In times of trouble, most people tend to reach out to others for comfort or assistance. Over the years we learned not to even try, for there was none to be had. I can’t count the number of times we’ve gone to evangelists, special speakers, Bible teachers, pastors, etc. for advice on how to raise our difficult children and been met with the same ol’ answer, “I don’t know what to tell you.” It never failed. So we just quit trying. Now this is not to say that the people weren’t kind hearted or knowledgeable about Scripture. On the contrary, they were usually very learned, compassionate people. That’s why we went to them to begin with because we sensed in them a good heart. But what we were asking was out of the ordinary.
I remember one time in particular when we were at Northland Family Camp, there was a speaker there that outlined the four steps in discipline: a look, a word, discipline, separation. First we’re to give them “the look” to let them know they were out of bounds in their behavior. Many children stop here and change their behavior. Some require the next step: verbal correction. If the child continues on, then we are to administer correction, whether that be spanking, time outs or whatever is deemed necessary and appropriate. He went on to say that if nothing works and the child seems to be unable to take any type of correction, then the parent must consider other means – whether that be kicking the older child out of the home, or finding a children’s home for the younger child. There is Biblical basis for his message, but we wanted to know what to do with children who were like ours, the mentally or emotionally damaged child who don’t seem to have the ability to learn through conventional “disciplinary measures.” It’s not unusual for a Fetal Alcohol Affected child to either not understand or remember a disciplinary measure. These children live in the moment and struggle with reasoning and personal application of instruction.
To them, “the look” was a challenge to be more crafty or sneaky. It’s affirmation that they are slipping up and need to be more careful about how they plan their next gig. The spoken word is just fluff in their eyes – it’s another warning that they were caught and need to be more careful next time. It’s a warning that they’re about ready to be punished and have pushed the limits, to back off and try again later when no one is looking. The third step, the discipline, is something to be endured and tuck away in their memory that no adult can be trusted and they must just endure so they can get on with their life. It doesn’t change or teach them, it’s just another bump in the road. They look at it as an expression of just how dumb adults really are and affirmation that they are to be hated. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the adults who failed them prior to coming into our home through adoption – all adults were alike in their eyes.
We were in a whole different ball game than most parents and were seeking advice on how to throw the next pitch. But no one knew, so we stopped asking. We grabbed our Bible and tried to glean as much information and wisdom as we could find. It withstood the test of time, obviously, for it is the beginning of all things and the hope in all situations. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy path to take. There were no true stories or parables that fit. We couldn’t find any verses that dealt with raiding the food pantry at night to steal food or what to do when a child drew pictures on the bathroom wall with their own waste. It didn’t tell me what to do when a child’s head turned around in circles…OK, that never happened, but I was expecting it to! It didn’t tell me how to deal with the every day things that are so absent from normal households. Yet it gave me principles to go by and the assurance that our loving Father was there to guide us. We had to learn to walk in the Spirit and hear that still small voice in the din of everyday life with 15 little ones all vying for my attention – good or bad, it was all the same to them! Of the 15 children, 13 are adopted and 12 were special needs. That means we only had three who had a proper view of life, untainted from the world, and the rest, well, you get the picture. Needless to say, if the preachers and teachers didn’t have the answers, who would? To be continued…