I'm probably going to be sued for copyright infringement for plagarizing this chapter of the book I've been reading. Oh well. I give all the credit to the book Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child. Chapter four deals with survival skills vs. family skills. While I was reading this chapter, I had a total aha moment regarding Josh.
Survival skills are the skills a child develops in response to neglect or deprivation. Deprivation is defined as the lack of the physical necessities or life: food, warmth, and shelter. Neglect is defined as the lack of consistent, nurturing attention from, and social interaction with an adult. Children develop survival skills in order to make the best out of their current situation.
It is necessary to recognize that everyone in Josh and Jameson's life did the best they could to care for them. Their parents did the best they could. Their grandmother did the best she could do with what life dealt her. And definitely everyone at Hope did the best for them that was possible. Because Josh is older and was always the leader of all the kids at Hope, I suspect that his survival skills are much more developed than you would expect.
Family skills are those skills a child develops when they are raised in a nurturing environment with a consisent caregiver. Family skills grow gradually whereas survival skills develop quickly. Family skills are based on connections between a child and an adult. There is a sense of interdependency. Children with good family skills have good communication, are able to cooperate and share.
"Children using survival skills are often manipulative."
OK, here was my AHA moment.
"The child who relies on survival skills, (sic)... has the identity or role of the boss who takes care of everything. Yet this boss-like identity is not built on strength, knowledge, and capability, for a child is essentially weak. Instead, it is an identity that forces the child to create a semblance of those traits, a false maturity."
"This pseudomature identity may fool some adults, including parents, into thinking that the child is secure and competent. In fact, such a child feels lost, alone, weak, and afraid, as well as fraudulent."
This book explains that kids who develop survival skills become tough, smart, strong, and persistent kids. It is important to recognize and acknowledge these strengths while at the same time attempting to develop their family skills. I think this is the point where I realized that I need not be irritated at these survival skills, but should relish these traits and be so grateful that the children acquired them because it's what kept them alive.
In order to develop family skills, children need specific instructions as to how to acquire these skills. I think this is where we get frustrated because sometimes we assume that they should know how to live in a family. They should know how to communicate. They should know what to do. And they don't! Acknowledging their good survival skills, while encouraging new family skills is going to be so important. For example, Josh always just walks off like he knows where he's going. This started in the airport in Germany on our way home and has continued to this day. He would just walk off in a different direction, taking the lead, and having absolutely no idea where he was going. He has this sense of uber confidence that makes it SEEM like he knows what he's doing when he really has NO idea. And so it's important for us to say to him, "I love that you are not afraid of getting lost in this big place, but I need you to let me be the leader."
We have to teach them to depend on us. We have to teach them that they don't have to fake being the boss. They don't have to fake being the adult. They now have an adult.
This chapter was really good for me to read. This is one of the things that frustrates me so much about Josh is this uber confidence when he has absolutely no idea what's going on. This has accounted for a lot of his actions in deleting pictures off my camera, breaking my computer, ordering pay per view etc. He just hits buttons and continues to do so until it either works or stops working all together. He has a hard time asking for help. We have to look for opportunities to allow him to depend on us. I think I have been trying so hard to teach him to NOT rely on me and to become responsible and quit forgetting his stuff all the time. Perhaps I was backwards in my thinking. Perhaps I need to allow him to rely on me a little more in order to allow him to rely on family skills instead of survival skills. Definitely something for us to try.
And so that is the very long, very wordy explanation of my AHA moment.