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In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Children are NOT Little Adults

(Anna at 5)
I have had this on my heart. I have been rewriting and rewriting.... mostly because it is hard to put some things into words. Mike has helped me a bit on this too. (Thank you dear)  These words may not be popular...and they may annoy some. My hope is that they will encourage you.

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, I never gave it a second thought. I don't think he did either. :)  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 conscienceless act of evil?

When our 3rd son had a really hard time with potty training, I never thought once that he was trying to control me.  But oh, there were those who thought so. They couldn't have been MORE WRONG! I am SO GLAD I 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 in bloggy world. :/

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 Anna was first home, it took years for some of her old behaviors to go away. YEARS.  And that was with doing BCLC the whole time.  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 (discipleing) 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.


Keri said...

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wish I could enlarge the font on this one!!!!!!

Jo said...

Great post! Really made me think!

Dagbjört said...

Thank you so much for this post!

r. said...

I recently was musing along a similar thread while reading this story (url below) in the New York Times, about a service dog that helps a boy with FAS. One of the things that struck me while reading it was how many people would have characterized the boy's behavior as RAD-related. Which isn't to say it's impossible--the child was a toddler when adopted, so there may have been some attachment issues--but, wow, how it changes the tone of the discussion when the behaviors are characterized as something other than willful!


JJ said...

I have only read part of this post, and already I can say, "AMEN!" Our 14 y.o., who is a recent IA adoptee sometimes floors me with the dichotomy between his vast knowledge base, and yet, his inability to fully comprehend the simplest elements of a true "family" paradigm. His skills are vastly diverse, and unbelievably splintered. Add to that an underlying fear of being sent away that transcends logic. IMO, maybe "we" as a generation have watched TOO MANY movies with precocious children who were made to look smarter than the adults in their world. Hmmm....

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