Friday, 3 May 2013

Tell me how good I am mummy...

I've talked about praise before, but it's rearing it's head again...

I can count to ten too mummy.
I'm eating all my dinner up too mummy.
I've put my pants on myself too mummy.
I washed my hands without any help too mummy.

These are things that Mini often says. Often in the middle of me praising Dollop, or immediately after, before I've even taken a breath. He has to be loved, noticed and praised as much as Dollop or preferably more. The times that Mini gets praise but Dollop doesn't are irrelevant to him. He HAS to have praise when she does, if not, he asks for it.

If you look at what he wants praise for you might think he's regressed a bit, and of course there are times when that is the case, but for the most part I don't think that's why he does this. I think it's because he needs to feel like he's not different...needs to feel perhaps as if he's just like Dollop, and because he needs to know that we love him as much as her.
These are the things that Dollop (being nearly 3) gets praise for, because of course she's still learning to do all of those things. Mini doesn't generally get praise for them because he knows how to do them all, and has for some time. He gets congratulated instead for building Lego things both with instructions and with his imagination, and for sitting still during dinner, and for reading well - that kind of age appropriate thing!

So what about Dollop? There are of course times when Mini is at school and Dollop gets 1:1 attention and time with me. And of course, she gets lots of praise in those times however, whenever Mini is around I always have to treat them exactly the same. I can't even spontaneously say I love you to her, without then feeling forced to say it to him too. Of course I love him, but sometimes in a moment, I want to only say it to Dollop. Just like at times, I just tell him. What is this teaching Dollop and her 3 yr old developing brain? I worry about that.

I do know that some of this is quite normal - I remember getting cross when my brother got something...hugs, sweets, attention, praise, toys or whatever else and I didn't. I'm the first one to admit that I often wailed 'but it's not fair' at my parents, when my brother seemed to get preferential treatment. I know I'm to expect that between Mini and Dollop too. But how I handle it with them is perhaps different to how my mother dealt with it because she didn't have to worry about a traumatised child, or our feelings about difference.

I worry that if I treat them differently then that extends the gap between Mini and Dollop. Or at least the gap in Mini's mind - I don't want to make that any wider. We know Mini already feels different, he's told us so, and the professionals feel it's clear from his reactions and behaviour. I also accept that we can't stop Mini feeling different. I'm sure many adult adoptees grew up feeling different...loved, happy, but different. What we need to do is accept Mini's feelings, and let him become proud of his differences, or at least accepting of them.

So for now, I continue to praise Mini when he asks for it. And I praise him much more when he doesn't ask for it. I dislike how contrived it feels, but I'm hoping that as Mini matures and becomes more confident in himself, more accepting of his strengths and weaknesses, more accepting of his past and present, and more reflective then he'll be happier to just take the genuine praise, and not need to ask for the fake stuff.
And to help him in that we work on making Mini feel confident and proud about himself, we remind him that we love him for who he is, not who he isn't, and we remind him about all the special bits of him that we love. And Dave-the-therapist works on pointing bits out about Mini that are just his...his muscles for example as he punches through ever-increasing amounts of newspaper, getting prouder and feeling stronger each time more paper is added. He always comes out of those sessions standing just a little bit taller.

Are your children like this? What do you do?

12 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, I could have written this! My 3 are exactly the same! To the point that everything I do I have to do X 3, if I tickle someone as they walk past me, 2 more appear and expect me to tickle them. If I ask one, how was school today, the other 2 line up waiting their turn, if I remark on something they've done, the other 2 ask 'is mine good too?', if I ask someone to do a job for me, 2 more appear wanting a job, if I give someone a cuddle, kiss or even dare sit them on my lap, 2 more appear waiting their turn, even if I tell somone off, 2 little voice appear telling me how good they've been! its positivly exhausting and I'm ashamed to say after almost 3 years of this, its made me withdraw a little from praise and even try and do things in a 'sneeky' maner so the other 2 don't hear and expect me to do it/say it/ask it again for them!

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    1. It takes all the spontaneity out of things doesn't it? Dollop is nearly 3, and she needs praise to learn that what she's doing is good, and right. I can't stop, but it's bloomin hard work!

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  2. I suspect I have all this to come (in about 3 weeks time) and I have no doubt the same issues will arise. Katie is already commenting that she is concerned about missing out on time with me and I have no doubt that the gree-eyed monster will be coming to stay at our house very soon.

    All that said, I think you have a case of dammed if you do and dammed if you don't. It's the same for every parent. However equal you are there will always be perceived inequalities between the children. My younger sister had a lot of stuff that caused her difficulties (and still do) so my memories of childhood are her needs dominating the family. How accurate that is, I don't know - fairly I think if I'm honest. I only have my perception however. I will say that, in life, this issue will raise its head time and time again. We need to be equipped to taking a backseat every now and again. We can't be the focus of attention all the time otherwise we simply cannot function in this world. You and I are alike. We worry and we think about things.....a lot. I don't know the answer to this Vicki but I do know that you will be as fair as you are able to be, because that's in your nature. Both children will feel jealous at times but that's life. Mini and Dollop will need to learn to understand those emotions as they grows older in order to function in this world as an adult so I guess the parenting there for you is how you help Mini manage those feelings that might surface linked to his difficulties. I guess your learning is to ensure you don't assume he is feeling something based on what you know about his background and issues. I am sure you already have specified time with each child individually so they can spend time with you, even for just a huggle? One way of doing that is to have a sheet on the wall that shows your daily schedule and you could schedule in time for each child on their own. Dollop will be able to grow up learing that it's her time to spend a bit of time amusing herself and Mini will see the fairness in that because it's scheduled. Just a thought.

    Good luck and do try not to worry so much honey. There isn't a magic answer I don't think as this is one of those parenting difficulties. xx

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    1. You're very good at not automatically assuming that difficulties are linked to background. I love that about you! I'm less so, but with good reason...I don't just have 'adoption' or 'trauma' to contend with for Mini, I have 'difference'. All the professionals involved with us - CAMHS, PAS, Theraplay/DDP therapist all feel (and I tend to agree) that with this competition for attention/praise/to be treated the same, is not necessarily because of Mini's background, but more because he has a different background to Dollop. He KNOWS he is different. He thinks we feel differently about him. He isn't securely attached to us, and when Dollop was born, that strengthened Mini's belief (even if he doesn't know/understand it) that he is not part of us, or one of us.
      That's why Theraplay as a family therapy is so important for us, it brings us together, it helps Mini understand that he has aspects about him that are special, but we are a team, and we work better as a team, and our particular team works best with him in it. It's slowly sinking in, and getting better, but he still has his wobbly alone moments.

      I love the idea of a daily schedule, we used to have one when we were 3. When we became 4, it went out of the window. We have 1:1 time with both children, but scheduling it just doesn't work for us anymore. 5 minutes spontaneous play and fun works so much better and effectively than 30mins planned togetherness.

      I'm so pleased that Katie is already verbalising her worries, this will bode well I'm sure... x

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  3. Ohhh that's a tricky one. The thing is we do treat our kids differently because they are different personalities and parenting them isn't a 'one size fits all' situation. It sounds to me like mini still needs a lot of reassurance but that will become less as confidence grows. You are constantly praising both, telling them you love them and ensuring they are happy, sounds like your doing a pretty good job to me :-) #PoCoLo

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    1. Thank you, it's just never-ending. As adults we can see that our kids have different needs, but all they see is 'it's not fair'!

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  4. My middle child seeks this affirming praise All.The.Time and quite honestly, it's exhausting! Just like you, I wonder what it does to the others, I wonder why she feels this 'need' and is it something I've done? My daughter has zero reason to feel 'different' to the others (unlike Mini) but I do think that certain children just need affirming more than others, their confidence is just not quite 'there'. I take all of this into consideration and try to praise her when I can....I don't always manage it and before long we do get the 'bucket half full behaviour', if you know what I mean? We are working on it....and you are doing such a fantastic job! x

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    1. I know what you mean with that behaviour! Thank you, it is exhausting, and I just hope that as his confidence grows, and his attachments improve (hopefully) we've move on from this... x

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  5. Missy often asks "Have I been a good girl today?". She needs reassurance a lot but I have to admit there are days when she asks that I just want to be honest!! She's been very defiant today in particular so i'm hoping she doesn't ask later!

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    1. Wow...we never had that when it was just Mini, but then he was younger than Missy. Does Missy only ask on days where's she's not been so good? Or is it just when she's feeling a bit unsettled? x

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  6. I was insanely jealous of my older half sister as a child . . . and I was the natural child of both my parents whereas she was the one that had been born of my mum's previous marriage and then adopted by my dad. She also happened to be a world-class gymnast, which all seemed to take up a lot of my parents' time and attention (at least as far as I was concerned!). In a world where so many families are blended or unorthodox in some other way, it is harder and harder to juggle the needs of all the children involved. I think the trauma of family breakdown and re-formation on children is now so widespread that it almost goes without comment, but it is real nonetheless. This is a roundabout way of saying that although it might be hard for you to find others who have dealt with exactly the situation that you are in, there might be wisdom to be gained from those who have successfully managed blended families with all their children's complex needs. Some advice won't be applicable, but some might help.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I never really thought of us as a blended family, but we kind of are aren't we? I've only ever looked at support from adoptive parents (onion growers) or birth parents (apple growers), without thinking about all the families that grow both, and everything in between. So I will definitely look at other support opportunities :-)
      I do understand the jealousy - as I said above, I remember being very jealous of my brother. Years later after I moved home after university, he once admitted that he felt the same towards me!

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