We started some short term in-home therapy with Bella today. I requested it because the transitions back and forth from 3-4 days with Mom and Dad to 3-4 days with us has seriously been kicking her four year old butt – along with ours in the process. So mostly I wanted a therapist who could come in and decompress with her – someone, besides us, who can talk to her about everything that is going on.
So her therapist came. She is very nice, very to the point, and easy to talk to. I’m just not sure that our mindsets and parenting theories are necessarily in sync. We talked about what we’ve been seeing in between visits, the ridiculousness that is bed time, and we went over background info.
Essentially what I heard was this:
- Stop worrying so much over the emotional impact of the way you parent her.
- Her behaviors are primarily attention seeking.
- You are not being strict enough.
I told her that at bedtime, sometimes we go on two hours of her crying for her Mommy, needing her back rubbed, talking through what her parents are probably doing, and talking about how much longer it is until her next visit. I told her this in an effort to explain the deep emotional impact that the transitions back and forth are having on her.
I was told that this bedtime routine is simply her trying to get attention, and that she’s figured out that if she cries that I will stay in there (some nights, this is true, I will admit that.). I need to do our bedtime routine, leave, ignore her cries, and in three days it will stop.
A.K.A. : Behavior Modification.
But seriously, she’s four. She’s away from her family. She is going back and forth between completely different environments, expectations, and structures. What I hear from that advice is : Ignore that she is hurting in ways she doesn’t understand, and then she’ll stop telling you.
This is not a solution.
I honestly don’t think it’s possible for a four year old to go through that, and then have behaviors that are not derived from the pain of their circumstance. Sure, some of her behaviors are attention seeking : because she needs attention.
What happened to fulfilling the cycle of need?
I know there are probably a lot of people this therapist sees that just want the behaviors to stop. Sometimes, in the thick of it, that’s what I want too.
But really what I want is to know how I can best love her and support her emotionally through the behaviors.
I guess I’m just disappointed. I’ve tried really hard to develop our parenting practices in therapeutic ways, and it makes me bristle to hear advice from a therapist that does not take into account the hurt that her little heart is carrying.
I also know that therapeutic parenting is often in pretty strong discord with many accepted parenting techniques. But I’m not here to get pats on the back for turning my traumatized children’s behavior around over night – I’m here to comfort the hurt that causes it.
So where do we go when our therapists are telling us that we should just treat the behaviors as if these children have had everything they ever needed and more? I don’t know, but I do know that I can’t wait to get to This Conference.
Because there is a reason that foster and adoptive parents struggle with behaviors more than other parents, and it’s not because we’re all incapable of being consistent.
(P.S. If you need book or video resources on therapeutic parenting and you’re at a loss, please e-mail me – I am happy to send you some! It will make you feel less crazy, and help you understand where all this behavior is coming from!)