Le­nient par­ent­ing is a mis­take for adopted chil­dren

The Covington News - - RELIGION -


We have an adopted girl who came to us when she was 4 years old. She is very dif­fi­cult to han­dle and does pretty much what she pleases. For us to make her obey would be very un­pleas­ant for her, and frankly, we don’t feel we have the right to do that. She has been through a lot in her short life. Be­sides, we’re not her real par­ents. Do you think she’ll be OK if we just give her a lot of love and at­ten­tion?

Dob­son: I’m afraid you have a for­mula for se­ri­ous prob­lems with this girl later on. The dan­ger is in see­ing your­selves as sub­sti­tute or stand-in par­ents who don’t have the right to lead her. That is a mis­take. Since you have legally adopted this child, you are her “real” par­ents, and your fail­ure to see it that way may be set­ting up the de­fi­ant be­hav­ior you men­tioned.

It is a com­mon er­ror made by par­ents of older adopted chil­dren. They pity their young­sters too much to con­front them. They feel that life has al­ready been too hard on them and they must not make things worse by dis­ci­pline and oc­ca­sional pun­ish­ment. As a re­sult, they are ten­ta­tive and per­mis­sive with a child who is cry­ing out for lead­er­ship.

Trans­planted chil­dren have the same needs for guid­ance and dis­ci­pline as those re­main­ing with their bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents. One of the surest ways to make them feel in­se­cure is to treat them as though they are dif­fer­ent, un­usual or brit­tle. If the par­ents view such a child as an un­for­tu­nate waif to be shielded, he will tend to see him­self that way too.

Par­ents of sick and hand­i­capped chil­dren of­ten make this same mis­take. They find dis­ci­pline harder to im­ple­ment be­cause of the ten­der­ness they feel for that child. Thus, a boy or a girl with a heart con­di­tion or some se­ri­ous ill­ness can be­come a lit­tle ter­ror, sim­ply be­cause the usual be­hav­ioral bound­aries are not es­tab­lished and de­fended.

It must be re­mem­bered that the need to be led and gov­erned is al­most uni­ver­sal in child­hood, and it isn’t less­ened by other prob­lems and dif­fi­cul­ties in life. In some cases, the de­sire for bound­aries is ac­tu­ally in­creased by other trou­bles, for it is through lov­ing con­trol that par­ents build se­cu­rity and a sense of per­sonal worth in a child.

Re­turn­ing to the ques­tion, I ad­vise you to love that lit­tle girl like crazy — and hold her to the same stan­dards of be­hav­ior that you would your own flesh and blood. Re­mem- ber, you are her par­ents!

Since you dis­ap­prove of pub­lic school sexe­d­u­ca­tion pro­grams as cur­rently de­signed, who do you think should tell chil­dren the facts of life and when should that in­struc­tion be­gin?

Dob­son: For those par­ents who are able to han­dle the in­struc­tional process cor­rectly, the re­spon­si­bil­ity for sex ed­u­ca­tion should be re­tained in the home. There is a grow­ing trend for all as­pects of ed­u­ca­tion to be taken from their hands (or the role is de­lib­er­ately for­feited by them). This is un­wise. Par­tic­u­larly in the mat­ter of sex ed­u­ca­tion, the best approach is one that be­gins ca­su­ally and nat­u­rally in early child­hood and ex­tends through the years, ac­cord­ing


to a pol­icy of open­ness, frank­ness and hon­esty. Only par­ents can pro­vide this life­time train­ing — be­ing there when the ques­tions arise and the de­sire for in­for­ma­tion is ev­i­denced.

Un­for­tu­nately, moms and dads of­ten fail to do the job. Some are too sex­u­ally in­hib­ited to present the sub­ject with poise, or they may lack the nec­es­sary tech­ni­cal knowl­edge of the hu­man body. An­other com­mon mis­take is to wait un­til pu­berty is knock­ing at the door and then try to ini­ti­ate a des­per­ate, ten­sion-filled con­ver­sa­tion that em­bar­rasses the kid and ex­hausts the par­ents.

If this is the way sex ed­u­ca­tion is go­ing to be han­dled, there has to be an­other al­ter­na­tive to con­sider.

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