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Affection and discipline

22 replies

teekay88 · 15/12/2017 18:08

Hi all.

Having started reading more on attachment theory ive been thinking about the role of both affection and discipline in parenting an adoptive child.

I've been reading sally donovans unofficial guide and i think it will take some wider reading and experience of the process and training (and then being a real life parent) to form my own view properly. On advice from others i am taking sallys book with a slight pinch of salt and seeing the relevance of context to her experience and certainly dont feel i agree with all of her viewpoints (admittedly from my somewhat limited experience being that i am not yet an adopter) but one thing that did strike me as very important was the point she made about shame based discipline techniques being in appropriate.

I also have been wondering how you felt able to show physical affection/contact to your children to help them feel reassured and loved without being over bearing or risking inadvertently traumatising them given their past experiences especially in the early days of when your child came home and you were trying to bond (and in the case of discipline set boundaries)?

Just wondering aloud about something i have very little experience of yet. Specifically interested in that initial settling in period. Do let me know your insights id be really interested x

OP posts:
Jellycatspyjamas · 15/12/2017 19:15

The initial settling in period was hellish - we were all deeply traumatised and simply wanted to get to a more stable place as quickly as possible. It certainly wasn't the time to try and set too many boundaries or much discipline.

For us it involves getting the kids and us used to new routines - so lots of "we're going to do this, then this, then this". The boundaries we did have were around safety and usually involved distracting or physically removing kids from situations that weren't safe. We were, and still are, very present with our kids - not much of them playing quietly etc, one of us are always close by.

I dislike Sally Donovan simply because I think her experience is pretty extreme and doesn't necessarily reflect the way many kids need to be cared for.

We do now discipline our kids, through natural consequences as far as possible but I'll be clear that their behaviour is not ok with me, but that they are always loved even if I'm angry with something they've done. We'll also try to talk about what was happening when they did X and how else they could have done it. They need to know what is and isn't ok behaviour.

Our two have needed lots of physical affection from the outset - some days it's like baby wearing a 4 and 6 year old. It's never been a problem for them and they seek out cuddles and kisses - which is fab, there's nothing better than 4 year old sleepy cuddles.

Lovebehindthefool · 15/12/2017 23:29

I give lo lots of kisses and cuddles but I also tell her no firmly (only 2.5 yrs old!). When she is really pushing it, I do time in. I sit her in a boring area of the room I’m in and away from the thing she shouldn’t be doing. I don’t leave her though or do “naughty step”. I use the same corner because of its lack of toys but the act of removing her from what she is doing is normally enough to get my point across. If she cries etc I give a cuddle and comfort.

I’m going to be honest, I found the books mainly relate to children with huge trauma/attachment issues etc. Lots of therapeutic parenting. It is all quite extreme (as a lot of posters on here’s experiences are). I discipline in a pretty normal way I would say but I AM mindful of anything that may make my child feel rejection (hence why I don’t do the naughty step or put them anywhere alone).

Monkeybrains2017 · 16/12/2017 07:14

My experience mirrrors lovebehindthefool. We have always given loads of affection, although in early days it was more because we knew it was the right thing to do whereas now it feels right and is totally natural. Our LO is 3, came with a dislike of word NO and a F.C. who had avoided using it! Now able to manage behaviour very normally but no naughty step (don’t agree with it anyway!) Recommend the picture book “Mummy do you love me” which has a great message about unconditional love and we read together regularly.

Italiangreyhound · 17/12/2017 03:29

teekay88 good luck with the process.

I've no read Sally Donovan, so I can't answer anything specific about those books.

But I will try and answer some of your thoughts with our own experience. we have an adopted son who has been with us 3 and a half years and came to us at nearly 4. We also have a birth daughter (who is now a teenager). WE parented dd with attachment style parenting, and dd is almost certainly not neurotically, maybe on the autistic spectrum.

"thinking about the role of both affection and discipline in parenting an adoptive child."

Lots of affection, of you get the chance, a lot less emphasis on discipline, unless it is needed to keep them safe. You get the chance to give cuddles etc and show affection, sometimes, if they are upset to be moving and leaving their foster family. So although it is hard to see them upset, you do sometimes get a chance to comfort them.

"...but one thing that did strike me as very important was the point she made about shame based discipline techniques being in appropriate."

It's tough, you want them to know that something isn't helpful but not make them feel ashamed. I am still learning. I mus admit I do follow a policy of always admitting when I make a mistake and explaining it is OK to make mistakes and say sorry etc.

"I also have been wondering how you felt able to show physical affection/contact to your children to help them feel reassured and loved without being over bearing or risking inadvertently traumatising them given their past experiences especially in the early days of when your child came home"

We went swimming a lot. Our son was a bit nervous of the water so stayed in my arms. This was a good way to show affection and we had skin to skin contact in a safe and comfortable way.

"... and you were trying to bond (and in the case of discipline set boundaries)?" Concentrate on the bonding, put boundaries in that are to do with safety etc. Very young children are quite contained, you can make sure they are slightly restrained to avoid lots of issues, e.g. put things out of reach and use stair gates, etc. When my nephew was very small my mum would not move things out of his reach, she insisted he needed to learn not to touch ornaments etc! When ds was little we avoided issues by safety proofing his immediate area, obviously as they get older it gets harder. Avoid too many options for the child, they will feel safer and it will cut out too much stress.

For example pre school children rarely need to be somewhere specific. So cut out stress by keeping their schedule not too busy. Once kids get to school then they do need to be in a specific place at a specific time. Luckily, DS took to school OK, (unlike dd!) and we had few issues. But we do send him part time at first as he was under 5.

Anyway, just read p all you can but remember your child/children will be individuals and you will need to parent them according to their needs.

Good luck. Thanks

Italiangreyhound · 17/12/2017 03:33

read up

fasparent · 17/12/2017 08:09

We were some what lucky to coin a phrase , DS has acute trauma, say lucky as he came at 3 months. No professional's could get near him just added too his trauma, its been a slow journey we needed ,lots of support would say almost in every area, how ever most are his best friends now, still a long way too go are 4 years on.
Would say that children Adopted later many would not have had that early years intervention our child had. Though we are only just starting therapeutic strategy's, these he finds fun and enjoys.

Mintylizzy9 · 17/12/2017 10:50

I'm trying very hard to get this balance, it feels impossible some days. I've joined the national association of therapeutic parenting (anyone can join the natp Facebook page) and so far it's been the best form of support for me. Lots of real life issues being dealt with by real life parents with lots of advice and experiences being shared.

I have some basic rules about safety and DS now understands no don't do that please it's not safe, or we need to do x now so that mummy can keep you safe. Everything else I'm far more lax about and try to focus on natural consequences rather than punishments for example if you eat all the chocolate from the xmas tree then it's all gone and nothing left for other days. He squirted something all up the bathroom wall the other day and after I cleaned it up my arms were far too tired to do the activity we had planned. This avoids shaming his actions but makes him think think twice the next time. My DS arrived at almost two and hadn't experienced much structure so for us keeping things simple with a focus on what was safe has been the main priority. If he doesn't follow the safety rules then we stop, leave, go home whatever is needed and my stance has been to follow it through every time whilst telling him it's mummy's job to keep him safe. He was and still can be a runner. If we call into a shop on the way to the park we have a little chat first and I explain you can't run away from mummy in the shop because that isn't safe and I need to keep you safe. If he runs off then we don't go to the park because he is feeling wobbly to day and mummy can't keep him safe in the park if he runs off so we need to go home where it's safe. It's not for the faint hearted, the early days meant some tremendous tantrums and meltdowns but I was consistent and it's much easier now (2 years on, he's almost 4). Every child is different but from all the people I speak to in support groups clear and firm boundaries seem to work for most, limiting choices and consistency give our kids the security they need but it won't stop them pushing every button you have to see if you'll crack and maybe hit them, shout, send them away...all things may of our kids have experienced.

dieselworkshop · 19/12/2017 17:10

Please could minty and if possible other people explain the "limiting choices", with examples, and also when do you intend that the need to limit choices should stop? Thank you.

Mintylizzy9 · 19/12/2017 18:53

Hi diesel

For us it means I'm rather bossy. So for example if we need to leave the house I won't ask him to put his shoes on I will tell him rather firmly that we are going so now so you need to sit on that step and mummy will help you put your shoes on. Getting dressed I may just dress him, on good days he may get a choice of two tops to wear.

kids who have developmental trauma can't always cope with having a choice/decision it becomes to much for them. My biggest effort has to be the language I use, I'd mean to give an instruction but hearing myself back (recorded for a therapy session) I'd actually be asking a question. Example would be shall we put your coat on now (que hyper activity from him as he struggles with transitions anyway and there was I asking him if he would be the leader of the change!) Now I say put your coat on now please DS, would you like me to help you? When you have your coat on we're going in the car to Aldi to get some milk (if we're having a bad day I will just help without asking). In a nutshell it's about giving clear firm instructions rather than asking for their input in what needs/is about to happen. My DS seems to also cope better with knowing what's going to happen next so coat on we're going to the shops, turn off the tv we're going to tidy up together then bake some biscuits etc. He feels much more secure when he sees I'm confident in what we are doing and how we're going to do it.

It's all trial and error for us at the minute, some days have to be very structured others can be less so. I will physically step in most days (he responds well to this) so for example if he's become hyper because we're transitioning I will just pick him up/take by the hand and lead him and go where we need to go otherwise he just escalates but seems to calm within minutes (usually seconds) when I physically take control.

The NATP Facebook page is a good starting point. I've lurked in there for a year and finally joined the NATP a few weeks ago.

I expect that I will always have to parent this way and to be honest it becomes second nature fairly quickly. You get to know what triggers will set LO off or maybe recognise some of the build up behaviours and step in before they blow!

Now natural consequences are a different ball game, I'm really trying to get my head around those 😁

It sounds like hard work and I won't lie it is but it is becoming easier as my confidence grows and to be honest I give less of a hoot about the challenging behaviours (most of the time!!) and in turn I have become less stressy and shouty....I still have my moments but I'm aiming to be therapeutic mum 30% of the time and being human mum the remaining 70%👸🏻 still nowhere near 30%

Italiangreyhound · 19/12/2017 20:33

I learnt about limited choices in the context of parenting, think it was the family links nurturing programme, which is not specifically for adopted children but does in most cases seem to apply.

So for example for very young or troubled children too much choice is paralyzing. You either say what you will do, go to the park, or if appropriate give limited choices like "do you want to wear the red jumper or the blue?"

Dr came to is at 3, nearly 4 and has been with us about 3.5 Years. He had a difficult couple of years, a fab foster carer and now at 7 he is treated pretty much like any child for General things. So packing for holiday he can cope with making choices and with help copes better than our teenage birth dd (who is most likely on the autistic spectrum).

Italiangreyhound · 19/12/2017 20:38

Ds not Dr!

In terms of how long one has to limit choice I think eventually as adults they will get unlimited choices! So gradually one Sims to prepare then to make wise choices with spending money, picking friends, choosing everything. Small steps and eventually they may get there.

Personally, I also feel a good lessoncan be what to do when you can't choose! Guiding them to sleep on it before a big financial purchase etc. There is no rush for some decisions! Others, toilet now or later, those decisions can be more pressing!

Not sure if that helps, it's another aspect of choice but it may not be what you wanted to know!

Italiangreyhound · 19/12/2017 20:40

Aims not Sims!

teekay88 · 21/12/2017 07:30

Sorry for the delay but thanks all for taking the time to reply and to give me some ideas. In really interested in reading about therapeutic parenting more and specifically any parenting scenarios that need to be adjusted for parenting adopted children. Are there any books or documentaries you would recommend aside from sally donovan as i know she is mentioned a lot?

OP posts:
dieselworkshop · 22/12/2017 20:20

minty thank you very much, that was really helpful, sorry it has taken me ages to reply. What you described is similar to advice I have read in relation to managing a young strong willed child, as any opportunity to negotiate (or a sniff of weakness in the caregiver) will be grabbed with both hands by the strong willed child, so similar technique, keep it simple, for different reasons!

When you say you think you will always have to parent like that, however, that is my worry about the technique. I can relate to what Italian has said. I haven't joined NATP but have seen Sarah Naish talk about children with developmental trauma, and she explained it really well, but developmental trauma is not static, both the neurological and emotional consequences can be turned around, so presumably the limiting choices was a short term strategy? If not I am confused.

In terms of choices generally, I thought that choices from a young age are essential because judgement develops from experience, so children need a chance to make decisions from the beginning. Also that the child who has learned about making choices, learned to think for themselves and learned about themselves, will then make better choices when they are older and out of our sight. They are less likely to submit to peer pressure and more likely to understand their own impulses and reason with themselves when older.

If that is right, I suppose that the answer is to build in choices slowly but systematically. It makes perfect sense to limit choices when we need to get something done or go somewhere, but to then use other times when we are not in such a rush to encourage choices, maybe.

My worry would also be that if limiting choices goes on for years it may be developmentally traumatic in itself as there is simply too much control being exerted.

Sorry, long post.

Italiangreyhound · 22/12/2017 21:22

dieselworkshop my son has not experienced a lot of trauma, having said that like all adopted children he lost birth family, no longer lives with foster family (although we do continue to meet up about once or twice a year).

He came to use at three, nearly four, and had real rages or tantrums about a lot of things. These changed little on the early months and while other things calmed and worked out, these did not.

My birth dd is not Neuro typical and with her I used the family links nurturing programme. This is not specifically for adopters but seems to work well. It works about positive parenting, positive self image etc.

One example from the book (the parenting puzzle) is around positive language. For example, when you tidy up your toys, we can go up the park. You don't ask them if they want to tidy up, or threaten we wpm''t go to the park unless you tidy up. You just present the pleasant thing and the chore in a way that they flow together.

As children get older I do think they need to learn to make choices (as long as it doesn't overwhelm them).

I think these choices would be called 'neutral' choices. The red sweater or the blue. Sausage or fish (assuming you have both of course).

There is actually a benefit to the brain in making these kind of choices, I've been told - I think if a child is finding it hard to focus making a simple, non-taxing choice can be good.

But, as I say, my child has not been seriously traumatised and he makes simple choices all the time, about food, drinks, sweets, tv programmes, who to invite over to play etc.

He has been with us three and a half years and is 7. In the early days the choices were more limited.

And the rages - well, we had theraplay and it worked amazingly! One game we played in theraplay involved small coloured sweets. He had to make up a code action for each colour (think mimi smarties), do the action (e.g. blink for pink) and I fed him the sweet of the colour.

This was all to with eye contact and nurturing. We had almost a year of theraplay sessions (spread out, one or two a month) and these cut his angry rages in half!

Anyway, I digress. I am a huge fan of theraplay (it's not just play therapy).

Mintylizzy9 · 22/12/2017 21:33

Italian you give me hope, were just coming to the end of our first batch of ten theraplay sessions, can already see some benefits 😍

dieselworkshop · 22/12/2017 21:58

The theraplay sounds great.

As children get older I do think they need to learn to make choices (as long as it doesn't overwhelm them)

I think these choices would be called 'neutral' choices. The red sweater or the blue. Sausage or fish (assuming you have both of course)

I think that that is right, these are the early choices. And when we have more time, it makes it easier to both allow this and have time for any fall out!

There is actually a benefit to the brain in making these kind of choices, I've been told - I think if a child is finding it hard to focus making a simple, non-taxing choice can be good

That sounds very interesting. I have been told that doing repetitive work (such as simple sums) can have a similar affect.

Italiangreyhound · 22/12/2017 22:02

Minty hooray. I was a huge sceptic! When the theraplay person explained what we would be doing I nearly laughed in her face! How could this possibly help ds. Who incidentally also had his rages around transition!

He would wake up and come into my bed for a cuddle but then getting out of my bed would cue a rage! Then I would collect from school, total rage before we had excited the school platground! Telly off, rage. Dinner is ready, rage!

The theraplay was filmed, ds literally curled up in foetal position on sofa behind me for second session! Third, manic balloon play. By session 4 he was calmer.

I'm genuinely amazed. He has gone from four rages a day to less than four a week! But it took time. No quick Fox but a street journey.

Reading and posting here reminds me if the journey we have all been on. It is a massive help. So thank you OP for starting this thread.

Today I remembered to tell ds how nicely he was doing something!

I must put in a plug for "How to talk so children will listen and listen so children will talk." It's amazing. It's not specifically for adoptopn but it's good and I guess all parents need to learn to adapt the things that work for their kids.

Italiangreyhound · 22/12/2017 22:05

I also think, if kids cancopr with simple choice, it is a positive, it says your choices matter, and we might say "good choice, that colour looks great on you" but not if it is a lie, because kids can sniff out the truth!

Mintylizzy9 · 22/12/2017 22:18

I will admit to some extensive eye rolling when I first heard of theraplay but I'm converted. DS gets very 'manic' rather than ragey (but does have his rage moments!) but is calming much quicker and the videos of our sessions have been an eye opener. The limited choices and my physical interjection (firm touch or picking up and moving to where we need to be or even just if we are physically touching) seem to really regulate him, it's amazing to watch. He just flops back like a baby, will take a bottle of milk (unheard of prior to this) and he's engaged in the games. He's still his cheeky and giggly self but its the mischievous giggle now not the anxious one. I'm seeing more intense and regular regressions now as well but they are very short lived as he seems comfortable to dip in and out when needed. The human brain is bloody amazing!

Hope to get more funding in the new tax year so we can do more sessions.

And you're right, we should recognise how far our kiddos have come already, it's so easy to be lost in the here and now and it too easy to forget the big leaps they make. X

Italiangreyhound · 22/12/2017 22:27

I guess rage is a catch all for me, I could say tantrum as well.I could even say melt down with ds they were short-lived but intense. They still happen but less so, he recovers quicker and, a miracle he has once or twice got to the point of temper and pulled himself back! The more he gets in control and keeps control the better, especially if he is regulating himself, or finding a different way to express g is feelings. It's a huge step forward. I must remember to ask him if he is proud of himself. He should be. He has shoenthis winter huge tenacity which he never had before! He was a real quitter at first, he could not do things it was too tired but now he is showing real determination. I need to remind myself how amazing it is!

Feeling proud tonight of my little hero.

Mintylizzy9 · 22/12/2017 22:41


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