When Love Is Not Enough: Nancy L Thomas
0 comment Thursday, April 24, 2014 |
The full title of this book is "When Love Is Not Enough: A guide to parenting children with RAD - Reactive Attachment Disorder", which I saw someone recommend on the AdoptionUK message boards. It seemed like it might be full of tricks and techniques to help deal with those, you know, slightly difficult aspects of parenting adopted children.
Nancy, the blurb on the back tells me, is a Therapeutic Parenting Specialist, who has a very high success rate in working with high risk children, 90% of whom have killed.
Yes, you did read that right. The author of this book works with children who are so disordered they have murdered. That might be quite shocking, but somehow, throughout the book, Nancy keeps up such a breezy note that you don't doubt children can be brought up from such depths in order to heal and become a functioning citizen.
This filled me with much confidence, because I'm thinking if Nancy can help a psychopathic child to love, then surely I can help mine be less irritating.
I do suffer some drawbacks though. Nancy lives in Colorado, "a land noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert land". She's therefore big on things like mountain hiking and horse back riding to help heal her children, which is very difficult to arrange in Birmingham. Also, her advice that after the child has been with you for 2-5 years you can let them 'shoot a weapon' and after college 'own a rifle, handgun, hunting bow or crossbow' are also lost in translation. Can't imagine my children ever wanting to hunt bears, and even if they did good luck finding them around here.
Nancy's old wild west religiousness is also difficult for my English, secular sensibilities to digest. I'm just not going to be using the Power of Prayer, it just ain't me. And also, I'm not going to tell my daughter that girls who wear lots of black round the eyes and neon lips are whores. In Birmingham they are known as goths!
However, despite such things, Nancy speaks my parental language. Some of the adoptive stuff I have read insists on using sunny language when describing a child's behaviour. You know, children are not attention seeking, they are attention needing. Children are not naughty, they just require boundaries. That sort of thing. But Nancy tells it like I feel it. Children can behave in a manipulative and sneaky and downright abhorrent way and I have seen it with my very own eyes, many times. (Note I don't say that the child is manipulative, sneaky or abhorrent, I say their behaviour is. Big difference.)
Throughout the whole book Nancy is totally on the mother's side and teaches how to call children with attachment difficulties on their bullshit. She has many a technique for dealing with the manipulative, controlling and passive-aggressive ways that make up the weaponry that children with attachment difficulties employ, and for that this book is worth the money. Underpinning everything she advises is the idea that you cannot make a child do anything, but that natural consequences will guide their way. For that to work the parent must act smarter than the child and must, at all times, be the one in control.
Big for me about the 'control' aspect was that the parent should be in control of the hugs, smiles and affection. Those things are meted out on the mother's terms, not the child's. This may seem abnormal, maybe even cruel, to people who haven't adopted a child with attachment difficulties, but you would not believe how they will use even these things to control the adult. And if the child controls the adult, there is no hope for healing.
Still, inconsistencies pop up in the book, the same inconsistency that appears in every book about parenting adopted children. That inconsistency goes something like this: don't EVER reject a child from your presence for ANYTHING they have ever done, NOT EVER, oh, unless they've done x y or z then you should. Here Nancy will tell us not to send a child to their room for more than 30 minutes because you can't bond with a child who who is in their room, she will also tell us to hug a child who has stopped showering, no matter how smelly they are, but on the other hand she advocates sending the child to respite care that is stricter and less fun than your own home so they appreciate what they have with you, and to make a child eat in the laundry room if they deliberately employ bad habits at the dinner table! Also, do you hug a child who won't do their chores to 'unstick them' or do you let them 'rust on the coach' until they do it, I'm not sure!
(What is it with American's and their chores? I'm sure half of USA parenting problems could be wiped out in a flash if parents just stopped expecting their children to sweep floors and take out the rubbish.)
So, this book, sometimes it's an odd read because I don't live in cowboy country and pray over my kids, but in other ways it speaks directly to me. It also made me realise that my kids have actually done some healing whilst they have lived with us and that they have every chance of leading happy, functional lives if I help them.
I shall keep this one handy.