Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This too shall pass


Lest you think parenting is easy...

The last four months or so have been really difficult for Biniam. He seemingly woke up one morning a different child--trading in his typically sweet and easygoing heart for an unhappy and somewhat rebellious one. We struggled and struggled, remained consistent with discipline, but it all seemed to be in vain. We just could not figure it out and felt so frustrated. It made daily life really hard.

One morning at my church's moms' group he got TWO TIME-OUTS from the babysitters there for not sharing, and fighting over toys. WHAT?! He was even having a hard time at home getting along with his siblings--including Kaitlyn, who he adores. Meanwhile I spent a lot of time feeling like a horrible mother and feeling guilty for the frustration I'd feel towards him and the situation.

At some point I decided to try a different approach. I was reading Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers at the time--SO timely. While remaining consistent with discipline, I would spend lots of time cuddling with him. We'd put him down for bed and naps in our bed. I felt he had some sort of heart issues going on--whether it was attachment related or not, I don't know, but I figured it wouldn't hurt. He was obviously going through a tough time. He was either being difficult, or when he wasn't, we were too wiped out to proactively engage him. So I hoped doing a few extra things would help.

And then at some point a few weeks ago, he went back to being his normal, wonderful self! I am so, so happy. It had really worn us down. I don't know if our reaching out to him and really making an effort in the area of physical closeness made a difference, but I'm just so glad that phase is over! At my moms group this past Monday he didn't have any timeouts and seemed happy to be there. He's loving on his baby sister again, full of smiles, and has a genuine desire to please.

I'm sharing this with you in case anyone out there is feeling discouraged like I did, questioning your parenting and wondering if things will get better. I just kept thinking, he's such a sweet, good kid, what is going on?! When will I have my son back? I know children test sometimes. I also know that Biniam's first year and a half of life was so far from optimal. (Being relinquished by his mother, illness, hospitalization, moving between three different orphanages and then between two different sets of adoptive parents.) I've never used that as an excuse or a reason not to discipline (children need structure and boundaries), but from time to time I DO wonder if some behavior might be the result of deeper heart issues that stem from insecurity and loss. Obviously he was working through something.

All of that to say, as a mom I want to not simply modify behavior, but ultimately reach my child's heart. If it means staying in our pjs all day and cuddling on the couch reading books, so be it. I also want to say I don't share any of this with the intent of disparaging my child. He has a beautiful heart, he's sharp as a tack, and I love him to pieces! Mostly I feel sad that he was going through something so difficult and wasn't able to express what it was. And sad that my impatience and frustration so often ruled the day.

Have any of you experienced tough phases with a child? How did you deal with it?

12 comments:

darci said...

i'm so glad he's 'back'..it's so hard, this parenting thing! i have just been going thru such a similiar thing with my eight year old, and of course heaping on the guilts and doubts on myself..I just pray and pray, and yesterday in the middle of the situation, I realized that my heart was sort of withdrawing from her, in a sense of, 'ok then fine!' (real mature of me i know!) and I felt God say, 'you know, Darc, when you're misbehaving in a relationship, with God, with your husband, you want to feel LOVED no matter what.' and that helped turn myheart back to her in softness. i don't know, parenting would be so EASY if is was just about controlling them..but it's so much more, and raising them up to be who God has planned for them to be. eesh! it's huge. But more and more I'm really just saying 'ok God, i have NO idea..' and He really does direct my steps.
I think as soon as we 'figure out' one stage or phase, it's too late, they're on to the next one, and of course the younger sibling will be completely different, so...
You sound like a great mom..love, structure, discipline, and more love. :)

Valerie said...

Thanks for posting this. We had a similar situation here a month or two back. My super sweet three-year-old decided to start acting very ugly at school and church towards everyone else, including the teachers. Unfortunately, at the same time, his behavior seemed to improve at home! So it was hard to say the least, and I wanted to throw in the towel many a day. We are very much disciplinarians around here, but when he was acting up, it drove me crazy that we appeared to be the parents who let our child run wild. We tried everything -- and after lots of prayer as well, the behavior seemed to just stop and he is back to normal. I don't know if it was attachment issues or just regular ol' 3-year-old boy behavior (our son is from Guatemala), but looking back, I'm thinking it might have actually just been one of those runs of the terrible three's I've heard so much about, especially for boys. I'm hoping for no more "naughty phases" in the future. Seriously, reading this post and how someone else was going through it as well sure makes me feel better!

Hauswife said...

Thanks for this, Brianna. I'm so glad your little man is "back"! I struggle with this all the time with my 8 year old who has special needs. I agree with you that solving behavioral issues is only the surface. The real target is the heart. Thanks for your encouragement.

The Brothers said...

So glad you wrote this. One of my little ones has been driving me nuts for a few weeks and straight had me in tears the other day because of his unwillingness to submit to my authority.
You're right, stand firm, spend more cuddle time and don't budge on the rules and pray for wisdom!
He regulated eventually, thank the Lord!

Angela said...

putting my computer away now to snuggle with my little guy who is in a rough place...
:)

joy said...

you are so wise and such a great mom, brianna. we were having a tough time with abe there, and i tried doing some more touching and loving and positive attention. the phase seems to have passed for now. you hit the nail on the head saying it's not just about modifying behavior--it's really speaking with their heart. such a challenge parenting is. i'm so thankful for God in our lives. how would we do this without Him? I have no idea.

Shana said...

We've gone through something similar with Isaiah. I felt like it was more of a heart-issue (or spirit of rebellion, as I called it) over just "terrible two's" (I hate that label and don't subscribe to it). Anyway, over the summer things came to a head and resulted in me taking time off work and spending three solid days of focus, discipline, and "breaking the spirit". We've definitely had to stay consistent with him, and still have issues, but he turned a corner after those three days and is SO much better now.

You're a great mom, and your kids are blessed to have you.

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Regusci said...

This post hit home for us. We are just coming up from what we call one of our down hill roller coaster rides with our eldest who is 6. He came to us just under the age of 4 borderline RAD. Now he no longer holds any attachment diagnose but we still have our weeks and months that we really struggle. Love and Logic and the words of Nancy Thomas were a God send for us. The skills it taught us were so valuable, in helping to heal is tiny heart. I still sleep with here books and CD's by my bed for reference when we have a bad spell. Her big thing is touch, hold them close, even if they don't want it.! Thanks again Brianna!

Lisa Leonard said...

thanks for such an insightful post. i think we all go thru this!! so encouraging.

Lara said...

Oh man, I wish we could sit down and talk about this. I'm really struggling with Caedra right now...or maybe more accuratly my own parenting. The older she gets the more apparent my inconsistancies and failings become. She's really sweet, and polite and intelligent, but she thinks she's in charge.
I need to start reading the books you're reading. Thanks for this post. Love you!

Brianna Heldt said...

Lara I miss you!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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