Disciplining an Abused Child

Image result for BarbequePicture a family barbecue. Friends and family gathered in a backyard socializing and having a good time. There is music playing, a card game going, yard games are being played, and kids are running around.

While tucked away in a corner, enjoying the fun around me, I noticed my five-year-old nephew walk up to his cousin and take a toy right out his hands as he was playing with it. The little boy screamed, and a small skirmish between the two of them ensued. The entire party kind of paused, and turned to check out the ruckus. Once everyone noticed that everything was ok, the party resumed.

From a short distance, I watched my cousin discipline his five-year-old son. He didn’t spank him. He didn’t even raise his voice. When he spoke to his son he was calm, stern, direct, and firm. While redirecting him, he was teaching his son that what he did was wrong.

He didn’t punish the act, he taught the moment. It was the best piece of parenting I’d seen in a while.

Then it hit me! I was spanked as a child for naughty behaviors. I remember being the five year old boy that had the temper tantrum at the barbecue and was discipline for it. It was effective, as the spanking taught me not to do the behavior that warranted the spanking.

Because my son comes from an abusive background, I am forced to parent through a different set of lenses.

Image result for disciplining a childMy son came to me at fifteen years old and, up until that point, every form of discipline my son encountered had been yelling and then something physical. My son was being wired to think that he was bad.

Fast forward to now, when my son does something stupid or disrespects me in some way, my human nature kicks in and I get angry. So how do I rewire myself to meet him where he is? How do I teach while I’m emotional, to instill discipline?

One of the answers to these questions is to remain calm and teach the moment.

I don’t have all of the answers so pray for me as I search for a way to spare the rod and save the child. I am a constant work in progress. As a foster dad, my approach can’t be the same for every child. However, I must be consistent in practicing patience and understand. Every child deserves the safety and security of a loving home.

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Understanding the Oppressive State of Black Teenagers in Foster Care

2933121754_4aaea1ac91_mRaising teenage boys of color is probably one of the most challenging demographics that one can tackle. Not only do we have to navigate the learning curve of our individual kids, we must  also understand what they must overcome are truly dealing with being black, a black man in American, and a black man living within the foster care system of America. That is a lot of barriers facing you all at once.

Foster care is the very definition of oppression. I don’t know of any other system in the world that forces a kid to face his tormentor or abuser and label it “parenting time.”  Add transracial adoption/fostering to the mix and you now have a system that displaces a child from their very culture and heritage. This is not an indictment on transracial adoptions, as I truly believe that every child deserves a loving home regardless of family racial make-up, but it is important to point out the trauma our children of color experience when leaving their homes, families, and communities for a community that looks nothing like them.

3119659084_38f31f701e_mWhen one takes Black or Latino teenage males into one’s  home through the foster care system, understanding culture is of the utmost importance. Culture can mean a lot of things – views of police, fashion, language, and other cultures’ perception of our children’s fashion and language. Timberland boots, sagging jeans, and a hoodie is a cultural fashion standard, and our children are targeted for it – whether by shop owners following him through the store or by a police officer while he is walking through a park.  For our children, police brutality is real. Stereotypes are real. If we truly want to provide a meaningful, loving home for young black men, we must acknowledge our communities’ and our own prejudices of minority cultures

Despite all of this, we must teach our child to embrace his culture and heritage because it is what makes our children who they are – connect them to their history, help them understand who they are.

So how do we teach a child to embrace their culture even if it is something that we may not understand or even believe in?  

How do we discuss the way society’s stereotypes could also make the practice of this culture and heritage potentially dangerous? 

 

On the first day of my classes, I can’t force my students to dress a certain way or speak to me with respect. They would not know why I would be asking and, without a relationship, would not think I deserved the respect I demanded.

3006727578_7e5e06a6d2_mIn order for these children to grow and evolve, I need to invest some time into building a relationship, listening to their experiences, acknowledging  their barriers, and discussing where these barriers or experiences are influenced by societies stereotypes. It is also important that, in building these relationships, we spend time experiencing culture – theirs, their classmates’, even mine. Showing them how, despite oppression making them think otherwise, they matter and I will always be listening.

So I believe the answer to this question is:

Connections and relationships + Acceptance + (positive influential exposure to other cultures) = positive change.

Fighting my Subconscious

Brain_picture

Sometimes I have conversations with my subconscious. Most of the time, those conversations go a little like this:

Subconscious: Don’t Judge the man that failed to raise his kid.

Me: Is a man that neglect his kid really a man?


Subconscious: you’ve had 5 boys that you didn’t father call you dad. Aren’t you in over your head? In the deep end of the pool? 

Me: yeah but I can swim.


Subconscious: What makes you so special?

Me: I am not special. The boys are special. If they are hungry I feed them. If they need clothes I buy them. If they cry I hug them.


Subconscious: Who will help you when you’re weak?

Me: My wife Stacey Goodson will always be there for me. I will also ask for help from other strong fathers and strong families. A strong man will ask for help when he needs it.


Subconscious: What if you have to send a kid home? What would you do? Will you miss him dearly?

Me: We’d have a party. A kid going home gives us a reason to celebrate. Besides, if we do it right, that kid and his family will remain in contact with us if they feel it necessary. So it’s not goodbye. It’s “see you later.”


Subconscious: But you are tired. I know you are tired. You complain about it all of the time. Maybe not out loud, but I hear your thoughts.

Me: Good! Keep telling me that I’m tired. I’ll put systems in place to remind me that I need a break. I will practice proper self-care so I don’t snap. These kids need me.


All kidding aside, my subconscious can sometimes get the best of me. I often have to convince myself that I am doing the right thing. I second guess myself often, but I believe that it can be healthy.

Foster care is a lifestyle and only those who understand that it is a true calling from God.