Posted by: connie | April 30, 2008

Acknowledging the life-long implications of early childhood experiences

There is clear biblical warrant for acknowledging the life-long implications of early childhood experience. The major passages dealing with family (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3), presuppose the life-long implications of early childhood experience. The scriptures demand your attention to shaping influences.

Shaping influences are those events and circumstances in a child’s developmental years that prove to be catalysts for making him the person he is. But the shaping is not automatic; the ways he responds to these events and circumstances determine the effect they have upon him.

The early childhood experiences of our ‘older’ adopted children are, more often than not, vastly different from the experiences of our own childhoods. It goes way beyond our children not being acquainted with familiar childhood games, activities, school/church programs, or television shows. It goes down to the foundational experiences and influences that God ordains through a family.

In Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, he lists what he calls “shaping influences”.
– structure of family life
– family values
– family roles
– family conflict resolution
– family response to failure
– family history

For many of our adopted children these shaping influences didn’t exist, were neglectful, or were abusive–be that an alcoholic or absent parent,  an abusive orphanage caregiver, or the orphanage ‘bully’.

As we acknowledge the life-long implications of these ‘shaping influences’ we must seek to not only respond biblically ourselves, but we must help our children to ‘put off’ the sinful responses they have adopted over time and ‘put on’ God-honoring responses.

For our family, this is where the ‘battlelines’ were often drawn in the early days together as we sought to bring the hope of the gospel to bare on their thinking and behavior, and our response to the challenges that brought.

Lord willing, I plan to post some additional thoughts and personal experiences related to this over the coming weeks.



  1. Yes, this is a continual struggle for us, too, Connie. Just today I was talking with our 15 year old daughter, adopted from a disrupted adoption in early 2004. Just recently, she has begun showing signs of anger in everyday situations. The most recent brunt of her anger was her math book (she really dislikes math). We are working on trying to help her resolve these anger issues in a biblical manner on a daily basis.

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