Trauma, I did not invite you into my home. I didn’t even know you existed. You surely caught me off guard and have momentarily changed who I am and who I want to be. You, Trauma, will no longer rule my home. You are not my child; you are a byproduct of his past, but you will not determine his future! ~Connie~
*please remember my caveat ~ I am not an expert. I am only sharing my understanding of the research I’ve read and the counsel given by those who are experts*
According to Heather Forbes and Bryan Post, there are only two primary emotions: love and fear.
Obviously, we know that love produces good things, but what are the manifestations of fear?
In our kiddos from hard places, their fear may present as anger, defiance, stealing, killing animals, setting fires, manipulation, self harm, lying, hoarding, gorging, screaming, arguing, etc.
To take a step back, when an infant or child is in need, he cries. If that need is not met, and this happens repeatedly, the child eventually is conditioned to stop crying because he has learned it is to no avail. The need is still there, the stress is still there, but the child has learned to suppress it. (If you’ve ever stepped into an orphanage full of silent babies you know what I’m talking about.) This results in a state of fear which will remain unless and until the child experiences trust, positive response, presence…over and over and over and over again.
As a parent, it can be so frustrating when our kiddos don’t ask for help or just say what they need. But when we consider the years of unmet needs and having to sooth themselves, we can begin to understand why it is difficult, or even impossible, for them to do so. The child has never learned to appropriately deal with the state of stress, and since stress exists in every corner of our world, they find it hard to adapt and can easily become overstimulated.
If our kiddos have never had the opportunity to express, process or understand why certain things have happened to them, how can they express the pain? They may not have the words or the feelings, so they express their pain through behaviors.
In my personal experience, many everyday occurrences can cause a war zone, becoming an imaginary battle for survival for the child unable to adapt. It may be a misinterpreted expression, a misunderstood word, a food served at dinnertime, a touch, a scent that stirs up a memory, a simple instruction. Suddenly, the child feels threatened and responds from a place of fear.
In our experience, this is where traditional parenting (child’s actions = consequences) may not work. We are gradually trying to make the shift to a new kind of parenting…after 24 years of doing things one way. It.is.hard.
It helps for me to understand that the manifestation of anger, disobedience and disrespect is actually rooted in fear. It is not a calculated response. It is a conditioned response, perhaps even an unconscious one. The child who lives in a state of hypervigilance may easily be set off, even by things we don’t imagine or expect. For us, the key is recognizing the fear and stopping the escalation.
How can we do that?
First is the recognition, and second is our response. What could my child possibly be afraid of in this particular situation? Does he feel threatened? Unsafe? What is he imagining the outcome will be?
Then comes our response. Is my instruction too complicated? Is my tone angry? Could my presence be perceived as a threat in this situation? Did I say something, even unintentionally or perhaps misunderstood, that arouses his/her self doubt?
Our response can make all the difference. In our experience, this is not the time to ‘preach’. It doesn’t work. With ‘preaching’ comes ‘the look’. The my-eyes-are-glazed-over-my-body-is-stiff-I’m-outa-here look.
So what is the response that brings healing? We are still working on that, and I don’t feel properly equipped to share yet. If you’ve tried a new parenting style that works and opens the door to positive change, I would be so grateful if you’d share it.