Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Why

As adults, when we struggle, we often wish other's understood, and seek out grace when we fail or don't perform our best. We hope for forgiveness. We wish that people could see the why of our actions, I've not slept for days, I'm worried about my child, I'm sick, my heart is broken, I feel alone, hurt or whatever. I know you understand because we are human and humans fail. 

I am thankful for those times when I have blown it that God always forgives me. I am grateful as well when those around me are able to extend grace to me when I do something I shouldn't or fail them in some way. 

Grace is a very precious gift! 

That being said, when it comes to children, we are so quick to forget about grace in the pursuit of obedience. Now I will tell you, in the depths of depression, I operated on a whatever will make them quiet mode that I am still paying for, I was permissive to the extreme, that is NOT what I am talking about here. I have also been so panicked about the out of control mess I created that I hardened my heart and failed to see the "why" or extend grace to my children. Both are terrible mistakes for which, guess what? I have been forgiven.

Never the less, I recently grounded several of my children. Their behavior for various reasons was way out of line. This I know. And while I am personally not a fan of grounding because it ends up only punishing the parent, I got into a habit of dishing out grounding instead of allowing natural consequences to occur or making event specific consequences, in other words, I've been lazy. I have spent the last several days rethinking the consequences and deciding how I was going to proceed.

For one of my children, grounding is actually something she enjoys because she likes to distance herself from others. She is feeling very unloved, abandoned, and isolated so she did what many of us have done, and decided to give those around her a reason for the unfair way she is being treated,  and so today I decided she was ungrounded, not without consequence, but ungrounded. We replaced instead with chores specifically related to her offenses which she did with me or her siblings. This is also known as "Time In" in the attachment parenting world. 

For another the seriousness of her behavior combined with the fact that I can see the separation is making a very important impression in her mind that I know she won't soon forget, so, she is going to stay grounded.

For another, I noticed panic about certain things in her life, and a willingness she NEVER displays to do above and beyond without me asking that I felt was important to reward with some free time from being grounded. Her panic is making her agitated, which is making her hateful, which is making her end up in trouble. While I can continue to ground her for the hatefulness, it does not help the root cause and will not improve the situation. So with her we are backing up and punting...but most certainly helping her see the benefit of doing something good and kind. 

Three kids, three different plans newly made because in my laziness and exhaustion failed to remember that they are not cookie cutter versions of one child, but individuals. To treat them the same will only make them worse, and honestly, I have seen that. 

I remember back to when my Livy was little and she destroyed her bedroom every night. I would help her clean her room before bed and in the morning I would notice it was destroyed. If I took everything out she would rip her clothes or bedding or anything she could find and I would find it all around her bed. It was weeks into this with no consequence ever working that I walked in one day and noticed something. The mess was around her bed, not on it or in other parts of her room, but I dismissed it as some part of her mental illness and left it alone. 

Weeks later I went to a training with Bryan Post, an attachment therapist, and when he allowed for people to ask questions, I asked what I was supposed to do with my child since she continued to make piles of things around her bed every night. I did not get the answer I was seeking, instead he looked at me and said, "in all your effort to get her to obey you, have you ever bothered to ask her why?'  

Well how stupid is that? Parents make rules for kids own good, kids follow rules, period, right? 

He went on to explain how he had a child who got in trouble every single night before shower-time. She flipped out and caused some sort of scene which many times resulted in her not bathing. The parents did all sorts of consequences for this behavior but nothing worked. Up Bryan's suggestion, they asked her why. In her birth home, she was raped in the shower. She panicked about showers because she didn't trust that it wouldn't happen again. Unknowingly the parents had over and over again re traumatized their child. 

I went home thinking he was wrong, but honestly desperate so the next night I decided to ask Livy why she was doing what she did. And she says to me, "well the scary can't get on here then". I knew from her story that the "scary" was the person who had abused my children or what they called him. She wasn't trashing her room, she was building a wall to keep herself safe and I in my ignorance destroyed it night after night reaffirming in her little mind that I did not want to protect her. I was sickened at myself and what I had done. 

So that night, we pulled out all kinds of stuffed animals and blocks and we built a wall together, and in the morning we put it away, and guess what? Our nighttime troubles ended. My baby girl slept. Healing  began. 

In my pursuit of obedience, I almost lost her. 

Yes, obedience is important, but sometimes you have to look at the why! You have to back up and start over. You have to do what God and others have done for you in your own life. In doing so, you not only help your child deal with whatever is going on in their life, but you help them to understand God's grace. 

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