Thursday, April 18, 2013


From Beth:
You've heard about the wisdom of picking your battles in parenting. It's good advice and I say absolutely! But I'd like to share some more practical parenting advice by expanding that concept a bit. Because adoptive and foster parenting is about as fertile a ground for this wisdom as you will find as far as I can tell! Take a minute and read something the Lord showed me early on in our adoptive parenting journey that was literally one of the most significant words I have ever received. It is revelation from God that Stephen and I put into play still on a daily basis. We are still learning to recognize what looks like a battle is often also an opportunity.  

Literally-- Pick Them!
So one thing Stephen and began to do years ago was to literally pick out some battles to fight-- on purpose! Rather than try to address every issue at once, ask the Holy Spirit what He is busy doing in your child and then partner up next to Him. It is hard to let bad behaviors go, but look at it this way-- what if Father God had required you to change every wrong thinking pattern and behavior when you became a Christian. All at once? How kind is He that he does not treat us that way?! With this perspective we have the freedom to disregard the judging looks and comments of others, and even our own fears of not being a "good Christian parent" knowing that we are doing just as Jesus did--"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does." (John 5:19)

And take the opportunity to get your child in on the action. You (and your spouse if possible) sit down together with you son or daughter and say something like, "We have been praying for you! We are so excited about what God is doing in your life and all the wonderful things He has to say about who you are. And we feel that God is wanting us to work together on helping you with your anger (or lying, or attitude about chores, or doing your best work in school, or stealing, bedtimes, or sharing toys.......!). So, this is what we thought we would do...." By doing this you are inviting your child in as a team member. You are all on the same team working together with what God is doing. Now, no doubt many children will balk at some point. Certainly some of ours did. Once we actually followed through with whatever consequence we agreed upon we definitely got the normal push back. And if you have an oppositional child, then you know that they will fight you the whole way. But that does not mean that this process is not teaching them something. We are trusting God that every godly seed is being kept for our children for the right season of fruitfulness. 

I Am Not the Police
Once we have picked our battle, or what I would more accurately call Picking my Opportunity, then I am in the role of a coach rather than an officer of the law. I am no longer poised to catch my child in a bad behavior, but rather I am on her side, encouraging forward movement in the issue we are "battling." And when my child "loses" a battle, my role is not to exact punishment, but to come alongside to train and get him/her ready to try again.

Set Your Child Up for Success
Create opportunities to test out a new behavior or heart attitude. If you are working on not throwing a fit when your child doesn't get what he wants for instance, you might say something like, "This afternoon we are going to be out so you might not be able to watch TV until tomorrow. I know this is hard for you and it will take a lot of strength for you not to get angry and throw a fit. But I know you can do it! Do you think you can stay calm if it turns out we don't have time? What
could you do instead when you feel angry?" This warning ahead of time helps set your child up to break the negative habit pattern. We would sometimes try to create the most perfect situation so that our child could see that he/she could do it. A little success goes a long way in making a new pathway for when the situation is not so perfect in normal day-to-day life.

Pray Together
Along the way take time to actually pray with your child about the issue you are addressing. Let them know that Holy Spirit is called The Helper and that He loves to give us strength. Praying together is a wonderful way to train your child for a life of leaning on the Lord and trusting Him for what we cannot do for ourselves. 

Share Something You Had to Overcome
This is fresh out of the parenting oven for Stephen and me. We are learning with our older children how helpful and it is for them to see that we also struggle, that we also are working now on growing in some areas, that when we were children we behaved badly and needed to grow and change. For some children, seeing you as vulnerable and in need is key for them to feel connected to you. It may be that if they have dealt with trauma, which so many of our adopted children have, that the access point of need or pain is the one they are most familiar and comfortable with. We want to use everything we can to help our child!

Use Rewards to Celebrate Success
When your child has had a success in the battle, be sure to celebrate! Let them know how proud you are of them. How you know that took a lot of strength and courage and you are really impressed. Boast about them at the dinner table or with friends if that would not embarrass your child. Celebrate with an ice cream cone or some other treat. This is not a bribe; it is a party! We have sometimes picked out something ahead of time that we knew our child wanted or would enjoy and told them that when they were able to do, or not do, whatever it was we were working on, then we would give them the item. Sometimes it was an event-- going to see a movie perhaps. For some children this may not work as it may cause anxiety, but for some having a goal is an inspiration. Our daughter came home from Russia at 10 and would not speak English for the longest time. She did not want to make a mistake, so she just refused to try. We began to despair that she would ever learn it (silly I know, but hopefully you know that stretched/stressed overwhelmed season in those early months and understand!). So in her science class she had to make a simple machine and all the students were supposed to give an oral report. We knew that this would be the hardest thing in the world for our sweet girl. So we took the opportunity to tell her that if she got her nerve up to say 3 sentences, which we knew she could do at that point, then we would buy her the polly pockets she had admired at the toy store. For her it worked wonders. She said in the most adorable Russian accent right there in front of her class, "Thees ees my semple machine. Eet tourns on zee light. Eet uses a pooley andt leverrr." What a celebration we had! She had to overcome a lot to do that, having staked a lot of her energies in resisting speaking English-- a power struggle for sure. 

What are some battles/opportunities you are fighting alongside your child now? Do you have some advice on how to help your child move forward, a winner? Leave us a comment! 

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