What if becoming the parent God has called you to be to your child from a hard place means that you need to un-learn as much or more than you need to learn? What if many of the popular approaches to parenting and discipline, many of which are regarded as “biblical,” actually aren’t best for your child given his background and history and what he needs to heal and grow? What if the parenting program you previously used, even with great success, when raising and training your other children needs to be significantly altered or even discarded for the child you adopted? What if the parenting techniques that most of your friends are using or that you grew up with are likely to be ineffective in achieving long-lasting change for the child you now love and desire to connect with?
I believe that parents need to seriously consider these and many similar questions as they set the course for how to best relate to and parent children from hard places.
Part of the role of good Christian parents is undoubtedly teaching their children the values they cherish. We want our children to understand the importance of these values and, more importantly, to live a life that reflects them. Respect for others (and yourself), kindness, gentleness, self-control and other similar character qualities provide our children with a solid foundation and prepare them for the future. The question for parents, however, is how best to teach these values in ways our children can understand and make their own. Specifically, we need to ask how we can best do this for our children who come from hard places and have not had these things consistently taught, modeled or esteemed.
Fear — it is a crippling and sometimes debilitating feeling, but it is so much more than a feeling. For many children from hard places, fear is a constant, though unwelcome, companion. It is a way of life. From research we know that fear left unaddressed can have pervasive and long-lasting effects on a child, including negative impacts on cognitive ability, sensory processing, brain chemistry, brain development, ability to focus and ability to trust. As a result, it distorts and dictates much of what our children are dealing with.
It is often difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, to see beyond our children’s behaviors. And yet, that is exactly what children—particularly those from hard places—need for us to do. Our children desperately need parents who can see beyond their behaviors to the real child that is locked inside a fortress of fear, confusion and shame.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that “seeing beyond” our children’s behaviors is not the same as overlooking behaviors that are unhealthy, unacceptable and hold them back. Some parents at this point may be tempted to respond, “How can we just let our children get away with bad behavior? Isn’t it our responsibility to teach them right and wrong and to discipline them accordingly?” The answer is certainly yes, but as we seek to do this it is important that we remain focused on the primary goal.
Children need a balance of nurture and structure in order to learn to trust and grow. Parents can provide this balance by learning to offer “yes’s” (nurture) as much as possible, along with the “no’s” (structure) that are invariably required to protect and teach their children.
Watch as Amy Monroe explains the importance of saying “yes” to your child (as much as possible).
It is important for parents to understand healthy touch and to communicate respect for personal boundaries as they help their child learn to seek and give affection in healthy and appropriate ways. Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis provides insights for parents to help them respond effectively to a child who exhibits sexualized behaviors.
It is critically important for moms and dads to get on the same page and stay on the same page when it comes to handling the challenges and issues that come up in the parenting journey. This is especially true for adoptive and foster parents as they begin to parent in a way that is focused on healing and connection.
Watch as Amy & Michael Monroe talk about what it means to be on the same page as a couple in order to love your children well.