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Unique Challenges

Children who are adopted when they’re older or who have more complicated histories are not likely to respond well to some traditional discipline methods.

Disciplining a child who has been adopted presents a number of unique challenges.

You may feel that others are evaluating you as a person and as a parent as you establish your own family rules and expectations. Many parents find it difficult negotiating this balance between themselves and are even more frustrated trying to explain their decisions to family and friends.

Another challenge is the fact that children with multiple broken attachments and abuse often do not respond well to traditional methods of discipline, such as “time outs,” corporal punishment, grounding or a demand to make eye contact and immediately obey their parents. In fact, these methods may actually escalate conflict with the child.

And still another challenge to parents in disciplining their adopted child is that the child may bring pain from his past into the new family. The new family then experiences pain they neither caused nor expected. Many parents become discouraged and confused when this happens.

Before adoption and early in the adoption process many parents believe the love they provide their child will heal any early wounds and the adopted child will respond to them like other securely attached children. However, if and when this does not happen, the parents may feel hurt and rejected. They may become angry at this unfair situation and find it difficult to respond to their new son or daughter with compassion. They may even become angry at God and with each other. And all the while their new child and any other children in the home need them to be a team — to be secure, loving and compassionate toward each other and their family.

Why some traditional methods don’t work

Traditional methods of discipline can work well for children adopted at birth or without complicated attachment histories. In these situations, the parents have provided the love and nurture the children need in order to accept discipline as the loving training it is designed to be. On the other hand, children who are adopted when they are older or who have more complicated histories are not likely to respond well to some traditional methods.

Why is this? For one reason, an adopted child with a history of multiple placements and abuse often feels threatened by giving control to parents. This creates an impasse for both the parents and the child. Despite the child’s fear and resistance, he needs to allow the parents to be in control. He needs to experience his parents’ control as safe and allow them to meet his needs. These experiences help his heart heal. (See the series on attachment and bonding and the need/arousal cycle.) For this reason, parents need to nurture the child at all times — when she behaves and when she misbehaves. Building trust and attachment must take precedence over “fixing” the child’s present behavior.

“Time outs,” behavior charts, love withdrawal, deprivation, grounding and reacting in anger do not work with many adopted children because they often have trouble thinking consequentially, and because isolation feels safe to them (i.e., they fear relationships even though they yearn for relationship).

Remember, this is the bigger picture to keep in mind when you are frustrated by your child’s behavior. Rather than fixing the behavior or understanding your child’s underlying problems based on his history, you need to create safety and security so that she can experience emotional connectedness and healing.

Let’s take a closer look at what can go wrong when using traditional discipline methods and some possible alternatives:

Time Outs

 “Time outs” are ineffective because adopted children need “time ins.” They need ongoing interaction with the people who love them. Sending a child to be alone with instructions to calm down, think about what she has done and not come back until she’s ready to behave makes no sense. A securely attached child responds to a time out from a position of wanting to please his parents and be in their presence. An adopted child with attachment issues may not yet even have this desire. And she often cannot calm herself without help. Before she came to your family, she may never have received the parental comforting she needed that would enable her to internalize that model and calm herself. Time with the parent when she is misbehaving can teach her to calm down and also to engage with people appropriately.

So if your adopted preschooler pokes your dog in the eye, do not send him to another room for a time out. Gently, but firmly, take his hand in yours, possibly look him in the face or have him sit in your lap, and say, “Gentle touches. We don’t use hands to hurt.” Then help him form an appropriate behavior. For example, if you feel confident he is mad at you for not letting him watch more TV and the dog was safe and easy to hurt, you may tell him, “Say, ‘Mom, I’m mad at you,'” with an appropriate scowl on your face. He may react inappropriately again, but he will learn in time that it will not result in you not loving him anymore or sending him away from you. Instead, he’ll get increased physical contact with you and emotional connectedness — the very things he needs though he likely does not want.

When might time apart be appropriate? Consider another example. If your teenage son curses at you and slaps you across the face, do not respond in kind. It may feel correct to slap him back, send him to his room and ground him for life. However, any of these responses will likely provoke further verbal and physical aggression. (Depending on the severity of the situation, recruiting outside help may be necessary.)

In this type of circumstance, it is wise to first remove yourself from the situation until you have both calmed down or you are calm enough to help him calm down. This is most easily done by walking out of the room and not saying any last words. If your child follows you, still trying to provoke you, then you may need to go into a room and lock the door. Although you are not staying with him through the physical and emotional arousal, he will likely calm down with a bit of isolation. Remember, he wants that distance.

When you are ready to re-engage, don’t try to immediately talk through what just happened; instead, if possible, do an activity together. He knows what he did was wrong. A lecture won’t help at that moment. Later, you can tell him what the consequence of his action will be. (Make sure it is something that requires more time together.)

Behavior Charts

Behavior charts are problematic for adopted children for two reasons. The first is that it seems nonsensical to be rewarded for behaviors that are not exceptional. For example, making the bed, not having a tantrum in a store, taking out the trash — these are behaviors that are reasonable to expect. They are not behaviors that require rewards. The second reason behavior charts do not typically work with these children is that they often have a poor ability to understand time. A goal of earning points all week may seem impossible. The adopted child may perceive this as an expectation of him to be perfect forever. Because this is too much pressure, he will intentionally not earn the reward.

If your elementary-aged child does not throw a tantrum in the store, you can tell his stuffed animals, “Andy did well not yelling in the store.” The praise is appropriate to the behavior, not overdone, and given indirectly so the child can overhear the praise without having to “do something” with it. This is the path of least resistance for a child who needs to undermine his achievements or disagree with Mom and Dad. If the child has no problem accepting positive feedback then, of course, address the child directly. Again, keep it low key and appropriate to the behavior. Not yelling may be excellent progress for Andy; however, it is within normal expectations.

Love Withdrawal

 Love withdrawal occurs when parents withdraw emotionally and physically to change a child’s behavior. This rarely works well as a form of discipline even with well-attached children. It will not work as a form of discipline for adopted children.

The adopted child has already experienced the greatest loss possible when she lost her biological parents. Trying to wait until she demonstrates loving behavior toward you before you show love to her will not work. Because of her previous loss, she can certainly hold out longer than you can. Worse yet, withholding expressions of love only reinforces her belief that she is not lovable, that she cannot be loved and that love is painful. In the meantime, no healing is taking place and she is not getting any closer to claiming you as her parent.

All children need to know that their parents’ love for them is unconditional. This may not always be easy, but unconditional love modeled by the parents then provides a path to understanding God’s unconditional love for us.

Deprivation

Depriving a child of things may be a popular way to change behavior but it does not reach the heart. As you can well imagine, the child may begin to work the system. For example, he may begin to think, If I feed the dog then I get my computer back. In this instance, we would want the child to begin to experience some empathy for the hungry dog and possibly desire to please Mom and Dad. However, this is only going to happen over time as the child allows himself to attach to the dog and the parents. In the short term, it’s all about the child’s wants.

Depriving a child of things seldom works with a previously abused child because the child rarely truly needs whatever is being taken away. He will tell you he didn’t want it anyway. In fact, he would rather have control than things any day. Your child needs time interacting with his parents, not with things.

So if your adolescent makes a mess in the family room, don’t just tell him, “No more Xbox till you’ve put everything else away,” and expect him to clean up by himself. Instead, say, “I see there is a mess in the family room. Let’s clean up together, and then we can have some game time together.” The joint effort enhances connection and takes the power struggle out of the interaction.

Grounding

Parents who use grounding as a method of discipline are also working at a disadvantage. The child may be used to doing whatever he wants without getting permission. If he’s not grounded he assumes he can still do anything that hasn’t been specifically ruled out. Instead, parents need to be the ones who give permission because the child needs limits to be safe. Thus, parents need to be asked on a regular basis for permission to participate in activities. This control may need to last longer for some children than others. For example, a child who has experienced trauma will need to experience the safety of his parents’ control in his life, and establishing this sense of safety will take time.

Corporal Punishment

 This articles series on nurture and discipline would not be complete without a discussion of spanking. Parents who have ongoing relationships with the adoption agency or social services will need to abide by the agency rules when it comes to spanking. If you have the freedom to make this decision without agency dictates, the following are issues you need to consider when deciding the appropriateness of spanking your adopted child: your primary goal in parenting, your definition of spanking, your guidelines for when to spank and when not to spank, and how your adopted child’s age and individual history inform this decision.

Remember, your primary goal is to establish an environment that will encourage attachment and trust. Therefore, consider what your definition of a spanking is and when you believe it is appropriate. For the sake of this discussion, a spank will be defined as a swat with an open palm to the fleshy part of a clothed bottom. A spanking of one to three swats should sting just enough to get the child’s attention in order to redirect the child. Spanking should occur infrequently after the age of five and be phased out by 10 years old in favor of other disciplinary skills.Paul Reisser, M.D., Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2007), 274. A spank is to be used only to shape predetermined behaviors that pose immediate danger to the child or to someone else, or when the child directly, willfully disobeys you.

In light of this, parents should never spank an infant (age range 0-18 months). It is the parents’ responsibility to keep the baby safe by maintaining a safe environment. An infant is not being defiant by squirming when having diapers changed or making a mess when being fed. An infant is exploring his environment. Provide distraction while changing diapers so you can get the job done. And plan on cleaning up the kitchen too many times to count.

The decision to spank or not must also be specific to the parents and child. Spanking can escalate or exacerbate the conflict rather than correct a behavior. It must take into account the child’s history (abuse, neglect, RAD, etc.). Most experts agree that it is never appropriate to spank a child who has been abused.

You must never spank out of anger. It must only be in response to a predetermined set of behaviors. Traditionally, this has been when the child is putting himself at risk or is being intentionally defiant. Therefore, it is not appropriate to spank if you find yourself reacting to your child pushing your buttons. In this situation, it is not fostering connection and long-term health. You have just lost control and, in so doing, lost your ability to provide safety and security.

Responding to an adopted child in anger or disciplining him while you are angry will not result in the healing and change of behavior that you desire. Indeed, previously abused children are comfortable with you becoming angry. Anger keeps the emotional distance between you.

If the child was adopted as an infant, then the child may respond to a spanking as another well-attached child would. However, keep in mind that even an adopted infant will grieve his birthmother’s voice and heartbeat and can struggle with attachment issues later. The older the child is at the time of adoption and the more complicated his history, however, the more likely he should never be spanked. You may feel that the older child may be the child who could most benefit from spanking; however, that is least likely to be the case and points to anger that is unresolved in you. (If you find yourself struggling in this area, seek professional help from a licensed therapist specializing in adoption issues.)

Explaining discipline differences to siblings

Keep in mind that your other children are likely to feel stress and loss when a new child enters the home. This is true even if they have talked about wanting to adopt. The children are the barometers in the home. They will live out for you the increased stress level. Additionally, if you choose to use different methods of discipline, you may have to explain to the children already in the home why you have to discipline this child differently.

Let’s take a look at how Karen might handle this with her other son John:

“Mom,” John says, “do you still love me?”

Karen says, “Of course I love you, John. I’ll always love you.”

“But Mom, Russell gets away with all sorts of stuff, and then he still gets dessert.”

“I know, John. It’s not that he is getting away with stuff; it’s that we have to correct him differently.”

“But that’s just it. You always send me to my room and you’re always holding him in your lap. I want to sit in your lap. You don’t love me the same.”

“Oh, John, I’m sorry, I do love you. And I know it doesn’t feel fair. Let’s you and I have some snuggle time right now while Russell is sleeping. Would you like to do that?”

“Yes.”

“And I’ll talk with Dad about us making sure we have special time with you alone while Russell is getting adjusted to our home.”

“Okay.”

“And during those special times we spend with you, we can talk about ways we are treating you and Russell differently. We are still going to have to treat you differently, but maybe we can help you better understand why we are doing what we are doing.”

Some parents may decide to completely revise their methods of discipline for children already in the home. That’s okay, too. Other parents may decide to explain to the children that “Johnny gets spankings for disobeying Mommy and Daddy. Russell does not get spankings for disobedience because his birthparent hurt him and so he does not learn well when people correct him physically.” Again, these decisions have to be specific to each family and to each child. And remember to use careful discretion when sharing personal information regarding your adopted child with others, including siblings.

Conversations similar to the one we saw between Karen and John foster increased understanding and sensitivity to what a child who has already been living in the home may feel. Parents must not deny that there is a difference in how the children are being treated. Don’t dismiss the fact that the difference doesn’t feel fair. If you deny it, your children will learn not to believe what you say. Always allow for further discussion later.

In the end, your other children may not need to understand and may not be capable of understanding why the new child gets treated differently. However, all of your children need your love, time and attention. You may feel like you have nothing more to give. On some days that may be true. Much more often, you must give more than you think you have on reserve so all the children are assured you treasure them. Remember, this will only last for a season. You do not want to regret having one child feel you sacrificed your relationship with him for your relationship with another child.

Being on the same page

It is very likely that your once-stable home and family has been turned upside down during the process of adoption. You long for things to be as they once were. You also long for the desire of your heart to be met in loving, nurturing and sacrificing for your new child and having her love you in return. I submit for your consideration that you will be able to experience love given and love returned much sooner if you and your spouse take steps together to work toward your child’s healing.

Just as you pursued adoption together, it is very important that you both commit to nurturing and disciplining your child using the same methods. If you are divided about what techniques to use, your child (or children) will perceive a crack in the unity between Mom and Dad and will find a way to exploit it.

You may have noticed your child giving Mom a harder time than Dad. This is especially true if Mom is the one providing the majority of the child’s care. When faced with this situation, parents may disagree about how the child behaves and what needs to be done about it. However, it is vital that Mom and Dad work through these feelings together and find common ground. Having a united front and reinforcing each other’s decisions is essential in successfully nurturing and disciplining your children. Those who fail to do this will, along with their children, suffer negative consequences. The worst consequences are: (1) sacrificing the primacy of the marriage and (2) delaying the child’s progress to healing.

God has blessed you with this child through adoption. Now you must work together to bless this child by being the parents he so desperately needs.

A Final Thought

As you seek to discipline your adopted child in creative ways, keep in mind that the goal is rarely to win this particular battle (though that may be important at certain times). Instead, the ultimate objective is to help your child grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

Never forget that when the Bible addresses the responsibility that parents have to discipline their children, “nurture” comes before “the admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV). Disciplining with your child’s heart needs in mind will bring him or her to a place of wholeness where he or she can truly obey you — and God — from a healthy heart, soul and mind.

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 1

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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