If you have, and are not sure still if you can help, even though everything looks kosher, then start out by helping them on a small scale.
Lend them a few dollars to get by and see if they pay you back.
Give them a ride and see if they are appreciative.
Say, “No” and see how they react.
Give good advice and wait to see if they follow it.
Watch their spending habits.
Pay attention to how they treat people around them.
Listen to their stories and complaints and evaluate their decisions.
You say it’s not right to judge? Well, if you are deciding on what part you will play in someone’s life, you’d better judge his or her behavior or you will find yourself on the wrong road. I once told my daughter that she may choose her own road, but don’t expect me to leave mine to walk that road with her.
You as a parent are under no obligation to follow your child down the wrong road by making bad decisions under the guise of “helping.” Dr. R.B. Ouellette once said that, “Opportunity does not equal obligation.” Let’s modify that a bit to say, “Whining and begging by an irresponsible, disloyal, or disrespectful adult kid does not mean you must meet their wants or needs.”
Save the bulk of your money and time for the kids that love and respect you and have proven themselves responsible. You say that’s not Christian? I say, where do you think the advice “Cast not your pearls before swine” came from?
There is a reason that the prodigal son ended up eating the food of the swine. He walked down the wrong road.
One of my sons many years ago would text or call me and say rude and disrespectful things. After reading the book, Boundaries, (affiliate link) I decided to put my foot down based on what had I learned from that book and told him each time that if he didn’t change the subject, I’d hang up.
I had to hang up a few times and yet the rude behavior continued. It got so bad that I finally told him that if he said one more thing that was out of line, I’d not talk to him for a month. It only took one time of following through for him to stop. If he slips, we just say, “Change the subject” and he does. Boundaries – they work.
I’ve been so successful at putting together a great circle that I no longer feel the need to put up with disrespectful or rude behavior. Part of it comes from confidence born out of experience, part of it comes from having enough self respect that allows me to pick and choose who I will spend time with. I spent 30 years parenting kids under 18 and now that they are all grown, I’m determined to guard my CIRCLE and keep it safe. It is the fuel that keeps me going and helps me weather life’s storms.
Get a CIRCLE. Only let the safe ones in. Lay down boundaries. Guard your CIRCLE with your life – for therein it lies.
* Disclosure: This post contain an affiliate link. If you buy anything after clicking on one of the affiliate links, I receive a small commission of the sale. The cost to you is the same, and I only link to items that I think would benefit my readers. Your support of this blog is greatly appreciated!
If you can answer all of the questions from yesterday, “Yes,” then it’s looking good for you to step out and help your adult child that is on SHAKY GROUND.
Now let’s break it down.
Is your SHAKY GROUND adult child really on the right road?
One of my Love My DIY Home subscribers sent me this quote: “If someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Too often an adult child in crisis will tell you they have turned their life around, have seen the Light, and their heart is in the right place. They are publishing on Facebook that their marriage is amazing, they make a lot of money, they love their family, yada, yada, yada, but in reality nothing has changed.
In the past (and I’m sure will in the future), I’ve been so hopeful that I took them at their word only to find out they were in a jam, were trying to dig themselves out of a pit but it didn’t last because there never was a real change. It got too hard or things improved, or the crisis passed, they went back to “the old them.”
You need to be discerning. Believe them but don’t believe them. In other words, be compassionate, be their cheerleader, encourage them, love them, even make an effort to help them (in a small way to start) to see how they will respond and what they will do with your help. Wait and watch. Be cautiously optimistic. This is not the time to bring out the big guns and devote tons of undivided attention or give them a lot of money. Help but keep your priorities strong. Don’t jump in with both feet until you KNOW. BTDT
You are both adults.
If you determine you can’t or won’t help, just tell them “No” or just don’t offer and leave it at that. You are under no obligation to explain. Both of you are adults. If they want advice on how to solve their problem, then offer it, but most likely if they not completely off the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION, they won’t want your advice anyway.
They will be offended and get angry or try to make you the bad guy. Don’t fall for their accusations. Be relieved that their behavior as shown you that you made the right decision.
Often when an immature or narcissistic adult is told, “No,” they think they are angry with the one who is not giving them what they want.
In reality their anger is a cover-up for their hurt pride and shows their extreme self-love. They have trouble identifying this emotion so they spew anger toward the one who disappointed them rather than doing some much needed introspection. After all, if they can label you as the selfish or uncaring one, then they won’t have to evaluate their own behavior.
introspection in·tro·spec·tion (ĭn’trə-spěk’shən) n. Contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; self-examination. www.dictionary.com
“If someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
NEVER forsake or ignore or put on the back burner those who have been faithfully in your circle for the one who is in trouble. Yes, you come to the aid of those in crisis if you can and if appropriate, but be sure to keep your priorities straight. It’s hard sometimes and it can be a real juggling act, but you can do it. It’s all about choices. Be aware that if you lose your circle, you lose your ability to reach outside of your circle to help others.
What road are you on as a parent? Are you on a STABLE STREET or PROSPERITY LANE where you have the resources to help them?
Are you sure that if you help them you won’t be thrown onto SHAKY GROUND or the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION?
Recently I spoke with a friend who told me she’s blown through all of her savings trying to help an adult child who took her for all she had – all because she whined about how hard her life is and constantly asked for money to bail her out.
The mom hadn’t set boundaries and was so afraid she’d lose her child that she gave in EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.
This is where I recommend the book Boundaries. (affiiate link)
Go read it. It changed my parenting life. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating.
If a child on the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION reaches down to a parent for help and the parent gives in, the child may never learn and the mom may eventually find herself on their ROAD, especially if she is on SHAKY STREET already. There is more than one way to end up on the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION, and they all begin with bad decisions.
Are you sure that if you help them that others who have earned a place in your CIRCLE will not go without or that your actions won’t damage your relationship? It’s good to let others into your circle, but not if it’s going to hurt the ones already in there. Guard your circle.
This one is tough. When my kids were little, we were constantly putting out fires. We bounced from one crisis to another because we had many kids who came from difficult backgrounds that had trouble learning, reasoning, had no idea what boundaries were, and extremely desired things they shouldn’t have. It was a constant struggle to get through most days.
But we also had a few compliant kids who desired to please their parents and had a genuine desire to do right. I had such trouble balancing a need to give positive attention to those kids because of the constant demand of the other ones. I was fortunate that the compliant kids were compliant and very patient and helpful.
There was one defining moment that set my course for the rest of our parenting for when they were all adults.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on Mom of Many because I’ve been busy putting together my DIY program.
But I’m back today with the first in a series – it started out to be a simple set of tips and morphed into a full-blown series because there was so much to say.
Have you ever wondered…
How do I tell them “No,” when I can’t help?
Am I obligated to help every time they ask?
What do I do when I have a demanding or whiny adult child?
Am I obligate to babysit every time they ask?
How do I deal with unkind behavior from my adult children?
Do I support them no matter what?
How do I deal with my feeling of guilt if I have to walk away or say, “No.”?
What if they keep asking for money?
Do I give it or loan it?
Mom, can I use your credit card?
And the beat goes on. So many questions. How do we know what to do? How do we deal with the emotional implications?
Here I will lie out my experiences with my 15 kids and perhaps show you what works and what doesn’t.
We Are All on a Road
Some by choice, some not by choice, though some would argue everyone is right where they are due to their own choices. But really, let’s be gracious and take the “high road” and realize that sometimes circumstance can throw a curve ball and knock even the stoutest person off their feet.
For the purpose of my illustration, let’s say there are four roads. I define them here:
ROAD TO DESTRUCTION – This is the road that will destroy you, your family, your future, possibly your life if you continue down. It’s hard to believe people choose this road, but they do.
SHAKY GROUND – This is the road that many walk daily. Financial struggles, relationship issues, job/financial woes, health issues, etc., but you are striving to work it out and your desire and choices are eventually going take you to STABLE STREET.
STABLE STREET – This is where maybe you aren’t financially independent, are fighting illness, or haven’t yet realized all your dreams, but you feel happy and confident, your relationships are great and you have a basic satisfaction and can honestly say, “Life is good.” You feel like you are doing well and feel blessed – you have a handle on life.
PROSPERITY LANE – I’m not sure anyone ever makes it to prosperity lane. I suppose some do or think they have, but life isn’t normally a bed of roses all the time. This is where we all desire to stroll. Relationships are fulfilling. You feel you’ve found your purpose in life and can pull out the stops in every area. Financially you are doing great. You are able to give to others. You have the wisdom to make great choices and confidence to advise others how to live. Others look up to you and your kids want to be just like you and appreciate you. Yep. Not sure this is possible, but it is what we all strive for.
One never ‘arrives” until the end of their life.
The final destination isn’t this world. We all are on a journey. That sounds hokey to me because EVERYone uses the word “journey”. But it really does fit. I think that it is very possible that is why we have so many screw-ups in this world. They look around and think they need to arrive and think – “this will make me happy,” “if I only had this I’d have a happy life.” They grasp at straws and never feel like they have “made it.”
This life is a road we are walking TOWARD a destination. Right now I won’t get into the spiritual aspect because that could be considered a “rabbit trail.” Though, I believe to be living in the Spirit allows us to access the ultimate road map.
Now, let’s define “CIRCLE.”
When I refer to our circle, I mean the realm where we live, where we are influencers. Those people love and respect us, treat us with deference, are there to help when needed, are loyal, and genuinely desire to be a part of our life consistently and faithfully. These are our people. Anyone can be in our circle, but they must earn a place. No one can join our circle over night.
Guidelines. Boundaries. Personal Safety.
Here are the guidelines we use when it comes to “helping” our adult kids. I put “helping” in quotation marks because we need to ascertain first whether stepping in and “helping” is really helping.
Through the years when we parented, many people felt it their obligation to step in when they saw some of our adult kids struggling and advise, give money to and even house them. This isn’t necessarily the right thing to do because it could be classified as enabling. But that’s another discussion.
If your child is ROAD TO DESTRUCTION with no sign of changing their lifestyle or making better choices, if they ask for advice but don’t follow it or just plain turn a deaf ear to the voices of reason all around them, then it should be parental hands off. Prayer and a whole lot of walking down the avenue of hope is our only resort as parents.
Now if they leave that ROAD TO DESTRUCTION and step onto SHAKY GROUND, you have a different scenario. They are cleaning up their lives, striving to improve their situation, looking for and following advice for the most part, and you see a genuine desire for change, then that changes things for you as a parent…maybe.
We must realize that SHAKY GROUND could also be the road of your new adult kids, newly married adult kids or even the road of new parents (grand kids, yes!). To be on SHAKY GROUND doesn’t mean your kids have done anything wrong or made bad decisions, it just means what it says. They are trying to find and keep their feet in the middle of difficult circumstances. Some do well; some do not. But for us as parents, we have to decide what put them there and if our help will actually help, if they need to do the balancing act alone or with you and your resources by their side.
When if your kids make the decision to step from THE ROAD TO DESTRUCTION to SHAKY GROUND, it certainly does change your relationship status. This is where relationships begin to mend but they are still tenuous and will need lots of work to get back on the right road. Should you step in and help at this point? If so, how much? That’s a hard question. Let’s answer a few questions first.
Is your SHAKY GROUND adult child really on the right road or are they just asking for help because they are in a crisis?
What road are you on as a parent? Are you on STABLE STREET or PROSPERITY LANE where you have the resources to help them?
Are you sure that if you help them you won’t be thrown onto SHAKY GROUND or the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION?
Are you sure that if you help them that others who have earned a place in your CIRCLE will not go without or that your actions won’t damage your relationship with your CIRCLE? It’s good to let others into your circle, but not if it’s going to hurt the ones already in there. Guard your circle.
Are they in your CIRCLE?
Does this adult child who is on SHAKY GROUND use gifts (time, money, advice, compassion) wisely and learn by example and through personal experience? In other words, would you be throwing your pearls before swine?
Does this adult child that is on SHAKY GROUND treat you with respect in private and public? Do they show appreciation when you help them? Are they trustworthy?
Are you offended yet?
Wait till you’ve read the whole thing before you decide.
She is a good mom, cares for her child, works hard, is faithful and loving. She did what her mom did with her back when she was little. She did what she thought was best in the moment.
While she was in the store an onlooker called the police and took a picture of her son sitting in the car alone. Since the whole fiasco, this mom has decided her choice was unwise and plans to never do it again. She does a great job in the article laying out the situation and ramifications.
My comments have to do with calling 911 to deal with situations like hers:
This onlooker though she knew best and felt the need to “protect” a stranger’s child.
She didn’t know the mom.
She didn’t know the kid.
She didn’t know the circumstances, age, or maturity of the boy.
She thought she knew better than the mom.
She perceived “danger” when there was none, until she grabbed her phone, that is.
SHE was the danger to this boy.
Her one phone call caused this family a year’s worth of pain and loss.
Because of her reaction to a perceived danger, the mom was charged with child endangerment.
This one act created a long lasting fear in the child that someone would come take him away from his mom.
You might say, “Well, she deserved it.” or, “No, the mom caused it with her decision to leave her child.” Regardless of your opinion regarding leaving kids in the car for a few moments, one thing we must agree upon. The mom is the mom. Her parental rights say she and the dad alone have a say in how they parent. Period.
The boy wasn’t in danger
He wasn’t in trouble, causing trouble, or in any type of distress.
It wasn’t hot out.
He had the maturity to handle himself and was happily sitting, playing on an iPad.
Stranger danger? Yep…danger from someone who thought they were responsible for a stranger’s child while walking by.
A different lady on one of my Facebook groups saw a boy in a car alone and asked what everyone thought she should do. Should she call 911 or leave him alone and mind her own business? The responses were split. Half said leave it alone and half said she should call 911. What do you say?
Guess what she did…
She stayed with the boy while he sat in the car until his mom came out – because she was concerned.
She didn’t call 911 – because it wasn’t any of her business.
She limited her “social responsibility” to observation, not judgement or action.
Win. Win. She alleviated her doubts and helped a mom in need (or so she felt was in need – it’s called appropriate, non threatening concern).
Is there a better way?
Why don’t we just help instead of criticize?
Why don’t we give people the benefit of the doubt and do what is best for everyone involved?
People don’t understand that by calling 911, or protective services, they are creating a danger in the lives of the entire family that is just as damaging as the perceived risk of leaving a child in the car (if not more).
One day I was in a bathroom stall and heard a mom come in with several little kids. She keep saying, “Stay right in front of the door while I am helping your brothers go potty.” She kept talking to her 6 year old son to keep him occupied while she took care of business. She had three little kids.
Was the boy standing outside the stall in any danger? No. Could he have been? Maybe. If I’d been a pervert or kidnapper, I definitely had opportunity. But I wasn’t. He was fine. Was I concerned? A little Was there a minor possibility of a problem? Maybe.
Rather than criticize or assume she couldn’t handle her kids, I decided to help.
I told her I would stay with her son and watch the door until she was done.
I explained I was a mom of a bunch of kids and I understood her situation.
She profusely thanked me when she came out and explained that she was frazzled trying to manage them.
I certainly knew what she meant because I’ve gone shopping with a passel of kids and know what it’s like to try to manage all of them alone (which is why I seldom went out alone without my DH!)
He was fine and she was encouraged by a concerned onlooker.
Let’s not judge, intervene or criticize.
Let’s not cause a problem where there is none.
Let’s not assume we know better than the parents.
Let’s not step in where we don’t belong.
Let’s decide to help rather than create a problem where there is none.
If we see a need. Let’s help.
If we see possible danger. Let’s help.
If we see a mom needing help, let’s help!
Let me know what you think or if you’ve had experience with the “helping hand.” I have a comment section and I read every one!
Yesterday I left off with: “There was one defining moment that set my course for the rest of our parenting for when they were all adults.”
Let me tell you about that moment.
When our older kids were in college, they all came home from college for Easter one year and I found myself falling into the crisis repairing stage with one of them during those few days. At the end of the week, I’d realized that short vacation was gone and I’d not had many good moments with the ones that weren’t in crisis. I’d spent all my time trying to put out a fire that eventually just re-ignited anyway.
So basically I had chosen the one in crisis over the ones that were not. I felt like the worst parent in the world. I decided right then that I would NEVER do that again. Never again would I put a troubled adult ahead of one that was not. I worked at repairing and protecting my CIRCLE from that day on. I have determined to surround myself with those who consistently love and respect me, make a genuine effort to do right, and try to live a good and peaceable life.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be there for those who were in trouble or need me. But I will always carefully consider my priorities and strike a better balance. Now that all of my kids are over 18, I do not feel I have any obligation to disrupt, ignore or put off anyone in my CIRCLE for anyone outside of it. If that offends you, go back and read my definition of CIRCLE. It is what it is and I don’t apologize for it.
It is the only way to have peace and be happy when you have difficult kids who choose to live a self-destructive lifestyle or constantly find themselves on SHAKY GROUND due to bad decisions. I will not risk losing those in my CIRCLE ever again. Nor will I pressure those in my circle to join me when I reach outside of it to help someone in crisis. That is for them to decide. For me to do any of that would be choosing to walk the ROAD TO DESTRUCTION or the very least to be on SHAKY GROUND with those in my CIRCLE.
Does this adult child who is on SHAKY GROUND use gifts (time, money, advice, compassion) wisely and learn by example and through personal experience? In other words, would you be throwing your pearls before swine?
Does this adults child that is on SHAKY GROUND treat you with respect in private and public? Do they show appreciation when you help them? Do they only “love” you when you give them things?
Have you ever given money to a person for a bill and they turned around and spent a bunch of money on unnecessary “stuff”?
We have an obligation to not be an enabler.
An example of an enabler would be a wife who covers up for her husband who is a drunk or an abuser. She fears losing her home, her security and even her life if she speaks up and asks for help.
Moms and dads feel this pressure too. BUT if we enable those adult kids through giving and giving and then giving some more when they just squander our gifts, how are we helping them to break the cycle of irresponsible living and bad choices? Wouldn’t it be better for them to fail and learn from their mistakes? Sometimes it takes many mistakes for them to learn, but let’s not put off their learning by fixing their problems for them.
Do we not have an obligation to be good stewards?
Might we not fail ourselves if we don’t make wise choices? Does our obligation of being a good example end when our kids turn 18? Do we not influence everyone around us? Are we exempt from the consequences of our wastefulness? Is it OK to waste our money on those who will squander it?
Before you help any of your kids on a grand level, look at who they are. Are they kind and respectful? Are they hard working and responsible? Are they givers themselves and generally live right and strive to be a blessing to others? Do they make wise decisions and put forth their best effort? Is the need genuine? Did they arrive at this need through bad decisions?
Remember the quote, “If someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Let this guide you.
Years ago we saw a rash of food theft in our home. We limited the sugar many of our kids consumed because of their sensitivity, though occasionally we would reintroduce it into their diets to test it out. Within two weeks we’d see such a negative change in their behavior that we’d withdraw it again.
There were some who would sneak whatever they could find when my back was turned – a mom has got to use the bathroom once in a while! One day I came out into the living room and saw one of my kids throw an empty pop bottle into the kitchen bathroom, hoping I’d not see they had taken it out of the fridge.
When confronted, they would not own up to their disobedience even though it was obvious I saw them. When I retrieved the empty bottle,
confirming what had happened, they still would not admit they had done it. “Deny to the death” was their mantra.
There is a meme going around on Facebook that says, “Don’t worry about it… just deny, lie, attack those telling the truth, blame everyone else, and then pretend to be sorry. Works every time.”This quote not only fits the person who denies even when confronted with ironclad evidence of their wrong, but could create a dilemma in the mind of one who does not parent confidently.
I was fortunate enough to have been very confident and tried to always be consistent. My DH was the same and we supported each other. And by the way…BOTH parents need to project a united front. It is important for a child’s emotional security.
If you can get someone to doubt themselves, you have defeated them.
There is a common thread among some of today’s teens and young adults who think their parents ought to apologize for discipline.
direction, order, authority, rule, strictness, a firm hand
As believers we had a two-fold purpose: to turn out responsible kids who loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him. To do so required a stalwart resolve that colored every minute of every day, every decision, and every move we made. It required a 100% faithful consistency and unwavering commitment.
We believed that to waiver is to fail.
That commitment was more important than friends. It was more important than ministry. It was more important than our own lives or welfare. It was more important than sleep, food or money. The kids’ welfare dominated our every thought, our every plan, our every move.
So why apologize?
If the above is true, if a parent can honestly say that they did their best with the best of intentions, then why do we see parents apologizing to their children for being too hard on them? Why do we see children asking their parents to admit they were bad parents and asking them to apologize? Why do parents feel responsible for the bad choices their kids make in adulthood when they were taught to do right? Why are parents feeling guilty? For what?
Disclaimer time: I’m not letting parents off the hook that aren’t doing or didn’t do their best, are or were lazy or neglectful. I’m not condoning the behavior of parents who don’t/didn’t care about their kids and put their own desires and welfare ahead of their kids.
I’m talking about the parents who did their best to provide a good, stable home. I’m talking to the parents who, with great consideration, raised their kids to respect authority, be responsible, care for others, work hard, be consistent, live morally, love God and value family. No one can judge a parent. Only God can judge and only He knows the circumstances and challenges the parent had to deal with.
Since when are parents accountable to their children?
God is the giver of life. He alone builds families.
God alone knows what is best and what the future holds and which parents each child needs to become what He has planned for them.
God knows who were are, what we’ll do, and how we will react.
He has things in place to guide and direct us and if we truly desire to follow and please Him, then He will be our guiding Light.
God has the power to intervene and will do so when needed.
It is not the responsibility of anyone but God alone to judge a parent and He can be trusted to manage and mold anyone or anything into His own perfect plan.
You will not find past generations cowering to their kids immature emotional demands.
Why do parents feel the need to apologize when there is no need? In the story above, in a later conversation that child told me, “It’s your fault. If you would let me have sugar whenever I wanted it I wouldn’t have to steal.”
If I had lacked confidence, I might have bought into that faulty reasoning, or at least re-evaluated my prior decision to do what was best for them and the family.
“Don’t repent of decision in the dark decisions made in the light.”
Children don’t have the latitude to make those decisions because of their lack of maturity, experience and information. That is why God gave them parents. Yet, as they remember back, their incomplete and immature memories corrupt their thought process.
It is important to your kids’ maturing process that they stop blaming others or their circumstances or consequences for their actions and start taking responsibility for their decisions and how they will affect their future. To fixate on what they thought was unfair keeps them looking back. For many this can hinder their maturing process.
Should we apologize for:
Providing a healthy lifestyle?
Teaching them to clean up after themselves or help with the chores?
Requiring they do their homework and do their best in class?
Setting a bedtime and requiring them to be quiet and leave everyone else alone?
Teach them to be respectful, obedient, and kind?
Making them take responsibility and holding them responsible for their actions?
Expecting proper dress and language?
Preventing them for owning things that would tempt them to do wrong?
Teaching them to work, pray or plan ahead?
Following through, being consistent or persistent?
It’s not that complicated.
Am I saying we should never apologize?
Occasionally we will run across someone that felt offended or was hurt unintentionally and they will harbor feelings of ill will. If they are not mature enough to put it in the past and leave it there, then is when you say, “I had no intention of offending you, but I’m sorry if you felt that way.” If it was over a good decision that they didn’t like, add, “But I stand by my decision.” This can be applied to our children as well.
If you’ve done your best as a parent because you wanted the best for your child, then don’t apologize. It’s simple. Don’t enable your child if they cling to a corrupted memory of the past. They don’t always remember correctly or may be searching for an excuse for their poor behavior (probably both). If you apologize for good parenting, you only enable their immature thought process and undo all your past work.
It’s amazing the growth you can see in a person when they stop blaming others. Stand firm by your conviction that you were/ARE a good and faithful parent. Make them see the truth through the boundaries that you set – by your confidence in your parenting.
We are amazed and thrilled at how well most of our kids are doing in their adult life and are blessed often with good reports. Hang on if you are discouraged – God isn’t done. We should always have hope our kids will mature and take hold of our faith and lead a responsible lifestyle.
Takeaway: Kids don’t respect weak parents.
They don’t always appreciate their upbringing until they mature – but that doesn’t mean you were wrong.
Give them time to mature, but don’t waiver. Exude confidence.
Stand firm and expect to be treated with respect. They need your strength and confidence to have a firm footing.
Let them go. If they walk away, just stay put till they come back. Don’t compromise to gain their favor.
Wait and pray and always – always, watch out the window for when they come back and meet them on the porch with a hug and a “Welcome home, we’ve missed you.”
When we adopted our sib group of four, the two youngers were together in one foster home and the two older ones were together in another home. This type of arrangement can be most difficult on the oldest because they feel a need to protect their younger siblings. How do they do that when they don’t live together and only see each other at weekly visits? This was the case with our kids.
The oldest was 9 years old and very aware of his family situation. Not only did it affect his outlook on life, but having three younger siblings also in a temporary family situation was a huge stressor for him.
It’s important to learn all you can about the time before you take them into your home because their prior experiences will affect how they adjust to your family. In our case, the younger two had spent most of their lives in foster care, so they had a predisposed thought process that would follow them for months.
Those two thought family was temporary.
They were 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 when they moved in – from foster care. The first time we went to visit them in the foster care workers meeting room, I came home totally freaked out because of their hyper, out of control behavior during the visit. I was wondering if we were biting off more than we could chew. I was scared to death of a two and three year old!
Once they moved in we had bouts of screaming, fighting and hitting. BUT, they were also adorable, sweet and smart!
We were at a store just after they moved in and the three year old hit our 10 year old son in the stomach causing him to drop to his knees – he had knocked the wind out of him! We later found out the foster mom had taught the little boys to box because she feared they might one day have to move back home and she wanted them to be able to defend themselves. We had a three year old Muhammed Ali!
Understanding and coping with behavior.
Within a day or so we had to stand the three year old in the corner for a time out because he was being a bully to the other kids. He stood there and screamed “I’m so maaaad!” His 9 year old brother came out and stood there watching to see how I would respond – he was in big brother protection mode. If I had not known the 3 year old’s “therapist” had taught him to express himself in words, “I’m so maaaad!” I would have been concerned about his temper. But since I knew a bit about them and their past experiences, I knew hoped that eventually we’d win them over and be able to redirect them, teaching them self control, kindness and patience. We also realized that the older brother was exhibiting concern for how I might react – based on past experiences with the adults in his life. Once he was confident that I deal with his little bro fairly and kindly, he was able trust me enough to go on about his playing without concern for his younger siblings.
A Forever Family
These kids have had experiences very different from us and had developed a distrust and fear of adults. The two youngers had moved foster homes every six months so when our six month anniversary for their move in to our home came around, they asked for a suitcase and wanted to know where they would live next. No, they didn’t have a calendar that they checked off and counted the days, they just had an internal clock that told them to prepare to move on. I could not convince them that they were staying with us forever.
They didn’t understand the concept of staying with the same mom and dad more than 6 months. They hadn’t experienced what it meant to belong to a family. Their internal clock took them over and told them it was time to move on.
When dealing with kids who have had a background different from ours, we need to find out as much as possible and use that information to temper our expectations.
Where are all my forks?
The first week the four were in our home we discovered some of our silverware was missing. It took us a few days to figure out what happened to them. The two younger boys were throwing them away because they’d never had metal silverware – they always had plastic ware and threw them away after each meal. The smallest things can be a real eye opener.
We need to be the light in their darkness.
Every day living shapes kids’ minds – not every child has been fortunate enough to start out in a stable living situation. Can you imagine how abuse and neglect can plant negative thoughts into a kids’ mind growing up? How does a child understand, trust or even desire to have a mom and dad if they’ve never had one? To some, the adults that are in charge are their enemy.
It wasn’t until years after we adopted some of our kids that we found out about the abuse that went on prior to adoption. It’s no wonder they mistrusted and even hated us. Some still do because they never learned to love or trust. We tried our best to instill the love of family, but some never got it, though we hope that one day God will change their hearts.
It’s not that simple.
When dealing with their out of control behavior, it’s very difficult to win their hearts. When our sibship of 3 moved in at ages 1 1/2, 2 1/2, and 3 1/2 as foster kids, (adopted 3 years later) I kept a record one day of how often I had to intervene or correct them. It averaged out to every 3 minutes. It can be very challenging to insert warm, loving moments into a day like that!
Add eating disorders, learning difficulties, nightmares and fears, oppositional behavior, etc. and you have issues that can make bonding very difficult for the child AND parent.
Understand but Don’t Excuse
We tried to be understanding and adjust our expectations based on our kids’ experiences before adoption, but we never allowed that to be used as an excuse for misbehavior either. We taught them and insisted on a better way and even if they didn’t accept our way of thinking and were disobedient or oppositional, at least they knew what was right and would know where to find the light when they were tired of living in the darkness.
You can’t always control a child’s actions or reactions, to always be obedient and respectful, but you can make them regret their choices. Each parent must get to know their child and tailor their teaching and discipline to meet their needs. They have a need to learn to respect authority, prefer others, and learn proper behavior. As parents, we do what is necessary to show them the light and be the example they can draw from when they do desire to live properly.
Not everyone will understand or agree.
You will find some who are critical and accuse you of not being fair to your kids, but you still must decide what is right and follow through. They won’t have to answer for your parenting, you will. So do your best to train them, meet their needs and tailor your discipline to their personality and abilities. You might even have children who think you were abusive or evil because you insisted on proper behavior and disciplined them for disobedience. They only remember the pain of the discipline, not what they did to warrant it.
To be able to pillow your head at night and have no regrets, you need to decide what is best and follow through. Parenting isn’t a popularity contest – with others outside your family or your kids. Parenting is deciding what is best for your kids and insisting on it.
If you don’t, they will not learn how to live in society or hear God’s voice. Both are paramount to a successful life.
God calls us to be faithful and that is what we must do – regardless. Then we let Him deal with the rest.
Next I will tell you how we handle the publicly declared accusations and hate mail as siblings and parents. God speed and until next time…
So how do we deal with public jabs, attacks and innuendos?
How should we react or address twisting of the truth, stretching, shading or outright lies? Should we react at all?
Should we counter lies with the truth? Should we acknowledge any accusations, stories or public defamation?
This is tough because such public attacks are not only hurtful, but they undermine the entire family dynamic. When a child publicly lashes out, other family members and friends who read it are affected. This type of bitterness damages relationships, casts shadows, and breaks down communication within a family and has no value.
Let’s first look at the WHY.
Why does the adult child publicize their hatred of the parent? Is there any benefit to them?
They have bitterness in their heart that must get out. Bitterness not only blackens the heart of those who carry it, but it must fling it’s slimy sludge all over anyone within arms length and with the Internet, it no longer is limited to arms length.
With the lack of maturity that is needed to deal with and eradicate bitterness, those wallowing in dark thoughts think it will make them feel better to lash out at those that they think are the cause. They are mistaken. It will only grow the more they feed it.
Bitter people don’t want to suffer alone – they must make everyone else suffer as well. Those who listen to and believe the bitter person’s irrational accusations have a propensity for the darkness as well. Misery loves company, so we should not be surprised when those we thought were friends pat the offender on the head and say, “You poor baby.” It speaks to their hidden darkness and draws it out.
Bitterness is poison that needs to grow and destroy by its very nature. Just like happy people who must share their good news, bitter people feel the compulsion to share their misery.
Those who are bitter often have a difficult time identifying the root cause because of pride. When there is mental or emotional damage, their pride (self protection and narcissism) takes over and common sense and understanding are not present. “I must feel rotten, and it can’t be anything I did, so it must be “such and such’s” fault. (which usually, MOM = Such and Such)
To publicize their bitter thoughts, they are seeking approval. Since there will always be others with emotional issues, they will always find someone to “like” their words. People who are immature, gullible, bitter themselves or given to gossip and disloyalty are their best allies.
Those who are hurt often want to hurt others. It is a tough cycle to break.
How Should We Respond?
So what do we do as parents of these kids? Should we do anything?
It is very hard on a parent when they love a bitter child who is caught up in their own foolishness. Unrequited love is painful but when you add foolish behavior a desire hurt others, the whole enchilada is difficult to digest.
Have you ever read the verses, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” (Prov. 26:4)
Uh huh. With foolishness, you CAN.NOT.WIN. God said so.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
But we are to warn the unruly, and comfort those who struggle mentally, being as patient as possible. It is our responsibility as friends or family to warn or loved ones when they are on a destructive path, but not to be surprised if our warnings go unheeded. It’s the combination of pride, foolishness and bitterness that builds the impenetrable wall.
Lose the Old Habits
I used to think that if I could just talk to them, explain, make them remember what really happened, remind them of what they were like to live with, what they did, why we did what we did…that it would all be better. Um. No. It doesn’t work. You can talk all day until you are blue in the face and you will NEVER change them.
Now I only give advice when asked and don’t spend a lot of time doing it – that way I know that I have taken care of my responsibility (but I don’t expect change).
Dump Them into God’s Lap
Only life’s consequences and God’s hand can change them. Period.
I used to spend hours on the phone with some of my kids trying to talk sense into them. They would hang up and go right back to the same behavior, belief system and bitter living. I would stress over our conversation for hours or even days – long after they had already forgotten about everything that I said.
It was a waste of time and only caused me to be emotionally drained and sometimes even discouraged.
I don’t do it any more.
I sleep much better.
Learn to Ignore
I do my best to ignore it all (once the kids grow and go) and focus on the kids who are good to me – the kids who love me and bring me joy.
And I wait. I wait for the others to come around. I wait for life to throw them enough curve balls that they finally remember, that they finally realize that all the things that drive their bitterness are not real or at least had nothing to do with us, those of us who tried their best to do what was best for them (and were trying to survive). I wait for God to get a hold of their heart.
Guard Your Heart
Does it hurt? Yes. But I do my best to set it aside. I’m getting pretty good at it after years of practice.
The fact that I’ve seen radical changes in many of my kids makes all the difference – I’m seriously blessed to see the maturity and loving nature of most of my kids who have had so much to overcome. This progress has filled in the holes created by past and present hate and bitterness.
Find Your Happy Place
The fact that I’ve had an armful of kids and grandkids (and a DH) that have ALWAYS loved me has carried me along and kept me whole (kept me from the depths of despair and maintained my sanity, for the most part).
We know God has endured pain and hurt from His people and still has remained faithful and loving, giving us a great example of what his power can do to help us achieve or endure.
We need to cling to the good things/people in our life. To feel fortunate gives us the fuel to get through the tough times.
The children who know and express the love of God make it worth enduring the ones who do not.
To not go on the defensive and counter the attacks allows the door to our home to stay open – we need to maintain our hope that they will one day walk through it. Hope goes a long way.
Hang tight. Patiently wait. Pray God will work. Watch out the window. Keep the door open. Accept them when they do finally walk through. Reassure them you love them. Keep the lines of communication open. If they make things right, start new. Remember we are all imperfect and forgiveness should be immediate when asked for. Hope. Always hope.
Buy the book Boundariesby Townsend. Learn to set boundaries that set you free of the pain.
For many, this type of conversation is painful – and will possibly elicit anger and a lashing out, but there are so many suffering parents out there that need you to know their reality and be reminded that they are not alone that I must speak out.
Insight into what it is to be a family like ours – to parent children with a difficult past, to invite into our family those who carry around emotional baggage and painful memories will not only help those of you who are on the outside looking in, but it will also help the children and families that that will be represented here. Bringing issues to light is needed.
This is not intended to paint a picture of pain and suffering to gain sympathy but to garner some understanding and support for families like ours who bear the brunt of disgruntled children.
Like many, we are still waiting for part of our family to establish a foundation, to reconcile their past and discover the value of family and reconnect with us. It’s not easy for some, though it may seem easy to us. “Just come home!” we want to shout at them. But it must be their decision. There must be a change of perspective and change of direction.
So we wait… and hope.
Do you have a child that publicly hates you?
Do they tell everyone around them stories of cruelty, abuse or favoritism? Do they post nasty comments about their upbringing on Facebook to try to garner sympathy and the “Aww, you poor thing, no wonder your life is a mess.” comments? Do they paint you as a monster that got joy from making their lives miserable? Do they desire to hurt you because their bitterness drives them to it?
In case you are one of many parents experiencing the hate that children who have become adults often dish out, I want to offer you hope. This is a temporary situation and one day they will, with God’s help, have their eyes opened and reconcile those deep seated conflicting emotions.
It’s Not Just an Adoptive Family Issue
Though our story centers around adoption, this issue doesn’t just affect adoptive families. Families are struggling all around us. They need our compassion and support…not our judgement, criticism and too often offered advice.
I ask you to give a little latitude while reading about our personal experiences and the conclusions we have drawn because of them. Unless you were there, and even if you were, you cannot 100% understand or know what it is like to raise “interesting” children.
Do You Think You Have the Right to Judge?
Families are complex entities that cannot be easily measured or evaluated by onlookers. As the heart can only be known by God and is so often misunderstood even by its own flesh and blood owner – families are too intricate and complex to be judged easily or even fairly by anyone but the One who in His infinite wisdom brought them together in the first place.
And if we do, and we realize that God brought the family together, are we not criticizing the One who in His sovereignty deemed it so? Do we in our own eyes and heart assign wisdom to our Maker and then show our lack of belief when we criticize or judge the actions of those who are doing what we are unwilling to do ourselves?
This will be a series…for there is much to talk about.
Let me make a few statements and lay some groundwork before we begin…
We adopted many special needs kids, so some of them at the time of adoption were a bit behind in many areas (socially, intellectually, emotionally, physically, educationally etc.). They ranged from 3 months to 9 years old at adoption. Some came to us individually, some by groups of 3 and 4. Some were easy to raise. Some were not with a capital NOT.
We were as their adoptive parents in a precarious position – living down what other adults had done or not done to them and being the brunt of their preconceived ideas and experiences. We dealt with severe fear, distrust, anger, confusion, and bitterness that were firmly planted in their heads and affected their behavior long before we came into the picture.
Their prior history and/or disabilities ALWAYS colored their perspective and reactions.
Normal discipline seldom worked with the “interesting” kids, so we had to get creative or deal with mutiny. Our feeling of responsibility to craft them into loving, responsible human beings was at times overwhelming. Needless to say, we were not successful with many and had to give them to God to complete the work. Who, by the way, has been wildly successful with most of our kids.
It is common for those who are trying to cope, mature, and find their way to blame others with their failings: “Oh no, it couldn’t be MY fault.” It is too painful to accept responsibility and much easier to blame the siblings or parents.
We parented the best we knew how without much help from others. No one knew what advice to give when we asked, but many onlookers were critical and judgmental when they had no personal experience or knew all the facts.
We adopted most of our children at age 3 1/2 or older. The ability to form emotional bonds usually develops somewhere between ages 1 and 3. Many would say we were doomed to fail. We were determined to be the exception. We knew God could make all the difference and hoped it would be so.
I’ll just list the few right off the top of my head: ADHD, FASD, OCD, ODD, PTSD, LD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, TMI, EMI, RAD, Asthma, Allergies, Asperger’s, DD, BEH, CCD, ED, TS, APD.
If that’s not enough, add in prior abuse and neglect combined with abandonment issues.
Please use a bit of understanding when you try to form an opinion about families like ours:
If a child cannot reconcile the things that happened before they came to the adopted family, those feelings will spill over into their new family. There is a saying about special needs adopted kids, “If they can’t hate the one who hurt them, they will hate one they’re with.” We found this to be very true. You could say, “we resemble that remark.”
Special needs adults (special needs kids do eventually grow up, though they don’t necessarily mature) seldom remember what they did as children to warrant discipline or sanctions. They only remember the pain of embarrassment, the painful discipline or loss of freedom. Accusations of abuse roll off their tongue without much consideration of the facts or reality.
It is common for the hard to raise kids, the ones with behavioral issues, to compare themselves to the other kids in the family who earned freedoms through trustworthy behavior. Jealousy creates bitterness and clouded memories.
Children who have a warped view of love will often cause dissension in the family and disrupt or sabotage family events and outings. It is common for them to target the kids already in the family when they first come (and along the way) and the ones who appear to them to be favored.
Interesting children tend to be self-centered and narcissistic because of the pre-adoption days when they felt the need to protect themselves, felt unloved or not valued. Their reality usually isn’t the same as ours.
The lack of bonding children experience in their first 3 years will affect their ability to form healthy relationships in the future. You will see issues develop with these kids and those they live with and work around. We as parents are not the only ones who experience their less than adorable nature – we just happen to be the ones they blame for it, even thought they brought it with them when they moved in.
Kids with immature impulse control, poor reasoning skills, and trouble coping with disappointment will carry that into adulthood. If they have difficulty adjusting to adulthood (which is more common than not) their out of control lifestyle will breed discontentment, guilt, discouragement or depression. ALL of their failures will be blamed on the parents and how they were raised. “If they weren’t so hard on me,” “If they’d only let me do what I wanted,” “If they’d been fair/reasonable/less demanding/accepting/less controlling,” the list goes on in their head. The alternative would be to take responsibility and change – which would require a change of mind. Pride does not allow them to evaluate themselves or their home life properly.
Spiritual maturity is key to turning the “interesting” kid into a mature, responsible, loving adult. When you meet an adopted kid that grew to be gracious and compassionate out of a past of turmoil and upset, realize it was the power of God that brought them through.
When you hear hateful comments and accusations publicly, realize that a spirit filled mature child would never malign their family or parents. If the accusations were true, they would forgive. If they were not, a spiritually mature child wouldn’t lie to make themselves feel or look better. Consider the source.
Side note: The kids who were raised right along with the “interesting” ones have had issues of their own to overcome – their family was changed through adoption – which brought uncommon drama into their life. Few stop to think about them and what they had to live through.
Most of the focus by onlookers is on the adopted child and their perceptions, needs and challenges. This only adds to the prideful arrogance of the troubled child who cries foul and adds to the bitterness that the non-troubled child often deals with. It’s the prodigal child/faithful son story all over again. Be careful how you support these struggling kids and adults. Treading on parental authority is dangerous business.
I’ll leave you with that to chew on for a while. Please realize that there is more to the story than what you have been told or think you have witnessed. If you could only have walked a mile in our shoes…you would have run screaming to the next town and cried, “Mercy!”
I’ve said it before and so now I’ll say it again. I love all of my kids and am grateful for those who do love us and desire a relationship. I am blessed. And for those who do not – I still love them too and will always watch out the window for when they decide to come home. Some will scoff, but they must realize that I will still continue to hope they come back home.
Wash the clothes, sweep the floor, change the bedding, do the dishes, and on and on.
Moms are probably the busiest people in the world, and the most under appreciated. Unless you’re a mom, you have no clue. Seriously. Even after all the kids leave the nest, Momhood doesn’t end.
Though our nest is empty, I still interact with my kids. Being a mom cannot be described as a full-time job. It doesn’t end at 5:00pm nor does it end when they turn 18 when the world says our job is officially done.
Basically, by having kids, whether by birth or adoption, we are lifers.
Add to that church stuff, work stuff, home stuff…the list goes on – our TO DO LIST grows exponentially as we meet the needs of our family and interact with the world.
The TO DO LIST
For January, I put together MOMentum Calendar to encourage our M.O.M.s group. Each day there is something to do that we often put off because we are so busy. A surprising thing has happened for me as I have accomplished each daily challenge.
Halfway in I stopped stressing about my lengthy TO DO LIST. For about 2 years I’ve stressed every day because my list has gotten so long and my available time to squeeze in extra stuff has all but vanished. I have no margin and it has caught up with me.
Nearly everyone in our M.O.M. group felt the same way.
I created a January challenge to encourage my M.O.M.s and it ended up encouraging me. Because I accomplish something extra every day that isn’t on my list (like cleaning out a junk drawer), I feel accomplished, have stopped stressing about my TO DO LIST and have finally accepted that I can only do what I can do.
TO DO List Vs. Goal Setting
Have you ever set big goals and then not meet them?
How often have you thought: “I JUST NEED TO GET THROUGH THIS DAY”?
We assume the goals have to be big and life changing to really matter. But the big life changing goals often get set aside because life happens.
Instead of only setting huge goals, we need to set little daily goals too. As the month progresses, the feeling of accomplishment replaces defeat and we become hopeful and less stressed. By setting little daily goals, we work toward meeting our big goals. This is where our TO DO LIST and our goal setting meet. our TO DO LIST basically is really a daily goal planner.
I know. Weirdly simple, right?
So now, realizing that little written down goals are foundational to the larger, I’m designing a multi page M.O.M. planner. I am offering it free to our M.O.M.s FB group. I’m giving you a one page weekly planner sheet today to show you what I’m working on. Just click on it and I will send it to you via email. If you want to receive more pages as they are designed, join our M.O.M. Facebook group.
We need to realize that our TO DO LIST is a tool, not a prison of our own making. We manage IT – IT doesn’t manage us.
We are faithful. We do our best. We just need to see it – every single day.
So we start now. Step by step we move forward – not by beating ourselves up over what we didn’t get accomplished but to celebrate each small success. We are not defined by how or if we complete our lists; we are defined by who we are and our part in bringing light to the world.
Just Click to Commit
<<< Just “click the pic” if you want to do some mini personal goal setting and commit to de-stressing your TO DO LIST by looking at it in a new light. You can fill it out to set your own goals for the week. If you are interested in taking a look at our other M.O.M. planner sheets like a password log, weekly cleaning check list, etc., join our M.O.M. Facebook group. You will have access to all of my planner sheets as I make them – FREE because you are a part of our M.O.M. group.
If you would like to join us in using the monthly MOMentum calendars, click the one above and then watch for the February MOMentum calendar. If you’d like to suggest daily goals for our calendars, email me from the contact page above or join our M.O.M. group and post your ideas.
I looked for years for support and didn’t find it. Join us and find other moms just like you.