When we became parents, we had big plans of how we were going to mold and shape our children into respectful and respectable little people. We have now been parents for ten years, and I have to admit, we have learned more and become better parents in the past two than we did in the first eight.
Adopting an older child from a difficult past means reading lots of books on trauma, attachment, and the brain. Luckily, I have a great interest in these subjects, so the learning is fun. Putting the principles we’ve learned into practice with patience and grace is not easy though, even when you know it is best.
After our last adoption, we were pouring on the nurturing and grace super thick to our newest son, and of course this did not go unnoticed by our other two kids. We explained to them over and over that Charlie’s brain was wired differently and he just couldn’t handle the discipline and lectures that we gave them. We had to go a lot easier on him so that he knew he was safe and loved.
After many months, maybe close to a year, I started to realize that even though the way we were parenting Charlie was necessary for him so that his brain could learn to trust us and attach to us, it really wasn’t fair to the other two kids. And what would it hurt to parent them in a similar way?
I have become more conscious of this, and it has improved my relationship with both of them, especially my daughter. Simple things like remaining calm when upset, praising good deeds more often than criticizing mischief and identifying the need behind the behavior. This one is the most important.
So often we punish our kids immediately for misbehavior. I am pretty sure I read somewhere that you should! However, if we take a few minutes to talk, think and process the situation, we often see the big picture and realize there was a need that caused the behavior. Sometimes they’re hungry, sometimes they’re tired, often they just need attention.
If a child is being obnoxious for the sake of someone paying attention to them, and then that someone yells at them or punishes them, they certainly are not going to feel loved in that moment.
It was such a critical goal in our minds to make sure that Charlie knew that he was loved and safe always, but especially when he was in trouble, so we approached him with much more patience and gentleness than was natural. But then when the other two misbehaved (often as a way to get our attention away from Charlie) we were slap out of grace.
This was wrong and unfair.
So we have changed our parenting style to keep connection, felt safety, and a loving environment as a goal for ALL of our kids, whether they’re from a hard place or not. This is new for us, but I find that there is much more joy in this style of parenting, and for the most part, we have happier children.
The more they are connected to us and feel loved by us, the more they want to please us. We still have plenty of issues and sibling disputes in our home, but much less yelling and punishment. And hopefully kids that know that they are loved, no matter what.