It is tough parenting a toddler, and arguably even harder for adoptive parents. There are many schools of thought on how to raise children many of which overlap, but is there a natural contradiction to teaching children confidence whilst placing upon them behavioural restrictions?
Let me try and explain.
Our son is starting to show signs of aggression, most often when he is tired, irritable, frustrated or not getting the attention he desires. This aggression is manifesting itself in slapping.
However, when playing with him, I often play fight, which gets him excited and he can go overboard, which for anyone who watches professional sportsmen will witness this week in week out. In addition to this we regularly practice ‘high fives’ which is in effect teaching him to hit my hand.
I am play fighting with him, but reprimanding him when he show signs of aggression, and we high five, but he cannot hit.
How does an eighteen month old brain cope with this kind of distinction, indeed – can it cope?
It is not just hitting. Throwing is another similar example. I am helping him develop what is an essential skill for children by teaching him to throw or roll a ball, but the minute he throws my keys over the fence, he is suddenly faced with stern looks and pleads to cease.
Kicking the ball and nothing else is difficult to enforce, and it seems like downright hypocrisy when I instruct him not to touch the cooker, yet I am opening its doors, and turning dials pretty much all day.
Why is this unique to adoptive parents?
Well it isn’t, but adoptive children come with baggage that needs to be understood. Normal methods of reprimanding or discipline may not be appropriate, indeed could be detrimental, and boundaries may not have been prescribed from the start.
Children learn in different ways and need to be treated differently, but adoptive parents consistently walk the proverbial minefield when helping their own children develop; one small mistake, lapse of concentration or forgetful verbal whip and your child can be instantly thrust back to a time when they are most in need of adult help.
We can read pages and pages of books, and yes they can help, but every nuance, every finer detail of your child has to be observed and understood in order to help them.
My son has his history, and we have to respect that when we teach him, but am still scratching around for answers sometimes, and don’t always get it right.
For me there is a thin line on where you can go, ignore behaviour to stymie attention, or act to demonstrate the boundary, sometimes it is left, sometimes right.
If you go down one route, he will be devoid of any confidence or understanding of what he can actually do, yet the other road harbours the irksome shadow of unruly and boundary-less children. The line is razor thin, so how do we walk it?
I may not get it right today, I may not in twenty years, but I know for sure that I cannot stop trying. Children have resilience, and time is, as we know, a great healer. I may not do the right thing all the time, but the best thing I can do for him is to keep trying, and keep loving him.