Saturday, February 17, 2018

You Just Need To Discipline That Child! -Trauma Parenting

If you are a trauma parent, chances are you have been called out for inconsistent parenting.

When this happens, I get tongue tied and only later can I think of a logical response. Maybe it is good I can't formulate an immediate reply because I would only get my mouth in trouble

Trauma parenting is not consistent from child to child except in one area; love. All parenting must be done in love, other than that, parenting has to be tailored for each child.

Sadly hindsight is 20/20 so it is only through experience and trial and error that you learn what your child needs.

When we first began parenting traumatized children we quickly learned that you cannot discipline a child until you have his heart. To the outside world, we had our children's hearts and we were doing them a terrible disservice by letting them run over us. At the same time another group of people said, "You are so strict with them, they are children, give them a break!"

Both sides were partly right and both sides were partly wrong. A child who has been through trauma needs to know that his parents have his back. This is something we are still striving for, ten years after our children have come into our home. My children have some behaviors that make people give me that look. The one that says, "He is how old and he still does what?!?" One of my children wets himself for at least a week after he experiences certain stressor's. Is he old enough to know better? Absolutely! Do I punish him? Absolutely not! I know he wets himself because of trauma and trauma cannot be punished out of a child, nor should it be. Trauma is fear, trauma needs reassurance. Instead of reacting as I once would have, I pack extra clothing when we go away and leave it at that.

For those who say we are too strict, I agree that we require our children to toe the line, some more than others. The reason for this is once again, trauma. A traumatized child has a chaotic brain and he needs stability and routine to thrive. He will buck against it, but he needs it. As one mom said, "People say I am a helicopter parent, but I know that is what my child needs."  

Some children with trauma do well in social settings, others do not. I have some of both. One of my children reacts to his trauma the same whether he is at home or away. For this reason he appears ill behaved and we have been encouraged to be firmer with him. What people don't realize is that he falls apart when his siblings aren't melting down. His siblings all suffer from attachment disorder, guess when they put their best foot forward? When we are away, of course! And of course, that is when my other child melts down and gets demanding. We could show this child, "Who is boss," but we know that he is only letting down his guard because the sibling(s) who had spent the day raging and manipulating are finally quiet. You cannot/may not punish a child for that.

Many of our children suffer from brain damage due to the trauma they suffered in utero. This means that any and all discipline or lack there of needs to be taken under the magnifying glass of, why. Why is my child acting like this, what is the driving force behind his behavior. We are all driven by our emotions/experiences but children with trauma are especially prone to view everything through trauma glasses. Parenting children with trauma isn't about making them obey, make good choice's etc. Of course, we as parents desire those things but before any of that can be  accomplished on a daily basis, the child must feel safe, he must feel loved. 

Due to their trauma and/or brain damage, our children mature at a slower rate. This means that the behaviors that make us look like incompetent parents, will continue long past what is deemed socially appropriate. 

Another thing trauma parents come up against is, "You never ask us for advice." That is a legitimate complaint. We trauma parents tend not to ask "traditional parents" for parenting advice. Why? Because of trauma. Until you have lived with trauma, you cannot understand how intertwined your actions and your child's emotional healing become. Our children scrutinize our every movement (watch one of these children sometime) and they weigh those actions against how loved and safe they are feeling at the moment. This means the parents will have their seemingly calm child remain in line of vision while the child who looks like he needs some supervision runs and plays. That looks like inconsistency, but there are things playing into the decisions a trauma parent makes that are not readily apparent to those looking on.

I have been falling into the trap of trying to make my children conform to a certain standard, that of being socially appropriate because I fear what people will think. I know, I know, that is NOT therapeutic parenting! Anyway, Dean pulled me aside and said, "Sandra remember this is trauma, stop worrying about how others view the children. This is about trauma not good parenting or otherwise." I thank God daily for my husband!

*I use the words punish/discipline in this post because while we do not use typically use these forms of correction in the world of trauma parenting, this terminology is what is often used by those trying to understand trauma parents. Instead we use a mode of parenting called TBRI, which is based on trust and Felt Safety.

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