MattSnyderHeadshot_EditedMatthew T. Snyder is a parent, educator, author and professional speaker whose lectures focus on techniques to support children who have experienced childhood trauma.

Matthew has more than 20 years of experience in the field of education. After more than two decades as a high school teacher and coach, Matt moved to leadership roles as a Dean of Students, Assistant Regional Superintendent, and is now the Regional Superintendent of Schools for Macon-Piatt Counties. Matt holds a Bachelor of Arts in History Education from Millikin University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University. He also holds a Specialist Degree in Educational Administration with a Superintendent’s Endorsement.

He speaks throughout the United States, and is currently writing a book about his experience as a parent and an educator.

Matthew resides with his family in Monticello, Illinois.

Why Chicken Wings and Love?

On January 24, 2015, my wife Aleshia and I along with our daughter Delaney, and son Braden, celebrated the anniversary of the arrival of our youngest son Monty, from Haiti. Monty was eight years old when we finally were able to bring him home in January, 2014 after a two year process. It had been a year of immense challenges and tremendous rewards, of laughter and countless tears, of many mistakes and constant learning. It had been a year not unlike that which most adoptive families experience, especially those that adopt internationally.

Monty has been a tremendous addition to our family and we love him unconditionally, just as we do our biological children, and the love and compassion he has for us is truly a blessing. However, with that love and compassion has also come a child full of many underlying issues; issues that he often times does not know how to express. Monty has experienced abandonment and continues to face all of the emotions that go along with it. He experiences anger, guilt, homesickness, frustration, and fear and does not understand how to process it. He is experiencing a new country and culture as well as foods he has never eaten. He has experienced events, such as birthday parties and Christmas, that are overwhelming to him. He has gone on a beach vacation and attended professional sporting events that are completely foreign to him. Through all of this he has grown immensely, both socially and physically.

He truly appreciates everything we have done for him, but does not understand why we love him so much and questions our intentions at times. As our family has gone through this experience, many times I thought of the children that I encountered as an educator for the past twenty-three years. I thought about the students who were difficult to reach, who acted out in the classroom, and who struggled with the structure and rules of school. I thought about students who were not bad kids and were not bad students, but who could not function and express themselves in school. I thought about the children who were easily frustrated by the demands of school and did not understand how to express that frustration. I thought about the students who fell behind and could not find their way back. I thought about the students who wanted to be loved and wanted to be nurtured, but were not getting what they desired from any adult. I thought I understood children and knew the proper techniques to get the most out of them. I thought I was a good parent who knew how to discipline my children.

After a year with Monty I realized that I had gone about this poorly much of the time. I realized that I knew very little about children from trauma and what their behavior meant. I realized I knew very little about helping these children, instead of using punishments that did not change the behavior. I realized that by not meeting the needs of children in school, we send them off at the end of the day unfulfilled and they become disillusioned with adults and the education system. All children, but especially those from troubled backgrounds, need love, compassion, nurturing, and guidance and it is often an educator who must provide this.

On the one year anniversary of Monty’s arrival, my family took an inventory of where we had been in the last year. As part of that process we measured Monty. The gains he had made socially were tremendous, the experiences were incredible, but his physical growth was the most impressive. In one short year Monty had grown seven inches in height and gained 15 pounds. Delaney was amazed and asked Monty, “How do you think you grew so much?” Monty, who had become quite fond of chicken wings whenever we dined out, replied, “I guess, chicken wings and love.” No coaching, no thinking, just a quick answer. According to Monty, the secret to reaching difficult children is not so difficult at all. It’s actually pretty simple, chicken wings and love. Oh, if it were so simple.

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