This may seem an odd topic for Christmas time. But it’s an issue I think many people face, including many once orphans.
It is incredibly frustrating to a parent or one who is trying to motivate or help the child who seems bent on self-sabotage! My best conclusion is to work around it as much as possible. And let myself be okay with that!
I do recommend (to myself as well as to you) to be aware that behind this behavior is a need. Perhaps a deep, hidden wound that is crying out for attention, soothing, healing. Perhaps fearful feelings of the unknown, overwhelm, loss of control, or pressure of expectations.
“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17
Just as with a surface wound, like a gash on the knee after a bicycle wreck, the thought of it being touched and further pain, can result in a flinch or pulling away from the very treatment that would bring relief and speed healing.
(At the risk of overdoing this analogy, I ask your indulgence.)
We can see the open wound and know it needs cleaning. Hopefully we can explain to our resistant child that it needs cleansing, treating and bandaging, in a simple, gentle way. Hopefully they will trust us enough to cooperate and bear the fearful touch that they are so wary of for the brief moments necessary.
But with the hidden wounds that show up in frustrating behaviors it is not always so clear what is needed or how to go about getting cooperation from our child.
Because the underlying wound is hidden, it is likely that neither the child nor the adult completely comprehends what the wound is or exactly how to “treat” it.
Why my 15 year old daughter decapitated all the gingerbread cookies is just one of her baffling behaviors. Her refusal to come out of her bedroom for our simple Christmas family meal and the next day skipping out on going across town to spend holiday time with extended family from out of town is backwards to what we would normally expect. Plus declaring she doesn’t like any of her presents seems strange!
From what I have gleaned from other parents, this is a mild version of the types of behaviors many children have, especially on special occassions.
My youngest child has an all or nothing reaction that is self sabotaging. If he cannot have something now it must mean never. If he cannot have all it must mean none.
Unraveling the effects of early childhood trauma and helping the children heal from it is a long term process. For me, it has taken a great deal of prayer, research, commitment and self control as well as active listening to arrive at some glimpses into the woundedness of my children. Every layer of healing is progress!
I am happy we made it through Christmas with as little overall turmoil as we did. One of the lessons I have been practicing is that my joy comes from the inside out. It cannot depend upon the emotional state of my children or their behaviors. The more they are out of control, the more controlled and non-reactive I must be. The more I have to find my peace in my relationship with God.
Two or three of my children exhibit behaviors associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder. While I am not a doctor and do not presume to know all the ins and outs of RAD, as a parent, my opinion is that at least some of these behaviors stem from their traumatic (painful) background in which their trust in adults, primarily those who were supposed to protect, provide for and love them, was broken. Broken trust is a difficult thing for an adult to deal with – -ask anyone who has been through a divorce — but for a young child, who may have been physically injured/damaged by abuse and/or neglect, the broken trust trains their young brain to view the world as suspect, ESPECIALLY those who get “too close”. The self-sabotaging reactions (which seem to them as self-preservation) to perceived threats are sometime difficult to unravel.
Baby steps are progress. Once hidden pain points have been partially unravelled in starts and stops in our family. We have also made some great baby steps in healing this year.
My job is to protect the progress.
I hope my end of year ramblings have given you pause to think about the possible pain points behind any of your children’s self-sabotaging behaviors and helped you some way.
ASIDE: By the way, I have found a lot of success in general in calming anxiety and impulsive behaviors, and to support focus and overall health with a group of natural wellness products that support not only my adopted children, but the entire family! They are available for purchase through me with Oils for Orphans. If you would like to know more just let me know and I’d be happy to share what is working for us!
Wishing you & your families —
HAPPY NEW YEAR!