#15 – Testing the limits, testing your love.

May 6, 2011 at 8:13 am | Posted in Adoption differences | Leave a comment
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We’ve all seen kids test limits, wanting more money, privileges, etc. Adoptive families may see more of this than biological families, and it’s more complicated in these cases.

With adopted kids, there is an additional aspect. It’s testing parents’ love. Biological children know where they belong, like it or not. They were born into a certain family and society tells them that’s where they stay. Adopted children were placed not by nature, but by people’s decisions. The decision was an arbitrary one. There could have been other decisions and other families into which they might have been placed.

The flip side of this is that adopted kids know their adoptive parents could have been given a different child – again arbitrarily placed. Therefore, it seems logical to the young adoptee that their union is not bound by the laws of nature or society. It was made by people and can be undone by people.

Their logic is, “I could have been placed elsewhere and some other child could have been placed here in my family instead of me. Do my parents really love me – or do they wish they had another child?” This is not logical thinking for a biological child, but some adoptees do go through this questioning of the permanence, even the ‘rightness’ of their placement.

A pattern can be set up to test their parents’ love where the child misbehaves and logical discipline follows. Over the years the child can raise the bar, saying to himself, “Well, they still kept me when I did that, so I’ll do something more serious to see if they will still love (and keep) me.” Often parents have no idea what is going on with the escalating bad behavior. They just keep loving and disciplining.

The child is only asking through his behavior, “How bad do I have to be before you stop loving me and throw me out?” This is shocking to most parents because they have no intention of stopping loving or throwing the child out!

All this testing can be avoided by a simple verbally expressed thought. The child needs to hear, “No matter what happens in life and no matter what you do, we will always love you and we will always be a family. You can’t do anything that will separate you from us. We are a family forever.” Then the child knows, he won’t have to test.

Many adult adoptees have been heard to say, “I was so bad, I knew my parents would throw me out – but they never did. Guess I didn’t need to be that bad to test them, but I didn’t know. They never told me they’d love me forever, no matter what.”

This is one of these issues where younger adoptive families can learn from the mistakes of those who have had this experience. We took it for granted our children knew we’d love them forever – but, sometimes they didn’t know– and we made the mistake of never telling them.


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