When we were going through the matching process for adoption I held the belief that keeping siblings together at all costs was a good thing…..I haven’t necessarily changed on this belief but I have seen areas where sibling rivalry takes a new form! All siblings argue I’m told many times by others and of course this is true. I remember fighting and arguing with my brother and have seen many others families bicker and squabble together.
However for those of you who have adopted children, or children who have experienced early trauma in their lives, you will know that the squabbling and bickering can come from a different place. I thought our three children would be very protective of each other and be a tight unit together, which they are at times (if they believe one of them is in danger) but most of the time the need to survive and to be noticed the most overshadows the need to protect each other.
For example, there have been many times when one of them is being told off for something and one of the others will say “I’m being good Mum”, “I’m doing what I’m told Mum”. Even if they don’t say those exact words (which they do a lot of the time) the fact that they go out of their way in that moment to be ‘good’ breaks my heart as I know they are acting out of fear and a need to be liked.
This week we tried a new way to introduce jobs round the house and pocket money. It was something I heard on the radio and a concept we’ve been toying with for a while. So I thought I’d try this great new approach – that they get pocket money for each job they do around the house – BIG MISTAKE – at least the way we introduced it seemed to elicit a fear response in them. I announced the new plan and straight away it became a huge competition to see who could do the most jobs and get the most money. A frenzy ensued which left their father and me stumped at what had happened. Needless to say that plan has gone back to the drawing board.
This incident made me aware once again of how different our children are and the messages they receive from the signals we give out. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to figure out what is going on in their minds and of course they don’t know either. But I have come to the conclusion that the need to feel loved and more importantly liked is a tremendously driving force for them. They all desperately want to be in adults good favour and why shouldn’t they? Our job I guess is to try and alleviate their fears that whatever they say and do they will still be loved and liked, and that the more secure they can feel in their positions in our family the more relaxed they will be about the competition they feel.