Many children living in divorcing single parent homes experience tremendous stress leading to some out of control behaviors. When they come to your church, your volunteers question what on earth could be causing these kids to act like that. They may wonder if there is any discipline in the home at all. It is not that their parents are bad parents or that they aren’t trying, but more likely it is because there is confusion and chaos in the child’s life. Many of these children live in high conflict situations where they experience high stress levels.
In the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors, Heather Forbes and Bryan Post reference these children in their “Stress Model” chart. They say,
“Children who are misbehaving are seeking external regulation.”
They go on to say that stress causes a child to have confused and distorted thinking. With all of the children I have worked with, I find this to be true. I have often said children’s behavior becomes their voice when they don’t feel safe, don’t feel loved, are confused and when they don’t know what is happening next. For many children when they are act out or misbehave they are simply doing the best they can do to survive in that moment.
Today I’d like for us to look at the mistakes we made in the past when working with some of these children. I’d like to examine what works in today’s world when accommodating the child of divorce and their behaviors.
Mistake #1 – The Self-Esteem/Specialness Mistake
In the past we made several mistakes in our discipline and guidance of children. What we did before the divorce epidemic hit our world seemed to have worked. But now that we have many stressed out children and children living in two different worlds on a daily basis, some of those old techniques simply don’t work effectively.
Keep in mind that, for the most part, we were taught or encouraged to do these things by society, by the colleges we went to, by the experts and the child development specialists. Sometimes what we did before might have seemed to work at the time, but there were long-range consequences from some of those techniques.
Special-ness: We told kids they were special. We sang songs that touted, “I am special!” We did art projects that said, “I am special”.
We worked on raising kids “self-esteem”. Everything was about helping the child to feel they were special and everything needed to feel good.
I remember when my daughter Julie was in preschool at our church where I wrote the curriculum. Oh, how we worked on their self-esteem. We did all those “special-ness” activities. We sang those “I am special” songs. Continue Reading…