Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slippery Slopes/ Need advice from Adoptive/Foster Moms

The path from Homecoming to Attachment is not a one-way street.

Instead, I liken it to a large hill, with steps in some places, green grass in others, rocky paths here and there, and then those treacherous icy stretches just to make things interesting.

A few steps forward, a step or two back, a few steps forward, a few steps back. Cyclical, in ways.

I've been taking a lot of time to re-read Attaching in Adoption, and most particularly the chapters regarding Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence.

Both of our boys are behind in their Emotional Development, and understandably so, given the fact that they have spent the vast majority of their 5 years in an orphanage setting.

Keenan, despite his younger age, is a little more advanced in these stages.

On one spectrum, the boys are attaching very well. Both come to the Mister and myself for love and hugs. If they are hurt or not feeling well, they will seek me out. When an injustice is done to them by another child, they find us as opposed to seeking revenge on their own. Neither boy has an interest in strangers. And both seem to be slowly developing on the emotional spectrum.

Our slippery slopes come to areas of Cause-and-Effect and Emotional Intelligence.

Both boys have a rudimentary sense of cause and effect. They can see it at play in toys. They can see it at play with positive emotions. Have a big hug with Mommy= Happy, loving feelings in our belly. Helping out Dad with a project = Proud, happy feelings.

But both of our sons struggle when it comes to working with feelings of anger. Any sort of logical sequencing that they may grasp when they are calm, is no longer reachable when they are angry or unhappy.

For example: All of my children have to help with laundry. They each are assigned two days a week for Laundry Duty, and all of them have a Laundry Buddy.

When the boys are on Laundry duty, they must fold and sort the laundry by Atticus' clothing, and Miles/Keenan's clothing.

Nothing earth shattering there. They both clearly understand the concepts. When they are feeling happy and silly, they can knock a load of laundry out in about 5 minutes flat.

However, if on that day one of the boys is feeling angry about something (the most recent has been with Keenan, when he was upset that we didn't have ice cream in the house for dessert), then they will take a piece of two of Atticus' clothing, fold it real teensy weensy, and stick it in one of their piles. Or they'll take a pair of their own underwear, fold it and stick it down a pant leg of Atticus' jeans.

Now, the boys know that if they do the laundry wrong (and I'm talking about when they do it wrong on purpose. I'm not talking about when they accidentally mistake Atticus' blue turtle shirt for Keenan's light blue shirt, etc.), then they are given a chance to correct it. If they fail to take that opportunity, then the Laundry Buddy is off duty, all the laundry goes back into the basket and it needs to be re-done.

With Keenan, I would say about 75% of the time, he will take the opportunity to correct it, so he can be done with it and move on.

Miles has NEVER taken the opportunity. In fact, most of the time, he'll take the opportunity to grab something of Atticus', and then while looking at me square in the eyes, put it in his own pile.

Lord help my blood pressure.

This is a scenario that plays out in our house at least once every other week. Keenan has done a basket of laundry over twice before deciding, This is getting kinda old, and doing it the correct way. He'll take 45 minutes doing a load of laundry incorrectly, but when he decides to switch tracks and make the good choice, he can bang out that entire load himself in 10 minutes flat.

Miles has chosen to do the same basket of laundry incorrectly 9 freakin' times. NINE.

Both boys, once they are angry, completely are unable to reason this cause and effect sequence:

Do it incorrectly = Do it again = Do it until it is done right = Do it right = Go and Play

The best I can determine, after talking with each boy, is that their minds follow this loop:

I'm mad at Mom for something = Mom gives me a chore = I'm mad so I won't do it right = I'm told to do it again = but I'm still mad = and because I'm mad I won't do it right.

That circle loops and loops and loops. So far, I feel like we're making NO progress on this section of slipper slope.

Honestly, when I'm facing days like this, I'm not quite sure what to do.

*Do I give him one re-do chance, and if he still chooses to do it incorrectly, do I issue than another consequence, like no tv or no basement playroom time?

*Do I keep on having him work on the load, because if Mom gives you a chore, you must complete it?

*Do I ignore the things he's doing wrong and just have him do it incorrectly? Or is that encouraging him and his sneakiness/wrongdoing?

I would gladly appreciate ANY advice that you Been There, Done That or Are Currently Doing that you adoptive/foster parents have.

Many, many thanks,


Jenn said...

While I am FAR from an expert I do have a little man who does very similar things. For instance when asked to pick up his lego before I put a movie on most times Wil will do just that. Other times he will say he doesn't know how, throw them under the couch, etc. At first I would tell him to please do it correctly and would wait and wait for him to do so. It would often take forever! And quite honestly I don't have the time or the patience to play his game. I know he knows what is being asked of him and I know he has the ability to do it, he just chooses not to. I now ask him to do the task, if he doesn't do it in an appropriate amount of time (because he loves to drag things out), he gets one more chance. If he doesn't do what is asked of him after the second chance, the game is over and there is no movie. Period.

I found that it was a control issue with Wil and he was winning. Now that he knows "I better do it or I don't get to do XYZ" he does it.

small town girl said...

No advice, just to say, I know that loop. I know it well. And I believe that is the actual thought sequence. It's ALL about them being mad, and there is no reasoning. But under the anger, I have found deepseated fear, and that is what I think it's all about. Fear and abandonment, and testing to see if you'll do what was done to them before.

Corey said...

If it was me, I would email Christine, because she is my go-to gal (

My instinct is, because he is little, and home not that long, to do 2 things: listen to the fear behind the control issue and address it, and then still follow through.

So it might look something like this: Keenan does the wrong thing on purpose, and looks to see what your reaction is. You SCOOP HIM UP IN YOUR ARMS and in a cheery voice, praise him for something (anything) that he has done just prior. "Keenan! You did SUCH a GOOD JOB getting the laundry out of the dryer and bringing it in here! You didn't drop any of the laundry at all!" Then, "Sometimes kids think that if they do a job the wrong way, their mom won't love them any more. But you know what? I love you ALL the time, NO MATTER WHAT. I love you in the morning, I love you in the night, I love you when it's dark, I love you when it's light.. (make up some little rhyme so that he can eventually chime in and it becomes ritual)." When that's done, ask him, "Now, when do you think you're going to be strong enough to do this job the right way? Are you ready now, or do you need to sit for a while until you're strong enough?" (Have the sitting be criss-cross applesauce, hands folded in lap, facing wall, eyes straight ahead, no talking. When he's ready, he needs to ASK you if he can fold the laundry now... and you ask him if he's strong enough now, and if he says yes, you give him lots of "pizazz". And he might still test you and do it the wrong way, and you start again with the scooping and praising (Look how well you folded THIS shirt.. or you did such a good job asking me if you could work..) and lather, rinse, repeat.

Aggravating? Yes. But hopefully by getting the praise to the kids while they are little and feeding THAT part of them.. they will never get as bad as Vivi.


Steph, G's Mom said...

I agree with Marta. Especially in those moments of them "not knowing how" to do something you knwo they can do. G does that occassionally. i don't think it's "attachment disorder" but I think that trauma thing comes into play sometimes with that. And i don't think that doing consequences does anything for the trauma, although it may fix the symptom ... SOMEtimes. but as you said, sometimes that is not gonna work. unless you have several days to wait them out. which no one does :)

You might remove him from the chore once you see tha there is this going on and say "wow it looks like you really need some bonding time with mom, I think that will make you strong enough to complete your chore" and then take him off for some rocking or holding. talk to him, whisper to him, rock him. then find out if he thinks he's strong enough to complete the task. i would be surprised if he went right back to the "doing it wrong" thing. This defuses the control battle without shaming him or letting him "win" the control, then he gets some energy buildup from bonding with you, but he still does have to complete the task. but by then i bet he won't have any prob doing it. and of course some praise and kisses at the end.
what do you guys think?