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LO keeps hitting the self destruct button - are we doing everything right?

11 replies

Beatrix22 · 09/11/2017 19:06

Good evening folks

Anyone else had a similar experience? LO is almost 8 and has been with us for 18 months. No major issues raised and effectively it has been a very straight forward adoption aside from the time it took to get the order through. LO rocked the boat when she first arrived but then settled and attached well. We always have regular issues with attitude but on the whole she is generally a very well behaved, bright little girl and we know we are having a huge positive impact on her.
Every now and again she goes through a period (usually lasting 1-2 weeks) where she totally hits the self destruct button at home and at school and she appears to be coming back into this phase again. We usually experience upheaval in September (what parent doesn't) when she starts a new school year. We have a little upheaval around holiday time and return to school after half term. What's frustrating is she is so good for so long then suddenly she will destroy things, hit, kick punch people, disrupt lessons, generally be rude and have a terrible attitude.
She is very honest and will tell us when she gets into bother at school however cannot provide an explanation as to why she does it. She knows its wrong - she has a very clear view of what is right and wrong. She receives the appropriate consequence at home and at school. She knows the teacher and her parents are very much in sync. She was receiving counselling to help her adjust to new family and school through the school which didn't raise any major issues but the counselling was stopped a little early due to funding cuts.
We talk through the issues with her, we are very open about past, present and future. It very much feels like she doesn't think she is allowed to be happy so hits the self destruct button. We talk to her explaining she deserves to be happy and have an amazing life which we want to give her but she has to be well behaved and adhere to rules to learn in life. If she breaks a rule she needs to accept the consequences home and a school. SHe said it is unfair and her life is unfair (it really isn't) and that it is not her fault when she misbehaves.
She asks why I never had a baby. I explain she is my 'baby' and although I didn't give birth to her, God decided we were to be her parents. She is very much like us in looks and personality (in fact we probably couldn't have created a child more like us than she is). She loves it when I say she has daddy's eyes and mammy's hair. She knows it was all meant to be. We even gave her my second name to make her feel like she belongs.
I need some reassurance we are doing everything in our power here and that this is not something that is going to manifest into something massive when she is older.
Or, will every person read this and say - nope she is a kid, despite everything she has gone through, all kids do this and its all part and parcel of life,

OP posts:
B1rdonawire · 09/11/2017 21:20

My instinct on reading your post is she potentially had six years of experience that created brain systems around feeling she isn't worth being loved and taken care of. That takes a long, long time of therapeutic parenting to even begin to build new brain connections. If her care was inconsistent, she may feel almost unbearable tension waiting for care to breakdown again, and it might be that to end the tension she subconsciously pushes adults trying to force a rejection / re-create the treatment she's more used to.

I often find it helps to try to remember that my child is not "doing it TO me" she's "doing it IN FRONT of me to try and show me how she's feeling". Every day is a step in building those new connections and deepening her security - even though it doesn't always feel like it!

bellasuewow · 09/11/2017 21:21

Figuring out her loss will be different for her at each developmental stage of her life. She won’t get over it, she will spend her life getting her head around it. Her life is unfair. It is very unfair that she was badly treated by her birth family or that their circumstances were such to such an extent that she needed adoption. Maybe she needs help to work through these feelings with an acknowledgement of that from you. I am not an expert op but these things just jumped out at me form your post op.

thomassmuggit · 09/11/2017 21:23

18 months isn't long in her world, though, given all she'll have been through in her 8 years, poor thing. Often the self destruct button is driven by shame- 'I'm not worth anything, so I'd better destroy it before someone else does.'

Lots of kids who have been through what she has do this, you're not alone, but, no. Not 'all kids do that'.

I think the rule is 'never ask why', as they can't tell you. You have to think why, and frame it as 'your behaviour at school says to me you were struggling with some big feelings' and see what she says, perhaps suggesting what the feelings may be.

Consequences don't always make as much sense to traumatised children as they do to us, the thinking is they should be 'natural consequences'. If you have to think about what the consequence will be, then it's not natural. They also say 'let school be school and home be home', don't let school stuff creep into home.

Therapeutic Parenting in a Nutshell outlines this stuff, it's really helpful.

She's right, though, it's not her fault she misbehaves.

thomassmuggit · 09/11/2017 21:25

Oh, yes, and boy is she right that her life is unfair. Deeply unfair.

brightsunshineatlast · 09/11/2017 21:33

I agree with birdon. In addition, it is a normal part of development to go through phases and to revisit and act out earlier behaviours. I would say it is likely you are right, it is going to take time for her to accept stability and any kind of happiness. Hopefully each time she self destructs it will be slightly better than the last time.

In relation to what bellasue has said, I think it is possible to come to terms with things, in fact, and to move on to have a successful happy adulthood. As parents we don't know for sure that what we will do will work, but there is more easily accessible guidance out there for us than for previous generations.

MamaOfTwos · 09/11/2017 21:43

It's usual for all children to push you to your limits after a major upheaval. It's 'prove you still love me even when my behaviour is atrocious', remember it's her behaviour that's bad, not her, she desperately needs consistency and love, and it sounds like you're doing everything absolutely right Flowers

Kewcumber · 10/11/2017 18:20

SHe said it is unfair and her life is unfair (it really isn't)

But as others have said, it really IS, even DS who was adopted way younger understands that I accept that his life was/is unfair. I think you need to acknowledge that truth. I really think you need to empathise with her feelings of unfairness, because it is shit that she can't grow up in her birth family in safety and happy.

She needs reassurance that you love her even when she struggles to behave so less of the "she has to be well behaved and adhere to rules to learn in life" and more "I understand why you stuggle to behave well sometimes and I'd like to help you be the person you want to be".

DS doesn't understand why he behaves the way he does - he has executive processing disorder and sometimes he just can't control himself. You need to look at specific strategies to help (if you haven't already) - heading off meltdowns aways works better than trying to mop them up afterwards.

OlennasWimple · 17/11/2017 02:40

Have you come across The Explosive Child and how to have Plan B conversations? You might find that a really helpful framework to understand what is happening with these cycles of coping and then not

greencybermummy · 20/11/2017 21:15

Have a look at Therapeutic Parenting on Facebook and/or National Association of Therapeutic Parenting. You'll get plenty of answers to your queries in the pinned posts. Keep going you are doing an amazing job.

Thebluedog · 27/11/2017 11:37

My lo does this, she’s 5. I’ve been seeing a psychologist and he thinks it’s simply her way of reaching out for attention. I’ve been advised to give her the attention and this does seem to work. We’ve also had a sensory assessment done and that’s flagged a few things for us too which has helped.

Can you speak to your support after adoption team?

Thebluedog · 27/11/2017 11:38

When asked ‘why’ she dies these things, she can’t give me an answer either, she just says she doesn’t know

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