Some time ago, I was in a book study with a group of adoptive and foster moms. One of the topics that has stuck with me all this time later is the discussion we had around “Disarming Defiance.”
Defiance is a huge button-pusher for me. I hate, hate, hate it. Yet it is one of the common strategies that kids from hard places use to protect themselves from the deep fear that they carry with them. While it can sometimes be typical childhood defiance, it is often instead the “fight” or the “freeze” in fight, flight, or freeze. It is often rooted in fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Of course, knowing that doesn’t always make it easier to live with.
One of the tools for Disarming Defiance that we talked about was “making provision” for our kids.
Making provision – it’s the idea of anticipating our children’s needs and paving a way for them ahead of time when possible.
In our house, for many months, making provision meant we simply had to send one child out to the car thirty seconds before everyone else, because when we didn’t, that child would somehow seek control and instigate conflict with a sibling or three for every single one of the seventeen steps between the front door and the van.
For years, making provision has meant remembering not to attempt conversation with a child in the morning before I have gauged whether they slept through the night or if they are exhausted because they woke many times – and before they have gotten some behavioral meds on board (yes, behavioral meds – they have saved our family).
Making provision might mean respecting the one child who can’t handle a regular hug. But, in the right moment, he can accept a bear squeeze from behind or deep pressure on his arms.
Making provision sometimes means sitting in church with a dysregulated and anxious three-year-old and doing joint compressions for her because it will settle her for even just a minute or two.
Lately, making provision has meant returning over and over to cover our two-year-old foster daughter again with her blanket, because in her anxiety and insecurity she has purposely thrown it off so that she can
call out scream that she is cold so that I will come back and cover her again – while trying to find some way to ease this anxiety before bedtime each night.
It is scores of tiny interventions each day that will make relational interactions a bit smoother for a child who struggles so much in family relationships, removing some of the obstacles and struggles for that child that might otherwise trigger fear and then defiance or many of the other broken tools that child has relied on to feel safe. It means giving small opportunities, instead, for them to feel safe through our provision, giving small opportunities to have successful interactions, however tiny they might be, with siblings and parents rather than failure piled on top of failure.
The thing is, when I think of it as “making provision,” I can do it with a happy heart. But when I think of it as “why do I have to orchestrate every single little thing around here?” my heart is most definitely not happy. It is a hard knot of resentment. And it is not easy to attach to a mom who is carrying a hard knot of resentment. I know this to be true because I have lived it far too many days.
For me, the secret to “making provision” instead of “nursing resentment” is seeing the ways that provision is being made for me so that I am ready to make provision for my children. Lately, this provision has come in times of respite from this heavy work of parenting hurt kids, it has involved noticing and being thankful for individual pockets of time with my children and husband, it has meant waking up to the ways that God makes provision for me.
Because He does. He makes provision for me. When I am defiant, when I don’t want to connect to Him, when I am anxious and full of fear, when I seek out a million tiny ways to wrestle for control – all the very same things that make it so hard to connect with a hurt child – I am using the same broken tools my children sometimes do and holding myself distant from my Father. He anticipates my deep, gaping need before I ever notice it myself.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate (He is not carrying a hard knot of resentment toward me) – and in His grace and compassion, He lends me the strength to make provision for my children by showing me the provision He is making for me.
with hope and gratitude,
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