My oldest daughter reading aloud about animal behavior today read something about how an animals’ vicious behavior can stem from two distinct emotions:
1. Predator (It’s a hungry meat-eater.)
2. Fear (Mama bear is protecting her cubs.)
Knowing this helps the animal trainer/owner to gear their response more appropriately. It follows that if an animal is acting out of fear, it would not help to come at it aggressively and thus reinforce the fear. I thought about this afterward and it seems to me that to an extent, that can relate to us as humans as well. Animals have such a limited amount of behaviors and emotions, while humans are much more complex. But God uses the world of nature to teach us.
As a parent, if I perceive that my child’s behavior (not necessarily vicious, but perhaps sullen or grumpy or otherwise not their normal, perky, cooperative self) is born out of some type of fear, then my response may need to be adjusted to deal with the fear, rather than just to correct the behavior. Of course, it may take some insight, much more than with an animal, to discern the basis of the behavior. It may even allude the child who probably can’t readily identify the reason behind the behavior.
I confess, that I needed to get this lesson today. I have been too bad about demanding “why” a child did/said “so and so”. Yes, there are times to put my foot down, so to speak, and deal with the situation from a position of authority and “because I said so”. But (another lesson we touched on today) I should not, as we have seen in so many in positions of authority do, overstep the bounds of the authority as parent, even in seemingly little ways. I pray for forgiveness and thank God for teaching me so clearly. I thank God for my children who are so patient with me as I continue to learn.
I John 4:18 NIV states: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Fear is something adopted children have lots of. But my biological children have lots of fear as well. Sometimes it seems that they may have even more. About different things. So do we adults. In reading about dealing with extreme child behavior problems (oftentimes with children from traumatic backgrounds) I’ve found good advice to be for the adult to acknowledge and deal with their own fears first. Me, afraid? Why yes, when I come to think of it, I don’t like to admit that at times I am afraid what others will think of me as a parent. Yet, even more I think I am afraid for this child to continue in the state they are now in and I cannot get an appropriate long-range view while imagining the worst outcome. So I act out of fear. Something that conflicts with my desire to trust God and rely on him and his guidance. Yes, getting a handle on my own fears to help deal with theirs is a big help!
Bryan Post is an author of “The Great Behavior Breakdown” and other books which give great advice for parenting children with extreme (or not so extreme) behavior issues, especially when they have been affected by childhood trauma. I recommend this book for anyone parenting or working with children or youth with any type of trauma background. Keep in mind that there are many different types of trauma and it can cause problems (fear) long after the outward issues are resolved.