Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gaps in Confidence

My adopted kids really are very typical kids.  They really are loving, thoughtful, capable kids.  But that does not detract from the fact that for two of my kids, their lives started in very atypical ways.  They spent the early years of their lives in orphanage care.  They were blessed to be in places where they were rocked and held and talked to, where they learned to love and trust and smile and laugh.  But that does not change the fact that orphanages, even good orphanages, are not substitutes for families.

As Kai has continued to blossom into a toddler, I have loved seeing him understand more and more things and to start to follow simple directions.  He can now respond to being told to "Go find your shoes." or "Put your blocks in the bucket."  Since we want to encourage him to do these things, his obedience is often met with clapping and praise both by Mom and Dad and by his siblings.  He is learning that his actions can be make Mom's eyes light up and cause the big kids to clap like crazy.  He is learning to feel good about himself based on his own abilities.  

We don't think much about that when we parent toddlers.  It's kind of just a natural response for a lot of people, that when their toddler follows directions, that people heap on the praise.  We also don't often think about how this assigning of tasks and subsequent praise starts a toddler off onto the path of independence.  A toddler does a tasks, receives positive feedback, and then starts to push away a bit from having his parents meet all of his needs.  He is starting to realize, bit by bit, that he is capable of successfully navigating tasks on his own.  

It's those small pieces of feeling good about himself that form the building blocks of self confidence within him.  In other words, those first initial interactions with parents and siblings, where a child is encouraged to do a task and praised as he does it, those seemingly small interactions, are the very foundations of a child learning to have a sense of self confidence.

This week, as I was encouraging Kai to get his shoes out of the dresser, I realized that those daily, maybe even hourly, interactions like that were something that my two big kids missed because of living in orphanage care.  I do not mean that they were not ever praised or encouraged because I don't believe that to be true.  I also do not believe that my kids are always downcast and down on themselves.  But I do think that they were a bit cheated by not having the one on one attention that a family provides, that they missed out on early opportunities to build confidence as toddlers.   I do think that sometimes that this catches up with them.  Sometimes I see it when they are struggling with a new or difficult task and they are quick to give up.  Sometimes I hear it as they talk about themselves with critical words.  Sometimes it's verbalized and sometimes it's just downcast eyes that seem to flash doubt or shame.

So here's to aha moments, of seeing with my heart how my kids are not damaged but how their unique backgrounds are a bit different, and to a few more prayers, asking for my kids to be deeply ingrained with a belief that they are worthy because they are creations of the Most High God. 

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