Next up in the Adoption: Let’s Be Honest series is therapeutic parenting techniques. Sounds like some hocus pocus language, right? That is what I thought too! I was so confused about why my parenting instincts seemed to be way off the mark at the most critical moments. I didn’t normally yell, wasn’t a belitter, didn’t do the “freeze out”, so why were my techniques not working? Because these kiddos usually aren’t into “looking at the heart” parenting. They don’t believe they have a heart (at least not a lovable one) and they certainly don’t believe Mom does either! I mean didn’t their “mom” give them away? What kind of mom with a heart does that?!!
As we started getting counseling, I realized that I was going to have to learn new parenting techniques and not just any techniques, therapeutic parenting techniques. Let’s start with the definition for this phrase. When children are traumatized at an early age, their hearts are wounded. Trust in others and in themselves takes the hardest hit. So parenting these kiddos must be focused on healing their wounded heart. Now you know I have said that “if I love them enough they will heal”. If this were true, I would not be writing this article. I cry in the night, ache until I am sure my heart will crumble into a million pieces love them. It isn’t the beginning answer. It is however, the basis from which to start. Don’t forget that.
I thought I would share of few of these techniques to give you an idea just what this looks like. Information that you need to know to make the best decision for your family as you look into adoption.
First, you must at all times (as much as humanly possible) be a calm parent. Your voice, your face, your body relaxed and engaged. Christine Moers (a wonderful therapeutic parent) explains this beautifully in this video.
Next, you CANNOT do rewards system. They will absolutely, positively blow out of them. No choices at first and they cannot change your choice. They need strong structure and you are building their trust for you. They need to know you are a smart parent who knows what is best to take care of them! Therapeutic parenting of teens is exceptionally hard as you are also dealing with hormones!
In this article in Adoption today, they lay out these therapeutic parenting techniques quite well.
Limits, choices and consequences. Children with compromised attachment need considerable structure. The rules, limits and consequences you furnish must be clear, consistent and realistic. Let your child know exactly what your expectations are and hold him or her accountable.
How to deliver a consequence. The way you deliver the consequence — your style of communication — can determine how constructive you are.
Tips for giving a consequence:
• Connect with eye contact.
• Be aware of nonverbal messages.
• Set the stage.
• Focus on the behavior, not the child.
• Work as a team.
• Be consistent.
• Don’t lecture.
• Control your anger.
• Don’t threaten or give warnings.
• Give positives.
• Make it relevant.
• It doesn’t have to be immediate.
• Don’t overdo it.
• Don’t give up.
The full article is a must read.
Does this sound hard? To stay on the honest track, it is at first. Some days I felt as if I was swimming in a pool of confusion. I found that I had to start with a few new skills and then add to them as I became proficient. I also set up a mentor/support person to bounce off situations. That was extremely helpful because I also had to change my way of seeing their behavior. But sooner than I anticipated, I started hearing phrases from the new therapeutic parenting techniques come out of my mouth automatically. And I saw small changes in my kiddos as they started to heal.