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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our 5-year-old from Ethiopia has been home almost 3 weeks now and it's been going great. He's such a sweet and loving little boy. He and my other two children (ages 3 and 16 mo. are doing great together). We have developed a great bond and the beginnings of attachment are forming. It's been quite remarkable. Both our physician and our caseworker commented on what an amazing little boy he is. We've had a few rough patches but that's to be expected. He's a total people pleaser, which is going to take some getting used to on my part. According to his aunt this is the way he's always been. Neither of my biological children have this personality (they are both "spirited" children) so I'm going to be doing some reading on how to parent this type of child in a healthy manner. He seems so.....fragile yet so strong at the same time. Any book recommendations on this personality type would be greatly appreciated.

The only real issue we have has to do with competitiveness. He's stronger and faster than my other children yet he must always win. If the kids are riding bikes he has to be first or he has a complete meltdown. The other day I joked with the kids that my 16 month old daughter is going to be stronger than the boys someday and he instantly melted down. Today my 3-year-old won at a board game and he melted down. I'm assuming that this is from spending a year in an orphanage where everything is a competition. The fastest, the strongest and the cutest get the most attention. I'm sure that over time this will become less of an issue but I'm curious how to deal with in the hear and now.

For the first week or so I stroked his ego. I think that at that point it was the right thing to do but I think now it's not a good idea. I've been trying to praise him for acts of kindness, sharing, desire to help me, etc. and show him that he gets lots of love and positive attention when he's doing those things. I give him no extra attention when someone runs faster or wins at a game. I make an extra effort to come in "last place" and I'm sure to laugh about it and show that it's okay. My 3-year-old is a gracious loser (actually he's just not a competitive child at all) so that helps. When a meltdown occurs over not being fastest I hug him but I don't try to talk him out of his feelings. I just let him emotions run the course and then he's fine.

Does anyone have any suggestions? If I don't handle this right I think it could create a bad situation down the road.

Like I said, he's a great kid but I think he's definetely been shaped by his time in an orphanage.
 

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I would try more non-competitive games. They really are better for children of that age. If you want board games that the boys could play together, Family Pastimes makes some great ones. In fact, I'm waiting for a new batch I ordered through a coop.

Some of what you're experiencing is also part of being five. Wanting to always be the winner is pretty normal. Frustrating for everyone, but pretty typical.
 

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Wow...
....My first thought is that maybe he thinks he's in competition for YOU, and that any lack of stellar performance on his part might lead to him losing what he has (a new family, love, security, etc.). That seems like a pretty unhealthy, but reasonable given his background, situation.

Could you talk with him about his fears? Reassure him of what he might be doubting, so that over time he feels less like he has to be super-boy in order to stay in your home? I just worry that this overachieving might lead to burn-out, and that several months down the road he might try testing you in the opposite direction...will mom and dad love me if I'm terribly behaved? If I cause problems?

I think non-competitive games are a good idea, but I also think using competitive games for a purpose might be good, too. When he is about to lose, can you ask him why he's upset? Or if he's melting down, can you hold/rock him and tell him that you will love him no matter what? That it's okay for other kids to win, that you're going to be his family forever? That it's okay if he's not first or fastest, because you love him for what he is and that won't change? ETc. Etc.

: Congrats on bringing your sweet boy home. I'd love to hear more about how it went and how it's going!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My first thought is that maybe he thinks he's in competition for YOU, and that any lack of stellar performance on his part might lead to him losing what he has (a new family, love, security, etc.).

This is what I'm fearing. I know it will just take time to allow him to feel totally comfortable but I think it's important to lay the right foundation.

A friend of mine warned me about this behavior. He daughter that she adopted from the same orphanage was aggressive and competitive when she came home. She believed this stemmed from trying to get to the orphanage visitors for attention. The aggressiveness is how she learned to deal with it. My son, on the other hand, learned to deal with it by being sweet, affectionate, charming, and trying to be the best. I can see him doing that now to "make" me love him. It totally breaks my heart.


For example, the first day he was here he sat down to dinner and didn't want to eat his vegetables. I told him vegetables make him big and strong. This was the wrong thing to say. Every time we sit at dinner he has to make sure I notice every bit of vegetables he takes. He eats vegetables to please me.

Then again, some of it is definitely 5-year-old behavior. But I think most of it is unhealthy and potentially destructive.

The side benefit is when he challenges me I simply rejoice inside. I think my 3-year-old has been essential in teaching him that even when you do mischevious things mommy still loves you. He sees me loving on my 3-year-old after he was firmly commanded to sit in time out. This has given my 5-year-old the confidence to refuse to clean-up or sit appropriately at the dinner table.


He really is a remarkable little boy. I was just thinking last night how it's amazing that he's come to understand the role of a mother. His mom died when he was 6-months-old yet I get the impression that deep down inside he remembers the love she gave him. It's amazing to see him understand the job of the mom. He instantly calls my name in the middle of the night or when he's hurt. Daddy just won't due in those cases. Mommy has to rock him to sleep, which I love.
 

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Congratulations


I'm not sure I can offer any advice since we are also learning to help our oldest integrate with his little brother and in our home, and that involves a lot of competition and fighting for attention.

What I'm feeling from my experience is that really it is more "giving it time" than we realize. I've tried so hard to balance this properly and honestly, 6 months later, I think I just had to let him have these months to feel a little more comfortable. He was originally a pleaser and it broke my heart, then he had a period of disagreeing with EVERYTHING and testing EVERYTHING I said, and that was even harder. It was too easy to think he hated me
I forgot he was just coping and afraid I would leave him, I forgot he was having a hard time with his feelings about losing his foster mommy and didn't know how to deal with it better. I also forgot he felt safe enough with me to act out so badly, even if he was on his best behaviour and "performing" for everyone else. This can lead to mommy depression sometimes because everyone ELSE gets the child's best behaviour when mommy gets the worst.

So please take my only advice, being almost 6 months in - be gentler with yourself. You are doing your best. It will work out in time
It is ok to not be able to fix it any faster, as much as its heartbreaking. Part of your job as mommy is just to hold his hand and guide him as much as you can, whether he's performing for you or seems like he hates you. Just take a deep breath and talk to other foster/adoptive mommies who can remind you it really isn't about you doing anything wrong or how to do things right. Ok?

You'll forget that sometimes like I did, so please find someone to remind you
 

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Congratulations!

3 weeks is not a lot of time. He has just met you and you are really strangers to him.

I am not saying this in a mean way but a matter of fact way. Bonding and attachment take a while. He has to learn that you do not need to always "win" to have mommy and daddy love you. Its going to take a while. I would let him melt down and be there for him the entire time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
He has to learn that you do not need to always "win" to have mommy and daddy love you. Its going to take a while.

I know that. It's not a matter of not understanding where this behavior is coming from. I acknowledged that it's going to take time. I just want to be sure that I handle it in the best way possible. I don't think it's appropriate to say, "Eh, it's just going to take time." and not question what I can do to help him. That's my job as a mother and what I've aimed to do with all of my children. I'm not interested in "fixing" the problem (if you can call it that) tomorrow. I simply want to be sure that I give him what he needs. If I don't do that them time isn't going to matter.

I'm a proactive individual and I simply want to make sure that my children grow in the healthiest environment possible.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by grantskismom+1 View Post
I simply want to be sure that I give him what he needs. If I don't do that them time isn't going to matter.
What he needs is simply for you to be there to comfort him when he does melt down, and be patient that he'll stop eventually if you just let him do what he needs to to process this


I'm proactive too, that's probably why I drove myself so crazy trying to push my son to deal with his tough emotions in other ways than meltdowns. I wish I had learned to just let him meltdown and be there for him sooner. Instead I was stressed out by it and worrying how to fix it, and that caused him to melt down *more* because he picked up on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Erica, it's enough to drive one batty isn't it.
I wake up every day reminding myself that I'm not responsible for my kid's feelings. I can comfort them and give them all the love and support that they need, but I gotta let them feel the bad stuff.

I'm actually not feeling too sorry for him anymore. This afternoon he had a meltdown when I told him his younger brother would show him how to make sand castles when we go to Hawaii. I actually caught myself rolling my eyes.
 

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Congratulations on your new son!

In my experience as a teacher, when kids are going through major transitions, particularly major transitions over which they have little or no control (and there's really no bigger transition than new parents, new siblings, a new country and a new language all at once) they tend to become overly controlling over the things that they can control, or that the at least think that they might be able to control.

Being first/winning is something that he's probably pretty successful about controlling, given that your other kids are younger and likely less skilled physically, and so he sets his stores on doing it every time. When that doesn't happen it's the straw that breaks the camels back and he loses it.The ensuing tears aren't so much about the fact that he didn't control the outcome of the race, as they are about the fact that he can't seem to control anything.

I'd give it time, and I'd also give him lots of other opportunities to be in charge -- Simon Says, cooking projects where he has a say in what to include (think fruit salad or cookie decorating), meandering walks through the neighborhood where he picks left vs. right. At the same time I'd be pretty clear with him about what is and isn't within his control so that he doesn't get disappointed when he finds out that something he wanted to choose isn't really a choice.

I'd also try really hard to approach his tantrums from the standpoint that he's processing his grief, and giving you an opening to nurture and show him that you're there for him, and that while they may be temporarily painful for both of you they're an important step in the journey to being a securely attached family.
 

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Congratulations on your new son!
: (I generally lurk since I haven't adopted myself - yet)

FWIW, my friend's son (who is also five) is just as competitive as you describe your little guy being. He would literally bawl if he TIES at a game (he doesn't even have to lose, not being the only one to win is enough). His parents are really non-competitive and they've been working on it with success just by doing exactly what you describe.

My own boy went through the same thing around four and grew out of it mostly. Sounds like you have a good handle on things, just keep encouraging him in other areas and giving him lots of attention for good deeds amd I'm sure that this phase will pass soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Momily View Post
Congratulations on your new son!

In my experience as a teacher, when kids are going through major transitions, particularly major transitions over which they have little or no control (and there's really no bigger transition than new parents, new siblings, a new country and a new language all at once) they tend to become overly controlling over the things that they can control, or that the at least think that they might be able to control.

Being first/winning is something that he's probably pretty successful about controlling, given that your other kids are younger and likely less skilled physically, and so he sets his stores on doing it every time. When that doesn't happen it's the straw that breaks the camels back and he loses it.The ensuing tears aren't so much about the fact that he didn't control the outcome of the race, as they are about the fact that he can't seem to control anything.
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This is brilliant!!! Now that I understand what he's experiencing I can empathize. Once I can empathize I can deal with it appropriately.

I can see this is going to be a challenge for me. I "get" my own children inside and out. My son is a carbon copy of me and I've had the opportunity to slowly get to know her from the ground up. I can empathize with both of them fairly easily because I know them so well. When my son has a tantrum I can typically tell you exactly where it came from and I know what to do about it. With my 5-year-old son I have a big question mark over my head. As I get to know him things will get easier but for now we're relative strangers. I don't know him as much as he doesn't know me. There are so many things I "get" about him because I can relate to those aspects of his personality, but there are many aspects that I can't understand because I didn't share his previous life experiences with him.
 
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