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.
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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.
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.”
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.
1: destruction of an employer’s property (as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers
2: destructive or obstructive action carried on by a civilian or enemy agent to hinder a nation’s war effort
3a: an act or process tending to hamper or hurt b: deliberate subversion
Sound familiar? Do you have a saboteur in the house?
This is a very specific issue. A saboteur isn’t the child who is just struggling – it’s for the child who is deliberately choosing to inflict pain or daring his parents in a “see if I care” sort of way.
It can be very discouraging to a mom when a child seems to enjoy trouble, does the opposite of what they are told and repeats the cycle of disobedience in a way that makes you suspect they are purposely trying to hurt the family.
Hopefully they aren’t plotting a planning their own or your destruction (though some of mine tried).
Often this type of behavior is a response to some sort of painful memory or behavioral pattern established from trauma in the past. Self destructive behavior can affect the entire family. They often realize they are doing it – some want to quit but aren’t sure how and others enjoy inflicting pain because they think it makes them feel better – a sort of whacked, “pain loves company” mental state.
One of our kids was sure he would eventually be abandoned or kicked out so he set up scenarios where he would do something that he thought would ensure it or he would decide on his own that he was leaving. Even when we sat down and explored his options (running away meant no home, no food, no family and staying and working out problems meant family support, warm tasty meals, a warm bed, etc.) he still chose to run.
Of course we would veto such decisions but couldn’t always keep a close enough eye on him that he couldn’t slip out. We always got him to come back but eventually moved him into a children’s home. That’s a long story and I won’t go into that now. Just realize that sometimes reason doesn’t work.
Sometimes Discipline Will Work
BUT, in my experience practical parenting must coincide to form new habits and mindsets. In Parenting Tip #21, I talk about supervision. You start there. If you aren’t keeping a good eye on your kids there will be more room for sabotage. Idle hands and minds can get very creative in a short time!
See Parenting Tip #22. A mind set of messing with you won’t be easily changed. You’ve got to show them it is in their best interest to follow your rules, be respectful of the family and compliant.
I give you some practical steps to take with teenagers who bully Mom (usually doesn’t happen to Dad). Some of the bullying is natural growth done the wrong way and it’s up to others to step in and show them how to become a man without stepping all over mom. It’s hard when there’s one parent, especially if it’s a mom. At that point it would help to have the support of a male role model. It could be someone like an uncle, older brother, neighbor, friend, husband of a friend or your pastor.
Let me encourage you.
These kids can wear you down and even make you think the problem is YOU making you think:
You don’t love them enough
You aren’t meeting his needs
You are not patient enough…maybe you need to give them more space
You just don’t understand
You don’t do enough for them
Um. No. It’s not you. It’s them. Get a grip on these false feelings. Gather your courage around you like a flak jacket and arm yourself with some butt kicking confidence and attack this issue head on. The sooner you are confident, the sooner you will see progress.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
Exude confidence.You must leave off all emotion when dealing with saboteurs. Act like a cop. No crying, begging or upset faces allowed, mom. A matter-of-face face is scary to teens. Scare them with your courage.
Decide ahead of time what consequences will be for each particular behavior, write it down and post it on the fridge. A heads up for the transgressor will squelch many a misdeed. These kids are smart and very much into self protection.
Find their hot button.Do they like computer games, have a fave show or does money speak to them? Get creative and remove or reward behavior. Sometimes rewarding others and leaving the offender out speaks volumes. “Hey kids, let’s stop for fries on the way home! Sorry, Joe, not you this time. Maybe you can reconsider the attitude while we eat our fries.”
Research food allergies– sometimes in extreme instances allergies can create manic behavior. We had a son who went bonkers if he ate corn or in a corn field. Go figure.
Provide a united front.Explain the issues. Clue everyone in. Let the whole family know what you plan to do and ask who is on board. We occasionally had family meetings where we asked for a show of hands. Draw the line in the sand and ask who wants to be on your side. This is serious stuff and you need to let everyone know “I GOT THIS.”
Try to get a handle on their issues.When I discovered one of my sons had Asperger’s all made sense and I totally changed my approach. Do research. RAD is a serious issue that you might be dealing with.
Don’t deal with this alone.We had little support and had to find our way with little help. Find a friend and share your issues – it always helps to have someone who knows and will support you if something goes wrong.
Keep a journal of all happenings– EVERY DAY. You must protect yourself and journals help establish a timeline and important information that might be needed later.See Tip #12.
There may come a time where their behavior is too intense for your family and you must separate them for the safety of all, including them. There arechildren’s homes and residential facilitiesequipped for the most difficult cases. This was always our last resort, but we did find the need for some of our kids. Safety is a common issue with RAD kids.
I’m sure there are tons more ideas that would help – let me know if you have any tips to add. We are in this together and no one should ever feel alone or abandoned.
NOTE: I am happy to say that all my kids have grown to adulthood and have carved out a life for themselves. I am proud of all of them and have a good relationship with most of them. We are hopeful that the others will come around and come back – for they all are valued, no matter what. Our kids have grown tremendously. When you consider how much some of them have had to overcome, you are in awe of their strength. Never give up on them. They are worth every effort.
Leave a comment if you have any to add. If you need support join our M.O.M. group. We get it.
There will be times where your days and nights will be consumed with the pain and disappointment of life.
I’ve seen many families torn apart because the pain was too great – that every waking moment dwelling on the bad stuff consumed them.
We all will experience serious trials in life. We must choose how we will respond and that choice will affect every area of our lives.
I have some advice for you – a practice that I have adopted has changed my way of dealing with the hard days.
I went to the Women Counseling Women week long training with Debi Pryde and in one of her sessions she dealt with dwelling on the bad stuff.
Her advice to us?
Don’t dwell. When you have a serious situation that you need to deal with, take 5 minutes, think about it, decide what you are going to do about it or plan your next step and then let it go and get on with your day.
The dwelling is what takes control of your life. We need to leave off the dwelling and choose to live our life – not defined by our pain but defined by who we are and who we serve.
God isn’t punishing us.
God doesn’t put pain and suffering in our life to hurt or punish us. He allows trials in our life to hone us, to grow and strengthen us…though it certainly doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
If we allow the pain and stressors in life to envelope us, we will let the pain win. We are too valuable for that. We have a job to do and we can’t do it with our two hands tied behind our back. We must be free to move forward and accomplish life – to be there for our families.
5 steps to keeping a clear head when life stinks:
Think over your situation for 5 minutes.
Decide on your next move and then put the thoughts away.
Purposely think on something else.
Follow through on your decision and once you do – take another 5 minutes to consider it.
Then put it behind you again.
You will be amazed how your life will improve.
Your day to day activities will be easier. You will find hope again. You will have a clearer view of your situation and feel more in control of your life.
That one truth will set you free in a way you never expected.
You all have heard the expression “Give it to God.”
This is the best way to do it. When you dwell, you keep it close to you. Not only is this not healthy, it throws you in the middle of the trees where you can’t see the forest. You need to see the forest.
I’m not about to talk about parental failure. I’m talking about our kids and their choices in life.
They might turn your world upside down – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…
Considering all the work we put into our kids, it’s natural to think that they might consider us when making their choices.
Six months before we were married, I considered moving out into an apartment that I found in the want ads. My dad found the ad and confronted me. He said that it would “kill Mom” if I moved out. I didn’t really understand, because to me it wasn’t a big deal. I just wanted to experience life out on my own before I committed to a forever home with my future DH.
But being the dutiful daughter that I was, I nixed my plan and stayed home until our wedding day, never to mention it again. To this day I don’t even know if my dad told my mom.
That was only one of many decisions that was influenced by my concern for my parents and their opinion of me.
Silly me. I thought all my kids would be the same way.
I hate to burst your bubble.
If you are like me, you have this pie in the sky expectations of what you think raising a family would be like. Come on down from those clouds and visit the real world. I live there now and it’s not so bad.
To be happy and have peace as parents, realize:
Our happiness does not hinge on others.
Our adult children have their own minds – we can’t control them nor should we.
We should not take our kids choices personally.
The worst could happen and we (with the Lord’s help) will still be OK.
And…this is the biggest bullet I can give you:
God can use EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that happens to grow and mature our kids.
Don’t be afraid of the future for your kids. Do your best to raise them properly and then when they go out on their own, give yourself permission to let go.
They may choose a completely out of the box path, pursuing a crazy life opposite of your dreams and goals, but don’t despair.
You’ve heard that saying, “Let go and let God?” It sounds so trite. But it is true in this case.
There is a time in your kids’ lives that they will step out and become their own person. There will be mistakes. They may disappoint you, hurt you, or even ditch you. They might turn your world upside down. But don’t lose hope.
I have seen the worst situations in my kids’ lives change them in a way that I never could. Real life can make such a huge impact – so don’t fear. Give yourself a break, sit back and watch God work.
As parents we think we know the road our children should travel, but God may have other plans. Trust Him.
Remember He loves your kids more than you do.
He’s got this.
God isn’t finished with them. Or you. And that’s the truth.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving (not the thankfulness part, but the mom’s part in the dinner), I will give you a couple of tips on how to make it less stressful.
These are tips that will make your entire year better and less stressful.
Meal times should be a pleasant family experience but if you are constantly yelling at your kids to sit down and eat their food, they are anything but.
Easy fixes for kids who have food issues
Teach them to stay in their seat during meal times. From early on you can accomplish this through consistency. Never allow them to get out of their seat and if they do repeatedly and a simple “stay in your seat” isn’t working, let them know that if they get out of their seat, meal time is over for them. Be sure to follow through – it will be hard, but they will learn quickly.
Only give them the food you KNOW they will finish.If you have a picky eater, serve the most important food first and then the other foods as that is finished. Example: If your child tends to eat the fruit and pick at the sandwich, give them a half sandwich first and nothing else until that is gone. At that point you can decide if you will give the other half or the rest of the meal. Get to know their appetites and serve food accordingly. Serve the less desirable food first.
Don’t serve milk or juice until meal time is over – or at least until they have eaten a balanced meal. The drinks take up valuable space.
Never let fits or begging affect the decisions you have made regarding the nutritional needs of your child. You are the parent and YOU know best. I’ve heard so many moms say, “He won’t eat anything else, so I serve him what he wants just to get him to eat.” Fooooey.
Supervise meal times. Don’t plop down their food and leave. Training requires presence. If one of your kids are disrupting the mealtime, either have them stand behind their chair or take their food away and have them sit there without anything in front of them. Be firm but kind – tell them it’s their choice to behave or sit there while everyone else finishes their meal.
My ebook, Raising Real Kids, has a bunch more, but for now, I’ll stop there. Be strong. Be kind. Be brave. Be consistent. Your family will appreciate the end result. An obedient child is a happy child.
Let me know how it goes.
It may be too late to train your child for this Thanksgiving, but put the training in place and you will have a better Christmas dinner – and every dinner thereafter. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your home. If you get started today then your tomorrows will be less stressful and much more enjoyable.
Our family was made up of a dozen other families with different experiences, disciplines and traditions. We adopted kids from 3 months old to 9 years old and we were able to train and teach each one of them to eat with dignity and appreciation. You can too. It’s not hard once you know what to do.
Feel free to ask me a question in the comments – I read every one. I will do my best to answer with some ideas to help you overcome meal time issues.
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