The Conditioning Of The Heart

The Conditioning of the Heart

 originally written December 2010

My heart just aches for children who suffer.  Sometimes it is just too much to think about and so I distract myself….. but it always comes back to the fogotten, the outcast, the downcast, the unwanted, abused, the neglected……

As parents, especially those of us living in Countries where we have what we need, where we have healthy families, where we have access to food and water and heat and shelter and clothing…. we think in our simple minds that providing these things will just magically transform a child from outcast to accepted.

But we forget, that many of our children are “systematically rejected” and it begins from day 1 on planet earth.  They take onto their hearts the pattern that they are unworthy, unlovable, unwanted and not even worthy to “eat” with the ones who are.

As I read Keri’s blog post today, my heart just sunk as she wrote that the children from the orphanage go to the same school as the children in families.  But the orphaned children are not allowed to go into the lunch room. The school does not feed them because there are no funds to pay for their lunches. They have to wait in the hallways, while the children from non orphaned families get to eat and chat and enjoy a hot lunch. When they return to the orphanage after 3:00, they can get food.  And most likely, it isn’t what the other kids got to eat. 🙁

What do you think this does to a child?  I remember when we were in Ukraine, the children did not go to school at the local school, but were schooled in the orphanage.  The only problem is, many of the teachers do not teach. The children do not get a real education and are sometimes left to just sit.
Our translator knew a boy who was brilliant. She gave him a history text book so that he could study and the teacher actually took it away from him!  The translator brought him another one to replace it and put his name in it.  She didn’t know if they let him keep it or not.

So, then, here we come to the rescue! Our kids hear, “I love you! I want you! You are valuable!  And they don’t believe it. Not only do they NOT believe it, they refuse it! It is too foreign to them. And sometimes they set out to PROVE that it isn’t true.  Their reality is and has been their entire life that they have no value, no voice, no love.

When they begin to experience for the first time the loving touch of a mother or father, it scares them to death.  They secretly like it, but they are terrified of it at the same time.  It is like climbing to the top of a pole and jumping off.  It means taking your heart once again and making it vulnerable once again.
And taking the chance, that once again, their heart will be crushed to pieces, and they fear that if it is, they just might curl up and die.  It is a very fearful, terrifying thing. And so as families we begin to get frustrated with this and take them to get “fixed”…. the truth is, nothing is wrong with them. They are reacting NORMALLY to something that is ABNORMAL.  The big problem is, their NORMAL is the ABNORMAL and Their ABNORMAL SHOULD be the NORMAL…. so the long process begins to change their minds.
Many families who adopt, don’t understand all these dynamics. After all, they just have so much to share and to give. They are just wanting to have a family, or just wanting to parent more children, or to help a child without a home.  And every time they try, their efforts are thwarted and rejected and they feel hurt.
HOW the healthy family responds to this, can make every difference in the world, for the outcome of these precious children.

In the same way you would not expect a person who was repeatedly and systematically raped to just “get over it” and enjoy life now that everything is wonderful….. you cannot expect a child who has had their heart repeatedly violated to do the same.  It is a long, untangling process.

ALSO, in the same way you would not expect a rape victim to have to be forced to talk about their experience over and over and recall every detail and tell how they felt,  we should NEVER, EVER push our children into forced sessions of recalling every detail, how they felt, discussing all their hurts and wounds, so they can learn to fit into our society.

I feel so strongly about this!

They will talk when they are ready. They will share when they feel safe.  Repeatedly violating their heart will not help but hinder attachment.  They must be respected, and their privacy must be respected.
The very best counselor is a mother or father that is intune with their child.  The next best counselor is the one who counsels mom and dad and gives THEM ideas on how to help their child.
But even with all of that, you cannot force healing.  You can be the guiding light, that lights the pathway to a healthy and loving life, but you cannot force it.
TRUE LOVE HOPES….. and NEVER EVER EVER EVER gives up.  True love is patient and kind.
True LOVE is a verb, an action, a continuous wave that will eventually break into the heart and wash it over with such a purity, that it cannot be resisted any longer.

(photo from scene in Martian Child)

I know a very healthy person who had a very traumatic past. She was unable to share it with anybody until nearly her adulthood. It was too scary.  She couldn’t imagine being forced to do such a thing and said that it would have made her VERY angry to have been forced.  But, as she was loved unconditionally, and her relationships began to solidify, she could see that she had some things she NEEDED to get off of her chest, and she chose a trusted friend.  That friend  wisely helped her and kept her confidence.  Her total healing was an amazing thing to witness. And today, she is a whole person. These things cannot be rushed.  They will happen when the right time comes.
Because TRUE LOVE, NEVER FAILS…. and that means Never, EVER EVER EVER EVER.

And then, there is the sealing glue to all of life. The Lord.  HE is the healer of our hearts. He is the true lover of our souls. His plan of forgiveness in spite of great difficulty brings us to a place where HE changes and transforms us from the inside out.
Oh how I pray that these children who sit in the halls of a school that rejects their very existence will someday have that heart washing joy overcome them, and that they will know, TRULY KNOW, whether they are adopted or not, whether they leave their surroundings or not, that they are valued and loved by a Heavenly Father who knows their hurts and will Right EVERY Wrong, on a great and wonderful day that is to come.

Parenting Ahead

Parenting AHEAD

 (originally written  February 2012

(Both of my angels were adopted because of disruption)

I posted earlier about Children not being adults here.  I wanted to follow up with a few thoughts on Parental Leadership.
Our children, especially our children who have come home at older ages, have no understanding of leadership, or their need for parents.  Yes, they all want them, but they really do not know what they are. I love the Wendy description  of what a mother is:
For the child who has never had that tender hand, the whisper that bids you goodnight, the very thing they desire, can really frighten them.
Our children need our true leadership, through tender and gentle words of wisdom.  Do we catch ourselves instead yelling in the other room, “NO MORE TALKING! I MEAN IT!”   I did that once and one of the girls said back, “Anybody got a peanut?”  LOL…
I was not taking leadership on that night. Instead, I was being lazy.

Leadership does not mean being a controlling dictator, it means leading by example, and parenting AHEAD of the children so they can follow, NOT following behind, and complaining loudly the whole way as you can clean up the destruction from the path they made.

Tenderly guiding BEFORE the fact leads to SUCCESS!  “Before we do our kitchen chore, I want you to know what is expected. ” Stick TO THAT expectation!  Don’t make it too far out of reach, as in a goal they cannot keep, like I want the kitchen spick and span in 30 minutes and they are 5 years old.  Always aim for them to succeed!
Start with simple….
“I need you to fill this bag with all the kitchen trash!”  THEN. “Can you gather the silverware and put it in the sink for me?”  THANK YOU!  If you see them shrink back, then, tenderly helping… “Here, let me help you with that.” If they are not ready, take them to the rocking chair and soothe them, then talk about what you are going to do when they are calm, and then try again. We had to do this with Sweetie 1 and Sweetie 4 many times.  And sing a song while you do it; it calms little nerves. 🙂

DO NOT GIVE UP until you are successful!
I do believe thinking back on it, the first time Miss Sweetie 4 had kitchen duty, it took several trips to the rocking chair, several times of me having to show her how to load the dishwasher and several little fits on her part before she finally listened. It seemed like  hours! But, she succeeded and the fits didn’t reoccur.
She learned that mama was consistent and that she was safe.  When we finished, I praised her efforts and then we rocked.

During that calm rocking time I discipled her.  I gently reminded her that all that stalling and whining and melt down time, resulted in her not having  the time she needed to play….(this is a natural consequence) Making  sure she understood,  she was also reassured that we were confident she would do MUCH better next time.  She agreed.  She also apologized and I forgave her. (This is not done in a condemning or critical tone, but a soft engaging tone of love)

When you go into the store, engage them in helping putting the cans in the cart. Get them to help you find the right products from your list if they are older. Or even organize the basket by food groups.  The next time, engage them in helping pick out the cereal of choice, giving them a voice, but make the behavior requirements the same.  Double engagement really helps to distract.  If you keep them busy, they forget about disobeying.  Stay 3 steps ahead.    If you see them headed for meltdown, divert, abort the mission.  Some things can be done at a later time! This way, you are not reacting but being 3 steps ahead!  When you get into the car, PRAISE THEIR EFFORTS ANYWAY (the ones they made)
Parenting AHEAD, will help keep you from full blown issues both at home and out in public.

( For those of you with children who will recoil at praise, or will reject it and try to prove they don’t deserve it,  Praise them ANYWAY!  PLAN ON FALLOUT.. and be prepared for the rocking chair.)

It won’t be long before it is normal to behave properly with little setbacks.   When those setbacks occur. DO NOT fall back on lazy parenting styles of warning, accusation, anger, parental tantrums etc.   ( the very things we accuse them of) LOL

  Reassure your child that they can be successful next time.This will make your child feel SECURE.
They will know that you are not wavering in their chaos, but you are the rock they need to depend upon. There is nothing more scary to a traumatized child,  than a parent who is out of control.
But staying even keeled and tenderly leading them will help them begin to see that you have faith that THEY CAN HEAL, and that you are proud of their efforts, no matter how tiny the step.  Our hurt children NEED TO KNOW that we have even a smidge of FAITH IN THEM, so they can learn to trust us. If they think we view them as hopelessly flawed, hopelessly hurt and that they just need to be fixed, this will do nothing but cause them self doubt, shame and continual grief.

Speaking TRUTH into our kids is parenting ahead.   “I know you are kind” instead of “you are mean”, “I know you are honest” instead of you are a liar, “I know you are respectful” instead of you are disrespectful, even if you have to say, “Deep down in your heart, I KNOW this to be true!” or “Inside you there is an HONEST girl just waiting to come out!” These are words of truth and HOPE, and just like in the orphanages, where all the kids long and HOPE for a mother and father; they can cling to the HOPE that someday they will be whole and honest and loving and kind and respectful and  secure.
Parenting Ahead, GIVES them that hope.  And it gives US that hope too. 🙂

Children Are Not Little Adults

Children are NOT Little Adults

(originally written  February 2012

Thank you Mike for helping to write this. 🙂

Children are NOT little Adults. They do not think like adults.  They do not reason like adults. And many times, I think WE adults, interpret their behaviors and actions, as if we were dealing with other adults.
Children do not fully comprehend the ramifications of the things they say or do at any given time. They just DON’T think that far ahead!
Children live life in the moment.  Some are more spontaneous than others, and may do things that surprise us, or cause us personal pain.

  Love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things….

If a child is having difficult behaviors, it is important to know that they are not doing this against US.  And many times, they honestly do not know the WHY of their behavior. It just is.
If we look at everything through the lens  of them trying to control us or get at us then how in the WORLD will healing take place; ESPECIALLY if they pick up on our  own underlying feelings of anger and suppressed rage?.
I was listening to Eric Guy, who travels with Heather Forbes and participates in her advanced Training, as well as having his own training camps.  In one of his videos, he talked about  a child who can pick up on a parents emotional state.  He was sooooo RIGHT….
If a parent  is controlling themselves on the Outside, but inside burning with concealed anger and rage, the child picks up on this very easily. And thus, the cycle continues. They will react to the parents underlying anger.

I remember 2 of our boys climbing on the school roof as children.  When I found out, it was during prayer time, when one of them thanked the Lord that they made it up and back down safely!  LOL
It never dawned upon me that my boys were anything but curious.  I wonder, had they been adopted, would their actions have been determined to be manipulative? Surely they knew better! During the childhoods of my sons, we had our variety pack of issues to deal with, as all parents do…. but if they had been adopted, would their parents have seen their behaviors differently? Would they have interpreted everything through the lens of manipulation?

I distinctly remember my oldest son trying to pull a fast one during nap time.  “Mama, THANK YOU for taking good care of me. You are a good mama!”  I said, why thank you sweetie!  He then said, “Can I get up now?”  My answer was, “No…. since I am such a good mama, I need to make sure you get your rest!”
BUSTED….He was definitely trying to pull one over on mom…. but I didn’t see it as a deep seeded problem with eternal ramifications.  I saw it as a little boy who didn’t want a nap, and was trying to get out of it.
Honestly, it was never given a second thought.   The only thing I really thought was that he was a rather clever fellow at 5.  Had he been adopted, would somebody have seen his antics of some sort of deep seeded manipulation?

When our 3rd son had a really hard time with potty training,  he was not trying to control me.  But oh, there were those who thought so. They couldn’t have been MORE WRONG! I am SO GLAD WE  DID NOT LISTEN TO THEM!  It could have been disastrous, and caused him and our relationship permanent harm.
When one of our daughters peed her bed and then changed into clean clothes and hid her wet ones,  it was NOT her trying to control me. But OH there were those who thought she was!   And you know what?  EVEN IF SHE WAS, she couldn’t, because my only reaction was, “Oh so sorry you peed, let’s get a bath, so you can smell all pretty again.”  And with the clothing? “We don’t want stinky clothes, can you help me take these to the laundry?” The peeing stopped after several months. The hiding was not manipulation, it was shame.
Did it stop because she matured more?  Or did it stop because she didn’t get a rise out of me?  Some would say the latter. I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE the first choice. She matured in her security and love and realized she had no need for shame anymore.

I remember as a child, about 8 or 9 years old, things were difficult.   I began to wet at school during about a 2 week period.  There it was, suddenly upon me! I couldn’t catch it at all. And I was humiliated!  My teacher, never scolded me. Unfortunately, I had to remain in wet clothing all day.  I am soooo GLAD they did not call my home. Had they asked me, I would not have understood what to say.  You know why? I was a CHILD reacting to stress.  I understand NOW, exactly what was going on.  But back then, as a child, all I knew was that I couldn’t get to the bathroom.  What if somebody decided that I was trying to be controlling or manipulative or trying to get attention?  It would have been devastating.  It has taken all these years for me to even be able to share this… and here I am sharing it publically. :/

The word manipulation has such a negative connotation. It is associated with no conscience, or a person who is sociopathic.    These things cannot be concluded about children who have not fully developed in personality; especially hurt children.  I would argue they have never had opportunity to develop. Many of them continue to live with basic survival skills, not family life  skills, and it is sad that they are labeled before they even begin to heal.

And then that label colors everything they do. Every SINGLE thing!  They are judged. They can’t do right if they tried, because it would be deemed “manipulation”.  If they say they are sorry… manipulation.  If they are kind… manipulation.  If they don’t know the answer, manipulation. If they are nice to others, manipulation.  If they are quiet… manipulation…. How frustrating!

Our kids who have come to us after trauma, are  hurt, and we cannot “hurry them along” for our own convenience and schedule.  Just because we think they should be farther along in healing than they are, does not give us permission to accuse them of manipulation.
When we come to Christ, and are new baby believers, He does not bludgeon us with our sin all at once!
We are forgiven and clean, but oh those habits that stay! Slowly and carefully, the Holy Spirit works on our hearts and we begin to blossom and grow spiritually.  Changes take place gently and over time, and sometimes the Lord reveals things to us years later….. that it is time to change something new.  If we were to see ourselves and our true natures all at once, the burden would crush us.
Sometimes, I think that is what we try to do to our children, with the best of intentions. But we crush them.

I remember when Sweetie 1 was first home, it took years for some of her old behaviors to go away. YEARS.    Today, 8 years later, she is a happy, healthy teenager.
Kids KNOW fake!
I BELIEVE IN “LOVE IS A CHOICE, A VERB, AN ACTION”, And THAT can make a HUGE difference.   Choosing to LOVE somebody unconditionally is VERY REAL.

I know that one time, I was hurt by something one of the girls did. I did not say anything , as I knew it wasn’t against ME, but at the same time, I was upset, and  I held back.  I was silent.  Oh BOY!  Did this child ever pick up on that. She KNEW I was upset and it knocked her off kilter. She instantly began to act out as soon as she knew that I was not fully in tune with her. 
WHY?  Because she could not handle the thought of possibly not being loved. She could not handle that I might be angry with her.  She could not handle the thought of rejection.  Even though I had not rejected her, or that I wasn’t really angry with her, or that I stopped loving her…. my hurt, spoke volumes that were interpreted through a wounded spirit. It was too much for her little fragile heart to handle. I immediately admitted to her how I felt and we had a talk…I asked her forgiveness, and she asked mine,  and then, between the two of us, things were MUCH better.

PARENTS! There is NO ROOM for SELF, or taking offense, when it comes to our children.  God did NOT hold back on Us!  While Christ was DYING on the Cross, He said to the Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do!”

Yes, we are not God, we are HUMAN… BUT we have Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, to depend upon when we fail.  He gives us strength and guidance and Unconditional Love to walk the path , walk the walk and help our children to heal.

I am in NO WAY suggesting that we just tolerate unacceptable behaviors. Disciplining (discipling) our children to obey, be respectful, and live a happy and healthy life is our responsibility as parents.    We can unconditionally love our children, and also let them know their behaviors are wrong. Timing is EVERYTHING.   Talking to them about ways to succeed and not accusing them of manipulation, thereby putting them on the defense, is so very important in being successful.
It is so important not to assume the worst, but hope the best.

And it is SO important to remember that our children are CHILDREN and need to be loved and understood as CHILDREN.
I came across a verse this morning during family devotions. It was in Exodus chapter 34. In verse 6, the Lord passed before Moses and declared, “The Lord, the Lord , a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and children’s children to the thirds and fourth generation.

Yes, our God is merciful and FULL of love and forgiveness…. and we should be the same. 🙂

Some of our children have come from families where sin has reigned rampant for generations, and our children have suffered the results of that unrepentant sin.  But I am so happy to say, that Jesus Christ is the almighty CHAIN BREAKER…. He is in the business of putting lives back together, healing the broken hearted and setting the sinner free.
There is scripture in the New Testament that says “It is your kindness that leads us to repentance Oh Lord.”
Our kindness to our children, will lead them to listen and turn from what they are doing in time, breaking the chains of bad habits, and fear, so they can live lives to the fullest.

Mom Dad And Me Books Parts 1 and 2

Mom, Dad and Me Books

originally written in 2011

The other day I was thinking about what an important job it is to communicate with my girls.  Sometimes they don’t ask things, because they don’t want somebody else to hear their question, or they are too shy.
I remember longing to talk with somebody when I was a young teen. There is such a need at that age to connect, to feel like you aren’t alone, to be reassured!  I was such a gawkly, awkward kid at this age. I wasn’t a beautiful girl…. I was taller than all the boys, skinny, and insecure. I had thoughts that were deep and grown up, and thoughts that were rather childish….

All weekend I was trying to figure out another avenue to communicate.  We take the girls out alone  1 time each month, and that is really fun! Sometimes they go alone to the grocery store, and that is fun too….but sometimes they need more.
So, I came up with a Diary of sorts. It is a 3 way diary between Mom, Dad and each of our girls.
I purchased them each a theme book, on sale for 40 cents! (score!)

The idea is that they will write an entry each day. It doesn’t have to be a question; maybe a compliment or a complaint. It could even be a poem or a serious pondering.  And then, mom and dad will write something back.

I am really looking forward to them communicating freely with both of us.  They already do for the most part, but I can tell there are times they want to say something and hold back.  I hope this will be an avenue to help them get around their shyness or awkwardness.

Today, each of my girls thoughtfully wrote something in their book, and placed them on my desk to read for later.
It is so precious to see their words. It was clear on the very first day that this is going to be a GOOD thing! 🙂
And now, I need to go and ponder one of the questions! LOL

Mom Dad and Me Books: Updated

originally written in March 2012

We have consistently used our books at least on a weekly basis, sometimes daily.  It is funny how you can get into a routine and each of our girls is different how they use them.
We have talked about delicate girl things, or we have even told jokes to each other.  But the great thing is, everybody is using them, and everybody seems to like them. 🙂

If you haven’t tried something like this, I encourage you to  do it.  Writing encouraging words to your children can never be wrong. They can even go back and read your kind words again and again.
If they are sad, and not ready to talk, sometimes they are ready to write.  If they are embarrassed, they will write, if they are happy, they will write.

Spelling does not matter in these books and it is not corrected.    If things become dormant, all it takes is mom or dad writing a word of encouragement, and the writing begins once again.

If anybody started to use the idea, how has it gone?  Has it made a difference?


Fear and Relationship

( originally written November 2012)

For those of you who have children who came to you with MULTIPLE, OVERSTUFFED Trauma bags, I pray this post can bring you hope.

I have written much over the years about Trauma and FEAR and how our children, because of literally living day in and day out in a state of trauma,  their brains have learned to interpret trauma as normal every day life, and a life that is not full of trauma,  as something to be TERRIBLY feared.
The truth is that FEAR is their familiar, and in a strange way, something they embrace.  Why? Because they know nothing different, and they are too afraid of the change.

So, if you are living with a child who’s behaviors are over the top FEAR…. which can come out in many ways, INCLUDING: defiance, control, anger, frustration, hyperactive behaviors, hypervigilance, withdrawl, disassociation, depression, anxiety, PTSD, RAD, etc.  there is an answer.
There IS healing, but it will take a HUGE commitment to learning how to reach them AND it will take TIME.

Just as much as our kids need to change behaviors, WE DO TOO!.   I wrote a post earlier about “When We Need to Change“, this is a part 2 for that post. 🙂

I think that the very hardest things for we parents to get, is that when what LOOKS LIKE outright rebellion and defiance are staring us in the face, what we are REALLY facing is a STRONG reaction to FEAR. 
Many MANY times our kids may not recognize it themselves, because THEY don’t know anything BUT fear.  It is, and has been a HUGE part of their lives. It is that strong survival instinct that has become their accomplice in life.  I won’t call it their friend, but it is certainly their familiar companion.
I use the word accomplice, because an accomplice is NOT a good person to be with.  FEAR, CAN be a healthy thing in appropriate situations, but for our children who have suffered so much, it is an accomplice for them, an albatross about their necks, holding them in a prison of torment and despair, refusing to let them go.

We have some of the BRAVEST of children. 🙂   I say this very seriously.  It is a BRAVE and STRONG child that learns to overcome.  And it does NOT happen overnight.  IN FACT, it cannot happen, until our children take the plunge of TRUSTING us.  That bridge of trust is a FEARFUL bridge to cross.  Imagine yourself walking over  a shaky bridge with  pieces missing, over a burning hot fire down below, where one misstep will cost you your very life.  Imagine that you are so terrified that just trying to make that step forward is so daunting, that every fiber of your being holds back.
That is what it is like for some of our children.

Now, imagine yourself, as a parent on the other side of that bridge.  Are you the parent holding your hands out, encouraging your child to come and trust you with warmness and acceptance?  Or are you the parent who is standing on the other side saying, “Why Don’t You Just Get Over Here?  What Is Wrong With You?  Hasn’t It Been Long Enough? Why Don’t You TRUST US???”

Our children will not get there on their own.  They NEED us to disarm that fear mechanism and take the plunge of trust.  But WE MUST be that instrument they can TRUST!

This brings me to the Amygdala.  This is the part of the brain that processes emotion.  There is no logic here, just interpretation of data with emotion.  There is no reasoning here.  And for kids with TRAUMA backgrounds, it is MESSED up! It takes over and causes the thinking part of the brain to not be able to reason.  It interprets the unknown with fear and our children will go into a fight or flight mode, or they will regress into themselves and shut us out.
Our children’s brains became wired this way in order to survive.  It took time for this connection to take place…..circumventing the reasoning part of the brain,  but the GOOD NEWS IS, IT CAN BE CHANGED! It is NOT a forever thing, if we can learn to reach our children.

I received a letter from a reader not too long ago who’s new son had severe RAD.  She said nobody in their state would even take him for fostering,  and now, just 6 months later, he is connecting to them.  She was SOOO HAPPY! And I am thrilled for her. 🙂

Miss Sweetie 4,  is another one who continues to make huge steps of progress in adjustment and trust.
I too have learned myself, to REMEMBER what I am truly dealing with, if FEAR shows itself.
It is awesome to see how quickly something can be resolved that would have taken HOURS or days just over a year ago!

Our children all were functioning in FEAR mode when we first brought them home, and FEAR IS NOT LOGICAL! That is why LOGIC does not work.  There is no reasoning in fear.  FEAR is a raw emotion, not based upon logic.
I believe one of the reasons that I understand how paralyzing fear is, is that as a child, I was TERRIBLY fearful.
I was so full of fear, (much of which nobody knew, because I chose not to share it) that it was paralyzing. I was the child who withdrew and shut down.  I turned my fear of a person, into an unreasonable fear of the dark, and being alone. It  carried into my adult life until 2 of my boys were already born.   I had to learn to identify why it was there, and conquer it!  It was HARD!

I know there are those that do not believe that defiance  or control is a fear mechanism.  They don’t believe that a child who is disrespectful is fearful.  I cannot do anything about that but I DO know that as a child I felt RAGE and DEFIANCE.  I didn’t act out on it, but it was there, brewing.
I almost feel like the child who actually expresses how they feel, is a little healthier and stronger!

I continue to write about our very real experiences with TRAUMA and how we have been able to help our children overcome, in hopes that it may be of help to somebody out there who is really struggling.  In the process of understanding my own children,  I personally have been able to unpack many more of my own personal traumas of the past, and lay them to rest. 🙂

Now back to the amygdala.  Did you know that it can be REWIRED to CALM down and not over react!  It CAN!  A  long time ago I used the term “rebooting”, but a counselor friend of mine said, rebooting gives the idea of something happening right away, like flipping a switch.  He said “rewiring”, is more like it.  That gives the concept of time.  Because it DOES take time.

We REWIRE the amygdala and give our children something new to hang onto.  Instead of FEAR, we offer them TRUST.  We offer them TRUE LOVE, which is an action on our part.  And the result of this rewiring, will be a mutual, REASONING,trusting, relationship. The defiance and rebellion will begin to disappear and a true relationship based upon mutual respect and affection will begin to take shape.

RELATIONSHIP is of UTMOST importance.  If you have no relationship, you will have no trust.
It must be NURTURED and PROTECTED….  Things that destroy relationships with our children, OR PREVENT THEM FROM FORMING IN THE FIRST PLACE are judgmentalism, harshness, unfair treatment, being controlling, anger, condemnation, shortness, over reacting,  bitterness, self pity, non acceptance.  Parents, these behaviors need to be FAR from us.  Yes, I’m talking about US, not our children.   HOW will they learn to trust us or WANT to trust us, if we give them nothing to hold onto for safety.

Love, understanding, patience, kindness, gentleness, acceptance, Peacefulness, honesty, affection, laughter, humor, conversation, LISTENING, taking interest….

I am so glad that when we come to Christ, He accepts us with open arms of Love.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ.   I cannot imagine that GOD would save the sinner and then turn around and condemn him when he fails.  Instead, he love us, patiently guides us and corrects us in full acceptance with GREAT mercy and GRACE….. and yes, it is UNDESERVED.

God calls us onto a journey in our lives and causes us to grow in our Spirits over time.  He doesn’t expect a baby in Christ to suddenly stand before a pulpit and parse verbs in Hebrew and Greek!
Sometimes, I think that however is how we treat our newly adopted children.
They have NO IDEA what a family is, how it operates, how to interpret all the rules and nuances that each family has, let alone understand in many cases the new language they have had to learn!
And if there is continued tension, there is also no relationship.
We need to remove the LOG from our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our children’s eye so that a true relationship can begin!

We need to be a rope of SAFETY in our OWN behavior,  so they can DARE to TRUST.  By   going over and over and over and over again the process of offering LOVE and TRUST and NOT a reason to fear, …. Through that repeat process, the brain will be rewired.
And that is SO SATISFYING! It makes me just so excited!  Especially when I get encouraging  letters of success. 🙂

Baby steps….. in the beginning and then….. a wonderful bouquet of wonder!
Our children are complex blossoms waiting to be discovered.

An Object Lesson on Unkind Words

An Object Lesson on Unkind Words

(originally written in December 2011)


This a.m.  two of the girlies were doing their lessons close to the wood stove to keep warm.  They were playing “old fashioned”….
I over heard one say to the other…. “I think Sister 2 did it!”  Sister 2 overheard it, and said, “I did what?”  And then there was silence.  UGH

Of course Sister 2 was a bit upset being accused of something she didn’t even know about.  To get school back on track I asked what was going on.  It turns out, it was some silly thing about a necklace that had nothing to do with Sister 2.
I had read about an object lesson on gossip and bullying earlier this a.m. and thought! Ah HA! What a perfect time to use it!

So I had each of my girls get a piece of paper out.  They were to wad it up and stomp on  it and get it as wadded and stomped on as possible.  Then I had them unwrinkle the paper.  I told them that this represents another person’s heart, and when we say things about them, or use unkind words towards them and hurt their feelings, it causes damage to the other person.
So they had to apologize to the paper for wadding it up, and I, (the voice of the paper) forgave them….:)

And then, I said, “But look! The paper is still all wrinkly, even though it has forgiven you!  And this is why we must be VERY Careful with our words… Somebody will forgive, but the scars and wounds of unkindness can linger in our hearts for the rest of our lives!

And as soon as the object lesson was over…. one little girl went over to Sweetie 2 and said very sincerely, ” I’m really sorry! Will you forgive me?”  And she did. 🙂

Issues With the Older Adopted Child

Issues With The Older Adopted Child

(originally written in October 2011)

There is much going on in the news about adoption, about older adopted children, about the possibilities of RAD, (Reactive Attachment Disorder) PTSD ,(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and FAS. (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) The questions have been asked, if  those children can have successful adoptions.

I would like to explain what I  believe happens to children when they have abuse and neglect or alcohol exposure, and WHY I feel, “traditional” parenting, in these cases many times does not work, or why I believe it could cause delay in attachment and healing, and unnecessary hardship on all.

Because of trauma…. our children can be all over the age spectrum. They may be 11 in their body, but 3 emotionally.  When parenting them, you really have to understand if they are 3, that is where you parent them.  It is one of the hardest concepts to grasp, because you don’t WANT them to be 3. You want to reason with them like an 11 year old…
What we have found, is if you reach them where they are… those gaps will fill in and your child will no longer be fragmented.

In my own children’s cases, they all have vastly different backgrounds and experiences, the one thing that we have found that DOES work, is a consistent, unconditionally loving, stable, environment, where they were allowed to go through the grief process and heal.

Yes, our children grieved.  When they realized that their normal, all those years wasn’t really normal, they finally allowed themselves to grieve.  If we can see the different stages our kids go through clearly, we will recognize grief.

There is NO way to determine how a child will react to a new family. If that could be predicted, there would be a whole lot of “do it this way” books out there.
Instead, our children come home with a very heavy suitcase of emotional baggage…. (think piles of Christmas Lights all wadded up and needing untangling)  and no instruction manual.
I remember Sweetie 4 saying, “Every family says I am in a forever family.”….. So we dropped that phrase from our vocabulary.

Our children come,  having lived, apart from us in a totally separate life. They have celebrated holidays, or not, in other countries and with different traditions. They have good memories and bad memories.  And we, before we got them, were used to how WE did things….
They cried themselves to sleep more times than not, and quivered with fear at the thought of being harmed in the middle of the night.
Sometimes they were tied down in their beds, and nobody came when they cried. So they stopped crying.
They learned very quickly that nobody will look out for them, and if they want food, they better get all they can, because it is scarce and nobody cares that you are hungry.
They learned that other kids are wanting the same things you do, and if you don’t get it first, you may never get it, because there isn’t any rule about fair.
They learned that it doesn’t matter what you wear, because it isn’t yours anyway.
They learned that there is something called a Mama and a Papa, and everybody wants one, but they don’t really know what they are, really.
They learned that caretakers can be indifferent, sometimes downright mean, and sometimes nice. You never know what your are going to get.
They learned that some children leave with Mama’s and Papa’s and they cry because they miss them.
The caretakers tell them that they are the lucky ones, because the one that left will be killed and sold for body parts, so don’t cry.
This is just a FRACTION of what they know when they come home.

Their world is very different from what most people experience  growing up. They don’t know baseball, football, restaurants, church services, zoos, parks, beaches, and birthday celebrations.
They don’t understand all the food. They don’t get that the bed will be there for them tomorrow too, and they don’t have to fight for a blanket anymore.
They don’t get that mom and dad will love them…. forever.
They get a little freaked out by all the attention and pull away. It is so foreign.  It takes a long time to unravel the world of the orphan.
SLOWLY…. layer by layer, emerges a new understanding, and a new dawning, that is both comforting to them, and painful at the same time.
It is comforting for a fleeting moment when they dare to trust, just a smidge… and painful when they realize just a taste of what they missed their whole life.

They hoard food. ( some call it stealing)  I don’t believe a child can STEAL food…. food is for the needs of the family members and if they need food…. they NEED it, so FEED them.
(Sweetie 4 has gained 10 lbs and 2 1/2 inches in 7 months and eats non stop. 🙂 She is still very thin)

Sometimes they become collectors of the most interesting things….. when you find it… don’t accuse, take notice, “Oh, I was looking for those nail clippers,  or, the flashlight is best kept in the kitchen drawer so we can remember where it is.  Would you like your own flash light? Simply ask them to put the item away or remind them where it belongs… whatever it is. 🙂  This may be a process that takes awhile to recover from.
They may lash out at a sibling out of a lack of understanding that love is not scarce or limited but flows freely for all. LOVE THEM. And love the child lashed out upon. Encourage them to be part of the team.  We didn’t adopt the girls until the boys were older. With the girls, they are very close in age.  We didn’t adopt in birth order, but close enough. Alli is the youngest by 7 months.

When you need to instruct them, sometimes it won’t be received…. those are rocking chair times. 🙂
(What do you mean I need a bath? I only took one once a week in Russia!)
Sometimes you just have to repeat, repeat, repeat,repeat…. “Yes, we take a bath every night. Remember? We talked about this?”  If they have possible FAE, they won’t remember. We have to be patient until it becomes habit. 🙂 Try reading a story to them while they are in the bath… or sing to them… Make up all sorts of silly songs for all sorts of things including cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.

As they begin to come to an understanding, they start to test the waters abit….. “So you love me? PROVE IT!  Nobody else has ever loved me…”
And the testing begins.
Some see this as the “End of the Honeymoon Period”.

I choose to see it as the beginning of REAL healing.  When a child feels they are finally safe…. that is sometimes when they can really grieve.

This is also the period of time where  a parent can lose control IF they do not  understand what is going on. The child tries to bring the parent into THEIR norm of control and chaos, because THAT is where they are comfortable.  The PARENT MUST RESIST this, and carefully, like a surgeon of the heart, bring the child into the world of peace and a new reality of belonging, of being cherished and  of being LOVED.
It is a very humbling experience to be the parent of a child who is so needy, but doesn’t believe they have a need. It is heartbreaking to  truly love a child who has never had the experience of being loved.
It is very challenging to try to guide a child  who thinks they don’t need guidance. 🙂

I think sometimes we try to rush things, or  we think they SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW, (whatever it is) and we get impatient just doing life… And when we do, it backfires.  The unconditional love, suddenly has a condition and the child picks up on that like a strong radar signal going off.   And the wall goes up, and that is when the negative cycle can begin…. and some, unfortunately never get out of it.
It turns into a button pushing fest for both parent and child…. and it will require that WE AS PARENTS stop it!   And I mean stop the cycle in a loving wave of acceptance and comfort. When they think they don’t need it, we are there anyway. When they reject us, we are there anyway. When they hurl insults out of deep pain, we  are there anyway…. and we wrap our loving arms around them and keep them safe. And if we have children already in our home, we include them in the process teaching them also, to put themselves aside , and love unconditionally.   You become a team, a wave if you will, of love.

And then….. out of the ashes… a little bud of hope appears.  It starts to grow, and as you tend to that little bud, sometimes it will try to retreat and hide…. the sun is just too bright…. and the new world is just too scary.  One of the reasons it is so scary is because of a fear they just might lose it. They might lose  what they are beginning to love.
And so, when that happens, sometimes they try to make the inevitable (in their minds) happen. They try to make the process of rejection get sped up, because the anticipation hurts too much.
Unfortunately, THIS is the time, when many people throw in the towel.  They have given all they feel they can give.  They do not understand why the things that work on most kids isn’t working on theirs.

They think, if I get a little harder, or punish a little more, that will make them understand…. when in reality, what they are dealing with is fear and  grief.  You cannot punish fear and  grief out of a person. You have to comfort and reassure and slowly guide them out to safety, in the process teaching them right from wrong, respect vs. disrespect, responsibility and how to love.  Loving instruction with unconditional acceptance…. goes a long way.
When you gain your child’s trust….  (trust cannot be forced) and they know they are in their home to stay…. that is when real learning takes place.

Is it a TALL order??  Ummm… Yes it is.  But it is so worth it. EVERY minute of it. Because in the process, not only your child grows, but you grow to in ways you never imagined. 🙂  The Lord leads and guides us along the way, and we find that our prayer life is MUCH improved! 🙂  We come to a deeper understanding of what GOD has done for us, through HIS sacrifice for us.
And we get to see our children turn into healthy, happy, productive kids that are no longer looking back, but looking forward to a newness of life that they never understood they could have.  And when we mess up…. an “I’m sorry can go a really long way!” 🙂

Tonight, Sweetie 4 spent a good amount of time in the shoppe with her dad. She was having so much fun out there she wanted to stay longer. 🙂   She also has kitchen duty this week.  Since she was having such a good time, I decided I’d go ahead and do the dishes.  I had just started when she came in. I was very pleased that she said, “Mom, that’s my job, I’ll take care of it!”….. So I was the helper and we did them  together. 🙂  7 months ago, this would not have happened.

(Since Sweetie 4 came home 2 and a half years ago, she has gained 40 lbs and 8 and a half inches.)

Issues With the Older Adopted Child part 2


Issues With The Older Adopted Child part 2

(written November 2011)

I wrote a post on issues that older adopted children face here.
In this post, I would like to discuss issues of insecurities a child faces when they come into an already existing, functioning family.
Many of the older children who come home, come home to a family that already has , or has had, other children.
Older children have many insecurities. They are insecure about being loved and cherished. Many times they will challenge parents love. They are so convinced that THEY are unlovable or undeserving of love, they will set out to prove it!
They see the love being given to the other children as a threat to their existence. They also perceive that they cannot be loved in the same way.

Adoptive parents need to be prepared way beyond the typical “what would you do if your child…. (fill in the blank)…. and be ready for some REAL soul searching.

Our children come with GREAT LOSS and may feel that they have NOTHING more they can lose, so why bother! Why bother attaching to somebody who is going to reject me?  Why bother trying, when it won’t be good enough?  They feel they will never measure up to siblings that have already secured their parents affections.  They do not understand the concept of love that is big enough to cover all, especially Love  that is big enough to cover them!

As adoptive parents we MUST, MUST, MUST, understand that our children are HURT. ALL CHILDREN who come through the door of adoption have faced GREAT LOSS at some point. It is the opposite side of the adoption coin.  Adoption/Loss.
Whether they remember it or not does not really matter. It is REAL, and it is RAW.  All the material things in the world, will not fill in the void and pain of rejection.

We need to be VERY CAREFUL that we parent our children with the same tenderness and gentleness, yet parent them according to each individual need. It can be exhausting, but it is NECESSARY.

There are those who believe that a child with RAD has no feelings or conscience. I disagree.
They have deep feelings and conscience. They are buried deep within the weight of rejection and pain, neatly protected by a wall of indifference so that nobody can shatter the already shattered heart again.

It is our DUTY and JOB as a parent who brings a child home, to do everything possible to get to the shattered pieces of the heart and put them back together and help our children heal. I am not talking about shipping them off to counseling, in order for them to be “fixed”.  I am talking about US LOVING THEM.  If WE need to get counseling to get ourselves together, go for it. If we need the help of a counselor in a combined effort that WE are INVOLVED IN, find one.  BUT WE SHOULD NOT USE THE COUNSELOR TO DO THE JOB WE SHOULD DO!

Children who have no understanding of family or any concept of authority or structure will not understand consequences or punishment. It will only make them angry and cause them to dig their heels in and pit one will against the other, better known as a “power struggle”. And power struggles lead to nowhere.  Engaging in them causes growth to CEASE!

No, they must be reached in a very different way.  They must be reached through unconditional love that shows curiosity into their lives. It shows empathy and understanding, AT the SAME TIME, offering a guiding,  gentle light out of the dark tunnel. Not TOO BRIGHT all at one time, or they can’t adjust and will reel back and head for cover.  It has to be slow and steady and gentle and non threatening.

When they begin to see that their behaviors are not going to earn them a ticket back to where they came from…. when they begin to see that mom and dad love them without condition, when they begin to see that they too are cherished, because we SPEAK IT INTO THEM….. they will slowly and steadily begin to respond.

Our words are so important.  If we speak words of encouragement and affirmation, they will rise to the words spoken over them.
If you tell a child they are a liar, they will be a liar.
If you tell a child, I know you are honest inside! They will become honest.
If you tell a child they are rebellious. They will be rebellious.
If you tell a child you know they can be sweet, kind and obedient. They will become sweet, kind and obedient.

I remember telling Sweetie 4 several months ago, ” I know that you are capable of great love. I can see it in you. I know that you can tell the truth, you WANT to be honest! You are just too scared to try it!”
After hearing this over and over, she BECAME those things.

She would say, “I know you don’t believe me!” And we would reply…. “We WANT TO! You have to tell the truth! So the truth is”…. and then she would speak it. 🙂
She has been such a sweetie and has learned so much and come so far, it just makes me teary. I just love this little girl so much.
(all of my girls, actually)

She was called a Liar! She was called violent! She was called hateful!
But She IS: Honest, gentle and loving!   She really TRULY is…..She is NOT what others said she was.  She was HURT.  Now, she is HEALING!

When our social worker visited today, we were able to share where Sweetie 4 started and where she is today. It is nothing short of a true, modern day miracle.

I praise the Lord for her. I praise the Lord that she has been TRANSFORMED before our eyes.
And I praise the Lord that our girls have a deep love for each other and for us.
Our little Sweetie 4 has changed…. from the INSIDE OUT she has been transformed.  I am thrilled to be a part of her healing and to see her grow into the beautiful young lady God has been preparing her to become.

And in 2013, she can continued on her healing journey.  We are so honored to be her parents and to be a part of her healing.

What Success Really Looks Like

What Success Really Looks Like
(originally written in Jan 2012)

 This can apply to most anything: Careers, Marriages,Educational pursuits… but it really made me think about “Older Child Adoption” and what a comlexity it is to raise our children. 🙂  I often say, 3 steps forward 2 steps back.  This line is much more accurate. LOL

This is what it looks like to raise a child who is all over the place in emotional maturity, intellect, physical ability and sensory issues.  It is what it is like to try and understand what emotional level a child can be at, in any given moment. 🙂  It is what it is like to raise a child who has had trauma.
Complicated?  Oh Yea!  The neat thing though, is that we grow ourselves! We change ourselves, if we are brave enough to see that WE NEED TO CHANGE TOO!
There is HUGE blessing in  raising children, and HUGE blessing in raising children who have been thoroughly touched by trauma.  The big fat squiggly line part, is where many people feel they cannot go on, and disruption occurs.  Keeping one’s eye on the end of that arrow, can help those struggling to see that it WILL get better.  Trauma blindsides us sometimes.  We think we are headed straight and then, we go through a roller coaster.  But coming out the other side of that is MORE HEALING; deep healing that can only be had through the struggle.
So look at the end of the arrow! It is still headed to  success!  Which means something different for each individual family.  But happy, healthy, thriving adults in the future, who are secure and compassionate, forgiving and forgiven, trusting, full of grace and mercy, and striving to reach a newer personal goal, is what I have in mind. 🙂
Wishing everybody a TRULY Happy and Healing New Year! 🙂

Control and Insecurity

When a child is trying to take control of things, it is most likely that they are feeling quite out of control inside.
We had a scenario play out in our family over the last couple of days that I’d like to share.
Sweetie #4, was wanting to get new shorts for her exercise class.
We agreed another pair of comfortable shorts would be a good idea, but we also didn’t want those shorts to be too short!
We looked over a couple of days and didn’t really find anything.
Sweetie 4 was asking again about shorts, but seemed a lot more “vigilant” about it.
When we got to the store, it was not enjoyable. She was anxiously walking ahead of us, instead of staying with us. She was back to asking for things. Everything she saw; chocolate, candy, clothing, snacks and more, were met with, “Oh mama! Can we get these or this?”
It seemed out of the ordinary as she hadn’t done that in 2 years!  I knew something else was going on in her heart.

When we finally got around to looking at shorts, she became dysregulated, as we looked because there weren’t any shorts she could wear to P.E. that she liked that were also worthy of wearing.
Why do girls’ shorts have to be so stinking short???

So, I gently said, “We’ll look at another store later.”
This got her even more dysregulated and she even suggested we go back to a different store and get a pair of pants that she claimed 30 minutes before she didn’t like!

Then I KNEW something was wrong.

By the time we got home, she was upset and really didn’t seem to know why.
We went in my room to talk and the tears started to flow.  “Mama, I don’t think you want to get anything for me.”

“Why do you think that?  Didn’t we get a couple of things for you?”
“Yes, but we didn’t get the shorts I want.”

It was at that time that I wanted to address the real issue.
“Sweetie, do mom and dad provide for all of your needs?”
“Have you gone without food ever?”
“Have you had to be cold because you had no covers or a coat?”
“Have you had to go naked because you didn’t have clothing to wear?”
Her answers were, “No mom.”
“Then, do you trust mom and dad, that we can provide what you need at the right time?”
“Can you trust us to make sure you get the proper shorts?”

“Yes mom.”

And then, some things came flooding out.  She was worried about being cared for.
You see, when a child has experienced great neglect as she has, sometimes the urge to “control” comes out and they start making sure things are going to be ok.  They are no longer resting in our safe and secure love, but taking the reigns to make sure things are provided.
In doing that, they get scared, and feel upset, because it isn’t what things are supposed to be like.  Having that control is not fun.  It puts them back in a place where they HAD to  make hard choices.
During our talk, I simply took control back. 🙂
“How about if you let mama and daddy provide for your needs. You can rest and not worry any more.”
“You need to let yourself be a kid again.  OK?”

“Ok mom.” 🙂

“Now let me see your beautiful eyes.  There’s my girl! Glad to have you back!”
And then there was a peaceful smile. 🙂


I have added several posts today from my personal blog. I am in 2009 right now.
There will be several more added over the next weeks.
I so appreciate anybody who stops by and reads!
Feel free to drop a comment! 🙂



This post was originally written in  August 2009

Somebody asked the question is Grace Based Parenting  compatible with Christianity, as in, if it taught a “false doctrine”, how could you use it with your children?

I have been studying this for a while, and I would really like to address that issue, as something has been made very clear to me in my study and I am quite excited about it.

Grace Based Parenting speaks often about unconditional love and forgiveness; not parenting from a fear base but a place of love. It is not consequence based, Logic based, or control based.
I was reading a book today having nothing to do with this, yet I found it had EVERYTHING to do with it. The Title of the Book was “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. In the book I was reading the chapter “Religion and the Gospel”. It began to cover the difference between “Phariseeism” vs. “Grace” and how one leads somebody to be accepted based upon performance, and by fear of punishment, where the other, is based upon acceptance because of love.

Let me explain:

Pharisees lives are driven by the despair of sin. They build their sense of worth on their moral and spiritual performance as a kind of “resume” to present before God and the World. The moral and spiritual standards of all religions are very high and Pharisees know how deep down they are not fully living up to those standards. The result is internal anxiety, insecurity , irritability caused great distress and from lack of measuring up. It shows itself in pride, fierce judgmentalism and even self righteousness and defensive criticism. It is based upon fear, of eternal judgment as the pharisee can never live up to a Holy God.

Phariseeism says, “I obey, therefore I am accepted by God”.

Grace however, just sounds too easy. Nice deal! I trust, and then I can do what I want. That however is NOT TRUE. Having experienced true grace causes a person to say,
“I am accepted, therefore I obey!” That obedience is based upon the unconditional love poured into us and onto us. The motivation is not from fear of punishment but it is motivated by love and joy. It is motivated by security.

In Christianity I would say, “I am a child of God”.
In our Family, I tell the girls, “You are a Minich!”

Grace and Mercy frees us from the bondage of expected performance, to make a life worth living and loving.
In Christianity, we are not accepted because of our performance, but because of a forgiving Savior.

In Grace Based Parenting, our children are loved unconditionally not based upon what they do or how they perform, but sacrificially loved, laying our lives down as living examples to show a light out of a very dark place. When our children respond to that, it is very much a parallel to what I have written above.

So let’s take our children who come to us for acceptance. When they have a warped view of our love for them, which is unconditional, or should be…. or if we give them conditions for accptance, which many times we do…. it can cause them to view themselves as not measuring up, never being good enough, and can lead to anxiety, depression, anger and acting out.

However, if we take our children’s behaviors in stride, and see them through they eyes of simple grace, extented to them with loving hearts, patiently showing them we love them unconditionally, not based upon what they do, but we love them JUST BECAUSE, and then accept them, JUST BECAUSE, the results are astounding!

It may take time for them to respond, as they do not initially trust. But when they DO TRUST, and I promise, they do…. the result is so delightful, the relationship, so delightful, and all of the barriers are broken down. You have relationship that you never dreamed. Your children come to you and seek you out, they love you, they care about what you think, they WANT to please you and it is an amazing experience.

I see it in my own life before my Lord… I do want to please the Lord, I do care to please him, not from fear but out of gratitude and love.

I see the girlies, and our boys too, in the very same way.

The relationship is free to blossom in love.

Glue Sticks Are For Gluing

Glue Sticks Are For Gluing

This post was written October 2010

I have heard more than a few times last year and this year, folks are using GLUE STICKS; the larger foot long kind;  you know the ones we get for our crafty glue guns??  They are using them to “spank” their children.

I’m sorry, but GLUE STICKS ARE FOR GLUING things. They are meant for fun family projects…. Not this!
So, I googled it….. and sure enough, just as I suspected once again…. there is a group of people on the internet recommending glue sticks be used as “a rod of correction”.

If you believe in spanking. Fine. This post isn’t about that. Spanking vs. not spanking will be an eternal debate in this country.   This post is about  common sense and not harming children.

WHAT IS GOING ON????    We are such a society of extremes.
I read several posts such as: “the liberal left who wants to keep you from any form of disciplining of your children”, and then,  “the extreme fundamentalist right who wants to beat their children for pleasure”……  Those are really near quotes from some of the wesites and blogs I went to.
Frankly, I think both of those extremes are emotionally charged statements that don’t solve anything and certainly don’t lead to somebody with an opposing view to soften their ideas.

(I won’t send you on a wild goose chase, just google for yourself, it will keep you up all night)
Keep in mind these names: Michael and Debi Pearl,  The Ezzos, Richard Fugate . There are others.
Their books have been around awhile.

I read Mike and Debi Pearl’s book a long time ago, when their name kept popping up, and when I kept hearing about how selfish babies are and how they need to be trained from newborn not to demand being fed, held, etc. ????? I’m serious,  I got totally freaked out.  The Ezzo’s are regurgitated Pearls in a nicer package, but the message is basically the same.

One of the problems with these people is they prey on insecurity, guilt and fear. They tell you if you don’t do things THEIR way, which is OF COURSE, God’s way, then your kids will grow up to be unrepentant  ax murderers and it will all be your fault!  That is a basic synopsis.  In fact, I did a book review one time and was shocked at the venom, just because I dared to disagree with a certain book.
Of course, my soul’s eternal state was in question, all because I didn’t agree with the person’s book!

People Please!  “Train Up Your Child in the way He should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” IS NOT an etched in stone command that guarantees your child’s sure salvation.  No man comes to the Lord unless the SPIRIT draws.
If you are going to take that Proverbs passage literally, then you will have to take the entire poetic book literally and make it all fit into a neat little theological box…..It won’t, because it wasn’t meant to be literal.  The word used for “in the way he should go”, is talking about a child’s strength or “bent”…… meaning….. if he is great at carpentry, teach him the skills, and when he is old, he won’t depart from being a carpenter, or a plummer, or a musician or a seamstress….. fill in the blank!  But it is just an observation.

After 30 plus years of hearing this type of stuff…… ENOUGH! I am sad to see young parents drawn into the same illegetimate garbage of the day. I am sad to see them saddled with guilt,burdens and fear, that if they don’t do things just like so and so, their child will not grow up to serve God.   IT IS NOT TRUE!  There is NO scripture that says this.

Scripture says CLEARLY, “He who does not DISCIPLINE his son, HATES his son!”  THIS IS A TRUE FACT….. but what is discipline? That is the million dollar question…. Sadly, for many, all it means is punishment, and punishment is NOT = to  discipline.




Originally Written in January 2009

Our Friday night tradition of Pizza and a movie continues, and then we all retreat to camp in mom and dad’s room for the night. It is usually a peaceful sleep, but last night was a little different. The sleeping arrangements were changed. This time Sweetie 3 slept on the cot at the end of our bed, Sweetie 1 took the chair and Sweetie 2 slept on blankets on the floor.
I was awoken to Sweetie 3 having one of those dreams; the kind that give me chills. She never remembers them. But they are of that deep,mournful cry; a panic, a sense of loss and loneliness that is so great it can’t be fathomed by those of us who have never experienced total aloneness.
And then, once again, I heard the cot start to squeak back and forth. When I got up to check on her she was in a deep sleep rocking back and forth and she had tightly wrapped her covers all around her like a straight jacket. I touched her gently and said, “Sweety, you are rocking”. She opened her eyes,smiled and then went to sleep again, this time without rocking. Then it started up again…..
When she woke this morning, she was rested and had no memory of her restless sleep.

I am so thankful that in God’s mercy, he allows us to not remember things in our conscious state; things so terrible and feelings so fearful that they are best left untouched.
When the right time comes, if God so chooses, she may remember more. She remembered a lot when she first came home, and the things she told us were shocking and upsetting.
She was in the dark a lot. There were other beds. She was tied, sometimes she ate and sometimes she didn’t. The covers were wrapped around her. She was left to lay. For four years she rocked before she made it to an orphanage. Much of what she told us, she has forgotten. Time has a way of helping us to forget.

But then there are those times when her memory is triggered and she does. The season of year, may be her trigger. Our 3 year anniversary is coming up soon. It is both joyful and sad. It triggers memories of belonging to a new family, but it also triggers memories of rejection, abandonment and loss.

That is the nature of adoption. It has 2 sides. Happiness in finding a forever home, but profound sadness because you were rejected by the very ones who gave you birth.
The circumstance doesn’t really matter. The rejection hurts just the same.

One thing we as adoptive parents can do for our children is to grieve with them. The compassion we show them when they feel that loss is so important. Their sadness does not reflect on their love for us, nor does it mean they don’t love us. It just means they have suffered great pain and need support to heal. It is our job and DUTY as parents to love them through these moments, being careful to not trivialize them by saying, “But you have a new home, you are here with a new mommy and daddy, your life is wonderful now!” Those things do not matter at that moment. What matters is that momentary memory of pain and rejection. Our reaction to that can make all the difference in the world towards their complete healing.

Our daughter is a happy, loving and caring child. It is our prayer that her past pain and experiences in life will be used by the Lord to mold and shape her into the vessel He has chosen for her to be, and that she would see His hand on her life.
I know she already does.


You Smell Like Ukraine!

originally written February 2008

This is what Sweetie 3 said to me this afternoon after I had put on some much needed Oil of Olay. The last time I used Oil of Olay, was in Ukraine! It is so funny how our brains remember smells, seasons, or how something felt…
Sweetie 2 did something very similar when I pulled out my flannel nightgown that I had not used since we were in Ukraine. She smelled it and it still had a faint scent from the laundry softener used there. She said, “Oh mama, this smells like Ukraine.” You know, she was right! I smelled it, and it put me right back into our little Apartment in Kharkiv.
But… these are pleasant memories. What if the memory of something we smell or feel, or a certain season evokes a bad memory and causes us pain.
Many times with our children who have had unspeakable torment in their young lives, this is exactly the case.

I remember hearing such a sweet song, actually so sweet that I have it on my blog to listen to. At one time, it wasn’t so sweet. I called 5 year old Sweetie 1 into our room to hear it and let her press the button. When the song started she got a huge look of fear on her face and said, “I know that song”. Then she started to cry and squirm and wanted it turned off NOW! WOW!  How could such an innocent song bring such torment to a child? I don’t know. But it did.
For the other girls there have been things that have caused them distressing memories.
Seasons for Sweetie 2, and darkness for Sweetie 3; a sense of being alone.

How do we get through the tangled mess of distorted memories, tormented pasts, and seasons, songs, smells, or familiar looking people?

I don’t think we can without the help of the Lord. He is our shelter and our peace, a comfort to us in a time of trouble. If we teach them to run to the Cross when they are frightened, to turn to the Lord for help, to run to mom and dad who will comfort and pray with them when they need stability then these “giants” of our past don’t seem to be so big.

Thankfully today, our Sweetie 1 can listen to that cute little song and she now likes it.
Sweetie 2 isn’t as tormented by the season which upset her so much. Sweetie 3 isn’t as
afraid of the dark as she used to be. (still working on it)

Thanks be to the Lord who comforts us and takes away all our fears.

All About Losing

All About Losing

written: Feb 2008

I have been thinking about the issue of loss and losing . We are almost 2 years down the Road with Sweetie 3, and 3 with Sweetie 2,  and 4 with Sweetie 1. Yet, the issue of loss is always there. YES there are gains, but there are also losses. Every birthday, they are reminded that they lost a birth mother. Every Christmas, they are reminded that there are people out there probably celebrating Christmas without them.
The issues aren’t necessarily on the “front burner” of their minds or even mine, we love birthdays and Christmas, but they are there.

I was thinking about what our children “lose” when they become our children. They lose EVERYTHING. Even their underwear. They take NOTHING with them. Then, those little fragile lives are placed into the hands of complete strangers and they get on a train, then a plane, then in a car, and these are traumatic experiences for them. They go off into the unfamiliar, the unknown,  armed many times with misinformation like, “Your new parents will beat you or sell you for your body parts.
So not only are they stripped of their dignity, they are armed with fear.

These experiences are so related to our spiritual walk.

Aren’t we ALL sick, and naked and fearful and imprisoned and many times don’t know it? And here comes our Lord in to rescue us from the pits of despair, and many times because of misinformation, we respond in fear, and we follow kicking and screaming into LIFE because we don’t know what it is like to really be alive, we are so used to the familiar.
And just like the orphaned child, grieves his loss and is then able to embrace his gain; we realize, WOW! We have a REAL LIFE I can really trust my Lord. I WANT to hold His hand. I WANT to sit at His feet. I Want Him to love me. I am FULL of Joy unspeakable. This is real LIFE. It is incomprehensible that we would have wanted to stay in our sin.

Our losses become GAIN. It’s the process that hurts. But on the other side, we become thankful for the breaking process we go through, as it helps us to understand the joy.

As adoptive parents, it is our ministry to our children to guide them, to lead them to life and to love them through the process, eventually introducing them to yet another hand to Hold. That of our Heavenly Father. What they will come to realize is that He was holding their hand the whole time.



(originally written January 2008)

I have been thinking over and over how the last 30 years have changed our lives. Raising 4 boys, to Empty nesters, to raising 3 little girls. They didn’t come the usual way, or maybe they did?
(kicking and screaming) Just larger. 🙂

I always say, we got our girls “potty trained and talking back”. 🙂

There is much to be said about being parents on how to “change” or “tame” the wild beast of a child. But little is said about what really needs to happen and how God in his infinite wisdom, KNEW, that while we THINK we are teaching them, they are really teaching us.

They are teaching us how to use self control, they teach us how to ask nicely, they teach us how to love unconditionally, they teach us that we really don’t have it all together, even if there is 1 child or 10 children.

The most important thing they teach us is to be on our knees in prayer for them and for ourselves, asking for wisdom from above, as the responsibility is huge and time is not slowing down.

Many years ago, I would read all about “this is what you do to make your child mind”.
I didn’t like the books I read, and tossed them for the scripture itself. I found the answers to my deepest concerns, and wisdom for my older children. Much change took place in my life in regards to parenting.

Now,I am more comfortable as I look inwardly and ask myself, “if my child is not obeying like I would like to see, with the right ATTITUDE, what have I been doing to come along side, guide her to the next step and help her to see what she should be doing? Am I being the example I should be? Or.. am I modeling what I am seeing in her?

This type of parenting has opened up a whole world of exploration and experience that is freeing and wonderful. Seeing the responses of those little girls, those eyes that look at you so lovingly and trusting, the pleasure of obedience. And…. it isn’t law oriented, it is love oriented, it isn’t law driven, it is love driven.
And it is a journey in life that we walk together. Mike and I as the teachers, and authorities in their lives, but always seeing that we too are being taught and under the authority of Christ. Oh my, how that perspective changes you, humbles you, brings you closer in your walk with the Lord…..

Are things perfect? No. Because WE are not perfect. But there is such joy in the journey.

An Important Message

An Important Message

(originally written July 2010)

I usually don’t read psychology today. In fact, I have never read it. 🙂 But today, a fellow adoptive mother sent an article that is VERY MUCH WORTH READING!

The title of the article is “Kidnapped or Saved” How some children feel about being adopted.

It was written after Justin was sent back to Russia by his adoptive mother. The person who wrote the article adopted her own daughter 4 years ago. She decided to ask her daughter, who struggled for a while when she came home, about her thoughts on the subject. It is the first article I have read from the adoptive child’s perspective.

I was very pleased to see that she also covered what our children are often told before they come home. Our own daughter was told that we were going to kill her. We were going to sell her body parts. It terrified her. I was so glad that the information came out during our 10 day wait and that with our translator we put her fears to rest. But what about the child who is told this and internalizes it? Our children, being used to bearing their own burdens, many times do NOT share their deepest fears but try to handle them on their own. 🙁

I was especially interested too in the feelings this little girl had regarding the language barrier. She was terrified that she could not think in Russian OR English! Her parents didn’t know she was feeling this way because she was unable to tell them. So things came out in rage.

So many children go through very tough times and they need US, as Parents to step up to the plate and be prepared!
Please read this article. It is a very good reminder for all of us to remember to think outside the box a little bit.

Child Abuse and Adoption

Child Abuse and Adoption

(originally written Feb. 2011)

I was sickened and horrified to read about yet another child abuse/murder case of an adopted child/children.  It is just too much…..

We are all capable of much sin, I know this…… and I also know there are stresses out there with parenting that can bring you to the brink…… but honestly, it SEEMS that abuse is just over the top and out of control!  I don’t know if it is just that there is more reporting of it, but what I came across today really disturbed me to my core.

I was reading about the recent case in Florida where the children were tied up regularly. The twins were adopted, and the family had numerous issues with CPS.  But it all came to an end, with a child dead and another clinging to life with severe burns.  I wanted to find a local update from Florida so I googled adopted children abused… and came across this. The case of Cassandra Killpack, a 4 year old girl, adopted… not sure where from…..but murdered at the hands of her parents.  The first article I read was about how the mom wanted out of prison so she could raise her biological children. They missed her.  There was much blame placed upon her 4 year old who was said to have RAD.  This family was from Utah and went to therapy at a Utah clinic in Orem.  They claimed that they were told to do what they did. The clinic denied it.
However, I wonder……
Frankly, I have read some things that I find downright dangerous and abusive….. placed into the hands of a stressed out mother, I could easily see how things could spiral out of control….. it is the human factor.
I don’t know why it is harder to do something out of a place of love and control than anger and hostility….. but it seems to be, even though the results of kindness and self control go FAR with a child who has RAD.
Why oh WHY would a RAD child WANT to attach to a scary, angry person?
There is the recent case of the angry mother who gave her child cold showers and hot sauce, there is the awful case of the little girls from Liberia who were both systematically BEATEN with plumbers pipeline until one of them died and the other was in critical condition….. and the list goes ON…..and ON!
What is sad, is the kids are being blamed.
THAT, I DO NOT get.  I DO get that children can have very difficult behaviors. I DO get that it can cause a parent to be frazzled….. but I DO NOT get, how you can come to the conclusion that extreme punishments, exercises, holding positions, forced rages, forcing a child to ask for each and every direction, including if they can have a sip of water or go to the bathroom…… etc. etc. all done in the name of “THERAPY” have EVER made it out of a person’s mind, into a book or article and somehow became “professional therapy”….. Where did these people go to school? Auschwitz?

I feel sad for people who have been caught up into these types of child torture, only to find their children harder to reach and further down the path of destruction, because now they can’t even trust the one who claims to love them.

There are MANY great resources available for parents who are struggling…. but honestly….. as parents, we need to take responsibility for our OWN actions, our OWN control issues, our OWN temper fits….. and stop blaming our children.

It does not mean anything is easy.. ….. but GREAT things come from GREAT struggle, IF you are struggling in the right direction TOGETHER on the SAME TEAM…..

If you are caught up into some “therapies” that do not feel right, or you are not having success;
or, if you are parenting, not necessarily seeking help, and you are finding yourself frustrated and things are not working…. ask yourself, “How long do I do the same thing and expect a different result?”  1 year, 2 years?  “If what I am doing isn’t working, WHY am I still doing it?”

If my children have figured out how to press my buttons, why do I have my buttons exposed?
What do I need to deal with before I can help my own children?
It does seem sort of silly to try to help a child not have temper tantrums, when the adults in his/her life are throwing fits themselves.

We are the ADULTS…. WE  ARE responsible!  TAKE CONTROL! Be Empowered and Energized!

And if you are thinking about adopting, EDUCATE yourself……do your homework, research and investigate…. and PRAY.  Sometimes Life can throw us some real curve balls…. sometimes life is hard for a season….. but keep it in perspective. Our children come to us broken and hurt….they didn’t get that way overnight and they will not heal overnight.  It is a process…. a LONG process.

Excellent resources:
Scripture: all about love, all about self control, all about relationship……
Heather Forbes – Dare to Love, Beyond Consequences Logic and Control volumes 1 and 2
Karyn Purvis- The Connected Child,  and her website.
Clay and Sally Clarkson- Heartfelt Discipline
and Sally’s Blog  is full of wonderful advice for moms.


Role Play

role play
We had a huge weekend that began last Thursday when we left to go to the Russian Embassy to get Sweetie 4’s passport.
Of course, on Wednesday night, she was scared to go and declared that she was NOT going to go! And we could not force her!  We comforted her in her fear, and then asked
“What snacks do you want for the trip? Let’s all get to bed so we can get packed and ready to go.  You will be safe.  Love you!  Night!”  And she went off to sleep.

Just as expected, in the a.m. she was fine, and we all headed out on our journey.
It was joyous to get that passport into our hands!  She no longer has to go to that embassy unless she wants to! 🙂

So, fast forward to Sunday evening.
Sweetie 4 was a little dysregulated and while Daddy was trying to explain something, she walked away in frustration.
The first thing he did was to try to reconnect with her.  To our surprise, she actually came back in a few seconds and said she was sorry for walking away!
He asked her if there was anything she needed, to which she replied, “Not really.”

He then was going to discuss what precipitated the walking away.  She wasn’t getting it, so it was decided that they could do role play!  ( choosing a different tool! )
She got to be daddy and daddy got to be her!  Not only did she engage (connect)
She really got into it with a smile!  And so did daddy!
Then, they ROLE PLAYED how things could have gone differently!
They came up with a few ways things could have been done…

And she learned!
They then tried a “redo”….. and it went beautifully!

We decided to watch a movie to wind down and guess who requested to snuggle with Daddy during the movie?
Yep, Sweetie #4. 🙂

Empowered To Connect

We just spent the day at the “Empowered To Connect” conference.  It is Awesome!!!!!!!
If you have the chance to attend, it is soooo worth it!

September 16th update:
We got home late Saturday night after spending the weekend at the Empowered to Connect conference.  If you have not heard Karyn Purvis speak, you MUST!
Please consider attending a conference, even if it is out of state.  The cost of the conference is minimal, and there are good deals on flights. It would be cheaper than a sign up therapy session…. and most likely, MUCH MORE HELPFUL!

One of the lessons that really stuck out to me was about what their FOCUS is.
She drew a triangle upside down, and one right side up.
She wrote in one:
Connecting Principles

Empowering Principles

Correcting Principles

Draw the triangle….  The wider part of the triangle should be on CONNECTING principles…….NOT Correcting.  If you are going to therapy where the focus is on fixing the child, or focuses on “correcting”…. find somebody else.

The focus should be on CONNECTING in order to change a child’s belief about who they are.
A child who is full of shame, needs to change their belief system.  When you connect with them, the behaviors begin to change.
We have found this to be true in our own family.

Work hard to focus on relationship and connect.



I refuse to call “Disruption” Rehoming.
I have been asked to write a post on this because of the breaking news series from Reuters and NBC that came out this week.  You can see it here.
Before you read this post… Please read and watch the links.

So here goes:

We were introduced to Adoption Dissolution/Disruption in 2004.  Our Sweetie 2 was brought home from Ukraine by a different family in 2003.
Apparently, even when in Ukraine, the potential mother did not want her.
They brought her home anyway.  And I am GLAD they did.

I know that sounds odd.  I am not happy about what happened under their roof.
It was pretty horrific.  But I am so glad they brought her home, because that is how we were introduced into the world of International Adoption, and  Adoption through disruption.

Our Sweetie 1 was begging for a sister and praying for a sister.  We had told her, “If God drops a sister in your lap, you’ll get a sister. But we are NOT sister shopping! 🙂

About 6 months after she started praying, an email showed up about a little girl who needed a home. Our social worker, who handled our first adoption’s name was at the top of that email.
She was from Ukraine, and it mentioned several physical issues our sweetie had.
“Missing leg. Missing fingers”, “Clubbed foot”…. and more.

There were even pictures sent that displayed her disabilities.
I was so saddened by those pictures, because all I saw was a precious, sweet little girl with a BEAUTIFUL smile!
We emailed our social worker and she called us…. “I already had you in mind!”
FIVE days later…. our sweetie 2 was in our home.
Her Original Agency was involved. They spoke with us, and our social worker was involved too. But the adoptive family had to make that final decision.

That decision resulted in us referring to Sweetie 2 and “Our Happy Meal Prize”.
We actually picked her up at a McDonald’s …..Sweetie 1 and 2 actually made friends in the play land and were quite excited to find out they were going to be sisters.
ZERO tears were shed when she came home. That sort of worried me.
3 days later, the family asked to come and visit one more time.
When Sweetie 2 found out they were coming, she broke into huge sobs….
“PLEASE DON’T LET THEM TAKE ME BACK!”  (this was from a 5 year old!)And she peed herself. 🙁
We found out more, over the years, what her life was like in her first home. 🙁
Our sweetie 2 did REALLY well in our home. We have never had a problem with her.
We only had to help her overcome her fears and past abuse and neglect.
But…. BECAUSE she came into our home, she told us about the VERY BEST FRIEND she left in Ukraine.  This resulted in a series of events that caused us to go to Ukraine and get her best friend. 🙂
They are now precious sisters, forever united. 🙂
So Sweeties 1,2 and 3 were together for 5 years….. and then…….

Fast forward to 2 1/2 years ago.

We received a phone call about a little girl who needed a home.  An agency that our social worker did home studies for was looking for a permanent home for a little girl who had been disrupted.  It was more complicated than that though.
She was from Russia and the original family had allowed her to leave with a family that was not approved.
For nearly 5 months the agency tried to get her from that home. It was an awful situation.
We were waiting as they worked through legal channels to rescue her.
The 2nd family, was threatening to leave her or abandon her.  It was AWFUL to read the emails, and we felt helpless.
We figured the situation was hopeless and were even told, it wouldn’t happen.
But our Sweetie 1 had prayed and said she was SURE it would work.

A few months passed and we got a call.  “Remember that little girl we were talking about?”
Yes. (how could I forget)

“Are you still inetersted?”

You need to be in North Carolina TOMORROW!

I froze.  I couldn’t think.  We knew the situation would be hard.
But we also felt it was RIGHT. EVERYBODY was in agreement!
Our homestudy was updated, we went to the doctor, got all the documents needed, back ground checks redone, and I headed to NC on a plane.

I was shaking when I got there, not knowing what to expect.
I rented a car and headed to the attorney’s office.  When I turned on the radio, the song playing was “It Is Well! With my Soul!”
I knew instantly things would be ok.
The attorney and I drove quite a ways to meet this family that was giving our sweetie back.
We asked them to join us for dinner, but they refused.
Sweetie 4 is our “Walmart” girl. 🙁
They chunked her luggage into my car and left her.
I introduced my self to her and told her “I’m here to keep you safe.”
Before they left, the woman said something odd. “Don’t forget to Do you stuff!”

I picked up on the oddity of that statement.

3 days later, Sweetie 4 told me what that meant.
Kick, hit, scream, bite, pinch, and generally act awful.
She said she didn’t want to, because I was nice.  🙁

We had to stay in NC for 2 weeks for proper ICPC paperwork to go through between NC and Texas.
Our adoption petition was filed before we left the state.
3 months later, the adoption was finalized!

Adoption Disruption happens.  Sometimes people are not equipped to take care of a child and thought they could.  Sometimes, the child’s behaviors are extreme and they are not prepared.
I hope and pray that this site helps parents to navigate through the transition phase of adoption to JOYFUL parenting and family life!

I believe that the series that I linked to above was poorly done.   It seemed to focus on a  predator and how easy it is for a child from adoption to become a victim.
It also seemed to use cases that were extreme, calling a child a pig, or saying they had big ears or learning disabilities.
I would say that one of our girls was given away because of her disabilities. 🙁  That hurts so much to say it, but it is TRUE….
The other family however, most likely had good intentions but our daughter was just too much for them and they could not handle her.

Adoption Education is of UTMOST importance to STOP disruptions.  People need to be willing to CHANGE how they see their kids!
They need to learn and educate themselves on HOW HARD it is for kids to come over from foreign countries and learn a new culture, language, and life.
They need to educate themselves on LOSS.
For every adoption, there had to be an abandonment or trauma!

If you are a potential adoptive parent, PLEASE KNOW that ALL children who are adopted, are SPECIAL NEEDS children.  Physical issues can be “fixed” to a degree…..that is what is referred to as “minor correctable issues”……. but the emotional scars from pure NEGLECT and ABUSE exist!  They are there for the MAJORITY of children brought home. PREPARE FOR THEM and if you are not willing to parent a child with special needs, please do not adopt.  Help somebody else adopt!

Adoption Disruption is like the “Wild West” of adoption.  There are no clear rules.
This needs to STOP!
Agencies must REQUIRE that people notify them if they are struggling or even remotely considering disrupting!
They also need to be involved in helping find a proper home for a child who is  sadly, unwanted, or for a family that is just overwhelmed and things are hopelessly broken.

Not all disruptions are the same.  There are reasons.
But Disruption should be a VERY LAST RESORT and ALWAYS in the VERY BEST INTEREST of the CHILD!

I am SO thankful for our beautiful sweeties who came to us in such an unusual way.
We love them both dearly!
And they are PRECIOUS girls. 🙂


The Tool Box

When our first Sweetie came home to us in 2003,  she had many puzzling behaviors.  We had taken several weeks of training that was very good!  We had started to read books  to help us understand how to parent her,  yet, there was much we needed to learn and much she needed to learn.
I always saw the books and training as my “tools” to help me parent her.
One day, as we were having a conversation, it dawned on me that she didn’t have tools herself! She needed tools to help her control her behaviors.

I took her out to our Auto Shoppe and showed her daddy’s tool box.  We looked at all the tools in his tool boxes and talked about what they were for.
She seemed to be really engaged in our conversation and excited to talk about the tools.

We then went into the house and I explained to her that she needed a tool box too!
But HER tool box was going to be “pretend”. She was delighted!
She liked to play pretend, having 2 imaginary friends, “Holly” and “Sister Nuthin'”. 🙂
So it wasn’t too big of a stretch for her to have a pretend tool box.

What we did was pretend that the tool box was in her head.  She would take her hand and unlock her “tool box” and open the fake lid.  Then, we put “tools” into it.

The first one was “The Self Control” tool.
Then we added a “speak softly” tool, and a “tell the truth” tool.
We added them as needed.
NOTICE they are all positive tools.  Not don’ts but do’s.
Instead of “stop lying” or “no lying”, it is “tell the truth”.
It was always a deal to unlock the tool box and put the tool in.

She loved it!

A typical scenario would go like this:
Sweetie would get dysregulated or telling an obvious lie, and I would say, “Let’s unlock our tool box and get our ‘tell the truth’ tool out!”
She’d would stop what she was doing and actually use the tool!  It was amazing! LOL

I had tools she gave me too!  She loved opening my tool box. 🙂

One day, we had had a particularly difficult morning doing school work.  She was just not willing and was playing a lot of games….
I finally told her, “Sweetie, you need to use your tools!”
Her reply was, “I can’t.  It’s locked and I cannot find the key!”

To which I replied….. “Well mine is locked too and somebody better find a key fast!”

We have used the tool box concept with all of our girls and it has graduated with age.
Sweetie 4 likes using the magic moustache where she presses on her upper lip, and deep breathing with mom.
She still responds very well to using tools.
I told one of my friends about the tool box method and she had her son make a real toolbox with real cards with the tools written out to choose from. 🙂
We never did that, but I can see how it could be fun and productive!

The best thing about the tool box is it distracts in a positive way and sort of recalibrates the brain to do something different!
So if you are stuck in a rut, get out the “change the scenery” tool! 🙂

It really works!

Angry Episodes and Impulse Control Issues

This post was written in June/13
One reader asked :

“How do you coach a child through an angry episode?”  And, “How do you deal with impulse control issues.”

For both of those…. “VERY CAREFULLY!”

When a child is angry and has impulse control issues, things can become quite volatile quickly! The best thing you can do is have a tool box ready for you and for your child that has ample tools to choose from!  The tool box has been the best thing we have ever used and we have been using it for nearly 10 years when our first daughter came home.

The key is teaching them to use tools when they are calm to prepare them for when they become dysregulated.

One of Sweetie 4’s  favorites is the “magic mustache”, and “deep breathing with mom”.  With the magic mustache, you press between your upper lip and nose and it has a calming effect on the brain.  Deep breathing can put you in rhythm together and gets extra oxygen to the brain to help a person calm down.

We had a bit of an interesting week over here with the perfect storm happening that I blogged about several days ago.  Things have calmed, but it was not an easy time for any of us.

Children from Trauma backgrounds can get stuck, or in a rut, and sometimes it is hard to help them out of that place.

If we don’t carefully differentiate between focusing on behavior, vs. helping a child through a crisis, it can be nearly impossible to help our children out of dysregulation.  It is easy to forget this. It is also costly. A child as well as a parent can get stuck in what is called, “A negative feedback loop”.  Negativity feeding off of itself will not bring about regulation, ever.

I learned a few things in the last 2 weeks, that I would like to share.

Communication problems become even more complex when a child is dysregulated.  If English is not a first language and communication seems ok when regulated, this will not be the case when they are dysregulated. All complex thinking goes out the window!  Even for children who are native English speakers, dysregulation causes a shut down when using words to communicate.

Last week, Sweetie 4 said,  “All I’m hearing is blah, blah, blah!”

While disrespectful, there was a message in there for me to pay attention to….

And I didn’t.

Instead, I focused on the disrespect, (which DOES need to be dealt with in the right time)  but I focused on it, using more words! Duh

I was focusing on the behavior and not the child.  This is the hardest concept of all, in my opinion to understand.  If we zero in on the behavior, we are looking at a “symptom” and not a “root”.

Our kids know that they have struggles.  They understand that they are out of line.  They really don’t need us to point that out to them.

Many times they are so filled with shame,  having somebody point out an obvious wrong, tips the already full, bucket over.

So the dysregulated child who already told me I was using too many words,  shut down!

It wasn’t until my sweet husband said, “You are talking too much.”  “Keep it simple.” He was right.

I was being kind, I was being gentle, and I was talking too much which was causing her more frustration. I was also focusing on a behavior and not what was behind the behavior.

I love it that my husband  and I can be a team together.  Sometimes he can point out the obvious that I don’t see, being in the moment all the time.

I needed a fresh perspective, and my dear husband was able to provide that for me.


I was reminded of the scene from Amadeus where the core conductor criticizes Mozart’s music saying it had “too many notes”.

For me, instead of “Too Many Notes”, it was “Too many words!” 🙂

Rubbing a person’s back and simply being present, is helpful. Waiting for a child to calm themselves and then just sitting with them can help them be calm faster.

There is always time to talk when you are not “in the moment”.


Our youngest daughter does have impulse control issues when she is dysregulated.  It takes time to work through them. She has been home just 2 years, but has made great strides in this area.

When I see her headed to dysregulation, getting her focused on art work seems to be the most calming for her, or just being present.   But being present does not necessarily mean holding or touching.  Just being in the same room.  I have learned to read her body language pretty well and can tell when she is ready to snuggle and when she isn’t.


I remember in training with Heather Forbes and  Eric Guy, they talked about a situation where a young man was being restrained by about 6 people in a psychiatric Unit.  Eric was there to see him.

He requested that everybody leave the room and allow him to try something different.

He went into a room where a young man was totally out of control, sat down, but didn’t make eye contact.  The young man stopped, came and sat down near him, and when Eric asked a simple question like, “How are you doing?”  The young man broke into tears and calmed down.

His point was, it doesn’t need to  take 5 people to tackle somebody and force them into compliance.

If a situation escalates into restraining or force, we have gotten off of the boat somewhere and are dealing with more than just the other person’s issue.   And this is something I have
had to learn the hard way.

Those words have resonated with me for the last 4 years since I took that training course.  I wish I would have remembered them last week! LOL

There is a lot of talk about “Mandela’s” right now.  I don’t have a clue why they are called “Mandelas”, but saw a picture of one, and found that the art books we have are very similar to those.   They are complicated designs that the girls enjoy coloring.

One book  I have is called “Images: The Ultimate Coloring Experience” by Roger Burrows.  We have several complicated coloring books, not meant for small children.  I really like Burrow’s book though.

I need to get more. 🙂

Just like us, our kids will never stop learning. And I find this to be very encouraging.  Oh how I wish trauma didn’t exist.  But it does, and it is real.  Those of us with children from hard places, live such different lives and realities from typical families.

I have been a mother in both situations, raising 4 boys and now 4 girls.

Trauma doesn’t just go away. It does color a person’s perception of reality.
But that also doesn’t mean it will control them the rest of their lives. They can heal.

Helping them understand ways to cope and move through the stress is a challenge, but so very rewarding when we see them succeed!

Gently, carefully, with great compassion and precision, like a surgeon of the heart, is the kind of parenting  our hurt kids need.

As the children grow and learn, trauma becomes less and less of a trigger, and life skills take over. It is the time in between that can be so hard on parents.

It is important to do our best to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of our children.

I am so thankful for all of the things we have learned through parenting our kids.    I am thankful that our sweetie is back to regulation and love.  She never ceases to amaze me. I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to do wonderful things when she grows up.



Understanding The Fear Factor

Understanding The Fear Factor

I wrote a few days ago about how Sweetie 4 felt safer in the orphanage and frightened in America when she first came home.
There are  valid questions as to why that would be!
How could a seemingly unsafe place without hope and without future seem safer than a loving home WITH a future?

 The village where her orphanage was located was beautiful.  There was a craft room that she loved.

Reactions of fear are all about perspective, the unknown, and change.

Some children transition from one culture to another or  one home to another quite smoothly, and  with minimal bumps.  They have a clear idea of what is “normal”.
Others however have very strong reactions to the change and it terrifies them.  Their “normal” is quite different from what it should be.  Their brains get wired at an early age to cling to chaos.
So when “normal” comes: a.k.a.- Loving parents, good intentioned parents, structure, etc.
The reaction can be quite strong.  There can be a STRONG fight or flight fear reaction that can come out in many different ways.
For some children, they shut down, become robotic, unconnected and lifeless.  For others, they become combative, angry, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, and more.


And yes, a child can long for the chaos left behind, even though they have a seemingly wonderful situation right in front of them. YES! They can be blind to new parents and promising lives, and be TERRIFIED!

As adoptive parents 2 out of 4 of our girls had this very reaction.  Even though we loved them and were loving to them, their first response was rejection and anger.
(Rejection and Anger are FEAR based responses)

This is the part that is hard for all of us as adoptive parents.  We cannot and MUST not take the reactions personally.
Even if a child is screaming “I hate you! or “I want to die!”    With limited English in the case of International Adoption, this might be the strongest language a child has to express their grief!

We must understand that they are reacting to the unknown with great fear . Their new normal is actually CHAOS to them!  And they will do anything and everything to recreate what they are used to.

When I wrote  that sweetie 4 had fond memories of her orphanage, I was serious. She really did. She also has fond, healthy memories of her earliest life with her bio parents.
We have worked HARD for her to talk about both…the good and the bad.
And the truth is, there is no experience that is all good, or all bad!

She has memories that are horrific….but she also has memories where she cooked with her mama, or went to visit a relative.  She has memories of playing under the house, and having a little friend; and memories of following her big brother around and going to the small store in their village.

I want her to cling to those memories and hold them in her heart.  The memories that landed her in an orphanage need to be remembered too, but only so she can forgive and learn what NOT to do!

The same goes for any other home she was in.  There are good and bad memories.
We have encouraged her to keep the good ones and be thankful for them.  Let the bad ones go, forgiving others and forgiving herself.

The trick in taking a child from chaos (fear) to regular life (a place of love and regulation) is in our reactions to their fear.
I say this, and it sounds so simple.  The concept IS simple.  The task of carrying it out is not so simple. 🙂
That is just true.
It can be VERY HARD!
Because it requires us to die to ourselves.  It requires us to put our own feelings aside over, and over and over…..
A perfectly great day can occur and then…. SABOTAGE!    The child forgets their shame for part of the day and then something happens in the brain and they remember…. oh yea…. and they begin to act out.
THAT is the time where we need to be on our guard the most!
We can miss a perfect opportunity for healing, if we over react, or react out of fear ourselves!

I remember one time when we had had a WONDERFUL time and then suddenly one of our girls  began to cry and kick the backs of the seats, throwing a huge fit.  “I hated that time!” “I  hated those people!”  and more….

We had been at a cross roads with this child.  She was beginning to turn from chaos to embrace love.
But this day was just too picture perfect and her shame overcame her.
She didn’t feel she deserved such a good day and tried to recreate the day to fit her view of herself.
“Undeserving”….. “not worthy to be loved”…. “Problem child”!
I would have called her “Much Afraid”.  🙁

Both my husband  and I immediately realized what was happening and quietly responded to her screams.
“You deserved to have fun!”  “You are lovely!”  “You are a great kid!”
As we carried her into the house kicking and screaming, we got her to the rocking chair and I repeated all those things to her, quietly.
She began to go from tantrum to sorrow….
Her screams of anger turned to sobs of sorrow.
She wept properly this time, grief pouring from her little heart and we witnessed another piece of her heart healing.

I shudder at what could have happened had we reacted to her tantrum in anger or frustration!  What if we had said, “Stop that right now!”  “You are being terrible!”  “What a bad girl!”  “You are really going to get it when we get home!” “You are going STRAIGHT TO BED!”  and then, we separated from her…. and licked our wounds of pride after her verbal assault?

I honestly KNOW what would have happened, because we HAD reacted that way before with some of those words!
Bitterness would have set in, and the next time would have been worse. We would have reinforced her very thoughts about herself, and solidified in her mind that she deserved to be treated badly.
And yes, she received it as being treated badly.

NO deep healing can really take place if we are “punishment” oriented. We need to always move in the direction of healthy relationship and healthy instruction!

 It is possible that SOME kids might even respond to that type of reaction externally…. but we are looking for INTERNAL healing that shows itself in EXTERNAL and INTERNAL thoughts and behavior!

I do not desire my children to simply obey at my every command.  I want them to obey out of love and desire!  I want them to be motivated by LOVE and proper respect.
But that kind of obedience takes TIME and a whole lot of hard work!

I love the words to the song below.  It is so true for our children who come from hard places!
It is also true for us, if we are open to being changed!

“I Will Change Your Name”

G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                     C               D
You shall no longer be called
G        C       D   Bm    C               D
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid
G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                C                  D
Your new name shall be
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C      G            D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G
One who seeks My face
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C       G           D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G

One who seeks My face

The Ukrainian Bathroom Saga

The Ukrainian Bathroom Saga

In a previous post<—- link, I wrote about how God uses even our selfishness to bring about His purposes in our lives.  I mentioned that we used McDonald’s for coffee and sometimes a bathroom, but there was a long story behind that.

Here is that story! 🙂

When we picked Sweetie 3 up from the orphanage, she still had her feet.  She was in braces that she could sort of walk in, but it was hard for her and she was in a lot of pain.  She would more like “slide” her feet in what she called “her bricks”.
These braces attached as high as her upper thigh, just below the buttocks.  They had straps and hinges, so you could let the tops down, but they only went to a 90º angle.

Now, many of you who have been to Ukraine, know that public restrooms can consist of a porcelain hole in the ground.  It would be required that a person “squat”….. a position that I certainly have never been used to. LOL
And Miss Sweetie 3, who is unable to bend, hardly at all, CERTAINLY could not attain a position like that!

Back to the story:

We were in the Internet Cafe’ near Victory Square.  It is upstairs and there was no elevator.  The handicapped are pretty much UNSEEN in this country. They are neatly tucked away in institutions out of the sight, minds and hearts of this nation. 🙁

We carried Sweetie 3 upstairs with us and were enjoying writing to our relatives, when Erika got this look on her face and said, “Toilet”!  I’m really glad “Toilet” is the same in English and Russian! 🙂
But that look on her face convinced me this was urgent.  We asked her if she could wait, and the answer was “NYET!”
So, I took her to the bathroom at the internet cafe’.  It was a hole in the ground.  I struggled to try and help her over that hole but there was no way! And she said, “TOILET!” Even louder!
Ok, Ok!   I’ll get you to a toilet!

So, I got her dressed again, and headed down the stairs with her.  There was a McDonald’s about a Foot Ball field in length away….. I was walking as quickly as possible holding her in my arms.  She was small, but she was a bundle at 45 lbs!
It was so cold, and I was getting out of breath. We had to go up stairs into the McDonalds, and then Down a  flight of stairs to the bathroom…
There was a CODE that had to be typed in at the door, meaning you had to PURCHASE something or you couldn’t use the bathroom, and oh the LINE!
A manager saw me coming back up the stairs and I must have been was terribly out of breath!
I managed to get out…. “TOILET!”
She said it again! “TOILET!”
The manager quickly took us down the stairs and opened the door with the code for us….. Thank YOU Manager!
The door opened to a room FULL OF BEAUTIFUL TALL WOMEN all crowded around the mirror…. there was no room to fit in!
She said, “TOILET!”
It was like the red sea parting…. There was a stall open and we rushed in…..
I quickly got her undressed, coats off, braces pulled down…… and then….. AND THEN…….
There was this, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle….. “Spaciba!”  And a big smile. 🙂
I was thinking, ” for all that effort can’t you produce a little more?”
Nyet! It was just a tiny TINKLE????
So we finished up, and I carried her back up the flight of stairs and we sat on the steps of the McDonald’s so I could catch my breath and not keel over from a heart attack. 🙂
After about 15 minutes, we went back to the Internet Cafe’ and back up the other flight of stairs where Mike was happily typing away to his dad.  LOL
He looked at me and said, “Wow, what took so long!”

Why The Traumatized Child Clings To Chaos

Why The Traumatized Child Clings to Chaos

(see previous post related to Chaos topic)

For the child of trauma, chaos is their normal.  It can be very frightening to find out that your entire life before, was not normal, even if you didn’t like it, or were fearful of it.

Obviously, a child will be relieved in some ways to be away from abusive people in their lives, however,  the imprint on their little hearts and brains is not so easily erased.
Many of them suffer unspeakable nightmares, confused feelings, anger, aggression and more.

As healing begins to take place, it is also outside of their known “comfort zone”.  Having to relate to a parent in a healthy way can be a stress trigger.
Why?  Because it puts them in a place of vulnerability, and they are afraid to trust, ever again.

It is hard work, to switch that world around to where chaos is not comfortable.  The thing is, they don’t necessarily like chaos. It causes obvious pain. 🙁   But it is a place that they are used to.

Imagine if going on vacation was more stressful than an 80 hour work week under a slave boss!
This is what it is like for our kids.  They sometimes feel safer with the trauma.

Working through this over the last several years with our girls has given us an understanding we could never get from a book. 🙂  When we see our girls headed towards chaos, we know that they are overloaded and instead of doing the obvious (to us) speaking kindly, saying “I’m stressed”….. they might act out with old behaviors.  Or, even go back and dwell on the past, which digs up all sorts of trauma memories.
They can cling to their old troubles like a toddler holds a favorite blanket.

We don’t want them to find unhealthy comfort in the past, but  comfort  in the now, and in the future!  Comfort is in having loving parents, a good and decent home, healthy relationships and in forgiveness.
But with forgiveness, just like us, they have to face some things in themselves.  It is hard work!  And they can get tired.

Last night, we experienced a set back with Sweetie 4.  She was full steam ahead going in the wrong direction!  Anniversary time is here.  Memories have been flooding in.  We intercepted her and stayed attuned to her, staying in the present and not falling into fear. She shared her fears with us after a slammed door, refusing to come off of her bed, and some hurtful words and actions,  all in about 15 minutes…. and then we were able to calmly talk, snuggle and reconcile.
Today, she had her toolbox out and was ready to use any tool that would work. 🙂
Tonight, was even better.  She was able to attend youth group with her sisters with no problem!

I am so thankful for our sweet girl.  She is trying HARD to heal and do what is right.  Sometimes she gets stuck….That is ok. 🙂
I look forward to the day, and it will come, when she clings to her Savior and not old habits.  There will be a day when she no longer clings to chaos when she is stressed, but clings to what is right and positive!
That day will come, I am sure of it.
In the process, I am refined.

(For those of you with children who come from hard backgrounds, keeping a blog or journal is so helpful! (you can keep it private!) You can go back and re read what you wrote and be reminded of things that happened at the very same time the year before!  Many of the memories Sweetie 4 has been experiencing, she experienced last year at this very same time.  The year before, she couldn’t really verbalize….. I find the record keeping very helpful and insightful.)

Stability vs. Chaos,

Stability Vs. Chaos

I was just thinking about this today, and thought I would share some of my thoughts with Y’all.

When children have lived with extended trauma and instability in their lives, their brains become wired to think that it is NORMAL.  They live at a heightened sense of emotion, and they continue to live in “survival mode”.  They become hypervigilant and begin to function on the outside in a way that is normal for their circumstances.  Meaning, orphanage life, or chaotic household life.  Feelings are stuffed down, and survival is the name of the game.
Many  kids were “favorites” at their orphanages, because they learned how to get what they needed or craved through external action.  They weren’t given affection because they were loved, but because they may have performed or done something funny, or smiled extra cute.  They had to earn any affection they received.

Transfer this same child into a stable home where love is given freely without the need to earn… food is available, you will sleep in the same bed every night, you will wake up in the same home every morning, you will be hugged, touched, fed and clothed ;  THIS stability creates CHAOS in the mind of the child.

They don’t know what to do with it.  It is foreign and it scares them.  The very thing they crave and want, they are getting, but NOT in the same way they got it before, so they recoil from  it, trying to re create what their familiar life experience used to be.  If that is a verbally abusive parent or caregiver, or physically abusive parent or orphanage worker, they will try to recreate it in the home.
They cannot comprehend being taken care of, since nobody took care of them before.  This is especially true with older children who have been on their own emotionally for a long time.

I remember Sweetie 1’s first year home.  She demanded “WHY DON’T YOU JUST HIT ME?”
It was as if she needed that heightened level of experience to release her brain and rest.
Sounds crazy, but it was true.
We would tell her, “We won’t hit you, because we love you.”  She FINALLY GOT IT and lost the need to create chaos.

What if, all you had ever known, was chaos, and then, you went into stability?  Stability would seem all wrong!  What if you found out the entire way you viewed the world was wrong?  Wouldn’t that scare you?  Wouldn’t that make you want to fight to prove it isn’t true?

It isn’t just knowledge that needs to be changed, but the actual wiring of the brain.  You can convince the child that life is good now, and they may love you attach to you… but  under the surface  is the actual brain response to all the new changes.
The brain will NOT like it.  And it takes TIME, even if a child is attaching to help your child work through all those changes and REWIRE the brain to respond to stimuli differently.

The culture shock, whether changing countries or just families is immense.  Our sweetie asked the other day, “WHY AM I SO AWFUL SOMETIMES?”
She was so sad that she was snotty.  She really DOES NOT understand.   She is not trying to be awful.  She really isn’t.  Helping her learn to recognize patterns is very important, so she can catch herself and train herself!
Today, during one of our mama daughter talks, I told her.. “Sweetie 4″, you have only lived 1/12 of your life in stability.  11/12’s of your life has been CHAOS and EXTREME CHAOS….
You are still learning to tell your brain that you are safe and that you don’t have to do the things you used to do.   It is hard on the ole’ brain.  It wants to re create what you had before, because that is what was familiar.  You HAVE to tell it no! And then allow yourself to enjoy STABILITY.”
She has learned fractions so she understands just how small 1/12 th is.
“And you are NOT AWFUL! Sometimes the things you do can be very wrong… but YOU are not awful!”
We switched our conversation to her upcoming Birthday.
Valentines day will complete our first year cycle of holidays.  YEA!
So as we were talking, we mentioned all the holidays she remembers from last year. Her memories of last year have held on, and I said to her…. after this birthday, you will know what to expect from now on.  I told her about the scavenger hunt for presents (just like her sisters), picking her favorite meal and movie… and helping to bake her own cake.  She has seen these things 3 times for her sisters.
And now, it is HER TURN…. She will be hypervigilant until Thursday rolls around.  And then, next year, she’ll remember, that she was here and she still is here.

We have a lot LESS Chaos than we did at first, and I love these talks with her.  She is really starting to comprehend and understand the hard work ahead. She is a hard worker, so that is good! 🙂
I am thrilled at how much she has accomplished this year. It is nothing short of miraculous.  She has learned to pray and call out to the Lord for help… and this has caused huge changes.

I am also realizing just how miraculous another little life around here is. 🙂  We went through these things before with another daughter. 🙂  She is so amazing now.  Today, she was passing a note in class.  It said, “Mama had to pay taxes today, and she is probably stressed. Let’s all have good attitudes.”   It was titled “A Contract” and there were lines for each girl to sign on… making a contract to have good attitudes all day. LOL
I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. 🙂
Thank you Sweetie 1. 🙂

(I guess I was really complaining about all those taxes) LOL

What’s Behind The Behavior?

What’s Behind the Behavior…?

(I picked this picture because of all these little hopeful faces. This was taken from our missions trip back to Ukraine a few years ago, and was at Sweetie 2 and Sweetie 3’s old orphanage.  The little boy in blue, was so sweet and cute and smiley, talking in Russian.  He was actually saying, “I’m going to take your glasses and break them!”)
Heather Forbes might say, “What’s driving the behavior?”

I was talking with Mike this morning about how support group is going, and things I would love to cover.  One of those things has to do with what is behind a behavior  that isn’t making sense to us.
Putting clues and signs together, may help us come to understand and then be able to address the behavior.  But for many of us, it does not come naturally to think about, “What’s BEHIND the behavior”.

For the child who struggles with shame, low self worth, or past trauma,  being exposed to failure is overwhelming  because it requires self inspection, and when they don’t like themselves, or have a strong sense that others are going to reject them because of their seeming failures, or they are so full of shame they cannot bear it, then it is PARAMOUNT in their minds that they NOT deal with the reality they  are faced with (real or perceived) and do everything to avoid it.  They will fight to keep a semblance of self respect and perceived self worth through diversion.

“I’m NOT going to do that!”
“Why”?  we may ask…..  There will be no real answer.  We will perceive their behavior and tone as DEFIANT…. and if we move to “correct that defiance” ,   the battle that rages will be ALL ABOUT THE WRONG THING…. We will strive to win a battle, yet lose the WAR that is actually being waged on our children’s hearts.
The REAL WAR is against their very being.  The WAR that tells them that they are unlovable, unacceptable, unworthy… the war that has been waged against them from the very first point of trauma in their lives. For many of them, it began at birth, and EACH battle along the way was WON by that war with damning, condemning force.

So here we come in, a new force, and they see us as the enemy. They see that others who have been in our position as a parent have rejected them, hurt them and  betrayed their trust. They are so busy fighting in their own personal war, they don’t realize that the true WAR is actually over.  They no longer have to fight for love, for  validation, for acceptance and we are ON THEIR SIDE!

Unfortunately, many times we act as if we are not.  We get caught up in the remnants of a dead war, and try to win an unwinnable battle, instead of leading our little trooper to a place of peace and rest.

So, back to the “I’m NOT going to do that!”

How can we deal with it?
I remember when Sweetie 4 first came home, I was told she was in the 4th grade, understood English perfectly, and was fantastic in spelling and math.   I pretty much found ZERO of that to be true.
How did I find that out?   Well, it didn’t take long. 🙂  I assigned her to write a paragraph about something we were studying.

And guess what she said, oh so “defiantly”!
Why not?
“I don’t want to!” “School is stupid!” “This place is stupid!”  “You are not a real teacher!”  and I could go on…. but my favorite was, “Why should I have to listen to you? You’re just an old woman from Texas!” 🙂  gee thanks. 🙂
In REALITY, she was trying to avoid the FACT that not only could she not spell, or write, she could BARELY read, AND she had VERY LIMITED understanding of the English Language. And she didn’t trust me. She had no reason to.  I was the old lady from Texas.
Add to that TWO disruptions, past trauma, separation from bio siblings (I could go on and on ) and  I could instantly see that we were not dealing with writing a paragraph.  She was fighting for her very dignity.
After all, what would it look like if the new kid couldn’t even put 3 sentences together?  Would she still be loved? Would she be accepted?  She didn’t believe for a minute that she was even going to stay.  She didn’t stay with anybody else and they all promised her a “forever family”.

So what did we do?  Well, the first thing we did was establish relationship.  We headed for the rocking chair.   “It is ok.  We love you.  We are here for you.  Breathe with me.  Let’s become one in our breathing.  And after about 10 minutes.  I addressed the issue with structured correction and teaching.
“You know, maybe the truth is, that you don’t want me to know that you don’t even know what a paragraph is!”  I got a nod on that one.
“I am so sorry.  I didn’t know, and you know what?  It is OK.  This is NOT your fault!”
“Did you know that your brother didn’t learn to read well until he was almost 12?”  With that I got peaked interest.

In calming her and peaking her interest, I was then able to talk to her about the defiance in her voice and what she said.
“You know, it is never ok to speak harshly to mama.  It is never ok to say “I won’t!” when I have asked you to do something, because I will never ask you to do something wrong. (that is important they know that, because they may NOT know that! never assume)

Now, instead of saying “I won’t!” How could you have said things differently to tell me what was really wrong?
At first I got shrugged shoulders, and then I offered an idea, and then she did, and then I offered some humor and then she did…. and before we knew it, the REAL PROBLEM was revealed and SOLVED for the moment.  (The assignment was too hard for her to do on her own, so it was adjusted to her level)
Was there punishment involved? No.
Because she apologized for her behavior and because her behavior was SHAME masked in defiance. She was trying to protect herself from more rejection and hurt. How do you punish shame? How do you consequence shame?  I can’t.  I can only have compassion and understanding.

That is a small example of many MANY examples I could give over the past 15 months.  But each and every time, a battle was won. Not us against her, but ALL of us against TRAUMA, SHAME, REJECTION and HURT which is the real war.    We were on the same team the whole time. It just took her a while to see that we were her allies and not the enemy. 🙂
(Do we do this perfectly every time. NO. We do not. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and forget…. but that is ok, we are human, just like she is.  When we see we have gone down a dead end, we simply stop, turn around and head the right direction. :))
Those times of outward defiance are few and far between.  She has learned over the year to express herself properly, understand better and use her tools to keep control.

As she realized each time that we were on her team…we were her ally, the trust which was greatly needed began to be built, not with faulty walls, but a firm foundation.  Each brick cemented in with love, to last a lifetime and to build a new life upon.

For my support groupers:
I would like to ask that you keep track these next two weeks of how many times this week that your child(ren) are masking what is really going on underneath…. try to see what is driving their particular behavior and write down your response to it.  What were the results? 🙂

I would like to encourage my readers who are in the TRENCHES with trauma, that it gets BETTER. You will not stay there…. but you must look beyond the behavior and beyond punishing.  If what you are doing is not working…. it is time to try something new. 🙂
(This does not have to do with natural consequences, that is another post altogether, and natural consequences are not punishments)

When We Need To Change

When We Need To Change

There are so many times in parenting that we have to be on our toes, try to navigate 10 steps ahead, and be ready  to meet any challenge.  That is our job as parents.
When we are dealing with hurt children, who come from backgrounds full of trauma, we need to be ever more vigilant to listen to what they are telling us through direct communication or through behaviors.

Are we eliciting a FEAR reaction from them?  If so, why?   What are WE DOING that  WE can change in order to bring about a different response in our children?
You may say, “But I didn’t do anything different than I have normally done , and everybody else has survived!” “I am a good parent!”  Well, that may be true, but THIS child, needs something different.  He or She needs you to take a closer look at HOW you parent and tweak some things. There is no weakness in tweaking. 🙂  Taking a long hard look at how we parent is a GOOD thing! Seeing where we need to change is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is a sign of success, NOT  failure!
Being brave and seeing the real us, with all our faults and weaknesses, will show our children that it is OK to need to change. It is not the end of the world to be wrong, or to have areas that need tweaking!  We ALL do! And we can learn from ourselves and each other!
Are you a screamer?  Do you lose your patient attitude easily or get frustrated and over react?  Do you go back to old habits that are not acceptable when your child’s challenging behaviors frustrate you?
How is your child supposed to change if you don’t lead in the area of change yourself?

When our children see Us catch ourselves in an old habit, admit that habit, apologize and start again, it gives THEM permission to do the same. They don’t feel singled out, or so very different.
We can lighten up with HUMOR thrown in, and change is actually enjoyable.
“Well, I sure could do that one differently; don’t you think??”  And suddenly you can turn a possible disaster into a teaching moment. 🙂

I remember when Sweetie 4 first came home, how many things I needed to tweak to meet her special needs. She was so fragile that I had to be very careful how I spoke even when I thought I was being gentle. She needed MORE gentle.  She didn’t need me to lose my temper with her, even though hers could be out of control.  There were times when I didn’t show her the self control I was asking for HER to show! And I had to apologize.

One of the best things we can do for our children  is listen to them. Are they telling us that we are causing them fear or that they are needing us to be more tender?  LISTEN, even if you think you are being tender and kind.  You can’t err on the side of listening, compassion and understanding.
Do you want your children to listen to you?  Model it.

Be that Living Tree, Unmovable, planted by refreshing water so that your children will want to come and drink of the unconditional love you have flowing from you.
The change that you want to see in them will happen as they learn to love and trust you more.
Many of the behaviors our children exhibit, are a direct result of past trauma, having to be in control to survive, and a lack of trust.

For the traumatized child, some of their more disturbing behaviors  are not “moral” issues for them. They are survival issues.  We may see their survival behavior as an immoral behavior, when for them, that is NOT how it was intended.
That miscommunication can cause some real fear in parents and serious frustration.

When you  see a child with cookie crumbs all over their mouth, the smell of chocolate chip cookies on their breath, yet hear them  say, “What cookie?” “I didn’t eat a cookie!”  Our fear takes over and says, “My child is a liar with no conscience!”    Two of our children have been accused of having no conscience in other homes they were in.
My observation is that both of these children are very, VERY tender hearted and sensitive.  They were never without conscience. They were trying very hard to protect their tender spirits from being crushed.

Our children will not understand why WE get so bent out of shape over the very behavior they HAD to use in order to survive; because for the child, all that time, it wasn’t an issue of right or wrong, it was an issue  of survival. But THEY don’t understand quite yet that it is no longer needed.

If we come down hard, grounding, yelling or use other forms of punishment, of COURSE they are not going to understand. The defenses will go up, they will have been judged and they will be hurt even more.
However, if we remain calm, getting to the root of the issue, (possibly hunger) and reassure them that there will always be food, and let them know how sorry we were that at one time they didn’t have food…. THEN we can  put them at ease and teach the importance of telling the truth, explaining the there is a moral issue with truth telling vs. lying etc.  and calmly bring them to a new understanding.  THEN we can work with them over time in changing the behavior without shaming them, and  the eventual result, will be a child who tells the truth.

I am so thrilled with Miss Sweetie 4’s ability to look me in the eye and tell me that she is the one who spilled something or she is the one who left the door open.  Or, sometimes she’ll come to me and say, “Mama, I’m sorry, I did this…..(fill in the blank).   A year ago??? No WAY that would have happened on her own.
She was so ashamed of herself and her view of herself was so low that to admit any wrong would have just been too much to handle.  Today, things are MUCH different.  She knows her value is not placed upon what she does right or wrong, but she is valued just because, and she IS TRULY VALUABLE.  I think she is finally beginning to believe this.

Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things……

She has been learning to control her tongue.   Sometimes she goes back to old habits, but mostly, she doesn’t.
She wants to be trusted and believed.   We ALL do!  She has had to work really hard, but she is doing well, and I couldn’t be prouder. 🙂
Change is hard…. but oh so rewarding.


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