Saturday, June 27, 2009

The New Discipline

I don't have much time to write, but I did want to start something before I forget. From the day we picked up George, Joe and I were faced with huge challenges with George's behavior. You all know that! We poured over God's word, looking for answers and wisdom and we talked to adoption counselors and other adoptive parents of older children and we came to the conclusion that until we had some language, we would need to physically show George that we were not happy with his behavior. This resulted in spankings. And the spankings worked.

We did not feel bad about spanking, for we have spanked all our children. We probably have spanked them a total of the number of fingers we have, but when we needed to, spanking proved to be a very effective form of discipline. The same was true with George.

Until, I tried something different the other day. The offense that George committed did not warrant a spanking and so we walked home, I put George on his bed and told George to look at me. He refused. He put one hand over his eyes, put one hand over his nose, screamed and refused to look at me. No matter how much I tried to pry his hands away, he would NOT look at me. It was very, very frustrating.

But, I was determined not to give up. I asked George if he wanted a spanking instead and he nodded "yes". OK - I gave him a spanking and then insisted he look me in the eye...still! At this point, George did not want to have another spanking and so he dared to open his eyes and look at me.

I very calmly explained to him what he did was very wrong and told him that I did not want to see him do that again. I asked, "Do you understand?", and he nodded.

The next day, something else happened and we went through the same routine. Again, he finally submitted and looked at me. His "punishment" consisted of having to look at me and listen to me as I told him what behavior I did not like. He then had to say he was sorry and give a hug.

At the pool the other day, he cut in line about 20 kids on the slide. I had to march up the slide steps (humiliated as I went) and brought him back down. I told him to look at me and he shouted, "No!" - so I told him we were leaving and started getting the other kids out of the pool. Suddenly George yelled passionately, "Momma!" and he stood before me with his eyes wide open staring at me.

I posed the question to the adoption web board and asked some of the other moms of older adopted kids about this and a woman I trust replied that we have really hit on something here. As long as I continued to spank George, he had reason to continue to dislike me. I was hurting him and in his eyes, he had a right to keep his distance. Now, as I was forcing him to look at me, two things were happening. First of all, he HAD to do something he did not like to do - and culturally was instructed to never do. It is a big deal for an Ethiopian child to look into the eyes of an adult. He was uncomfortable doing it and probably scared to death what might happen if he do it. So, by following my instruction and seeing there result was not as bad as he thought it would be, trust was gained. Second, I give him no reason to be mad at me. I am very, very clear that I am not happy with the behavior, but I also am showing him that I love him by ending our "conversations" with hugs and apologies.

I still have so much to learn about raising an adoptive son! But, thankfully, God is gracing me with little periods of epiphany where I think, "We can do this!" (We, meaning me and God). Interesting side note - he has not done any of the behaviors from these episodes - yet :) Something is starting to click.

1 comment:

MzzLily said...

Another big step forward! Yea for you! I wouldn't have a clue how to deal with the cultural differences. God really led you along. I can't believe how much progress you've made in such a short time.