The Connected Child (Chapter 7)

When I opened up my book tonight and saw the title of Chapter 7, Dealing with Defiance, I thought, “Oh yes, we definitely need this chapter.” At ages three and four, the boys definitely like to assert their will.

The chapter explains that most parents fall into two categories: too lenient and too controlling. I know my own personal nature is to be too controlling. At three and four, I know they are going to misbehave. I think my desire for them to behave has less to do with them are more to do with me. I need to be happy because they succeed and make the right choices, as opposed to being happy because they obey me.

The goal is to be a good balance between the two extremes.

You’re Achieving the Right Balance if…

  • Once you make a rule or promise, you enforce it.
  • You use the minimum “firepower” necessary to correct misbehavior. Whenever possible, you use kindness and playfulness to make your point.
  • You use praising and positive statements with your child five times more often than you use corrective statements.
  • You catch your child doing things right.
  • Several times a day, you say how precious and dear your child is to you.
  • You let your child decide between choices.
  • You compromise with your child.
  • You accept and respect your child’s expressions of sadness or disappointment.
  • Your child recognizes that you are “the boss” and have the final say, but he isn’t scared of you

I have to say that D does a really good job pointing out when they boys are doing things right. He is such an encourager. This chapter gave me a lot to think about and to learn from. We are still getting to know our boys and learning what triggers certain defiant behavior. It does feel like we are saying “no”, “don’t” and “stop” a whole lot.

When M and T were getting toward the end of the reunification process and their visits were getting longer, it occasionally seemed like M was just having a tough time emotionally. She didn’t have the words to express it but it came out in her behavior. Dr. Purvis says it is okay to take a “nurturing detour” when parenting kids who come from the hard places. I remember offering M a hug instead of a time out at one point when she was acting up. Her emotions seemed to be getting the best of her and a cuddle was what she needed.

I need to keep this in mind with D2 and A. We don’t have the full story on them yet. They appear “typical” and “normal”. They are well behaved often but they are still two boys who have been in the foster care system for the majority of their short lives. I think it will require us paying a great deal of attention to their needs and personalities to understand exactly when they may be reacting out of fear or anxiety rather than just typical pre-school-aged misbehavior.

Parenting (of any kind) is not an easy task by any means. It is easy to second-guess your decisions. But I can tell you each of the six kids we have had in our home this year have been well worth it all. I don’t know any parent who would not agree with that.

*The Connected Child book club is hosted by Sarah Thacker.

3 thoughts on “The Connected Child (Chapter 7)

  1. I’ve been reading with interest about your two boys. We have two boys ourselves right now from foster care (just short term) and even at age 2.5, we see a lot of differences between how we parented our own boys (and even how I taught in the classroom) and how these traumatized boys need to be responded to. I got a wonderful recommendation to read Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control which shows how the boys’ acting out is often instinctual, coming from the fight or flight (or freeze) part of the brain. That when they’re acting out, they aren’t even capable of using logic, but often need that cuddle you mentioned instead of the time out. They need to know they are safe because their behavior is triggered by past experiences and the fear their body remembers. The time to discuss the correct behavior is later once their brains are out of that overstressed reactive mode. It was really interesting and different from any other books I’ve read about kids who have experienced trauma. If you find that your standard ideas aren’t working, I’d recommend that book. Of course, you’ll find what works for you over time. Best of luck with your new little ones.

    • I’ve heard about Beyond Consequences but just haven’t picked it up yet. Dr. Purvis also speaks a lot about “fight or flight.” I had a moment with A this morning that required a time-in and cuddling. We don’t have any bio kids but I think under different circumstances, with a different kid I would have just used a time-out. I feel like we made a little progress today. Thanks for your input…I really appreciate it!

      • Our boys moved on to their long term foster care home on Wednesday. It was a tough situation because when you have bio kids (ours are 4 and 6) and foster kids (ours were 11 mos and 2.5 years) who need completely different parenting styles and consequences, it’s confusing for all of the kids. We’re thankful for the experience because it helped us realize that for our own boys’ sakes we’ll be taking younger kids from now on, at least until ours are old enough to understand more. God teaches us through each and every placement, doesn’t he? I hope you’re finding your groove.

        It seems to me that it takes almost a month to really understand how to approach each child. We were lucky that we already had a trip planned a few weeks into our first placement so we could sort of regroup and think about how to address our foster boys more effectively. Remember to use respite caregivers if you need it, even just to have a rational discussion with each other about how to move forward with your boys!

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