, I read the November 2013 issue of Payton11.2012Adoption Today, in it Lisa Harper wrote, “If we didn’t have dark nights, we couldn’t experience the peachy glow of sunrise. If we didn’t ache, we couldn’t experience relief. If we didn’t suffer brokenness, we couldn’t experience restoration.” She’s right, and she should know because catastrophe struck her three times in one day. Now that’s living through HARD and still having the courage to move forward.

Has something in your life been HARD and changed you? I would love for you to share.

what’s on their mind? (adoption/foster)

Something about negative behavior struck me when I read the fourth part in the Reuter’s series The Child Exchange. (You can read my opinion on The Child Exchange – aka adoption disruption here.) The Reuters investigation shares the devastating story of Anna Barnes, a girl who was born in Russia, orphaned (although she didn’t know her mother had died, the news had been shared with her via a second party) at the age of six, and adopted by an American family at age eight. In fifth grade, she was sent to military school, and in sixth grade, she was called into the office and told, “We thought it would be fun for you. Instead of going to a military school this year, we’re going to send you to a horse ranch in Texas, and you’re going to stay there for three months, then you’re going to come back.”

A couple named Gary and Lisa Barnes showed up at the horse ranch and decided to adopt Anna. She says of her first adoptive family, “I just couldn’t see them doing this to their real son. I felt very betrayed.” Anna says, “I didn’t get to go home and say bye to my brothers and sisters. I didn’t get to say good-bye to my mom and dad.” Anna shared her thoughts on how she felt about being with the Barnes, she told them repeatedly “I don’t want to be here, I want to go home,” and that her home was in Indiana with John and Jill (her first adoptive parents).

Gary and Lisa said Anna had behavior issues they couldn’t handle, so they found her a new home. Anna’s story doesn’t end here, she continued to be abandoned.

There’s something we can learn from her heartbreak, and it’s evident when you hear her share what she’s been through. She felt something should have taken place, a major life event – going back to her first adoptive family, and that didn’t happen. She had already lost her birth family, lived in a Russian orphanage (I don’t care what anyone says about them, they aren’t acceptable and many are deplorable), and she was given up by the family (John and Jill) who promised to care for her as their own. She desired one thing, to go back to that family, and she made it particularly clear.

I saw this same situation transpire with a girl who was adopted from Africa. Some of you have heard about the unethical adoption practices that can take place in third world countries. It happened to a girl named Zenia*. Her mother, who was living in a poor village, was told by a woman that if she could not provide for her daughter that Zenia could be sent to an American family, and she’d be able to see her daughter again in one year. Zenia was told the same.

Zenia was adopted by a wonderful American family who had adopted other older children internationally. Those children were doing very well, but they always seemed perplexed by Zenias continued behavior issues and indignation. After being with the family for one year, Zenia finally shared with them what she had been told. She felt that they weren’t her parents because her mom was waiting for her in Africa.

The question here isn’t whether these children’s wishes could be granted or not, because they can’t (or at least it wasn’t likely for Anna, and it wasn’t possible for Zenia) the question is, what can a parent do about it?

Ask your children questions about their adoption. You will need to use your intuition to determine whether your child is capable of handling information about their pre-adoption experience. I don’t withhold information, but I also don’t give all the details. If a child was older at the time of adoption, it’s probably okay to talk about what happened before they came to you, because they likely remember it.

Many times behavior issues in adopted children stem from a lack of true attachment, in the situations above, I would treat it the same as an attachment issue. No matter what their pain stems from, a child always needs to make attachments.

If, in the case of Zenia, she wants to return to her birth mother, you could discuss why her mother made the choice she did, being sure to alleviate any guilt the child would have of it being her fault. You can tell her that those who told her she could go back and visit in a year lied to her and that you knew nothing about it. Share what adoption means with her, that in front of a court and judge you promised to be her mother/father forever. If you want to consider making a trip to Africa so she can visit, discuss it with your spouse and be confident it’s really possible before saying anything to your child.

Your child may not be struggling with the same situations listed here. Many of our children have similar stories, but some are vastly different. Your child may be holding onto something else, it may be a need for control (this is an element most hurting adopted kids deal with), or they are worried about moving again. These are concerns that are difficult to label, and that is why beginning to open communication is key.

Sometimes negative behaviors can be a sign of a child’s anger over what they want or don’t want to take place (as in both cases I mentioned). That’s why it’s good to talk about feelings, because that can get your child to open up and share more of what’s on their mind. Opening up dialogue with your child will help too.

Our hurting children are strong, they are strong because life has taught them to stick it out or die. They will use that strong will to get what they want, and if what they want is their birth family or first adoptive family (even if they have perfected a horrible situation in their mind), then it will take explanation and attachment for them to see it differently. They still might yell and scream that you aren’t their “real” family, or they hate you and don’t want you to be their dad, but stick with it. Showing your child continually that you will not abandon them will sink in. Eventually they will see that you aren’t going anywhere.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Have you ever found that getting to what’s really bothering your child helped alleviate anger or anxiety? I love comments, so share you thoughts!

Some additional links that may help:
the lies hurting children believe
the magic word
it’s your fault, mom
the intelligence behind a hurting child

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just deal with it (feelings: part 4) – (adoption/foster)

Were you raised by a parent who told you to “just deal with it?” Were you taught to ignore your feelings or that they weren’t important? If we tell our hurting children to just deal with it without giving them a listening ear, and tools for how to handle their feelings, it won’t help your child develop emotionally, and a significant component of our children’s struggles are with their BIG emotions.

Todays post is the last installment of the four-part series on feelings, specifically how to deal with feelings. In the post Be Available (feelings: part 3), I went over talking to your kids about their emotions and feelings, which is the stepping stone for how your child will be able to handle what’s going on inside of them.

Now your child needs assistance with how to handle those BIG feelings. In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry says, “The more anxious someone is the harder it is for him to accurately recall and describe his feelings, thoughts and history. But most critically, when a child is anxious it is much more difficult to form a positive relationship, the true vehicle for all therapeutic change.” Obviously our goal with our children is to form a positive relationship, because if we don’t have a positive relationship with our child, no attachment will take place.

The way to help alleviate the anxiety your child is experiencing is to create a basis of labeling feelings. As they develop a firmer grasp on what specific feelings are, you identify them in your child, yourself, and others. You can then move on and talk about ways to deal with each feeling if needed.

If your child is anxious, you can give him options for calming, such as a stress ball or something he can squeeze in his hand. Drawing is also great to express any emotion (Carol Lozier has a wonderful APP on her website that lets a child do this).

If your child is angry and hitting, you can give her something to hit; a drum or a pillow. You give words at the same time if your child hits you. For more verbal kids, you concisely explain that they shouldn’t hit. For young kids, or ones who don’t have a lot of language, you can say, “Hands off” if they are hitting something inappropriate (a t.v.), or “Be gentle” when that child is hitting you, then redirect them to something they can hit. Telling a child who doesn’t grasp language, “Don’t hit” is counter productive because they only process the last word, “hit.”

A child who is hitting is trying to express a feeling, or something they want to tell you, and I explain this more in detail in The Behavior Battle. If you have a good idea of what your child is feeling and why your child is hitting, go ahead and give her the words, “You’re mad because you had to leave (our friends) house.”

My son, Jeremiah, is four, has Autism and doesn’t talk, but as he’s gained language comprehension, we’ve talked about being mad, sad, and scared. We don’t talk about the more complex feelings such as lonely and frustrated because he wouldn’t understand them yet. (You can use those words with any child who is developing typically.) It has been really cool to see his response when we label how he’s feeling. He will be crying (his go to reaction when he’s angry, frustrated, or scared is to cry or throw himself), and I will name how he might be feeling, “You’re mad because you have to leave your toy here.” He will now stop crying when I get it right! Sometimes he’ll begin crying again, but it’s great that he can calm down, even if it’s short-lived, when he recognizes that I understand how he’s feeling. This is an enormous improvement over what he used to do – just cry.

It’s kind of like when you’re dealing with something and you talk to a friend and they get it, they listen to you vent, and they acknowledge what you’re going through. We can walk away from that interaction and feel better and not so alone.

The same thing has happened with my daughter, Payton, who is farther ahead developmentally. One day she was wailing in the backseat, something hadn’t gone her way. I told her I was disappointed because something hadn’t gone my way in the same situation she was crying about. You know what? She immediately stopped crying because I was empathizing with her, and she noticed how I was handling my disappointment.

Before your child has made some attachments, their response to some of this will be anger, but you still want to listen to them, show them you care, and help them label and deal with their feelings. It’s all part of the attachment process.

Some other ways to deal with big feelings is to have your child take in a deep breath and smell the flowers, and blow hard to put out the candle. There are dozens of APPS for learning about feelings, a few are listed here (but remember you are their greatest teacher). An APP that my daughter likes is Toca Boca band, your child can make a band with different instruments and sounds. This helps a child express feelings.

Don’t allow your kids to express their emotions in hurtful ways, but give them avenues to convey what they need to. Always be available to listen and talk to your children about anything.

Throughout this series have you been able to talk to your kids about their feelings? How did it go? I would love to hear from you!

Check out the other posts in this series:
emotional balance begins with us (feelings: part 1)
name those feelings (feelings: part 2)
be available (feelings: part 3)

the behavior battle (adoption/foster)

Behaviors come in all shapes and sizes. There is avoidance, vocal aggression, physical aggression, self-abuse, rude comments, bowel issues, sleep issues, food issues, and the list goes on, and on, and on. Many of you are in a battle with behaviors.

Last year we had a Speech Pathologist and a Developmental Therapist coming to our home for our son. They suggested we bring in Patrice, a Behavioral Specialist. After visiting our home one time, she said Jeremiah exhibited behaviors. Well, I was not a happy Mama. My son was well behaved, especially when considering where he came from and what he deals with. I equated much of his crying (behavior she was referring to) with his lack of understanding language (he’s nonverbal). Jeremiah is developmentally delayed and has Autism, but does not struggle with many of the attachment issues our daughter does.

Before school began, I attended a meeting with Patrice and Jeremiah’s other therapists. I mentioned, as kindly as possible, that Patrice said Jeremiah exhibited behaviors. One woman said, “He does.” A few minutes into this roundtable discussion, I found out they all believed behaviors aren’t a bad thing, but are a child’s way of communicating.

If we look at our child’s behavior in this way, it alleviates some of the frustration we feel when they act out. We can also see that our child’s behavior isn’t about us, which so many parents of hurting children tend to think.

Our children are telling us something. They are responding to triggers that send them back to their days of trauma, neglect, and abuse. They are trying to control their environment because they don’t believe they will be safe if they don’t.

like a wave, our child's behaviors come from deep within.

like a wave, our child’s behaviors come from deep within.

I listened to a webinar on The Attachment and Trauma Network that was very enlightening. In regards to a hurting child’s behavior one of the speakers said, “If your child had acid reflux and threw up, it would be because of the acid reflux. So it’s the same as when your child tries to ruin things when they are going well, their brain is more comfortable with the chaos, the calm scares them. Their body is reacting, they aren’t doing it because of you.” This internal response to the chaos in their brain produces behaviors that we don’t like.

Our children who have been neglected, abused, and traumatized have behaviors, some big, some small, and many are colossal. I hear parents consistently wanting to fix their child’s behaviors, so they can have a more peaceful life. I’ve been there many times myself. We think, “My child should understand this, she’s so smart,” “Why doesn’t my child get the consequences that come about every time she does…” “I am so tired of repeatedly telling her the same thing,” “Why can’t we get past this, it’s been years since the trauma occurred.”

Why can’t behaviors be quickly fixed with consequences, discipline, and rewards? For our children to create a lasting behavior change they must bond with us (see the end of this article for links to posts on bonding). When our children bond with us, their brains are forming connections that previously did not exist. Before our children bond, their brain is disconnected.

In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Bruce Perry says, “Because of the enormous amount of information the brain is confronted with daily, we must use these patterns to predict what the world is like. If early experiences are aberrant, these predictions may guide our behavior in dysfunctional ways.” Our children will not behave properly when their brain is disconnected.

Consequences, discipline, and rewards used in the right way are elements that help our kids develop, but when our main focus is on those three facets and not on bonding, it’s like placing a new board over a rotting one. The rotting board doesn’t go away, it’s still festering underneath, it will continue to rot until it’s replaced.

I equate the rotting wood with the beliefs our children have formed about life and themselves. When our child bonds with us, we are replacing those old ideas with new theories of themselves (they are lovable), their caregivers (safety and love), and life (they don’t have to control everything). When all these pieces begin to come together you will see your child letting go of their control, which will in turn change some of their negative behaviors.

For practical ways to get your child’s brain connected (bonding with the caregiver) head over to my other posts:
let’s bond already:creating attachment with an adopted child 
rocking: a simple first step to bonding (and it doesn’t just apply to infants)
what’s on their mind?
why consequences & rewards don’t work