Thursday, November 10, 2016

Loving Our Children By Making Them Responsible For Their Actions

I am back! We didn't fall off the face of the earth as some may have supposed, nor did we hightail it for unhinhabited lands as I have have been sorely tempted to do from time to time. Instead, life happened and then the computer crashed, plus I didn't know how to write this post. In hindsight I shouldn't have promised to share the "new parenting techniques" we have recently imposed. I don't mind sharing what we are doing but in order to explain I need to share some stories and I was not quite sure how to do that in a discreet way. 

   It all began in August when one of our children lost a family member, then school started, then October arrived (the month that is full of trauma for our family) things were snowballing. Dean and I realized we need to get some help because we sensed we were losing our children's hearts, something that is awful for any parent but when you have had a child with RAD it brings a whole new level of fear and terror into your heart. We were ready to do whatever it takes to get back on track but nothing helped. One day God brought this book to my attention. I ordered it only half hopeful that it would make a difference but remember I was grasping at straws!

  I read it and quickly realized my mistake was that I was caring to much! Simply put, I was carrying both sides of the relationship while my child orchestrated my every response. She had me over the barrel so to speak and what child won't take advantage of such a situation? She knew I wanted a relationship with her. The level of control she had over me and our relationship made her feel both powerful and fearful. Powerful because she was in control and fearful because deep down she knew if mom wasn't strong enough to make her mind, neither was mom strong enough to handle her big fears and emotions.

  And I was falling for it! I was talking with her when she didn't want to hear what I had to say. I was nurturing her which she didn't accept because she was in control. I was doing all the hard work of maintaining our relationship while she lashed and raged in response, making me work harder.

 I should have known better, but my excuse is that I am human.

So I made her responsible for her actions, by allowing her to bear the brunt of the result of her choices. Plus I required her to carry her half of the relationship.

The other morning she failed to obey and still hadn't done so when the school van arrived. Other mornings she would go out the door still very angry with me and her fellow passengers bore the brunt of her anger and fear. Remember, children will always strive to gain the upper hand but they don't feel safe when they succeed. 

   Of course she was anything but happy with me when I told her she cannot go to school until she does what I told her to. When she realized I was not going to do what I usually do, which is talk and help her understand what she is feeling emotionally and why, she got quiet.

 Then she tried to get me to scold her. If I would have scolded her,  she could have retaliated and perhaps drawn me into a verbal sparring match. Instead I just smiled (not in a cynical or unkind way) and agreed with her.

"I am going to be late for school!"
"Yes you are."
"Take me!"
I wasn't planning to go to school today."
"How am I going to get there?"
"You are smart, I am sure you will figure out a way."

An hour later she came quietly to me and said, "Mom, what shall I do?" She was in control of her emotions. She wasn't angry, best of all she was ready to listen, she wanted mom to help her.

 I told her she has two options, she can do some chores for me to pay me for the time it will take me to take her to school or she can make some phone calls and see if she can find someone who would be able to drive her.

"I am not calling anyone, that is your job!" She exclaimed.

"That's okay if you don't want to call anyone, I don't mind which option you choose," I said and calmly walked away.

   She chose to do chores and life has been much more peaceful ever since. We have been using the same technique for all the children to some extent or another. Of course you have to take into consideration their mental abilities among other things.

 Yesterday Joseph was debating whether or not to obey me when I told him it was time to put his toys away. Kiana looked at him and said, "You better would or mom will make you pay her back with chores!" She wasn't angry, she was stating a fact. 

   I fell into the ditch alongside the road of trauma parenting. I was working so hard to make our relationship work but forgetting that a relationship is two sided. I was working too hard and not requiring anything of my daughter and this was unhealthy for both of us. I was going easy on her because of her past trauma, something that is sometimes necessary but this time she needed to be held accountable for her actions.

  Making her responsible for her actions took the frustration of being solely responsible for our relationship off my shoulders. Nor was I trying to keep her happy to avoid a tantrum, which left me with the energy to be empathetic and loving.

   Is this the answer to all of our parenting struggles? Not by a long shot, but it has certainly helped. Before you implement the idea of making your child responsible for their actions, please read the book because I feel as though I have done a poor job portraying what the author has so eloquently put into words.

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