Thursday, January 10, 2013

When Did I Get So Touchy?






When did I get so touchy about my parenting? I notice it from time to time. I'm a little defensive about how I parent ten year old Wenxin, adopted from China just two years ago.

This time, it started with a simple question.

"Did you send him to his room?"

One little question and the mood subtly changed. My mood. Only moments before I'd been casually chatting by phone about my day. Now I was suddenly a little defensive.

Usually when I talk with out of town family by phone, I share all the funny things the kids have said and done throughout the day, and we laugh about how cute they are.

But on that particular day, I chose to share a struggle. I shared how Wenxin got frustrated during homeschool math that day. . . really frustrated. . . and how I ended the lesson early. He was done. I was done. It was clear he was too tired to think, so I decided to cut it short and try again tomorrow when we were both fresh.

Not being allowed to finish something pushes all Wenxin's buttons. He quietly whined and cried and begged and demanded that I help him finish his math . . . for over an hour.

"No, I didn't send him to his room."

"Why not?"

"Well, we don't do that. . . uhh . . .because of abandonment issues. . . you know, our social worker and everyone we've read says adoptive kids need time in, not time out. He needs to stay near us -- especially if he's emotionally upset."

It didn't sound very convincing, even to me.

"For how long?"

"What?"

"How long does that last? Are you saying that just because he's adopted, he can't be sent to his room for the rest of his life?" And wait a minute. . . here it comes. . . "After all, he's been here two years."

Now that pushes my buttons. The arbitrary deadline when none of the trauma in his past is allowed to affect him anymore. The point where it is assumed that I should move on and treat him exactly like the kids I've parented since birth.

There was one more question -- I'll get to that later -- and then we changed the subject to something less inflammatory. I'm pretty sure there was no harm done. The brief tension of the moment didn't hurt my relationship with the person on the other end of the line.

But it made me think. In fact, afterwards, I couldn't get that conversation off my mind. Why?

I came to the conclusion that when it comes to parenting, I'm both prideful and insecure.

The prideful part didn't surprise me. Ongoing . . lifelong. . . struggle.

But insecure? Really? Wenxin is my fifth child. What do I have to be insecure about?

Adopting an older child is a lot like being a first time parent -- even if you aren't. I've read the books, and followed the blogs and talked with the social worker. But this is my first time parenting an adopted child -- an older child who came with baggage. Everything I'm doing is a grand experiment.

So when someone challenges me, especially when they press their point, I stand up tall, try to look brave, and explain myself. But really . . . I know. . . and I fear that they know (pride). . . that I don't really know what I'm doing.

The saving grace of that conversation came in the form of the last question. It helped me clarify why I didn't send Wenxin to his room that day. The person on the other end of the phone asked, "Well, do you send the other kids to their rooms?"

I thought about it and smiled. No. I don't send the others to their rooms when they're crying. It's just not my parenting style.

I send them to their rooms to sleep, to rest, to read, and to play. I've been known to put a cranky, overtired baby in his crib because I needed a break and he needed some sleep. I'm no martyr.

But when an older child is upset . . . or crying. . . or melting down, I never send them to their room and tell them they can't come out until they out until they can pull it together. Never. I place a high value on helping kids work through their emotions and getting to the heart of things. I usually keep them near me and help them work it out.

It was kind of nice to see that the way I'm parenting Wenxin is not so different from how I've always parented the others. He's just at a different place in the process.

I'm going to take a deep breath and try to lighten up a little. I think we're good here.

Have I mentioned that Mike and I are attending Empowered to Connect next month in Orlando? Empowered to Connect as in Dr. Karyn Purvis of The Connected Child. Super excited about this opportunity to add a few new parenting tools to our bag of tricks.

How about you? Do any of you adoptive mamas, or mamas of bio kids for that matter, feel insecure about how you are raising your kids? Any fans out there of sending kids to their rooms, or is that a favorite discipline technique from a time past? I'd love to hear what you think.

Shared at Growing Slower.

11 comments:

  1. I can so relate to your post. I often feel defensive or as tho' I have to explain why I did something or reacted in a certain way with one of my little girls. The thing that I feel is hardest is their trying to take control of so many things. I end up having to hold firm to some things (that even seem dumb) in order to get the point across to them that mommy is in control and that they don't have to worry about the details of whatever it is we are doing - that I have it covered as their mom and know what is best. I often end up having to defend myself and then sound even stupid to myself - because quite frankly, I am often just winging it with how I feel it is best to handle situations with them.
    We do send our kids to their rooms. I have done it with all of my kids when everything I have tried fails to calm them down or get them over whatever issue they are crying/ranting/moaning/whining about. We don't do it so much as a punishment but a chance for them to go somewhere safe and quiet and for them to " get themselves together." This worked so well over the years with our oldest bio child who had such a temper as a little boy - and we are finding it has worked in letting our girls learn that the behavior isn't acceptable where is disrupts everyone else and that they need to learn to manage and control it on their own before coming back into the family room or wherever we are. When they were newly home, we had them sit in the room next to our family room where they could still hear us (but were separated from the fun) for them to get themselves together. Otherwise, I have found they still have the control and sorta hold the rest of us hostage for as long as they want to cry/whine/rant/moan. Every child is different and of course, we all have to find what works best for that child. Wishing you success. Sounds like your son has come such a long way. Wishing we could attend the conference in Orlando - sounds great! God bless!

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    1. Oh Julie - Glad I'm not alone in this. And thanks for sharing how sending your kids to another room works in your family. I really might be in the minority on this one. I'm sure you are doing a great job with your kids. Sometimes we intuitively know the right way to handle things with a particular child, but it's hard to explain it on the spot.

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  2. Dana,
    Thanks for being transparent. Each child is different and should be treated accordingly. I think you're doing a great job. I do send my kids to their rooms when they have a meltdown for two reasons. First, I think they need time to calm down away from their siblings. Second, it gives me the opportunity to talk to them one on one. Sometimes they want to talk, other times it comes later. But I want them to be able to walk away from a situation and think clearly no matter where they are. Sometimes time alone gives clarity. I guess I don't think of it as a punishment:) (I wish someone would send me to my room...lol!) Anyway, thanks for sharing!!

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    1. That makes two moms in favor of sending kids to their rooms. Smile. I'm definitely going to be outnumbered here.

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  3. I don't think you're necessarily outnumbered. I think you have to parent the way that feels natural to you. I learned after my first bio child that you have to do what works for you and forget what the books say, the experts say, or the old man in the grocery aisle says (long story).

    When our adopted daughter first came home, we did the "time in" too for certain things. But there have been times when I've made both my kids go to their rooms (when they were fighting with each other and it was getting downright mean). I don't make them close the door. I think I treat it the way the two moms above do: a place for them to cool down and get to a place where they can interact respectfully. I actually told them they weren't allowed to play with each other for the next 2 hours. Believe it or not, that actually got them to talk to each other afterwards (I wasn't sure it would; I thought maybe they wouldn't care if they couldn't play with each other LOL.)

    One thing I will say in defense of treating the kids all the same: I do understand fully why the experts tell you that you have to allow more leeway for adopted kids to account for the trauma they've been through. My own feeling though is that if I treat her like a victim and like she's different from my older daughter (more fragile), she'll see herself in that role for the rest of her life - as a victim and someone who is different from everyone else in the family. I mean, I'm not that strict a disciplinarian in the first place, but I do expect certain behavior from the kids, both the kids, without too much handicapping for either one.

    Having said that though, I still believe very strongly that you have to parent the way you feel in your gut is the natural way to parent for you. You know your own kids (both bio and adopted) better than anyone else, and it doesn't take that long after they come home for you to start to feel what will work best for each one. You're always going to get people giving you advice (remember when you had your first bio child??), whether it's about your bio kids or your adopted kids. :)

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  4. Dana - I'm not in the same situation that you are in - but I've sent Sam to her room since she was old enough to have a tantrum. My philosophy there has been that when one is whiny it's because she needs a nap and/or something to eat. At least that's how I am, and I just do for Sam what I do to myself. Couldn't count the times I've sent her to her room and checked on her 10 minutes later to find her asleep. But I've also learned not to tell other people how to raise their kids. They usually know what works for the kid, and you should go with what works. :) Fortunately, since Sam is my "mini-me" I just do like my mom did to me, and it works out. :p

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  5. Dana - we never send our kids to their room without one of us. Our motto is "no one in this family is in pain by themselves". We might have to take the affected child away from the family to calm down and to maintain peace for the other kids, but a parent always goes with the troubled child. After they are calm, depending on which child, they may chose to stay there for a bit - but only if they are regulated. Even a child who is whiny or tired gets mom to put her down and lay with her for a few minutes.

    Touchy...me too! Very.....:)

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  6. We tried time in when our son first came home, but it didn't work well because he was so aggressive and would wail really loud which disrupted the other 4 kids in our home. We're thankfully over the wailing days now, but we've established a system of how he can de-regulate himself with choices, one of which includes time in his room by HIS choice. He is calmed by drawing, listening to music or playing with his toys, so it's up to him if he wants to do this in his room or go outside and do something physical.

    I've done the ETC training and love it. We've just had to make some adjustments with our son's particular personality and issues he deals with. I do like using the parenting plan though for all of our kids, it just makes good sense and I don't have remember which child I'm using what parenting plan with ;) Especially when some days it's hard enough to remember why I walked into a particular room of the house and what I was going to do there.

    Thanks for your site Dana! The more we can find community together the more we can encourage each other!

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  7. Found this
    Post from Lisa's today. Thanks for linking to it. I loved it. Darci (five kids, the latest two twins from Ethiopia home almost one year)

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  8. Sometimes it still surprises me how common place it is for parents to separate themselves from their children with time out when they are at their most vulnerable and in need of love and support. This situation clearly wasn't even a discipline issue. Should we punish our children for feeling tired or frustrated? I'm not surprised you realized that you hadn't sent any of your kids to your room. I would argue that every kid has the potential to feel abandonment whether adopted or not. I think you did such job sharing your values. I wish I was better about sharing in real life rather than just on my blog. I thank you as always for your openness in your posts. You always teach me something and make me think. :) I hope you'll join us again this week for the Tuesday Baby Link Up.

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