November 19th, 2008
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I wrote in a recent post about how I’d been looking over old e-mails to our children’s social worker, just as we were beginning to explore adoption. One of those early e-mails warned that the kids were sometimes too cute for their own good, in that people were tempted to overlook a great deal that they ought not to, in light of the severe behavioral issues they had at the time.

It’s still been a struggle to figure out exactly what methods work best with each little personality. My daughter tends to cycle: she’ll be fine for a couple of months, then she’s back to lying…or stealing…or wetting/soiling herself. She will resist every bit of schooling for home school. And will look at you the most innocent of innocent expressions on her face, and swear up and down that she didn’t do X, Y and/or Z. You look at that beautiful, innocent face, and think about all she endured while in the care of her biological parents, and you want to look the other way.


But not today.

I’d had enough. Why? Because, I, too, was “too cute to discipline.” As an only child (and one whose parents were divorced), my mother “compensated” for my loneliness by spoiling me. I rarely heard the word, “no,” and I remember only once was I ever spanked. And I was a terror on wheels, and I knew it.

Like most girls her age, my daughter loves “Hannah Montana” (aka Miley Cyrus). We have a song of hers called Girls Night Out (G.N.O.), and part of the song says,

I am fine
And it’s time
For me to draw the line

Today, I did.

I told my daughter, “Enough!” I’m drawing very clear boundaries. I laid out my expectations for school. I laid our my expectations regarding the stealing/lying/peeing/pooping. After almost eighteen months, she knows the rules. Further, she knows right from wrong, because she will often try to hide the peed/pooped clothing, or whatever she has taken without permission, and/or lie to avoid being detected or to get out of whatever it is she does not want to do.

Usually, I get pretty mad. Launch into Parental Lecture #329. Take away some privilege or beloved toy. And stew the whole time. But equally, once I calm down, I will take some time and tell her about me as a little girl. She loves these stories. She begs me to tell them over and over again. So, today, I told her one. I believe it clicked.

After telling her about “little me,” she usually clings to me like glue. She wants to be near me. Craves my approval. Needs to physically touch me or hug me. She’s afraid the love will go away. We usually read one of The Forever Child books, “A Tale of Lies and Love.” A Book about a little girl who tells lies. It resonates with her, and she loves to re-tell it to “the boys” (her brothers).

I know that the bonding is a good thing. I know she identifies with me, and I with her. She knows I “get” her. I’m determined that the boundaries stay. They are clear. They will not change. But neither will the love. When she does something meriting correction, she will clearly know she still has my love. But she will also see that “line” that Miley sings about.

Photo credit

6 Responses to “Discipline and Bonding”

  1. kidsangel says:

    I swear…the expressions of innocence are just lovely.

  2. hannah_rae says:

    Wow. The boundaries are so hard sometimes. My little girl has social boundaries issues, and it’s hard for me to tell when goofing around becomes inappropriate. Good job, Marie. YAY! Stay tough.

  3. Kidsangel: Yes, I’m sure I’ve been duped more times than I care to count, all because of that innocent expression. But, it was a honeymoon phase. She was getting to know us, we were getting to know her. The honeymoon is now over :)

    Hannah_Rae: It wasn’t too hard to set them, but *sticking* to them *was* hard :)

  4. lanne says:


    This is the first site I’ve turned to since having my two new girls with us… I am a single mother and have an 8 year old daughter and now have my two “newbies.”

    They are in my care via a fostering situation in which I will be adopting.

    E and S are 5 and 2. E was severely abused and they both have enormous tantrums. I have known them since July of last year… Long story short… I have been bruised screamed at, you name it since before they arrived. And I love them dearly :) I really do.

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your transparency. There is no honeymoon here as we already know each other, etc.

    I’m concerned about my 8 year old and the effect this is having on her. My heart aches over this so much… I have been trying to train her up in the dear and admonition of the Lord, but I know it is easier to pull someone down than to lift them up. Yesterday, I found notes she and E had written that were words that shocked me (for my 8 year old). They were joking when they wrote it, but its not how my daughter has ever joked… ever. Also, she has said a few times this week that she wants it back to the way it was with just she and I. I realize this is probably normal at this point, but it breaks my heart for her. Additionally, my other two are used to hitting and hurting each other and whomever. My daughter isn’t and has been hurt a few times now. Not badly, but enough for the tears to fall pretty hard. I can’t help but be scared that I am hurting my daughter by bringing in these two new little ones… I know she loves them. She misses them when they are not here and giggles and laughs and plays with them so much. But these other times SCARE me… Does anyone have experience with this?

    Also, the behavior of the 5 year old is bad enough that a group home was considered by her former fosters parents (two women) and also by some of the staff of the various agencies. She does do much better with us. And it has only been just over a week that she has moved in completely. (We used to have her a great deal). But “better” isn’t good by a long shot… She has gone through the peeing/pooping/stealing (hording) thing before she came to us, but the lying is out of this world. As are the tantrums…

    I am a Christian and have always used the numerous biblical methods for child rearing. All of them in balance. And God’s Word is true! But, as they are my foster children, I cannot spank. I REALLY want to know what effective methods of discipline are used by others in my shoes.
    Time outs are somewhat useless. I am exasperated every single day, many times over, but at the end of each day and many, many times throughout, I feel so deeply blessed… What an understatement! But I really need more tools… and especially prayers. Please let me know if you have any thoughts!

    This is my first time on here as I think I stated… I’m desperate for tools – bottom line :)

    Thanks so much!

  5. lanne says:

    PS: I meant that I have been bruised, etc long BEFORE they came to live with us… The long story short is the two women who were fostering them, lost their right to do so and bc I knew them and always cared for E, DCFS called me and asked if I was still available to adopt… Of course, I said yes :) With God all things are possible! Thankfully!

  6. donna meacham says:

    I am an adoptive mother of 4 children. The first sibling couple have had horrendous problems and the 2nd sibling couple came along a few years after the first and witnessed a great deal of garbage that has made them leary and quite verbal about their rights. My youngest daughter age 12 sees a psychologist about once a month. He’s a great Christian doctor, but M is a toughy. She told him our relationship (based on what her older adoptive sister – 18, diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental issues) was never going to get any better. She lies, steals, refuses to do homework, clean her room, etc. It can be a nightmare. Her disposition changes based on whether she is getting her way. My husband refuses to spank her and hasn’t done so in years. He can get her to do things, but she’s disrespectful to him also. Everyday is fight. I need a good “read” to give me some insight in the life of this 12 year old hormonal tween. Anyone have a great book they can recommend. Thanks!

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