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When to ignore and when to react to bad behaviour?

Grandparents June 21, 2019 12:02

We have a new (for just 3 months) adoptive 7 year old grandson and we are struggling to know where to set the boundaries. For example - two instances yesterday.

1. He picked up a handful of sand and was asked to put it down before entering the house. He ignored the request and threw it at the (closed) front door. The adoptive father chose to ignore it as he said it was designed to provoke a reaction and, when no reaction came, the incident was over.

2. At the dinner table, he picked up a toy and was asked to put it away whilst we were eating. Again he ignored the request and carried on playing. From the look in his face, he knew he was being defiant, and smiled when he could see he was 'getting away with it'.

Our daughter and son-in-law are trying very hard to adopt 'theraputic parenting' and the whole concept is taking some time for us to get our heads around.

As grandparents, we could understand the fathers reaction to the first instance, but the look of defiance for the second incident, suggested to us that stronger action should have been taken.

We are new to the concept of 'theraputic parenting' so would appreciate any comments and suggestions.

Edited 21/06/19
Donatella June 21, 2019 12:30

Hi. It might help to do some reading? Sarah Naish, Sally Donovan are good places to start.

Your daughter and sil are at an advantage obviously as they’ve been through the training so understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and why their son behaves as he does. When you think about it, he’s just lost everything that was familiar to him. He’s a very scared, probably grieving little boy who’s had no control over what has happened to him. Why wouldn’t he want to try and exert some control? Try and reframe it. Not bad behaviour but trauma related. Behaviour is communication- his parents will know this and will manage it in a way that they know is right for a traumatised child.

Might help to forget the fact that he’s 7 and see him at his emotional age which is in all likelihood going to be far younger?

My advice? Read, research - think there is a book for adoptive grandparents - but let the parents parent. Support them, even if it all feels counterintuitive to you and remember they’re now the experts on their child! Adoptive parenting is entirely different to parenting a securely attached birth child. They need to do it their way but with your support.

Good luck!

Edited 21/06/19
Grandparents June 21, 2019 12:37

Thanks. That is exactly what we are trying to do. They are explaining all what you have said to us and we are trying to understand and support, but we are in our 70's and old dogs and new tricks comes to mind.

Donatella June 21, 2019 12:56

I think it’s very positive that you’re posting and asking what to do! It proves that you can do it. I have a family member who’s an ex adoption panel member so you’d hope they’d have a clue? Nope. And had no interest in learning so you’re a few steps ahead already. Sarah Naish books are easy to read and informative. Therapeutic Parenting in a Nutshell would be a good place to start.

Serrakunda27 June 21, 2019 14:01

Congratulations on your new grandson.

I have a very charming nearly 15 year old, everyone comments on what a polite well behaved young man he is. He came to me at age 7. The first three months he was sweetness and light, The next 6 months he was utterly vile. Things only really settled down once we had our adoption order. We have had other very difficult times but we have got tnrough them to reach the young man he is today.

To add to what Donatella has said, for my son there was a real element of testing me, just how horrible can I be before she sends me back. I kept telling him he could be as horrible as he liked but we were a family now and he wasn't going anywhere. I don't think he believed me until he had his day in court. At 7 your grandson has probably had a few moves that he can remember, maybe this mum and dad will be like all the others and get rid of me if I'm bad.

Also pick your battles, I'd probably have just ignored the toy, or told him if he had finished eating he could leave the table and play. it became an issue when he was told to stop, Plenty of time to think about table manners .

Its very early days for all of you. But I would adjust your expectations about his behaviour a bit. How would you react if a 3 year old picked up a toy at the dinner table ?

SBAJ June 24, 2019 10:48

Hi guys! I would absolutely echo Donatella's comments - there are much more complex issues at play here. I can completely understand your reaction/thoughts when you speak about the second incident, some of the reading suggested will help to reframe this in your mind.

Acceptance is a huge part of therapeutic parenting, but don't worry, this doesn't mean accepting 'bad behaviour' in the long run. By also focusing on love and empathy, the acceptance your grandchild needs is the acceptance that they are not yet healed from previous trauma - but, importantly, are in a place where they now can begin to do so.

'Begin' is operative word here - 3 months is just the start of your families journey. And again well done for reaching out and asking questions.

CatLady1 June 24, 2019 11:53

Hi Grandparents. I too am grandparent of an adopted child and would support the comments from previous posters.

When my granddaughter was placed, although she was just a toddler, she was exhibiting some quite challenging behaviours, probably around anxiety and insecurity but definitely linked with seeking attention and reaction. Her mum and dad dealt with it by ignoring completely and this really did work and within a few weeks it was forgotten.

I had to learn how to support them in their parenting and honestly, I just found it all.so.dofferent to dealing with my birth grandchildren. I know how difficult it is to ignore that 'knowing grin' when they think they're getting away with it. But as others have said, there is so much going on for the child, especially in the early months of placement.

My granddaughter has settled well and is a real joy to be with, but it definitely helps the family to have the grandparents on board. Lots to learn, but worth it! I do hope things go well for you all.

Grandparents June 24, 2019 15:52

Thanks all. We are trying very hard and will take on board your suggestions for reading.

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