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Old 05-16-2010, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello

I have a question about gratitude. I get it that I should never imply that my daughter is lucky that we adopted her. But as a result of her trauma/attachment issues, she is SUPER ungrateful for the day to day sacrifices parents make for their kids. I am not sure what to do about this. I have started dialoging it out for her. For example, this morning we were all having pancakes with strawberries and rhubarb. I made her a special plate because she doesn't like rhubarb. Then she picked a fight with me about whether she was allowed to eat with her fingers. She threw something and ended up in timeout. While she was in timeout, the rest of the family ate most of the strawberries. When she came back, she asked for berries. I gave her the strawberries off of my plate. I said to her "What just happened?" She told me she didn't know. So I said "Mommy gave you my strawberries because you didn't have any. What could you say to me?"

I feel like I am really skirting a line on this. Anyone have any suggestions? I get that her lack of gratitude is just a sympton of something bigger, but it is one of the million things that might put us over the edge....
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Old 05-16-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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I don't think you're walking a line at all. I think that there are a lot of adoptive parents who are hypersensitive to this issue, and are afraid to put any sort of expectations on their children regarding gratitude.

For me (and for you too, IIRC) I think maybe it's easier because I have bio and adopted kids. And I expect the same from each of them. I want ALL of my kids to recoginize that we make sacrifices for them. I want ALL of my kids to understand that I don't always *like* cleaning or doing laundry or driving them all over creation for their activities, but I do it because I love them and we're all a part of a family who takes care of each other. I talk to ALL of my kids about how fortunate they are that they have everything they need and many things they want. I want them to understand that they are living charmed lives. I don't expect my adopted DS to be grateful that we 'saved' him from a life of hunger and poverty, but I do expect all of my kids to be aware that they have many advantages in life that other people (including my adopted DS's bio family) don't have.

And so, in that vein, my perspective is that it is completely okay for you to point out that you make sacrifices for your children. It's appropriate for you to want your kids to understand that you give up things you want, because that's what happens in a family.

Also, in terms of instilling that sense of gratitude, I think it's just a really long process. I think that talking with your kids, pointing out instances where one person sacrifices for another, is the best way to help kids internalize these thoughts. And I think it's important for you to also point out times when KIDS are sacrificing for the good of the family, in addition to pointing out your own sacrifices. Thank you for taking out the garbage. I know you didn't want to, but I appreciate that you did it to help out the rest of the family. I talk with my kids about this frequently, and sometimes they are just so snotty and entitled, all I can do is roll my eyes. But then I remember having the same attitudes when *I* was a kid... and eventually the message sunk in. So I can only hope that the same will happen with my children.

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Old 05-16-2010, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Also, in terms of instilling that sense of gratitude, I think it's just a really long process. I think that talking with your kids, pointing out instances where one person sacrifices for another, is the best way to help kids internalize these thoughts. And I think it's important for you to also point out times when KIDS are sacrificing for the good of the family, in addition to pointing out your own sacrifices. Thank you for taking out the garbage. I know you didn't want to, but I appreciate that you did it to help out the rest of the family. I talk with my kids about this frequently, and sometimes they are just so snotty and entitled, all I can do is roll my eyes. But then I remember having the same attitudes when *I* was a kid... and eventually the message sunk in. So I can only hope that the same will happen with my children.
Thanks for the wise words I love the idea of pointing out what she is giving up to help others. As difficult as she is, she REALLY does love to help other people.
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Old 05-16-2010, 08:12 PM
 
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Expecting gratitude for adoption and expecting good manners are totally different things, in my opinion.

Behind good manners should come an appreciation for others and their efforts...I think encouraging that in our children is really, really important, and will serve them well throughout life. Through appreciating others, children also learn to appreciate themselves and expect respectful treatment. I wouldn't connect it to adoption at all.

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Old 05-16-2010, 11:44 PM
 
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Expecting gratitude for adoption and expecting good manners are totally different things, in my opinion.
I agree. (Disclaimer: I don't have adopted children. I'm just interested in adopting and so lurk here.) Confusing adoption-related issues & general manners issues isn't going to help anyone. My son has lots of problems ever being grateful. In fact, just the other day, I lost it because he was complaining about the type of ice cream we were having. It's a problem of privilege to complain about those things, and he, being 5, doesn't see that. The problem isn't that your daughter isn't grateful because she has attachment issues. She's just still learning about politeness.

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Old 05-17-2010, 12:45 AM
 
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While she was in timeout, the rest of the family ate most of the strawberries. When she came back, she asked for berries. I gave her the strawberries off of my plate. I said to her "What just happened?" She told me she didn't know. So I said "Mommy gave you my strawberries because you didn't have any. What could you say to me?"
Do you expect her to say please and thank you for everything? If you just did that with her because you were already pissed about her "ingratitude" then I think that's inappropriate on your part. The berries were part of her breakfast, if I'm not misunderstanding, so why (if you were not going to take away her breakfast as punishment) would you allow everyone else to eat them up when they'd already had rhubarb and berries, so this would be on top extra? I guess that combined with the above seems a little...I dunno. Not that great of a moment?

I do get being frustrated. I have a child who is severely lacking in the non-self-centeredness department (she's 8) myself--and she does NOT have the complication of attachment disorder. I will admit to having picked fights with her in frustration, myself--or being hypersensitive to her "ungratefulness" after a bout of whining/screaming/tantrums and pushing her in that area just because I could and I was fixated on it.

But now we do require pleases and thank yous at home (which I know drives a lot of people nuts--better them than me enforcing it haphazardly and honestly coming down harder on the one child that gets on my nerves all the time about it), all the time. I also am required to say please and thank you. For me, this has taken a lot of pressure off--both in feeling like I might be overly punitive out of frustration with one child, and calming myself internally. My mom CONSTANTLY guilt tripped me, about everything. I could see her saying something like you did in the above, which is perhaps why I got instant icky feelings from that described interaction--which is why even has a relatively young child I stopped taking anything from her or even asking things of her, because I didn't want to deal with the strings attached to everything. Which is a sick way of personally interacting; none of my children ever learned manners by osmosis, so I had to get over being allergic to strings attached, and for me the solution was a blanket policy of please and thank you.

I think a missing component of the "Gratefulness" debate is that a lot of "grateful" assumes a power differential. It isn't about manners. It's the power differential that can be dangerous to wield and can produce rebellion in those who it's wielded against. And, in the case of parental emotional abuse and martyrdom, it's that power differential (bullying the child, using "everything I've done for you!" as a way to manipulate or wound or enmesh with someone) that's the problem and ick--not necessarily the specific complaint about the thank you (or lack thereof) in a particular situation.

I don't think adoptees have to be grateful at ALL about the fact of their adoption. Frankly, in the vast majority of cases, they had *no power* whatsoever, it was not their choice, other people decided everything for them. But...expressing gratitude for presents, sacrifices (as developmentally appropriate), kindness, ect--that's something that every person should learn how to do regardless. It's not the same as the "Grateful adoptee" power differential discussion. IMO.

But what you are talking about, OP, is a bit different. I think in most normal contexts, what you said could be just a very calm, nice explanation. But looking at things through my own (sick, damaged, probably attachment disordered myself in some respects) perspective...I would have told my kiddo that the strawberries on my plate were the only ones left, would she like some, giving her the choice whether or not to take them--not put them on her plate as a response to a request (I assume polite) and then demand that she express gratitude beyond a simple "thank you" that should be happening as a matter of course. That feels a little manipulative to me. But I assume that this is not what happened, and it's only my own lens that sadly kind of makes ME "hypersensitive" to issues of gratitude.

I've just found it, as someone who struggles through this kind of thing as an emotional minefield because of my mom's illness, so much easier to concentrate on the basics as habits and not really care if they fully understand or buy in to the reasons behind the niceties, if that makes sense. I don't know if your DD is at all sensitive to power struggles, but I think frustrations over ungrateful kids (and let's face it, most are at some point!) can really escalate things quickly on both sides.
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Old 05-17-2010, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you expect her to say please and thank you for everything? If you just did that with her because you were already pissed about her "ingratitude" then I think that's inappropriate on your part. The berries were part of her breakfast, if I'm not misunderstanding, so why (if you were not going to take away her breakfast as punishment) would you allow everyone else to eat them up when they'd already had rhubarb and berries, so this would be on top extra? I guess that combined with the above seems a little...I dunno. Not that great of a moment?
Thank you Tigerchild, I was hoping you would respond That wasn't a very good example, it was just the most recent one. You are so right, this is all about power and it is so complicated. We do require please and thank you as a kind of scripted way to avoid fighting also. In general, dd is a kid who will ask for something (like food) and then throw it on the floor becasue she doesn't like the way I put it on the plate. Yesterday morning, the strawberries were in a serving bowl on the table and the other kids ate most of them while I settled her in timeout. On one hand, her therapist tells us to talk to her about what she loses due to her behavior. But in this case, I wanted her to see that the other kids ate the strawberries while she was in timeout, but I was willing to give her mine. I think it is true, I should have given her the choice instead of giving her mine and then expecting gratitude.


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I think a missing component of the "Gratefulness" debate is that a lot of "grateful" assumes a power differential. It isn't about manners. It's the power differential that can be dangerous to wield and can produce rebellion in those who it's wielded against.
This is so true, and it is very hard to be the "grown up" when dealing in the day to day with a child who has attachment problems.

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I don't think adoptees have to be grateful at ALL about the fact of their adoption. Frankly, in the vast majority of cases, they had *no power* whatsoever, it was not their choice, other people decided everything for them. But...expressing gratitude for presents, sacrifices (as developmentally appropriate), kindness, ect--that's something that every person should learn how to do regardless. It's not the same as the "Grateful adoptee" power differential discussion. IMO.
I agree that it is different, I guess that I am worried about skirting the line because it is hard to separate things out. Dd's therapist uses a Dan Hughes model and focuses a lot on what a good parent is. This feel like gratefulness for adoption to me, but I also see it as important and good. So I guess my own confusion is why I am not making much sense
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Old 05-17-2010, 11:04 AM
 
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Tigerchild, thanks for that great post. It's a lot to think about and consider...and you're right about the power differential.

Pumpkingirl, s. I can't imagine how complicated it is to sort out every day parenting challenges and choices when you're dealing with all the other issues at hand...the attachment disorder, the advice you're given, the emotions you're carrying...just all of it. I think it's amazing that you're able to look into yourself so clearly, and be so willing to admit your own challenges or role in the struggles. Hats off to you.

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Old 05-24-2010, 07:59 PM
 
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I have three children, one bio and two via adoption (and a teenaged nephew who lives with me). One of my children struggles with attachment. It has been helpful to me to reframe the concept of gratitude to the idea of security and appreciation ... on both our parts. What I have found in parenting my particular child is that her attachment issues make me feel insecure as a parent, which makes me sometimes fail to appreciate the positive ways my daughter contributes to our family. On her end, she feels insecure in my love for her and therefore doesn't appreciate (as in understand) the things I do to show my love and bind her tighter to me. I try to make sure that I show her ways she is appreciated in our family.

I certainly think that taking the opportunity to point out to her that you did something nice for her is a good idea. I wouldn't even expect her to say thank you for it; that takes the emphasis off of what you have done and places it on you "wanting" something from her (an acknowledgement).

I occasionally point out to all four children who live in my home that I have done something nice for them or made a sacrifice for them. I do it more often with my child who struggles with attachment, and I have noticed that, over time, she has picked up on this and will come to me to say, "Mama, I did this for you," and I will say something like, "I am a lucky mom to be so loved by my daughter." I place the emphasis on how her actions make me feel, and don't respond with just a thank you, which can feel mechanical and expected. I place the emphasis on the power she has to make people happy, and not on my response. I hope that makes sense.

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