Showing posts with label Christian Parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Parenting. Show all posts

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 21: Bedtime, Spanking, & How We Parent

Our conference ended last night. Today we're driving up to Estes Park, CO for some hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

I'm exhausted and wondering how long it's going to take me to recover from all this fun.

I can't believe we're at Day 21 already. I could not have done this series without the help of an amazing group of guest bloggers. Did you see Robyn Gobbel's post on negative behaviors on Friday? If you're creating an adoption toolbox board on Pinterest, that's one you want to be sure to pin.

And I'll tell you a secret: Robyn is our guest blogger tomorrow with another post you don't want to miss!

Today I'd like to talk about choosing an appropriate parenting style when adopting an older child. I'm going to link to two posts I wrote a while back, specifically challenging some parenting techniques and philosophies prevalent in Evangelical Christian churches today. Even if you aren't a part of that community, I hope you'll still take a look and ask yourself what you believe about parenting, especially when it comes to disciplining your newly adopted child. This is a huge part of preparing to parent.

Both these posts generated some lively comments. Feel free to add your voice to the conversation!
Start here to read the whole series.

Ni Hao Yall

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 8: How to Get the Help You Need

Today, Karen shares how to get the kind of help you need after an older child adoption. 

So you admit you need help…What does it look like? Where do you go? Who do you ask?

Help doesn’t come by magic, nor by accident. It takes an intentional, thought out, and specific plan. The type of help you need will be unique to your family and your child and your struggles. Your plan will look different from another mom's plan – and that’s OK.

For us, it was a few small things at the right time of the day that made all the difference – or at least let some of the steam off so we could breathe again while our child began her healing process.

Step 1:  When do I need help?

All the time!

Yes – but let’s start small!

Sit it down with a cup of coffee and write down the times that are great in your family. And the times that are not so great. We want to recruit help to make the bad moments more like the good ones. If you can figure out why the good times are good, then you are on your way to making the bad times a whole lot better.

One of the good moments at our house was any time when we went from three kids to only two -- and it didn’t matter which two. Early mornings were hard when all three were up at the same time, and we were trying to get ready for school. The solution: put one on the bus, which came early. The child on the bus was gone before one of the other girls was even awake. Fundamentally changed the flow and atmosphere of our mornings!

Now you know when you need help. Next up. . .Where to go to get that help?

Step 2:  List your resources.

Let me help you get started – your first call needs to be to your social worker.  I know – you aren’t sure if she cares or even can help, but she is a good starting point, She’s not going to write a post adoption placement report that takes your child away. Trust me – she would rather deal with your issues now than later.

Ask her about respite services offered by your state or school district. . . a good therapeutic parenting / attachment / trauma counselor in the area. . . other resources to help your child, and your family, heal.

Your Spouse – Writing from a wife’s perspective here! My husband did not intuitively know how to help me. He was willing, but didn’t know what I would find the most helpful – aside from getting home as soon as possible every day from work! Turns out that what I needed most from him was time. Every Saturday last summer his job was to take the girls out for 3-4 hours. Somewhere out of the house – to give me time alone in my own home.

It’s what I needed.

While I became a happier mom, there was a side benefit. He developed a routine all his own with the girls and bonded with our new daughter. Now, a year later, I am no longer as desperate for these hours on Saturday, but the girls are! And so the tradition continues.

Tell your husband exactly what you need – don’t make him guess. That’s not fair.

Friends – list anyone and everyone who delivered a meal or came to the airport to welcome you home or offered to help.  Write down the names of classmates' moms and your Bible study friends.  Just write them all down – don’t self censor…that will happen naturally later!
Family – Don't forget to include people who are far away but love you. People who are open-minded and won't judge your new family dynamic. Perhaps some of them might be able to come and help short-term. 

Church – Your church family should be an important resource for getting help.

Online Groups – There are some tremendous resources online for support, from Facebook groups to therapist blogs to websites. Use them. Here are a few of my favorites:


Neighbors – They may not know you well, but they can often be the first line of support. Maybe a quick trip to the grocery store is on your hard list. Is there a neighbor who might pick up a few items for you each week?

Step 3:  Pray!

Pray over both lists: the list of hard times when you need help and the list of people who might be able to provide help. Ask God to deliver the resources you need.

God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. And he often meets our needs through other people. Help may not come in the form or person you expected – but that’s OK. God is creative. Be open to new possibilities!

Then – take a deep breathe – and ask. Reach out and say:

“Right now, things are really hard in our house. 
Could you possibly (insert request here) for a month 
or two while we get back on our feet?”

Worst case scenario: the answer is no. In that case you're no worse off than before.

However, perhaps it really is a God-directed solution. Perhaps, they will be eager to help.

God equipping the called. 

Thank you, Karen, for this post packed full of practical advice. Adoptive parents, what points really resonated with you? Is there anything you would add?

I know a lot of you are in the adoption process. Leave a comment to share what kinds of help you think you might need when you get home. Saying it online here might make it a little easier to say it in person when the time comes!

Karen blogs at Casa de Alegria.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 7: The Best Advice

Today's guest post is by Karen, mom to these three little ladies. 
When you grow your family, you get a lot of advice – some of it good, some not so good. My favorites are:
Sleep when they sleep.

Never wake a sleeping child.

Accept offers of help.

I had no problem executing the first two; as a matter of fact, I prayed for a child that would sleep well, long & often (an unanswered prayer!) because I love sleep. However, for a long time, I ignored the third.

I was the Queen of Competency. Blessed with gifts of administration and organization. Wrote the book on multi-tasking and functioning for days with little sleep.  The master of my domain – by myself!

When my second child arrived home at age 4 with autism, I struggled, but basically was able to do it all on my own – not well, but it all (mostly) got done, and we were surviving.

My third child, an older child adoption, changed all that. Only I was slow to accept the reality because of my Pride.

When our oldest daughter arrived home at 9 years old, she was full of emotions and fears and uncertainties. She underwent a huge cultural shift. She lost the only home she ever knew (and even if it’s a “bad” place, it’s a known place for them).  The loss of her biological family was finalized. She was in a foreign country with no language where everything was different. She lost everything she knew up until that moment.

That would be a lot for a healthy adult to process, but for a child whose developmental stages have been interrupted by trauma – it was a recipe for chaos.

Which is exactly what erupted in our home.

I struggled by myself for a long time trying to hold everything together – meeting everyone’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. I was trying to be everything for everyone – and several of those everyones had high needs and were struggling with trauma.

I was exhausted. My marriage was strained. My kids were a wreck.

I needed help.

Tangible, physical, come cook dinner for me and tend to one child while I soothe and calm the other two kind of help.

I lived in this chaos for months before getting help. Why?

My pride.

Pride – a deadly sin, for it isolates you, hurts those around you when you let it stand in your way, and goes against God’s plan for His people. His plan is for us to be in community and be part of the Body.
 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,  so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

This design is intentional. God’s plan requires we break the bonds of pride that say, "We are an island of sufficiency." It allows us to accept our dependence on God through the physical reality of accepting our dependence on others.
It humbles us. In a good way.

It also allows others the opportunity to participate in God’s grand plan for these hurting children. By allowing them to help you, you help them see what it truly means to lay down our lives for one another.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

One of the things we discovered was that the places help came from were not necessarily the places we expected. The family we expected to step up to the plate slowly receded into the background, while other family members unexpectedly waded into the deep with us. Friends who had stood by and prayed these children home disappeared, while those we considered merely acquaintances became the glue that sometimes held our family together.
That was something to process.

I also discovered that I had to do some work. I needed to figure out exactly what I needed, which is no small feat for someone who felt like she had never needed anything!

Help comes in many forms, and during this 31 Day series I will be writing about focusing on your friends and your church. I'll give you some ideas on how to figure out what you need and how to ask for it – hard things, but necessary and part of God’s design for us.

You can find Karen blogging at Casa de Alegria.

Here are all the posts in this series so far:
Day 1: Drowning in Paperwork
Day 2: A History of Loss
Day 3: Tantrums
Day 4: Parenting with Connection
Day 5: Prayers for the First Days Home
Day 6: Others Share about the First Days
Day 7: The Best Advice
Day 8: How to Get the Help You Need
Day 9: Thing People Say to Adoptive Families
Day 10: More Things People Say
Day 11: Unexpected Challenges
Day 12: Unexpected Blessings
Day 13: Manipulation and Control
Day 14: Sharing Control
Day 15: Packing with Attachment in Mind
Day 16: Kids Camp Two Years Later
Day 17: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part I
Day 18: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part II
Day 19: Understanding Negative Behavior
Day 20: Does Race Matter?
Day 21: Bedtime, Spanking, & How We Parent
Day 22: So. Your Adopted Child Hoards Food
Day 23: A Movie I Recommend
Day 24: Bullying
Know someone adopting an older child? Part of an adoption message board? Invite your friends to be a part of this series by using those tiny share buttons at the bottom of this post. Thanks!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 5: Prayers for the First Days Home

Today's wisdom-filled guest post is by Jennifer Peterson, mother of 10.

My children have been the very best teachers in my life! While my oldest taught me how to BE a parent, the rest are teaching me HOW to parent. 

Twelve years as a foster parent and seven adoptions later, I have learned that a boatload of prayer and keeping the faith that life will get better are the two best ways to get through the inevitable rough spots. How you respond to the stress and tension of those first few months can impact your newly forming relationship with your adopted child for years to come.

Using God’s Word as a guide, let’s look at how we can pray for our children, our families, and ourselves after the arrival or “birth” of an adopted child.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

Pray for Love.
Love at first sight is a bit of a myth. Sometimes it happens, but often it doesn’t. 

Early on, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t feeling that blissful loving heart connection with my new child like I imagined I would.  Don’t let guilt have its way. Pray for your relationship to grow at the pace that will be best for both of you. 

I’ve fallen deeply in love with every one of my kids at different times over days, months, and even years. Yes, I will admit to years before I felt that abiding, protecting love that only a mother has for her child. A long time, but we got there in His timing. 

Pray for Joy.
Pray for the ability to see everything (the present, the past, the future) as a journey; especially on the hard days when the tantrums are loud, the crying won’t stop, insults are hurled, a sibling is bit or hit, the language barrier frustrates, no one sleeps through the night. These temporary hardships show us the deep needs of our children and provide many opportunities to show them unconditional love.

For me, adoption is beauty out of ashes, and when we persevere on the most difficult of days, joy does come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Pray for Peace.
When you mesh two worlds, two cultures, two people, there will always be the inevitable surprise. Pray for acceptance of what you discover in those early months.  

There is not much you can do to prepare for the medical, emotional, and developmental issues that will surface, but taking them in stride will help your child feel accepted and loved at a time when their world has turned upside down. 

When we met our tenth child, we were floored at her global delays, a special need that we specifically didn’t want. We weren’t prepared to parent a six-year-old like a one or two-year-old. We prayed for peace about what we would face in the future with our daughter, and only then did the plan become clear. God was teaching us about His kind of love.

Pray for Patience.
People are always telling me how patient I am, when in reality it is the Fruit of the Spirit that I struggle with the very most. When God gave me 10 children, clearly He knew that I needed lots of extra practice in the patience department. 

When your child first comes home, no matter what age they are, you will feel tied down like you have an infant. Pray for patience during those first days and months of settling in. 

Whenever we introduced a new child into our home, my rule of thumb was this, “They get me 24-7 for the first two weeks.” Everyone and everything else took a back seat to the settling in of the new child. Many a night have I sat next to a bed or crib stroking an arm or patting a cheek. Others have picked up the slack of meal preparation so I could sit on the couch and cuddle a distraught and grieving child. I found that if I patiently gave of myself up front, the bonding process began sooner and our family dynamics improved at a faster rate..

Pray for Kindness.
Showing kindness by respecting the differences in culture will go a long way to helping your child adapt to your own family culture and rules. Try to remember the every single thing is different for your child, and they will feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells. 

When our Chinese kids came home, we learned to love Chinese food. If my kid wanted to put his shoes on to go 10 steps from the bed to the bathroom, we let him. Pick your battles; the more accepting you are of your child’s way of doing things, often the quicker the child may be open to change.

Pray for Goodness.
Prayerfully ask for help. I am still learning in this area. People want to help but are at a loss of how to help. Pray about who might come alongside your family/child. 

Over the years, God has supplied mentors for our children who needed extra support as they transitioned into our family; someone who helped them feel special especially when times were tough. Friends and family want to be part of the goodness of adoption. They want to contribute but just don’t know how.

Pray for Faithfulness.
After integrating twenty children (some foster children) into our family over the last twelve years, we have learned that faith is better caught than taught. Yes, we teach our beliefs when each child is ready to receive the Good News, but more often they see the light and love that comes from living in a way that honors God, and they decide they want that for themselves. Pray that you can strengthen your own walk so that your children will see the Fruit of the Spirit in you.

Pray for Gentleness.
Not everyone will be accepting of your choice or your kids. After our first biracial child was placed with us, good inner-circle friends said they could never adopt an African American. They didn’t think they could accept a child of a difference race or color. Our first inclination was to be indignant. Praying about a gentle and respectful response goes a long way in advancing the kingdom idea of  “all God’s children have a place in the choir!” 

Pray for Self-Control.
After patience, self-control is definitely what I work on most. When (not if) a behavior in my new child develops that triggers my hot button, I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek, seventy times seven, if necessary. When I can exhibit grace towards a struggling child, they will feel more secure, and only then will they open up and be willing to allow their hurts to heal.

Pray for Forgiveness – An extra prayer.
I didn’t know whether to put this first or last, but I believe there is nothing more important than the prayer of forgiveness

Pray that you can forgive the birthparents/country/orphanage for the choices they made. You will feel righteous anger when you see the affects of those choices on your child. When we practice forgiveness, it becomes much easier to help your child find their way through the maze of grief they must travel to become whole and independent. I remember the first time I truly forgave and realized that without these two very special people, I would not have had the privilege of raising the gift of life entrusted to my care.  

As you prayerfully navigate those first few months with your newly adopted child, keep your expectations low, your arms wide open, and love will come!

Thanks, Jennifer, for giving us so much to think -- and pray-- about. I'm definitely pinning this to my Pinterest adoption board. I plan to share it on Facebook as well. You can find Jennifer blogging at Peterson Ponderings.

Shared at Missional Women.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hot, Tired, Happy . . . Blogaholics Anonymous

It's been a hot one today - A day for sunscreen and a cooler full of Gatorade! Both Katherine and Wenxin played in soccer finals, and both teams brought home second place trophies. We are hot, tired, and happy.

Remember, I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow. Here are a few posts I've enjoyed lately.

Examining Adoption Ethics: Part One - Jen Hatmaker isn't one to dodge hard topics. Here, speaking as an adoptive parent, she tackles the issue of corruption in international adoption. A must read.

12 Things Your Daughter Needs You to Say - If you are raising daughters in a Christian home, you want to listen to what Emily Freeman has to say. She's becoming one of my go-to authors for insight on parenting my preteen girls.

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part One of a Series - If you've been around here long, you know that I value listening to adult adoptees. Here, a group of adult adoptees discusses the Christian adoption / orphan care movement. What makes this discussion especially lively is that one of the adult adoptees is a Christian pastor.

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Two of a Series -  Here, the same group discusses domestic adoption ethics.

We've Got Spirit! Check out my blue nails!

Ni Hao Yall

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blogaholics Anonymous

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow.  This blog addiction serves me well as I learn to parent my child from the hard places. Most weeks I share my favorites with you here at Death by Great Wall, although this time, I think it's been a while. 

The Heart of Boston - A Christian perspective on the immigrants among us in light of Boston.

Significant Loss and Trauma Related to Adoption: Interview with Bonnie Martin, MEd, CACS, LCPC - a therapist discusses adoption related issues.

The disappearance of childhood and what we can do to get it back - I love this one! A great reminder to give a children the gift of childhood.

Parents: A Word about Instagram - Wisdom about social media and preteens.

what I want you to know about being a birthmom and backing out of the adoption plan - When a birthmom changes her mind, we usually hear about it from the perspective of the heartbroken would-be adoptive parents. This courageous mom shares her side of the story. If you have time, read the comments.

And finally, did you see my last two posts on Orphan Fever? If you missed them, be sure to check out Orphan Fever: Are Christians Naive? and Orphan Fever: Deception and Misunderstanding. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Orphan Fever: Are Christians Naive?

Have you read the Mother Jones article? Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession by Kathryn Joyce paints a pretty unflattering picture of both evangelical Christians and the international adoption business.

Since I'm an evangelical Christian and an adoptive parent, I decided to read it, and I encourage you to take a deep breath, and read it too. Resist the urge to be defensive. Listen and learn and ask yourself, "How can we, as Christians, work to better serve orphans and widows and needy families worldwide?"

I read articles like this with the idea in mind that in most criticism, there is a kernel of truth. So I set out in search of it, knowing that when we rush to defend ourselves too quickly, we may miss the very thing that God is trying to teach us. Instead, why not give our critics a respectful hearing? Why not see if there's anything to be learned?

To illustrate what she perceives as the failings of the evangelical orphan care movement, Joyce tells the story of Sam and Serena Allison, biological parents of four, and their adoption of six orphans from Liberia. She describes their adoption as just one of many troubled Liberian adoptions that occurred as evangelicals rushed to adopt children following Liberia's 14-year civil war.

Sam and Serena adopt four kids on one trip, and it seems they are quickly overwhelmed. Unprepared to parent kids with backgrounds of trauma, they use an authoritarian, first-time obedience, corporal punishment parenting style. Perhaps their understanding of Biblical parenting led them to believe it was the only godly way.

As homeschoolers, they continue to homeschool even when it doesn't work for their adoptive kids. I couldn't help wondering if homeschooling was essential to the parents' cultural worldview. It seems that sending the adopted kids to school might have provided a much-needed respite for everyone involved.

As for the children, they come carrying baggage from the trauma of war. Hoping for a fairy-tale existence in America -- where they'd heard that money grows on trees -- they end up in rural Tennessee. Attachment doesn't go so well. There are cultural misunderstandings. Finally, one of the older adopted boys is even accused of inappropriate sexual behavior within the family.

As things continue to spiral downward, it's difficult to read. Joyce outlines serious allegations of child abuse against the Allisons and other adoptive parents. Eventually, the Allisons even send one son back to Africa where he finds his former orphanage has been closed.

I'd love for you to head on over to Mother Jones and read the whole article. 

What do you think? Were the Allisons and the other families in the article bad people, or were they just naive people? Did they seriously underestimate, or perhaps even ignore, the challenges of adopting multiple older kids from a war-torn African nation?

And what about the evangelical orphan care movement? What are we doing right? Is there anything that concerns you? How can we be better?

This is really important, and I look forward to hearing your voice in the conversation. Leave a comment below.

*If the Mother Jones article left you a little deflated, read this rebuttal by a Christian adoptive dad:  Is the Left Launching an Attack on Evangelical Adoption?

Ni Hao Yall

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Charmed Childhood

These are his people:  siblings, cousins, friends

Charmed childhood. That's how I would describe Wenxin's life these days.

The words first came to mind at our church picnic. Sunlight sparkled through the trees as a gentle wind sent tiny shimmering leaves swirling through the air like confetti at a ticker tape parade. All afternoon, I watched Wenxin in amazement. These were his people. This was his church. As we spread our blankets on the ground and got in line for food, he was off to play corn hole with friends, confident and carefree.  He asked if he could have Coke in a can with his hot dog, and to my surprise, Mike said, "Sure." After lunch, Wenxin got in the dunking machine line over and over again until finally he threw that softball, hit the target dead center, and dunked the pastor.

Charmed childhood. I thought about those words again on Saturday as Wenxin scored his first soccer goal ever. It was a beautiful shot that sailed right past the goalie. I screamed myself hoarse while he ran back to the center of the field, high-fiving his teammates. These were his people. This was his team. Later that day, he played in a second game and scored again. We celebrated with the ridiculously high-priced snow cones that some really smart person sells at the soccer fields.

I love the joy I see on Wenxin's face these days, but sometimes I still second guess myself.

Does that fact that he seems to be enjoying a charmed childhood mean I'm sheltering him too much? Besides church and soccer, his everyday world is very small.. He goes to school at home with his mom for his teacher and his siblings for classmates. He doesn't have to stress over tests, or homework, or bullies. One of his parents is almost always nearby.

But then I remember that although his chronological age is ten years old, he's only two and a half years old in our family. Protecting him and keeping him close is appropriate for that age. Allowing him to enjoy the innocence and wonder of childhood makes total sense to me.

He had a lot of losses early on, so I'm glad we're able to protect this part of his journey.

It's a lot of fun to watch.

Shared at We Are Grafted In.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear Christian Parent Adopting an Older Child

Adopting an older child is different from raising our bio kids.

Dear Christian Parent Adopting an Older Child,

I want to plead with you not to spank.

I realize you've parented your biological children well. As you've taught and trained them to love and follow Jesus, spanking has been one of the tools in your toolbox. You've seen it bear fruit in their lives.

But when you adopt your new child, it's going to take a long time to build trust.

Think about it. You didn't spank your bio kids when they were infants. In fact, by the time you got to the point of using corporal punishment, even just a swat on the bottom, you had consistently been meeting their needs for many, many months.
"Yes, I'll feed you."

"Yes, I'll change your diaper."
"Yes, I'll comfort you."

Before you ever said, "No," you said, "Yes," about a gazillion times.
They knew you. They loved you. They trusted you.

You will not have that same love and trust in the beginning with your newly adopted older child.

What's more, you probably won't have it for a really long time. This child you're adopting has experienced trauma and loss. She has been repeatedly let down by adults who were supposed to care for her. You're going to have to work hard to gain her trust. You would never spank an infant. This child is an infant in your family. So please don't spank her.

Use the other tools in your parenting toolbox. Pick up some new tools along the way. And always, always, always view her behavior (and misbehavior) through eyes of compassion. You'll never be more like Jesus!

I'm cheering for you,


Wenxin's Gotcha Day. He was 7 1/2 years old. Does he look like he trusts me yet?

My purpose in this post is not to debate the pros and cons of spanking in general or to evaluate whether or not it is commanded or even endorsed by the Bible. I acknowledge that good people, including many Bible-believing Christians, have different opinions about corporal punishment.

My purpose is to reach out to Christian families in the process of adopting older kids.

My purpose is to encourage you not to spank.

Here are a few more reasons why:

1. Your older adopted child may have been a victim of  physical abuse. 

I would never spank a kid who has a history of physical abuse. Never.

Even if I spank with restraint and even if I comfort the child afterwards, it's likely that the act of being hit by an adult will trigger memories of the abuse.

The scary truth of older child adoption is that there are a lot of unknowns. A lot of a child's history never makes the official paperwork. The older child you're adopting may have been a victim of abuse whether you know it or not.

2. Your older adopted child can't learn when they are operating from fear. 

On my last post about Christian parenting of adopted kids, Lisa made a comment about spanking children who come from a background of trauma and neglect.

"Discipline is meant to disciple, teach, and train our children. Our children have already experienced enough pain in their lives that spanking does not instruct - it puts every cell in their little bodies on high alert, and they switch into self-protection. There is no learning going on. Yes, we may be able to force them into submission, but I hope that is not our true goal - we want them to be more like Jesus and to grow to love and serve Him."

3. A lot of our older adopted kids have sensory issues. 

I haven't noticed any sensory issues in my son, but it's something I hear discussed over and over again in online adoption forums. Here's a short video where Dr. Karyn Purvis discusses sensory processing disorder in adopted kids.

In my opinion, if your child doesn't process sensory information normally, it just doesn't make sense to spank them. Sensory processing disorder is not the adopted child's fault. It's just one more way the fallout from their early abuse and neglect continues to follow them long after they've been adopted.

4. You can still discipline your new child.

At first, because of the language barrier, we had to get creative with how we taught Wenxin about living in our family.

As Wenxin learned our expectations, we often had him simply stop playing and sit in a chair near us when he disobeyed. After a designated time, usually about five minutes, we'd let him try again. This gentle approach established that we were in charge and reinforced our house rules.

The Connected Child offers more suggestions for correcting behavior along with simple scripts that help you communicate briefly and clearly.

I'd love to hear from my readers. How do you correct misbehavior besides spanking? What works for your family?

To spank or not to spank. . . that is the question. I guess everyone knows where I stand now. What about you? Shared at Titus 2 Tuesdays, Tending the Home Tuesdays, Missional Women, and . . . 

Ni Hao YallOpen Letter Campaign

Friday, March 1, 2013

Godly Parenting May Be Different Than You Think

When I had my first child, lots of my friends were following a parenting philosophy that was popular with Evangelical Christians at the time. I think a lot of people still use it today.

It goes something like this. With newborns, parents are encouraged to establish a sleeping and eating schedule. You put infants down at night and for naps while they are still awake so they can learn to go to sleep independent of nursing or snuggling or rocking. Because feeding is parent-directed, it's done on a schedule and not in response to a crying or fussy baby. Instead of picking up a crying baby, the goal is for them to learn to self-sooth, making them happier in the long run.  And the big claim is that by following this plan, babies will quickly sleep through the night.

With so many American Christians swearing by this program, I can't help but wonder what happens when many of these same Christians later add to their families by adopting kids from hard places. Does this type parenting work for children with backgrounds of trauma?

I've been observing families for a long time.

Because I didn't marry until I was 36 and didn't have a baby until I was 37, I had a lot of time to watch my friends marry and become parents. I literally took pages and pages of mental notes. Many of my new parent friends were eager to share with me what they were learning.

And since most of my friends were Christians like me, I saw lots of this Christian parenting in action.

Once while visiting a friend, I was surprised to hear her baby screaming in the next room. It went on for over an hour. My friend shared that the baby had to learn to put herself to sleep. She said, "We want our baby to learn that although she is a welcome member of the family, she is not the center of it." Problem was, we weren't even in my friend's home. She was visiting from out of town, and the baby was trying to go to sleep in a strange room. It seemed to me that this might be a time for an exception to the rules -- that the baby could use some snuggling and comfort in a strange place.

Years later, I witnessed an almost identical scenario in another friend's home when she and her family had just returned home from an international trip. Her jet lagged baby screamed and screamed and screamed in the adjoining room, but my friend didn't want to go in and pick her up. "This is the only way to get her back on schedule, " she explained.

When I finally had babies of my own, we found somewhat of a middle ground that worked for us. I held and rocked and nursed my babies as much as I wanted. I'd waited so long; I couldn't imagine not holding them. Many nights our babies fell asleep on Mike's chest. We found the rhythm, the routine, the schedule that worked for our family. And along the way, I came to believe that good parenting is more art than science. I don't think it can be reduced to a formula.

And yet, we all long for a formula, don't we?

"Someone, please tell me the exact steps to take to do this parenting thing right. This is too important to mess up."

And someone comes along with a formula and calls it Christian, and we all jump on the bandwagon.

Don't get me wrong. Schedules are good. Kids, especially our kids from hard places, thrive with the predictability of a schedule. And both my friends described above went on to raise great kids. Really great kids! So obviously a little crying didn't hurt them.

But here's my fear. I fear that sometimes in our quest to get everyone on a schedule, we harden our hearts to our children. We ignore their cries. When we place our highest value on babies sleeping through the night and children having "room time" by themselves, we miss God-given opportunities to connect with our kids, all the while believing we're doing the right thing.

Kids from the hard places come to us hurt. They've got self-soothing down pat, although their methods may look strange to us. What they don't know is how to trust a parent to meet their needs. They need to be drawn close to us, not pushed to be independent. Even when it comes to bedtime. Maybe, especially when it comes to bedtime.

Mike and I both agree that we've made the biggest strides in connecting with Wenxin in the drowsy moments right before he drifts off to sleep. It's when he's the most relaxed, and it's the only time he's ever talked to either of us about his life in China.

To this day, Mike puts him to bed and prays for him. Then he stays with him as Wenxin falls asleep. Some evenings when I sense Wenxin could use a little extra connection, I ask him if I can hold him as he falls asleep. He runs to get his blanket and quickly joins me on the sofa. I stroke his hair and tell him how happy I am he's my son, holding him much like you would a newborn, even though he's ten.

This would be hard to do if we believed that the only godly way to parent was to teach a child to sleep on his own -- right from the start.

But you know, even if we believed that, we could still re-evaluate. We could still change.

The most common comment I heard at the Empowered to Connect conference was, "I thought I could parent my adopted kids the same way I parented my biological kids. Now I see I need to make some changes."

I have a lot of fears in writing this post. I fear people may feel attacked. I fear I'll come across prideful -- like Mike and I have this parenting thing all figured out. I fear I'll discourage parents who are in the trenches -- giving it all they've got, doing the best they can.

It's not my intention to do any of those things. My only goal is to encourage adoptive parents -- and prospective adoptive parents -- to choose parenting methods that help you connect with your child -- even if it doesn't look the way you always thought Christian parenting would look.

Some of you may be thinking, "What in the world is she talking about? Christian what?" Others may think I've gone all hippy, baby-wearing on you. Leave a comment. I'd love to know what you think.

For more on godly parenting and older child adoption, read this follow-up post on spanking.
Shared at WFMW, Emily Wierenga, Missional Women, Mercy Ink, and. . .
Found the Marbles