Sunday, December 8, 2013

That's Just How Kids Are!

There are a lot of frustrating things about being a foster parent. Dealing with social workers and bureaucracy, managing behaviours of unruly kids, finding out one's own weaknesses, and others. The thing that I, personally, find the most aggravating is talking with parents.
   One of the things that I frequently do is discuss behaviours of my foster kids, to try to find solutions. On Facebook, in person, and on message boards. I have read parenting books and blogs. As someone who had rather negative childhood role models, I am trying to navigate being a decent parent. I want to be able to understand where the kids are coming from, and have them understand me. Some days go better than others, but that's expected.
   What I dislike the most, when I'm asking how to deal with certain behaviours is when somebody remarks, "Well, that's just how kids are!"
   I want to yell at people that say this. I want them to understand that they had 10+ years of a learning curve to understand their children. Their children that they raised from birth. The children that they know inside and how. Children whose behaviours and actions they have monitored and noticed for years.
   As a foster parent, I don't have that luxury. As a brand new foster parent, I am distinctly at a disadvantage. Parents of natural-born kids get to learn and grow with their children. Foster parents are thrown in 6, 10, 15 years after birth, and expected to make a difference in the kids' lives.
   The children in foster care have had years with their parents. Usually in dysfunctional or traumatic circumstances. These children have learned to do what they have to do to survive. Their brains and actions are usually different from their "normal" peers. Typically, there is more manipulation, more behaviours, more issues in foster kids than with biological kids. Which makes total sense.
   But most lay people don't get that. And most people don't realize that I've been a parent for 2 months. Trying to raise children that have had 9,10 years of someone else's conditioning/raising. Essentially, I'm jumping into the ring halfway through, and expected to TKO the opponent-even though I was only the towel girl until that morning.
   I'm not griping about dealing with the kids (this time!). I'm upset because I have been told over and over that these behaviours that I'm seeing are totally normal, and just typical kid stuff. You know what? These behaviours might be normal for their child-who they have watched and known for 12 years. They might have had a breakthrough 7 years ago where they understand the child's main motivation, and can adjust learning accordingly. And that is awesome. I'm glad they have a good relationship with their child.
   That's just not my experience. From either the parent or child side! So these "normal kid" behaviours are not normal for me. Me trying to connect with a wounded child that has been pulled out of their home and lost everything important to them is not very similar to dealing with the child that a bio parent has had a relationship with since conception.

  I'm not trying to say that I have nothing to learn from bio-parents. I just wish I would be cut some slack sometimes. Because, at the end of the day, we all want what's best for the kids in our lives.


  1. Wow. I thought it was common knowledge that foster parenting is really, really challenging. I hope that none of my comments have come across this way because you are sooo right. Being a bio (or even adoptive) parent from birth is a whole different situation from fostering. And telling any kind of frustrated parent "that's just how kids are" is totally unhelpful. Sure, it could be helpful to know if your expectations aren't developmentally appropriate but even then you still need to figure out how to handle the situation. Anyway, I completely believe that you are in a very challenging situation (and I think you're likely doing better than you think you are).

    1. Oh, no! This was not geared to you at all! You've been one of the few people that seem to recognise a difference between bio and foster parenting!
      Most people seem to think that because we signed up for foster parenting (when they had warned us against it-because foster kids are soooo bad!), that we...I don't know...deserve or should have at least expected the behaviours. It's frustrating.

  2. Well, you should expect some inappropriate behavior, I would assume, since these kids are coming out of a less-than-stellar home. They've developed coping mechanisms that probably won't work in another setting. But just because you know that sometimes they won't act appropriately doesn't mean that it isn't frustrating or that you don't need help coping with it. I'm sorry you're struggling with this. I don't think I could be a foster parent, for exactly the reasons you're detailing here. I've known my 2 kids from birth and I still can't always figure out why they're doing x or y. I can't imagine trying to deal with someone else's parenting mistakes.
    Thank you for being willing to help these kids. I've read that it can take 6 months to a year of consistent discipline before you see substantial gains. I truly hope for your sake and for the kids that this isn't true in your case.

    1. Thank you for your support! Anytime you want to give parenting advice, I would appreciate it tons. :)

  3. As frustrating as it is, sometimes I think "That's just how kids are" is code for 'I have no idea'. Perhaps your questions are challenging these other parents to look at things that they've never considered before, and often people are defensive when asked to look at things from different perspectives.

    And like Angela, I also hope I've never come across that way to you. If I ever do, PLEASE point it out and I'll do my best to fix it.

    1. It honestly never occurred to me that someone would say "That's how kids are" to mean "I don't know". Lol. But I bet you're right!
      And you've never come across like that to me. Thanks for your support!