We know that parenting or caring for children from hard places requires a very specific set of parenting skills that may require modifying the way you are programmed to parent or care for children. Perhaps you have closely modeled your caregiving or parenting style to that of your own parents or maybe someone else in your life whom you greatly admired. Being mindful or self-aware of your caregiving style is the first step toward positively reshaping the challenging behavior of children who have come from hard places.
The key is having a healthy balance of both nurture and structure. This balance allows a child to stay connected to you while you provide them with a thoughtful learning experience. It is important because a healthy balance of both allows a child to trust and grow. Some caregiver styles may lean toward too much structure, while other styles may lean toward too much nurture. A balance of both is better. It is important to remember that the goal of correction should always be connection, which is why the balance between structure and nurture is so important. Your own parenting or caregiving style might be to lead with structure, and that is okay, but remember to follow that up with nurture. Perhaps your style is to lead with nurture, and that is okay too, but you then must follow that up with structure.
Ideally, authoritative caregiving styles are the best at managing challenging behaviors for children from hard places. Below is a list of four very different caregiving styles beginning with authoritative:
Some traditional discipline models focus solely on punishment. However, what if we viewed discipline from the lens of correcting and teaching? That would certainly make it easier to sneak in some nurture with the structure. You might try this while kneeling down to your child’s eye level: “It seems like you’re having a hard time right now, I’ll be right over here when you’re ready to talk to me about it” or “What do you need right now, I want to help you but you need to use your words.” Providing a nurturing and safe place while reinforcing boundaries and setting limits promotes connection with your children.
As parents and caregivers, there is usually one caregiver style that we tend to gravitate toward. We may even quickly phase in and out of all these styles at one time or another depending on the kind of day we ourselves are having. Remember to give yourselves some grace. We are all learning and growing no matter our age. As parents and caregivers of children from hard places, we know that there are days that are hugely rewarding and others where you feel great despair and maybe even some hopelessness. It takes great courage and resolve to guide children from hard places because these children do not feel like they have a voice and they do not trust easily. Please know that on this journey we see you, we hear you, we support you and we commend you. These children are precious, and they need to feel their preciousness from all of us before they begin to believe it themselves.
Want to learn more about Trust-Based Relational Intervention and the Connecting, Empowering, and Connecting Principles? Join us for ongoing trainings in person or via Zoom video calls. Details can be found at The Connected Community.
Written by Angie Woodhead, Adoption Social Worker at The Maine Children's Home for The Connected Community @ MCH.