Balancing Discipline and Nurturing in Adoptive Parenting

Dawn Davenport


The Connected Child

It is possible to set limits at the same time you are building attachment with your adopted child.

In the interview with Dr. Karyn Purvis, co-author of The Connected Child and Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, that aired yesterday on the Creating a Family show, we received a question about how to find the balance between creating healthy attachment with our children while at the same time setting limits and structure. If you’ve got an hour while gardening, walking, or driving, you really must listen to this show. Dr. Purvis is such a wise and compassionate woman.



Discipline is Not Evil

Many adoptive parents are fearful of setting limits for fear of disrupting the attachment they have worked so hard to build. They also struggle to find discipline techniques that work with their child. Dr. Purvis is a firm believer in setting limits, but she has some equally firm ideas about the best ways to accomplish this.

Spare the Rod

Old-school discipline methods don`t work for children that have been abused and neglected or have spent time in an orphanage. As she said on the show, to be a boss, you have to be felt to be safe. Spanking, yelling, sermons, and debating do not make you safe. You can be authoritative without frightening.

Your best approach is one that combines firmness, kindness, and retraining. She gives very specific instructions on how to do this in the show and in her wonderful book, The Connected Child.

Actual Age vs. Nurture Age

Dr. Purvis reminded us that our kids come to us with many different ages – their actual age, their developmental age, and their nurture age. Many kids who have experienced trauma are like newborns in their need for nurturance. Meeting the needs of all these ages is the challenge of older child adoption and even toddler adoption.

Have you found it hard to strike the balance between discipline and nurturing?

Image credit: TCU Institute of Child Development

08/05/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Balancing Discipline and Nurturing in Adoptive Parenting

  1. Avatar Jody says:

    I heard Purvis. Awesome.

  2. Avatar anon says:

    I’ll have to check this out when I have some time! On discipline, it is so interesting (and overwhelming to me) just how many theories there are out there now. When I was growing up it seemed there was either 1) spanking or 2) timeouts, and my family subscribed to the second – so that WAS my default approach to parenting (including parenting our adopted child) until I read all off the other possibilities out there. Now there seems to be some resistance to even telling your child ‘no’ under any circumstance and ‘time outs’ have turned into ‘time ins’…I’m all for parenting that reinforces good relationships between parent and child but I find some of this stuff unrealistic. If I had nerves of steel and all the time/patience in the world, maybe, but I’m human and am feeling emotions while parenting too. Thanks for the post. I’ll look into the podcast and maybe the book too.

  3. Avatar Ashley says:

    I can’t wait to listen to this!! I LOVE Dr. Purvis. I saw her speak at the Empowered to Connect conference a few weeks ago. Her work is absolutely incredible. Thank you for interviewing her!

  4. Avatar Tracy says:

    Gotcha. Going back now. Gonna listen to the show during nap time, too.

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