Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in a series of articles about Christians who rescue cultures. The first installment was The Servant; the second, The Courageous Coach; the third, Saving Our Kids; the fourth, Strength, Courage, Wisdom, and Guidance; the fifth, Prayer Warrior. We hope that through this series you will be persuaded of God’s call for you to rescue the cultures you are in, that you will get ideas from the examples of others and that you will be encouraged to take action in rescuing the cultures around you.  

Editor's note: Portions of this article were excerpted with permission from the Empowered to Connect website.

Many families struggle to help their children who don’t respond well to ordinary social situations, refuse affection, or even lash out and control their family through rage and tantrums.  These children often come from hard places, i.e. environments where they’ve have been abused, neglected or traumatized, or where they’ve experienced prenatal stress, traumatic labor or medical trauma. 

To families struggling with children from hard places, Dr. Karyn Purvis (pictured below) is literally a godsend.  Dr. Purvis is the director of Texas Christian University’s Institute for Child Development and co-author of The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family with Dr. David R. Cross and Wendy Lyons Sunshine. 

karyn purvis

Watching Karyn Purvis interact with children from hard places is a moving experience.  Although words can’t adequately capture it, the best description I can offer is that she emanates loving authority.  And she is unambiguous about its source: “God’s presence in my life permeates all that I am and all that I do.   Knowing His love and grace is central to how we approach this work with at-risk children. My prayer in working with children is that when they look into our eyes, they will see the adoring love of our Heavenly Father.”   

The “authority” part of “loving authority” is important, too.  Dr. Purvis explains that, “my greatest sadness in observing Christian families with their children is the tendency towards an unbalanced application of God’s love. Some parents administer harsh and swift punishments, based on rules and laws. All too often this approach wounds our children even more deeply and drives them toward more and more aggressive behavior. This cycle becomes destructive between parents and children, and soon children are feeling unsafe while parents are losing their joy in parenting.  Other parents err on the side of “cheap grace.” Compelled by their children’s early histories, they don’t want to ask too much and tragically their permissive relationship fails to create trust in and with their children.”  According to Dr. Purvis, both nurture (unconditional love) and structure (guidance and instruction) are essential to helping children from hard places heal and flourish in life.