Therapeutic Parenting – What is Success?
Step Out of Failure and into Success
Often when I talk to parents who are raising hurt kids they express feeling like a failure. They may even feel powerless to change this and bitter at their circumstances, the system or even their kids. This is so sad to me as we have not only let down these kids, but we’ve abandoned the families who are called to raise them. To begin changing this we need to redefine what it means to be successful as a therapeutic parent so we can empower parents on this very difficult but sacred journey or parenting the most vulnerable of God’s children.
It’s Not About Behavior
If we look only at the behaviors of our kids our feelings of success will vacillate depending on how our kids are doing. This is destructive to our sense of ourselves as parents because hurt kids go in and out of survival mode based on their past traumas and attachment wounds. In survival mode we will see our children manipulate, lie, steal, act out and hurt those who are trying to love them. Other times they will manipulate others into thinking they are sweet well-behaved kids and we as the parents are the problem. Then we get glimpses of the kids we know they can be as they connect and interact in healthier ways. This sends our feelings of success and failure all over the place until we begin to conclude the worst about our kids and the worst about ourselves as parents.
As a parent of adopted children in addition to being a therapeutic parent coach and therapist, I’ve been there myself and understand these feelings of desperation. I used to be controlled by my children’s manipulation and got sucked into trying to control them and their behaviors more often than I’d like to admit. This is different now because I now measure my success as a therapeutic parent not on how well I control my kids’ behavior but how much self-control I can have even when the wheels are coming off and my child is in full chaos. I now measure my success in this way not only because it empowers me but because it is also what my children need. They need someone who is self-controlled in the chaos so they have a place to find security when they are ready. When their chaos doesn’t become my chaos, my self-control begins to empower them to also have self-control.
Let’s look at what scripture has to say about this:
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
Here we see that we are blessed when we don’t get pulled into the chaos of others and instead find our security in the Lord. If we stay firm in Him we become like a “tree planed by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.” A tree is firmly rooted and does not get pulled out of the ground and thrown about at every little storm. The most significant part of this is that our job is to bear fruit, correct? I can only bear fruit if I am firmly rooted and self-controlled. This will bear fruit in my family, in my life, and in my children’s lives.