My husband and I adopted our daughter with the best intentions. My heart swells with love. Because that’s who I am, I naturally wanted to shower her with goodness, kindness and acceptance. So why, then, did I so often land in a pit of despair?
My daughter was six when she joined our family more than a year ago. She has a sweet side: she’s fun-loving, helpful, kind, and full of life. However, she wears baggage that makes it difficult for her to regulate her emotions. The ugliness of her past presents itself when she is frustrated. She has sworn at me, spit in my face, told me she hates me, thrown things at me, and elbowed me. These behaviours upset me, but her disrespectful and sassy tone bothers me most.
These heated moments make me feel like quitting. The enemy’s lies cause me to think I can’t handle the situation. I sometimes feel like a complete failure and question what I’ve gotten myself into. Thankfully, God’s grace encourages me when I need it most.
Proverbs 16:32—“It is better to be patient than powerful”—is etched into my brain. When I’m patient, I model love and my daughter relaxes. Patience enables me to respond rather than react, and this, in turn, helps me implement strategies that diffuse her emotions. Here are several strategies I’ve found helpful:
- Use when/then statements. For example, “When you calm down, then we can talk,” or “When you use your big girl words, then we can figure out this problem together.”
- Reflect on feelings. Punishing my daughter’s behaviour shames her, but reflecting on her feelings helps her feel understood and calms her. It also opens the door for teachable moments.
- Have a time-out. Time outs help my daughter refocus her energy and regain self-control. In our home, this happens on a designated couch with her guinea pig and soft blankets at her disposal. The time out ends when she’s ready to be polite and respectful again.
I still struggle with demonstrating patience, but through prayer, I’m making gains. These gains are helping me and my daughter attach. They’re also reaping results in her life. The predictability of my response helps her feel secure and know that my love for her will never change.