Monday, February 5, 2018

Your Values Versus Your Child's Need's

"Don't let your values get in the way of your child's needs."

Most people have a set of values which they have either had passed down to them or were built from their own life experiences. We are no different. We wanted our children to be respectful, polite and honest and when we began foster care we thought we would naturally pass those values on to the children, especially if they eventually joined our family via adoption. Naive? Yes!

My children are respectful as long as they feel safe and no one challenges them on anything. This is natural, the difference is in the things that make my children feel unsafe. 
-No clean cereal bowls
-Mom preparing to go away
-Dad working late
-Having friends over
-Sibling receiving a gift
-Having to wait for a snack
-Being told no
-Being told to redo a chore

All these things and a thousand more bring on panic and no one is able to be respectful when their fight, flight or freeze system is activated. The fact is, my children are seldom respectful because they are triggered the majority of the time. We could demand respect and punish when they fail but that would mean we are putting our value's ahead of their needs. Instead we offer redo's and we give snacks even when mealtime is only 20 minutes away. We keep trauma in the forefront of our minds at all times. Trauma trumps respect, although we are certainly working on it when we can.

Our children steal. This one I could hardly get beyond. I remember taking a tootsie roll from the store as a child and having to go back and pay for it. I never took anything again! Our children don't learn from consequences. They see something they want so they take it. Some of it is due to impulsiveness, but the majority can be blamed on trauma. When your body has been trained to fear that your needs won't be met it is very hard to change that mindset. We tried consequences, we tried having the child do the talking when we returned an item, anything to prevent it from happening again. But it always did. Our children tend to cycle through these trauma behaviors so when we know a child has been having sticky fingers we check shoes, coats and undergarments before going home. Depending on the situation, we may talk with the child. Other times we don't make a big deal because reprimanding/consequencing the child usually comes at the expense of our relationship, a price that is too high to pay.

Lying. This one still makes me angry at times. Thankfully I am learning that lying is a trauma response, not something to be taken personally. I am also slowly learning not to ask the "why" question as that only sets the stage for more lies. Take the evidence and deal with it. Don't waste time trying to figure out the why behind the action as the child probably doesn't know himself why he lied. If we would punish for every lie, our days would be filled with chaos, not at all conducive to healing traumatized little bodies.

Being kind to others is something my children struggle with. Again, there are many reasons for this but trauma is usually at the root. Fear people won't like them drives them to act out in inappropriate ways to try to get a laugh. Their wants/needs trump those of anyone else. Empathy is a hard concept when your brain is primed for panic.

Once upon a time we parented our children in a "typical" manner. We quickly learned that didn't work but it wasn't until Braden went to The Attachment Place and they taught us about TBRI that we really began to understand that our children need to heal emotionally. For emotional healing to occur, we need to make sure they feel safe so they can grasp things like being respectful, polite and truthful at all times.

Sometimes trauma/special needs parenting leaves me feeling like a complete and utter failure. After all, two of our children have been in our home for 10 years already and while they have made progress, they have so far to go. Sometimes I feel like they just have to get it and then I go into a blind panic, drilling the concepts of honesty and respectfulness into them. Without fail it all falls apart because they simply do not have the ability to maintain that level of life in addition to their trauma. Then I fall into the opposite ditch and go easy on them because I feel so badly for asking more of them than they could give. Of course that doesn't work much better. It takes constant tweaking, constant monitoring and constant mindfulness to be the parent our children need. They need us to walk alongside them, providing an arm to lean on in weak moments while being alert for those moments when they are strong enough to take a few baby steps on their own. When they take those small steps, it makes my heart swell with love and admiration for my children who are working through issues that would drive many an adult to their knee's.

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