You can view the first post in this series: negativity is contagious
You know who had a right to be negative, angry, opposing, and downright contrary? The Giving Tree. You know, the children’s book by Shel Silverstein? The Giving Tree is just that; giving. His owner, however, is selfish and takes everything he can from the tree to make his life better. The tree gives freely, never denying a request or complaining about its loss. In the end only a stump remains, and the boy comes back old and weathered, and sits to rest on the tree’s trunk. In the end, both were happy.
If we are to be like the Giving Tree, it doesn’t mean that we allow our hurting kids to pummel us into the ground, there are consequences for inappropriate actions, there are times when we say no, there are boundaries, consistency, and routine, but in the end it’s relationships that are of utmost importance.
“The capacity to care, share, listen, value, and be empathetic – to be compassionate – develops from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued, and nurtured.” ~ Dr. Bruce Perry
If you are consistently sucked into a world that is negative, it’s nearly impossible to care, share, listen, value, and nurture regularly. If you have a hurting child who isn’t attaching and bonding, it’s because they didn’t receive that reciprocal, caring relationship Bruce Perry is talking about. It’s now up to us to step in where others dropped the nurturing, and to do so we need to stay out of Negative No No Land.
To do so, we need to know where negativity comes from:
- Negative attitudes can develop because parents tire of the horrible behaviors, the lying, the potty training issues, the control. They want it to change, and they want it to happen now. When it doesn’t, they become pessimistic, and that pessimism can stop our child’s progress.
- Negative outlooks expand when we fail to see our child’s possibilities. Jon Acuff said, “Fictional regret often cripples us from factual action.” I would like to change the second word in that phrase so it applies even more to parenting a hurting child, “Fictional [worry] often cripples us from factual action.” When we worry and feel negative about what our child’s future (even their tomorrow) looks like, we forget to live in the moment. And, this moment is the one that will help your child move toward healing; the hug you’re not giving, the praise you’re not sharing, the play you’re not engaging in, the interest you’re not showing because negativity is taking away moments you could be using to help your child heal.
- Negative mindsets grow when we’re in community with others who constantly complain about their life. This can be people who speak disapprovingly about everyone and everything around them or a community of adoptive/foster parents who complain about their children. I do see a place for groups of parents who’ve adopted or are fostering. I think it’s great to have a place to vent our troubles, but with Facebook and places like Cafemom, it’s become all too easy to get sucked in and focus only on the unfavorable qualities of our loved ones and others.
- Negativity can come from our own guilt, thinking we don’t do enough for our hurting child. Some parents constantly question whether they’re doing the right things with their child who struggles. (To put your mind a little more at ease, take a look at this: We Are Our Childs Best Therapist.
- Negativity can creep in through others perceptions of us. A family that has a hurting child functions differently than the typical family. Friends and relatives don’t understand why you live the way you do. You are excluded, questioned, and sometimes scorned.
Negativity can come from anywhere and everywhere; as an avalanche of boulders or as pecking stones. In turn it can cause us to be negative, and the way you feel as a parent is always projected onto your child.
Our negativity about our children affects:
- The way we feel about them.
- The expectations and hopes we have for them.
- Our ability to empathize with them.
- What we say to them.
- What we say about them.
As Dr. Bruce Perry said, our kids need US to be the catalyst for positive change. Our children CAN heal, but not without our help, and we can’t offer them all of us (think Giving Tree and remember why you adopted in the first place) if we are full of negativity.
The question now is what do we do? Well, I struggle with negativity, so I feel less than qualified to tell you what needs to be done. However, I can share with you what helps me have a more positive perspective.
#1, and MOST important: When dealing with a child’s Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), attachment issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mood disorder, and my son’s Autism, I had to focus on the positives in my children.
Find the good qualities in your child. Is your son a good artist or ball player? Does your daughter like to be around you? What’s one thing your child does without a fight? Does your daughter do great with younger children? Find that positive attribute, even if it’s only one, and focus on it.
- Remember where your children came from. Dr. Bruce Perry also says that by age four, your brain is 85% the size it is when you’re an adult. How much did our child’s early life affect their brain? Significantly. ADD LINKS How long will it take for our children to heal and form healthy relationships? More than a few months, more than a year.
- Praise your children when they’re doing well. Be specific and tell the truth.
- Focus on any progress your child has made. Think in small increments if needed. Did your son clear his plate off the table today? Did your daughter unplug her curling iron before leaving the bathroom?
- Find joy in your everyday life. That post is a must read if you feel there’s no joy to be found. We don’t have the same struggles, but I’ve found it difficult to find the joy too, my friend.
- If there is something you wish you were doing with your child, but you’re not, do it. Then throw away all the guilt.
- Forget about all the negativity and misconceptions coming from family and friends. This is your family and they’ve never lived your life.
There, that should make you feel better! Actually, what would make you feel better is some hot chocolate, a good book, and a warm bath, but I can’t hand that to you over a blog, or as my father-in-law would say, the World Wide Web.
I hope this helps you see where negativity can come from, how it invades our existence, and how it affects our kids.
Do you see areas of your life that are full of negativity? Maybe just a little? What can you do to change your view?
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