Thursday, December 2, 2010

Too honest?

I have a lot on my mind that I'm not sure I know how to put into words, so forgive me if this sounds jumbled or confusing. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about my family and the way I have been raising my children.  I've researched so much about parenting traumatized kids, yet I still feel like I know so little.  We have used several resources from therapists, parenting specialists, workshops and conferences to books, researching the internet and even reading blogs of other parents who have adopted traumatized children as well as briefly belonging on a yahoo group for adoptive parents.

In the process, I have come across parents who are feeling overwhelmed and out of control and who just wanted to vent.  (These ones feel very draining to me and I find that I have a hard time staying positive with my kids when I hear or read too much of this.)  Having said that, I feel that I have definantly been there and felt that!  I have also come across parents on the other side of the spectrum who paint a pretty picture that is all miraculous with no struggle, grief or adjustment period.  I have a hard time believing their story.  Don't get me wrong, there is MIRACLE in adoption.  There happiness and joy!  It is a beautiful thing.  However, there is also grief, loss and pain associated with it, especially when the child or children are older when they are adopted. 

I have also come across some ideas and theories in parenting these children.  And I have followed these ideas believing that the experts knew what they were talking about.  They had been there, done that and I was desperate for information and help.  I followed what they said.  It was hard!  And we have seen results from putting their suggestions into practice.  To be honest some of the parenting interventions didn't settle quite right with me.  Some of them were so unnatural to what I would intrinsically do and it was hard to follow, but since what I was already doing seemed to not be helping or improving our situation, I followed them. 

I don't want this to sound like I am ratting on or discounting what I have learned or done.  Please don't think that.  I think where my hang-up lies is in my own heart.  I think because I was dealing with so many behaviors I didn't understand or know what to do with, and because my kids were harming each other in MY home, I became overwhelmed and perhaps understood some things differently than they were meant. 

I did the parenting interventions.

I gave them all their own rooms.
I put alarms on their doors (to prevent them from harming each other).
I brought them home from school when it became clear to me that it was way more than they could handle.
I cuddled them.
I rocked them.
I bottle fed them.
I kept them near me.

All of these things I feel were absolutely needed and necessary to their progression.  All of these things have contributed hugely to their progression!

I also did some things, that were in the the books and seminars, that I regret and that I now am questioning.

I consequenced their actions.
I caught them in their lies.
I caught them in their stealing.
I've sent them away from the table for bad manners.
I've made them make restitution for harm and damage done to our home and members of our family.
I demanded respect and compliance.

In this process, I think I have allowed myself to become a behaviorist.  I've focused on their behaviors and trying to fix them.  I've allowed myself to become frustrated when they repeat the same behavior again and again, then to consequence them again and again, only to have them do it over and rage about the consequence once again.

I've demanded respect and compliance.  I did this because it is what I felt the experts were saying to do.  I now don't know whether that's what they meant or not.

I always felt that it didn't go along with how our Father in Heaven parents us and I have really struggled with this.  I've thought many times to myself, "I mess up over and over and over, yet He always is willing to accept me, faults and all, with open arms when I come back to Him.  Am I being that kind of parent?  Do I love my children unconditionally like that?  Do I show them love no matter what?  Or I am too focused on fixing them?"

I've decided that I don't want to be a behaviorist any more, I don't want to focus on fixing behaviors.

I want to look into what those behaviors mean and help my children find their voice.  I don't want to demand complaince and respect.  I want my children to want that for themselves.  I am realizing that that won't happen unless I help them find their voice, unless I listen to what those behaviors mean and address that instead of stiffling it by focusing on getting the 'behaviors' to stop. 

Everyone wants to feel important, loved, cherished and HEARD.  Am I giving that to my children?

My husband says that I am too hard on myself.  He says that I don't give myself enough credit for how far we've come as a family.  Maybe he's right, but sometimes all I can see is what I'm doing wrong and how it needs to get better.  I don't mean this in a depressed, poor me, kind of way, but in a way of realizing my mistakes and weakness so that I can do something about them.  So I can take them to the Lord and He can turn them into strengths.  Although I do sometimes feel overwhelmed with regret.  Sometimes, I just wish I could start all over and do things better, but then again, would I know what to do?  Even now?  I just hope and pray constantly that our Savior can make up for where I lack. 

Has any of this made sense at all?  It still feels jumbled in my head.  Can any of you parents relate to any of this?


Morris Mama said...

I can relate. I've often felt regret for being too negative and focusing on what they do wrong. I find that things go the smoothest when I downplay the bad behavior and really compliment them a lot when the do something good. My kiddos will do anything for attention. Even if it's negative attention. If I take away the focus on the negative stuff, they realize it's the positive things that get them what they want. But of course I'm not in your situation so my advice might be meaningless. =) You are doing a better job parenting than most parents out there! If we are doing our best, the Savior will pick up where we lack. It's a promise. And it's comforting to know that we have the best example of a parent we could possibly have. Heavenly Father. Brad is right, give yourself a pat on the back! You are working miracles!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this!! I haven't been able to put my finger on how I'm feeling myself and THIS IS IT! You have written exactly what I am feeling with my 3 kids. Thank you thank you thank you.

The Sandry Family said...

I understand what you are talking about. It makes sence to me because I know the kids behaviors. Like I have mentioned to you before. When Jazmine was younger I told her not to play in the water fountain I had in my living room. She still proceeded to do it. I then corrected her and put her in time out where again she acted out for attention with a smile on her face. I know they all fight for your attention and will do what ever it takes to get it good or bad. And they will continue to test the waters to see how far they can get the older they get. Stay firm with them and hold your ground. I know it is overwhelming at times but give yourself credit the kids have been through a lot and you have been strong for them. They speak how they feel and being able to express their feeling is a big step. They will continue to express themselves good and bad. Dont beat yourself up you have done a lot for them and understanding why they act the way the do. You are being the best MOM you can be and they respect you for that. Sometimes they dont always show it but I know they do and that means alot to my Family. Their voices will be heard and I know you are there to listen. You are amazing. Thank you for all you are doing.

Jillian and Crew said...

We were just having the "what we would have done differently in the last 2 years" conversation...we have looked back and noticed what worked and what didn't...and where to go from here...constantly changing to fit their needs...
I am glad your husband pointed out how far you have come as a family, because I often forget and people will remind me..."when they first got here they..." and I think OH Yea! you are right! we HAVE made progress!
We def want to aim at the heart and motivation behind the behavior vs the behavior...