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International Adoption Info

Newsletter #169 for Internationally Adopting Parents
February 24, 2014
PAL Center Inc.

Recent Articles
    B. Gindis Ph.D.
    Difficulties with socialization and peer interaction in older internationally adopted children
    Socialization implies accepting, either consciously or subconsciously, the values, attitudes, norms, social roles and styles of interaction that are prevalent in the group. In this article I discuss difficulties of IA children in the process of gaining the knowledge, social skills, and appropriate language that allow for integration into a peer group.
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Child's Behavior Management

Jeltje Simons
Consequences and discipline in an internationally adopted child's upbringing

What is a consequence?

A consequence is a natural fallout of a person's choice, action or inaction. It differs from punishment in that a punishment is a retribution. A punishment is "getting back" at someone, trying to hurt them physically or emotionally in the hope that they will behave as we want them to behave in the future.
It is much easier to learn from natural consequences then from punishment, as punishment makes people afraid to do something, but not necessarily agree that their action was wrong; and it also conveys the idea that hurting another person is OK.

When you park your car on a sidewalk and get a ticket, it is not a retribution, it's a consequence of your poor choice and decision to park the car unlawfully.

What sort of consequences are there?

  • Natural consequences. They happen as a result of the child's behaviour, without the parents' intervention. Natural consequences are implemented by nature, society or another person. Children learn quickly from natural consequences and we should allow them to happen whenever it is safe.

    A natural consequence of refusing to eat is hunger; refusing to put a rain coat on is getting wet, refusing gloves is getting cold hands, etc. It is our task as parents to keep our children safe, so we have to intervene if the natural consequences are simply too dangerous and need to be prevented. For example, if a child is playing with fire, allowing a natural consequence to happen is likely to get him burned or even the house burns down. The ultimate natural consequence for adults who get involved in criminal activity is that their freedom is taken away by society.

    Natural consequences are best and preferable whenever you can use them. You need to keep in mind what you want the child to learn from the consequence and prevent consequences from becoming a punishment.

  • Logical consequences. They happen when the parent steps in to create a consequence. For example, when you ask your child to stop playing that electronic game and he refuses, you take the game away for the rest of the day. Or your teenage daughter comes home an hour late and now she is not allowed out in the evening as she broke the rule and will have no time to finish her homework.

    Logical consequences can be implemented in a positive or negative way. It is always better if you can present a consequence in a positive light, and try to avoid negativity whenever you can.

Examples of positive presentation of consequences:
- After you finish your homework you may play outside.
- After you fold washed clothes you may watch TV.
Examples of negative presentation of consequences:
- If you are not home before dinner, you are not allowed to go to the swimming pool tonight.
- If you do not help with the dishes you will not go to see your friend.

Consequences applied in the wrong setting do not work well

The use of consequences can be a great tool in parenting, but they are unlikely to work if certain conditions are not in place; if you are in endless power struggle with your child; if you feel that the child can make you very angry (you were such a laid back person before this adoption); and if you are constantly stressed out hoping that the next tantrum just does not happen. Then it is easy to enter a vicious cycle: the parent asks the child to do something, the child refuses, this makes the parent angry or unsure what to do next, a consequence is given, the child's behaviour becomes more oppositional as she goes into a personal power struggle with the parent and sees the parent as the cause of the problems, etc. When a child is confused by vague guidance, in this environment consequences become another reason for them to fight the parent. This has to be prevented.

Now here is the question: how can parents create an environment where there is less reason for their children to withhold compliance and become oppositional? The answer is in being creative about how you address your child and how empathetic you are with the child's feelings without being overwhelmed by them, how well you can stay in control over your own emotions and think before you speak. Here are some practical examples:

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