Thursday, April 12, 2012


From Stephen Templeton:

"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! You're not even my real mother." Slam goes the door. 

One of the biggest robbers of peace in our homes is the destructive anger responses in our children, and in ourselves. While destructive anger is by no means solely an adoption issue, like many parenting and relational realities, it may be exaggerated and more pronounced in the setting of the adoptive family. Excessive anger reactions in your child or in yourself can leave any parent feeling overwhelmed and out of control. And if it has become a significant issue in your home, it is as if the peace of your home has been hijacked by this strong emotional response.

Surprised by Anger
As the father of seven children, four adopted and three biological, I have had the "opportunity" to see my share of angry responses and to feel them myself. Beth and I were somewhat caught off guard by the intensity of anger in some of our children, as well as our own anger that would arise in some of the challenging circumstances and stages our children were going through. Before the Lord called Beth and me to adopt, our family consisted of three young girls, all of whom were fairly obedient and peaceful. We were far from perfect, but there was rarely a raised voice or significant discipline issue. Of course, our children were still young, pre-adolescents, so they still looked to both of us for answers on what to believe and how to act. We also both grew up in very stable, peaceful homes where arguing and rebellion were not an issue. So when the Lord called us to adopt older children from Russia, we experienced a steep learning curve as to how to deal with anger, disappointment, distrust and rebellion. When our Russian-born children came home to us they were 10 and 5, and 10 and 7 years old, respectively. They were already their own persons, yet now they were Templetons. Templetons with the added complication of significantly difficult pasts and hurts. While our family is one family, and there is no distinction between adopted and biological child in regards to value, love, affection and care, these past emotional wounds have produced opportunities for anger to explode in our home.

"Hurt People Hurt People"
It is fascinating that essentially all adopted children, whether at birth or at an older age, experience a wounding of the heart to some degree. And this woundedness is often expressed in anger. The adage: "hurt people hurt people" is true. Some wounded, hurt children lash out at siblings, parents and friends causing hurt and anger. As young ones in the early family-building stages after adoption, children are learning what it means to live in a family, to have parents, rules and boundaries. One of the surprises for us was the degree of "freedom" the children had in the orphanage. Sure, there were lots of rules, and if you broke them and were caught, there was some form of punishment (often quite harsh), but for the most part, they could stay up as late as they wanted, could wander about the village as they pleased, and could watch whatever TV or movies they wanted. As soon as the orphanage workers had turned their backs, it was a free-for-all. So learning what it means to have parents who are not like the orphanage workers, but actually will follow through and be consistent in what is allowed and what is not 24/7-- well, let's just say this was quite a shock to their systems! Running into the barriers and boundaries of normal family life evoked fairly regular anger responses in our children, until they began to be transformed by God's power and our consistent love.

The Anger Vortex
During the teen years, it is very common for an adopted child to experience and display an exaggerated, amplified teen rebellion, in which anger is often one of the primary manifestations. While this can be scary as a parent, Beth and I try to always remind one another that each challenging episode is an expression of God's mercy to our child-- that God is uncovering and exposing a wound in them that he wants to deal with and heal. And the dealing with this wound could, in fact, be messy. We are always asking the Lord to show us the issue or wound behind the anger that He wants to heal. It was and is always easy to get sucked into the anger vortex, but that, we have found, is always unhelpful and often destructive. It is our job to be the parent and maintain self control. In fact, while my flesh wants to control and fix my child and whatever issue they may be having at the time, my primary responsibility is to control myself. 

A Great Opportunity
One of the most challenging and difficult aspects of being a parent is remaining calm and cool, maintaining self control while your child is acting out. Whether they are throwing a toddler or teenage temper tantrum, maintaining self control is our call and responsibility as the parents. Now, confession time: Beth and I have failed in this on many occasions as I'm sure you have or possibly will in the future. But even when you do mess up in this arena as a parent, it is actually a great opportunity to model what you do when you make a mistake: you acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness. This is what we expect and want our children to do, so let's show them how in "real time" when we fall short. Still, remember, you are the parent, and God has placed all the children, birth and adopted, in your family by His divine will and for His purpose. And, he has placed the mantle of spiritual authority on your shoulders, and he will give you everything you need to fulfill this calling-- all wisdom, all patience, all love, all kindness, all firmness that is required. He wants us to know to the depths of our being that He, as our Father, will provide everything we need to parent the children he has given us.

James 1:5 (The Message)
If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.

 Stay tuned for Part II to hear more from Stephen about this topic.

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