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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

They Only Do It to Annoy: Adoption and High-Control Parenting


"Speak roughly to your little boy
And beat him when he sneezes.
He only does it to annoy
Because he knows it teases.

Wow! Wow! Wow!"
        --- Lewis Carroll

Well over a hundred years ago, Lewis Carroll wrote this parody that inadvertently predicted the views of some of today’s adoptive parents and their coaches or therapists. In the belief system espoused by these present-day thinkers, whatever children do, they do intentionally, and if what they do is unwelcome to their caregivers, they do it to “get back” at the adults. Yes, they only do it to annoy, even if it’s as involuntary as sneezing.

A rather appalling 1996 paper by Keith Reber, still very much in circulation among “attachment therapists”, states that vomiting and defecation are under voluntary control and will be deployed by children in order to avoid yielding to adult control. When the adopted 10-year-old Candace Newmaker died at the hands of her therapists in 2000, at least one Internet comment declared that she had died “on purpose” in order to create trouble for her mother and the therapists. She apparently “only did it to annoy”, too. The therapists did get into trouble, spending some years in prison, so presumably Candace is thought to have died happy in the view that she was thoroughly annoying someone by seizing control where the adults should have had it.
In comments at http://childmyths.blogspot/2012/11/canned-punishments-apps-advice-and.html, Marianne Milton contributed material from an Internet group of adoptive mothers. A number of them were concerned about children whose behavior was interpreted as controlling, manipulative, and exploitative, although it was just as easily interpreted as motivated by hunger or by anxiety. The discussion seemed to center around techniques that would prevent the children from controlling aspects of their lives--  for example, an alarm that would sound if the child’s bedroom door was opened. Some materials for adoptive and foster parents, like those written by Nancy Thomas, advocate limiting the amounts and variety of foods children receive, and stress the idea that the child must give up all control and become dependent on the adult if he or she is to be “healed” of the emotional disturbance the adult posits.

In one of an apparently endless stream of adoption starvation stories (http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/Minnesota-couple-accused-starving-adopted-son-17648677#.UJ13v4U0yGo), a Minnesota couple, Mona and Russell Hauer, are accused of limiting their adopted 8-year-old to a liquid diet and using a door alarm to make sure he did not “steal” food. They attributed the liquid diet to the advice of a chiropractor about the child’s vomiting; that practitioner apparently felt that liquid was less likely to be vomited.  The Hauers acknowledged that they had at least once withheld food as a punishment (they also beat him with a broom and made him sleep on a sled as punishment for bed-wetting). The child was about half the weight to be expected at his age, was short in stature, and had other physical problems associated with malnutrition.  

Disturbing as this story is so far, I consider two comments attributed to the parents to be even more concerning. Apparently, the Hauers were convinced that  he “only did it to annoy”. Mrs Hauer said that the child’s eating habits were attempts to control the home, that he had controlled the home, and that in her opinion the 35-pound 8-year-old was not too thin. Mr. Hauer added to this that when the emaciated child was taken to the hospital, that meant that he “had won or gotten his way”.  Presumably Mr. Hauer would think that if the boy had died, like Candace Newmaker, he, the child, would have scored an enormous triumph in the control contest.

Far be it from me to deny that school-age children, like teenagers and adults, can get a kick out of  “getting over”. Literal interpretations of instructions--  like not wiping their faces at all when told “Don’t wipe your dirty face on the clean towels”—are a source of glee and evidence of good understanding of language and the nature of social rules. But people who are starving or frightened do not have the sense of proportion that allows them to do a tiny, acceptable spot of defiance without causing too much trouble. Nor do they have the resources to think how they will “control” a household. Just as the expectation of being hanged in the morning is said to concentrate a man’s mind wonderfully, a serious need for food or safety interferes with any possible concerns about who is in charge.

There are some things that people don’t do just to annoy others. Vomiting and bedwetting are among them. As long as we allow adoption by people who don’t know this, but who believe all unwanted child behaviors are intended to gain control, we will have more cases like the Hauers. And as long as we allow caseworkers to be “trained” by control-obsessed thinkers, we will have those adoptions and those outcomes.
  

16 comments:

  1. Here is a new one from today.

    http://www.kcci.com/news/central-iowa/Parents-locked-adopted-children-in-basement-cell-police-say/-/9357080/17317368/-/rbj1v/-/index.html#.UJsZHgiV2_Y.facebook

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    1. And there will be a new one every day until we figure out that these are not coincidences or crazy people, but the results of a belief system that's been promulgated in adoption circles.

      But thanks for this one!

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  2. Apparently, speech delays can also be useful for annoying people, especially your long-suffering adoptive mom:

    [Yet another Facebook post from a Trauma Mama] "Being with my 11 year old son is exhausting. He is so needy and it is like having a giant toddler with an attitude. He becomes excessively needy and gets mad if i don't give him all my attention every moment he's with me. He does things on purpose to get negative attention no matter how much attention i have already given him. He will pretend like he doesn't know how to say things. He has a speech impediment but it's not that he's not able to say the words, he has lazy speech patterns. A lot of times he says stuff wrong on purpose. Will come up with nonsense questions. Basically it's constant and im exhausted. I wish i didn't feel that way but he exhausts me and i feel like the life is sucked out of me."

    Sigh ...

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    1. The "attachment therapy" group makes a point of "chattering","nonsense questions", and poor speech articulation as symptoms of RAD, making it easy for adoptive parents to interpret any genuine speech or cognitive problems as "done to annoy".

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    2. Silly me, I thought chattering was one of those things kids just do.

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    3. Actually they're born knowing how to talk, but they conceal the fact just to exploit their parents--

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  3. ... and they only don't talk with their parents, especially with their mom, so everything else thinks she's nuts when she complains about the gibberish; only other Trauma Mamas get it, and understand why she won't respond to her 2-year-old unless he uses complete sentences. He gets away with using only 2-word requests at daycare ("want food"), but that's because they hate me and think I'm mean to him, and so they baby him, which won't do him any good in the long run. Fortunately, I think I've told them enough about how he behaves at home that they're starting to get the picture; at least that's what they tell me. Who knows, though. You know how well RADishes manipulate people with their superficial charm, and they so easily triangulate everyone, pitting me against the world. But I'm holding the line; I know what's best. No one else except Trauma Mamas know the dangers my child faces down the road. Oh ... I hear my son whining and crying now, but I'm just going to sit here calmly and wait for him to tell me what he wants in full sentences. I am just not going to reward baby talk; that's just giving in to his manipulativeness. And you know, adults who are manipulative just end up as dangerous, frightening people with no real future. I do my best for my son.

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  4. And so, when she's crying with pain following an injury, people should demand that she state her wishes in full sentences, right? It would be awfully bad for her character if they didn't.

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  5. Replies
    1. Oops, this didn't come out so readers can access it. It's an article by Andrea Johnson at www.minotdailynews.com. Andrea understands the issues here-- unlike many other journalists.

      Thanks very much, Sunday, I hadn't seen it.

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  6. ". . . but the results of a belief system that's been promulgated in adoption circles."

    Vulnerable too often equals gullible.
    Can we also say that people tend to believe what they want to believe?

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    1. Regrettably, the caseworkers as well as the parents seem to believe what they want to believe.

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  7. While the rest of the parents in the U.S. are holding their children a little closer this week after the slaughter of 1st graders in Newtown, Connecticut, those Trauma Mamas who believe that their "RADlings" are one short step away from murdering them in their sleep will likely be increasing their suspicion, surveillance, and microscopic control of their children. It doesn't help that the Trauma Mamas are fueled by titles such as Beth Thomas' "Dandelion on My Pillow, Butcher Knife Beneath." Let's hope that none of those Mamas does anything truly heinous to protect themselves in this moment of cultural panic, because much of the country is discussing the value of now arming kindergarten and elementary school teachers against further murderers in their midst. I'm not religious, but I have an overwhelming urge to say, "Bless the children."

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    1. Perhaps they'd like to arm the children too-- what a dilemma, because although the "good" ones could shoot the bad guys the "bad" ones could shoot--- you know who. I suppose they'd feel this should be a matter of parental decision, as it was in the case of Ms. Lanza.

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  8. Why, yes, good plan. And since so many in the U.S. are already prepared with their bug-out bags, we could easily become our own Zombie Apocalypse (and put all that prepper stuff to good use): all of us armed to the teeth, fearful and paranoid, and trigger ready. Children too, above and below the age of reason. What an excellently barbaric country. (BTW, did you know that there is a subgroup of Trauma Mamas who are hard-core preppers? Makes me want to poke my eyes out with their home-dried beef jerky.)

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  9. Oh no (she said faintly)-- are there really Traumageddon Mamas?

    I tell you, I don't feel at home in this world any more.

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