“Do they need to change?” It was a question that came up while a friend and I were discussing the thoughts I shared about difficult behaviors and salvation, a post inspired by Days of Wonder and Grace. It is a question I have asked myself before. Do children need to change or are we only frustrated because they do not fit the norm?
For the most part, I would say they do not need to change. When talking about change, I am not talking about quirky behaviors that make children stand out from the crowd. Indeed, there are a lot of quirks that make it difficult for children to appropriately give and take in a relationship. For example, the hyper-focus of some make it difficult for them to participate in a conversation. Even so, many people are able to recognize the difference and adjust. There are behaviors that come with low impulse control and sensory issues, but they are livable as long as you are patient and find ways to adapt. Many behaviors are like these.
I, on the other hand, am talking about behaviors that put children in danger. Children with FASD, in particular, are at higher risk to be sexually abused, in legal trouble or homeless. This is even more likely when they are labeled “bad” by others and end up in dangerous peer groups. It happens to many children with special needs. They want to be accepted and are willing to follow the crowd. They often end up doing the dirty work and are usually the ones to get caught because of their innocence. (How’s that for an oxy-moron?)
The difficult behaviors most adoptive parents talk about are the ones they don’t really want to mention and therefore few people know about. (On the other hand, some people do talk about them and no one believes them because they are so outrageous. Perhaps, some even talk too much?) Even in safe environments, children with trauma related brain damage are prone to things such as sexual promiscuity, self-mutilation, violent tantrums, lying, stealing, etc. A child does not have to first go through puberty to act these out. They can do begin as early as two years old. (Note: This is not a blanket statement about all adopted children. It is a possibility, however, that parents of any traumatized children need to be aware of and prepared for.)
Parents and care-givers have such a hard time with these behaviors because they appear sinful. They are repulsive. It is tempting to become bitter as a parent. I have seen it happen to so many women, which is why I caution you to be discerning when finding a support group. I have found in my own journey that to focus on your own transformation is more important than focusing on that of your children. As Christ leads me from within, I see changes happen in my children. When it comes right down to it, however, it’s still not about them. I can’t change in hopes that they will. I have to change because of Christ’s work in me and pray for his work to be done in them. I also have to be willing to accept that his work may not look the way I’d like it to.
Do the children need to change? We all need to change. We all need to live in Christ, in whom the best changes happen. Then, I believe, we will know what normal really is.
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