All Children Do That?
It's hard when you're an adoptive parent to know why your child behaves in a certain way. I'm pretty sure my friends with children through birth find it hard to understand what might seem my preoccupation with the origin of negative behaviour. They say things like "all children do that" or "that's just their age". I even say things like that on occasion because sometimes it's true. It's knowing when it's not that is the tough call for adoptive parents, well actually for all parents but our children come with that flag already hoisted at half mast with the question dangling.
At the moment, I think it's fair to say that Katie is challenging. Not all the time but generally very challenging. She is pushing me to limits (and beyond) that I didn't know I had. She is aggressive towards us; argumentative; belligerent; rude; totally full of herself; testing her physical strength and generally quite unpleasant. She spits and kicks and throws things when she is angry. It doesn't take much to make her angry and her tempers rage for in excess of 30 minutes, often up to an hour, sometimes longer. Any perceived injustice or unfairness and she zooms from 0-100 on the tantrum-o-meter in five seconds. So the obvious question to ask is why?
We've been asking that question a lot and we've come to the conclusion (of sorts) that there isn't just one answer. We've canvassed opinion from friends and other adopters. We've chewed the cud until we've got belly ache. We've tried a variety of parenting techniques to help support; resolve; and even control the undesirable behaviour. At the moment were using a mix of a star chart; a bean bag for chill out time; and attempting to walk away and ignore the behaviour. These techniques help us feel like we are working towards resolving the issues but do they really resolve the issue or even answer the question.
Why is Katie behaving in this way?
The obvious spotlight would be on our recent adoption of Pip and yes, I think there are issues related to that. Issues such as a huge life change and sharing mummy and daddy are sensible pointers but I'm wondering whether issues from her own adoption are being stirred around inside her. Seeing Pip move homes might have triggered feelings of anger from her own move to us. The thing is we were seeing a lot of this behaviour before Pip came home. So we need to also look towards other issues.
There is the issue of "Reception Year-itis". This seems to be a recognised phenomenon whereby previously very pleasant children start school; attend happily until around Easter and then turn into totally over-tired, full of themselves, little shits after the Easter holidays. They start to feel that their parents know nothing and their lives would be infinitely better if they lived with a friend's Mum who is prettier/taller/has different hair colour etc etc. This apparently lasts until mid-way through Year 1 (yay!). I think there is a lot of this in there if I'm honest.
Katie is also struggling with a friendship in school with a girl who has been a friend for a fair length of time. They get on very well and are quite similar. They play really well together but she has some very interesting things to say to Katie, and Katie obviously believes everything she tells her because, as highlighted above, we are now redundant from being the fonts of all knowledge. Katie has been getting into trouble at school, just generally doing really silly things, with this girl. I've started to realise that there is more going on though. When talking with Katie about ways she could manage someone wanting her to do something naughty I suggested asking a teacher for help to say "no" but Katie said she didn't want to get her friend into trouble. She has also started saying things like "Pickle says that I shouldn't eat this pudding because I'll get fat" WTF? This is when I started listening more and realising just how much Pickle is saying to Katie. Thankfully, for both girls, they have been split up next year and will be in different classes. All I'm hearing at the moment is "Pickle says this and Pickle says that". Now Pickle is clearly chanelling other influences in her life but I'm realising that I need to diminish Pickles hold over my easily influenced (except clearly by her mother) daughter. I try and ask Katie whether she thinks Pickle is right and have, on occasion, said that Pickle actually doesn't know what she's talking about.
So we have an Adoption; Reception Year-itis; and friendship issues all causing her emotions to run riot. All this in addition to the fact that all the children are totally exhausted this time of year. Also on top of this we have discovered that Katie has scored highly for markers for dyslexia after a test all the children receive in school (we're going to have a meeting to discuss this further). Katie is pretty much at the top of her class for reading and writing so this surprised Daddy and I considerably. She does struggle with numbers and processing information from one scenario to another so maybe there is more to this. It's hard to tell. She's only 5 and is quite an under confident little lady when it comes to her abilities. She wanted to stop dance classes because she can't do the spins and her school teacher has noted how she'll guess at answers rather than thinking things through and formulating an answer. This might just be a confidence issue which was exacerbated by the test situation. So yet another thing to add to the mix.
I'm not surprised she is melting down with all this going on but it does make it harder to work out how to tackle the behaviour that is accompanying it and how best to help her. It also doesn't make it any easier to live with. There have been days when, to coin an expression used recently by a friend, I've not wanted to share the same air as her. I have had moments when my own anger threatens to engulf me, very much a transference of the situation. If I find those feelings hard to manage with my so called years of experience, how difficult is it for her? I don't always behave in a manner that leaves me happy. Remorse and a general feeling of being deskilled are common feelings. I pick myself up though and get back on the horse and do any other metaphorical analogy I can think of, and try again and hope that we will crack it.
I'm hoping the summer holidays will wind some magical spell around our house and transform everyone to inhabitants of Happy Land. That would be lovely. In the meantime there is the star chart; the chill-out bean bag (for me maybe?) and the threat of no friends coming to play until her behaviour improves.
Those last two are definitely for me!
I can hear things kicking off again in the kitchen so it's once more into the breach dear friends..