Do you ever feel like your kiddo just doesn’t get the whole “I’m the parent, you’re the child” thing?
He treats you like an equal (or less). He doesn’t respect you. He will do whatever he wants, regardless of what you say. He isn’t even open to the loving things you do for him.
These are experiences we’ve heard from many adoptive parents. The frustration and confusion that results from having these interactions with your child, day in and day out, can be overwhelming. It can feel like he is choosing this path. It may seem as if he won’t just let you parent him.
He won’t let you parent him.
For our kids who experienced abuse or neglect, they never felt safe with their parents. He would cry, they would yell. He would be in pain, they would hit him. His parents’ behavior was unpredictable and his needs for comfort, safety, and care were dismissed. He learned that adults, specifically parents, make you feel bad, hurt you, and cannot be trusted. He found if he were weakened in some way, sick, or vulnerable, his parents would exploit that and use it against him. They would tease him, call him a “baby,” or beat him until he stopped crying. He holds a belief now that to stay safe he must protect himself, handle struggles on his own, and remain in control. He can’t let on that he is in pain or ask for help, as it could put him in danger. So, he builds a tough skin and rebels against any authoritative voices. Adults are not to be trusted. Parents are not to be trusted. He has to do it on his own in order to survive.
Some of our kiddos were separated from their birth parents in middle childhood and against their wishes. She didn’t experience physical or emotional abuse, but lived in a unsafe environment. She may not have been aware of this, as her basic needs were typically met. Without warning, she is taken from her family’s home and placed in an orphanage with many other children. A year later, she is greeted by a man and woman who explain they are her new parents and she’s going to live with them. She moves to a new country, doesn’t understand the language, and faces many overwhelming changes. She is confused and afraid. The day she was taken from her family’s home her mother said she’d be back for her soon. How will her mother find her if she’s in the U.S.? She already has a family and parents… How is she supposed to have another? How long will this family last? These experiences are incredibly significant and need to be processed and understood. This is where skilled therapists specializing in the unique needs of children who were adopted are crucial.
Our kids don’t allow you to parent them because they have never been parented in a healthy way. They don’t understand the role you are trying to fill and what your true intentions are. If you ask your daughter to do her homework and she doesn’t want to, she may perceive that as you trying to punish her and cause discomfort. She may not understand you are coming from a place of love, guidance, and concern for her future.
Understanding what’s underlying your child’s behavior is the first step towards helping him. Putting it in a larger context can help reduce your stress and frustration when conflict occurs. For action steps to handle these situations, check out our Taking Control Without Losing Control Podcast, this blog post, and this one.
Have a specific situation that you’re not sure how to handle? Leave a comment below or email us and we’ll be sure to get back to you.