Thursday, November 15, 2012

Advice needed from other mamas

Especially those who have adopted children. I have so far been unable to find in the adoption-related books that I have read anything that addresses what is going on with Lucy at the moment. I'm hoping someone out there in the blogosphere has. It will be best for me to just give examples of what Lucy is doing:

First and foremost, she not only is doing exactly the opposite of what is asked of her, she is delighting in doing it. Before you tell me it's the age, I know that some of it is because I see it in Kate as well. In fact I see most of what Lucy does mirrored in Kate's actions. What I don't see is that Lucy seems not to learn, retain or implement anything from one incident to the next. When I sit down with her to explain why she shouldn't, for example, slam things down on the table, she will nod and agree and say "yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over. I will even have her tell me what I just told her...

Me: What did I ask you to do?
Lucy: Not to slam the ball on the table. I'm sorry Mommy.

And then she will jump up happily and do it again.

Rinse and repeat over and over AND OVER AND OVER.

Kate will do it too but the difference is that Kate will stop once she has been in timeout. Lucy will wail and be all contrite and tell me how unhappy she is right up until timeout is over. Then a switch will flip, she will laugh and run over and do the same thing again, all the while looking at me to see what I will do.

So that is one thing. She is also playing dumb. As in, I know she knows the answer to things and yet she will either say she doesn't know or will give me the wrong answer. I mentioned this before when it came to recognizing colors. More recently it came up in a matching game. You have a set number of cards and each has a match to form a pair. So we were working on VERY BASIC matching with farm animals. Animals I know she knows. And yet every time she would pick the wrong one and/or just randomly pick cards and then say they matched. When I would hold them up and say, "Does this picture look like this picture?" (one was a cow and one was a duck) she would say, with a completely straight face, "yeah". We went round and round on that for at least 5 minutes with her basically agreeing to whatever I asked her. Yes they did match, no they didn't, etc.

Then tonight when we were doing colors again, I would ask Lucy what a color was (again, basic colors that she knows like blue, red, purple) and she would smirk and then slide her eyes over to Kate to get her to give her the answer. When Kate didn't do it and I pressed her, she eventually said the right color.

So, any ideas? I've never met a child so willing to please in one second and then completely contrary and deliberately giving the wrong answers the next. I'm at a loss as to how to even encourage her. I feel like I'm mostly just "bullying" her into either behaving or learning and it totally sucks. Praise and encouragement seem to not have much effect on her when it comes to this. If I were to psychoanalyze her I would almost think she has recognized that Kate is the "good" girl and therefore she is the "bad" girl. Kate is very much motivated by being correct, orderly, understood and praised. Lucy, in her unguarded moments is too. Unfortunately, more and more she is heading in the opposite direction.


Lynn K said...

I am so not an expert but do have one adopted kid! We went through what was a somewhat traumatic event for J last summer, on a trip, and she exhibited many of the behaviors you mention. Note, it didn't appear to be traumatic in any way but when we figured out what was going on in J's head, it was clear that it was a very difficult few days for her.

Even though Lucy has been with you for more than a year, it still hasn't been that long. And this is the first time her routine has really been somewhat altered. She probably misses her dad in her everyday routine. She can't articulate it but she may be confused, wondering why things have changed, will they change again. It's a lot to take in for an almost 3-year old who is still adjusting to life in a family.

The back and forth behavior may be her inability to really understand the change in her life. It may be too much, at this time, to try to teach her new things as she tries to cope with the new situation. She can't really regulate her emotions and it doesn't come out nicely.

Good news is you will be back home in Chicago soon enough and slowly she will go back to "old Lucy." It may take a little while for her to find her balance again. J did though I have to admit it was a very dark time for both her and me. Looking back on it, I get it. When I was in the middle of it, I was as confused as she was!

Heather H. said...

Hi Lisa. Um, yes, practically since the first day we met our Ping Ping. She is/can be INCREDIBLY defiant, and VERY purposely so. It is only sometimes because she wants her way. What it's almost ALWAYS about is control over her world, her life. Our baby girl had a LOT of disruptions in her early life, a lot of upheaval, 2 surgeries, etc. Try not to bully, as you put it. Try to find your daughter's "key." Ours is she's a "fun" personality. See the book, "Personality Plus, What Makes Your Child Tick." I have not yet read it, but it was recommended by our OT who specializes in sensory processing treatment. She identified Emme's key right away, and she was right. Ping is so much more cooperative when things are made into games. If it's not fun for her, she's much less motivated. Though, now at 4+, she's much more mature and can sometimes be appealed to to cooperate for the sake of being a good helper. :)

Anyway, it sounds like pretty typical testing to me. Given the recent upheaval in your household, it likely contributed to it being triggered. However, I see my daughter change tactics on me all the time just because she grows, matures, thinks more deep thoughts, and decides she needs to test our relationship again. I suspect she'll be doing that for a long time to come. I am at peace with that now. As I told you before, I wish I could have understood that better last year! Lucy could also be testing because it has been a year, a milestone.

I have read many handouts from our social workers, but only one full-length book (recommended by a fellow-adoptive parent). And I highly recommend it to you (if you haven't already read it). If you have, maybe it's time to review it. "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis et. al. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0071475001/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=3460014045&ref=pd_sl_92tq5iccez_e

Right now, rather than worrying about correcting her, worry about nurturing and reassuring. We can talk more by e-mail, if you're interested.

Deborah said...

Hi, you don't know me, but a friend sent me over to your post because she recognized your description of your daughter as being MY life with my son. I COMPLETELY understand what you are describing and have been dealing with it in varying degrees for a full fifteen months now. And it is the most frustrating part of my entire life. My son is not dumb, but for so long it seemed like he would just turn it on and turn it off whenever he felt like it.
I highly, highly, highly (okay, can't type that word enough) recommend reading Heather T. Forbes book Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control. I have five children, three adopted, and the child I am describing was the last to enter my family so I was no novice when he arrived, but even with all of the adoption, parenting, group home, teacher, etc experience I had - nothing prepared me for the random, seemingly defiant-for-pleasure behaviors of my son (adopted in Aug 2011 at age 4). This book saved my life in so many ways as it finally gave me answers to WHY he was doing what he was doing and why traditional responses didn't work. It's not controlling behavior in that she wants to control and manipulate you, but you came close to nailing it on the head with the good/bad analysis. It is about HER comfort zone and what makes her feel the way she is comfortable - even if that means playing dumb. Stepping out of your comfort zone is hard and it is even harder when you have big baggage coming along with you.
I don't know if you are a reader or not, but get this book. If nothing else, read the first four chapters. It's a quick read, and makes SO MUCH sense! Then, hit the chapters that address her behaviors - 5, 10, and 11 are the ones that helped me the most. My son still demonstrates so much of what you've described, but we are getting better... I am learning how to respond to what is behind the behavior instead of losing my mind over what seems like mindgames, and he learning to attempt to step out of his comfort zone and face the fear that has kept him bound for so long.
I hope this helps. I really do. I've been there. I AM there. And it is beyond frustrating when you just want to help your child heal and they just won't let you. Best of luck to you - and feel free to respond back to me (even though I don't know if that works from here). Good luck!

Smitha Mathew said...


I do not have the same experience at home. But noticed that in her 3yr old class my O did that with her teachers in a Lutheran preschool (2 days a week). She would zone them out and will answer the most simple question incorrectly (ex: Are you a girl?) A year later I learned many things (wish it worked the other way isn't it?)

1..That was her way of coping up with whatever was happening, when she was tired, or bored, or missing home or whatever. Many kids act out. I thought it was better that she just zoned out. At home all kids are going to act out.

2..She was also bored with the preschool curriculum. She is not a crafts and drawing person. She can understand and makes me read for ever about human body or space science or watch ted.com with me, but she was not interested in learning about colors, alphabets etc. Then I remembered how she knew all that at 2.5. I am assuming that she was bored with people were repeating the same thing to her even after a year. She found the basic items we want to make sure they knew when they get to school very boring.

Another mother told me that her kids were bored too. She also advised that these colors and alphabets are what they are taught at school and they will learn it and to spend time in teaching them logic and analytical thinking.

Anyhow we switched her to Montessori at 4yrs old and she has straightened out. First of all teachers have an expectation kids need to meet and they are going to do it sooner or later. It also gives me the freedom to teach her stuff she likes (I show her anything and everything form youtube - calligraphy, pottery, different forms of dance, her cultural heritage etc). I leave it to the teachers to do the stuff they need to learn. In some ways we do not have to do the dirty job. Let them just think we are fun.

I am a stay at home mom too. But decided my daughter was too bright and needed to attend school for her sanity. Even with montessori I pull her out most days to take her to ballet and gym and many other activities. She is not made to sit there and do the school stuff 9am to 2:30pm. Teachers always comment that my O needs to be involved in many things.

If the behavior persists, you might want to try schooling and notice whether many or all those behaviors go away after six months of school. Also I know many parents who say that their kids (adopted or not) showed these behaviors and turned out to the the best students by 6 or 7 when their brain can phatom more.

Of course you have so much going on. Till you get back and settle it is all about hugging them whenever you have the energy.

Two kids being in different schools might also help them stop comparing to each other. I would even consider sending just Lucy to school so she build confidence that she knows something different.

Also keep in mind that some kids who are very bright show behavioral issues and hence the gifted child program. In the case of adopted kids the measures for gifted child programs might not work for many years since they need time to become themselves.

Might be these are random thoughts. But many of my clues come from talking to mothers in play areas!!

Wishing you a fast recovery.


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