On his personal blog about adoption, fatherhood, and parenting, WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks reflects on mistakes made and lessons learned. Sharing one of his recent posts below, Greg talks about the difference that a trust-based, relational approach could have made … and what’s “better than being right.”
“Bear With You”
When I was a young parent, I thought I knew it all.
I was armed with the best information on parenting, and it was great stuff. I was going to parent with love and reason. To my brain, it all made sense. It was logical! There were explanations for things, and behaviors lead to consequences both good and bad. If there was a problem, I could identify it and propose a solution.
The problem here was that my solutions never seemed to work. So, I felt like a failure. My children grew increasingly frustrated, and I’m sure they felt isolated and often labeled as troublemakers. We just couldn’t figure out a good way to climb out of our arguments, and that led to resentment. And that’s never good for relationships.
Here’s what I now know: Children from hard places have all experienced complex developmental trauma. And this changes their brain chemistry. Physiologically, biologically¸ they perceive threats at every turn. Their brain is hypervigilant, stuck in fight, flight or freeze. Can you imagine? Can you even begin to put yourself in that place where every day feels like your life is at risk?
This is no manipulative behavior. It’s survival. And, I’ll say again, it’s biological. When you are in survival mode, you can’t think rationally. So, surprise, consequences don’t work. At all. They actually end up verifying assumptions believed by our children: they are bad, they don’t have a voice, they are at risk, and adults can’t be trusted.
I regret that I didn’t know this before. I hate that I didn’t spend near enough time connecting with my children, because I was so focused on correcting them.
So, in the adoption world, we are now all about trauma-informed care. The sad truth is that relationship-based trauma is something experienced by every child of adoption, and it changes the brain. The hopeful news is that our brains can heal and develop new connections.
At WACAP, the agency where I work, we are training together to implement a new model with our families. It’s called Trust-Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®). Empower the body and environment for learning, Connect with your child, and give them a voice, a language for correcting problematic behaviors. Balance structure with nurture.
I’m trying to connect now.
It’s a complex thing, the impact that my personality had on the relationships I’ve developed with my children. And I’ve learned over the past several years that it is vital for us parents to understand our own attachments, our approach to life that we bring to the relationships we build with our children.
Me, I wanted to fix everything. Because I need to be good. I need to be right. I need to bring something of value to the table if I’m going to be worth anything. So, when I couldn’t fix the problems in my family, I was lost.
So now, I have a mantra: “It is better to be kind than right.” I work hard to just be with the people in my life and not try so hard to fix their problems, which – I’m sure – feels like I’m trying to fix them. As if they’re broken. They are not.
You know, when someone you love is hurting, it really sucks to stand by and watch it happen. But to say to them, “I’m here,” and just bear it along with them? That’s powerful. I’m here. I’m on your side. I’m sorry this is happening. I’m with you.
About WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home. He blogs about his experience as a parent, and about lessons learned at https://millionmistakes.com.