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This morning Bee came downstairs as she got ready for school.  Russ and I were sitting together on the sofa, and called to her to come sit with us. Her face was stony and eye contact non-existent. I could see that she was considering ignoring us, so we repeated our request, and then scooted apart to make room for her to sit between us.

She sighed, plunked down on the cushion, and tried hard to look like we were inconveniencing her. The night before had not ended particularly well, and she was waiting for the bomb to drop. We put our arms around her and began to be silly, kissing her on the cheek, calling her our sweet baby, and being playful.  At first, she was stiff, then a tiny smile began to break through. She said, “You guys are so weird,”  – the ultimate compliment from her.

Then I sang a little to her, “…stuck like glue, you and me baby we’re stuck like glue.” We all laughed and she left the house with a little smile on her face.

We’re on a little roller coaster ride with Bee these days. How hard it is to be a “family girl” when you didn’t have one for so long. And those pesky adults – why do they think they are worthy of respect. Let me tell you, this is nothing like orphanage life.

Bee came to me seeking forgiveness after school on Tuesday for something that had happened that morning; I hugged her and forgave her. Then she said, “But I know I’m going to have a consequence.” I explained that there would be one, but it might be a little different than she expected. Our plan was to keep her close for a little while, to spend more time helping her grow, and give her an opportunity to regain some trust that had been lost.

We’re working hard to get that essential balance of nurture and structure. Fortunately, we’re getting a great opportunity to watch it in action at Dimples’ school. We can’t duplicate the environment here, but there are aspects of it that can be transferred to real life. One of those is keeping a struggling child close. It also means that when one child is struggling, they aren’t allowed to go off with the other kids out of our line of vision. That’s when disrespectful talk, grumbling about parents, and other destructive things can happen. A couple of nights ago, that meant one child going to bed in our room, another in hers, and the last one doing homework downstairs until the other two were asleep.

This is similar to “time in” but it can last for a number of days, depending on how well the child accepts our support and allows herself to be parented. Truth be told, spring break is coming and Bee has been making lots of plans with friends that may not happen. She has some special adults in her life that she will probably visit, and we may have a friend here, but we’ll just have to wait and see.In the meantime, I’m thinking of projects (both work and fun) that we can do side-by-side.

Bee is doing great, she has come so far; we need to keep our focus and stick with her in the process. We’re four and a half years in, and working hard on helping her be a “family girl” and that’s okay because we’re “stuck like glue.”

Question: What activities have you found to be fun and/or bonding with your older children and teens? 




  1. Sade (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    I learned about this concept under the title "Tomato Staking" which is popular in homeschool circles. Charlotte Mason also talked about it in one of her homeschool series books. It does work! It builds closeness and helps break bad habits in children because you can intervene before a situation happens rather than having to give a consequence afterwards. Love your blog, Lisa! I have been reading and following closely in preparation for foster licensing which we will complete in April. :-)

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Thanks for reading, Sade; I'm glad you've found my blog helpful as you prepare.

  2. Angela (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    I've been reading your blog for awhile and don't think I've ever commented but just had to comment on this one. We have 2, grown, bio children (and 3 grandchildren!) and 3 young adoptive boys (2 through the foster system) so we can relate to so much of what you're going through and have been encouraged by your blog. Our youngest, who has the most attachment issues, came to us knowing and loving the stuck like glue song, so we sing it often! Our number 2 family rule is "stick together" so it fits perfectly! Thank you for taking the time to share your lives and encourage so many of us!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Angela, thank you for leaving a comment! I'm glad this idea is working for your family. We have a little hand sign for "stick together" that I've been using with Bee too – touching one index finger to the other, and then alternating hands (right over left, then left over right). She thinks it's silly, and silly (playful) is good. BTW, I love that you adopted after your kids were grown – and as grandparents. Way to go!

  3. oldqueen (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    So thankful for each new piece of info that helps the children love/trust their forever family.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      It seems to be a continual learning process, doesn't it!

  4. Karen (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    I have struggled with my relationship with my stepdaughter, YSD. She's 15. So 15. And I'm not her mother, so let's make that 15X15 as far as it concerns me. We had ski club plans with T and it was going to cost us $70 to take YSD, and she had been so mouthy and disrespectful with me the night before and I did not feel like spending seventy of my hard earned dollars on a child who doesn't like me, doesn't want me, and makes sure to let me know that her mother hates me too. But I didn't have it in me to be so mean as to leave her behind while the three of us went off and had fun. So I said to DH, "Yes, get her up, she's coming too." And she came downstairs and apologized for being so "teenagerish" the night before and we went skiing and she was so good and kind and considerate to stay with me as I skied. I'm a slow skier, which is an oxymoron in the ski world, and most people ski away from me and then stop and wait for me. She skied *with* me. She skied behind me that day on the first black diamond I ever skied to make sure that no one ran into me as they bombed down while I did my little tiny turns. She can still drive me nuts, but I think that day that we skied together, even though I brought her along begrudgingly, we found our way back to feeling like a family again.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      That is a beautiful example of keeping her close and the fruit that resulted. I know how hard it is when what we most want to do is push them away. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Karen.

  5. Jamie Jones Duponte (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    my kids really love "spa events", it is great hands on touching, which they needed, and love, and it allows them to be the one doing. They paint my nails, brush and braid my hair(barely 1 inch long, but I do not complain, ever!!), and then I do them, though not painting little mans nails:-) they love it, and will do this whenever they want to repent, it is a gift from them to us. Hubby even gets back rubs, we have been doing this for a few years, and it really helps them work through things, and l=keep them close.
    also we love crafting, so teaching them to weave, cross stitch, do pottery, etc are all really good, for adventurous ones a good afternoon of archery or the shooting range is great, for beginners or advanced, even our girls love this! Also team sports, events, like family soccer games, table tennis, flag football, lazer tag as teams, scavenger hunts for fun prizes, etc are all good, for many age ranges.
    good too because you can invite other kids to join for some of these events, if the behavior warrants it.
    Praying for a nice and binding time over spring break!!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Thanks for all of the great suggestions, Jamie! I'm going to try a few over break.

  6. Dana (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Lisa, I love this so much. So many in the parenting world would encourage us to send an offending child to their room, but this makes so much more sense to me.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      I've heard about it for years, tried it in various forms, but seeing it done has been powerful. Thanks for commenting, Dana.

  7. berjiboo (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    I have a question about the time- in/ staying close… I try it with my son, but he then takes it to the extreme (because he does everything in the extreme- no middle ground with him) and follows half a step behind me so that I'm tripping over him, esp. in the kitchen or will follow me into the bathroom or stand right outside the door. It gets more annoying than it is worth. I have tried to give him a spot to stay in the kitchen but then he won't. move. from. that. spot. It just gets absurd. So… what does time- in look like? How do you implement it in moderation (or without being driven crazy yourself)?

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Control is so important to our children from "hard places" and they are amazing at finding ways to hold onto it rather than face the fear of actually trusting us. I would suggest that you let him stay close, but you be in charge. Try having him "take a seat" (I wrote a post about that last week), across the hall from the bathroom door, or in the kitchen a few feet away from you, rather than under your feet. I would also give him tasks to do right near you such as peeling carrots, drying dishes, coloring, playing with playdough etc. I think you'll have to keep tweaking the concept until you find the way that works for you. Also, it is perfectly fine for him to have "Quite Hour" while you take a break – I put Little Man on the living room sofa with a stack of books or books on CD while I'm in the family room which is still nearby. Rocking him or sitting next to him while you both read or listen to music is good too – and even watching a movie together might be all you can handle at a lower energy time of day. It's all good! It's okay for us to get a little rest, even while keeping our kids close.

  8. Jen (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    "You guy are so weird" translates to "I don't understand…but I love it…but can't tell you so don't stop!"

  9. Emily (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Loved reading this. Can't wait to see you guys.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      I keep thinking you are going to be here soon — two weeks!

  10. Anne (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Sewing was fun for both of us. Since I'm not very good at it it was a comedy of errors, together. Baking "creations" together (gingerbread lanterns, cakes with fondant etc). Watching a movie was special for her. Allowing her to paint a couple walls in her bedroom and helping with the chalkboard paint. LOTS of work, volumes of love working together.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Great ideas, Anne. Painting walls — you are a super good mom.

  11. Deborah (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Thank you for being so transparent in your parenting journey. I am learning and applying sooooo much with our kids from hard places.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      I'm so glad to hear that, Deborah. I can't tell you how much it helps me to know that this journey, and all of the painful lessons we are learning, is helping other families.

  12. Tisha (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    This is great! And it is so counter intuitive! We, as parents, are usually taught not to "reward" negative behavior with positive attention. But our attention is probably often what they need most! Loved your example on the couch. It's so easy when our kids don't want to be with us to say, "fine, whatever!" Being playful and loving and kind in these situations doesn't always come easily. Well done and thanks for the tips!!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      So true, Tisha, it does go against the idea of not reinforcing bad behavior. I remember reading Daniel Hughes book, Building the Bonds of Attachment, and he says that children need fun and warm experiences with us regardless of their behavior. They need to know they are lovable and enjoyable people in their core, despite the outward stuff. That really hit me and I've been contemplating it ever since. That being said, keeping a child close doesn't have to be all about fun – it can be about working together, and the child simply learning to wait patiently as we complete a task. Glad you like the post!

  13. shannoncl (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    WE SING THE SAME SONG!! We also throw a little "We are family" in there now and again… just for fun reason to dance

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      That’s a great song, too! My current favorite family song is Love Will Hold Us Together by Matt Maher. It’s great for singing and dancing around in the kitchen.

      We may sing it as a family at camp next summer.

  14. linedancergal (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Sounds to me like a really good idea! I used to sing the Barney song to my son "I love you, you love me…."
    You know, when you expect a lecture or to be told off and you get cuddled and kissed instead, well that IS weird lol.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      That's a great song too! We still sing the "I Love You So Much" song from an old Discovery Toys cassette – it's Little Man's favorite.

  15. Jessica Pair (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    My daughter is biological, but she has been a child of strong emotions since she was born. Usually when she loses control I start by sending her to her room to calm down and to allow me to calm down because I'm often not feeling calm at this point either. She knows that she can come out as soon as she is calm or as soon as I call her. Sometimes I can tell that she can't calm down on her own and that is when I wait until I am calm and then I call her to me and we talk and hug. This has always ended with her being able to calm down and apologizing for her inappropriate behavior. I feel like my job is to make sure that she recognizes and feels bad for inappropriate behavior, not necessarily to punish her for it. I love reading your parenting helps. I really admire the time you have spent learning different approaches to take with each of your children.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Thanks, Jessica, it's certainly an ongoing learning adventure.

  16. Cindy (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    When my kids tell us we are "weird", it usually means they appreciate the fact that we are acting silly with them, but that's how they express the appreciation…by saying we are "weird". I'll take it. I know when they think we are being weird, that we are making them smile on the inside. :)

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Me too, Cindy. I love it when Bee says that to me; it always makes me smile.

  17. Sara (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    Lisa thank you for your honesty. I read your blog daily because your honest about parenting hurt children. We are having some respite to gain back our energy from the roller coaster of emotions and control our foster to adopt child is on. I don't want to give up on this but boy is it hard. I know I need to do "time in" and love on her more. Your words hit home today for me. Thanks for the encouragement and for asking others their tips. It's so helpful.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Sara, I'm so glad you stop by daily. Good for you for realizing you needed some time to take a breath and regain some strength. This is the hardest work we've ever done. I find that when I can get a little break, I am better able to sustain the right frame of mind for loving my children.

  18. Margaret (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

    I love this story, which resonates with me too. Baking is something I do with both my kids, walks, either to do errands in the nieghborhood or just to ramble. And hair care, as someone else said…both my kids like brushing and fixing my hair, but they also like getting hair care…my fifteen year old son lets me put oil in his hair and brush it, although it is brush cut! As a family we will sweep and vacuum together and that can be fun and definitely bonding, plus we feel so pleased when the house is cleaner. And everyone has a particular strength. The best sports bonding is 1:1, throwing a lacrosse ball or baseball, so they get that total parent attention. And talk while they do. Sometimes I need to take a little break from togetherness before I can do these things patiently and in a tuned in way. I admire your patience and presence for your children…it's an inspiration.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 7, 2013

      Margaret, these are great ideas. Thanks for sharing them with us.